At last we’re ready for painting! We’ve had some delays – I found a small crack in the side of the nozzle on my airbrush and have had to wait for a replacement, which came through Element Games, who have a good range of spares for Iwata airbrushes. The only issue was the shipping time due to the current situation.
Now, painting seems to be something which puts people off but don’t worry, it’s straightforward and good results are achievable by all.
I like to use Halford’s primers, I’ll use white primer for the body and red oxide for the underframe. They cover beautifully and are better than any other regular aerosol primers I’ve tried.
A reminder of what we’re trying to achieve. 31569 at Lincoln Station with a mixed engineers train on 22nd June 1992. Photo courtesy of I Cuthbertson collection – click here to see the original photo
Paint wise, the main livery colours will be Humbrol Trainer Yellow and Phoenix Precision Railfreight Grey – both enamels. You could use Phoenix Post 85 Warning Panel Yellow but Humbrol’s Trainer Yellow is a very good match and looks right to my eyes – yellow does fade too so don’t worry too much about the exact colour. We see colours through atmospheric haze which means how colours appear, that’s before we take into account the time of year, time of day, the weather, etc, etc…
I use a Neo for Iwata airbrush, they’re ridiculously good value and have the finesse and durability of many much more expensive airbrushes – I cannot recommend them highly enough. My compressor came from Expo Tools some years ago, it’s not in their catalogue from what I can see now so you’ll have to look for yourself, but have a look at Expo regardless.
First of all we need a clean surface to paint – the model will be covered in grease from our hands, remnants of flux, dust, grime, possibly even Covid-19 too, so we must clean it. A decent cream cleaner and a toothbrush is all you’ll need. Don’t use washing up liquids as the can leave substances behind which help your plates sparkle but won’t help paint stick to the surface.
Cleaning the body with CIF.
Squeeze a good amount over the body and without adding water to begin with, gently clean the model with a good quality toothbrush, rinse and repeat until you’re sure it’s clean. You may find that the odd part might come adrift (keep the plug in the sink as you clean!) so you’ll need to fix the issue and start the cleaning process again.
The body needs to be left to dry somewhere dust free – a cupboard, a Tupperware box, etc. Then the underframe can be cleaned and then the bogie frames, but only outer frames, not the motor or wheels for obvious reasons!
The clean loco body.
I left the model overnight to ensure it was dry – have a good look, and make a final check that everything is as it needs to be. Happy? Good!
So the first coat of primer can go on.
You might notice I haven’t stripped the body of paint – Lima’s paint on most models was so thin it wasn’t worth stripping, just a gentle rub down with a Garryflex fine abrasive block is enough.
First coat of primer. Purple gloves are optional.
Follow the guidelines on the can for distances, you can apply a light coat of primer. This is Halford’s white primer, normal, not plastic primer. Start spraying off the model, pass over the body steadily and quickly.
White undercoat is excellent at highlighting any surface issues.
Blemish – looks like a cat hair.
A cat hair appeared to have got on the model despite careful handling. Once dry, the Garryflex block will make light work if this but won’t damage the mouldings like abrasive papers would.
Rubbed down with a Garryflex fine abrasive block.
Once it’s been rubbed down, it can be repainted and then light coats built up to get a good, thin covering on the model. The same approach was taken for the underframe but with red oxide primer.
Loco body in white undercoat and the underframe in red oxide.
Now for the first coat of piant – I don’t think we can really go into the full details of airbrushing but I would recommend this book if you’d like a proper guide to these techniques.
A Modeller’s Handbook of Painting and Lining, by Ian Rathbone.
Humnbrol Trainer Yellow is mixed to a consistency of semi skimmed milk, possibly a little thinner. The important thing is to apply thin, light coats. Even if you need three coats, it’s no good rushing this stage as you could ruin all you’ve done up to now.
First coat of yellow applied – the white primer means the yellow covers very well.
Once you’re happy with the coverage of the yellow, leave for a couple of days to properly dry. Don’t be tempted to mask it sooner as you might pull the paint off with the tape, damage the paint, etc, etc…
I use normal masking tape – good quality masking tape from a DIY type store, but you must cut a new edge since, as it comes, the edges aren’t that sharp, find for decorating but not good enough for our purposes. You’ll see lots of people saying you must use specialist modelling masking tapes but you don’t need to… Far from it in fact. I like being able to cut tape to the width I want, thin strips for the livery/colour edges, then wider widths to fill in. Cut it on a mirror, piece of glass, clean cutting mat and you’re away – sticking it down will take the edge of the stickiness too which helps, though high quality tapes are fine straight on when you’re masking between thinner parts but beware of very cheap masking tapes.
Tamiya masking tape is good but expensive I think. If you don’t want cut your own, for whatever reason, then this is an option. I do have one ‘thinnish’ roll of it as it’s useful for things like 0 gauge diesels and coaches where long lengths are needed but beyond this I prefer to use normal masking tape.
There are people who will say my approach is wrong, one well known North East based resprayer certainly was on one Facebook group! But I like how much control my method gives me, so it’s certainly worth trying. And for certain livery elements, especially in the post privatisation world, it’s very useful.
Always refer to photographs when masking models, individual locomotives can display different variations on what should be identical liveries, variations between how works did things have always existed. Or even between those doing the painting in the same works!
In the case of Dutch, masking is easy. The upper band and the warning panels require masking off, but I also masked the cab windows where the black will go to reduce the number of layers around the windows to make fitting the Shawplan Laserglaze windows as easy as I can.
The beginning of the masking – ignore the flake of plastic which has landed on the model!
Start with a thin width of tape for the edges of the yellow band and the warning panels. Once you’re happy with the position of the tape, smooth it down with a knife handle, brush handle, etc, just not your fingers! This would could the model in grease which we don’t want.
The areas to be kept yellow can then be filled with wider widths of tape as appropriate. Around things like handrails and lamp irons on the model, thinner tape built up around the details helps ensure no paint gets through. Humbrol Maskol is worth considering too to help seal these areas.
Ready for grey.
I used Phoenix Precision Railfreight Grey for the main colour. This covers beautifully!
A thin initial cost is important, if you spray too heavily you risk having paint run under the tape no matter how carefully you applied the masking and, worse, a visible ‘step’ between paint layers. So again, two or three light coats is the way to go.
Incidentally, in the very hot weather we currently have it can be worth making the paint a little thinner than normal to prevent it drying before it hits the model, it does happen. Similarly, if it’s very humid, wait until the humidity is reduced.
Before you remove the masking have a really good look to make sure you’ve got a nice, even coverage with the paint – it’s not always obvious if an area isn’t as well covered as it should be be.
Grey now sprayed and the masking removed.
It’s the same with the cab window surrounds. It seems that there’s plenty of variation on exactly where the black was applied, in terms of the exact height of the lower edges. So again, photographs are your best guide.
The black window surrounds applied.
I used an 80:20 mix of Humbrol 85 Coal Black and 32 Matt Dark Grey for the windows, it gives a nice black colour without the starkness or pure black. A couple of light coats covered very well with this mix and the colour woks very well.
With this done, that’s the body completely painted, well, details aside. The last job at this stage was to pant the orange cantrail stripe around cab rain strips. I use transfers normally on bodysides and flat surfaces but here it’s easier to paint it with a fine brush – Humbrol 18 Gloss Orange is perfect and matches the colour of the Fox Transfers I like to use for this. Don’t thin the paint, it’s easier for this task if it’s thicker. A fine brush drawn along as per the photo will, with practice, work very well. Have a cotton bud moistened with thinners to hand just in case of mistakes and all should be well.
Painting the cantrail stripe along the cab rain strip.
The final stage of painting for now is to varnish the body with a gloss coat to give a good base for the transfers.
The chassis still needs painting but we’ll look at this in weathering as I skipped the clean stage with that altogether!
Ready for varnishing.
I loathe spraying gloss varnish. Hate it.
It’s all to easy to spray too much because it’s hard to see, it’s a bigger to clean an airbrush too. Advice is to spray thinners through airbrushes to clean them until it comes through clear – how do you know all the clear varnish is gone then?!
This last point, add a bit of dark paint to the varnish mix when you’re done before you clean it out. It’ll give enough colour to see when it sprays clean after cleaning.
Gloss Livery Paints
Phoenix Precision produce some gloss livery paints but the vast majority of their paints and those of others are Matt or satin. There’s a myth in model railways it seems that gloss paint is bad. I don’t know why this is the case as nothing kills a model model than a dead matt coat of varnish with no weathering, where’s a sheen can look superb.
There’s a reason why the top painters (think the Alan Brackenborough end of things, Warren HAywood too, not the resprayer with a Facebook page!) don’t finish their work with a coat Matt Varnish everywhere. It looks so much better – weathering models like this is actually a way to achieve very high levels of realism on locomotives and coaching stock, goods wagons are another matter!
So ‘the hobby’ has asked for matt paints for realism but then we have to coat them in gloss varnish so we can apply transfers only then for many to apply matt varnish to kill the gloss, an extra step we shouldn’t need to take.
Bonkers. Absolute bonkers.
So please encourage any paint manufacturers to make their livery colours in gloss, it would make our lives easier!
I’m stepping off the soapbox now…
So, the blaggers’ guide to gloss varnishing!
As with all spraying light coats are the key; I mix gloss varnish to quite a watery consistency and spray very lightly. If it takes five coats, then so be it but I learned the hard way a long time ago with this!
Some people like aerosol varnishes, but whilst I like certain Matt varnishes in aerosol form, I find aerosols simply too much like hard work to control for gloss varnishes for our small scale models. Each to their own though.
And this leaves the body ready for the delightful Railtec Transfers!
Varnished and transfers applied.
But this is for another time – I hope the update was worth the wait!