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:
A new inductee to the Worldwide Scale Modelers Club running around the house with a beaming smile and their model in flight.
An unpainted canopy.
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!
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
Wooden toothpick. Wood does not usually scratch clear parts.
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.
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.
Study the contours and framing lines on the bare canopy
Cut oversized pieces of tape to mask off windowed areas
Use the wooden toothpick to burnish down the tape along the canopy frames
Mark the burnished line with the pen
Cut the tape to size with scissors or hobby knife
Fix the properly sized mask onto the windowed area
Repeat steps 2 through 7 as needed
Airbrush a coat of the interior color
Airbrush a coat of black
Airbrush the outer color
Carefully remove the masks with the tip of your fingernail, toothpick, tweezers or hobby knife. Go slow so you don't scratch anything!
Use the wooden toothpick to gently remove any overspray or to clean up any bad lines
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,
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