By Steve Wright Custom Painted Vehicles One of the coolest things about going to the Harley-Davidson Museum is seeing how the styling evolved every year, and a big part of the styling was the paint job. The changes are so incremental that I think it would be very entertaining to see an animation of the first Harley motorbike morphing into the latest 2012 model. Over the years the stylists at HD have been very conservative for the most part, which leaves the door wide open for the average enthusiast to create his or her own look.  In the past, one of the most popular design choices has been the classic flame paint job.  No one knows who was the first, but odds are it was just some guy messing around in the back yard on his buddy’s car. One theory has it that they were trying to hide flaws in the paint with out having to paint the entire vehicle.  Whatever the story, flames were soon the most popular look on the hot rod scene. It didn’t take long for the motorcycle crowd to follow. Over the years we’ve scene many trends in custom paint from flames to candy apple colors, large metal flakes, pin stripping, scallops, and even fully airbrushed rides with fantastic surrealistic scenes. Recently, we’ve seen a variety of new paint techniques that add cool textures to an expanding palette of choices that a custom painter has to choose from. There are marbleizing techniques, burnished metal or grinds as some people refer to them, splatters, water spotting, and cob webbing just to name a few. One of the most popular new techniques we’ve seen in a long time is the “true fire” look developed by Mike Lavallee. This trend started in the early 2000’s and swept the country. When done correctly, it imitates the look of fire so accurately that it’s hard to take your eyes off of it.  So far it shows no sign of slowing down as everyone puts their own twist on it.  So what do you think the next trend will be in custom paint? I’ll give you a hint: where there’s fire there’s…that’s right, smoke, and it’s really nothing new. In the 1950’s painters would take an acetylene torch and turn off the oxygen to produce a smoky flame, which, when brushed quickly across a painted surface, left convincing smoke trails. It seems like no matter what comes along in the custom paint world, there is always someone looking at the old ideas and being inspired to recreate them in a new way. As a painter, I like to see paint that utilizes a variety of techniques instead of just one. For example, when marbleizing came along we saw whole vehicles covered in this amazing texture. The problem is, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. So next time you are looking for inspiration for that new custom paint job, look for examples in the magazines and on the web that take it to the next level.