Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

For this 1/3-scale RC Thomas Morse S4B, I used Replicraft 1/5-scale plans for reference. They include everything needed to build a full-scale aircraft let alone a model. You can see my entire building thread at the Radio Control Scale Builder forum (rcscalebuilder.com), which includes multiple photos of all the scratch-built details. For color & markings documentation, I used the “Official Monogram U.S. Army & Air Corp. Aircraft Color Guide, Vol 1, 1908 – 1941) book to make sure everything was correct. It is comprehensive and includes lots of diagrams and real paint color chips. I decided to try mixing my own colors which turned out to be fairly easy using Dave Platt’s Black Arts DVD series.

I then took my wing star insignia drawings along with the serial number and other nomenclature to a local vinyl sign shop. They cut everything for my paint masks in about 4 days for only $45. Compared to using shelf paper and a no. 11 X-Acto, it was a bargain for time and effort.

Applying Masks

The fuselage and tail markings are easy being a single color (black) and they were nice and simple due to the masks. For the wing insignia however, there are a lot of steps to paint the star and circle markings. Here we go.

ONE: First apply the outer circle masks. I get them in position and tape a “hinge” on one side and remove half the backing, stick it down and then finish the other half. This ensures it is exactly where I want it.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

TWO: Roll it back and remove a strip of the backing. That strip attaches the edge and “locks in” the position on the wing.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

THREE: Next is to remove the rest of the backing paper and lay the mask down. Note that the front transfer paper holds the circle perfectly and doesn’t allow it to flop around which makes accurate home-made circles so difficult.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

FOUR: Once the mask is in place, I take the front release paper off in strips as it is easier.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

FIVE: Here the mask is uncovered and ready for the first paint application

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

SIX: First I marked out the five points with a protractor. These don’t need to be very precise, just close. Then I painted a rough star shape in white.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

SEVEN: Here the star mask is in place but you can’t see where to put it because the backing isn’t transparent. (Note that the mask is white vinyl, the paint shop ran out of the yellow.)

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

EIGHT: The solution is to cut the backing paper away from the star points. The front sheet is somewhat transparent, so the star points can be place precisely using the pencil marks on the outer circle mask.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

NINE: Once the star mask is in place, peel back half of the mask. Here it’s pealed and the backing paper is removed. The three points are still attached to the front transfer paper to maintain register.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

TEN: And just like the first outer circle, once the first half is down, the rest of the backing can be removed. Now the front transfer paper can be removed.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

ELEVEN: While it is hard to see, in this picture the white star mask is firmly attached where it needs to be.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

TWELVE: Here the blue paint has been applied and the star mask has been removed. Note the small circle mask is for the red star center.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

THIRTEEN: Once again, locating the mask when you can’t see through it presents a problem. For my solution I used five straight edge rulers to align the center mask. This was then taped along one edge, folded back to remove the backing and then re-applied, after which I removed the top transfer paper.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

FOURTEEN: Here’s the final red circle has been painted using the mask. The rest of the marking was covered with masking tape before applying the paint. With all the masking removed, the US wing insignia is complete.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

FIFTEEN: And here are the two top wings assembled to check the final effect. The insignia markings are very large.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

SIXTEEN: The registration numbers and nomenclature markings were simply applied using cut vinyl. Neat and precise.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Paint Scale Markings with Vinyl Masks: Neat and precise results every time

SEVENTEEN: The final beauty shot, the model comes to life with the final painting complete.

Text & Photos by Martin Irvine

Updated: May 23, 2022 — 4:42 PM

1 Comment

  1. The easiest method is what I have used numerous times on r/c boats and airplanes. There is a “vehicle wrap” business nearby. I take them files on a dvd or thumb drive that I do in CorelDRAW. I can convert the files to any format they prefer. They do PRINT AND CUT vinyl. I specify the lightest weight vinyl they have. They do a beautiful job. Just peel it off the backing and put it on the plane. Not as elegant as painted on but pretty nice. They can also do lettering, logos, etc. on clear vinyl.

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