Scale Modeling Techniques, Tips and Tutorials
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Painting the Panel Lines of your Aircraft Model

Oil Paint and Varsol wash mixture for the aircraft model.

Once you have completed the paint scheme of your airplane model kit, it's time to tackle the panel lines. Properly painted panel lines add realism and detail to the exterior of the aircraft model. The best results can be achieved by pre-shading all the panel lines of the airplane model kit before overlaying it with the final paint scheme. Keep in mind that in order for this technique to be successful, all surface paint must be completely dry with an added application of clear coat.

For this tutorial you will need to acquire Varsol, which can be purchased at your local hardware store, and some artist oil paints. Most modelers prefer to use Raw Umber and Iron Oxide Black, which can be mixed together or used individually. In order for the wash to flow properly into the panel lines, joints and corners of the airplane model kit, the paint mixture should be very thin. You can achieve this by mixing your artist oil paints with the Varsol. I found the best mixture ratio to be 9 parts Varsol and 1 part oil paint.

Load a brush with the wash and wet down the entire part of the aircraft model that you want to enhance. You will find that the wash will accumulate in the corners and around protruding details as it moves away from the flat surfaces of the airplane model kit. It is important that you do not allow the wash to assemble in thick puddles, or you may risk covering up the underlying paintwork. Allow some time for the wash to dry and you will find that the illusion of shadows is perfect.

If some of the thin wash should happen to run outside the panel lines, wait until the wash is almost dry. You can use this excess wash to your advantage and create a "worn out" look by simply wiping it away. To do this, you may choose to use a slightly moist rag or Q-tip. Make sure that you wipe in the direction from the nose of the aircraft model towards the end using a minimal amount of pressure.

Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work the first time. This technique is not easy to achieve and I had to attempt this many times before I learned to do it correctly. I would also suggest several practice runs on spare airplane model kit parts before applying this technique to your final painted aircraft model. Enjoy the effects.

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