Painting A Black Art When
Too Many Techniques Are Tried

by Reg Hardy

My experiences when it comes to model painting have ranged from the dismal to the sublime when it comes to airbrushing. The problems tend to develop when I start mixing techniques (spray painting and brushing).

One thing I have learned foremost from the tutorial which accompanies this article is the need for extreme cleanliness in finishing models.

In fact, through this tutorial I have come to a whole new perspective regarding airbrushing

For many modelers, painting their creation is the last step in the building process, but for others, ship builders in particular; painting is a step that must be taken before final rigging and other demanding requirements. 

Painting tends to cause modelers (including myself) a lot of problems, primarily because there are so many ways of applying paint with a brush to me seems to be the best method as I'm not that good keeping sprayed paint within the lines of the paint diagram. 

I have learned through trial and error that Murphy's Law is correct: "the odds the paint will go in the wrong place are in direct proportion to the number of hours spent building what ever it is you're painting."

The results aren't pretty. 

Particularly when dealing with plastic models, I have found sprayed on paint tends to gang up in crevices and crannies and slips under masking tape I thought was airtight. 

Worse yet, I have found numerous and conflicting opinions on the "best" materials

and techniques to use that could have solved all of my problems. 

Bound For The Trash Heap

What I have run into in an increasing supply is a huge number of variables that affect paint behavior, with many of them being difficult to impossible to control. 

On top of that, there are many differing combinations of these variables that will give good results. Unfortunately, at leas for me, there is much larger number that tend to give poor results on almost everything I try. 

A case in point the simple task of painting two half-hull pieces for Revell's HMS Victory. There is a copper bottom to deal with and then a rather simple black stripped yellow ochre hull. 

Working at 1:146th scale (just about N-Scale) I found there were several little nooks for paint to run together that weren't obvious on the naked hull. The masking job I did to separate the copper painted bottom from the ochre was about as effective as using a piece of string. The masking smudges were multiplied by the attempt to provide the black stripes. 

This is where Murphy's tongue-in-cheek principium comes into effect. I turned to my hobby store for a solution, which was pretty, much, start over. He suggested a household paint for removing the offending paint job and regular painters' blue masking tape as it was more aggressive.  Oh yeah, scrap the spray paint cans. 

After three-strike that-- (four days for good measure) of soaking in the cleaner I was dreaming of a clean return to the brown plastic. Nope. 

The copper paint pretty much cleared from the bottom "plates" with the exception of the rudder and bow piece. Some of the yellow came off the hull, but anywhere there was detail (around the 100-plus cannon hatch covers for instance) the yellow clung and puddled.

Paint Mixture

The problem with trying to duplicate someone else's successful technique is figuring out *exactly* what it is they're doing - they may well not know themselves. Using Brand XYZ household cleaner mixed one part cleaner, 10 parts water, will remove Brand T paint after 6 hours without eating away plastic detail. 

 But what if I'm using Brand M paint?

Pictures In Motion Illustrate Color Importance Take The Time to Learn Sketching

Bottom line, repainting would mean a loss of detail. 

And now to prove the axiom "even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then", the dealer a agreed to replace the model giving me the unusual opportunity of starting over.

As I start painting the new HMS Victory model I'll try chipping away at this "Black Art" to present some working alternatives.

Meanwhile, anyone with an idea that will help me complete this model in a manner fitting office display, let me know at

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