One of the quickest and least expensive ways to change the looks of a stock paint job is by adding custom vinyl graphics, including the latest trend, “3D” gel-coated (epoxy) or “raised” vinyl graphics. However, the whole process of creating the graphics has remained pretty much a mystery to many of us, until now.

We were at the Nitto Import Classic car show (featured in this issue), and one of the displays caught our eye. Specifically, the Max Graphics booth with Ryan Castro’s hot BMW (seen in the Import Classic layout with Kelly Johnsin) sporting vinyl and 3D-gel graphics on the hood and the sides. After a short discussion with company owner Robert Johnsin, he agreed to show our readers just how he creates these cool custom graphics. So, we visited his shop in Carson, California, where he worked on Kim Nakano’s ’97 Honda Civic from Flux Car Club. Max Graphics is the official shop for Flux C.C. and other area clubs, and their work has taken more than one Best Graphics trophy at Euro shows around the Southland.

The actual application process wasn’t as involved as we’d thought. However, it does require a lot of practice, patience and a number of special tools including a heat gun. Most importantly though, is a computer with the right software linked to a special vinyl cutting machine. To do the gel graphics, (which Robert came up with himself), a special liquid gel application kit is also required and other tools are also needed.

As with most projects, having the proper tools and preparation of the vehicle are essential. Robert washes the entire car with mild dish soap and water and a lint-free towel; then goes over it again with a fresh towel and plain water to remove any soap residue. Robert uses a high-quality (2-mil thick) automotive vinyl that he says is a must for graphics on cars because it has to stretch over curved areas. “Cheaper vinyl is fine for magnetic signs, flat surfaces like the sides of commercial trucks or die-cut decals [all of which he also does], but not for custom cars,” he adds.

Anyway, the entire process took the better part of two days because of the multicolored overlays and the 3D-gel graphics (which had to harden for 24 hours), but the end results look hot. Unfortunately, the black and white photos don’t show how great the lime green, purple, yellow and white graphics look on the silver Civic. But, be watching for Kim’s Civic at shows; you’ll like it.

In the meantime, check out the photos and see if you don’t agree that Max Graphics has “raised” custom vinyl graphics to a whole new level of quality and style. And, here’s the best part. We’ve arranged with Robert to offer a special Lowrider Euro readers’ car club discount for a limited time. That’s right. All you have to do is drop by or call Max Graphics and tell them that you want the club discount special you read about in LRE. Who loves ya, baby!