Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Motorcycle Helmets?

Many motorcycle riders are fascinated about painting their helmets for many reasons and helmet painting often results in numerous advantages. An acrylic-painted helmet not only looks cool but acrylic is one of the best paints for your helmet for several reasons. However, before straightaway jumping into helmet painting, you should know a few important things associated with helmet painting. For example, why and when to paint your helmet and its legal implications, how to paint the helmet with acrylic paint, and above all, why a helmet is the most important thing for a motorcycle rider.

A helmet is inevitable for a motorcycle rider because it saves his or her life. You must never ride your motorcycle even for the smallest distance if you do not have a safety-certified helmet. As per the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) statistics, motorcycle accidents are more disastrous than other vehicles. NHTSA research says 80% of motorcycle crashes result in death or life-threatening injuries in comparison to buses, trucks, and cars which is 20%. In addition, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) in one of its 2016 studies reveals that 1859 riders escaped death due to helmets. Similarly, 802 motorcycle accident victims could have survived if they wore helmets the same year.

Acrylic Paint on Motorcycle Helmets

Why and When to Replace or Paint Your Helmet?

There are three basic types of motorcycle riders, one with critically safety-conscious riders who are interested only and alone in the security of their riding. The second type of riders are more into the aesthetic and riding for them is style and pleasure. For them, a helmet though perfectly safe with safety certification and features but does not look cool is useless. They are passionate about a helmet that is elegant in terms of style. The third type of people look for motorcycle helmets that can both protect them as well as match the style and color of the motorcycle and look elegant.

Remember, helmets did not originate with a helmet or did not come with the motorcycle. It was only in 1935 Sir Hugh William Bell Cairns the Australian neurosurgeon thought about the concept of a helmet to protect the head and brain. Motorcycles are good as riding is fun and they usually reach the destination faster than any other vehicle. They also can find ways to overcome heavy traffic and rough roads and efficiently manage off-road trips. 

But when a motorcycle or a motorcycle trip leads you to end your life it becomes a curse. Here comes the role of a helmet which absorbs risks and saves you from accidents. By saying this, it does not mean that the aesthetic side of a helmet is the least concerning or should not be taken into consideration. No one would ever be happy to ride a motorcycle wearing an old, faded, and scratched or broken helmet. Everyone feels great with a cool helmet that matches the motorcycle.

Know why you should and when is it appropriate for you to either discard the old helmet and get a new one or paint it. And if painting, what are the things associated with the helmet painting?

  • Helmet Safety Certification: Wearing a helmet that is not certified with DOT or SNELL or ECE (in the case of Europe) is equivalent to not wearing a helmet while riding. You will not only be at risk while riding on the road but you will also face legal complications.
  • How many Years to Use a Helmet? Every safety-certified helmet should be replaced by three years of its use especially if you use it frequently. However, you must use it for a maximum of 5 years even if you do not use it frequently and must replace it within 5 years.
  • A Helmet after an Accident: You should never hesitate to replace your helmet if you met with an accident. You might think that the helmet is OK with only a few scratches here and there and a painting can do the job. It is however good to replace it with a new helmet because the interior structure of the helmet might be weak and may not protect you.
  • Sign of Replacement and not Painting: Examine the interior, liner, and pads, and if they feel loose then a mere painting may provide a new look but not safety. Besides this, a helmet that has cracks on the outer shell or has signs of breaking apart or does not fit or loosely fit your head should be replaced. You should not compromise with these conditions of the helmet and go for painting it. Similarly, if you notice foam residue over your neck or shoulder or the padding smells, then do not go for painting the helmet rather replace it.
  • Legal Complications and Restrictions: Almost all countries and states allow helmet painting. However, you should check with the laws of your country or state whether you can paint your helmet. You should also check with the restrictions because there are many restrictions usually people do not know about helmet painting. This eventually lands them in trouble.
  • Choosing the Appropriate Paint: Not all paints are safe for helmet painting. It depends upon what material the helmet is made from. There are certain chemicals or solvents in some types of paints that damage the interior structure of the helmet making it weaker. The solvents also cause certain materials or even plastic crack over time. Eventually, cracks and interior damage not only reduce visibility but do not withstand the impact of accidents. Ask the retailer or manufacturer what paint is appropriate for the helmet to paint or repaint the helmet.
  • Taking at most Care of the Sticker: The safety sticker attached to the helmet is the proof of safety certification of the helmet. It must not be spoilt neither removed nor forgotten to attach at the same place if you have removed it for painting. You should also never paint over the sticker.

Also read: How to Paint a Motorcycle Helmet Flat Black?

Why Acrylic for Helmet Painting?

Acrylic and spray paintings are considered best for painting a helmet. However, though spray painting is easier and cheaper, most people prefer acrylic, especially water-based acrylic to paint their helmets. The primary reason and advantage over spray paint to go for acrylic paint is the freedom of designing the painting as per your choice. You can draw any pictures or ideas even word designs on the helmet using several types of painting brushes and markers and use multiple colors in acrylic painting. 

Secondly, acrylic, as well as spray paints both, contain solvent but over-spraying in spray painting is potentially dangerous for the foam interior of the helmet. Even if you cover the interior with a newspaper, there are high possibilities of the spray paint getting inside through the openings or holes and eating up the interior foam.

Why and How to Choose the Appropriate Acrylic for Your Helmet Painting?

As said earlier, acrylic contains solvents that can potentially damage the interior by creating cracks on the interior. You might be curious why these cracks are so important to mention over and again. In fact, helmet technology is developed on these cracks. A helmet’s polycarbonate shell is designed to crack when an accident hits the helmet. Therefore, the excess energy of the accident and the impact spread out and that’s how it protects you, especially your head and brain. 

The polystyrene (EPS) foam acts as a cushion further minimizing the force or shock and ensuring maximum protection. On the other hand, when the solvent creates cracks and eats up the EPS foam, the helmet becomes weaker and may not be effective enough in terms of protection. So, you must ensure that your acrylic paint is compatible with the material used to make the interior. Know how to ensure the acrylic compatibility between your helmet and the paint below.

  • You should certainly know the brand and model of your helmet while buying it. If you forgot the same, then you will still find the information on the package or you can also find it on the helmet. You can also check the interior of the helmet as some helmet brands attach a sticker with the brand name and necessary information there. If you still do not get the model information then try to contact the retailer who might identify the brand and the model number and give you the details of your helmet.
  • Contact the manufacturer and ask which acrylic paint is compatible with the model. They will give you the details of what material the interior of the helmet is made of and which paint is compatible with which are not. They may also instruct you to see the tag where the model number is written to find the solvents that are not compatible and are unsafe to use.
  • Once you know about the compatible and unsafe solvents for your helmet you can now check for solvents in your acrylic paint. You can further discard the acrylic paints that have unsafe solvents and choose compatible acrylic to paint your helmet. Remember, almost all water-based acrylic paints do not contain unsafe solvents and are safe for painting your helmet.

How to Paint Your Helmet Using Acrylic Paint?

Follow the below step-by-step guide to painting your helmet with acrylic paint.

  • Preparation of Space: Choose an open space or a well-ventilated place to paint your helmet and clean it thoroughly. Ventilation is essential because the chemical in the acrylic or the compatible solvent in the paint should not affect your health. Make sure the area you want to use is dry and dust-free. You may also need a workbench to mount the helmet and paint it. Clean the bench as well.
  • Keep the Tools and Other Requirements Ready: Keep things ready at hand in advance like the paint, transparent finish or clear coats, several types of brushes as per your requirement, a big old newspaper, and a raincoat to prevent paint splash. Get the sticking plaster, markers, and a pencil and place them on the workbench so that you do not go on searching for them when needed. Similarly, keep the sanding block or sandpaper if you want to sand the helmet. Some professionals do not advise sanding before painting because it may damage the interior. However, many people sand the helmet especially if there are scratches. Now, put on the raincoat, gloves, and mask and follow the below steps and start with the painting.
  • Clean the Helmet: Remove the visor and other attachments from the helmet and clean the helmet with water, especially with warm water and soap or detergent if you do not sand. In the case of sanding, sand the helmet and clean it with warm water and soap or detergent. Take care of the external fiber or plastic while sanding so that they do not get damaged. Now, leave it for an hour to dry.
  • Paint the Helmet: Spread the newspaper on the workbench and start painting the surface to create the color foundation. You can either paint the entire surface or paint part of the surface where you want to draw the pictures or ideas. You can use any color for the foundation depending upon your ideas of the drawing. Take the pencil and draw the ideas once the foundation is dry. Now, use several colors and paint the pictures or ideas including the intended words if you have thought to include them. You can paint several layers of paint but you must allow the painting to completely dry before painting a new layer. If in case you wish to redraw the ideas, then you can use the marker and redraw and paint them.
  • Apply the Clear Coat: Now spray the transparent finish preferably the no-color transparent finish or clear coat over the painting. You can spray 3 to 4 layers of clear coat over the painting and ensure that the painting is fully protected. Continue with the spraying of transparent finish twice or thrice until you are confident that the paint is well protected. Now that your helmet painting is almost complete, leave the newly painted helmet overnight so that the transparent finish will sit firm. Leaving the helmet overnight will also help in minimizing the smell of the paint. You can now pleasantly use the helmet on your trip the next morning.

If you want to get the best out of your acrylic helmet painting, then it is good to buy a plain helmet as helmets with designs are difficult to paint. However, you can still draw the ideas and paint them through different sizes of painting brushes if you are passionate about helmets with designs. Indeed, a newly painted helmet either with designs or plain looks cool as if you bought it recently. It enhances your self-esteem and confidence especially when the colors match the motorcycle.

Also read: How to Keep Rain Off Motorcycle Helmet Visor?

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