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Getting the right finish on a Pattern Model!

Have you ever wondered how Steve gets the high quality paint finish on his pattern models? Well wonder no more! He’s been kind enough to cover it in this article!

I can’t wait to give some of these tips a try, just need to find something to spray.

Enjoy, Matt

Getting the right finish – Steve Underwood

With a few pattern models under the paint last year I thought it would be worth reflecting on what products we used and how could we do better…

The dark art of paint spraying, you may well ask. There are no real secrets to paint spraying, all the products are off the shelf and are basically car paint to the average Joe.

There are a number of paints out there to say the least. Most people ask me is that 2 pack paint on my model? The answer is always NO!

The the most common paint used on model aircraft that I know of is base coat paint. This is a very basic and easy paint to use. The system is very simple. It’s a paint that is 1k so it does not need an activator and is air dry within minutes.

Only a small amount of thinner is required to thin the paint, if desired. I personally do thin the paint. When using base coat paint you will always have to apply a clear lacquer afterwards. You have two choices here, 2k clear acrylic or a single 1k clear.

2k clear is the best in my opinion, It cures off very hard so can be sanded cut and buffed after the clear has been applied.

There are options for alternate paints. 2k paint very hard paints and great care in spraying as very bad for the lungs and cleaning the guns out can be time consuming.

I believe cellulose paint is still available and also polyurethane. Again I stick to what I know best and works for me. The cost of paint has risen over time. At the time of publishing this article, 250ml of base coat will cost around £22. Not a great deal for your money, but it does go a long way. So looking at models that come with multiple colours on them, you can start pricing up the paint. It will soon mount up!

We have touched on the paint we have chosen to work with. Let’s now move onto the preparation required.


The normal pattern model comes with a epoxy moulded fuselage in gel coat white. They look nice and shiny and ready to paint! Or so you would think. The fuselage may still have release agent on the it, which would cause no end of trouble to apply paint.

To remove this you have to get out the 400 grade wet and dry and a bowl of water. You will need to block sand, which means using a nice flat square piece of hard wood as a sanding block or you can buy some nice sanding blocks of the internet. You will have to free hand sand around the cheek cowls etc, Use whatever the best method to suit you.

What you are looking for is a flat white finish on the fuselage. The mould seams are on the top and bottom of the fuselage. These will have to be sanded and maybe filled, if any pins hole do arise after sanding. These can be filled with car filler, P38 or a product called stopper that is also used in the car auto repair industry. Stopper is lighter and quicker to use and is my preferred method.

When you are totally satisfied with the rubbing down you can apply the first colour. To degrease the fuselage there is a product called panel wipe. This is a very fast drying cleaner. Wipe the model all over and leave to dry for at least 5 minutes before you spray.

I go with a base coat white all over the fuselage to give me a good paint surface to apply the other colours. So far this has worked fine when doing a lot of double masking. I will talk about double masking later.

Once the white has been applied it will then need a sand down with a very fine scotch brite pad. This smooths off the paint and keys up the surface. This is very fine and minimum removal of paint. The scotch brite is grey in colour and can be purchased at any good paint supplier.

We have covered paint and how to prep the fuselage.

Airbrush options

So what airbrush or paint gun do we use? You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good spray gun. The main larger areas of paint are put on with a HVLP gun. This means high volume low pressure, around 28 psi is all that is needed for this. Most car repair people like chips away use these type of guns .

The price can range from twenty pounds up to hundreds of pounds. My twenty pound gun works fine to be honest. When smaller area colours are applied or blowing in a black line around the canopy I will get out the trusty old badger air brush which works perfect every time. 10 years I have had this gun and it is so basic and works great.

The badger gun costs around £25 pounds from eBay and the HVLP gun also around the same price. The only costly gun I have is for applying the 2k clear coat. This is a DeVilbiss pro light gun. The cost of this is around £250 pounds. This gives a very good coverage of the fuselage, however people do use a 2k rattle can lacquer and have had great success with this so again it’s down to personal choice and if you want to keep spraying then purchase a high quality gun, it will be a friend for life.

Moving on lets cover the type of tape we use to mask up the lines on the model

Masking up!

3M is the biggest name in tapes! They do a great fine line masking tape that you can get from 1.6mm up to 12mm the tape gives a perfect edge every time if applied right. Make sure you don’t lay it down on a dirty surface as it will pick up micro particles and that will sit on the edge of the tape (beware).

The cost of 3m tape is fairly pricy so there are other after-market tapes out there which I do use now all have great success with so shop around. Most paint suppliers stock some great products at a cheaper price, all helps save some pennies .


Let’s look at a few photos of prep and applied base coat white.

Useful Links – from Matt

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