Frank's Scale Model Aircraft Art!


1. Surface preparation.

To achieve the best possible Alclad 2 finishes, the surface preparation is very important. I wash (soak) styrene plastic and resin parts in warm water with Cascade  dishwasher detergent dissolved. I scrub with a tooth brush, inside and out. I then rinse (flush) with cold tap water, shake off the remaining droplets, and air dry. That's my initial cleaning.

Usually I polish the raw plastic with wet/dry paper and micromesh in 600/800/2000/8000/12000 grits! There should be no scratches or "dings" left at this point, and the surface should be reflecting reasonably well your lamps in the room you are working in. Not necessarily mirror like images, but reasonably good lamp shapes. Lately, I have gone no further than 2000 mesh, as this seems to provide better adhesion with an adequately polished surface.

After assembly and ready for painting, I re-wash the entire model with the same detergent/water mix using pieces of paper towel to swab the surfaces with. I then rinse again under the tap water spigot, and air dry.

When dry, I put on my white cotton gloves, and with paper towel swabs reclean the surface with first terpenol, then rubbing alcohol. For resin parts (very difficult do get the resin mold release stuff off) I do a final swab with acetone. My bare fingers never again touch the model (I have always pre-attached a "Holding Stick' somewhere on the model). And yes, this all takes quite a bit of time to do correctly.

Just prior to loading paint into my airbrush I use the AB at 60+ lbs to blow off any dust on the surface.

2. Special Alclad 2 requirements

There are 4 Alclad 2 colors that require special surface conditions. Chrome, Polished Aluminum, Airframe Aluminum and Stainless Steel. All the other color shades require no special surface treatment other than that discussed in #1 above.

Both Chrome, Polished Aluminum, and Stainless Steel need to be applied to a glossy black enamel surface to look their best and give best adhesion. For that I have found that Model Master Glossy Black enamel (thinned 1:1 or a little more with lacquer thinner) to be the best (produces the most specular/mirror like results) for these three colors. I apply this first on to the plastic as a mist coat waiting 5-8 minutes between coats. Then each successive coat I apply a little heavier ( no more than 4 coats total) until on the last coat I am seeing a very wet (not runny) look. When that then dries, it will still look just as shinny as the wet look!

I have also had good results using Xzylene as the MM Glossy Black thinner (again 1:! or a bit more). The Xzylene slows the drying time down a bit and I feel that it makes it a little easier to get the "Wet Look" on the Glossy Black. I recommend that you try it.

Note when spraying the chrome or polished aluminum, the amount you spray on will control the shine and final color a lot. With a very thin mist coat the color will be very shinny, but perhaps a little dark ( this can be used to advantage if you plan to over coat the chrome with some "clear" color). Adding more Chrome or PA will make the color a little "whiter" and too much will actually decrease the shine a bit..

Airframe Aluminum is strange stuff. It needs a very glossy primer for best shine and adhesion, but that does not have to be black. My preference is Testors Gloss Coat Lacquer for this. However it will look its shinnyest on the Black base.

3. For all the other colors "To Prime or Not To Prime" is a major question.

I prefer not to prime, but to spray them on the Raw polished plastic, as I feel that the use of primer tends to hide some degree of surface details (like panel lines etc.). However some raw plastics may show incompatibility with alclad applied directly. Hase plastic is notorious for this, but sometimes I have found some Hase plastic to accept Alclad if I apply it in light mist coats and build up gradually from there. It is always a good idea to test your intended plastic for compatibility first. If it seems to work ok, check for potential masking problems also.

If you decide to us a primer, you must then polish the primer after applying it in a similar way to #1 above!

Primers I like are Alclad Gray Primer, And Alclad Clear Base ALC-303 primer.

4. Applying Alclad!

Here, your application technique will vary a bit depending on your airbrush. I have used a psi range from 10 to 18 psi. With an Aztec brush, I use the Tan 0.30 nozzle and 18 psi.

For the Iwata Eclipse I use 18 psi and the 0.35 nozzle. 

For my now preferred airbrush, the Harder & Steenbeck Infinity, I use the 0.20 or 0.40 (depending on the size of the project) noz and 10 psi. feeding from a glass side cup attachment.

I apply light mist coats (4 should be enough - waiting just 1-2 minutes between each coat) trying to avoid wet spots, yet approaching a "Wet Finish"! It is very important not to "puddle" the Alclad, because puddling will allow the alclad metallic particles to stand on end producing a very rough finish! Within 10 - 15 minutes or less  you should be able to lightly touch your surface with your finger tips, and the surface should feel very smooth without even a hit of roughness or pebbly texture under magnification.

If the surface then feels a bit rough between coats you may buff this roughness off with a facial tissue..

You may mask after an hour or so, but generally I prefer to wait 24 hours or over night.

5. Tinting Alclad

Alclad offers 4 clear (Transparent) color Lacquers, Red, Green, Blue, &Yellow. These can be used and mixed with the various Alclad shades to modify and "tint" them. A Blue tint was given to Alclad "aluminum" on some of the panels on the P-39 below!

Blue and red tints were used on the pics of the Do-335 below!

6. Blending Alclads

The various shades of alclads can be blended together to produce some nice additional colors. One of my favorites is a blend of Copper and Pale Gold. This produces a color that I call Aztec Bronze. See the F-104 and B-25 below!

7. Using Alclad to produce "Metallic Colors"!

Very nice metallic colors can be obtained by applying clear transparent colors on top of alclad shades. The most effective way is to apply the transparent colors over Alclad chrome which has been applied over MM Glossy Black Enamel! The resulting metallic color can be varied by varying the chrome application from thinner (darker final color) to heavier chrome (lighter final color). See the examples below! I have used Tamiya Acrylic Clear Red (and other Tamy clear colors) , Gunze Clear Red (and other colors) Acrylics, and Alclad Clear (transparent) colors. The red colors I call "Black Chrome Reds"!!!

8. Surface Enhancement after applying Alclad shades. 

If your alclad application is not just perfect and leaves you with a surface slightly rough, this can be improved a little bit by polishing lightly with Micromesh 8000/12000 wet/dry cloth.

9. Decal Application

I have always applied decals directly on top of Alclad with out any sealing of the Alclad surface prior to applying the decals. I generally use Badger Setting Solution applied with a little brush prior to applying the decal. As soon as the decal is positioned, I mop the surface with a tissue. Then I apply Badger softening solution on top of the decal, being careful  not to get any of that on to the alclad surface (it may attack Alclad chrome and polished aluminum).

10. Sealing Alclad?

I do not seal Alclad! I have never seen a need to apply a sealing solution on top of alclad. Sealing it would destroy that nice metallic look I have worked so hard to obtain!

11. There are sometimes some Bad batches of Alclad in the system.

Here's a quick way to sort bad from good. It's the "sticky finger" test. Put a little on your index finger. Rub it with your thumb. If its from a good batch, in about 15 -30 seconds it will feel dry and slippery when you rub it with your thumb. If from a bad batch, it will remain sticky forever on your finger when squeezed with your thumb and you will want to rush to the lacquer thinner to clean it off! If you have a bad bottle, contact Tony Hipp at Alclad:

12. Stripping Paint!

Recently I had to strip some MM Glossy Black Enamel from an Anigrand XF-90 Resin Kit. I stripped MM Glossy Black Enamel as the Anigrand had developed hundreds of microscopic pin holes during the spray job. These then produced a miriad of fish eyes on the surface. I used Brake Fluid.

Here's how I did the strip. I placed the model in an aluminum baking tray, with the brake fluid in a small dish near by. With a rather large brush (1") I brushed the brake fluid on to the model. I let it set for 1/2 hour, then brushed some more on. By now the paint is beginning to get soft, and working with the brush, I was able to remove some. I repeated this every 1/2 hour for 6/8 times. By then 95 % of the paint had been removed.

I then started washing the surface with mineral spirits on paper towel pieces till I had it all removed. I followed that up with a detergent and paper towel process till I was convinced the surface was "medically" clean<g>!!

13. Special Problems Relating To Resin Models!

I have used Alclad colors on several resin models without problems. If you encounter a resin surface like that on the Anigrand XF-90 (as described above), with a jillion pin holes erupting, you may not see these at first. It is now prudent for me to clean any resin exterior surface, with Acetone first (on paper towel pieces), then repeat with Terpenol. Hopefully that will open any pin holes on the surface. I then use Alclad Gray Primer to coat that surface, followed by my usual wet sanding polishing techniques above. If a few pin holes remain after that cleaning/priming, I try to seal those in with very thinned Testors Glosscoat (repolishing as required).

For the Chrome, Polished Aluminum, & Airframe Aluminum on resin surfaces, I use the MM Glossy Black Enamel for the most brilliant effect. For a more subtle effect I use Testors Glosscoat Lacquer as the primer.

14. Air Brush Thoughts!

Since I started building Plastic models 6 years ago (I've been building other types of models since I was 6 back in 1937), I have tried and used a number of Airbrushes. My first airbrush for plastic models was an Aztec 480 (the metal one). This worked very nicely for acrylics, enamels, Alclad , and other metalizers. However, I needed to have two of them, one to recycle to Testors for replacement every several months, and a back up to use while the other was being recycled<g>! I thought that the Aztec was very easy to use and clean, and the nozzles very durable.

Next I tried an Iwata Eclipse. The one I had was a piece of junk as the very soft nozzles were frequently distorting and failing. I spent more on replacement nozzles than I did for the brush its self. I even once sent it back to Iwata, where they replaced the nozzle, only to have it fail again after a couple of spray sessions.

Next I tried two Badger 100s. One with the fine needle, and one with the medium needle. These were hard to control (for me) and difficult to clean.

Then I sprung for the Harder & Steenbeck Infinity. The best hobby tool investment I ever made. I use the top to side feed attachment with the glass jars. I clip 1/8" off the bottom of the feed tube so that "settling" metal flakes to not get sprayed. Having several glass jars, I can change colors quickly while spraying.

I have the following noz/needles -- 0.15, 0.20, 0.40, and the 0.60. I use the 0.20 for most Alclad work, and the 0.15 for fine work and shading. I use the 0.40 for Alclad over large areas when I think that will be a good idea. I also use the 0.40 for enamels and acrylics. I use the 0.60 for thickish primers. The noz/needles are polished stainless steel and very durable. It is the easiest brush I have tried for cleaning. I clean with acetone.

It is very easy to control even for a clutz handed old geezer like me. The dual action and and flow control button is a great feature.

I love this brush, and it has served me well for 2 years now!

15. A divergence of philosophies!

Let me first state that it is my belief/opinion that the " Alclad" finish system was developed to represent  a series of various Aluminum and other similar "light" metals in appearance over a wide range of metal surface conditions. Thus the available Alclad  effects range from a very specular "Chrome" down to a very dull "Flat Aluminum" or "Dark Aluminum" (for the oxidized look) and a few others such as Magnesium and Gold Anodized Titanium etc. 

I believe the Alclad system has very successfully and effectively achieved these appearances in a superior manner than any other finish system available to the average modeler today and that the modeler by applying the correct application techniques, can achieve excellent results in duplicating the desired metallic effects.

Furthermore if "ANY" other finishing material is applied on top of the "desired" Alclad metal surface, that surface is then altered in a way that destroys the "Metallic" appearance that you have worked so hard to achieve.

Now, if the modeler wishes to achieve a "Painted Aluminum" or heavily "oxidized" appearance he might just as well have used some other finishing system, as then there is no need to use Alclad. In other words any of the many varietal rattle cans or enamels, lacquers, or acrylics can be applied to achieve the "dumbed down" dull "coated" finish that you seek in a variety of tones! However, if you want to have it look as close to "Real Metal" as possible then Alclad will achieve that!

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1/144 F-100 Don Schmenk resin casting!

1/144 F-100 FE-Resin Kit!

1/144 Platz P-51Musting!

1/144 Platz P-51 Mustang!



Etrich Taube!

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Albatross DVa Engine!


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These webpages are Copywrited 1997- 2006, belong to, and have been constructed by, J. Frank Loch - Amateur Astronomer & Scale Model Builder. No part of these pages may be used for any purpose with out my written permission. They are dedicated to the memory of Grayce Loch - (1931-1999)