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Model Airplane Cockpit Painting Tips

Article by Paul Nortness

So, you are getting ready to build a model kit aircraft? The most important part of every aircraft is the cockpit. Without it, the pilot can't do all those cool things with the plane. So naturally, that is the part of your model that should really be special.

You can't afford all that fancy photo etch and resin? Don't worry, I will show you how to make an eye popping cockpit using nothing more than paint, Future floor wax , and Amscan confetti. Yes, I just said confetti. I will be using the cockpit from a 1:32nd Revell F-15D for this demonstration. These techniques will work on just about any cockpit out there, provided it has raised detail. As always with scale modeling, you want to look at reference material for your subject (the internet is a great place to start). Most US military aircraft use a standard color for the cockpit, Dark Gull Grey. Once you determine the colors, it's time to apply the base color. You can do this with a brush or airbrush. I prefer using a brush for no reason other than it's easier to clean.

jet cockpit

Apply this to both the cockpit tub and the instrument panels. Once the base color has dried, apply black to the side consoles and various dials on the instrument panels. Again, check those references to find where that black should go. Use a thin brush for the side consoles. For the instrumentation on the panels, a bamboo skewer is perfect for adding a small amount of paint to a tiny place. Time to go make a sandwich!

jet cockpit

By the time you finish up with your tasty treat, your paint should be dried and ready for the next step. You can't just have all these black dots everywhere! You are going to need to bring some detail out in those dials and various instrumentation. To do this, you will drybrush white across the panel. Dry brushing is an odd technique that doesn't make a lot of sense until you have done it a few times. What you want to do is dip your brush into the paint (in my case, I used Citadel Skull White) and wipe as much paint as possible off into a paper towel. Once your brush is virtually dry of paint, very lightly brush it across your instrument panel. The raised detail will pick up the small traces of paint still on the brush and your panels will start to look like this.

Hey! That's lookin pretty good. But don't get all big in the head yet, there's a lot of work left! So, now let's start adding in those buttons and buzzers and switches. To accomplish this, grab your handy bamboo skewer again. I primarily use Skull White for this, but will use some greens, reds and yellows here and there to break things up. All you want to do is dab the skewer into the paint. You don't need a lot, just enough to cover the dots. You should end up with something like this.

jet cockpit

OH! Don't forget the cockpit tub too. All those buttons need to be seen.

jet cockpit

OK good job! Now, it's on to the fun part. I bet you have been scratching your head this whole time wondering what the heck confetti has to do with a model of a jet fighter. Well, the suspense is over. Have you ever gone to an air show and looked in the cockpit of a fighter jet and seen a bunch of computer screens? Those screens are called Multi Function Displays (MFDs) and when they are powered down, they have an iridescent look to them. To reproduce that effect, you are going to use Amscan iridescent confetti.

jet cockpit

This stuff can be found at any party supply store for about $2.00. I purchased a bag about 3 years ago and haven't even come close to going through a quarter of it. This is a very simple process that will require use of your hobby knife. Kids out there might want to have a parent help out with this part. All you need to do is cut the confetti to the size of the screens.

jet cockpit

It may take some time, just keep trimming a little here and a little there until the confetti fits into the screen. Once you have the right size, take your high tech application tool (AKA bamboo skewer) and dip it into some Future floor wax. Apply the Future to the screen and place the confetti over the Future. The Future will act as an adhesive and stick the confetti in place. Continue this process until you have filled all the screens. While you have the Future out, put little dots of Future on the dials. This will simulate glass.

OOOOOOOHHHHH! Look at how pretty! The last step I like to do is apply a bit of black wash to the cockpit tub of the model kit. This gives it a nice "lived in" look and dirties it up a bit. You can also dry brush a little silver on the edges to give the appearance of paint chips, etc. Have fun and happy modelling!

jet cockpit
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