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How-to: Paint a Simple Multicolor Body

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.

STEP 1
Trimming
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.

Pro Tip
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.

STEP 2
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.

Pro Tip
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.

STEP 3
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.

STEP 4
Masking

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.

Pro Tip
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.

STEP 5
Mask Removal
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.

Left to right: one coat, two coats, three coats

STEP 6
Painting

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.

Pro Tip
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.

Pro Tip
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

  1. Paint darkest colors to lightest colors
  2. Paint in light coats (overly heavy coats are the #1 painting mistake)
  3. Check the mask frequently to prevent bleeds
  4. Use a hairdryer to speed up drying time
  5. Spray in smooth strokes and don’t hold the spray can too close

 

Links
Pro-Line
Pactra/Testors
Parma

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34 Comments

  1. Great painting tutorial, I too cut and trim/fit before painting, makes things alot easier. Never been good at the scoring and bending to break procedure, usually keep cutting along with my curved scissors. Depending on what your painting with, airbrush waterbased or spray can paint, is there any other tips that would differ between the two for you???

    1. I almost always use spray cans now, but I do have a couple airbrush setups. The advantages of the airbrush is being able to paint indoors and the huge difference in control. If you’re doing solid colors or only simple fades, you may as well use cans. Drop shadows, fine fades, etc bust out the airbrush. The downside of the airbrush is that it is a bit more work.

      1. Yes, some people do paint light colors first, but they must be backed with white (or silver) to make sure the darker color doesn’t darken the lighter color. Does that make sense? Her’s an example: if I painted yellow first, I would back that with white before adding blue.

  2. Great Article Matt!!! Interesting to see the so many different ways a truck body can receive color!

  3. Few things that might help out…

    1) You can use masking tape or pin striping tape to do the edges of a larger or more complex design – after marking the outside of the body with the sharpie, use the pin striping tape to repeat the outline on the inside of the body – the straight edge and flexible nature of the tape will allow you to get nice flowing lines. Then fill in the inside of the pattern with the liquid mask (be careful to be sure you connect with the tape well). Personally, I am terrible at using a hobby knife to get good flowing lines, but this has helped me a lot in the past.
    2) If you want some more detailed designs, get some paint mask vinyl – you can get it quite inexpensively on popular auction sites, and trace your design onto that IN MIRROR IMAGE (i.e. backwards) and cut it out with a hobby knife – then stick it onto the inside of the body as a shaped masked section…

    Hope this helps!

    Bob

  4. Hi Matt,

    Great tutorial! I’m coming here through your YouTube video. I’m really new to the RC world, so I have a question. I have a Slash 4×4 and I’m looking forward to getting a cooling system for it and a JConcepts overtray: http://www.amazon.com/Concepts-2058-Slash-Over-Tray/dp/B003D8QJMY . I want to paint the tray complete black to give it a badass gangsta look. Can you tell me which paint spray I should use for this purpose?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. I would use either Tamiya or Pactra black. Paint the overtray just like a body and then, if you want a flat flat look, peel off the overspray film and spray the outside black. The paint on the outside will look flat black, but if it’s scratched, it will still be black underneath. Does this make any sense? Ask away if you have any questions at all and thank you very much for coming to RC Truck Stop.

    1. Yes, but … while I have backed airbrushed paint jobs with spray can paint and painted large areas with spray cans and done detail work with airbrush paint … it is essential that you test the paints together before hand. Get some scrap Lexan and test your paints forst to make sure they are compatible. Good luck and have fun!

  5. Hello you said that you would back yellow with white so that a darker color doesn’t darken it. What if white is going to be covered with red? Would I do more coats of white or back it with silver to stop it being darker? Thanks

    1. I would use silver or, better yet, paint the red first. I always try to paint darkest to lightest, but sometimes that is practical. In that case, I back with white of silver.

  6. Since i watch your tutorial i’ve been startin with painting a lexan body of my Descr410rv2 and thanks to you input, i have a great lexan body for my car.

    Thanks!

  7. Well Festa, We’d love to see your hard work, try sharing a photo of your master piece how ever simple or complex it may be. Our fans and readers like seeing fellow guys acomplishments. Glad to hear Matts tutorial helped.

  8. OK, probably a dumb question, but are you re-masking the entire body between each coat? Or, at least, putting the liquid mask over the area you just painted? So, for example with your truck, you showed the black being applied, but I am assuming you mask over that black area to paint the red, and so on. Am I missing something?

    Thanks,
    Jason (Painter newb)

    1. Not a dumb question at all, Jason. I am not re-masking between coats. Because I am painting the inside of the clear Lexan body and painting darkest to lightest colors, I do not have to mask painted sections. Make sense? The black gets sprayed first on the inside. I then remove the mask for the red section and spray that. Because the red is lighter than black, it does not show through.

      If I were painting a non-clear hard plastic body I’d be painting on the outside and have to make differently.

      I hope this helps. If you need this addressed in more depth or have any other questions, please feel free to ask. Thanks for coming to RC Truck Stop

      1. Ahhhh…makes sense now. Couldn’t “see it” before. Thank you for taking the time to put this together and answer my question!

    1. Hi, Riley. I painted the small amount of black first, then the red. The white was painted last. I simply remove the mask for the section I’m painting and paint darkest to lightest.

  9. Hi Matt.

    good guide.. i have painted a few bodies now.. most with tamiya paint (and found it doesnt work well on hard bodies)

    but now to a question.. my next model will be a replica of my real car – pretty simple, but, it still requires a lot more details.. like i want to install lights.. but how do i mask lights precisely… ive tried liquid mask, but find it hard to cut straight lines, esp around the corners… do you have any tips here?

    thanks, from denmark
    /stig

    1. Try 3M or similar vinyl painters tape. It may be hard to find and might be expensive. You can also use blank sticker paper from a office supply store and cut it using a ruler as a guide. You’ll be able to get perfect edges and fill in large areas with ordinary masking tape.

      Tamiya makes two versions of its paint–one for hard plastic and one specifically for Lexan.

      Good luck and send some pics when you’re done.

  10. Hi Matt,
    Thanks for the informative posts. Question that I can’t seem to find an answer to: If I am painting multiple colors and going light to dark (in my case, black>red>orange>white), after I’ve masked the whole body with liquid mask and painted the black, how am I going to be able to see my design lines on the outside of the body in order to cut out the pattern for the next color? Isn’t the black on all the liquid mask going to cover up all my drawn lines? Any help would be appreciated. Thx.

    1. This happens all of the time. I have used a bright light on the outside of the body. If you’re lucky this will help you see the lines. Just that a try and let us know if it works.

    2. Matt is right, you can try and use a light on the outside of the body. I know I use the procedure of once the the liquid mask is covering the entire inside of the body, and your marked out design is on the outside, you can now pre-cut the liquid mask on all the lines and shapes/design you need. Once all the mask is scored and ready to peel, I start to paint in each stage of color, you can peel off sections at time once dry. Remembering which order to do so. I did this with the Ready-Lift Silverado body.

  11. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for making this it’s been really helpful. I’m thinking about painting the British flag on my current body and was wondering what order to do the paint? I was thinking blue first then red and then white but I’m uncertain on the red blue order. Any suggestions?

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