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Using Paint masks

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Every so often folks ask how to use paint masks so I thought I'd best creat a separate thread for this. 

A couple quick caveats. This is the approach that works for me. There are several other ways to do them and I will often mix up my approach when needed, based on either the subject, the complexity of the mask or the colours involved. 

I'm using masks cut from vinyl but kabuki masks would be done in the same way. 

Onwards, here's the masking sheet. 


Freshly cut masks are very sharp and the cut lines are hard to see. 

I will often remove the excess material from around the individual mask elements. This is called weeding. It just helps to define each individual mask. 


For roundels and other multiple piece mask, I'll draw some alignment marks on the masks. I'll also number them so I don't mix up element from two different masks. 



Time to apply the mask. You can either apply them segment by segment, making sure to line things up as you go, using the alignment marks you made. Or you transfer the mask as a complete assembly. To do the latter, you apply a piece of transfer film to hold everything together. Here, I'm using a spare piece of the masking film itself. I do have a roll of transfer film and you can get that from various places. It's basically a very low tack film, like frisket. You want something that will release and not stick too hard to the mask. 


It may take a bit of effort to get the mask off the backing in one piece. Stick the transfer film on, and slowly peel it away from the backing paper. You will most likely still have it separate a bit so just stick it back to the transfer film as you go. Hope that makes sense. 

Now the tricky part. Time to get the mask onto the model in the right spot. Start with one corner/area of the mask. Check that it's in the right spot and aligned correctly. Then press down on the rest of the mask. 



Sometimes, things won't go perfectly and it'll be a bit wavy.  That's ok. Just remember that with vinyl masks they can stretch a bit so pull them off carefully to minimize any chance of that. The alignment marks will help get it in place correctly. 


Here's both wing roundels on and in place. Now remove the segment that you're going to paint. Put those back on the backing sheet and save for later. 




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Here's the underside roundel in place. Note that it doesn't completely conform to the surface details. Vinyl masks aren't as flexible as the kabuki ones but are more durable. The best thing to do is right before you airbrush, press down on the mask and make it as tight as possible. Some touch ups may be needed afterwards but they're easy compared to trying to get a decal around the same detail. 


Here's the fin flash and fuselage roundel mask.


An overall view of the model almost ready for paint. 


To avoid overspray, I'll put tape around the masks. 


Time for some colour. 

I'm starting with the red portions of everything. 


IMG_20160426_224332-600x450.jpg IMG_20160426_224914-600x450.jpg

Once the paint is dry, re-apply the mask segment that you removed.


With that segment in place, remove the next segment. 

IMG_20160426_225538-600x450.jpg IMG_20160426_230354-600x450.jpg

Paint the next colour. This could vary depending on the marking so make sure you've got the right one. For example, the upper wings get blue next while the underside and fuselage get white. 

IMG_20160426_230837-600x450.jpg IMG_20160426_233827-600x450.jpg

Then repeat until everything is painted and you end up with something like this. 




Here's a bit of overspray that needs fixing. 


I don't have pics of it but I'll cut apart the relevant mask and stick it in place and touch up the overspray.

Some other general tips. 

- Some folks will put a base coat of white or other light colour below the mask to help improve the coverage. The risk with that is when you apply the segments that there will be a slight overlap and the base coat will show through between elements. 

- Markings before camo. For me, this depends on the subject and the overall paint scheme. There's no right or wrong. I've done before camo and after camo. Sometimes, it's part of the camo. Like this pair of CF-18 and F-16 tails. 


- Vinyl masks over time (after about a year or so) will start to creep or deform a bit. This is due to the backing paper not expanding/shrinking at the same rate as the vinyl itself. They're still usable but require more care, especially with alignment. It's best to use them as soon as you can from person experience. This doesn't affect masks made from kabuki tape.

- If you're careful, vinyl masks are re-usable. I've used some several times before finally getting rid of them. 

I hope you find this helpful. Let me know if you have any further questions.




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