Regardless of your model’s color, adding some visual surface detail helps your plane gain depth and realism. Here’s how I added a touch of detail to the all-blue scheme of a giant-scale Top Flite F4U Corsair ARF with some basic techniques and supplies.
The technique for applying panel lines with a pen has been around for a long time, but fine, felt-tip pens really make the task simple. First, clean the surface of your plane and really degrease it so the ink will last. You also need some flexible, straightedge rulers, and some basic templates to make small panels and circles for things like the fuel-tank filler. Templates of various sizes are available at most office supply stores. Scale color profile drawings from aviation books and online drawings and photos also are handy guides for detail placement. Remember, this is not a full-blown detailing treatment. I just wanted to add a hint of detail to add some eye-candy to an otherwise smooth, film-covered ARF.
The color of your airplane will dictate what colored pens to use. Straight black is not really a good choice for the Corsair. Since there aren’t that many flying Corsairs around, I went to local museums to get a feel for what I wanted my Corsair to look like. The white panel lines often seen on museum aircraft (where wax has built up inside) was too overpowering, so I went with dark blue.
Many full-size Corsairs operated in harsh conditions, and the rivets quickly started to show through. I replicated them with a regular felt-tip pen. I used silver pen rivets on most of the airframe, but in areas where there is more detail to draw attention, I used vinyl rub-on graphics (cwvmodels.com). These markings work great, go on quickly, and are printed in sheets so you can cut them to length and apply a row at a time. The spacing in the rows and columns are different, so depending on the direction of your cut, you can vary the spacing of the screws and rivets applied to the model.
Using your 3-view drawing as a guide, lay out your major panel lines using a long, straightedge. A good thing here is that if you mess up, you can simply wipe the ink away with a solvent like MEK or acetone, and do it over again. Use rubber gloves when handling any solvent chemicals. I work on one section at a time and complete it before moving on. I first laid out the outer wing panel lines and then did the wing center section. After that, I did the tail surfaces and then marked out the right and left sides. I finished up by adding the detail to the top and then the bottom of the fuselage. I would draw the lines right over your aircraft markings.
After the panel lines are complete, use a silver felt-tip pen and start adding the rivet details close to one side of the line. Try to keep them evenly spaced. After a while, you’ll be applying the rivets at a fairly quick pace. Again, use solvent to “fix” any mistakes. For hatches and maintenance panels, flush screw heads are used. To rub the markings into place, use a smooth propeller blade as a burnishing tool. This helps prevent denting the soft balsa surface under the film covering.
That’s it. Go over the rest of your model and add as much detail as you like. If you tend to be a little lazy, you don’t even have to do the underside! To seal the detail, go over the model with a clear coat and mist it over the details. You really don’t have to do this, as it takes only minutes to redraw details that wear away. Have fun!
By Gerry Yarrish