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Scale model painting

15 Jun

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Normally, the first colour I spray for interiors is black (Photo 1). This is done for two reasons. Firstly, it gives ‘depth’ to the colour that will be sprayed next; it somehow gives the base colour more character, or perhaps a less monotone appearance. Secondly, it is the first step in manipulating the interior surfaces by giving the illusion of more depth than is actually there, by creating shadows. After applying the black, the next step requires a spray gun and involves ‘misting’ on the cockpit base colour; in this case Testors Model Master RAF Interior Green. This enamel is thinned and sprayed at a low pressure, around 10 PSI, so that a light coat that just starts to lighten the black is achieved. Subsequent misting coats put more paint on the high points, like framing, and in the centre of open areas. Try to leave the base of raised details a little darker – this is where the simulated ‘shadow’ gives the illusion of depth (Photo 2). The next steps involve using different brushes for different applications.


While it was normal practice at one time to paint the entire model using brushes, today many modellers limit the use of  brushes to detail painting. Even though more of the modelling community is adopting the spray gun as the tool for achieving a quality finish, the low-tech paintbrush will always be with us and deserves more respect.

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Vic Scheuerman continues his back-to-basics series using a Seafire as his example, describing the techniques he uses to finish the interior detailing of his superb models.

Paintbrushes can be divided into natural and synthetic hair types. The type of paint you are using should decide which hair type is most suitable. The best way to start is to simply read the information placard that comes with virtually every brush, or is displayed on the brush rack. These list the brush’s recommended uses; then by practical application you will find what works best for you. I tend to purchase my brushes from an art supply store and the staff there is generally well informed. Next thing to consider is the shape of the tip. Again, where and what you are using the brush for will decided the shape. For practical purposes we will break the selection down into ‘flats’, ‘liners’ and ’rounds’.
In Photo 3 one can see a selection of each type. The brush on the left is a ’round’. ‘Rounds’ come in a variety of sizes, but that illustrated is the one that I most commonly use and it is called a ‘spotter’. As the name implies, it is used
for very delicate detail painting and features a fine tip. To protect this tip it is normal that a clear protective jacket is supplied and this should be kept and used. The hairs in this brush are synthetic (though it is used for all paint types) and it is a quality brush because it features double crimping on the metal ferrule (the casing that holds the hairs).

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Next to it is a ‘liner’, a brush type sometimes called a ‘script’. This brush is the most heavily utilised brush in my collection. Again it is a quality brush, as can be seen by the double crimping. It is widely used for detail painting because it can ‘reach into’ areas thanks to the length of its hair. In addition, it can be used as a ‘flat’ by simply manipulating the shape of the tip after it is loaded with paint. Another nice thing about this brush is that it will take a healthy load of oil wash when used for wash application. This brush has seen at least a half decade of heavy use and is still as effective today as it was when first purchased.
The final type of brush that will be used here is a type of’flat’ called a ‘filbert’. This is the weapon of choice for dry brushing.

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This brush has the edges of its hairs rounded and is great for dry brushing because its centre face touches the surface first. By using this one can vary the pressure of application to cover as large an area as required. Again this is a quality brush and size selection is important, since sometimes you will require a small head to get into tight areas.
In Photo 4 one can see three well used, quality brushes. These are used exclusively for dry pastel application. On the left is a large brush and you can see that its hairs are coloured with ‘earth’ tones. T his is used to softly apply ‘dust’ to landing gear and similar areas. The ‘black’ ‘filbert’ is used to apply dark dry pastel to larger areas, like the interior of a jet exhaust, or it can be used to weather a wheel well by very softly brushing it across raised details in a manner not dissimilar to dry brushing. To get at tight areas or to simulate things like graphite or cordite stains, then a used ‘spotter’ that is trimmed to become a ‘flat’ is used. Shortening its hairs produces a stiffer head that allows you to work the dry pastel into the surface if you wish.
Photo 5 has another three brushes on parade and again these are used for one type of application only. T he two quality brushes on the left both have their handles marked with Tamiya tape. This is a reminder that these are only used on metallic finishes. That on the left is used exclusively for dry brushing Old Silver antiquing paste on things like a black-painted radial engine, where this silver is 
dry brushed on to give the cylinders the look of bare metal.

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The ‘black’ brush next to it is used exclusively for graphite application. Normally graphite is dry brushed on black or very dark grey surfaces to give an authentic metal sheen. The third brush here is used only during decal application. As one may surmise, it is kept separate to ensure that its hairs are never contaminated with colour and this is the only brush with a clear handle in my collection. Its head is large enough to wet a large area, but its bristles stiff enough to encourage thicker decals to flatten and conform to surfaces.
While brushes are normally associated with applying some kind of finish to a model, they do have other uses. A trip to the cosmetics department of your local store allows the purchase of a ’round’ of the most generous and soft kind. These large, soft brushes are great for gently removing dust from completed models, as can be seen in Photo 6; a common sight at most displays and competitions. Another brush that is covered elsewhere is the disposable. These are great for onetime applications like applying superglue, or I uture/Klear. Of course, old brushes are recycled. Used ‘spotters’ make excellent application tools for strong liquid glues like Tenax 7R and any used ‘square’ with a medium head is used to help clean the air gun and associated parts.
No doubt readers picked up on my emphasis of ‘quality brush’ throughout this section. If you are going to invest your hobby budget wisely, then start with good paintbrushes. 

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I’hey not only ensure a superior finish to your project, but if cared for properly a good brush should last a very long time; my ‘filberts’ are at least ten years old. t his only requires a little care during paint application, and cleaning and maintenance after use. Other than when dry brushing with a ‘filbert’, a soft touch is necessary. Never force the head of the brush down to the point were its hair is at a right angle to the ferrule and always let the hairs move in their natural direction. Try to not to load the hairs with paint so that it works into the ferrule, since this will be difficult to remove. When cleaning, dip the hairs into the cleaner and then gently wipe them across a cloth or paper towel.
One product 1 highly recommend is a dedicated brush cleaner like that in Photo 7. This looks like soap and the last thing I do after ‘normal’ cleaning is dip the hairs in clean water and gently roll them across the surface (Photo 8). The brush tip is then reshaped and the brush put away protected by this cleaner. Before the brush is put to use again it is dipped in clean water and gently dried. This method not only keeps the hairs in great shape, but it also helps those small ‘spotters’ last longer by maintaining their ‘points’.

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Another use for this cleaner is removing old paint. If by chance you let paint dry on the brush, then covering its tip with a generous coat of this cleaner and then sealing it in a plastic bag may bring it back to life if it is left to soften over a period of time.

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The next step in manipulating the interior finish of your model involves dry brushing. As its name implies, this technique requires a brush and a ‘filbert’ (rounded) with soft hairs works best. The procedure requires that a small amount of the cockpit colour be left to partially dry, or ‘set-up’ as it is sometimes called. For this use is made of a metal bottle cap to hold a small amount of paint. Once the paint starts to dry, the head of the brush is nabbed into it (Photo 9). 

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The next trick is to remove most of the paint from the brush by stroking it first in a towel/rag and then across some rough cardboard so that there is just enough paint to coat the top of the rough finish (Photo 10). Now take this brush with its almost dry paint and brush it across the raised detail only (Photo 11); you will find that more pressure can be applied as the paint dries. The result is that the cockpit colour will appear somewhat lighter than the same colour that was sprayed on, just starting to make the raised detail stand out a little more (Photo 12). Now go back to the bottle cap and add some white to the base green to lighten it, and repeat the procedure. The last step is very light dry brushing of the highest detail with what should be white with a hint of the base colour. This provides the maximum contrast between the highest points and the darker base shadows (Photo 13).
At the same time as the interior of the fuselage was being sprayed, so too were the subassemblies. To hold these parts for painting two methods are used. If just one side of the part requires painting then it is taped to a piece of cardboard (Photo 14). For smaller parts, or those that require all their surfaces to be painted, then small alligator clips stuck on the end of wooden toothpicks hold them well. The toothpicks are stuck into a foam block while the paint dries (Photo 15).

Detail painting

Returning to the fuselage proper, three different tasks need to be carried out. Firstly, fine copper or solder wire, used to simulate various tubes and ducts on the Seafire, is superglued into place; do not worry about the glossy surface that superglue can sometimes create. The next step is to note where all the joining surfaces are for the subassemblies and scrape off the paint to get a clean surface for the glue; the No. 10 blade works well for this. Detailed painting is the last step at this stage. For this build use was made of War Games acrylic paints. Thinned to go on in light coats, they can be layered to get the required depth of colour. They also dry almost instantly. A dab of paint is put into a bottle cap with a like cap holding water (Photo 16). The paint is applied with a ‘liner’ that can reach into areas while carrying a generous amount of paint.

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The first bulkhead glued to the starboard side was the instrument panel frame; minus its photo-etched instrument panel.

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This was done by first removing the paint from the joining surfaces as noted earlier, and then tacking it in place with liquid glue. When the final position was arrived at two things were done. First a ‘chunk’ of plastic strut was tacked into location, making sure it would not interfere with the fitting of the firewall, then these parts, along with the frame, were secured with superglue. Once this was fully cured, some fine wire was glued into the fuselage wall, laid over the lower frame and either attached to the fuselage wall ahead of this frame or fed into the two pre-drilled holes in the firewall (Photo 17). When completed, the firewall was attached by the same method, followed by the seat frame, minus the seat. Before, during and after each individual frame was fitted, the fuselage halves were dry fitted to make sure that everything fitted together properly. If not, then the offending area was sanded/filed until an adequate fit was achieved.
At this stage all three frames were secured to the starboard fuselage half and the rudder pedals/control column fitted next. This required some careful work, as the forward section holding the rudder pedals must fit ‘into’ the front section while the remainder must rest ‘against’ the fuselage wall and ‘under’ the seat and frame. To help this, both the rudder pedals and the control column were attached after the frame assembly was securely in place. It was a matter of carefully dry fitting and trimming until the framing finally fitted; do not rush this, since some of the framing must run parallel to the fuselage. Then the rudder pedals were glued not only into their pre-drilled holes on the framing, but where they touched the firewall at the top, as added insurance. The final addition was the control column. After it was glued into position on the cross-framing, a control linkage made from a section of stiff wire was attached. As per the frames, areas of this lower assembly that touched a solid surface and were hidden from final view had some strengthening pieces of strut attached.
As mentioned, the completed etched instrument had not been fitted but at this stage it was dry fitted to make sure that it would fit later in assembly (after the matt coat had been applied). It was necessary to remove some of the resin sidewall that butted up against the instrument panel to get a good fit. With this completed, paint was applied to both touch up the finish and to paint the added card, just in case it might be in view.

Wash selection and application

With painting completed an oil wash is applied next. The reason an oil wash is applied is to provide even more contrast to the raised details. When the fuselage is closed, little light gets into it to highlight all the added detail. As the previous steps are performed to provide ‘contrast’ and imitate ‘depth’, this is just another step to enhance these aims. 

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Before the oil wash is applied, all the parts are given a gloss fin – ish that will protect the enamel from the oil paint and also allows the oil paint to flow smoothly along the edges, or to settle at the base of raised details; both thanks to capillary action. When picking an oil paint for wash application, go for the best. The pigment will be finer and the paint will flow better. When picking an interior wash colour have a look at the base cockpit colour and how much light will get into the cockpit area. The darker the base colour and the smaller amount of light that will highlight this area, the darker the wash. To all intents and purposes you are normally looking at Raw Umber or black. Raw limber is a darkish brown colour that will supply some contrast and also be a little more friendly in ‘blending’ with the other interior colours; black will normally make the detail jump out at you. As the base interior colour ended up being on the dark side this time (I should have misted on one more coat), black was used. Again, a dab of paint is put into a bottle cap, while some thinner rests in a cap beside it. The ‘liner’ brush is dipped into thinner and this is mixed with the black until thinner with some colour in it is produced (for this type of application anyway). Then the ‘liner’ brush tip is applied to the base of the intended detail and gravity should work its magic (Photo 18). As can be seen, the seat is finished in ‘Bakelite Brown’ that favours red – Testors Model Master Rust with a drop of Insignia Red works well for this colour. For a detailing oil wash for the seat and harness, Raw Umber was used since the base colours are not dark.

Final touches and assembly

All of the interior was now given a matt finish that got rid of the gloss; including that from the superglue applied earlier and then, before joining the fuselage halves, the etched instrument panel was glued onto its framing. One of the realities of normal wear and tear on an operational aircraft is that the constant scuffing of its surfaces by air and ground crews will degrade its finish somewhat. How much depends on several factors, but since this part deals with the interior, it would be the pilot getting in and out on a regular basis and the ground crew carrying out maintenance that caused wear. Therefore, the entry/exit point should demonstrate wear, along with the lower cockpit framing surface that the crews’ feet would come into contact with. One of the easiest ways to simulate this is with a silver pencil. The local brand of choice is the Sanford PR1SMACOLOR PC949 Metallic Silver and one pencil should last the normal modeller a couple of years. Once the pencil has been sharpened it is a matter of touching the area to be weathered (Photo 19), since the ‘silver’ is quite soft and the pencil’s tip is easily broken. There are different ways of simulating paint chipping with this pencil and they will be covered later under exterior finishing.
The completed and painted resin seat was glued to its wire frame with a dab of the excellent Loctite superglue, allowing some minor adjustment before setting up. As was done to the framing to ensure things remained solid, a section of plastic rod was superglued along the bottom of the frame/seat join. While the excellent Ultra Cast resin seat includes the proper ‘Q’ harness, some additional shoulder webbing was added to carry it through the head armour plate to its attachment point further back in the fuselage. Lead foil was used to simulate this, with two short lengths added to the seat webbing taking it aft of the armour plate, where two long lengths were added to be attached to a previously prepared square of plastic. The other detail added used stretch sprue for the control cables that run out of the tubing below the rudder pedals. Both of these details can be seen in Photo 20, along with the trimmed back armour and some discs added to the seat framing that will be painted before the fuselage halves are joined to secure the cockpit firmly in place. In Photo 21 the completed cockpit can be viewed before the fuselage is glued together. The last internal fuselage area to be painted before the fuselage halves were joined was the tailwheel bay. In Photo 22 this area can be seen and note that the control linkage (stretched sprue) from the cockpit is fixed into place here.

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Next month, a selection of cockpit photographs showing the type of detail needed by modellers, will be offered, Photo 23.

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