• Mido

How to Paint Aircraft Canopies

The clear parts that form an aircraft's canopy may only be a small portion of a finished build, but painting them correctly is critical to a model's overall impression. Don't believe me? Here's a plane from the start of my modeling resurgence (left) and a more recent one (right):

In this guide, I will show you all there is to creating a crisply painted canopy of your own!


An evolving relationship


If the journey into scale modeling begins with an aircraft, it is common to see three things by the conclusion of the build:

  1. A new inductee to the Worldwide Scale Modelers Club running around the house with a beaming smile and their model in flight.

  2. No decals.

  3. An unpainted canopy.

The next few builds might see an attempt to hand paint the canopy, freehand at first (yours truly will openly admit that he lacks the steady hand for this task), and then maybe by adding a mask.


When things get more serious, the modeler will inevitably turn to the airbrush and masking becomes a must. Sometimes a kit-specific mask might be available on the aftermarket, but aside from ordering them online, I have never seen any in the wild.


Now, under the assumption that an aftermarket mask is not readily available, let's dive in!


Materials


In additional to the model, here's what you will need:

  • Flexible masking tape. I like to use Tamiya Tape for Curves. It comes in several sizes and is much more flexible than regular painters tape.

  • Sharp hobby knife, scissors, and cutting mat

  • Tweezers

  • Wooden toothpick. Wood does not usually scratch clear parts.

  • Pen

  • Airbrush and paint for the interior color, exterior color, and black for a layer in between.

Editor's note: Don't forget that attaching clear parts requires a special type of glue! Regular hobby cement will "frost" your canopy and ruin all of your hard work.


The technique


There is nothing particularly difficult in this technique. The most important thing is to work slowly and deliberately. The best part is that any minor mistakes can be corrected for at the end.

  1. Study the contours and framing lines on the bare canopy

  2. Cut oversized pieces of tape to mask off windowed areas

  3. Use the wooden toothpick to burnish down the tape along the canopy frames

  4. Mark the burnished line with the pen

  5. Cut the tape to size with scissors or hobby knife

  6. Fix the properly sized mask onto the windowed area

  7. Repeat steps 2 through 7 as needed

  8. Airbrush a coat of the interior color

  9. Airbrush a coat of black

  10. Airbrush the outer color

  11. Carefully remove the masks with the tip of your fingernail, toothpick, tweezers or hobby knife. Go slow so you don't scratch anything!

  12. Use the wooden toothpick to gently remove any overspray or to clean up any bad lines


Final thoughts


Aircraft canopies can be intimidating, especially for modelers early in their journey. But with the proper technique and patience, crisply framed windows can become a routine enhancement to any aircraft build. I hope this brief guide encourages you to take your canopies to new heights!

Thanks for reading,

Mido


Contact the author: mido@igluemodels.com or on IG @igluemodels



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