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How to hand paint larger areas of a model

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I'm a bit surprised by the very positive comments on my painting work on my Fly model. It is a quite easy process from my point of view so I thought I'd share my technique. Forgive me to all of you who know this already or do it better. My painting technique dates back to house painting in my student years, the principles are the same.



- Do not scrimp by buying cheap brushes. Get the best quality, sable hair, that you can afford.

- For painting a large area of your model use a square headed brush about 3 mm - 4mm wide with a tapered head and medium stiffness. Same as house painting but at a much smaller scale.

- Look after your brushes. Clean them in lacquer thinners, turpentine or water according to the paint you use. Do not let them soak in any of these solutions. After the first clean wash them in hot water and concentrated dish wishing liquid. The idea is to get rid of any paint residue in the brush and especially in its barrel. Always clean straight after you finished the area painted. Good brushes treated well will last for years.

- For clear finishes I use a larger, soft, round or oval head brush - these give a softer application and allow quicker application than a square head. I find clear finishes work best if they go on quickly. I use Testors Dullcote but that is just my choice.



- Several or many thin coats are better than a few thick coats. If the wood behind is showing behind your first coat you are on the right track.

- Do not overload the brush with paint. I take the paint from the pot or bottle and lay it with the brush on to a piece of fresh paper. I then brush out the loaded brush on the paper until it is only lightly loaded with paint.

- Work in one direction from one end to the other of the ship - aft to stern or the other way round. Never start in the middle and then head aft followed by forward.

- Never go back to a perceived mistake behind you in a single application. The paint will have tacked and, especially with enamels, you will get pulling which will turn a minor mistake into a major mess. You can fix that perceived mistake on the next coat.

- Always allow the paint to fully dry. Enamels need at least six hours. Partly dried paint if processed will make a major mess. When you sand the paint should turn to dust. If it rolls into little slivers it isn't dry.

- After each coat lightly sand with 1200 grit paper. If this takes the paint back to wood it doesn't matter there is another coat to come.



- After your last coat of paint, leave it to fully dry and the rub it down with tissue paper. This will even out any brush strokes and colour differences.

- Apply a lacquer (or your favourite clear finish). I use Testors Dullcote. When dry, Testors can again be rubbed back with tissue paper to a dull sheen. I also do a second coat of clear and rub it back again. If you have any shiny spots 1200 grit plus a further tissue rub will get rid of them.


The above only applies to easily accessed surfaces. Strakes, fenders and other things in the way will make the rub off impossible. My theory is to get the base painting about right before those bits are added. I could be proved wrong...


Here is a picture of the upper works paint plus the wales paint. the upper works are a Humbrol enamel, the wale a Polly Scale acrylic. A little bit of grain shows through which suits me. This is more paint grain than wood grain. A too perfect finish would make the model too plastic looking (I'm not meaning to deride plastic models).


If any of you have better ideas I'd be keen to hear them - this works for me.





Edited by aliluke
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Great tutorial Alistair B)


I use a very similar process but with acrylics exclusively.The biggest thing I have found with acrylics is to use Tamiya thinners.Yes they are expensive,but they include a retarder and flow enhancer,normal water doesn't.The difference with the thinners added really is 'night and day'.It is important to keep adding thinners to the paint on the palette as it starts to thicken whilst you are working.

The biggest difference is I spray the clear which is a polyurethane varnish.I use a professional automotive touch up gun with a large compressor.This enables perfect atomisation and because of the volume of material delivered eliminates the drying of the clear as it immediately touches the surface.This gives it a chance to 'flow out' and stops the grainy appearance you can get from spraying.


Kind Regards



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Glad you like my thoughts. That's a good addition Nigel. I might try those thinners for acrylics but I have found Polly Scale to be very easy to apply and easy to keep the coats thin. Certainly some other acrylics that I've used are more difficult. My Fly is the first time I've used enamel on wood - mainly chosen because of the vast colour choice you can get from Humbrol. The AVS that I did is 100% acrylic from a variety of brands - Admiralty, Polly Scale and Citadel.


It'd be nice to see other tips here. Painting the hull on the AVS was a challenge to get even and advice on white hull painting by brush would be interesting.




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Hi Alistair,


Thank you for such a detailed, clear and easy to follow tutorial.  Certainly from my own experience this is one area that us beginners really struggle with and it really stands out in our models more than any other little "errors" so thank you again!  I will be following this method to the letter while I learn.


Do you have any tips or hints you could add for making that perfectly crisp and straight line where the paint ends?

Edited by Bindy
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Cheers all

Bindy - I use Tamiya masking tape. I like it as it has a low tack so it doesn't effect the finishes underneath it. It also doesn't leave a glue residue. That said there are any number of cheaper tapes out there but Tamiya seems popular here and is easy to get.


Jase - never heard of Micro-mesh but good advice. I'll have to see if we can get it here.




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I can attest to the methods described by Alistair, as I also use brushing for large paint areas.  Especially what he said about not scrimping on brush quality -- they're one thing I have found that you DO get what you pay for.  Get good ones, treat them nice, and they'll serve you well for years.

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I usually airbrush large areas.  My hands are not that steady. However one thing a club member who is also an artist said one time is that the size of your brush makes a difference as well.  He said most artists use the largest brush they have as much as possible as to eliminate or minimize overlapping and uneveness and use the smaller brushes for detail work.

David B

Edited by dgbot
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  • 7 months later...
  • 1 month later...

one extra tip, especially for large/long areas.  you want to keep your brush strokes the same length through out your painting work.

when you hit the 'long' stretches people tend to take longer brush strokes to cover those areas faster, but you end up with an uneven coat (thick on the ends and thin in the middle).

Edited by Grimber
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Hi Alistar


I also use Dulcoat and realy like it on decks. You can get a nice smooth finish and rub it down to any dull of gloss finish you want. And it goes on smooth if you have the right brushes as you stated before here.Here's a photo of my just completed Union Picket Boat Number 1 kit by MSW. I used Testors Dulcoat  as overcoat and Model Master enamal paint for all color paints.




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Wat do you use to prepare the surface for painting? Any primers or other preparations to fill the grain?


I'm on my first wooden kit with paint, and I was told that you should prime with primer of the same brand/type as you plan to paint with.  In my case I'm using mostly Model Shipways paint (acrylic) so I used Model Shipways primer, sanded it down, re-primed and sanded again (320 grit) before applying the first coat of paint.


Edit: I've seen others use wood sealant, and I've also seen where people will use a wipe-on poly to seal/prep the wood prior to paint.  Seems like there are numerous ways to approach this, but that it's important to seal the wood with *something* before painting.

Edited by GuntherMT
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