Warbird Painting & Weathering — Making a Warfighter out of the Legend Hobby A-1 Skyraider 86″

Sock it to…me?

I knew at the moment I received the Legend Hobby A-1 Skyraider 86″, that it needed the full treatment.  It’s such an impressive looking and good flying model and there’s just something about the A-1 Skyraider that I love.  That’s not to mention that the model is actually a fairly scale representation of the airplane as well!  So, in my research of the A-1 Skyraider and collecting of books and plastic kits, I came across a specific scheme I liked and so it was off to the races to repaint and weather the airplane!

During the Vietnam conflict, the A-1 Skyraider proved essential in close-support missions over South Vietnam due to their long loiter times, large bomb load capability and ability to perform accurate strikes when needed.  For the repaint, the scheme chosen was George J. Marrett’s personal aircraft in Vietnam from 1968-1969 which carried the moniker of “Sock it to Em,” a tag line from the 1960’s comedy show “Laugh-In.”  The aircraft operated with the 602nd Special Operations Squadron (SOS) from Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base and George completed 188 missions with over 600 combat hours in the aircraft.  He even wrote about the aircraft and his missions in his book “Cheating Death.”

 

ABOUT THE MODEL

One quick note about the model itself if you’ve not seen my Assembly Review.  This particular model started as a Legend Hobby Southeast Asia camouflage A-1 Skyraider ARF and was dressed in the kit supplied markings for the initial flights.  Though the colors are good for an ARF, they weren’t correct to the Federal Standard colors of the full size.  So, being the scale perfectionist that I am, I had to do a full paint work up on it!  It’s important to note that what makes a repaint like this possible on this mylar covered ARF is that the airframe comes from the factory with a flat clear coat sprayed over the glossy mylar/monokote.  As a result, it takes paint exceptionally well with very minimal prep work.  Without that clear coat, considerable prep would be required to ensure paint adhesion on the covering material.

Here’s the full run down on equipment used in the model.

 

THE PAINTING PROCESS

With a paint scheme chosen, it’s on to painting the airframe.  As noted above, the Legend Hobby airframe comes with a flat clear coat applied over the mylar iron on  covering which results in a surface that takes paint extremely well.  In fact, the paint was applied directly to the surface without any primer at all.  Also, since I like a quick and easy solution, I leverage spray cans whenever possible.  Tamiya makes an incredible line of aircraft spray paints that are some of the best spray paints out there that are quite accurate to the Federal Standard colors.  So, in painting the airplane, I used the following Tamiya Aircraft Spray colors:

The painting process consisted of applying colors from lightest to darkest, so with this in mind, the underside color (AS-16) was sprayed first.  Using 3M Soft Edge masking tape, the underside separation line was masked off.  Note that the soft edge tape is designed for just that, to mask an area and create a soft feathered edge.  This makes painting feathered camouflage an easier prospect with spray cans, though the lines were still touched up with an airbrush (explained below).

With the grey down and masked, the tan color (AS-15) was sprayed over the brown covered areas on the model.  Once down and dry, the soft edge masking tape was used to mask off for the light green (AS-14) and then once dry, the dark green (AS-6) areas were masked and painted to finish it up.  In the masking process, paper towels and Frog Tape were used to protect from undesirable overspray that can occur.  The nice thing is that with this being the A-1 Skyraider SEA Camo ARF, the paint separation lines are already defined.  In looking at pictures and coloring diagrams of the airplane though, I did notice some differences and so did make some corrections in the painting process.

While the soft edge tape does provide a decent feathered edge with the spray cans, it can be difficult to get a consistent feather from it when using spray cans.  Also, the tape can unknowingly lift and/or stretch which can add to that as well.  So, to get a better look from each of the separation lines, each color was sprayed into a paper cup as needed.  A little lacquer thinner was used to thin it and then the mixture was sprayed through a Grex airbrush (I love these airbrushes!) over all of the separation lines for the appropriate colors.  This provided a consistent and scale feathering across the entire A-1 Skyraider model and also allowed for fixing problem areas that popped up as well.

 

APPLYING MARKINGS

The markings used on the model were a printed and cut vinyl that were made by a fellow A-1 Skyraider driver (thanks Mike!), similar to what you would get from Callie-Graphics.  In applying the vinyl markings, I like to peel back a small amount of the backing which allows the marking to slide on the surface as needed while it’s being placed.  Then once the placement is satisfactory, the exposed area is tacked down and then the rest of the backing removed while the marking is pressed onto the model surface.  Note that windex can be used as well if pulling the backing off completely, but that wasn’t done in this case.

 

ADDING PANEL LINES

With the airframe painted and the markings placed, next up is adding panel lines.  It’s amazing how even just simple pencil panel lines completely change the looks of a scale model.  So, to apply panel lines down a 0.5mm lead mechanical pencil was used to draw them onto the surface.  I recommend a medium hardness lead as it is less prone to smudging while handling the airframe.  In applying the pencil lines, a selection of various sizes of straight edges and Frog Tape were used as needed to lay them down across the airframe.  Additionally, smaller strips of Frog Tape were cut as needed to place around some of the more complex curves to use as a guide for drawing panel lines as well.  Being of smaller width, the Frog Tape can be stretched and curved much more easily for complex shapes and curves.  Lastly, a selection of circle and square templates were used in drawing out some of the access panels and the like.  Note that a diagram included in a 1/48 scale plastic kit was used as a guide for the line placement.  To protect the applied panel lines during the weathering process, a light clear coat was applied over the model using Rustoleum 2x Matte Clear.  Without this, the panel lines would fade away and smidge during the weathering application.

 

CHARACTERISTIC A-1 SKYRAIDER WEATHERING

The last item of business which really brings the airplane to life is weathering (my favorite part!).  The whole goal here is to simulate (not replicate!) the years of service these aircraft suffered through and A-1 Skyraiders in Vietnam were especially haggard and dirty.  We will never be able to replicate this process, so it’s about applying layers of different techniques to simulate the aging process.  Note that the it is recommended applying the weathering process indoors under artificial light.  Applying the weathering outside in broad daylight, will almost certainly result in over done weathering as the sun tends to wash the colors out.

 

WASHES AND OIL STAINS

The weathering process starts with the application of oil stains and streaks across the airframe.  On the A-1 Skyraider, I used a combination of FolkArt Raw Umber and Black acrylic pigments.  The black can be a bit overpowering on its own when applied heavily, so the Raw Umber being a nice dark brown was the primary color leveraged with the black used for accents, etc.  To make the stains/streaks, some pigment was applied to the surface in a desired location along a panel line using a paint brush (sometimes it helps to apply pigment along the panel line with a stroke aft as well).  From there, a paper towel was used to lightly streak/rub the applied pigment back in the direction of the airflow (vertically for fuselage surfaces).  This was repeated as necessary to get the desired look with different applications of paint put down.  The A-1 Skyraider was an extremely dirty aircraft and so the stains on the underside was applied quite heavily.  Application of the pigments across the remainder of the airplane were quite a bit lighter and more sporadic as a whole.  Having some pictures for reference really helps, but ultimately it’s about artistic license and getting the desired look from the finish.  Note that since this is all being done with acrylic pigments, the beauty is that if the desired look isn’t attained the first time, simply soak a paper towel with  Tamiya Acrylic thinner and wipe it over the area and it will clean it right up.  Additionally, for the flying surfaces (wings/tails) and fuselage underside, the streaks were applied in the direction of the airflow.  However, for the fuselage and vertical tail, the streaks were applied vertically.  The fuselage stains are typically the result of the aircraft sitting in the elements as any leaks, etc. tend to run vertically to the bottom of the aircraft where they then streak backwards on the underside.

 

PANEL LINE SHADING

Once all of the oil stains and streaks were applied, a quick shading was done over all of the panel lines on the model using very thinned down Enamel “Flat Black.”  This helps provide variation within each of the panels giving the illusion of accumulated grime while also providing a slightly faded center look along each of the panels.  Once all of the shading was applied over all of the panel lines, the whole thing was burnished down with a fine Scotch-Brite pad to even and blend the layers (very important!).  This was also used to help reduce any of the too heavy applications that can occur as well.  Blending with a scotch-brite is essential as the shading otherwise comes across too abruptly.  It’s important to note that this technique should be applied very lightly and subtly as it is very easy to overdo and apply the shading too heavily.  So, use discretion in the shading process and of course have fun with it!

 

EXHAUST STAINS

While applying the shading over the panel lines, the black was used to apply the characteristic A-1 Skyraider exhaust staining along the fuselage.  The full scale airplane had very dark staining from the exhausts in a very characteristic shape.  So, the thinned black paint was applied a little at a time to build up to the desired look and darkness of the exhaust.  Note that some light gun powder stains were applied with the black paint at this time as well.  Once the black application was completed, some thinned down “Flat Gull Gray” wad airbrushed near the exhausts to shade the center to simulate the heat and light colored staining.  This was applied very lightly and only at the exhaust exit location only as the A-1 Skyraider didn’t have much heat fading typically based on reference pictures.

 

A FINAL CLEAR COAT

To finish the model after all of the weathering work was completed, the model was sprayed with a final matte clear coat to protect the finish.  Rustoelum 2x matte clear was used and that finished up the paint work.

 

3D PRINTED BOMBS

To finish up the model, a selection of bombs were 3D printed and installed.  Afterall, it’s not an A-1 Skyraider without bombs!  First of all, the kit provided centerline tank was painted and installed on the aircraft centerline.  A pair of 750lb M117 bombs were designed and printed with flexible TPU material allowing them to be droppable.  Lastly, ten Mk82 500 lb bombs were designed with integrated sway brace assemblies to interface with the kit provided outboard pylons and be held in place with magnets.  To prep these parts, a primer coat was applied, sanded with 180-grit sand paper and primered again.  Then, to finish it up, the parts were wet sanded with 600-grit sand paper and painted.  AS-6 Olive drab was used for the green and Rustoleum 2x Yellow was used for the yellow bands.  A selection of neodymium magnets were used to hold the parts in place which have worked fantastically in flight.  Note that a pair of LAU-68 rocket pods were printed and installed as well (files downloaded from cults3d).

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

You’ve probably noticed by now, whether a large or small model, I use many of the same techniques when painting and weathering them.  That’s the beauty of the techniques as they are extensible to all sizes.  I absolutely love the results on this A-1 Skyraider, the model has been completely transformed!  While it looked good in the stock colors, it’s hard to beat having FS accurate colors on a model; accurate colors completely change the realism.  So, from here I’ll be putting together my flight review for the airplane and then we’ll be moving on to some fresh projects.  I’ve got a few fun things planned for this year, so hopefully we can get them all done.  Until next time I’ll see you at the field!

One thought on “Warbird Painting & Weathering — Making a Warfighter out of the Legend Hobby A-1 Skyraider 86″

  1. Absolutely Gorgeous Chris. I learn a lot from you. I have the Gaines Smith 120″ Skyraider kit and when the time comes will use your techniques. Thanks.

    Josh Harel

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