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Nicholas Denney

Airbrushing Blow Molds - Original Manufacturing Techniques

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I have a few blow molds, some in cosmetically poor condition, and some that I want to redo with elaborate custom jobs.

I've read all the information here about painting and restoring blow molds, but I never came across any discussion of original factory production materials and methods.

Based on what I know about similar manufactured products, the factory would have had stamped metal masks that fit over the molds for each color and the colors would have been airbrushed on... simple fast, and effective.

In my other hobbies, there are very many serious individuals that have spent the time and money to reproduce small parts and source original tools and materials.

What if an effort were made to re-create things like the masks that the factories used? It would save tens and hundreds of hours of labor between individuals.


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That would be fantastic… I spent 2 weeks masking and painting my Poloron mechanical Santa. I have more blow molds to restore and would love an easier way.

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I would love to see some photographs of factory painting masks, I wonder if there are any out there.  There is only one that I know of from Grand Venture, a pumpkin eye mask, which I attached.  The mask is mounted in a hinged sandwich frame so the unit is quickly opened and closed for speedy production.  Put the pumpkin in, close it up, quick pass with the spray gun, open it up, pop the pumpkin out, repeat.



I am sure it would be doable enough to make a simple mask, just take the item you want a mask for and make a thin mold from it with a material that would be easily cut to allow the painting of each area.  Possibly plaster of Paris? You'd have to experiment with different mold making materials and make sure they can be applied properly.  I have always wanted to try this, someday I will.  I know at one time TPI used wax mold masks, (which would be very easy to make) but they left residue on the plastic that inhibited paint adhesion.  I would imagine however that if you're willing to do a little extra work you could clean the wax residue off before moving on to the next area, probably with rubbing alcohol.


As for the painting, they use pressure feed paint guns, not airbrushes to paint with.  Paint guns are essentially a large airbrush though, they have all the same components an airbrush does.  I have one and they are great, but are only controllable to a small degree (mainly paint volume, which in itself is very useful) compared to an airbrush which you can control down to a pencil thin line.  I love using an airbrush because with the control you do not need to tape off every area.  However, if I had painting masks I would use the paint gun, (has much more control over the paint than a spray paint can) you would be done in minutes with a perfect finish.


The picture shows a type they would use in the factory, an HVLP paint gun (other types used are regular air spray and LVMP, which look the same).  This same type gun can be seen in the Grand Venture image.  The pressurized paint feed in the factory would be from a 55 gallon drum or a paint tank.  Paint guns can easily be purchased, they have all different styles and price ranges.  To get a look at the commercial painting equipment that the factories use go here- http://www.binks.com/


I forgot to add that the paint the factories use is an industrial coating.  I have one quart of original Empire factory fleshtone paint.  Unfortunately the ingredients remain a mystery, but they are highly toxic such as toluene, etc.  The blow-mold is heated to a specific temperature to ensure a bond and then is painted.  The paint will not bond if it is sprayed onto the plastic without it being heated first.

Edited by Kev

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