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Weathering and Finishing Scale Models

Weathering and Finishing Scale Models

Coming in the December 2020 issue, The famous RC GEEK Chris Wolfe wanted to return tothe process of repairing and refinishing a crashed E-flite P-39 Airacobra. Last time he used a combination of lightweight spackle and polycrylic finish to repair the airplane. From there, he applied multiple coats of primer (sanding in between coats) to smooth out the airplane and then painted the airframe. This out time, Chris is going to show the final finishing steps of panel lines and weathering that he applied to the model. These small things provide big results in adding realism to a nice looking scale model. And Chris reminds us to remember, when it comes to weathering, less is more!

Panel Lines

The nice thing about using polycrylic on a foam aircraft is that it hardens the entire surface providing a hard coat to apply paint. Because of this, we can use a 0.5mm lead mechanical pencil to lightly draw panel lines over the entire model which provide a very convincing panel line. Once applied (using rulers, etc.), adding a light coat of 2x Rustoleum matte clear over the entire model protects the lines from smudging during the weathering process.

Simulate, not replicate

Weathering adds realism by simulating the appearance of years of use and abuse in the field. We will never be able to replicate all those years of intense exposure to the elements, we can only simulate it through the use of different tools and techniques to artificially make the model look aged. The tools I like to use for this are a selection of acrylic pigments and Tamiya Acrylic thinner for washes and oil streaks, an airbrush for fading and shading, and a fine Scotch-Brite pad for burnishing the surface and blending it all together. It’s important to have a good solid paint foundation for the application of the weathering so the clear coat used to protect the panel lines also protects the paint work as well!


When looking at pictures of P-39 Airacobras from WWII, it was apparent that the canvas covered control surfaces faded over time. This was simulated by airbrushing a lighter shade of color over the molded ribbing on the model. To achieve the lighter green shade, “Armour Sand” thinned with Enamel Thinner to the consistency of dirty thinner.

From there, the control surfaces were masked and the thinned paint was airbrushed over the control surface details. The beauty with the thin paint is that if more color is needed, simply perform another pass and repeat until the desired shade is achieved. Once applied, the surfaces were burnished down with a Scotch-Brite pad until the desired look was acheived. Note that the same was done on the underside with “Flat Gull Gray” used as the lighter color.

When it comes to gun and exhaust staining, remember less is more.

Be sure to watch out for the December Scale Special issue of MAN. Chris shows us a lot more techniques for finishing and weathering scale models.



Updated: December 5, 2020 — 8:50 AM

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