Build your first flying scale Jet - Chapter 9 - Lots of masking and painting

The rather complex scheme I chose for my model required an awful lot of masking - in fact the masking took much longer than the actual airbrushing. I'll take you through the whole process - whether you think the results justify the work involved is something only you can decide.

The first colour to be sprayed was white, both for the white areas of the scheme, and as an undercoat for the red and orange areas. These colours can be rather translucent and always look brighter over a white base coat. The first part to be masked was the tailplane. The colour demarkations were drawn on a copy of the plan, then carefully cut along the lines shown to create guides for applying the thin paper masking tape strips. This is the top of the tailplane, and the inner triangle, which will be green, has to be masked while the outer white and red sections are painted white.

A triangle of notepaper now covers the centre area, attached to the first two masking tape strips using two more masking tape strips.

This is the underside of the tailplane. The forward sections that will later be silver, are masked off in a similar fashion to the top using masking tape strips backed up with notepaper.

The extent of the inboard green markings on the upper wings were delineated with masking tape strips, again using patterns cut from the kit plan as a guide.

Under the wing the edges of the orange triangles were similarly masked.

The areas outside the triangles are covered with notepaper pieces attached to the previously attached masking tape strips.

Turning the wings over, you can see how the inner green panels are likewise covered with notepaper triangles. The wings are now ready to paint.

The clear panels in the canopy were masked with pieces of paper masking tape. Patterns were based on the shapes shown on the plan, though obviously you have to extend the centre panel up and over the top of the canopy. This was done with a collection of thin strips. All the other panels were one piece masks. You can try out shapes in paper till you get them right, then cut the final mask from masking tape. Painting with the canopy in situ helps to make it look like part of the airframe rather than a tacked on extra.

The orange colour runs from the fin along the fuselage spine and finishes in front of the cockpit windshield, so the rest of the fuselage has to be masked off. The nose intake ring is also orange. The edges of the areas are masked with thin masking tape strips, which will incorporate a fair bit of double curvature without creasing. The strips at the nose were cut very thin (maybe 2 mm) and wrapped round a couple of times. The joins in the balsa rings are a useful guide to get this perpendicular when viewed from the sides and above and below. Once you have the edges sorted, it is a case of filling in the gaps with notepaper and more masking tape. I try to keep the area of contact between the tape and tissue to a minimum to avoid the risk of tearing the tissue when it is removed.

After all that masking work the actual airbrushing went rather quickly. I won't deal with the spraying itself as that was covered in the Comper Swift build. I will say though that with white, it is a balancing act between getting the required opacity, and not adding too much weight. If in doubt, stop slightly before you are completely satisfied! As Humbrol enamels are becoming hard to find locally, I used Revell gloss white enamel this time, and it seemed to spray just as well as the Humbrol I am used to. It was also happy being thinned with dope thinners. Note I took the opportunity to paint the balsa parachute housing at the same time - the pins you can see are to give me something to hold while spraying.

It was a luxury next to be able to spray the orange areas without removing any of the masking. I did it the next day using a Humbrol colour I was saving specially for this scheme. Best not to wait too long to spray the orange for reasons you will see in the next two pictures.

It is not unusual to get overspray creeping under the edges of the masking tape, however carefully applied. Even though the white was fully dry, any overspray that has been sitting under the tape can generally be easily removed by picking it off with a small paint brush dipped in enamel thinners. Don't get the brush too wet, and don't rush. The paint outside the tape is much more resistant to the enamel thinners, so it is not difficult to clean up what look like really rough edges to give a neat and tidy appearance. The before and after photos above and below illustrate this.

After removing the masks from the underside of the wings I discovered I had forgotten about the red wingtips, which would also need a white undercoat. I thus masked them with thin masking tape strips, and hand painted the white using a flat brush. It was just not worth getting the airbrush out again for.

Using the shapes cut from the plan as guides, the white areas on the upper wings and tailplane were masked off, leaving just the red areas exposed. The stuff covering the green bits was still left in position. As you can see on the wing undersurfaces, everything except the wingtip was masked off using notepaper (the only masking tape contact to the wing underside was at the colour demarkation at the tip).

Here we are after a coat of bright red gloss has been applied. With the white undercoat, you do not need much paint to get a nice intense colour.

It's always an exciting moment when you get to peel off all the masking and see the results. When removing the tape strips, fold them back on themselves and ease them off very slowly to minimise the risk of pulling any paint off. I was very pleased with the clean edges - there was very little touching up to do. Misting on thin coats is the key - never let a thick, wet area form next to the masking tape edge or it is bound to sneak under somewhere.

Now it is the turn of the green triangles above the flying surfaces which were again masked off using masking tape strips backed up with notepaper - a relatively simple job.

I sprayed on a nice bright shade I found in the Humbrol enamel range. When you look at the amount of overspray, it is clear that you don't need a sophisticated airbrush to do this - I generally use a cheap external mix single action airbrush which is easy to use and (equally important) easy and quick to clean.

Removing the tape reveals the final upper wing and tailplane patterns.

The silver is the last colour to be sprayed, on the basis that it is difficult to touch up if you damage it (e.g. if paint is pulled off with the masking tape). The masking for this is particularly tricky on the fuselage, where the orange areas have to be covered. I started off with thin strips of masking tape then adding an overlapping second strip, followed by a third used to attach the notepaper.

Masking the orange sections below the tailplanes and wings was much simpler as they are flat. The red wingtips were also masked.

The silver finish was Xtracolor "RLM Silber" enamel, thinned with dope thinners. You don't need to add much silver paint to achieve an opaque finish as it relects the light so well.

Here is the result after careful removal of the masking, and a bit of touching up to remove some silver overspray from the gloss orange areas.

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