Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Micro Tutorial: Masking


One of the top comments in a survey thread I made in 2014 was to create small 'bite sized' tutorials. This is the another in that series of tutorials; you can see the other tutorials here.

With the recent success of Gundam Build Fighters more and more people have become interested in custom mobile suits, paint jobs and kit bashing. In this micro tutorial I am going to show you how to mask your kits for that cool custom look.

This tutorial was suggested by one of my readers Diego.


For those not in the know, masking in a process intended to protect a selected area from change during production. For us modelers that typically mean using masking tape or other products to to cover an area when we paint. Masking techniques can be used for handbrushing, spray cans and airburshing. 


For this tutorial I use a few tools that most modelers probably already have:

Hobby knife
Thooth picks (rounded tooth picks work best)

You may be wondering why I use two different types of masking tape. The reasoning is simple. In my experience, a quality masking tape like Tamiya's almost always seals better and provides a cleaner finish than masking tape from your hardware store. Tamiya tape is also thinner which makes it easier to bend around curves. But, on the flip side hobby masking tape also costs more than hardware tape. Filler masking tape is great when you need to "fill" in the areas away from the edge.

General tips:

Masking is a really broad topic, masking can also require a bit of problem solving if you have to mask an area several times for multiple colors. Instead over trying and failing to cover every eventuality I will show a few basic masking situations I encountered on a model I am currently working on: Kotobukiya's Metal Gear Ray.

Masking Order:

When I paint and mask I always try to work from the lighest color to the most darkest. For this kit that means starting with the candy blue grenn on the hips and working to the darker colors. Working this way preserves the integrity of the lighter colors.

For more information on paint order you can see my custom color scheme tutorial here.

Masking Round Indents:

Small round indents are some of the most difficult areas to mask. I mask these areas by applying a piece of Tamiya masking tape directly over the indent. Make sure that you have at least a few millimeters of tape on each side of the indent. Use multiple pieces if the indent is too large to accomplish this with just one.

Notice how the panel lines are still visible through the masking tape?  having this visual clue will make cutting the tape easier. But before you grab your hobby knife, use a toothpick to push the masking tape into the groove.

Now use your hobby knife to gently cut into the masking take. Then peel the tape away.

At this point I will use the toothpick again to push the remaining masking tape away from the indent and mask the remainder of the surface.

Notice how I left the inside of the piece unmasked? We're going to cover that step next. 

Masking for multiple colors:

If you have the option to mask one piece one time to mask several colors, then take advantage of it. This tip can ave you a lot of time in redoing work. This part is a good example because the interior is going to be a different color from the exterior. 

I painted the inside first to show off another trick you can use to prevent overspray.

Spray Shields:

Overspray happens when paint lands on a surface it wasn't intended to. This can be especially difficult when metallic colors land on non-metallic due to the luster of the metal flakes. There are many ways to prevent this including entirely masking adjacent panels. However there is a faster and easier method I can rely on in some cases.

I call this a spray shield:

All I did was extend the masking tape  by one additional layer along each edge. Masking in this way should prevent overspray on the dark area shown under the last subject, and it saves me time and masking tape. 

Masking Curves:

Maintaining the shape of a curve can be difficult to pull off. However this can be made easier by using a few tricks. 

When masking a curve like this where I need to spray into a recess on the inside of the leg you can use many small straight edges to approximate the shape of the curve. If the pieces don't match the shape of the curve 100% dont worry. Most of the time if you leave a slight .5mm or less overhang the overspray will simply fill this area in.

You can use narrower slices of masking tape to mask around tighter curves. I used this same technique to paint the raised vernier in the Byarlant's butt thruster.

Keep in mind this technique can be very time consuming. But the results are worth it.

Clean Edges:

There are a few tricks to keep your edges clean:

Use quality masking tape. I can't stress this enough, Tamiya tape always provides me with a cleaner edge than generic hardware masking tape. 

Always check the leading edge of your masking tape before painting. Make sure it's down tight to the part. 

The first layer of paint should be very thin and you should let it dry for a few minutes before following with subsequent layers

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