While many of us don’t have time to scale a cockpit interior or lay down rivets, we would like to do a little extra to make our model more personalized. Award winning scale rc modeler, Lyle Vasser, lets us in on the secrets to simple and easy weathering techniques that can make your aircraft come to life.

Mimic the real aircraft

Tonight I decided to start bringing the underside of the model to “life”, or make it look like it has been flying around for a while. How do you do that – Well, with all things in life, if it gets used, it gets dirty!

So after getting the base coat on it is time to dirty things up a bit. This is where the artistic talent comes into play. I guess it can be best described as “easy does it”. You don’t want to have a heavy hand with the airbrush when doing this. If you are starting to see a difference, BEWARE, you are probably doing too much. Most of the changes start to appear AFTER the paint has dried and darkened down a bit.

How much weathering should one do? You have to have a good source. Without it you are just guessing. There has to be some creative license to a project like this, but it definitely make your model look more realistic if you follow from a good photograph.

I found a photo which provides good reference for the underside of the aircraft (I hope the pilots made it out okay from this accident! Again, I didn’t know they used these for training on actual carriers?! I love what I learn about these aircraft when doing this stuff.).

Start getting things dirty

Here you can see some of the weathering from the pencil shading. Next I hit this with an ever so slightly darker color of grey. I mixed Model Master’s Acrylic hobby paint right in with a little of the base coat of light grey. Colors used were raw sienna and a little rust. This sealed the graphite a bit and sets up as a guide to darken things a little more with the next color.

Next application was to go darker by adding some black to the mix and burnt umber. Paying close attention to my reference and how the exhaust and grime would react to the propwash going back and across the airframe in a corkscrew manner. I think that is why the left wing is a little darker than the right because that one gets the prop blast right off the prop.

The underside is now looking like it has been in action! I LOVE this part of painting!

Now we flip this monster over and do the other side, the side that WILL be seen. I first darkened the base color of med. blue with Model Masters Acrylic Raw Umber and a couple of drops of black. Once again, subtlety is key here. You don’t want a big honkin’ change of color. Just a little more than registers with the eye. For some reason, it really looks cool.  Anywhere there is potential for a shadow, spray this paint. Put it a good initial coat in seams, under panel seams, and anywhere else that sunlight doesn’t hit very often. Also keep in mind the engine soot and slipstream for general grime and dirt. Think airflow & gravity for grime.

This medium blue color will also fade quite a bit if left in the sun. If our source is correct, this aircraft was based in Florida in 1942. So it was flying a lot and I doubt if it was hangared, soooo it was going to fade. Sunlight comes from the top down so the faded blue paint should to. I simply mixed some white latex with the medium blue, still keeping it predominately medium blue, but…faded. I also added a touch of Model Masters Burnt Umber just to discolor the blue a bit.

Here are the results….

Leave it alone for a while

Notice the elevators in this picture. Dave not only put in all the rivets, he also put in the actual rib stitching wherever there was fabric on the aircraft – elevators, ailerons, and rudder. These efforts are really paying off now as the darks and lights of the paint bring all that rich detail out.

You may have noticed that I haven’t masked anything off as of yet. For all the positives of latex paint, there is a downside, it has peculiar drying traits. It will dry to the touch quickly, in minutes, but if touched with pressure a finger print will be made. Not to worry because as the paint cures the finger print will disappear.

It is also somewhat sticky for a while especially to vinyl and plastics. For a couple of days after painting, the potential exists for the paint to stick to these materials and actually pull away. Yikes!  So you have to be careful. I did have a wingtip drag across a chair and scratched it a bit. With a warbird this can be an oppurtunity for some metal paint to replicate peeling paint.

However, to fix it, I have found that a little steel wool will sand it down fine and then just hit it again with a few layers of paint and it looks as good as new. So be especially careful with it the first few days, and no tape for a week (I sound like a doctor). And when tape is used, make sure it is for delicate surfaces or it is low tack.

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