I am very close to admitting defeat. No matter how I arrange and re-arrange, there does not appear to be any way to produce a simple “tutorial” on how to paint camouflage.

My soldiers, I am truly sorry. Perhaps we will see Jerusalem next year.

The problem is that once you know how to do something, and have done it for years, it becomes progressively more and more difficult to tell if it’s easy or hard to do–if it’s easy or hard to learn–and, ultimately, if it’s easy or hard to teach.

I toyed with the idea of providing a “phony” tutorial with a lot of “tricks” and “hints” and “tips” but that’s insane. I just wrote about how teaching math using “phony” puzzles alienates women (that’s what my last post was about, if it wasn’t clear) and here I am getting ready to go all phony.

Sometimes I wonder.

So here is how I actually do it. If it’s not obvious how certain things are done, that’s because it will never be obvious. Some things do, in fact, require practice. The lure of the airbrush is that the mildly crooked airbrush sellers give the impression that you DON’T have to learn to use it to get good results. It’s the All-American dream machine. Just plug it in and WHOOSH the problem is solved.

Well, no. It doesn’t work that way for anything, including airbrushes.

To begin.

I need to find a good, solid point of reference. In this case, the canopy is right in the middle of things and it’s not going to move.

Painting it was challenging because I BROKE ONE OF MY OWN RULES. I “Futured” the canopy, then tried to use the “slop it on and clean it up with a toothpick when it dries” method. That was dumb. I managed to save the canopy but I almost botched it.

The dust inside the canopy is another example of stupidity. Don’t sand, file or scrape after the canopy goes on. If you do, prepare for the dust and the hurting.

Anyway, it’s time to move on.

I just use a brush of about Number 2 size. The paint has to be thin and WELL STIRRED. This means about a minute of stirring. A real minute, not where you go “uh, that seems like a minute.” No. Stir it properly. Before I stir, I add in a few drops of Slo-Dry from Liquitex and some water to thin it.

Then I draw a line.

See that “iffy” area on the side of the belly air-scoop? Should it be dark green or sky? I don’t want to “shy away” from these puzzles. If I have to decide if it’s painted one color or the other, I decide and I paint it according to plan. I don’t want to be wishy-washy and try to hedge my bets by “kinda” painting it. I either paint it one color or the other. Deliberately.

Then I draw another line.

Fill in.

That’s about all there is to it. The one thing that I noticed as I did this painting was that I constantly dipped the brush in the paint. I never want to have a “dry” brush that “pulls” the surface of the paint. It must be SLOPPY. Always always always. Even to the point where the paint may run or drip. Better to have a drip or run than to scrub out the surface.

I make mistakes.

Look at the model, then look at that photo of the real thing. It’s off. Fortunately, I’m going to use the American method of painting each color separately and not on top of each other.

That’s right. I’m the American representative now. Yeah. Read it and weep.

Moving on.

Eventually I end up with this. The lines are drawn using a the brush. It’s not easy, maybe. It’s easy for me. Very relaxing.

But there are errors and goofs. I need to apply the first coat of dark earth.

Notice that I have corrected the worst of the errors, using the second color.

Here is that “oops” on the top of the port wing.

This is only the first coat, and the underside will be painted last in order to properly do the demarcation between the upper and lower colors.

Easy, no?




  1. John Butler

    Good explanation. Nice smooth finish. Me and the boys still got ya back, Sarge!

    BTW, I usually Future the canopy before I paint it. I paint as carefully as I can, but always have to do some cleanup. Usually, everything turns out fine. I will typically attach the canopy after the aircraft is painted, decaled and matte coated. It goes on last.

    I have to return to the American method myself. Lately, I have been painting the entire top side in the lighter color and then applying the darker shade on top of that. (Just writing that brings on enormous waves of guilt.). Also, I would paint the sky first and then the top side. Not sure how painting in the reverse order would help the demarcation.

    Gotta give that Slo-dry a try. I think that and a little bit of thinning will help with some brush strokes I’m getting.

    (Thanks for the clarification on your last post. I was feeling a little dizzy after I finished reading that. I was never any good at math anyway.)

    Back to watching Live PD …

  2. Brushpainter

    Brush strokes are like the word “sarge.” You will never entirely be rid of them. The canopy problem is something I knew about but just plain forgot. THIS IS TOTALLY UNRELATED TO AGE. I think. What happens is that Future can be scraped off of clear styrene with a toothpick. Very easily. So as I tried to remove the excess paint, a ended up with a scratched up, patched up finish on the canopy. It was just a dumb problem that should never have happened. I should have applied the future after the canopy was painted.

  3. Greg

    Another thing I obviously missed. So, after you future the canopy (after paint), do you then carefully matt the painted lines? I have to admit that when I brush on the clear and matt coats, the canopy is already glossed and painted. I haven’t trusted myself to apply matt varnish without getting it on the clear parts.

  4. Brushpainter

    The canopy is always a challenging thing. I guess it’s (yet another) thing that I managed to underestimate when it came to trying to teach it. In recent weeks, I’ve been reviewing my blogging work and seeing more clearly just how poorly I’ve done at explaining some things. Oh well.

    To answer your question, yes, I use a tiny brush and paint the frames with clear flat. Often. But recently I’ve tried another approach. First, I’ll install the canopy and fill any seam with Golden’s Molding Paste, smoothing it out with hillbilly technology (water on a rag). Then I’ll paint the canopy, cleaning it up with a toothpick before the paint hardens too much, touch up the mistakes with the toothpick, then finish the model while avoiding any further work on the canopy. Several weeks (or months) later, I’ll take the “finished” model off the shelf and put a coat of Future on the clear parts of the canopy, painting around the frames.

    There’s no way to avoid the tedium.

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