Large Scale Central

Vinyl Paint Mask for Car Lettering

I was one of the guys bending @manimal 's ear at NELSTS about his letter painting technique. I’m very familiar with vinyl paint masks as I use them all the time at work. At the shop, we use a very thick vinyl with an easy/clean release adhesive to cut paint masks from. It is way too thick to cut small lettering on. Dan explained that he is using plain vinyl, or sometimes painter’s tape to cut his masks on a Cricut machine.

I brought home an unlettered box car from the show, so I went through my stash of vinyl C.V.S.Ry. logos so I could letter it up today. While searching I came up with a few logos cut in black. I rarely need black lettering since most all my cars are red oxide, or “box car brown”. The thought went trough my head to try and use the black vinyl logos as a paint mask, so I worked on weeding the vinyl as what we call at the shop “knock out letters”. It definitely takes practice and a few tricks like removing tiny centers first, put them aside and replace after removing the balance of the letter. Also with letters like W, start all 5 points first before lifting the letter in order to maintain the centers. Even with a bright lamp, a sharp blade and a 5X Optivisor, the centers of the A’s in my logo are almost impossible to see!

Fortunately I had a third black logo I could borrow centers from to fix my mistakes. This is the result of about an hour of learning how to do it…

I don’t want to experiment on a brand new AMS car, so I’ll paint the initials over the matte black vinyl I used to block out Rio Grande on one of my C-19 tenders. That way if I screw up I can just peel the black vinyl off the tender and start over.

It’s too damp here today to paint outside, so I’ll just get the tender shell prepped and will paint tomorrow indoors at work.


Well, my safe test plan was foiled once I got the tender shell off the C-19. The C.V.S.Ry. letters I weeded were the small ones for a Porter. I need to look and see if I have the large one already cut. The pre-cut vinyl I’m using was cut in 11 and 12 years ago!

I recently bought a Cricut machine and am trying to get up to speed, not that easy, with it.
One of my thoughts was cutting stencil blanks for spray paint application on rolling stock as well as buildings.

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I used my Cricut (now DOA) to cut the stencil for a few of my buildings.