How to paint a cranial band helmet
This entry was posted on May 11, 2014.
Many folks email inquiring about changing the underlying color of their child’s band. You can probably paint the band yourself! We have put together this guide to help parents paint their own cranial band helmet.
Acrylic paint has the best reputation for durability. It is low in toxicity when wet, and even much less so after drying for an hour. It is possible to use water based latex paints but it may scratch a little easier.
"Acrylic" is used in many paints. Typically you are looking for acrylic paint in a tube. Some "acrylic" paint is sold in large bottles for a dollar or two and is very poor quality and meant for porous surfaces and kid crafts. This paint will peel right off a band.
You want good quality paint, typically sold in metal tubes and designed for paintings.
We highly, highly, highly recommend giving the outside of the band a light sanding. Use a very fine grit sandpaper, like 600 grit or above, and give just a light sanding, you are just trying to roughen the surface, not take the surface off.
Band manufacturers specifically warn about sanding to the point where the helmet loses some rigidity. That won’t happen with 600 grit or above, and with just a light sanding.
Generally two coats are going to be enough unless the color change is extreme. An hour between coats should be fine, or paint on sequential days. Do not use heat to speed the drying of the paint. You may use a blow dryer just on “blow” and not on heat.
Be careful to keep the paint on the outer shell and not the inside. Tape off the inside to ensure paint cannot accidentally get inside.
Painting might be the end result, or just a prep step before applying decals.
If painting is the end result, use an acrylic varnish to protect the paint from scrapes and dings. Varnish has been reported as much more durable than simple acrylic sealer.
Mom tip! If decals are the next step, we recommend you apply 1-2 coats of Mod Podge over the paint, and then apply the decals on the Mod Podge, Decals still need the recommended 5 coats of Mod Podge to protect them.
If the decals are applied directly on the paint, they will take paint with them if they are removed. By applying on the Mod Podge, Mom's report that the paint job stays intact.
Either way, do expect some dings and scrapes to still show up on the paint. This in combination with the Mod Podge will protect the paint fairly well. Helmets just protected with varnish will still get some scratches and dings. Worst case, sand the varnish to roughen it, and paint again!
I don’t have enough information to recommend this, but will pass along one customer experience. She took the helmet to an auto body paint shop, and their paint+clear coat paint job was reported to be very durable. She reported that they did a great job of masking off the inside of the helmet. She got all that and no charge!
Our customers have shown tremendous creativity in painting helmets. Anai sent me her pictures of the completed band and I had to complement her and ask how she did it.
"Thank you! I did paint it myself :) It’s actually incredibly easy to get the leather look. I used 2 tones of brown, specifically Raw Siena and Dark Chocolate from Americana brand acrylic paints. You put on 2 coats of the light brown, let dry fully. Then you crumble up a plastic supermarket bag and brush a thin coat of the dark brown paint on the bag. Make sure not to have too much and that it's not dripping. Lightly dab the crumbled up bag (holding it like a ball in your hand) around the helmet. Its important not to press too hard. Wait 30 minutes. You’ll pour about 2 tablespoons of acrylic varnish (matte works best) into a paint dish and add a few drops of the Dark Chocolate paint to tint it. With a small foam roller coat the helmet with the varnish. One layer should do it. Thats it! Faux Leather. Someone could do it over 2 days during the hour off."