In this tutorial we will discuss how to paint a Semi-Trailer Truck. The client wanted a painting of one of their trucks on a Slate Clock. Our normal size slates that we work with are 6″ x 9″, 9″ x 12″ and 12″ x 24″. They wanted a larger size so we were able to cut a piece of slate 14″ x 14″. We use only recycled roofing slate from old houses, mainly from the Northeastern states. For the clock area I screen printed the numbers and drilled a hole in the center, then attached a simple clock motor and hands. You can purchase clock movements at any hobby or art store. 

Materials used: 

– I use old roofing slate, cut to size, sanded and sealed for painting. I will write a separate article about that process. I also sell prepped slate ready for painting. 

Acrylic Paints 
– Use your favorite. For the base coat I prefer Ceramcoat Craft paint, as it’s designed for ceramics and stone. For the rest I use a mixture of craft paints and Artist heavier bodied Acrylics. 

– This painting requires a very limited palette, and the truth is I prefer using as few colors as possible. White, Black, Orange and Red works well here. 
 Brushes, Pens, Pencils 
– A couple of liner brushes, a small round and a medium flat is about all I used on this one. You want decent brushes but I don’t use expensive ones, they seem to wear out about the same, no matter the cost. IMG_0185
– I use a piece of coroplast, a very inexpensive plastic substrate used in the sign industry. Acrylic paint will mostly peel right off when dry, and when the palette becomes worn, simply toss it and cut another. You can place the palette with wet paints into a small airtight Tupperware like container for storage. (Hint: A damp paper towel placed underneath the palette will extend the usable life of the paint while stored). 

Container of Water 
– For cleaning the brushes and thinning paint. Very important to keep the brushes clean, acrylic is permanent when dry. 

Rags or Paper Towels 
– Cleaning and drying brushes. 

Xacto Knife and Cutting Board 

STEP 1: 
 First, I uploaded the photo provided by the client into Photoshop, so that I can clean up the area around the Semi-Truck in order to use less ink when printing. The reference photo had a flatbed trailer and I needed to paint the logo on a box trailer, so I merged another photo with the type of trailer I wanted. Since this is a painting tutorial, I won’t confuse the issue by going too much into detail about that process here. I will also keep the image on the screen as a reference while painting. Once the image is clean enough, doesn’t have to be perfect, I printed the photo on heavy card stock using a draft setting. If you are painting on canvas, you can use regular paper and tracing paper to transfer the image, but that doesn’t work very well for transferring an image to slate. IMG_0183
 STEP 2: 
 Using an X-acto Knife and a cutting board, I carefully cut around the outside of the image. 


 STEP 3: 
 I carefully traced the image onto the slate with a pencil or pen, then using the Ceramcoat White I applied the first base coat and let dry. Be careful with ballpoint pens, as the ink will show through the dried paint. I applied 3 coats of white, making sure it was dry between coats. 
IMG_0186 IMG_0187

 STEP 4: 
 Next, I cut out around the windows, wheels and other areas as a reference for tracing the details onto the base coated image. Remember to leave enough of the paper intact so that it doesn’t fall apart as you transfer the image. If necessary, print out more than one copy and cut out different areas on each copy. 


STEP 5: 

Using the pattern, I traced the windows, wheel wells and as many details as I needed to begin drawing in the truck. I try to draw as much detail as possible before I start painting. If I paint over my drawing somewhere, that’s fine; I can always draw it in again over top the painted area. In the next photo you can see the drawn in detail and I’ve started painting in some of the shadows. Mixing in a little blue works well for shadows. You’ll find adding black will make the area look grayer than it really is. 

 STEP 6: 
 Now I began blocking in the chromed areas with a medium gray, the tires with black and the maroon of the fender. I didn’t have a maroon color, so I mixed one using red, blue and a little black. Put as many coats as needed to establish a smooth and even surface. 


STEP 7: 

I began adding some detail and highlights. Mainly separating the lights and darks, not being too worried about individual areas. Canvas is much easier to paint on than stone, especially when it comes to maintaining straight lines. 

 STEP 8: 

There needed to be a logo on the trailer. Using PhotoShop, I warped the logo to the right perspective for the trailer. The left side, or nearer side, of the logo needs to be larger than the right side, or farther side. I printed the logo onto a regular sheet of typing paper, then covered the back of the logo area in graphite, making my own transfer paper. I taped one side of the paper to the slate and traced over the image with a fine ball point pen. This process left a faint image on the trailer that I could follow to paint the logo. 

 STEP 9: 
 Using a liner brush, I carefully painted the logo and began refining the details and highlights of the chromed areas, the windows and wheels. IMG_0199

 STEP 10: 
 I finished out the details, adding the lights, more detail and highlights in the chromed areas, the tires and shadows underneath the truck. IMG_0199


I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and that it has helped you in your future endeavors. All of the techniques demonstrated here can be used in many other types of paintings. Thank you for reading my tutorial, constructive criticism and questions welcome. Please take a few seconds and share on your favorite social media. 


-Larkin T. Livesay, Jr. 



TikTok: @livesaygrafix 


“Every artist was once an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Published by Larkin Livesay

I am the owner of Livesay Grafix, est. 1997. We make Signs of all types, Banners, Real Estate Signs, Vinyl Decals and sublimated promotional products such as T-Shirts, Mugs, Caps, Plates, Keychains, Mouse Pads and much more. On a personal note, I have a beautiful wife and two great children. We live in East Tennessee, near the Great Smoky Mtns. I have a degree in Fine and Advertising Art from Carson-Newman University. In addition to making signs, I am involved in Fine Art, Illustrations and Writing. I have been an avid reader since I picked up my first book, and continue to love reading sci-fi, fantasy, horror, military and anything related to science, technology and astronomy. I started this blog primarily for and about my business, but it will probably include many things from all of those interests.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: