or "Some Thoughts About
Painting Teeny-Tiny Model Airplanes"
IPMS USA 29017
Call me a glutton for punishment, but 1/72 ranks right up there with 1/48 as my
favorite scale to build. There are attractions and there are challenges. The attraction is
that I can actually finish a project in a couple of weeks without getting bogged down in
superdetailing every rivet and cockpit instrument face. There is a wide variety of kits
available in this scale, and like 1/48, the quality of the products are getting better and
But then, its so-o-o little. How could one ever get that German mottle camouflage
on a 5-inch long BF109 to look even close to decent? And heaven forbid if your tastes run
into French WWII 3 or 4 color camouflage schemes.
Here are a few pointers for those of you wanting to take the plunge. I make no pretense
about being a master modeler, or these steps being THE way to achieve modeling fame.
Indeed, I am continually looking for ways to improve my skills.
- When working in 1/72, Im always thinking about how things look in scale. For
example, my 1/4-inch overspray which wasnt supposed to go on the adjacent panel is
would actually be a 1 ½ foot overspray on the real thing. Hardly acceptable. The same
goes for unfilled seams and slips of the hobby knife, as well as any items you may want to
add on to the model (e.g., antenna wiring).
- When I paint 1/72, especially aircraft having intricate camouflage schemes, I always use
my Helping Hands. No, I dont mean that I let my 5-year-old son hold the model
while I let rip with the airbrush. Im talking about the tool that consists of a
base; a bar mounted on the base, and either two or three alligator clips attached to the
bar. This allows me to mount the model and position it at just about any angle. While
building the Aoshima Ta 152, for example, I firmly planted a small diameter wooden dowel
at front end of the fuselage where the spinner shaft was to be inserted. I then clipped to
the dowel to one of the alligator clips. A second clip was attached to the kits tail
wheel, which was molded as part of the fuselage. Doing this allows me to concentrate on
where Im putting my paint spray, not painting and holding the model steady.
Ive found that its just about impossible to get the kind of control you need
to airbrush in 1/72 scale if you have to hold the model in one hand and the airbrush in
the other. In the US, you can find this device in a Micromark catalogue or at a Radio
- Good equipment helps. I use an Iwata HPc airbrush that I love. Having gone
through a Badger 150, Paasche VL, and Testors (Aztek), I can say undoubtedly that the
Iwata is the finest airbrush I have used. It allows for airbrushing of very fine detail in
the hand of a skilled modeler.
- When painting fine details and outlining camouflage demarcation lines, thin the paint
down more than usual. I usually use Testors Model Master enamels and mix them about 50/50
with thinner. And speaking of thinner, I highly recommend a product called Oil Painting
Medium 1 (OPM). Its made by Grumbacher and is a combination of several
ingredients including D-Limonene, turpentine, and poppy seed oil. It significantly slows
down paint drying time, which means that you can work longer without the paint drying on
your airbrush needle and clogging things up. Although described as producing a matte
finish, Ive found that it produces a somewhat glossy appearance. Expect drying time
to be substantially increased over paint mixed with regular mineral spirits. When painting
broader areas where fine detail is not so critical, I will mix OPM 50/50 with regular
paint thinner. This speeds up drying time but still results in improved paint flow.
- When airbrushing very fine detail, I work very close to the model, usually between ¼
and ½ inch. On my Iwata, I usually remove the airbrush tip so that the needle is exposed
(watch out, its very sharp!). That way I can get really close to the surface if I
need to. Having the tip of the needle exposed also makes it easy to periodically wipe the
off built up paint on the exposed part of the needle with a Q-tip moistened in thinner.
- The right air pressure is another important ingredient. With the paint thinned more than
usual, I find that I can airbrush at about 10psi, perhaps a little less. The nice thing
about brushing at such a low pressure is that it really limits overspray.
- Lighting, too, is important. I use a combination light/magnifier on an adjustable arm
that can be positioned within about a foot of the models surface. Try to adjust the
light so that its reflecting directly on the part of the model youre painting.
That way you can tell if youre getting enough (or too much) paint where you want it.
- Last but not least, BE PATIENT. This kind of detail work is not something that should be
done when you are tired, hungry, anxious or frustrated. Of course thats good advice
for just about any modeling project!
Text Copyright © 1998 by Lee
Page created on 17 August, 1998
This page last updated on 18 May, 2001
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