I met a long time hero where I learnt a lot about shading and figure painting in Moson Model Show this April. I was introduced to him as I am a green horn in European circles, by another maestro Kim Man Jin. He is none other than Rodrigo Hernandez Chacon! He looked a lot younger than me, the slow learner.
Rodrigo asked if I wanted to do something special for Acion Press? I thought to myself, why not? It must have a complex scheme so that it is not easily replicated. And it has to stand out from the normal scheme of things, run of the mill, paint, weather, chip, fading….you know, the usual things that people do?
So, I played with the idea of painting a game based scheme that can be easy to do on the computer but never seen done in good definition on a 3 dimensional model. I have collected the skins of the Ace Combat flight game for about 2 years and I did like the Halloween Tomcat published 2 years back. So I decided to work on it since I do still have some Hobby Boss 1/48 scale F14A kits sitting in my 400 plus unopened stash! Yeah, I am one of those sinners that buy 20 and makes one….really guilty on that one. But its people like us that made the hobby what it is today isn’t it?
Kit: Hobby Boss 1/48 F14A Tomcat
Master: 1/48 Pitot Tube set
Dream Model 1/48 F14A Photo Etch Cockpit set
David Kao – Custom cast Nozzles
The kit is quite straight forward except the wheel struts. I decided to modify them as I did with earlier Hasegawa cats. Otherwise we have to glue them in place before painting and assembly and this will definitely be disastrous in this type of complex painting schemes.
The photo etch parts were larger than the plastic parts and a lot of trimming and cutting with filing and repainting was required. I almost regretted not having to paint the cockpit by hand since the amount of work was a lot more than I anticipated using a PE set.
I used Milliput to make the front part of the cockpit so that it resembled fireproofing fabrics as the plastic part looks fake! These were shaded for the aft and front cockpits with Valejo paints in tones of Khaki and sand. I like to fit the canopy before assembly of the whole plane as it allows me to putty up the seams and make it canopy look integrated to the fuselage. I normally used Vallejo putty that is diluted with water to paint over the grooves if I do not wish to sand off any details. However this method needed to be repeated a few times as the water evaporates and the putty also shrinks leaving only the feldspar powders and the Ethyl Acrylic Acid binders. Patience is required. To prepare for this stage. The canopy was masked inside for to spray the transparent green and then masked outside for the bodywork colours. It is my habit to use small pieces of Tamiya masking tape, thereafter reinforce the whore area to make sure there will be no leaks with Mr. Colour Masking Sol.
I decided to model the plane with the avionics bay opened and to open up to show part of an engine. The main parts were glued together. There were some misalignment, especially on the intake and the engine fitting into the bodywork. I decided to go along and try to fix the problem later as I get there. The misalignment were small issues as I am not weathering the aircraft which will be done in semi gloss, so, I can sacrifice some details. The areas are puttied up with nitrocellulose putty and then left to shrink for 3 days before sanding. This is later reinforced with my Vallejo diluted liquid putty. I love this putty because I can clean it up like sanding using cotton wool and ethanol.
The area where the engine will be exposed with drilled out to form the outline for the Tamiya razor saw to cut. I used the X Acto hack saw to saw the vertical lines and the horizontals were given to the slimmer blade Tamiya razors. The tricky part is the mortise and tendon joint. This part, each tooth has to be cut carefully with the Tamiya saw, then the slots are filed used the Creos Diamond file.
I decided to use the kit parts even though the fit is usually bad, I added steel, copper wires and brass rods to the part with some scratch built plastic parts too. Then its painted Gunze Black Primer and then sprayed over using Vallejo Pale Burnt Metal as base. Then I added the yellow and red pipes paints by hand.
Light washes with burnt sienna and black to bring out the details. Some steel and gun metal is dabbed on as well as titanium mixed with gold. The engine bay is then primed white and the engine fitted it place, the fit is quite bad and the engine will not merge correctly with the nozzle. Something has to be done, and the resin that David Kao sent were too small to fit with the engine, so more modifications is needed. As frustration mounts, its is wise to just do other parts of the plane and leave this part for now.
I wanted to paint it like the crumbling wall of the game screen shot. So, I primed the surface with Mr. Colour Black Surfacer as its much stronger in adhesion than most paints and can take the punishment of masking. I carefully cut pieces of tape to replicate breaking and crumbling walls like the screen shot. Some artistic license is exercised as the actual one had too little small bits, being on a back lit screen, it will look okay but on a model, we do not have luxury of luminance from behind but only reflectivity of the surface from an external light source, we will have to alter the model to afford a good contrast. So I elected to have bigger chunks of colour patches.
3 coats of custom mixed khaki mud colour was used to make up the solid colour of the front fuselage. I had some discussions online with club members in Taiwan and decided to make it much lighter shade than the game model as to make the plane stand out instead of sink into the table cloth! So, I cut back on the dark tones and increased the luminance of the base colour on which all details will be painted over. I also decided to divide the top fuselage, called the TURTLEBACK, into 3 parts, the fore Khaki, the mid Pumpkin, the rear burnt smokes.
The previous avionic bays were painted with white primer from Mr. Colour and masked. This is glossed over to make it more controllable for washing. Tamiya enamel black is diluted and used to wash the avionics bay.
Two layers of flames are used in this scheme. There is one in the background which uses Vermillion. Then there are the foreground yellow, orange reddish flickers. This I decided to mix the custom mixed Gunze orange with some glycerine. I sprayed the top areas of the flames with white, then with Tamiya Yellow, then went on the custom glycerine loaded orange. Then I stick masking take over the orange to tear off in a few successions to get patchy look to the flames, I sprayed a transparent orange tone over the whole area to unify the paints together.
The orange is masked off and black border is painted on using Gunze Black Primer. Once the masks are off, to protect from further peeling till all the glycerine has dried up, I used Mr. Colour Gloss to cover the whole tail fins and left in the sun to bake for an hour. This will hasten the vulganising of the thinning agents and giving us a robust coating over the surface that it was painted on.
Start working on the wings. The wings were made to be assembled with the flaps down and the leading edge extended. However, for the wings to retract in park mode, it is closed much a smaller angle. With this arrangement, its not possible. So I have to modify the wings to get them to fit. The problem with Trumpeter kits is that when they give you an option, its actually no option. For instance, the refueling probe or air brakes or in this instance the wings, when you opt to close it, cut all the struts and sand it smooth, I found that, as expected, the shapes and sizes don’t fit. So, a lot of materials must be removed to get it to fit nicely. Once that is done, its primed again in black and the leading edge patterns are masked off. The whole assembly is sprayed over with glycerine loaded white. Reason for this is to get a patchy look so that when the top colours go one, it will be uneven and looked like smoky.
Then the khaki went one after the white was given a good rub on running water. Then the masks for the red flames were cut and postioned. I preferred Vinyl for this as the do not fray or bristle unlike cutting masking tape. This will give us a clean edge. Care to de-tack the vinyl masks over our skin before pasting on the surface otherwise the Oracle film is going to take a whole chunk of what is underneath it along with the unveiling. One principle in masking for airbrushing, you can never over mask it. Do not sting on tape, otherwise, you are going to regret the over spray. Even if you are very careful.
Once the masks are removed, I have to plan where I want to lay the words, the chains and the flames in the foreground so that they will not look too cluttered.
I laid on the yellows first, then the main orange with roots in translucent vermillion colours. Once that is done, I smoked the surrounding areas with Tamiya smoke laden with glyverine. This is left overnight to dry out.
The wing was sanded smooth using 2000 grit sandpaper and water. Happy with the blotchy look, I removed the black areas that were previously protected by masking to unveil the leading edge pattern. Then I position and lay one the chain masks. Usual care is taken once again using vinyl masks. Making sure I de-tack every single piece of it using my good old oil on my skin, careful not to do it on hairy portions, otherwise, midnight howling may occur!
First I laid down the black using the Mr. Colour primer. Then I use a very thin mix of Tamiya Matt White and carefully laid it on with my airbrush at low pressure. Hovering 1 cm from the surface. Making sure I do not overspray to kill the link portions where the metal overlapped.
Next I outlined the chains with black Vallejo acrylic paints. Once dry, I over paint it very carefully with very diluted Gunze white paint diluted to super thin and very low pressure. Just barely enough to prevent spluttering. Careful to execute the trigger halfway and spray one with 5mm clearance to the surface to blend the black outlines to the chain main body.
The tail fins are also done in the similar manner but I wanted some contrasts, so the tails are painted with much lighter tones than the wings. The chains are matched to the actual flying angle of the wings. Not the parked angle as we would see in the game. However, at this angle, the pumpkin smile is broken up.
The lower parts of the wing, I decided to do a single curve rather than a double curved bat wing. This will allow more of the flames to be seen, since I am retracting the wings to the park mode, a lot of the innards will be hidden from view anyway. Once again, I have to also match the chains to the flight mode angles.
Somethings in life we cannot escape forever. For the bad fit, it meant that I had to cut off part of the much weathered and painted engine part to allow the nozzles to fit.
I sprayed the forward section black then followed by the khaki after the marriage and there was some work on the puttying and sanding part which I will leave out. Then the area for the lighted part of the pumpkin is masked off. The exposed area was given a good spray of Mr. Colour white primer from the can!
I roughly sprayed on the red from Mr. Colour on the dark areas that I wanted it as base, the yellows went on the other areas not covered by the red giving the adjacent overlapped areas a hue of orange.
Next I painted in undiluted Vallejo black paint. I am not concerned about brush strokes as this can be sanded down in the last few steps to flatten the paintwork. Then the step 5, is to paint in very carefully details in black of the eye brows and wrinkles on the forehead.
Step 6 is to paint the highlights in beige colour using Vallejo Acrylics, to give the look that the pumpkin is a lantern that is cut and it has a thickness to it and its viewed from an oblique angle from the higher than face level. Some features where also added at this point in time to make the pumpkin look from fierce and mean looking.
Pic 75 left Pic 76 right. The pumpkin was given fine spray of orange to cover all the areas that were previously out of whack as the process of this painting is to make up as I go along. With that out of the way, I put in some of the lines in orange and yellow using the airbrush. Then I worked on putting in the finer details in beige and orange and yellow using the glazing method using Vallejo paints. I also added in vermillion for the top parts to make the patterns more undulating. I also cut the bottom out to put in the shaded or bearded areas at the bottom of the pumpkin and glazed it with transparent black after I painted in the reds and oranges taking time to stroke in the whiskers to make it look more like a beard.
Pic 77 left, pic 78 right. The masks were finally removed. I sprayed the bottom half of the turtle back in black and then etched in the khaki at 40% coverage leaving a very heavy tint of darkness, which is what I want as it will give the pumpkin a more three dimensional look with a feeling that it came out of darkness towards the guy looking at it. Then the whole area was given 2 coats of Mr. Colour Super Clear from the can and then put in the oven to cook at 55 degrees for 1 hour. You can also do this by using the hairdryer but its very dangerous as overheating can cause the varnish to boil and you get permanent damage in bubbles in the paint and its game over. Another trick if you have 35 degrees sunshine and cloudless, you can put it in the sun for up to 30 minutes before the UV rays change the colours.
The bat wing middle section went one and the bottom areas were painted black too followed by the 40% clouding as per the top surfaces but this time we increased it to 90%. Then the area where the flames are were masked with vinyl using the same routine and a light dust of white primer is sprayed into these areas to give some luminance to the flame colours. This is to increase the reflectivity of the surface. Then I doused in the yellow, orange, red routine.
The flames were hairdryer dried and the masks were removed very slowly, in case we need to do patchwork.
Next I tackled with anti slip polymeric walkway. I masked this area out, then use the Tamiya texture paint and dilute it very thin and dabbed it one 2 coats. When you work with these, we have to be patient to get an even surface. I wanted for it to dry out for 24 hours before the 2nd coat and used water to spread the sand till I get an even surface. Then I spray one two tones of grey to give its some interesting texture.
The area is unmasked and I diluted some Tamiya smoke to introduce shadow for the pumpkin outline. I also painted the stock for the pumpkin with white, green, khaki and black. I also painted in the cut line with grey and yellow glazes. Then the whole plane was glossed over to get it ready for sanding. Then the plane is back to the 65 deg oven for 2 hours.
I used some AK Extreme Metals to douse the exhaust nozzles, followed by Dr. Martin inks. Then this is washed over with brown and black. To give the nozzles a dusty look with burnt titanium surfaces.
Finished look before the black wash.
AIM 54, I decided to have 4 in white regular colours and decals and 4 outwing roots hardpoints to carry flaming ones to liven up the whole model. To do this, I have to spray the missles black primer, then spray the upper half in white surfacer. Then I do exactly what I used on the model body with white, yellow, orange and red. I also added flickers by using yellow and orange paint from Vallejo.
Then I use black Vallejo paint undiluted and carefully brush on the curves to get the root of the flames. Same process was done for the two fuel tanks.
Next thing to tackle was the gunbay. Straight forward with metallic pains and black wash. Then the nerve destroying photo etch parts! The 12 pcs of radar parts that can drive people insane!
Then the masks for the engine areas are taken away, The yellow and red lines are reinforced as some parts are damaged. Then I started work on the undercarriage. The struts needed to be cut and held in place with help from cotton buds and masking tape. It is set aside for a day for it to solidify.
I have a guy helped me do the dry transfers even though it cost me something like US$80 to print and ship one A4 sized decal sheet! Once the decals are on. I whacked on 2 more coats of Mr. Colour Top Coat Super Clear. Back to the 65 degrees oven again for 2 hours.
Or if the sun is bright and hot. It will work too to put it out there in the bright sunshine. But in short periods of 10 minutes only, otherwise, it can affect the colours that we have painstakingly done so far.
Work on the nose art is the same procedure. Black primer, mask, white primer, khaki. Only trick was the marking out eyes. Its done with Vallejo acrylics, white, khaki, in that order.
Photo etch on those ejection seats are all standard from the kit. The cushions are khaki and the backing is green. The belts were painted white.
The seats are shade with highlights and sepia is used to wash the darker areas. Black diluted Vallejo paint is used to mark out the silver buckles and the grey seat belts. Then the ejection hoops where added with the red, yellow and black colours. These seats were then mounted snugly into the cockpit. As there are quite serious warping of the seats in the tooling design care must be taken to bend parts to get them to fit. There were also two parts jutting out that is redundant and has to be cut away. The seats does not go into the tub without some bending of the seat leading fenders. Its very delicate and care must be exercised.
The radar going one is a precarious one as the cavity is much smaller than the stud provided. With all the PE parts one, I had to file the hexagonal hole by 0.5mm each direction, taking care of the 12 Ts that are on that dish! After 3 hours I finally got the radar on and then the nose cone, which needed some filing as well.
As the model is doing a tour of several countries to participate in shows, the weakest part is the canopy strut, so, I discarded the plastic part and drilled out a hole 1mm is diameter. I constructed the strut with a 1.2mm tube and a 0.75mm rod of brass. It’s made extra in length so that I can have the freedom to trim it back little bit at a time till the angle is correct. This is glued in place by cyanoacrylate and the upper areas with Micro Krystal Klear. Once dry, its painted over to reduce the glossy sheen.
Disaster struck again. The canopy seals which are covered by polyethylene foam were found not to match the shape of the body of the forward fuselage. The gap needed three rounds of liquid putty. Then 3 layers of Vallejo Black and sanded. The extra plastic materials were also required to be removed from both sides of the front windscreen. Care was exercised to prevent damage from the masking tape to the decals. After 2 days, this is finally solved. The final finish is done using cotton buds and Tamiya Fine Polishing Compound.
You can click on the photo below to be transferred to the Gellery section and enjoy the photos of the completed TOMCAT
By Norman Lim Chee Seng