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Painting Plans for the P-51B

July 20, 2010

The straightforward paint scheme of Don Gentile’s P-51B Mustang is a big part of the reason I chose it to mark my return to modeling. Olive drab up top, neutral gray down below, with a red spinner.

In the old days, this would have been as simple as jamming three different colors into the airbrush and spraying away.

This time around, though, I’m trying to be a bit more thorough, and apply some of the techniques I’ve learned from the interwebs.

When I started thinking about painting, I began by making lists of steps. Primer, then red, then aluminum, then…no wait, aluminum, then red…

Anyway, it got real easy real fast to lose track of any semblance of order. Then I had an epiphany. Why not Photoshop? Between its various masks and layers and whatnot, the process of building images in Photoshop isn’t really all that far from the process of painting a model. There’s even an airbrush involved.

Once I tracked down a plan view of the P-51B and modified it to suit my purposes, I started painting, and ended up with this:

Of course, this is the final product, but the steps to get to this point, the steps I plan to replicate in the real world, with a real airbrush, are the same.

And since I’m planning to kick off actual painting tonight, I thought it might be fun to share the virtual process.

Step 1: Primer

Priming the model serves two purposes. First, it reveals any imperfections that need to be touched up. Second, it provides a solid foundation for the paint to adhere to.

Step 2: Aluminum

The landing gear, interior bay doors, and the landing gear bays will be painted in flat aluminum. While the color’s in the cup I’m also planning to spray the spinner and the portion of the wings where the white ID stripe will run. I’m hoping this will pay off when it comes time to weather the model. At the very least, it can’t hurt anything.

Step 3: Black

The propeller and tires will be painted black. I’m also planning to do some pre-shading on the panel lines beneath the ID stripe, since the three-layer blend doesn’t work with white (how do you do a lighter-tined coat?).

Step 4: Red

The spinner and wheels get their distinctive red treatment. I’m doing this so early because I figure it’ll be easier to just mask off the nose (the spinner won’t be attached until much later) and paint the rest than it will to mask off the rest and paint the nose.

Step 5: White

The ID stripes on the wings will be painted with Insignia White.

Step 6: Neutral Gray

Once the ID stripes are sprayed on, they will be masked over (again in the belief that it’s easier to mask the stripe than to mask the rest of the plane), and the first coat of neutral gray will be applied to the undersides of the wings and stabilizers, as well as the lower fuselage.

I’m planning to paint the P-51B using the same three-layer blend I experimented with on the Fail Dauntless. The second coat involves a lighter shade of the base coat sprayed over the center of every panel, access door and flap, leaving only a small strip of the original coat right up against the panel lines. This should  be much easier on the Mustang than it was on the inaccurately marked Fail Dauntless.

Finally, a third blend coat is applied over the light coat to reel back the contrast and tone down the gradations between the lighter shade and the base color.

Step 7: Olive Drab

Last, but certainly not least, olive drab will be applied to the upper surfaces and main fuselage using the same three layer blend as the neutral gray…

…bringing everything full circle and back to the final Photoshop image shown above.

At this point, principle painting will be wrapped up, and it’ll be on to touch-ups, decals and weathering.

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