Custom Painting a Drum Kit

This is pretty much a 'one off' experimental project that I'm doing for my son. He's already fitting new skins to his drums and, well, they just looked a bit plain as they were. Grand excuse to paint 'em! So, something very different for me both in area available to work on and the planned abstract design, certainly not what I usually do.

Painting Stages

The idea is to make the design bright, about as abstract as I can manage it (not really my thing) and steer away from my usual fetish for detail.

The plan is to use water based dyes to block in the main sections of the drums, leaving the grain in the maple to show through the colours.

Then, when all the colours are in place, to just see what it looks like. It's all pretty much of a trial and error job here, so the process is likely to change as it progresses.

But once the colours are all blocked in I'm planning to use lacquer as a sealer coat and then sunburst in from the top and the bottom of the drum bodies with a solid colour (yet to be decided).

So this early stage is pretty roughly drawn and penned in, fine detail is not the idea here. Besides which, this work is only really intended to be a fairly faint image behind the main drum colour.

One thing I did find was that trying to find enough suitable sea related subjects to fill a drum set, isn't as easy as you'd think.

But finally............

The smaller drums were drawn in...........

Then of course, it came to the bass drum. About this stage, my willpower to remain totally abstract lost out to my desire to make these drums look.........a bit more interesting. So there really was ever only one sea related subject, perfectly suited to whack on to such an appealing and large area, ........yup, a sexy looking mermaid or two.

Again, pretty roughly drawn out and marked in, but I think these have the potential to look really good - and I suspect I'll be spending a bit more time working on this particular section.

Anyway, there we have it. All the drums are roughly drawn in and ready for the first colour to be applied. Going to be an interesting project this one I think.

Well, here the background colour is airbrushed in. This is a very easy-ozy bit of airbrushing using water based dyes.

As you can see, very roughly airbrushed in, almost graffiti like.

Once all the basic colours are in place then the drums will be sealed with a sealer lacquer coat.

Depending how the colours look under that lacquer coat, they'll either then be strengthened in places with regular cellulose automotive paints, or left as they are and the process of sunbursting from top and bottom will be started. All depends on how they look as the stages progress.

Still some more work to be done on these smaller drums before they're ready for that first sealer lacquer coat.

The thing that I've found doing a whole set of drums is that getting all the drums to look a matching set isn't as easy as you'd think. I thought these were pretty much there.........

But then I started painting in the floor tom........

This was probably the drum I liked the least as it was drawn out.

But as it started to fill with colour it started to grow on me.

Already comparing the depth of the colours in the floor tom to the two smaller drums I'd already painted - it's obvious that I've got some more retouching to do on those drums to match them into this one.

But this I know is going to look pretty cool when it's all done.

These dyes are excellent to airbrush too. No blockages or spattering, and the dyes can be left for a couple of days without drying out, just add some more water and away you go again.

So there we are. Still some retouching to do on the smaller drums............and then it's onto the bass drum and my mermaids. I have to admit I'm looking forward to painting them in.

Okay, after a long wait, finally I can carry this project on. Here the first hint of colour is being applied to the bass drum.

Exactly the same as the other toms this is water based dye applied through the airbrush.

I wasn't sure how the waterbased dyes would work painting in the more detailed areas of this job, but they worked surprisingly well.

My plan all along was that the design I'm applying to these drums would be an almost subliminal design, just showing out through the predominantly blue colour of the drums. That's why I wasn't too bothered about putting too much detail in and why I drew much of the design out very roughly in marker pen. Trouble is, at this stage I was starting to like the way the drums were looking pretty much as they were (with the exception of the rough drawing out that is), unfortunately the way I'd drawn them out meant that they really needed to be painted as planned to cover some of the rough work up. Reckon I'm going to have to use this technique again...............only more carefully next time now that I know that it works.

Anyway, on with the second of the Mermaids.

Just a very light tone in to start with to start forming the shape I want her to look.

With a bit more work and a few more tones added she was starting to take shape........literally.

Back top the original Mermaid, with a bit more detail worked in she was almost finished, so it was on to the background images of the shell and the starfish. First of all the basic light tone was added.

Then a bit more detail and depth painted in with some darker tones, again all waterbased dyes.

The finished result ready for the first toned lacquer coat. Seemed almost a shame to cover her up, but the lines around her were just too heavy and rough.

A top view. Here you can see how the dye allows the grain of the maple to show out.

And the second Mermaid, slightly out of focus this one...........sorry.

Here is the result after the first tinted lacquer coat on the floor tom.

And on the bass drum................again a really poor piccy this one.

This was taken just before I started rubbing the drums down after the first lacquer coat. After a days rubbing down the drums were ready for the next stage. I then painted in with a 50/50 mix of blue into gold into mica flip flop paint and lacquer, using the mixture to create a hint of a sunburst effect around the edges of all the drums, then they were relacquered again. After rubbing them all down a second time, I then painted another coat of the flip flop paint (this time undiluted) around the edges of all the drums to darken the edges down further and give the flip flop paint more of a chance to work. This was then lacquered in again and rubbed down. Final touches were applied to the drums after this and then the final lacquer coat was applied, duly rubbed down with 2000 wet and dry and polished. All in all a long process resulting in some very sore and raw fingers!

But the end result isn't too bad so far.

Amazing what a difference the hardware makes to the appearance of the drums - and this stuff is nothing that special really.

As you can probably see, these final pictures are being taken today as the drums are being re-assembled.

Having spent most of yesterday doing the final rubbing down and polishing of the floor tom and the bass drum, these too are now being re-assembled as I'm updating the site.

Again, not looking too bad at all.

If I'd known what was possible with the waterbased dyes at the start I would have done these slightly differently, but regardless, all together they're looking pretty good even as they are now.

Here the bass drum is now back together.

As you can see in the background the weather here has finally decided to mimic that of the rest of the UK, wet and generally pretty dire.

Looking at these piccies too, reminds me that I must get round to painting those pink doors a slightly less garish colour too...........this had used to be a girlies bedroom at one stage (hence the pink), until I snaffled it as a prep and planning room much to my better halfs disgust.

Anyway, here the drums have been basically whacked back together. Once everything is set up properly and the rest of the set is all in place I'll take some proper piccies, but for now, that's this little experiment finished. Learnt a lot doing this little exercise, so even though it's not exactly as I envisaged it, it was definitely worth it in the end.


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