Monday, July 6, 2009

Tape masking tutorial

Ever since I saw the first painted tank I wondered how the pros did those impeccable markings and lines on vehicles and other miniatures. After trying several thing (without success) I tried something very basic, but which yielded a stunning result – sticky tape masking.

This tutorial will take you from the newly-cut Rhino top hatch cover to the finished product.


A checklist of stuff that I used for this article is:

  • Large flathead brush
  • Hobby knife
  • Scotch clear sticky tape
  • Knarloc Green paint
  • Camo Green paint
  • Astronomican Grey
  • Vallejo White
  • GW Skull White spray

First, we prime the top chaos black. After it has dried we proceed to coloring it to the vehicle’s color.


If you desire to have your vehicle black you may choose to skip the painting section entirely, but I still recommend reading it because it details the process of painting a light color over a dark background.


Painting the hatch

My chapter color is Camo Green, so I will need to make my Rhino hatch this color as well. However, Camo Green is a color that doesn’t have good coverage (pretty much like all the light colors in the GW paint range). Because of that, I’ll start covering the entire surface with a foundation paint that is the closest to Camo Green. In our case Knarloc Green. Foundation paints are less saturated colors but have an excellent coverage. Also, I use a large flat head brush for vehicles, because it allows me to paint fast and get very uniform paint coverage, without streaks. Only an airbrush beats a large flathead when painting large areas.



After I get an uniform Knarloc Green cover I start mixing the Camo Green with the Knarloc Green and applying successive layers until I get as close to Camo Green as possible. If I do this the following things happen:

  • I combine the good coverage of the foundation paint with the saturated color of Camo Green. This means we get a Camo Green-ish color.
  • In case I mess up with the painting there will not be dark streaks below my current paint layer, because the color below the current layer is very close to my actual color.

After each thin coat add a little more Camo Green to the mix. This should be done at least 4-5 times for good results.



After we are content with the color we leave the paint to dry really well (30 mins at least) because acrylics tend to break off the surface if you force them to do something nasty before they are ready. In our example “something nasty” translates by using sticky tape directly on the color.

Masking

For masking we use sticky tape. The best thing that you can use is thin clear sticky tape, because it’s easy to handle and it has a soft glue that can be peeled off easily. Do NOT use bandages, black insulation tape (the one used by electric technicians) or anything else that has a lot of glue, because this will leave a nasty seam in your paint (which you will have a hard time cleaning).

Now, proceed masking the contour of the arrow with sticky tape as shown in the picture.


As you can see, the only non-covered area of the hatch is the actual tactical arrow that we wish to paint. The most difficult part of this is sticking the two vertical pieces of tape, because you have two edges that must be cut and stuck perfectly.

There are a few important things to remember when doing this:

  • Avoid touching the sticky side of the tape too much with your fingers. While it’s impossible to handle it without actually touching it, remember that glue will wear off on touch and make the tape edges curl.
  • Always make sure that the edges of the tape that are towards the interior of the shape are tightly stuck to the surface.
  • Always leave a healthy amount of slack outside the model so you can get a firm grip on the tape when peeling it off. You can stick some pieces paper on the slack so your grip is even better.



Painting the arrow

After everything is done, we start painting the arrow. We paint it in the same way we did the base color of the hatch: starting with the lightest possible foundation Astronomican Grey then mix it with Skull White until we get to the desired white.

Now, you may ask why didn’t I use Undercoat White since it’s also a foundation color. The answer is simple: while the basic composition is the same as with any foundation, Undercoat White has the poorest pigment of all the GW colors AND the chunkiness of a foundation paint, which leads to splats of paint and other unwanted results.

Another method of painting this is to use the Skull White spray paint, but if you choose to do this you need to cover the whole model with tape. Also, the spray color is so powerful it will seem unnatural if you exaggerate with it.

After the paint has dried, proceed in peeling off the tape from the hatches. Do this in a continuous slow motion, and be sure not to do any sudden moves because it may rip the base coat off the model. What you get if everything was done right is very precisely traced arrow that you can proceed to dent in some places to make it more interesting.



For this tutorial I have used spray paint. In the picture above there are two hatches, the left one done with spray painting and the right one painted with the method described above. The difference between them as you can see is minimal and the precision is roughly the same.


Finally you can see the Rhino with both hatches on, for comparison. The Rhino itself has been painted without using foundation paints, hence the slight color difference.


Wrapping it up

No matter what painting method you chose, you will find out that when the two pieces of the hatch come together, the line between them has all but disappeared. If you didn’t glue the hatch in one big piece you can dry-brush the interior edges to give the illusion of chipped paint along the hatch line. This will make the hatch look like a hatch, not some sort of huge boring metal slab.

You can use this method for any model whenever you need something made out of straight lines. If you have small hands and work really quick you can even cut shapes in the sticky tape and make fun stencils.. like smurfs and such..


Note: I have also posted this tutorial on http://www.miniwargaming.com

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