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Painting Plastic Model Aircraft  
User currently offlineWestern727 From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 836 posts, RR: 4
Posted (14 years 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 24851 times:

This question is for the scale model building folks out there.

I'll use the model I'm currently occupied with as an example:

I'm building a Lufthansa A-321. The painting scheme calls for a straight line between the white fuselage, and the grey underside.

The question is: What technique do you all use to accomplish this?

Jack @ AUS
12 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineMatt D From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 9502 posts, RR: 43
Reply 1, posted (14 years 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 24783 times:

First of all, what scale is the model?

Anyway, that makes little actual difference insomuch as the technique is pretty much the same, it's just harder on smaller models.

Even though it sounds easy in principle, painting a (straight) line on a model a/c is a long and tedious procedure, and should not be attempted if you are careless or impatient.

Basically, all it entails is masking off a straight line with two pieces of tape, applied to both sides of the fuselage. Space them however far apart you need the line to be. This should be done BEFORE you attach the wings. You need to "eyeball it to make sure that the gaps are of equal "thickness" on both sides of the fuselage, and that the tape is straight and level, with respect to the windows. Otherwise, you'll end up with an old TWA livery type stripe. And I don't think that you want that on a Lufthansa. Then paint the exposed part of the fuselage. Wait at least 24 hours for the paint to completely dry, then SLOWLY peel off the masking tape. If you did it right, you should have a nice straight line. But a word of caution, try and avoid painting the tape as much as you can. Otherwise when you peel it, it will flake to the tape, and when you remove it, you can find yourself with a nice segment of paint missing from where you want it to be.

As for the nose, and the tail sections, that is the toughest part of all. Unless you are good (or have the patience) at cutting curved sections of masking tape (involving taking accurate measurements of the fuselage), you will have to VERY SLOWLY and methodically paint it by hand. I once built a Reno Air 1:200 MD-87, and I could not get the decals to properly cover the nose, so I mixed paint until I had the right shades, and painted the nose stripes on.

Those two little stripes, each only about 3/4 of an inch long, took me nearly an hour each to do.

User currently offlineCOboeing777 From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 693 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (14 years 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 24780 times:

best way to do this is to mask off the line between the white and gray with some Bare Metal Foil. Apply a nice wide strip all around where the seam between colors wil be. Then take a nice straight metal ruler and use a nice BRAND NEW SHARP Xacto blade to cut the foil where the line will be. You won't need to use much pressure either. The foil is very thin so it doesnt need much to be cut. You can use any panel lines scribed into the fuselage to use as your guide to make sure the ruler is straight so that the line is even. Nothing sucks more than making a crooked line. After that you can just peel off the lower side of the foil on the half that will be painted. Now take a Q tip and make sure the foil is not sticking up in any places and also use a toothpick to make sure the foil is firmly pressed into any panel lines. I've had it where paint has seeped through those areas and ruined the nice clean line between colors. Just be careful and it should come out nicely. It would be nice if there was some sort of pinstriping separarting the colors like Continental planes have. When you apply the pin striping you can cover up and defects in the separation line. Well, that's about it. I hope I helped you out. Anymore questions, feel free to ask.


User currently offlineCYKA From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (14 years 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 24761 times:

Remember one thing: DO NOT PAINT LARGE SURFACES WITH A PAINT BRUSH AND BOTTLED PAINTS. Use the special Testors spray cans ment for models. The diffrence is like night and day. Use the paintbrush for small detail areas like wheels, intakes, window detail etc.

User currently offlineCOboeing777 From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 693 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (14 years 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 24759 times:

spray cans are OK but using an airbrush is much better, especially for the fine fine line between colors that you want to make. I guarantee you it will seep through the masking. Spray cans shoot out too much. You'll need and airbrush so you can spray on some light mist coats especially at the masking. Another thing with spray cans is since they spray so thick, you will might lose any fine details molded onto the model like scribed panels lines and doors and such. Airbushes are the way to go if you want a truly detailed model.


User currently offlineWestern727 From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 836 posts, RR: 4
Reply 5, posted (14 years 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 24757 times:

Thanks for the help guys.

Tonight I did the engines. It took about two hours, but I came out with some of the best looking engine nacelles that I have ever done. I'm sort of re-discovering this hobby - and I never put this much effort into a model before, but then again, I've never had this much fun doing it.

By the way, the scale of the A-321 is 1:144.

Jack @ AUS
User currently offlineJwenting From Netherlands, joined Apr 2001, 10213 posts, RR: 17
Reply 6, posted (14 years 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 24751 times:

Airbrush is indeed the best way, plus a few very fine brushes for fine details (once built a Huey where I painted part of the popnails bare metal to give that wornout look, used a brush with 2 hairs for that).

I wish I were flying
User currently offlineWestern727 From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 836 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (14 years 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 24748 times:

Perhaps, when I'm gainfully employed, I will purchase an airbrush. The thing I love about building scale models is that it is a fairly inexpensive hobby.

Jack @ AUS
User currently offlineCOboeing777 From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 693 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (14 years 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 24737 times:

fairly INEXPENSIVE??? LOL......who told you that? Everytime I go to the hobby shop I can't walk out spending any less than $50! lol

User currently offlineMDL_777 From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 267 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (13 years 12 months 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 24712 times:

Matt D pretty much hit the nail on the head as far as the technique goes. However, there is a neat tool that I discovered a few years ago that has really helped me out with painting lines and smaller detail work. It's called "Parafilm M", and it's made by a company called American National Can. Basically, it's a paraffin wax-based film that comes in a roll like tape. It's much better than masking tape, because it's flexible - you can pretty much form it to the countours of your model, such as a curve. It has just enough adhesiveness to stick, but not too much so that it would take the paint off. Matt D, this would come in handy in painting the nose and tail, as you can "wrap" it around.

I'd only recommend this with small detail work (I've used it in a lot of model cars I've built, and for many detail sections of a Lockheed 1049 model I recently completed). For larger lines, I would use masking tape. You need to be careful with what kind of tape you use, though. If you use any of the Testors "Metalizer" paints, masking tape can remove some of the finish even after you've used the sealer. I would recommend artist's tape, which you can find at most art stores.

User currently offlineNotar520AC From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 1606 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (13 years 12 months 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 24691 times:

I ALWAYS use airbrush or spraypaint- the paint bottles don't work too well for large surfaces, only for touchups. When I need to paint the first line, or like the belly color of the plane I use masking tape to cover the other side and spraypaint the belly. When you peel it off, the side of the masking tape only let the paint go where the model was uncovered, so if you use the sides of the tape It turns out quite nicely! Cheers!

BMW - The Ultimate Driving Machine
User currently offlineJwenting From Netherlands, joined Apr 2001, 10213 posts, RR: 17
Reply 11, posted (13 years 12 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 24688 times:

Indeed inexpensive...
The last few models I built ran to about $100 each, not counting glue, compressed air and brushes.
I've now stopped because I have no time and no place to display more of them, but it is an expensive hobby once you really get into it.

e.g. (estimate of one of my last projects, not an aircraft)
M1A1 base kit: $20
conversion kit to M1A2: $40
sheetmaterial to fix errors: $5
additional accessoiries (better quality than those included (*)): $50
Paint: $20 (didn't use it all, but also used some leftovers)
glue: $5
Total: $140 for a single model. This was built some 5 years ago, prices have gone up enough that it would cost $170 or so now.

(*) resin jerrycans and ammoboxes, metal ammobelts, resin turretmachineguns, metal turretracks, better tracks (included ones were some rubbery plastic), etc.

I wish I were flying
User currently offlineNotar520AC From United States of America, joined Jul 2001, 1606 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (13 years 11 months 3 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 24688 times:

Yeah, but it's a lot of fun.

BMW - The Ultimate Driving Machine
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