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Matt's tips for painting cars
cmatthewbacon posted a topic in Tips & TricksSince some people have asked me about shiny finishes on my model cars, here's a quick guide to what I do. There are many real experts out there, with better developed technique than mine, but I also think some procedures I've seen make life a lot harder than it needs to be! First things first: you need a large plastic box. Mine's a storage crate from the local Factory Shop/Poundshop, which is about 30x40x60 cm, and is big enough to sit comfortably over a car body on a Tamiya paint stand and/or a bunch of parts mounted on barbecue skewers, lollipop sticks etc. The next thing to remember is that it's a good idea to start painting the car body a couple of weeks before there's any chance of you needing it. It's the first thing I do, and actually there are a number of kits in my stash sitting there with fully painted bodies in the box, because the set-up and clean up after a paint session can be tedious, so why not do several at once? MAKE SURE TO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS and fit the all the body parts that can be joined together together before painting (many kits have complex undercuts to be joined to the main body but still allow the chassis to be fitted with them in place). Go and look at what's been done before the stage in the instructions where the chassis goes in the body and do all that. And don't forget to paint the wing mirror housings if they are body-coloured at the same time. Also if the paint is multilayered, try to "jury rig" opening panels to the main body before painting, to be SURE that they all get the same density of each layer, and end up the same colour. You also need some "Novus" Plastic Polish. Buy it from eBay, where it's sold by people who sell tools for restoring pinball machines (or at least the cheapest, most local UK distributor did). It comes in three grades -- buy the "fine scratch remover" and the "coarse scratch remover". You don't need the "plastic polish" grade, which is a bit like Future/Klear, and is only really needed for actual clear perspex, say. I use two different paint systems: Tamiya Acrylic Sprays and Zero Paints base coats with 2-pack clear coat. These two are Tamiya Acrylic Sprays These two are Zero paints. I think both give great results. I tend to use the Zero solution for more modern cars, especially when I want to match a very specific colour from a real range (one of Zero's biggest strengths), because I think the super-shiny look is more appropriate. I use the Tamiya acrylics for older cars, mostly, becauseI think it's a better fit for the kind of paint used in the 50s-70s. To be honest, though, speaking purely personally, I think the that the Tamiya approach gives a more realistic looking "scale finish" on a model of any car -- I think the vogue for super-shiny "wet-look" finishes in car modelling is a fad, like "low-lighting" panel lines on aircraft, or multicoloured filters on armour models. However, I put a few car models in at SMW this year, and the Chrysler 300C and Ferrari Aperta up top, done Tamiya-style, were ignored, while the F12 above and my 599GTO were "commended" by the judges, so I suspect that if you want to trouble the prizegiving in the car classes at a show, the super-shiny look is the one to go for! The first trick is to keep all the car parts under the box in your spray area except when you're actually painting them. All four of these cars were primed with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer, grey or white depending on the brightness of the colour. Once it's on, in a couple of light coats, leave it to sit for a few hours to dry out properly. If you use, say Halfords Grey Plastic Primer, you will have to sand it smooth with a couple of grades of Micromesh (6000, 8000), and you run the risk of knocking it off the high spots, which if the base plastic is dark and your primer light, you WILL be able to see through the final finish unless you reprime and resand. Much easier just to use the Tamiya primer, which you won't need to do anything to, unless you've got some crud on it, which will need knocking flat with the lightest micromeshing of the smallest are you can get away with. AT NO POINT DO I WANT TO BE SANDING THE WHOLE CAR, either in primer, base coat or top coat. Once the body is primered, the two approaches diverge a bit. For the Tamiya acrylic spray route, I apply the top coat in several light layers. It will LOOK as though it's slightly "orange peeled" as it goes on, but resist the temptation to apply "wet coats". Tamiya acrylic is thin, and will run. It also goes on shrinking as it dries for a lot longer than it takes to be apparently "touch dry", and after that the apparent "orange peel" will have all but disappeared. So, apply lots (3-5) of light coats, separated by about 15 minutes or so, keeping the body under your box all the time you're not spraying. An hour or so after the last coat, take the model and put it in the airing cupboard or somewhere (you need to wait long enough for the paint not to be tacky). I then leave it there (or at least in a warm place) for at least a week, often two. Then you can polish it. If you have any runs or specks, they should be flattened out with (no coarser than 4000 or preferably finer) Micromesh, and then progressively finer up to 8000. Don't rub too much -- the paint is (relatively) fragile, so only do what you need to do with the micromesh, and no more. Only work on the imperfect areas. Finish with the "Coarse Scratch Remover" Novus. Then you polish the whole thing with the Novus "Fine Scratch remover". Put a bit on a soft cloth (old T-shirt material is great) and polish in tiny circles as you would 25 time larger on a real car. Go over the whole body. As you polish, the liquid polish will slowly disappear, the cloth will start to to take on the colour of the paint, and before long you'll hear a sort of "squeak" as you rub. That bit's done. Any vestigial "graininess" from the application should be polished out. Revisit any remaining imperfect areas (occasionally small scratches appear on close inspection) with the coarse scratch remover, and do them again. After this, the body will be shiny, but quite fragile. You need to handle it as little as possible from now on. Try to use latex or cotton gloves when you do things like BMF, detail painting etc. It's not easy, so I usually end up doing a last clean and repolish on some specific parts (the middle of the main door panels, for sure) after the whole model is assembled -- you have to pick it up somewhere, after all. The Zero Paints solution is rather different. First things first -- read the instructions you can download from the web site. You WILL need a good mask (mine's a 3M chemical filtering mask, cost about £20). And you should wear latex gloves all the time when mixing, spraying and cleaning up -- the 2K clear in particular is "professional" stuff. But it gives a great result. You really can't get the same finish with the premixed stuff in the range. After your primer, apply the base colour/s. It's MEANT to be matt finish, so don't try to spray wet coats or get it smooth -- in fact if it IS smooth, you've sprayed it too thick. First light coat, leave it for five minutes, and then several more light coats to build up the colour, a few minutes apart. (And back under the box every time). When you're done, the colour is even and matt (no shinier than satin): You do not need to do anything to this coat -- no sanding, no polishing, no flatting. Just look REALLY close and remove any tiny bits of detritus with fine tweezers, or of push comes to shove a couple of strokes of 4000-grit micromesh. Wipe it with a "tack rag" if needed (from Zero, or a lot cheaper for a lot more from eBay from a paint shop supplier) to get rid of dust. Then time for the clear: you only need to wait 10-15 minutes after the last base coat, though I tend to leave it an hour or so to get up my nerve... I find that the "instructions" ratio of 60 clear to 30 hardener and 10 thinner works fine. In practice you don't need to be super-accurate. Pour 1/2" or so of clear into the bottom of your airbrush jar, add half as much again hardener (1/4") and half as much as that of thinner and it works just fine... Then start to spray. First, do a couple of light mist coats overall, leaving about 5 minutes between each one. I have another airbrush jar with just thinner in, and after each mist coat of clear, a give a good spray of thinner to stop anything setting in the nozzle between coats of 2K. Make sure to blow the thinner through when you switch back to clear. Do not spray your model with a coat of thinner! (Don't ask...) Now for the final topcoat. Move over and around the body spraying, keeping moving all the time. As the stuff goes on you'll see four stages (I REALLY suggest practicing a couple of times on a plastic spoon to see what you're looking for.) At first, the surface is rough, but starting to be shiny as well; then it'll start to look smooth, but with speckles where some of the base coat is still "above the waterline" or only just under it; then it'll be smooth but if you look closely you can see the tiny droplets of spray "splashing" into the surface like rain on a puddle and levelling as you move on; finally, you'll see tiny ripples like the wind blowing the surface of the puddle. Move away and the ripples relax over a second or two into a glass smooth surface. That's the point where you've done enough -- the "wet coat". The reason why the 2K clear is so good is that somehow, like magic, when you've got to that point, the stuff doesn't run, even on vertical body surfaces. When the whole car is like that, get it under your box as quickly as possible and don't look at it for AT LEAST an hour. Clean your airbrush thoroughly, and straight away, with Zero Airbrush cleaner or lacquer thinner. The Two pack sets chemically, like epoxy glue, and will not dissolve again afterwards, so if you leave it to set in your nozzle or paint cup, it isn't coming out again easily... After a few hours at normal room temperature, the clear is "tack free." Again, I stick mine in the airing cupboard at that stage. The next day it's ready to be polished (12 hours or so later -- leave it too long and it's bullet-tough). If you've done the previous stage successfully, the whole car has a wet look. You SHOULD NOT need to polish it. All you are going to do is address any teeny tiny bits of crud that have somehow still managed to fall on it under your box. They should be few and far between. When you find one, only attack the smallest possible area. Work through all the Micromesh grades from 3600 --> 8000, and then the Novus. It will be much harder work -- this stuff is much tougher than the Tamiya acrylic -- but equally, you've got a good thick protective layer of completely transparent clearcoat to work at, so the risk of "burning through" to base coat or primer is much less. However, do keep a wary eye open for thin raised detail or sharp edges, where the coat is thinner. Try to control your sanding and polishing to avoid them -- another reason for not wanting to polish the whole car. If and only if you have "orange peel" -- which is usually a result of not thinning the 2pack clear quite enough, or not getting to the "breeze on a puddle" stage 4 all over the body -- you will need to polish whole panels. This will require a lot of rubbing, starting with the 3600 micromesh, and do get the whole panel looking evenly "matted" before starting to work your way up the grades. But if you practice a while on spoons with your airbrush, your measuring, and your spraying conditions, you shouldn't need to do it... And then, it should look like this: This had two spots on the bonnet, two on the roof, one on the nose, and a couple on the panel behind the rear left wheel arch. In total, I polished maybe 4sq cm of the surface. All the rest is the 2K clear exactly as applied... [EDIT: Additional paint suggestion 21/2/20] This Corvette is painted with the Zero Base Coat/2K Clear coat method. One additional recommendation, based on this experience, is to flow Citadel Contrast Paint (in this case "Leviadon Blue") into the panel and shut lines after painting the base coat but before applying clear. It's densely pigmented, flows easily and moves by capillary action along the lines. Being water based it's easy to tidy up and not affected by the solvent in the clear coat. Contrast Paint comes in a host of colours, and many of darker ones can be used for this purpose on a range of base coat colour families. There's also a black and a dark grey for when you just want really dark lines... [end EDIT] And that's it, I think... Any questions are more than welcome... bestest, M.