Methods for acheiving Gloss Finishes
From the Readers of the Airline Modeler's Digest
Gloss finishes are something that airliner modelers live with on every project.  In a recent digest I asked the readers to submit their favorite techniques for achieving a good finish on an airliner model, by posing three
1.  What is your method for achieving a gloss finish?
2.  What paints do you use?
3.  Are there any special tricks or methods that have worked for you in the past?
The replies I recieved  were very diverse, and in the techniques that follow, you may find one that will work for you!

     1.  What is your method for achieving a gloss finish?

                    This kind of goes with #2, but my best results are obtained by using the multi-grit polishing approach.  Start with a good strong automotive laquer finish and sand the bejeezus out of it.  "Rub it out", as the car modelers say.  1800 all the way down to 12000 grit.  Finish up with Gunze "Mr. Rubbing Compound" and Future, Glosscote, are all superfluous.  Unfortunately, they're needed to blend in most decals

     2.  What paints do you use?

                    I like Duplicolor "Pure White."  I've also used Model Master Classic and Bright white, but they are slow drying and fill etched detail too readily.  If all the detail is decaled, they are fine.  For metal finishes, SnJ and Metallizer work for me.  I've come up with my own blend for "707 Grey" - I use the Accu-flex "SP Lettering Grey" lightened with about 20% "Reefer White".  For other colors, it's come what may.  Just finished the purple on a FedEx A310, used a mix of Tamiya Purple, Royal Blue and Black.

 3.  Are there any special tricks or methods that have worked for you in the past?

                    Lots.  My favorite is probably creating "grain" in foil finishes with a pencil eraser.  Also, try spraying metalizer lightly on some foil.  Attach and buff for a unique effect.


    Ken Durling

    1.  What is your method for achieving a gloss finish?

    Future floor wax over flat paint.  I absolutely, positively refuse to use any type of gloss paint, as coverage is usually bad, and drying time is UNBEARABLE.  I like to work fast, so waiting for gloss paint to dry is not something I like to do.

    I spray my colors down and get the basic scheme to the point where no other *paint* needs to be applied before I decal.

    At this point I begin to gloss coat the model.  I spray Future Floor wax (that Johnson's stuff) straight from the bottle.  I don't thin it (allthough some do), as it already sprays pretty smoothly, but it puddles very easily, and making it thinner would make the puddling problem worse.

    I spray my first coat fairly heavily.  I'll let it dry 30-45 minutes to make sure that I won't seriously damage the finish by touching it.  Future is also self leveling, so you'll see a better finish at this point than when you first sprayed.  Next I take a triple-grit sanding stick and use each  surface in turn on the entire aircraft.  Don't worry here if you surface looks marred or inconsistently glossy.

    Next spray another coat of future over the entire model, go a little lighter this time.  You should see a drastic improvement in finish from the first coat.  Let dry 30 minutes, repeat sanding process.

    Repeat cycle a third time, at this point you should have a very glossy finish that seems to be at the paint layer.  To further polish the surface take a paper towl and rub down the entire aircraft.  You can also use any type of "modeling wax" at this point to further polish the finish.

    Now let me stop here and say, this is the preparation that I go through on any model that I build (military aircraft included) for decal preparation.  One KEY to decal application is having a VERY glossy surface to which to apply decals.

    Apply your decals now, using whatever process that you like.  Allow them to dry for 24 hours.

    Finally repeat the Future / Sanding / Paper towl treatment twice more for the final layer.  This protects the decals and  smoothes the edges in with the finish giving your decals that "painted on" look.

    At this point, I selectively flat coat sections of my model to represent wear and weathering.  If you're modeling something well used, don't hesitate to flat coat more, especially the upper surfaces of the aircraft as they tend to loose their "glossiness" to the sun.  It just really depends on the level of maintenance that an aircraft receives.

    >2.  What paints do you use?

    Pollyscale and derivatives.  The military rack has all of the whites, grays, and even blues that you'd need.  Throw in the railroad rack for an excellent selection of greens and other brighter colors.  I sometimes will use Gunze paint as they also have good bright colors.

    The main reason for using the Pollyscale paint is that I'm used to using it, and can get a ultra-smooth finish with it.

    >3.  Are there any special tricks or methods that have worked for you in the past?

    Paper towels are for more than clean-up......  Future is your friend......plastic polish can work wonders......  Don't hesitate to use some flat coat.

    Hope this is what you're looking for.  BTW:  I can have a model glossed in about two hours, no food dehydrators, no hair dryers, nothing.


    Paul Cotcher

    >1.  What is your method for achieving a gloss finish?
    >2.  What paints do you use?

    Testor's Model Master paint, usually the flat (!) colors. Then, zap it with Future, let it dry, and sand & polish with a fine grit polishing stick. It gives a nicer finish than using gloss paints, I think.

    >3.  Are there any special tricks or methods that have worked for you in the past?

    Big & spectacular is better (for contests, at least) than small and plain. Or, as another friend of mine in the art buisness likes to say,  "If you can't make it art, make it shiny!"

    Mark Cable

    >1.  What is your method for achieving a gloss finish?
    >2.  What paints do you use?
    >3.  Are there any special tricks or methods that have worked for you in the past?
   1. So far, the best gloss finish I've gotten is with Future right out of the bottle, i.e. not thinned.  Shoot it at low pressure, about 20 PSI, through a fairly open nozzle.  This will allow for a rather even distribution of the product.   But don't go overboard, it may run.  Also, make certain to do a rapid cleanup of the airbrush.

    2/3. I usually use Gunze acrylics for just about everything through the airbrush.  They're easily thinned with a water/alcohol mix (app. 50% paint/20% water/30% alcohol).  The  alcohol seems to allow for a more rapid drying and less running of the
paint.  Also, the acrylics tend to give a clearer color, especially when working with certain shades like the Royal Airlines deep blue.  I don't think you could mix that with available enamels.  Allow the paint to dry/cure at least 48 hours before a 2nd coat.
Best is to let the model stand about a week after final painting before you begin decalling.

I know this may be a bit tough for those of us who are impatient, but it really helps avoid a myriad of problems from flaking after masking to fingerprints.


    Alan Aronoff

I've been banging my head against the wall for years trying to find the best paint finish for airliners. Here's some of the methods that I have come across-
    1-Flat white with enamel glosscote (easy to work with but has a tendency to yellow)
    2-Flat white with Future(also tend to yellow but to a lesser degree than the enamel)
    3-Gloss white with laquer based glosscote(easily buffable but highly toxic!)
    4-Gloss white with Humbrol glosscote(this relatively new glosscote will not yellow but is rather soft and takes forever to dry)
    5-Just plain old Testors Classic white applied in multiple coats no more than 2 hours apart...this is what I use now but there are still annoying imperfections when bits of dust get between coats of paint. I've tried buffing this paint but it is a bit too soft and the results are undesirable. I also have to use only the best airliner decals which are thin enough to disappear onto the gloss finish (I find the Liveries Unlimited decals to be the best!). I am curious though about these new Acryl paints that Testors is supposed to release. Apparently they have a line of buffable gloss colors!!

Duncan Stewart

        For a good gloss finish, start with good surface preparation. Prime and sand until you get an almost glossy primer coat. Even sanded with 1200 grit wet paper, the primer retains enough "tooth" for your color coats to hold onto.
         My favorite paints are enamels, except for whites, for which I prefer acrylics. I've used Testor's, Model Master, Aero Colors, Pactra, Tamiya, and Gunze all with good results. I like thin paint, usually the consistency of skim milk; this usually requires thinning about 50/50 as a starting point. Also lower air pressure is better for applying gloss finishes ( 12 to 20 psi).
         I airbrush with a good light shining on my work so I can see the reflection of the light in the paint. After a few mist coats, I begin increasing the wetness with each successive coat. After the last wet coat I mist on a coat of pure thinner, which helps the paint settle and improves the gloss.
         Drying in a food dehydrator has helped cut down the time between painting steps and greatly improves the curing time of slow curing paints such as Gunze acrylics and most enamels (hours instead of days).
         I've also been using Future as a gloss coat for years, usually thinned 2 parts Future to 1 part denatured alcohol or a 50/50 mix.
         Gene Jacobi



>1.  What is your method for achieving a gloss finish?

      Firstly I try to get an as smooth and grease free surface by using 1200 grade wet and dry paper used wet, followed by a treatment  with a household cleaning fluid which contains real soap and glycerine to keep the hands of your wife soft ;-). Afterwards cleaned  with plain water it'll leave your model squeeky clean. Then I put on a coat of primer (REVELL No.39001 Airbrush Email Basic).   This is a flat paint with The rest of my paints are mostly gloss paints.  Gloss varnish, 2 coats, then decals and another 2 gloss coats. I still have to wait and see about yellowing in time.

      >2.  What paints do you use?

      XtraColor thinned 1 to 1, Revell/Humbrol thinned 1 to 1.5 or 2 depending on the viscosity. I really do like XtraColor. Even the lighter colours as  yellow and red do cover in just 1 or 2 coats provided the primer-colour is white or light grey.

      >3.  Are there any special tricks or methods that have worked for you in the

      One kind of varnish did work very well for me. It's made by Sikkens. It is a varnish not based on terpentine (enamel) but on the fluid you use to help to ignite a BBQ.   Hence it doesn't spray very well, but it is hard. The normal usage is for floor-boards.   I have a model over 10 years old and it hasn't yellowed at all. But if you use it to libererally you might end up solving your decals.


In regards to Andy's gloss paint queries:

>2.  What paints do you use?

1) Clear acrylic lacquer, sprayed over acrylic lacquer colors.
2) I use DuPont or PPG automotive acrylic lacquers over lacquer-based
primer-surfacer (spray bomb, cheapo stuff)

 >3.  Are there any special tricks or methods that have worked for you in the

3) Tricks:  After applying decals and final clear coating (dusting on
intial coats, so as not to "upset" the decals, I apply any flat-finish
areas, i.e., deicers, anti-glares, exhaust streaks, fabric-covered
control surfaces.  I use Floquil railroad colors for silvers and
blacks/grays.  A simple  clear flat finish can be applied with Krylon
Matte Spray.  One of the beauties of using enamels over lacquer is that
mistakes can be removed in their entirety with rubber cement thinner
(Bestine)  This solvent has no effect on dried lacquer, but completely
removes solvent-based enamels.

Dana Kopher

As a "lazy" modeller, I try to find the simplest ways to do things :-) ...

      I use Tamiya Pure White spray cans to get the initial
      gloss coating (about 5-8 light coats, buffing it
      lightly between coats after the 3rd or 4th).  Then,
      the decalling/detail colors go on, and after that has
      dried for more than 2 days, I glosscoat with Tamiya's
      Clear Gloss spray can (also multiple light coats, with
      buffing/light sanding).

      I usually do this on bare plastic, but will experiment
      with a primer coat at some stage.  Also, it's very
      tempting to just slap a "proper" coat on, to get the
      uniform white look, but I know it'll run if I did that.
      Dust between coats is also a bugbear, hence the light
      sanding/buffing steps.

Eric Phan

Thanks much for the contributions!  If you have a gloss finish technique to share, email it here!

 Andrew Abshier

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