Jazzing up vehicles with paint and stickers

Is a one-toned car or bike too boring? Jazz it up with a spray-paint job or wraparound stickers

In February, human resource director Chris Mead got his dream car: a 1971 Austin Mini Cooper painted with multi-coloured stripes.

This is an homage to the iconic one-off special edition of the Paul Smith Mini, which had 86 different coloured stripes, released by the British marque in 1998.

Australia-born Mr Mead, 49, now a Singapore permanent resident, bought his vintage Mini Cooper in 2014 and it was originally mustard yellow.

He took the car to CarCrafters Singapore, a workshop specialising in spray-painting cars, and got it painted over with stripes for a four-figure sum.

The father of two calls the car his "third child".

"I'm a fan of Paul Smith designs and old British cars, so the coming together of the two was perfect."

  • How to maintain the look

  • The Sunday Times spoke to six car workshops that specialise in car spray-painting and wrapping. Here are their top tips on getting and maintaining interesting designs:


    • Pay for a good-quality clear coat over the paint job, preferably one that has UV protection. This prevents the paint from oxidising, says Mr Chris Lim, owner of Kolorwerx Auto. This is especially important for cars that are white or red as white tends to turn yellow and red becomes dull with time.•

    • Look for a shop that will paint car parts individually, says Mr Lim. Doing so takes longer and costs more, but will result in a more complete finish.

    • After the car has been out in the rain, wash it with concentrated wax shampoo and dry it with a piece of microfibre cloth, says Mr Ridwan Ash-Siddiq, owner of 7 Angelz Automotive Workshop. This is to prevent acid rain from damaging the paint. To maintain the shine of the vehicle, car owners are also advised to hand-wax their cars every month.


    • When grooming, look for a workshop that specialises in doing wrap stickers. Mr Dan Jian Koh, owner of Koh Guan Chua Workshop, says non-specialists may botch up the job, such as using the wrong coating on cars with a matte finish, making the car shiny and smooth instead.

    • If a hole forms in the wrap, Mr Alec Neo, who runs Visionworkz Performance, recommends taking the car back to the shop. Patching or touching up the wrap may be possible without replacing the whole sticker, depending on the severity of the damage. It will cost less than redoing the entire wrap.

When The Sunday Times met him at East Coast Park recently, he had chosen to park in a lot that had no cars on either side of it.

"I avoid crowded carparks, especially those with big four-wheel drive SUVs, because sometimes they just don't see you," he says.

He is among a growing group of car owners who customise their vehicles with spray-paint and wrap jobs. The designs could range from geometric graphics to colourful ones featuring film characters.

There are two ways to get a design on your vehicle.

The first is a traditional paint job where artists spray-paint the designs and colours onto the car directly.

It is usually a permanent modification as the process is hard to undo. Prices range from $1,000 to more than $10,000, depending on the car model and the complexity of the work.

The second way is to get a car wrap, which is a kind of sticker. These are usually cheaper - starting at $800 for a basic colour wrap - quicker to do and more easily removed. They can be partial or applied all over the car body.

Wraps are getting more popular, say car workshops that provide the service.

Three-year-old Wrapstyle Asia in Genting Lane specialises in creating wraps for cars and has attracted about 300 new clients this year alone.

This is up from 180 to 200 last year and double the number in 2015.

The workshop's chief executive Edison Lim, 37, says people like wraps because they are removable.

Car owners can easily remove the stickers if they want to sell their car.

Wrap jobs also give a wide range of choices, he adds.

They come in various textures, such as a matte finish or a chrome effect and also feature original designs created by the workshop's artists.

A wrap sticker also protects the vehicle from minor scratches, says Mr Alec Neo, 36, owner of Visionworkz Performance in Sin Ming Drive, another workshop that specialises in car wraps.

He adds: "If a wrap gets damaged, holes can be patched up. With spray paint, on the other hand, you have to sand down the defect and respray the whole car, which costs a lot more."

Mr Cash Chong, 28, wanted to spruce up his eight-year-old Subaru Impreza for a friend's wedding last year.

Mr Cash Chong (with his father Clive Chong) had his car done up in an Iron Man theme. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

The engineer chose a red-and- gold Iron Man-themed wrap, in which the face of the Marvel superhero is created using the features of the car.

The headlights, for example, form the eyes.

"My friends are always able to spot me on the road because the car is so unique," he says.

For his next car, he would like to have a Captain America wrap to continue with the superhero theme.

In Singapore, there are no restrictions on paint colours, says the Land Transport Authority, although car owners who change their car colour should update the OneMotoring website immediately with the correct description.

Most customers are looking to beautify their vehicles.

For vehicle paint jobs, a new current favourite is getting a shifting colour effect.

This requires expertise on the part of the painter, who must mix different combinations and ratios of colour powders before spraypainting the vehicle, says Mr Ridwan Ash-Siddiq, 35, owner of 7 Angelz Automotive Workshop in Woodlands Industrial Park.

The spray-painting expert has been to India and Sri Lanka to run workshops on spray-painting and mixing colours.

He says: "People want their cars and bikes to look different especially when the vehicles aren't cheap.

"They take pride in their vehicles and want them to stand out."

Get animated with cartoon character cars

Mr Jeffrey Loy got a Frozen wrap job on his car because his daughter Crystal is mad about the film. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

When six-year-old Crystal Loy got up on her birthday on Aug 1 last year, she was told to get dressed in her Elsa gown because her father had a surprise for her.

Mr Jeffrey Loy, 38, took his daughter to a workshop in Sin Ming Drive and showed her their family car, which had the Disney princess from the film Frozen pasted on it.

"She had no idea I was doing it and went crazy when she saw it," recalls the engineer.

"She watches the film on the iPad every day and whenever the song Let It Go comes on, she goes crazy."

This is not the first time Mr Loy has decorated his car with film characters. Ultraman, Lilo and Stitch and Iron Man have appeared on the body of his Honda Airwave and his Hyundai Getz.

He compares changing car wraps to people "putting on new clothes".

The stickers are digitally created by designers from workshops that specialise in car wraps and are then pasted on the car.

According to users and workshops, the stickers hardly deteriorate even after five years. They can be removed at workshops in less than a day.

Mr Alec Neo, who owns Visionworkz Performance, a company that specialises in car wraps, says that his customers usually either ask for racing-themed stickers with sponsors on them or characters from Japanese anime or movie franchises.

Elsa is Mr Loy's sixth wrap in 12 years and cost him about $1,500.

Crystal has already requested the next design be a My Little Pony wrap and Mr Loy hopes to get it done on their next car.

Another father, Mr Steven Junior Teo, 42, surprised his sons, Joyden, four, and Joyston, two, with a Minions-themed car in February this year.

Mr Steven Junior Teo's Minions-themed car. PHOTO: STEVEN JUNIOR TEO

The cutesy yellow characters, who wear overalls, goggles and have one or two eyes, are from the Despicable Me movie franchise.

The event sales producer says: "My kids couldn't believe that was our car and got really excited and kept saying 'Minion, minion, banana!'"

The work on his Toyota Harrier cost him $2,200 and he hopes to be able to get a new Minions character for Chinese New Year next year.

Now, he washes his car three times a week, twice by himself and once by professionals at a petrol station.

He also tries to avoid scratches by parking very carefully.

"I try to park on the highest floor of multi-storey carparks where it's most empty and would rather wait if the only space available is next to a lorry."

Colour-shifting bikes

Ms Scarlett Chan got her bike jazzed up because she wanted a change from her previous pink-and-black colour scheme, which she found "cliched". PHOTO: COURTESY OF SCARLETT CHAN

Civil servant John Tan, 37, frequently finds strangers taking photographs of his motorcycle. One even asked if he could mount the bike for a picture.

This is not only because the bike is a Triumph Rocket III, arguably the motorbike with the greatest engine capacity (2,300cc) on the road, but also because of its iridescent paint job.

It is a mixture of seven different tones, including purple, blue, green and gold, combined with a shiny pearl-like effect.

Mr Tan paid about $1,000 to get the paint mixed and spray-painted by Mr Ridwan Ash-Siddiq, owner of 7 Angelz Automotive Workshop in Woodlands Industrial Park.

He bought the bike in August last year and has been riding motorbikes since 2013.

"With a classic bike like mine, people always go for the same colour scheme, such as red and black, but I wanted to do something more exciting," he says.

For the past four years, Mr Ridwan has been specialising in mixing paints to spray-paint cars and motorcycles.

For this bike, he used a colour-shifting effect made up of seven tones, creating a pearly sheen. The artist's paint jobs usually require only two to five tones.

He has created this effect on one other bike, Ms Scarlett Chan's BMW S1000RR, in June last year.

The 24-year-old sales executive paid about $1,300 for the paint job because she had many decals and stickers to remove.

She wanted a change from her previous pink-and-black colour scheme because she found it "cliched for female riders". She has been riding for four years and got her current vehicle in 2015.

Like Mr Tan, she has been getting extra attention because of her unique ride.

The number of followers on her Instagram account (@scarletts chan) spiked after she posted pictures of her new bike and she frequently updates her account for her 23,000 followers now.

"It's nice that people always say on my posts that they love the detail and the colours," she says.

"But I really got the paint done for myself only because I thought it was cool, and I'm really happy with it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline 'Hot wheels'. Subscribe