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  Beginner's advice for painting rocket models

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Author Topic:   Beginner's advice for painting rocket models
Dave Owen
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Posts: 17
From: Te Awamutu, Waikato, New Zealand
Registered: Oct 2008

posted 07-02-2012 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dave Owen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've tried my best to research this before asking but I've given up, so at the risk of looking like a complete idiot, here's the question:

I'm just starting modelling and I'm ready to try a Saturn IB. I've asked about the best way to paint rockets and I've been advised that satin white is the "standard rocket colour" and that I should use spray paint. However I can't find any satin white spray in a can (which I'm told I should use as a beginner rather than an airbrush) and my local model shop says satin white spray doesn't exist.

So I figured I'd have to ask the experts: How do you paint the basic white and black of your models? Spray/brush? What colours? Any other tips for a complete n00b?

divemaster
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Posts: 1341
From: ridgefield, ct
Registered: May 2002

posted 07-02-2012 10:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for divemaster   Click Here to Email divemaster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Testors sells 3 oz cans of spray paint at any model store. You can use one of three whites - Primer White, Flat White or White semi-gloss. Remember, whatever you use, you can always use a flat or semi-gloss clear coat if you need to change anything.

Airbrushing is an art. Stick with the Testors [or Model Master] paints first.

As an aside, I'm playing around with a Saturn IB right now for the first time in years. I'm using White Primer as the base coat right now and will use a flat black where necessary. If I want it to shine up a bit, I'll over coat it with a clear semi gloss [or Future floor polish through an airbrush]. I'm also using Aluminum metalizer for the engines and will probably use bare metal foil for the SM.

It will be interesting to see if my hands still work after all of these years.

(And always use a white base coat even if the plastic is white. Otherwise, it will look yellow in a few years after being exposed to the air and sunlight.)

apolloprojeckt
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Posts: 756
From: arnhem netherlands
Registered: Feb 2009

posted 07-02-2012 11:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for apolloprojeckt   Click Here to Email apolloprojeckt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's also to use car paint in spray can, they have that color and so not, flat white and later bring on it a layer black wash let it dry and wash it later of than you have a good broken color white, than the black.

Works by me good, only spraying is be outside the house, not so healthy product.

Jay Chladek
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Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 07-03-2012 07:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Saturn IB is actually more of a flat white than satin as I just got done reviewing some of the pad rollout footage for Skylab 2 and ASTP on the Spacecraft Films' Mighty Saturns Part 1 discs. The birds on the pad looked dead flat to my eye in that footage.

I don't believe Testors brand is available in New Zealand (maybe Italeri Model Master "perhaps" which is the same as Testors). More than likely the brands available will be Gunze Sangyo and Tamiya since you are a lot closer to the Asian markets than us Yanks. You can probably also find some Humbrol brand paint as well (almost a requirement given Airfix's penchant for using ONLY Humbrol numbers in their instructions to say what color something is).

Satin is like semi-gloss, but it is more 2/3rds flat and 1/3rd gloss as opposed to half and half. And yes, to my knowledge nobody does a "satin white" spray. But semi-gloss or flat should be fine and flats tend to be easier to paint. They can cause a little trouble with decal silvering later on, but that can be overcome by other means. You can also paint the model with gloss shades (which decals do like to stick to better) and flat coat the whole thing when finished. But enamel based glosses can take awhile to dry, especially in very humid climates. Lacquer sprays tend to dry much quicker (but use a lacquer designed for models like Tamiya or Gunze brand, do not use car paint unless you primer the surface well or it will craze the plastic if you spray on too heavily).

I have to say, you have picked a pretty difficult model to paint, especially if you go for the Apollo 7 paint job with the alternating white and black fuel and oxidizer tubes on stage 1. But, it can be done and it makes a good challenge to overcome. Technically all the paintwork could be done in spray, but just be aware it will take a bit of masking to pull off.

My advice for masking is to head to the hobby shop and get some Tamiya brand masking tape in the dispensers. They make three widths, 6mm, 10mm and 18mm (they also make a very wide 18mm stuff, but it is not available everywhere and it is a little different, it still works great though). Don't cheap out and try to use a cheap masking tape brand designed for walls as it will cause bleed under due to how bumpy it is (and some will transfer adhesive to the paint while Tamiya doesn't seem to do that). Tamiya tape by comparison is a little more expensive, but worth it and I get the dispensers initially since it keeps the sides of the tape from fuzzing up from attracting dust (which can also mess up the masking job). When you run out, get the refills and reuse the dispensers.

The best advice to anyone starting out though is to not get discouraged if your project model doesn't come out looking the way you want it to in your mind. Building and painting models well comes with experience and the only way to get that is to do it. You can pick up techniques from a lot of us, but there are literally multiple ways to do some things and different modelers tend to swear by multiple products and techniques (there is no one "right" or "wrong" way, although some things admittedly work better than others in my experience). Plus, not every product is available in every market. The trick here is to try some of them and find out what works best for you.

divemaster
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Posts: 1341
From: ridgefield, ct
Registered: May 2002

posted 07-03-2012 07:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for divemaster   Click Here to Email divemaster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let me add one thing to Jay's comments: the joy of model building (and not being 100% happy with your finished product) is that you can build another one! I'd like to have $1 for every Saturn V I've ever built in various scales because I'm never happy with the way it turns out.

That's the ultimate fun of scale modeling — improving something the next time around. Depending on how crazy you want to get, it's a relatively inexpensive hobby and, to me at least, it has never lost its appeal — especially when I've been away from it for awhile.

dsenechal
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Posts: 402
From:
Registered: Dec 2002

posted 07-03-2012 12:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dsenechal   Click Here to Email dsenechal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Krylon makes a very nice satin/semi-gloss white spray in a rattle can, which is especially useful for 1/96 and larger models. Their satin black is very useful as well. It goes on smooth, dries nicely, and is reasonably durable. The satin finish also allows direct decal application. It's available at the -mart store's paint/hardware section, and elsewhere.

model maker
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Posts: 99
From: Colorado, USA
Registered: May 2012

posted 07-03-2012 01:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for model maker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is another tip, if you have to mask of corrugated (raised ridges) areas, when you mask these always burnish down the masking tape in-between the raised ridges such as the Saturn V's interstages where they are painted black.

Dragon did not do this very well on their 1/72 Saturn V as there is some overspray along the otherwise crisp line where black meets white. It gives those areas a fuzzy or blurry look, so take a pencil eraser like I do and run the eraser side of the pencil down on the tape between the ridges so paint won't leak under the tape.

Another tip is when using any clear coat paint over white paint, it will yellow over time, use Future instead as that will not yellow and will protect your paint. If you don't want a glossy look, you can dull down the Future with some kind of powder (talcum?), which I forgot what it is. So research it on hobbytalk or other model building boards.

the clocks running
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Posts: 258
From: Rochester, NY USA
Registered: Jan 2012

posted 07-03-2012 03:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the clocks running     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great tips from all of these members!

Once you build your first model you will feel a great sense of accomplishment.

Ronpur
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Posts: 211
From: Brandon, Fl
Registered: May 2012

posted 07-03-2012 09:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For years, I have also built many Saturn V and the biggest headache was bleed-through on the ridges. No matter how hard I tried, I could not burnish down the tape tight enough. I could always retouch, but brushing white over black never worked right either.

So then, I reversed the painting. Semi-gloss black first. Then a White Primer to cover the black, then a coat of semi-gloss white. It went against everything I ever did, but it worked.

Any bleed through was much easier to fix as I was now covering white bleeds with black. I also use Krylon paints from Lowes.

golddog
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Posts: 176
From: australia
Registered: Feb 2008

posted 07-03-2012 11:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for golddog     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've made three Saturn Vs, Airfix, Revell, and the Estes cardboard tube one made to fly which is the largest of the lot (I've never flown it). I'm not very professional, they were all painted by hand and not a patch on the finish of some of the pre-made Dragon models I have — but to me the satisfaction in looking at them, yellowing plastic and defects and all, is I made that!

I wish I could make them like some of the work I see on this forum, like Pascal's dioramas, just amazing stuff.

divemaster
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Posts: 1341
From: ridgefield, ct
Registered: May 2002

posted 07-04-2012 12:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for divemaster   Click Here to Email divemaster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I hate to admit it, but of all of the Saturn V's and IB's that I've done... the best way to approach the paint pattern on the corrugated portions with the stringers is to do it by hand with a very steady hand. I even found out that the Badger brand of acrylics was the easiest to touch up when you had bleed through — even if you used the plastic blue tape that's used for pin striping.

And NEVER do the 500-F paint job. I still get sick whenever I see that on box art, on toys or as the recommended paint job. Even Apollo 13 and From the Earth to the Moon wasn't immune to someone in the art department falling for that one.

While we're talking about 500-F, no manned flight flew with a Block 1 CSM. So, if you have a Block 1 sitting on top, you'd better paint it like Apollo 4 or 6 (sorry, I'm a purist).

Ronpur
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Posts: 211
From: Brandon, Fl
Registered: May 2012

posted 07-04-2012 02:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ronpur   Click Here to Email Ronpur     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did the 500F, with a block 1, and only one F-1! Looks great next to my SA-506 and SA-513!

tetrox
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Posts: 92
From: London England
Registered: Jan 2008

posted 07-04-2012 06:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tetrox   Click Here to Email tetrox     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Quite a nice cheat I use for the edging of rocket black markings and the horrible Saturn V tapered interstage block markings is using an indelible reasonably fine tip Black CD (compact disc) marker pen.

I run the pen down between the stringers or along the top of the edge stringer using a ruler which form the edges of the black markings and this offers a sharp edge line,you then mask this line and paint/ spray/airbrush the black area between the lines.

I have had some excellent results using this method.

I should point out that the sheen of the pen ink may be slightly different from the paint you are using, I haven't found this a major problem but it may lessen with a clear coat. Please note your own results may vary so I cant guarantee your results,but its easy to practice.

history in miniature
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Posts: 456
From: Slatington, PA U.S.A.
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 07-04-2012 06:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for history in miniature   Click Here to Email history in miniature     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You can also get yourself a sheet of SMS 24th scale Gemini decals and use the black stripes from the decal sheet to outline the black areas of the roll pattern. Then use testors acryl flat black paint(by hand) to fill in the areas outlined by the black lines. When finished a coat of testors flat will make the decals and paint blend in completely together.

Dave Owen
Member

Posts: 17
From: Te Awamutu, Waikato, New Zealand
Registered: Oct 2008

posted 07-04-2012 09:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dave Owen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, thank you all for the wealth of information and tips. I really appreciate it. I'm still working through it all and sorting out potential suppliers but I feel I've got some good options now. I'll let you know how I get on.

model maker
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Posts: 99
From: Colorado, USA
Registered: May 2012

posted 07-04-2012 03:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for model maker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dave, one more tip, after you have the masking tape down as well as you can, you can try spraying a light coat of clearcoat over the edge of the masking tape and letting that dry before you spray your black that way the clear coat along the edge of the tape will prevent any paint from getting under the tape.

Also, spray in the direction away from the tapes edge not towards it. I hope this helps.

history in miniature
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Posts: 456
From: Slatington, PA U.S.A.
Registered: Mar 2009

posted 07-04-2012 04:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for history in miniature   Click Here to Email history in miniature     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is a Saturn IB painted in the method I described using the decal strips.

divemaster
Member

Posts: 1341
From: ridgefield, ct
Registered: May 2002

posted 07-04-2012 10:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for divemaster   Click Here to Email divemaster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ronpur:
I did the 500F, with a block 1, and only one F-1! Looks great next to my SA-506 and SA-513!
The 500F markings is one of my personal bug-a-boo's. You'll have to excuse me on that one.

I also find the reason they had to get rid of those S1C markings to be very interesting (and valid).

Later on, in the shuttle program, I was amazed that the weight of painting the ET became a concern. I think it was something like 300 lbs of paint. Back in the Apollo days, when they were looking to strip ounces from the entire stack, I wonder if paint weight was an issue? Painting that entire stack had to have weighed a few pounds. Even, later on, the IB's that flew to Skylab had a whole lot less black paint. I wonder if that was a weight issue?

But that 500F paint job. It just makes me shudder... along with the fact that there's only ONE commercial kit with a Block 2 CSM. I guess making molds costs money.

divemaster
Member

Posts: 1341
From: ridgefield, ct
Registered: May 2002

posted 07-04-2012 10:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for divemaster   Click Here to Email divemaster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by history in miniature:
Here is a Saturn IB painted in the method I described using the decal strips.
VERY nice model. Is that paint or foil on the SM?

Please refresh my memory. I know they had a different paint scheme on the Skylab used CM due to the sun exposure. Did they also do that around some of the RCS quads? It's been a long time since I dug into my Skylab archives... though it seems to make a lot of sense.

Apollo 7 had more thermal protection around the quads. I was quite surprised that they didn't add it back in for Apollo 16 and 17 after Worden saw the bubbling of the SM skin on his EVA during 15.

divemaster
Member

Posts: 1341
From: ridgefield, ct
Registered: May 2002

posted 07-04-2012 10:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for divemaster   Click Here to Email divemaster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by tetrox:
Quite a nice cheat I use for the edging of rocket black markings and the horrible Saturn V tapered interstage block markings is using an indelible reasonably fine tip Black CD (compact disc) marker pen.

I LOVE reading about all of the "cheats" that we use. It does my heart good. I still think that the Future Floor Polish through an airbrush was one of the best cheats ever devised....and works every single time.

Dave Owen
Member

Posts: 17
From: Te Awamutu, Waikato, New Zealand
Registered: Oct 2008

posted 09-18-2012 12:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dave Owen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just wanted to say another thanks for all the help I got from this thread. You guys are the best.

Family distractions got me sidetracked for a while but I did finish the Saturn IB. After starting painting I changed tack and went for a bit of a hybrid paint job, leaning towards the slightly easier Apollo-Soyuz version. I was planning to do another one later, then mix-and-match to have two (mostly) accurate paint jobs. Unfortunately I made a couple of dumb mistakes and I may just start all over with the Saturns when I'm a bit more experienced.

I've also done a 1:72 lunar lander and a 1:144 Vostok. Both a bit rough with more dumb mistakes but I do think I'm learning... slowly.

I'm currently reading Mat Irvine's excellent book and loving it.

Thanks again. I wish I had more time to spend in this forum - hopefully soon.

garymilgrom
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Posts: 1571
From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 09-18-2012 08:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Comments about the accuracy of the paint on the Saturn V in FTETTM reminds me there is a talk on the TED site about creating that (animated) rocket launch in that show.

Click here for the talk.

mikej
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Posts: 374
From: Germantown, WI USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 09-18-2012 06:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by divemaster:
Even, later on, the IB's that flew to Skylab had a whole lot less black paint. I wonder if that was a weight issue?

As detailed in Saturn S-IB stage Final Static Test Report, Stage S-IB-2, during the static test firings of S-I-10, S-IB-1, and S-IB-2, fuel tank F-3 developed permanent ripples which "were formed as a result of thermal stresses within the tank wall. Radiant energy from the exhaust plume was absorbed more readily by the black painted areas of the tank. This heat was initially dissipated to the fuel within the tanks, but as the fuel level dropped, a significant difference in temperature was noted between black painted portions of the tank and the white painted areas. Thermal stresses resulting from this temperature differential exceeds the structural limits of the tank in local areas and causes the ripples to occur."

divemaster
Member

Posts: 1341
From: ridgefield, ct
Registered: May 2002

posted 09-19-2012 02:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for divemaster   Click Here to Email divemaster     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The nice thing about doing most real space models is that you only have to deal with two colors - flat white and flat black - with very few exceptions other than some detail work.

The Saturn IB is my favorite launch vehicle. Not that it's a problem, but the Airfix 1/144 Saturn IB's first stage is difficult to paint because of the curves of the eight fuel tanks. If you're doing Apollo 7 with the black and white tanks, getting a clean, straight line between the tanks can be difficult. The resin version that RealSpace Models puts out ships with eight brass tubes, so you can paint them in advance before gluing everything in.

All times are CT (US)

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