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How to create bulletholes

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I decided some time ago to make a small post about how to create nearly (as I don't pretend to be the best modeller around) realistic bulletholes for models. Apparently, it's not a small post at all, but hopefully someone will find it usefull - as there are really little tutorials online for this, and 80% of them are like ... "drill a hole!". It might not be such a tricky operation, but people still ask online.

(Later edit:) ...and looks like for some will really be a long lecture, with plenty of obvious things written down, but it's a good break from my dissertation project and I really enjoyed writing it!

A few things before. The images below present Revell's Arado AR196 A-3. It's not really accurate, as I do like to add a fine touch to my models and personalise them - in fact, they're mine, and I don't fancy knowing that others have the same model, with same markings and maybe even same weathering... Don't call me an as***le it's simply a way to show that the model is MINE.


A. Documentation - Is it myth or is it real ?

As a first step, you should probably think how your model will end like. Will it be historicaly accurate? If so, images of the downed aircraft or images from rival aircraft mounted cameras should help to get a better idea of the placement and amount of punishment the plane took before going down. And, most important, will give you a good idea about size, as no one wants to end with asteroid-sized holes it the model.

B. Size and areas

In case you decide to go on your own, without images of a certain plane, prepare to improvise - but be ready for a short research session. First of all, select a plausible pattern - holes won't just get scattered around as I saw (can't recall where, unfortunately) on some models - and a plausible placement. If you want just to add a couple of dogfighting marks, it's ok, but if you plan a crashed aircraft diorama it's a bit stupid to have only 3 holes on the left aileron.

Speaking of research, it would (greatly!) help to try and find main adversaries of the modelled plane for the certain battle you planed, and search for the armament used. This way, you can estimate the size of the bulletholes.

And keep in mind the movement of the aircraft - particulary the attack angle - top attacks (or high angles) will lead to a cleaner hole than low angle attacks, like rear ones.

In my particular case, the hole was supposed to have 0.39mm, so I went for a nearly 1mm hole to represent a low angle attack and a powerful impact, with some scrap metal left behind.

C. Weathering

Now, this section is really interesting, in my opinion.

The amount of smoke/oil that you add on the fuselage parts depends on the plane that you are building. If the model has selfsealing tanks, then most probably you will need only to add a couple of touches of paint. If, instead, it's an ordinary tank, there should be thicker strains


1. Think where you want to add the holes and sand down the interior of the fuselage/wings (ideal would be to see like through paper if placing the plastic part between you and a light source). Unfortunately I've decided kind of late to add the bulletholes, so I've skipped this step.

2. Lay a stripe of tape on the lane you decided the bullets will be and draw a certain pattern. Mine has quite an equal distance between shots, and is very straight (to be hones, I now regret not making it a bit more "random").


3. Mark with a pen the impact zone, keeping in mind the direction of fire. The angle should be same for all the hits.


4. Make a small hole with the point of a scalpel (or dremel if any available).


5. "Scratch" the plastic, once again without ignoring the angle of impact. It shouldn't look even, but rather extremely random. In fact, metal always reacts different after a hit.


6. After paint was added, some alluminium color should be brushed on the sides of the holes, to "show" the metal under the original layer of paint. Also, some minor scratches could be added by drybrushing.


7. Start working on the strains of smoke and fuel. More or less, depending on the steps above and on personal tastes. Also, don't forget about the Coanda Effect.

8. Same thing can be made for canopies. First drill a small hole, then expand it according to impact angle, and make the scratches to represent cracked glass with a sharp scalpel. One run at a time, I got mine after 3 runs on the same line.


9. For holes that will be under decals, the easiest way is to add a LOT of decal softener, then cut a bit with the scalpel over the hole. Because of the softener, there will be really easy to stick the decal to the drilled sides with a cotton bud. Then move again to step 6.

And this is my result. Not totally happy with it, but at least learned a few new things. Maybe I'll add more smoke after a coat of matte.


Hopefully someone will find it useful

Now, back to dissertation!

Thanks for looking,


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  • 2 years later...

For a bullet coming out the other side, try using a hot, blunt needle. The styrene will melt in a little rough rim, which can be trimmed a little more jagged after it has cooled.

Heating a needle over a night light is an art that all modellers should master. The part of the flame with the most heat in it is just above the visible tip of the flame. Don't worry about soot, that can be brushed off or painted over.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice techniques, but

First of all, select a plausible pattern - holes won't just get scattered around as I saw (can't recall where, unfortunately) on some models - and a plausible placement.

Actually that's exactly what happens, for example WW2 aerial machine guns (fighters at any rate) had a convergence point which could be set at 300-600yds or whatever, and beyond that the bullet pattern would spray. Good hits would be spread over an area rather than in neat lines.

Armour-piercing bullets would leave cleaner holes than soft-nosed ammunition, which would "splash" on impact and leave irregular holes.


.303 damage from soft-nosed bullets, spread in an irregular pattern

Cannon shells would also leave a fine splash pattern of shrapnel around the entry hole, which can be replicated by cutting a square out of the surface, placing some fine adhesive foil over it, and then attacking it with a pin or fine scalpel blade.


Edited by Brokenedge
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