To Paint or not to Paint…
If you saw my E-Flite T-6 Texan review last time, then you saw the results of the repaint that was done on that airplane. I thought it would be worth doing a separate video and article on what was done since it was just a quick and dirty spray can paint job that I did through the course of a weekend with all of the painting done over the stock paint with minimal prep. This is worth discussing because sometimes we just don’t want to go to the extent of filling panel lines, or sealing up the airframe with polycrylic or anything like that. Sometimes, we just want to do something quickly, but still get good results. The difficulty always is, however, that stock paint just loves to lift up off of that EPO foam. Thankfully, with the right tools, we can avoid that.
It’s interesting how something like this, though not entirely difficult, is all that’s needed to really refresh a model and make it stand out. As I mentioned in my review, I have really enjoyed flying this AT-6, but following the repaint, I absolutely fell in love with the model even more!
PAINTING TOOLS & PAINT
First things first, let’s talk about what we need. What we’re doing here is literally just applying a new paint job over an existing stock paint job. There’s no paint stripping involved, so it’s important that we use very low tack tapes for masking. I had heard about frog tape for this and found that it worked fantastically! Paint lifting was not an issue having only just a few small places that lifted. In those cases, Post-it notes were used to mask off and touch up paint as needed. These were the only items used when masking and then I used paper towels taped down with frog tape to cover up areas as needed to avoid overspray.
One thing worth mentioning with the frog tape is that one can get quite good and clean paint separation lines, but it requires rubbing down the edges a little bit with your fingers. Also, when painting, avoid applying the paint too wet (especially on the first coat) as this attributes to paint bleeding as well.
Regarding paint, I used exclusively the 2x coverage rust-oleum paint which worked great. It’s inexpensive, it sprays pretty well, and dries relatively quickly. Note that you should be able to use most spray paints as EPO is extremely resilient. Obviously always test any new paint in an inconspicuous area first, but I have not found a spray paint thus far that didn’t work on EPO and I’ve used numerous types.
MINIMAL MODEL PREP
In terms of the model prep, there wasn’t much done really. The first step was to pull the stock markings off. I had heard about freezing stickers to lift them up which I tried. While the marking itself lifted up easily, it left all of the sticky residue on the aircraft surface. So, getting that off was kind of a nightmare and far more work than just dealing with lifted paint. Cleaning that up, I used some enamel thinner and adhesive remover both of which started removing paint. So, to remedy that, once the residue was cleaned up, the whole area was lightly sanded with 600 grit sand paper to blend the paint edges.
Following that experience, I simply lifted up the stickers paint and all and then sanded the areas with 600 grit sand paper, especially around the edges, to blend it all together. From there, a coat of white primer was sprayed over the model to even out the surfaces and give it a basecoat color for the silver. The silver needed this either way, otherwise it would have ended up uneven so, it worked out well in that sense. Following the primer coat, a second round of 600 grit sanding was done if there were areas that needed it prior to moving on to paint.
PAINTING THE AIRFRAME
Before we talk about painting the airframe, let’s circle back to the paint again briefly. As mentioned previously, I haven’t found any spray paints to date that haven’t worked on EPO. So, you can use any number of paints, but certainly test it first. In the case here, Rust-Oleum spray paints were used exclusively. Nothing special, but it’s inexpensive paint that actually sprays pretty decently. The specific colors used are Metallic for the silver which looks much like polished aluminum, Midnight Blue, Apple Red, and White, all in the 2x coverage variety.
In terms of painting the airplane, it first started with the prep we talked about and the white primer base coat. From there, the first color applied was the silver since as this is the base color and most other colors cover over silver without too many problems. From there, it was on to painting the red, white and blue pattern on the underside of the wings and tails, the rudder and then the cowl.
For the wings and tails, once painted silver, the bottoms of each were masked with the frog tape to receive the red, white and blue. It started by masking the required underside areas off first and spraying those areas white. From there, the wing and tails were masked for the red and then the blue independently and the paint sprayed and that was primarily it.
A couple things to note are that when applying the tape, it’s important to press the edges down well with your finger tips to help seal it up. Additionally, when spraying the paint, it’s best to avoid applying the paint super wet, especially on the first coat. It’s those wet coats that usually will result in paint bleed. Finally, be patient and avoid rushing to lift the tape up. It’s best to allow the paint to dry fully before removing the tape and then when pulling the paint up, pull the tape back over itself and that will help minimize paint pulling.
With the wings and tails done, it was on to the rudder next which was painted in exactly the same manner as the wings. The rudder was taped off first and then painted white. From there, it was masked off for the red and then lastly for the blue to finish it up. To make the tape strips, I used the frog tape and applied it to my cutting matte and cut the desired width strips using a straight edge and Xacto knife and then applied it to the surface in the necessary pattern.
The rudder hinge area gave me some fits with paint pulling and I actually had a little bleeding too on the red stripes. So to fix this, the affected areas were back masked as needed (some cases it was done one at a time) with post-it notes and the then the paint reapplied in those areas. The post-its are great for this and have the perfect level of tack. They can even be used to mask whole airplanes, but the frog tape is certainly quicker.
Lastly, it was on to the cowl which again, was painted in the same manner as described above. Painting light to dark colors is the way to attack painting most of the time, so that was the approach (especially for these type of colors). The irony is as worried as I was with pulling paint off of the EPO airframe, it was actually the cowl that caused the most problems. It was ultimately a result of what I was using for masking as I wanted to save time in making paint strips, so I decided to cut strips on my vinyl cutter for the cowl stripe masking. That was my mistake as the vinyl lifted the paint right off of the plastic cowl. And I did that twice…thinking that I didn’t prep the cowl sufficiently the first time. Well, 3rd time was the charm as once I went back to cut strips with the frog tape there were no issues at all. One thing to note, to get the radial mask around the cowl for the blue, a 1/4″ strip of frog tape was cut and applied. At that width, curve the tape around the contour was done pretty easily.
To wrap it all up, the black anti-glare and wing walks were masked with Frog Tape and painted.
With the airframe painted, it was on to applying the markings which I had made by Callie-Graphics. Callie did a fantastic job and the artwork and had the markings out to me quickly. One thing I like to do is have her send me a full size proof sheet so that I can double check the sizes against the model before cutting. The markings she provides are printed and cut vinyl, so there’s no carrier film or anything like that and they’re easy to apply…most of the time. In the case of the cowl stars, we didn’t quite get the pattern right, which meant I placed them all one at a time. So that was fun…but it was definitely worth the time spent to get it right!
THE FINAL RESULT
With the paint done and markings on, she was done! I have to say that I absolutely love how the airplane came out! The intention here was to do a quick and dirty paint job to transform the airframe, but with less time invested and it really worked out great. The silver really pops on the airframe, and those splashes of red, white and blue are awesome! The paint job was applied off and on over the course of a long weekend, so as a guess, it was maybe about 12-16 hours spent overall. Maybe longer if you count the time spent placing stars individually on the cowl… 😉
The true reward from this process was seeing the airplane in the air, as it just looks amazing! It has such a different presence compared to the stock scheme and the colors really look great. Flying it on the same 35C 2200 mah pack I did before painting, I didn’t notice any difference in performance. The airplane actually seemed a bit faster, but we were also flying on a pretty hot day when the video was filmed. As the airplane sits, it weighs in at 57 oz. Unfortunately, I forgot to weigh the airframe before paint. However, I would guess the overall weight gain to be well within the differences you’ll find using different battery C ratings and capacities.
Filling in panels and the refinish techniques we’ve talked about previously are all great, but sometimes we just want to do something quick and simply. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to really refresh a model and the techniques we talked about here really can be done in a short amount of time on any EPO airframe. So, don’t be afraid to give it a try! It is all about using the right tape to avert disaster here. EPO is great, but that stock paint really loves to lift up and it appears to me that Frog tape is the answer to that (always double check it on your airframe first). Until next time, Dazzlin’ Deb and I will see you at the field!