Regia Aeronautica Airbrush MottlingTechnique.

One of the attractions of Regia Aeronautica modelling, apart from the look of the aircraft themselves, is the sheer variety of mottle schemes they had. This was before they changed over to the ‘continental’ verde oliva scuro 2 and grigio azzurro chiaro scheme that came into use in the latter part of operations.

Painting any aircraft in the VOS2/GAC scheme hardly poses a challenge, but this cannot be said for the mottle schemes. Some, admittedly, are virtually impossible to do in 1/72 accurately and are still quite difficult in 1/48. Mike Grants 'smoke ring' decals for the Macchi fighters are a welcome sight and I defy anyone to airbrush this scheme accurately in 1/48, let alone 1/72. Jean Barby has shown that, given the right approach, superb results can be achieved. Anyone who has seen his 1/48 Cant Z.1007 build on the stormomagazine website will know this.

I found it a slow learning process. I remember my first attempt at mottling on an Airfix S.79. I tried so many times, all a failure, and without removing the previous attempts, layers of paint were built up to such a degree that the model ended up in a very sorry looking state.

My first mistake was to try and mottle each colour, without ever using a single colour base coat, such as a giallo mimetico. Once I got over that hurdle, next thing was to look at the airbrush and paints I used. I use a double action, gravity fed Aerograph Super 63, both 'A' and 'E' models originally but now use an ‘Evolution’, which is very similar. Although not recommended for volume spraying, they are perfect for the fine detail that all mottle schemes require. I have yet to manage a mottle using a single action airbrush or anything other than a fine needle.

I have tried both acrylics and enamel paints. Acrylics are perfectly OK for large areas, but I just cannot get them to work with mottling, even when using flow retarder to stop premature drying out of the paint before it even reaches the surface of the model. Enamels, with their slower drying time are much better suited, especially glossy paints, such as Xtracolor or WEM, as they flow better and give much more control. Any matting agent used in enamels tends to be detrimental and increases the chances of spatter and poor coverage.

The next trick is to get the paint consistency right, which is always a hit or miss thing for me. I test the paint first and if there is any hint of 'dusty' overpsray and orange peel, then it's much too thick. Add a bit of thinner and if it goes all spidery or like a centipede, I know its too thin. Only when the consistency is right, i.e. an even, soft edged line, are you ready to start.

Getting the mottle applied to the model, as you will know, is the most stressful time. There are many things to consider before you start. There are plenty of colour profiles to use as reference (sometimes the only source), but the best thing to do is to try and find a photo of the actual aircraft you are modelling, even if its in b&w, and STUDY it. Although it is practically impossible to a 100% faithful representation of that scheme, at least by matching it as best as you can to the same area on your model, you should get a feel of it and therefore continue the same pattern onto the rest of the airframe.  One thing to avoid is getting regular grid like pattern. It must remain random. On aircraft such as the sparse mottling used on desert C.202's it's all too easy to end up with rows of dots. I've done this myself many a time!

While spraying the mottle, see if you can picture yourself as the actual person applying that scheme to the aircraft. How would it have been applied? Its very likely they would be working on a small area at a time, maybe from the tail first and along the fuselage onto the wings, so some variation may creep in. He's only human after all, so in effect the mottle on the wing tips may look somewhat different to pattern on the tail fin. I have noticed such in some photos. I have seen a photo of an Ro41 in the midst of having a camouflage applied to it. It had a pale base colour, most likely yellow and was having a dark mottle applied. However, to the mottle was such that the base colour ended up as spots, a kind of reverse mottle technique in effect. I tried this on a Classic Airframe RE.2000 and it worked fine, by criss-crossing snakes of green over a sandy colour base.

There is a great feeling of satisfaction when successfully completing a mottle scheme on any model, but there is also a great feeling of frustration when getting it wrong. This is part of the challenge of mottled schemes.


The next article was originally written for the Pacific Coast Models website. Here is an updated version!

A laymans guide to Regia Aeronautica resin kits.

Some enthusiasts probably wonder why quite a few Regia Aeronautica aircraft are only available in resin kit form and have put off placing an order because of that (apart from the price). You might hope that one day it will be available in injection moulded kit form. It could be a long wait. I believe major manufacturers will treat most Regia Aeronautica subjects as unprofitable. At one time, the only truly exceptional injection kit by a major company was the Hasegawa Macchi C202/C205 series. Nowadays, happily, there is much more choice but we still have to rely on the "cottage" industry to deliver the more obscure aircraft we want as resin manufacturing process is, by far, the cheaper option for short run kits.

I say cheaper process even though the resin kits themselves are more expensive to buy. Having had some experience with the resin moulding process, I can tell you that it is a labour-intensive and time-consuming and explains the higher prices.

I would advise you buy them while you can. Both Noix Models and E.P. Originals are good examples. They made excellent resin kits, but they were only available for a short time before production ceased. RCR Models made good resin kits also, but they too ceased production until Italiankits bought the moulds. They re-issue them on an occasional basis.

Apart from the price, maybe you are unsure of the medium itself. Don't be! Is it the resin dust? It is often thought to be harmful to health if inhaled, although some declare it is quite safe. Wear a mask if you are doing a lot of dry sanding. If you wet sand with water, this will keep the dust levels to a minimum. It is possible to do a fair amount of clean-up by "shaving" with a sharp blade and leave the sanding for smoothing only.

The most important aspect of resin kit construction is the preparation of the parts before you start gluing, as the majority of resin kits come with the parts still attached to their moulding blocks. Careful separation is the order of the day. Use a sharp blade, or scribe repeatedly with an Olfa cutter or even use a razor saw if the block is thick. Any mistakes made here can make or break the rest of the process, so be patient. Parts can be pre-painted before separation, but remember to first wash them with luke warm water and liquid dish soap. You can use a soft bristle tooth brush and gently scrub the pieces (careful with the fragile pieces). Also remember that, just like plastic, resin surfaces need to be paint free before gluing. Once the parts are separated, they need to be cleaned up, test fitted and trimmed as necessary to ensure a good fit. Test fitting, test fitting and more test fitting before gluing minimizes gap filling.

The rest of the process is pretty much the same as building a plastic kit, with the only difference being the type of glue you use, namely, cyanoacrylate and/or epoxy as opposed to liquid cement. A word of warning though. Cyanoacrylate sets very quickly, so it is a good idea to make sure you have aligned the parts accurately first. There are slower setting ‘superglues’ if you need time to line up. Also work with good ventilation.

One positive aspect of resin kits is their weight, especially on larger scales. It helps to give a sense of solidity that plastic kits simply do not have. Another plus point is that the trailing edges of wings and tail surfaces tend to have a scale thickness, so there is none of the labourious thinning down you need to do on some limited run plastic kits.

All resin kits will invariably come with vacuformed canopies. I know that some modellers dislike vac-formed canopies intensely (according to some kit reviews), but again patience is the key. They are quite flexible and can take a fair amount of handling whilst they are trimmed to fit (always using the sharpest blade you can find). I personally prefer vacformed canopies simply because they are more accurate in scale thickness (except for armoured glass, of course). Falcon Industries produces very good canopy sets for a wide range of older aircraft models.

I hope that many of you who read this article may be encouraged to go out and buy that resin kit you've been thinking about. It may be the only opportunity you'll have to build the aircraft you want to model.