There are many ways to airbrush an
aircraft camouflage scheme. For example, you can use paper
masks, enlarged and cut out from the kit instruction sheet. Then
there are masking tape masks, Parafilm masks, liquid masks and
even (gasp) the free-hand airbrushing approach. One of the more
recently discussed methods involves the use of poster tack.
Poster tack goes by a lot of different names, and its quality
and characteristics can vary from brand to brand. It's been
around for a long time too. In fact, I recall my 6th grade
teacher using the stuff to put class art on the wall way back in
So what is poster tack? Although
I haven't been able to locate a source that can give me specific
ingredients, I think it's safe to say that poster tack is a
synthetic rubber compound without hazardous properties under
normal conditions (i.e., don't go lighting the stuff and
sniffing the fumes!). It should be stored in a cool location
away from sunlight or sources of heat. It can be torn apart and
rolled like clay, but maintains strong elastic qualities if
pulled. Rolling the material until warm makes poster tack more
pliable and flexible.
As I've said, not all poster tack
is alike. It can vary considerably in its hardness, elasticity,
stickiness, oiliness, and color, to name a few properties. I've
found that some kinds definitely work better than others. My
first suggestion is to stay away from the colored brands. I
learned that the hard way several years ago. I was using a blue
colored poster tack called Tac'N Stik by Ross. I stuffed it into a
wheel well, painted the underside of the aircraft, then pulled
it out a week later. Some of the blue dye in the Tac'N Stik had
leached into the wheel well, staining my interior green color.
Another brand to stay away from is the one sold by my local
Staples office supply. This tack is white, so there is no
problem with color leaching. However, it is almost as sticky and
elastic as chewing gum, making it very difficult to remove. Most
recently, I've come across a brand simply called Poster Putty.
It comes in a 2-ounce package, which I found in the school
supply section of the local WalMart. I've found this putty to be
elastic, but not too sticky. It's very easy to shape and
relatively easy to remove. Late breaking news - I looked for
this brand at WalMart today. Apparently it's been replaced by a
different type that's light blue in color. Bottom line - shop
around, pick up a couple of different brands, and try each of
them until you find one that works well for you.
So, enough about Poster Putty and
its cousins. Let's talk about how I use it to mask for aircraft
Assuming that you have laid down
the undersurface color, masked that off, and laid down the first
topside camo color, you are ready to begin masking. The first
thing you will want to do is to carefully study your reference
material, typically the kit instructions to see how the camo
pattern lays. Roll out a small piece of Poster Putty into a
snake. It must be long enough to cover the length of the camo
line you are replicating. Varying the diameter of your snake
will affect how soft the camo demarcation line is- a fatter
snake (say ¼ inch diameter), will give you a softer
For my Brewster Buffalo, I
decided that I would like a relatively sharp demarcation line.
Therefore, I rolled my snakes out in rather thin pieces, about 1/8
inch in diameter. Each piece is then laid down along the edge of
the color line. It is important to hold your
airbrush perpendicular to the surface you are spraying. It also
helps to use a low pressure setting (around 15 psi), which will
help prevent paint from depositing unevenly under the edge of
the snake. One other suggestion, if you need to make slight
changes in the position of the snake, wet your finger or a
toothpick with water. Otherwise the snake will stick to whatever
you are prodding it with.
Once you have your perimeters
laid out you must mask off the part that will remain the first
camo color. There are a number of ways to do this. For example,
you can use more poster putty to fill in the areas between the
snakes, thus masking off the 1st camo color. I hit upon the idea
of using common household plastic wrap (Handiwrap, Saranwrap,
etc.) as a mask. It's really very simple. Cut out a piece of
wrap that is slightly larger than the area you want to cover.
Lay the wrap directly onto the poster tack snakes and gently
press it along its length to be sure it sticks.
Now you need to get rid of the
excess wrap. Take a new #11 blade, and press slightly into the
snake until you cut through the wrap. Then draw a line with the
point of the blade along the length of the snake, separating the
excess wrap. This can part can be a little finicky since you are
pressing against the soft surface of the snake. Take your time
and DO use a NEW #11 blade. Next, airbrush your second color.
Finally, remove the snake and wrap. The snake should come up
without any difficulty. If you have any "Kling-ons",
use a small ball of Poster Putty, press against and lift them
away. You may also find that the area where the snake has been
laid has a slightly glossy appearance, which look noticeably
different if your first camo color is a flat paint. Don't worry,
once you put on your clear coat for decaling, that gloss will
blend right in.
The result of your efforts should
be a uniformly feathered edge. If you have any areas which
turned out a little ragged, simply spread out a piece of Poster
Tack along the edge and airbrush the offending edge.
That's all there is to it. Try
this technique and see what you think. If you have any comments,
or ideas for further refining my approach, please feel free to email