With the new generation of lightweight electric Park Flyer’s, most color schemes are limited to the number of
colors available in iron-on films. But for those of us who like a finish that’s maybe just a little out of the ordinary,
the only real option is to paint our models. If you feel like you’re in that group, there’s an easy way to do this, and
get some terrific results using common hobby paints. After experimenting with different paints and techniques I’ve
come up with a method that will allow you to paint your Warbirds in authentic colors, and even get a couple of
natural weathering effects in the process.
Here’s how it works
There are two kinds of paint that can be used; acrylics and enamels. I’ve used both in different applications with
excellent results, though the best results are from using flat or satin colors. My personal favorite is Model Master
Enamels, water based Model Master Acryl will do nicely as well, though the adhesion isn’t as good as with the
enamels. Another advantage to enamel is that the military colors offer no UV (Ultra-Violet) protection, and will
fade nicely in the sun over time offering a very scale weathered look. Acryl colors, on the other hand, hold up
nicely, so that natural weathering process won’t occur. Then on models where the paint doesn’t cover the film
completely, Krylon Satin Clear is used to dull down the exposed film giving a more scale-like finish.
Cleaning the Surface
The first and most important part of the process is in the surface preparation. If you’re re-finishing an ARF, you
can stick with the original cover, or strip it and recover using either Coverite Microlite or Doculam. Doculam is a
clear iron-on film used for protecting documents, and works great for covering small to medium sized models as
well. When I use Microlite as a base, I prefer silver since when the paint chips it will look like the underlying metal
on Warbirds, or the silver dope used on fabric covered components. Once the cover is applied, the next step will
be to clean the surface.
For the paint to stick, the surface must be squeaky clean. Step one is a good rubdown with lacquer thinner or
acetone to remove the oily residue left by the manufacturing process. The first cleaning will leave a frosty looking
residue behind, which is then removed using white vinegar. At this point, the surface is absolutely clean, and
should not be handled with your bare hands; I use either cotton or latex gloves to avoid the oily fingerprints that
will show in the finish, and adversely affect the paint adhesion.
Applying the Colors
The process is really quite simple, and can be accomplished by brushing, with aerosol colors, or the paint being
applied using an airbrush or small automotive trim gun. Now, the downside to painting film is that paint adhesion
is marginal at best, but for Warbirds that’s not all bad. Remember, Warbirds lived a hard life, and the paint was
prone to chipping in the high ware areas anyway.
If you’re not set up with spray painting equipment, Model Master Enamel’s in aerosol cans comes in a variety of
military colors, and work well in most applications. I prefer airbrushing since the selection of colors is much
greater, and much more intricate color schemes can be applied. For those who prefer to brush paint, Model
Master Acryl colors are far and away the best choice.
Masking the Colors
For soft edge camouflage, no masking is required, but for hard edges, you’ll need to separate the colors using
very low tack tape; remember, the paint adhesions to the film isn’t all that great, so what I do is to take the low
tack tape and stick it to my pants, pull it off, and then apply it to the model with only light pressure. Apply the
paint with several very light coats so that it doesn’t puddle up and crawl under the tape leaving an ugly jagged
line. Then when the paint has dried, carefully remove the tape. If it looks like you’re going to get a lot of
“chipping”, wet the masking tape with water to help reduce the tack as you remove the tape. If some chipping
occurs, touch it up with a brush after the mask has been removed.
An Added Bonus
Now that the model is painted, the mask removed and the chipping touched up the finish can be “aged” by
adding a bit of shading, or fading. An easy way to apply shading is to add a few drops of black or dark gray to
the original color and spray it with the airbrush around the outer edges of the panels to force a depth into the
finish. Fading is done the same way using white or light gray to lighten the color and spraying it onto the center
area of the panel.
For old linen covered airplanes, the cover can also be shaded using same techniques by a darker shade of the
buff colored film, applied over visible structure to indicate the “yellowing” common to those old airplanes.
And finally, if you want to add some “scale paint chipping”, simply touch a piece of high tack tape to the area
where chipping is desired and actually pull the paint off, exposing the bare film cover beneath.
And with that, you’ll have a very nice scale finish on your film covered model. And remember, practice makes
perfect, and as you learn the basic techniques your models will begin to take on a very scale-like appearance
with only a small amount of effort.
Microlite is available from Tower Hobby at
Doculam is available by the foot from Manzano Laser Works at www.manzanolaser.com
|The tools used to paint Litefilm begins with Lacquer Thinner and
Vinegar to clean the surface, and a variety of paint guns and
airbrushes used to apply the paint on the model.
|I use 3 airbrushes depending on the job at hand. The Pashe H1 single action, the Iwata
gravity feed double action, and finally, the Aztek double action internal mix brush with
Teflon tips for spraying delicate patterns using Acryl paints. For spraying color over large
areas, the Central Tool detail gun is used. A variety of paint brushes are used to apply
Acryl paint finishes and to touch up the paint chips that will appear when pulling up the
|Model Master paints are available in both
enamel and Acryl colors. Both are available in
a rainbow of pastel and military colors suitable
for just about any project. To kill the “wet
shine” that iron-on Mylar films are known for,
Krylon Satin Clear coat is dusted on the entire
model after the colors are applied in
applications like the highlights added to
natural linen finishes, or camouflage squiggle
patterns applied over a Litefilm base color.
|The L-4 was covered with silver Litefilm, and then painted with
Model Master Enamels. The painted surface was then
“mottled” with a light dusting of Grimy Black to “dirty up” the
model to add an air of realism to the finish.
|Scale chipping is done on Warbirds by sticking tape onto the
surface and pulling up the color, exposing the Litefilm below.
|The “squiggle” pattern was applied to the Storch over white
Litefilm using Model Master Enamel. After the graphics were
applied, a light dusting of Krylon Satin Clear was used to dull
down the shiny finish produced by the Litefilm. The bottom color
was sprayed with Model Master Enamel using the Pache H1
airbrush on the fuselage and stabilizer, and the Central Tool detail
gun was used to apply the color to the bottom of the wing.
|Highlights were added to the natural linen
finish where the cover contacts the
internal structure giving the model an
aged look. After the highlights were
applied, a light dusting of Krylon Satin
Clear was applied to tone down the shine,
giving the model a more natural scale
|The entire camouflage paint finish was applied using a ½” brush
and Model Master Acryl colors. The paints produce a nice satin
finish that closely resembles the dope finish on the full scale
|After 10 years, the finish on the B-17 has taken on a very
“aged” appearance. With the addition of a few “sheet metal
patches” and the natural fading of the enamel paint the finish
just keeps getting more realistic over time.