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Easy Add-on Details for your Warbird

Easy Add-on Details for your Warbird

While I was building my giant scale Top Flite F4U Corsair, I wanted to add just a touch of detail to help break up it’s all blue paint scheme. This is very easy to do with some basic techniques and supplies. Here’s how I did it…


The technique for adding panel lines with a pen has been around for a long time, but the new Fine Tip Sharpie pens really make the task easy. You need some flexible straight edge rulers and some basic templates to get started.

Depending on the color of you airplane, you can use various colored pens. Straight black is not really a good choice for the Corsair so I went with a dark blue.  Also since many of the full-size fighters were operated in harsh conditions, the rivets quickly started to show through and this is best replicated with a silver regular tip Sharpie. I also use color profiles from books and online as guides to detailing.


Remember, this is not a full-blown scale treatment. I just wanted to add a hint of detail to add some unexpected eye candy to an otherwise impressive film covered ARF.

Since there aren’t that many flying Corsairs around, I went with some examples from local museums to get a feel for what I wanted the Top Flite model to look like. I wanted to duplicate the rivets and screws to look silver but the lines are not black. I used the blue lines because white and/or silver lines were too over-powering. Use your straight edge and lay down your panel lines. A good think here is that if you mess something up, you can simply wipe it away with solvent like MEK or Acetone and do it over again. Be use to use rubber gloves when handling solvents.

With the silver Sharpie you go along the panel lines and add the silver rivet details. Try to keep them evenly spaced and draw right over your aircraft markings.

For round and odd shaped panel lines like this fuel tank cover, use the templates.

An excellent guide to detailing is this template set from Hobbico. I used it for the fuel tank detailing applied a red Monokote disc I ironed on to the fuselage to represent the painted filler cap!

Now, for those screw heads. Maintenance panels on a plane have to be removed and replaced and flush screw heads are all over the place. I use the vinyl rub-on graphics from Cal-Grafx Art. These work great and are printed in sheets so you can cut them to length and apply rows at a time as well as individually.

The spacing in the rows and columns are different so depending on the direction of your cut, you can vary the application spacing of the screws. Pretty need. Check out Cal-Grafx’s website at:

Here the flush head rivets are being applied to the wing center section.

Here’s a typical place for screw heads, along the wing leading edge radiator cover panels.

When combined with the Sharpie rivet details, I think you get a really neat appearance that’s almost impossible to duplicate in any other way, and certainly not as quickly!

From the smallest access panel, to the largest panels and covers, the Cal-Garfx screw heads (with some color printed right on top) make adding details quick and easy.

Just position the screw head and burnish down with a smooth tipped tool. Here I use the handle of my scissors.

Here’s the Fuel tank cover completed with the screw head detailing. Looks great and takes only minutes to complete.

That’s it. Go over the rest of your model and add as much or as little detail as you like. I use some 3-view drawings and just pay attention to the major lines and panels shown in the top and side view. For lazy guys, you don’t even have to do the underside! Once you have it all done, go over the whole model with some compatible clear coat and mist it over the rivets, screws and panel lines to seal it all in. You really don’t have to do this as it takes only minutes to redraw details that might wear away.

Have fun and be sure to check out my Top Flite giant scale F4U Corsair ARF review in the November 2012 issue of MAN.

Updated: July 20, 2015 — 12:13 PM


Add a Comment
  1. Why not show the completed plane?

  2. I went to Hobbico website and I can not find those templates.
    Do you have a part number or a source for the template?

    1. Hi Richard,

      It is from Top Flite, the id is :

      TOPR2187 — Scale Warbird Template

  3. Is this the template that you were using for your F4U details?

    Top Flite TOPR2187
    This is a 5″x9″ Template with Five Scales of Shapes and Rivet Placement Lines.

    Makes perfect panel lines, fuel caps, rivets, and other shapes to
    create scale markings on your warbirds and other models.
    Included rulers provide accurate measurements for five scales of
    Ideal for use with the Top Flite Panel Line Pen (TOPQ2510)
    One 5 x 9″ Plastic Template

    1. Yes. it is. Works pretty good but noticed with the wide Sharpie pen, the ink will run under the rivet openings. Of course the Top Flite pen works perfectly, but is available in black only.

  4. Great looking details! Thanks for shring. Do you by chance know anyone ‘folding’ wings on Hellcat? How done?

  5. It’s great to see someone take an ARF to the next level.

    Thanks Gerry for sharing with us!
    I just received the print version and with so much space and can’t show anything else added after publication.

    Did you add the gear doors? That’s one thing I didn’t see in print I’d really like to see here.

  6. @ Charlie. Thanks for commenting! I am planning to do the gear doors after the event travel season for the magazine subsides a bit. And yes, I will get all the photos on the website and in the print magazine. Should be fun!

  7. Thanks,I didn’t know that a template was available. Wish I had one 20 yrs ago. Don

  8. Nice tips, I used some similar tech on my film covered warbirds too and some 3D and weathering efects too.


  9. Nice article and very useful info as usual. Thanks Jerry.

    Two questions if I may?
    I have plans for a P51D that I bought on the internet last year as 1/4 scale. I recently began looking them over to start my build for my winter project. I have come to find that they are not a true 1/4 at 2.9:1 instead of 3.0:1. The fuse plan is only 86.5″ instead of 96″ and the wing plan is 101″ instead of 111″. I did the math based on Wikipedia specs on the P51D.
    Where can I get these “trued up” and where can I find the best accessories true to scale.
    Thanks for your time to answer.

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