When it comes to custom paint jobs, it’s hard to beat the intricacy and details of a lowrider. 

Story: Jay Villa  |  Photos: Jay Villa, Sam Rocha  

I’m obsessed with custom paint. It could be a candy, a flake, two-tone, striped, patterned, or a combination of them all, but I will admit that I have a soft spot for airbrushed murals. For starters, murals are a gateway to another dimension. They allow you to peer into the mind of its creator, and with some murals costing upwards of $20k to $30k to complete, the cost of entry is not cheap. On top of that, murals are not easy to get done. Waiting lists are long, getting your parts back can be a headache, and with some people waiting years to get their pieces completed, some may question why anyone would dare indulge in such a chaotic process. Well, the answer is simple. A good paint job adds depth and dimension to a vehicle, and in the grand scheme of things, it adds character and soul. These custom pieces define the vehicles at hand. Much like tattoos, makeup, or hairstyle, these decor elements of personalization are what make each car unique.  It doesn’t matter if the mural is big or small, on the trunk or under the hood; there’s something to appreciate about all of them – even if it’s just the effort. 

Every Mural Tells a Unique Story

Murals come with two stories. The first is what you interpret, and the other is told to you by either the artist or the owner. In the decades I’ve covered the culture, I’ve learned that asking about the artwork’s details reveals some interesting facts. Some are statement pieces; others are meant to be taken literally, while some are just downright a smorgasbord of ideas that came to mind. Very similar to tattoos (but for your car), the stories behind these murals can bring about a range of emotions, and I’ve heard plenty – and let me tell you, some have made me laugh, and others have brought me to the brink of losing it. And I mean losing it – you know, that feeling when your eyelids are bulging, knowing damn well that if you were to blink, you’d open the floodgates of tears and uncontrollable whimpering.

But all jokes aside, these murals are as intriguing as they are amazing. Lowriders are rolling canvases of art and one of the only forms of car customization where the cost of a custom paint job easily surpasses the cost of all the other modifications combined. Of course, it all depends on the build, the build quality, and the artist(s) you hire. While most stick with one artist to complete any given vehicle, others choose to use a mixture of artists to deliver the message.

There’s a Cost to be the Boss

So what is the cost to get one of these custom paint jobs? Well, it’s dependent upon a variety of factors, including size, style, and the artist you contract. Generally speaking, the bigger the piece, the higher the cost. If you’re looking for a custom mural from top-tier (and highly requested artists) such as OG Abel, Fonzy Air Shot, and Mister Cartoonthey’ll command a premium with some pieces easily exceeding $20,000.   


Do Car Wraps Compare to Air Brushed Murals?

Vinyl car wraps are cheaper, but are they comparable to airbrush work? The answer is: It depends. Some people see no difference between the two, but this where your attention to detail and appreciation for art come in. If you love detail, vibrancy, sharpness and realism, then custom air brush work will always win. For starters, vinyl car wraps will never have the clarity, sharpness, and glisten of a properly air brushed mural. To further emphasize the point, the technology of vinyl wraps is far from competing with custom air brush work. While many car wraps look great from afar, their details become hazy at best when up close. In addition, car wraps have a texture (from the film), which usually leaves a mild orange peel, thus lessening the piece’s clarity and smoothness.

In future posts, we’ll get in-depth and give you an up close an personal look at the art and the stories behind them.