There is an old saying that states, the last 10% of a model project takes 90% of the effort. Meaning that building and covering a model goes relatively quickly when compared to the effort involved with painting and finishing. With that said, one excellent way to gain some time-savings is to use quality graphics and decals on your model airplane.
This is what I did with my current project. For the graphics, I went to my good friends at Red5 Designs who are themselves, active RC warbird modelers and pilots. Their product is cut from quality stick on vinyl and it is extremely thin and pliable so can lay down over surface details like panels and rib tapes. Above you can see my markings layout sheet which I drew full scale with CAD. I made the drawing file and sent them my PDF show below.
Being full size, makes it very easy for Red5 Designs to duplicate your markings exactly the right size. Also, if you do want to paint your markings, Red5 Designs can also make “Masking Templates” for you to use.
Here’s just a sample of the entire package Red5 Designs produced for me. All the markings come on a paper backing sheet and are covered with a clear transfer sheet.
Small lettering is also possible and the font match is excellent. You can see here, my markings are not exactly historically accurate, but intended for sport flying.
The markings match my drawings precisely.
Before applying any markings, it is important to clean the surfaces where the graphics are being applied. I use Windex and lint-free paper towels. Also, I hinge all the control surfaces into place before applying the large wing markings.
For multiple layer markings, like here on the fuselage, you first apply the base color, white for the surrounds. I use light pencil markings on the model to layout the placement, and then I apply each marking one at a time. You place the marking in position, and start applying pressure at the center and work your way out the edges. Once all of the marking is pressed into place, carefully remove the clear transfer layer by peeling back over itself.
The process is then repeated for the layers that go on top of the first. The process is very easy and should you misplace the second layer, remove it before rubbing it down. The roundel shown above is made from two layers. The white base disc and then the blue ring and the red center dot.
Here is the bottom wing’s marking which is a single layer/color.
Here’s the first white disk for the bottom wing.
The disk lays over the aileron servo hatch cover and it has to be cut free with a sharp hobby knife.
Here’s the completed bottom roundel marking. with blue and red pieces added.
A trick to applying the markings over an irregular surface, like a fabric covered wing, is to apply each layer carefully and rub out most of the bubbles of trapped air first. Then, using a covering heat gun, apply quick, short applications of heat to small areas and rub the heated material down. Don’t let the heat build up too much as the vinyl can become damaged and melted by concentrating the heat in one area too long. I use a soft cloth, (Tee-shirt material), to rub the marking down over the tapes and then, after everything has cooled, I use a hobby knife to pierce any large remaining air bubbles, and then rub that area down as well. It does take some time, but as you can see, the markings do actually look like they have been masked and painted on.
Here the bottom wing panels are done. You might notice I am applying the markings in a bedroom. I do this because I like to place the model parts on a soft bed spread to prevent any hangar rash which can happen while working in my workshop.
Here the first layer of markings have been applied to the top wing.
So that’s it for now, I do have a bit more painting to finish up on the fuselage before completing the application of all my markings. I will show the completed markings later on as I ran out of time this weekend. So stay tuned for my updates.