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Automotive Pinstriping Tips and Resources

Pinstriping has been used commercially since the 1800s, and is a definitive style for the decoration of style. Pinstriping is, as one may gather from the name, the use of thin “pinstripes” in ornate decorative patterns, commonly used on automobiles and motorcycles. This trend, especially popular in the 1950s and 1960s, has experienced a recent revival, which has been so powerful as to lead to the creation of college courses detailing the proper way to pinstripe a vehicle. However, since it is largely a cultural distinction, it is common for not much to be known about pinstriping as a business and an art form unless one is actively involved in the inner circle of the style. The following resources have been allocated to enlighten the average individual as to the diversity, origin, and beauty of this particular form of decoration.

History of Pinstriping

The exact origin of pinstriping is a matter of hot debate, with some arguing that the linear cave paintings of early man are the beginning and some maintaining that the decorative pinstriping of buggies in the early 1800s was the birth of it all. Whenever it evolved into the form known today, pinstriping may be done freehand (largely acknowledged as the hardest style, and the greatest expression of skill), with special stencil tape, or mechanical pinstriping by machine or a Buegler striper. Design must always be seriously considered, as one of the hallmarks of pinstriping is its penchant for symmetry.

  • The Three Basic Methods of Car Pinstriping – A brief look at the three main divisions of pinstriping.
  • 1896 Columbus Buggy – While the page is actually for the Ogeechee River Car Museum, there is nonetheless an excellent example of early pinstriping in the form of the 1896 Columbus Buggy.
  • Pinstriping: A Modern Art Form – From PBS, this is a video report on new cultural standards of fine art, and how pinstriping is being integrated.
  • A Brief History of Pinstriping – This article offers a light history of pinstriping, as well as an overview of pinstriping particulars, such as line width, function, and particular considerations.

Famous Pinstriping Artists

As with all forms of art, there are several names which cannot fail to be mentioned when discussing the subject. The foremost of these names is Tommy Hrones, who was one of the earliest commercial pinstripers and led the way for many other pinstriping behemoths, such as Kenny Howard, Ed Roth, and Herb Martinez. Their work is often considered the epitome of the genre, and they are often quoted as being the inspiration for a particular design or emblem. This collection of biographies is a primary introduction to the lives and personalities of these talented designers, as well as examples and earmarks of their work.

  • Kenny "Von Dutch" Howard – Von Dutch worked primarily on motorcycles, and developed the popular biker emblem of a Flying Eyeball. This article provides a brief biography on Von Dutch, as well as several additional sources for information on this pinstriping giant.
  • Ed "Big Daddy" Roth – Declared by many to be the biggest name in pinstriping, Ed Roth was the primary artist of the mid-1950s, and was the first to specifically design his work for the enjoyment of teenagers. The Peterson Automotive Museum has put together this splendidly detailed biography of his life, and is well worth a perusal.
  • Herb Martinez –Martinez, in addition to being a world-renowned pinstripe artist, is also an author, photographer, and model for numerous technical articles. Straight from his personal website, this article introduces Martinez, his early life, and his work.
  • Tommy "the Greek" Hrones – This is the man who established paintstriping commercially. He was the first name to be widely known, and tutored pinstriping legend Herb Martinez. This article covers his early life and work, and provides many tributes from fellow pinstripers to this exceptional artist.
  • Chris Cruz – One of the younger names in pinstriping, Cruz excels not only at pinstriping but also at natural reproductions, such as landscapes. This article focuses on the nature of his work, his early roots, and an exhibit showcasing his work.

Pinstriping Tips and How-Tos

One does not need to be a professional pinstriper to enjoy the art form. It can be done on an amateur level with pre-designed pinstriping stencils, or it can be done with a paintbrush on a bathroom mirror. Whatever the level of skill one may find himself or herself at, it may be certain that there is an application of pinstriping suitable for the individual. Several such helpful tutorials and guides are listed below.

  • Pinstriping Tips – This article covers tools that are required for a pinstripe design as well as considerations to be taken into account before beginning a design.
  • Pinstriping Made Easy – This how-to article covers how to make a pinstripe design with a pre-made pinstriping mask, for those who do not want to invest money in the more expensive professional tools.
  • How to Pinstripe in the style of Ray Smith – Ray Smith, a pinstriping artist, provides this .pdf tutorial on how he goes about creating a pinstripe design. With extensive step-by-step photographs and commentary, this is a valuable look at pinstriping close-up.
  • Pinstriping Lessons – Put together by Rocky Jr., this series of lessons is a detailed introduction and guide to the world of pinstriping. Lesson subjects include necessary practice materials, how to hold a pinstriping brush, and recognizing good work for what it is.
  • Artimagination - Painting Pinstripes the Easy Way – This picture tutorial walks the viewer through a different method of pinstripe painting with an airbrush.

Pinstriping Picture Galleries

Pinstriping is a style that must be seen to be truly appreciated. From professionals to amateurs alike, this collection of online galleries showcases the best, the average, and the unusual of the pinstriping world. 

  • The Art of Herb Martinez – An extensive gallery of the work of world-renowned pinstriper Herb Martinez.
  • Pinhead Lounge - Photos and Examples of Pinstriping – This online community of professional and amateur pinstripers regularly upload pictures of their work, resulting in an enormous ever-growing library of pinstripe designs available to public viewing.
  • Pinstripers.Org – While not as extensive as Pinhead Lounge, this is another community of amateur pinstripers who make their designs publicly available.
  • J. Bram Freehand Pinstriping Examples – Straight from the imagination of J. Bram, this collection of pinstripe designs is an excellent demonstration of the versatility of the art form.
  • M&K Custom Signs - Examples – The Japanese artist Makoto provides these examples of work from his company, M&K Custom Signs, again demonstrating the incredible flexibility of pinstriping as a form of design.
  • Pinstripe Art – Pinstripe artist Rich Compton provides a large gallery of his work for public viewing, ranging from uniquely artistic clocks to toilet seat covers.
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