Some of us take painting for granted in the sense that we don’t see it as a challenge (that’s because we’ve done it a bunch), but a lot of people–even people who aren’t new to the hobby–are actually intimidated by the idea of painting a RC body. This is often exasperated if they do attempt the task and royally goof it up. It happens…we see the results all the time. Some paint jobs are like those little-bit-of-everything mutts–they are so ugly that they’re kind of cute. And, some are just plain ugly and a waste of a good chunk of change. Lexan ain’t free, homie. The real deal is painting is easy. If you could color with crayons as a kid, you can paint a RC body. Follow the steps shown here as a Pro-Line Flo-Tek Ford F-150 Raptor SVT gets some color added and you’ll be turning out paint jobs that you’ll be proud to show off.
While most people save the trimming for last, I like to cut out the body before painting–and I recommend you do the same. I do this for a couple of very good reasons. Cutting out the body before painting prevents the possibility of scratching the fresh paint during the trim and, even better, it allows me to test fit the body and mark the body post hole locations. Cut out the body with body scissors and then fit it over your chassis. Mark the body posts on the body with a Sharpie or similar permanent marker. I also go ahead and cut out the body post holes with a body hole reamer.
You can trim a body by scoring the molded-in trim line with a sharp hobby knife. After the line is scored, flex the body until it snaps at the line. This creates smooth lines, but should only be attempted by experienced hobbyists.
Draw Your Design
Here is where you decide how much work you want to create for yourself. I suggest keeping it simple with your design. Two main colors with a third separating them. On the Pro-Line Flo-Tek Ford F-150 Raptor SVT, I am painting the body mostly red with a smaller white section. A black stripe separates the two colors, and the back or bed section is all black. After you decide on what you want for a paint scheme, draw your design on the outside with that marker you used in step 1. Since today’s Lexan bodies are covered in overspray film, your design will come off with the overspray film when you remove it after painting.
Use scraps of cardboard as a straight edge when drawing your design. The header tag from the body’s packaging works perfect. Different size rolls of tape in the workshop are perfect for helping to draw consistent curves.
Cleaning the Body
In order to get the paint to properly adhere, you will need to clean the body to remove any contaminants such as finger prints, dust and mold release from the manufacturing process. Simply wash the body with warm water and a mild dish detergent. Use standard, non-moisturizing soap. Completely rinse the body and dry it with a lint free towel.
Now it’s time to mask the body. You can use either masking tape or liquid mask. If you use standard masking tape, do not use the edge of the tape for the edge of your paint. You’ll get a rough edge. Instead cut your edges with a hobby knife for a clean edge. An alternative is to use FrogTape–a brand of specialty masking tape. If you do go with masking tape, keep in mind that you may have a hard time seeing your design. Make sure all areas are completely covered with tape.
Liquid mask–such as Parma’s FasMask and Bob Dively Liquid masking Film–is the preferred method of masking of experienced painters for good reason. If used properly, liquid mask is easier to cut out and far likely to have paint bleed under it. While it can be sprayed on, odds are you don’t own an airbrush if you’re reading this article. I actually recommend brushing it on. Just pour a small amount into the body and brush it around until the body is completely covered. Try to make most of your brush strokes go in one direction such as from front to back. A second coat can be applied after the first coat as solidified (i.e. it doesn’t run on its own). When applying the second coat, try to make most of the brush strokes go perpendicular to the brush strokes used in the first coat. Mostly likely a third coat isn’t needed if the first two coats were thick enough. In the end result isn’t thick enough, it will be difficult to peel off cleanly. Let the liquid mask dry overnight. Liquid mask turns clear when it is dry. Some thicker spots may not get completely clear, but you’ll readily be able to tell when the mask is dry.
If you need to redraw your design on the inside of the body, hold the body up to a bright light and you’ll be able to see the lines and easily trace them.
Lexan bodies are typically painted starting with the darkest color to avoid a dark color such as blue showing through when painted over a light color as white. I am painting this Pro-Line Ford Raptor with a scheme that is mostly red and with black and white. So, as described, I will paint the black first, red second and the white last.
Using a fresh blade in a hobby knife, carefully cut away the mask where that paint will be applied. Double check that the mask hasn’t lifted in any areas. Without touching the exposed area to be painted, press down the edge you just trimmed. If you used masking tape, also carefully go over the entire masked area as the tape can lift. Do not press too hard when cutting out mask because this will score the body which will break when used.
You must use a paint specifically made for Lexan or it won’t adhere. I am using Pactra Racing Finish spray cans from Testors. Tamiya makes an excellent spray paint (make sure you get the Lexan variety), but it often costs a bit more and can be hard to find. It is best to not risk mixing brands. If you’re doing a three-color paint scheme, stick with paint from one manufacturer.
Paint outdoors when using spray cans and play it safe and wear a mask. As with all types of spray paint, make sure you thoroughly shake the can. The most important thing to remember is to use only a light coat. The first coat should a slight dusting. Heavy coats bleed under masks and run–basically ruin paint jobs.
When painting, you should start spraying past the body at one end and smoothly bring the can past the whole body and stop spraying after the you’ve passed the body. Don’t hold the can in one spot and spray, move the can and spray again. You also don’t want to hold the can too close to the body.
You can use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process of the paint. Instead of taking hours to dry, a hairdryer can reduce the time down to a few minutes. Don’t apply too much heat. Keep the hairdryer moving and don’t get it too close to the paint surface.
Each coat must be dry before applying the next. When a coat dries it turns from glossy to dull. When painting with appropriately light coats, each color will usually need three coats for full coverage. Frequently check your masks as you go.
When you’re ready for the second color, don’t use your finger nail to pull up the next mask. Instead, use the tip of your hobby knife’s blade. Apply the remaining colors the same way you applied the first. The most important part is to take your time and always use light coats.
Backing colors with white and silver will improve their look and help protect the paint. Backing a color like red will brighten the color. Backing metallic colors with silver will help the metallic element show up better.
You’re done–at least with the painting part. Now, remove the overspray film from the outside of the body and admire your work.
5 ESSENTIAL PAINTING TIPS
- Paint darkest colors to lightest colors
- Paint in light coats (overly heavy coats are the #1 painting mistake)
- Check the mask frequently to prevent bleeds
- Use a hairdryer to speed up drying time
- Spray in smooth strokes and don’t hold the spray can too close