Sunday 30 December 2012

Painting through a template

I painted the wheels for the Puma and the M60 with black primer. To paint the actual wheels, without having to redo the tires afterwards, you can paint these through a paper template.

Various kinds of stencils can be bought, but a circle template is easy enough to make.
Today, I just did the measuring, drawing and cutting (and re-drawing and re-cutting). The actual painting will be for tomorrow.

If I find myself short on time tomorrow, I wish you all the best for 2013. Unless you are following the Mayan calendar, in which case you already celebrated the beginning of the 14th baktun on december 21st.

It's not super-accurate, but just try to measure how big the circle  needs to be.
(I'll admit not knowing the English name for this tool)

Draw a circle on a sturdy piece of paper, like an index card.

Cut with a sharp hobbyknife.

The circle templates for the Puma and the M60.

Gloss coat

The paintjob on the Jaguar is finished, but before I can add the decals (those little "stickers" on a piece of paper), it needs a gloss coat. Decals stick best to gloss paint, so when using matt acrylics - like I do - you need to add an extra layer of gloss clear or varnish, or the decals will not stick or show "silvering".

(You'll find many people using Pledge Future floor polish, which seems to be THE best product for glosscoating, but I don't think it's available in Europe)

I'm using Vallejo's gloss varnish to start with my gloss-coating experiments. It doesn't always spray easy from the airbrush and I have yet to decide whether I need to add thinner or not. Today, it came out easily (almost too easy). At first I though it would be too wet, because I had to spray really liberally to get total coverage, but the result after a few hours is a smooth, shiny surface (even clear to see in the picture).
On a horizontal surface, a thick layer seems to be no problem and it evens out perfectly. We'll see later if that works on a curved surface, like the submarine.

If - after applying decals - you decide the model is too shiny, you can add an extra layer of matt varnish to dull it all down. To protect the decals longterm, you need to add an extra layer anyway.

If at first you don't succeed ...

I had to force myself behind my desk today, because I was dreading to use the airbrush again.
I spent about 2 hours and it was a mixed success. A lot of dry-tip, but I'm getting the hang of cleaning it regularly now. I no longer disassemble the nozzle and nozzle cap for cleaning, just the needle cap. (Unless the entire thing is clogged, but that didn't happen today)

I still had a lot of priming to do, so I continued that. I'm starting to suspect that part of the problems I'm having are because of the primer. Because of its "priming" qualities, maybe the paint is heavier or something. The Revell airbrush does have a very small nozzle, so these 2 factors combined might cause half the problem. Or maybe I'm just looking for reasons to cover up my lack of skill.

I'm now spraying the primer straight from the bottle but at the highest pressure.

Anyway, the Enterprises display stand is primed in black with a beautiful layer of paint, without any splotches this time. The Puma is fully primed in lightgrey and so are the M60's remaining parts.

Display stand for the Enterprise-C.

The Puma, fully primed in lightgrey.

The M60's turret and commander's cupola.
A second pass will be needed to do the barrels and
minor touch-ups on the bottom of the grenade launchers.

Completely forgot to paint the drive sprockets.
I'm keeping these separate, to be assembled when installing the tracks.

Thursday 27 December 2012


I had to do some brushpainting, for the first time in at least 10 years.
The Vallejo "model color" line is very thick from the bottle and requires thinning, but it's nice to work with and very forgiving. Brushpainting with the Vallejo "model air" is tricky, since the paint is too runny for the brush. Slow painting and multiple layers give a beautifully smooth result though, so no need to go buy the same color in both types.

The Jaguar needed some corrections on the camouflage and I painted the landing gear aluminium and the tires flat black.

The submarine required a touch-up alongside the diving planes and the antennae and periscope needed a touch of silver and gold. I had forgotten the specific problems of working with metallic paint, so the resulting paintjob is actually too thick. I should have started with a first layer (non-covering), wait until dry and add a second. The paint is visibly too thick, but I'm not gonna let that bother me.

Remaining work on both models : a clear gloss layer, then decals.

Camouflage touch-up and painted the landing gear.
Periscopes and antennae painted silver and gold.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Masking, any way you can

Masking can be done with masking tape, liquid mask, paper, stencils, or anything you happen to have lying around and you find handy to use. As long as it does the job of preventing paint to come in certain spots, you're doing it right.

A plastic bag is actually a lot easier to handle than a sheet of paper.
Making sure the plastic won't stretch or tear around the diving planes.
The Puma's interior is protected by a paper disc, secured in place with latex.

More tiny photo-etch

The remaining photo-etch parts on the submarine are tiny, but the radar dish is beautiful. I keep being surprised by how sturdy this tiny metal is. I dropped the radar dish on the ground, accidentally brushed against it with tweezers and bent it in the wrong direction and still it handles perfectly. No reason to stop trying to be careful though.

I only hope the looks won't diminish once it's all painted.

Sunday 16 December 2012

The airbrush hates me

Because the previous two airbrushing sessions went fairly okay, I wanted to use my free time to :

  1. Finish painting the submarine
  2. Paint the wheels for the M60 and Puma with a circle template
  3. Prime the turret for the M60
  4. Prime the Puma
  5. Prime the display stand for the enterprise
Some higher power must have taken offense to my ambitious plan, because nothing went as I expected. It felt like my first session all over, even though I am now armed with a better knowledge of how it all should work.

The airbrush decided to hate me today. I must have killed it's parents in a previous life or something to deserve this kind of treatment. Anyway, no amount of thinning, cleaning the needle tip or even thorough cleaning of the entire thing would let me spray paint for more than 5 seconds. 
If I get the flow going, it sputters all over. If it finally flows nicely, I spray a test-line and it goes well. I then pick up a model, hold it under the light, pull the trigger and .. nothing. This is not a dry tip, the paint is thinned more than it should, so it must be ... a combination of things going wrong that I have yet to identify.

If you're sensing frustration, you'd be right. Time to take a step back, let it all soak (literally) a couple of days and start over as soon as I can find new motivation.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Submarine nose job

I painted the fully masked nose of the submarine "Hull red", which is supposed to be a brownish red. It turned out more brown than red, but I can live with how it turned out. Authenticity isn't my primary goal in these first few models.
I assume the colour turned out darker than my test on paper because of the black undercoat.

While painting, I attempted to keep the layer of paint as thin as possible and spray at an angle, away from the tape's edge, to avoid paint going underneath. It still went on rather wet, but the result is better than the Jaguar.

I didn't wait too long, since someone told me it's best to remove the tape while the paint is still wet, which would avoid the flakiness as seen on the Jaguar. Because I had to leave the house to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, I ended up removing the tape after 3 hours, although I would have preferred to do it after only 1 hour.


The end result is quite nice. The Tamiya tape did not leave any (adhesive) residue and the edge is very clean.
I wasn't careful enough removing the last piece of tape : you can see a small grey chip on the last picture above, where I damaged the black basecoat. Since I still have to paint the diving planes, I'll try to touch that up without you ever noticing.

Removing the liquid masks

Time to see the result of my test with the 3 different kinds of liquid masking. 

The completely painted Jaguar.
When I examined the fully painted model, some spots required an extra layer of green paint. Especially around the putty (see picture below), about half a millimeter around the edges of it, the paint seems to really  behave weird. Almost looks like the putty is exerting some kind of "pull" on the paint.

I just sprayed on an extra layer of paint. Because the airbrush was acting up again, I put on a rather wet coat, which would turn out a bad idea a little while later.

Removing Vallejo liquid mask
I started by removing the liquid Vallejo mask (on the tail). As you can see, it's not easy to remove. It's still smelly, still sticky and breaks up in small parts.

Removing silly putty on the wings
 Moving on to the silly putty on the wings, this is a breeze to remove and the separation line is very crisp. As you can see, the putty has perfectly adapted to all details of the wing.

The edge of the paint is not as nice as I would have liked,
especially on the underside.
On the bottom of the plane, I masked with latex. This is also easy to remove, because it doesn't tear or brake into pieces, but the edges are more ... flaky. I do believe this is not solely because of the latex but because I sprayed the paint to thick in one go.

Below is the end result, top and bottom. The top is nicer then the bottom, which is to my advantage. I'll simply ask people not to pick it up :-).

  • Easy to apply
  • Easy to remove

Vallejo liquid mask
  • Difficult to apply
  • Extremely hard to remove, especially in corners
Maybe I got a bad bottle? Does this stuff have an expiration date?

Silly putty
  • Easy to apply, but it does take a looong time
  • Very easy to remove

Further conclusions :
  • None of the substances lifted the paint underneath
  • Edges are not so nice, probably because I sprayed too much paint

In the future, I will continue testing with both silly putty and latex. The disadvantage of the putty is that it is now mixed with paint flakes and I'm not sure if I can use it again. Since it's very hard to get (unless you're willing to spend insane shipping costs), I might focus on latex again for the next test. I'll just need to get finer control at using the airbrush.

If this were an expensive model or something I'd want to be really detailed, I'd probably start over, but it was a test-model after all and I can't really expect my first camouflage to be perfect.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Masking with tape and paper

The Russian submarine is to receive a red nose. Seems very fitting for the time of year, maybe I should call him Rudolf?

I started by putting Tamiya masking tape around the areas that need to be painted.
Make sure you really rub the tap against the model, to ensure as little paint as possible will creep under it. There's nothing more annoying than removing the masking tape and finding out you need to start over.

In the corners, where one piece of tape overlaps another, pay extra attention and really burnish it down. Because the bottom tape "pulls up" the top one, this is the most likely place where paint will seep underneath.
I measured the Tamiya tape at 0.008 mm thick (0.0035 inch).

(One "trick", which I won't use this time, is to spray a layer of "clear" alongside the tape)

Tamiya masking tape to identify the area to be painted.
Then I took a piece of paper and cut it roughly the shape of the upper part of the nose. It takes a lot of trial and error : tape the paper down on one side, fold it over to the other, cut it to the right length, tape it on the other side, make small incisions to more easily fold the paper, more cutting, taping, recutting and retaping, ...

Paper to cover bigger area's
The rest of the model is safe in one big piece of paper, folded around the hull and stapled shut. More tape is used to secure it near the front and we're ready for painting.

Don't go sparingly on the amount of paper you use. Best to cover the entire model. Don't think you only need to mask the first half, because you'll be able to direct the paintspray in one direction.
Trust me, I have bottles and tools all over my workbench, covered with tiny specs of paint, up ta half a meter away from where I'm painting. Better to be safe than sorry.

More paper to cover the rest of the model
All this masking, by the way, is the reason I have not yet added the antenna's, periscope and other details on the conning tower. I can safely do that when all masking, painting and varnishing is completed.

Always read the instructions - twice!

While studying how I was going to mask the nose of the submarine (so I can paint it red) I discovered I had forgotten to attach 2 pieces : the forward diving planes. (Feel free to correct me on the technical term)

Here we discover another advantage of airbrushing instead of handbrushing. The layer of paint on the model is really thin. This makes it possible to 1) paint an entire model with a few drops of paint, 2) leave all panel lines and other details intact and 3) makes it very easy to scrape away paint where you want to attach a piece, whether you forgot to add it or wanted to paint the base model first before adding details.

(The main reason to do complete assembly before painting is that glue sticks better without a layer of paint in between. If you've already painted it, scrape away paint where you want to add pieces. Don't forget to also scrape away paint on the back of the piece you're about to add, so the glue has all possible chance to bond thoroughly.)

Gently scraping away paint where the diving plane will be attached.
Since I wrote the tip about superglue (found here), I started applying this tip also for regular glue.
In this particular case, if I were to add glue directly to the hull and accidentally apply too much, it would damage the paintjob, or at least leave visible marks of my clumsiness. By placing a drop of glue on a CD and then gently dipping the piece in it, I have a much finer control over how much glue goes where.

Place a drop of glue on a CD, then dip in the piece to be attached.
One single CD will probably serve several years.
I turned the sub on it's side, using it's own display stand, and put the port fin in it's place with tweezers (after dipping it in the glue). I did the starboard side only 2 minutes later. I really like how fast the glue becomes strong enough to handle the model without the freshly attached piece falling out of alignment.

(I'm using "UHU Plast special" liquid cement with a needle applicator. Revell has a similar bottle, also with needle, with probably the exact same content. I try to stay away from the "regular" less-liquid glues.)

Sunday 9 December 2012

Puma finished, awaiting paint

Construction of the Puma is finished, so now it's ready for painting. 

The wheels will be added once all the painting is done. If I'm carefull with the amount of glue on the hubcaps, the wheels should all be able to rotate. 

The turret can rotate and be removed to look inside. 

The main gun is supposed to slightly elevate, but I was careless when adding the machine gun and it's now permanently fixed in the current position. 
(This isn't really an issue, but if you want to keep it moveable, be carefull placing the machine gun)

Liquid masking - 3 options tested

There are many ways to do your masking. The easiest is masking tape (I use Tamiya), but what to do when the shape you're trying to mask is not a straight line, but curvy, like many camouflage schemes. The Jaguar has a very nice camouflage scheme, but because of the many curves and because the model is really small, masking tape is not an option.

The next step would be stencils. You can draw the desired scheme on paper, cut it out and hold it against your model while painting. You can even try low-adhesive glue (from a spray can) to keep it in place. Again, because of the small size and the 3-dimensionality of the model, stencils are a no go.

(I'll get back to masking with paper when I start painting the Enterprise, but that might not be for the immediate future)

Unavoidably, you end looking at liquid masking. I decided the try 3 different kinds :
  • Latex
  • Vallejo liquid mask
  • Silly putty
There are, no doubt, more alternatives, like Humbrol Maskol - which I assume to be very much like the Vallejo product - and others.
When applying the liquid mask, make sure the layer is thick enough. If it's too thin, it'll tear when trying to remove it, making it hard to get every last bit of it, without damaging your model with toothpicks or other tools.

In the past, I succesfully used latex to mask axles and wheels to prevent them from being painted. This time it's different, because the latex is applied on top of a layer of paint and might damage it. 
(Once, I also used Latex to make a mould of a part, to repair damage to an old kit : more here)

Pro :
  • Easily applied with a brush
  • It adheres to itself very strongly, so it doesn't tear when being removed. This means you can get it in really small corners or panel lines and it's still easily removed without leaving traces.
Con :
  • It smells really nasty
Unknown : 
  • will it pull up the paint beneath it, when I try to remove it?
Latex applied to the bottom and lower sides of the Jaguar
Vallejo liquid mask (#523)
This is a product intended exactly for this purpose. The bottle I got had a big blob of dry goo in it, that had to be removed. Maybe it has en expiration date and my bottle is rather old?

Pro :
  • It smells a lot less pungent
  • It applies easily to the model straight from the bottle or with a brush
Con :
  • It's quite runny and tends to move a bit (not much), slightly changing the shape of the camouflage I created with it.
    To avoid this, I could apply it less thick and apply more when it starts to dry.
  • I tested it beforehand on a discarded CD and on a piece of sprue. In both cases, it was impossible to remove in one piece. In a tight spot, sharp tools are needed to get it out, which could damage your model.
    (I'll do a second test, where I'll let it dry 24 hours, but I'm not hopefull)
Unknown :
  • Will it remove easily enough and not harm the underlying paint?
Vallejo liquid mask on the tail of the Jaguar
Silly putty
I got a batch of silly putty from Amazon (UK) and had it delivered in the UK to a friend, who brought it with her on her next visit to Belgium. This was the only alternative I found in Europe NOT to pay $30 shipping. The silly stuff only costs $2, so no way am I paying insane shipping costs!

Pro :
  • It's very malleable and will accept any shape you push it in. Easily pushes into nooks and crannies and - so far - it seems it is as easily removed as well.
  • It doesn't become dry and hard, like normal putty, clay or plasticine. Those materials dry out, causing them to break when handled afterwards and leaving behind trace material in panel lines and small corners.
  • Fun the play with :-)
Con :
  • It takes a LOT longer to apply compared to the liquid masks, since they can be brushed on, directly in the desired shape. You'll need a spatula or the likes to burnish it down.
Silly putty, covering the top of the wings and cockpit
Once all of the masks are dry, I'll airbrush the next layer of paint. Then we'll find out which of the 3 creates sharp masking lines, which is easily removed, which damages the underlying paint and maybe more. We'll know more in a couple of days.

Saturday 8 December 2012

How NOT to buy paint

You would expect buying paint would follow a very simple routine.

  1. Make a list of colours you need
  2. Go to the shop
  3. Buy everything on your list
  4. Go home
What actually happens is the following. I expect many hobbyists will recognize the pattern.
  1. Make a list of colours you need for your unpainted models
  2. Go to the shop
  3. Buy the paint you need
  4. Spot several new models on the shelves
  5. Buy one of them
  6. Go home
  7. Read the building instructions on the new model and discover you need 2 or 3 colours that you do not yet have
  8. Go to step 1

Monday 3 December 2012

First "real" paint

Now that the airbrushing is going a little better, I'm gonna try to put a first coat of "real" paint on some of the primed parts.

The first candidate is the Jaguar. The camouflage scheme calls for dark grey and dark green, two colours I don't really have, but approximations will be good enough for this tiny model. There's no need to spend money on specific colours for this 4 euro model, if it was only bought to test airburshing in the first place.

For the dark grey base coat, I just took light grey and added a few drops (about 20% I would estimate) of black. Painting went well, I could do the entire model in one go. It could have been a touch darker, but the goal for this kit is not realism.

I then switched to yellow ochre, which is the base coat for the M60 tank. The topside went on rather smooth. When the paintcup was empty, I took a risk by adding the paint directly to the cup of the airbrush, then add thinner and stir in the cup itself. I usually put the paint in a jar or something, add a little thinner (10%) then mix and use a pipette to transfer the paint to the airbrush.
The risk did not pay off, because the airbrush started splattering and then clogged completely. Repeated cleaning did nothing to avail it, so I disassembled nozzle and nozzle cap, soaked in cleaner for a few minutes, then left everything to dry.

(Maybe I just switched up my bottles again and added cleaner instead of thinner.)

The ochre turned out a little too greenish for me, but once the other 3 colours are added in the intended camouflage scheme, we will see if it looks better. As long as it's not fully assembled and finished, you can always start over. In the WORST case, it looks ugly and I have to throw it away. It's still a cheap practice-model after all.

Saturday 1 December 2012

More masking with Latex

Since I just discovered from the construction plans that the Puma's 8 wheels are not supposed to be glued, but allowed to freely rotate, I decided to do the same as with the M60's wheels. I put a thick amount of Latex to completely cover the discs over which the wheels fit.

This time, it's not to promote glue-bonding afterwards, but to allow the plastic to remain paint-free, and thus more easily rotate against the wheel. We'll find out of it's enough and if all 8 wheels will eventually rotate or not.

More priming

Feeling exceptionally lucky today with the airbrush, I coated the Puma's turret interior white. Post-assembly this would be too difficult. Once this is dry, I can finish the turret assembly tomorrow.

The M60 received a black coat on the underside and a grey one on the topside. I chose two different colours, so I can experiment with how much the primer will shine through the later basecoat of ochre and green. Might be there's no difference, but I'm hoping the bottom part will be darker, to give it a shadowy effect. The wheels and threads also received their first black coat.
I really like how the airbrushed paint really get's everywhere, every single nook and cranny, without building up too thick a layer.

Persistance leads to victory

As you've been reading the past couple of months, you already know that airbrushing wasn't going that well. Two days ago, while playing House MD (the online Facebook game), I suddenly realized something. To keep it short : when treatment for an illness seems to work and then suddenly - without reason - makes it worse again, a new or unrelated symptom may be the underlying cause. If you've ever seen House, you know what I mean.

Anyhow, how does this relate to my problem?

At first, my problem was that, more often than not, no paint would come out of the airbrush. I overcame this problem by heavily thinning the paint, which seemed indeed to correct it. It seemed strange though, because the paint is supposed to be airbrush-ready. It's okay to thin it 10 to 20%, but not 100% like I was doing. For the submarine, which was primed in black, this seemed no problem, so I continued.

Still, sometimes the paint would stop flowing. More research led me to belief I was experiencing "tip-dry" (or "dry-tip", whatever the term is) : the tip of the needle was becoming covered with a layer of dry paint, which stops the paint from making it into the airflow. So I started regularly cleaning it with a cotton swab drenched in airbrush cleaner. This solved the problem, even though sometimes I had to do this every 30 seconds.

At this point, I should have realized that this may have been my problem right from the start, but I kept thinning my paint 1:1. If you've seen the interior of the Puma, primed in white, it's clear that the paint was thinned way too much because it ran down and pooled at the bottom. Later painting sessions left me with the same frustration : paint not covering well - especially the white one - and splattering everywhere except where I wanted it.

Now, 2 days ago, I realized I had treated the same problem in 2 different ways and maybe I should re-evaluate the first solution. So again I thinned the paint only 10-20% and performed a few tests. Preliminary results indicate I was thinking correctly. At last I was getting some decent coverage with the white primer. Continuing the lucky spree, I tested the grey primer again and this also yielded a nice coat of paint on the model. Not sure if it's the result of a) less thinning and b) regularly cleaning the needle tip, or the result of a dirty nozzle so many weeks ago, which was finally removed. (I gave the entire brush a thorough cleaning little over a week ago)

Anyway, happy airbrusher, signing off for now.