Camouflage me this…
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Continuing in our Kit Bashing 101 series, in this installment we are talking about painting camouflage and adding markings to our Kfir. The transformation from Mirage 2000 to Kfir has taken place and we’ve even added some nice Kfir specific cockpit details. So, there’s no more procrastinating, it’s time to prep and paint this jet! We have an awesome 4 tone Isreali camouflage scheme lined up that we’re going to paint and so we’ll talk through the process of achieving that. We’ll be utilizing an airbrush in the process along with some humbrol plastic model paints for the camouflage and then once painted, we will be applying our markings.
First things first though, the airplane was made paint ready. The process used was the same as what we did in our How to Refinish a Foam Warbird Series where we applied 6 coats of minwax polycrylic, primered and sanded a few times, and then finished it off by wet sanding with 600 grit sand paper to get it paint ready. There were a couple things done differently here though that are worth mentioning. First of all, there was quite a bit of texture coming through after the initial primer coat, so I decided to spray a some Rust Oleum gap filler primer. This helped build up the lower areas to even out the surface. After sanding it down with a sanding block, many of the imperfections disappeared. Being foam it’s difficult to get a perfectly smooth finish, but this helped really smooth it out. Also, this primer is ideal for prepping 3d printed parts and getting rid of the striations you get due to the layer build up.
The last thing was, I had a couple areas of the pink Home Depot foam react to the Evercoat primer when I applied it too heavy which melted some areas underneath the polycrylic. To fix it I just filled it back in with some spackle and sanded it flush. I’ve found this Shrink-Free spackle from Sherwin Williams and it works beautifully and has a finer granularity than the Hobby Lite spackle I’ve been using. So, I used it fill in the problem areas and basically primered back over it. For the larger repairs though, I did apply a coat of polycrylic over the repair before primering just to help seal it up.
EQUIPMENT AND THE PAINTING PROCESS
For the paint scheme we have planned, we’re painting a Kfir C7 4-tone camouflage. It’s tail number 555 from the Arava Guardians squadron from around 1994. This particular aircraft was called “Shabtay” which is Hebrew for “Saturn.” At the start of this project, I bought a 1/48 scale AMK Kfir plastic kit for reference. The nice thing is that the kit includes all of the color and markings information needed and so there are no questions about the paint scheme.
To paint the camouflage, we’re simply using an airbrush to paint each of the colors freehand. This is a smaller airframe, so an airbrush does the job well enough (If this were a larger model, I would use my Devillbiss automotive touchup gun but we’d need a lot more paint too). I have a few airbrushes that I keep on hand for painting and detailing along with a dedicated Grex airbrush compressor (it’s an awesome compressor!). I have a double action gravity feed Iwata as well as a pistol grip Grex (also gravity feed & double action), and then I have a single action syphon feed Badger. With a double action airbrush, you can control the spray size with the trigger while you’re painting whereas with the single action, you set the spray size independently of the trigger. Either airbrush type works. In the case here, I had intended to use the single action but had some problems with it. So ended up using the Grex airbrush and I’m glad I did. It’s not one I’d used a ton to that point, but I plan to use it solely going forward I liked it so much. The ergonomics are great and also there’s an adjustment screw on the back of the airbrush which limits the travel of the airbrush needle which can make it act more like a single action airbrush. This allowed for easily creating consistent feathered edges for the camouflage. Ultimately, the best airbrush is the one that works best for you and weather single or double action, it really ends up boiling down to personal preference.
For the physical paint, we’re using Humbrol paints which are plastic model paints. The coloring diagram which provides the Federal Standard paint numbers for each of the 4 colors but humbrol doesn’t list their paints by FS numbers. So, with a little research on the equivalancy of their paints to the FS numbers we come up with the following colors listed below. In applying the colors, we start by applying the bottom color and then work on the top side camo spraying the Sand color first, the dark tan and then finishing up with the sky green color. They recommend a thinning ratio of about 2 parts paint to 1 part thinner. You’re basically looking for the consistency of fat free milk from the paint for it to be sprayable. Also, you’ll know if it’s too thick if the airbrush isn’t spraying well and you get rough overspray and if it’s too thin if the color isn’t covering down at all and/or you’re getting runs.
PAINT COLORS TOP
- FS33531 – Sand (Humbrol hu121)
- FS30219 – Dark Tan (Humbrol hu118)
- FS34424 – Sky Green (Humbrol Hu90)
PAINT COLORS BOTTOM
- FS36375 – Light Ghost Grey (Humbrol Hu127)
colorserver.net is a great place to look up FS colors digitally
PAINTING THE KFIR
With all of the above covered, it’s now time to do some painting. The first color applied was the Light Ghost Grey bottom (FS 36375). The whole bottom is a single color, so a spray can can be made to work here should one choose. The whole bottom was airbrushed with Humbrol 127. It did take a little while to get the coverage, but airbrushing provides a nice light weight finish and the Humbrol paints spray really well (just make sure to stir them before each use!).
With the bottom done, it was on to the top. The first color applied was “Sand” (FS 33531) which is the lightest color. Humbrol 121 was used here and applied the color in just the necessary areas on the airframe using the color diagram as a guide. It’s important to overspray the areas sufficiently as we will be coming back and defining the final camouflage pattern with the other 2 colors.
Once the sand color was down, a light pencil was used to sketch out the approximate camouflage pattern onto the airframe. This helps give us a guide while we paint. We can certainly do this without the guidelines, but when we’re doing this all freehand it really helps so we know where we’re painting. The key too is to make sure to paint over the pencil lines so there’s no appearance of it coming through. This was all done freehand, but there are other options too. Ultimately, we’re looking for soft edges, so any round or raised template or masking would work too. This could be wall poster mounting putty or round foam tape, or raised templates, anything like that. I’m lazy and didn’t have any of that stuff, so just went for it freehand.
Once the pattern was laid out in pencil, the next color sprayed was Humbrol 118 “Dark Tan” (FS 30219). The approach taken was to spray along the separation lines first to get that faded separation and then from there fill in the rest of the color. As we spray, applying the paint through smooth strokes of the airbrush are important. The use of two hands is beneficial too if needed to stabilize your hands. I attacked this color in sections and moved progressively along the separations to get what I was looking for. It takes practice and it’s far from perfect, but the beauty is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s camouflage and the whole intention is to make the whole aircraft surfaces uneven.
Finally with the “Dark Tan” applied, the Humbrol 90 Sky Green (FS 34424) was sprayed in the same manner. The green fade over the dark tan looks better than the other way around, so this is why it was sprayed in this order. This completed all of the colors making the airplane look pretty darn awesome, but there were definitely some areas needing touchup based on some stray spray lines or separations I was unhappy with.
To touchup the areas, first the grey underside separation line along the fuselage was resprayed. It’s tough to get a perfect straight line spraying multiple colors, so this cleaned this whole area up wonderfully. From there, all of the other colors were touched up as needed clean up any areas needing it. One thing to remember though as we touch up the separation lines, we’ll likely have to touch up both colors to get the correct look to the fade. What I mean is that spraying Dark Tan over the Sand has a different look along the fade than visa versa. So touching up any of the Sand color along any of the fades will require going back and retouching with the Dark Tan. Otherwise, it ends up looking uneven. Also as a side note, it helps to scotchbrite the aircraft lightly too to help even out the color separations and remove over-spray.
Now, to finish it all out, the last few details were painted starting with the turkey feathers and exhaust area. This was painted with ALCLAD dark aluminum. And then, the nose and tail tip details were painted flat black. With the black in the airbrush, some shading was done in the exhaust/turkey feathers area to simulate soot and exhaust residue.
The fully painted airplane came out looking awesome I have to say! The colors of the Israeli camouflage are unmistakable and they really bring the airplane to life. From here, it’s time for markings.
APPLYING THE MARKINGS
Well, the airplane’s painted, the next step is markings. I typically like to make my own markings (see my discussion about how I do that), but for this project I opted to have the graphics made by Callie Graphics. It was really about saving time as I didn’t want to go through the whole process of cutting masks and whatnot. The markings that Callie provides come as pre-cut vinyl with transfer tape applied to them. So, it’s really a matter of simply removing the vinyl from the backing, applying the vinyl marking to the model and then removing the transfer tape. The marking were placed down dry. The key is to not press the vinyl to the surface fully until it’s exactly where you want it. In the process, there were a couple of the markings that weren’t quite right that needed to be corrected. Callie would have happily fixed them, but that would have delayed me another week or so and I was getting to the point where I didn’t want to wait having a desire to get this airplane completed for the Warbirds & Classics event. So, for the items needing a little help, I simply made my own decals in the same manner as I covered in my discussion on making markings and then applied them to the model. In the process, I ended up making all of the hebrew nomenclature on the airplane too since I was looking to fill up a decal sheet anyways. I’m glad I did because it looks great with all of that extra detail on it. I didn’t put any kind of gloss clear coat down first where the decals were placed, and so going over a flat paint the decals did silver a bit. If I were to do it again, I would have locally brushed some pledge floor care finish where the decals go so they went down over a glossy surface. I didn’t think about it at the time unfortunately.
So, here’s the final airplane with all of the markings applied. The airplane pulls of a very convincing rendition of the Kfir; better than I expected truthfully.
An airbrush is a great tool to have in your arsenal, so consider getting one if you don’t have one. And know that the more you use it, the more comfortable you will be with it and the better the results you’ll get. It’s something that can be used over and over again for detailing or painting entire models like we’ve done here. Next time, we are going to cover panel lines and weathering and show how to do that. We’ll be using a pencil for panel lines and then some airbrushing and acrylic washes for the weathering which should really bring this airplane to life. Until next time, see you at the field!