This is the helmet Bobby Hamilton Jr. will wear this year in the Busch Series to support T
Mark Kerttula, owner of Pitpaint.com, has been painting racing helmets for two years and h
Kerttula painted this Joker theme for Coy Gibbs complete with MBNA credit card
The design for Bobby Hamilton Jr.s Busch helmet began with a few sketches that had t
After that Kerttula taped up the helmet and sketched on the basic design.
After thats complete, Kerttula can cut away parts of the tape mask and begin paintin
Finally, he begins the fine detail work before applying a clearcoat over the entire helmet
Mark Kerttula makes it look easy. With nothing more complex than an airbrush and an idea in his head, he regularly turns the hard, smooth surface of a racing helmet into the aged cloth of a gently fluttering flag, a roaring Kodiak bear, or just about anything else you can dream up. Hes one of the best among a growing number of artists using racing helmets as their canvas, and its not hard to see why.
From his small shop in Charlotte, N.C., Kerttula has customized helmets for such notable drivers as Kenny Wallace, Mike Wallace, Stacy Compton and Coy Gibbs in Stock cars as well as Daryn Pittman in the World of Outlaws and Tim McCreadie in the DIRT Series, but he also regularly paints helmets for Saturday-night racers across the country. Whats funny, he says, is that when the Winston Cup guys come in, they rarely have any idea of what they want any more than somebody who has never had a helmet painted before. So if a seasoned professional like a Winston Cup veteran often doesnt know exactly what he wants, how can an everyday Joe not feel overwhelmed? How can we know well be getting a helmet that makes a statement, turns headsand not draw snickers?
Simple, Kerttula says. Let your helmet painter be your guide. Find somebody you feel you can trust, he says. Either use a helmet painter whos been recommended from somebody you know or choose one based on his portfolio and allow him to make some suggestions based on what he does best. Then you can bounce ideas off each other until you come up with a scheme that fits your personality.
Remember that just like traditional artists laying paint on canvas, every helmet painter has his own individual set of strengths and weaknesses. Traditionally, custom helmet designs fall into one of two categories, or somewhere in between: geometric schemes (lines, blocks, bubbles, etc.) and artistic schemes (freehand depictions of people, animals, etc.). Its best to have at least a general idea of what style you prefer and then look around to see what artists are producing helmets you like the best.
Unlike engine and chassis builders where its often an advantage to have one nearby, the Internet has made it possible to ignore geography when it comes to choosing a helmet painter. Today many have Web sites with examples of their best work ready for you to download. Its the equivalent of letting you interview any number of artists from your living room. Then, when you find an artist whose work you like, call them and discuss your particular needs.
Quality should obviously be the biggest factor when choosing a helmet painter, especially if he is helping produce the design. You dont want to be spending all that money and not get a helmet that makes people say Wow! Kerttula says. Of course, cost is a big factor, too. In my opinion, a good custom paint job on a helmet, on average, shouldnt exceed $600 to $800. Thats a lot of money if you are paying for it out of your own pocket, so you have every right to price shop and be demanding when it comes to getting what you want.
Kerttula charges his customers based strictly on time. One way he has found to bring the costs down a little is to use vinyl graphics in certain situations. Often, sponsors are involved, so their logo needs to be on there and they dont want it altered at all, he explains. Even with Winston Cup helmets, instead of getting into a lot of detail work, especially with small logos that have a lot of lettering, Ill use a vinyl graphic. I dont do it often, but if its done right they look really good, and once you have the clearcoat over everything it blends in really well, and they last. Its just a way to save the customer a little money.
Finally, be aware that having a racing helmet custom painted takes time. Most painters, like Kerttula, work strictly on a first-come-first-served basis. A two- to three-week turnaround is the norm, but if you wait until two weeks before the start of your racing season you can just about bet on not getting your helmet back in time. Most helmet painters involved with racing have more work than they can handle from December through February. The two months before the start of the season I lose out on a lot of sleep, Kerttula says.
Every year I get what I call a Daytona Crunch. If you are waiting on a sponsor you may not have much choice, but if you can plan ahead and have a helmet to spare, its likely you can receive better serviceand sometimes better pricesif you contract with an artist in the middle of the season.