Masking

When you airbrush different colors on the same object, you need to mask away the area you don't want to painted over. Masking is really the dark art of modeling and I totally hate it, but sometimes they cannot be avoided.




Mediums
For straight lines, smooth curves on regular surfaces I use the 3M medium tack masking tape (left). The masking tape can't have a high tack because it may pull up the paint underneath. If the tack is too strong, stick it to your hand a few times before applying. When you lay the tape alongside an edge, it's best to use a dull point to press the edge of the tape down snuggly, otherwise paint can sweep under the tape and causes "bleeding".

Here is one example of masking a saw tooth pattern. All you need to do is lay the tape on a cutting board, and then dice up the tape with your knife at an angle. Hey that's my thigh!





For irregular convex surfaces, I use Paramfilm M. It's good for masking straight and curves that are less than 45 degrees, and will give you very nice edges. You only need one roll (which is 250ft). I bought my roll from Pollardwater.com which was about $15+shipping. The following illustrates how it could be used.

 

I apply it by first cutting off a small piece (which can mask a surprisingly large area),

I stretch it side ways until the resistance of the film builds up (usually twice the original width). You can feel the resistance of the film building up, and also the film becomes more transparent. I think after a few practices you know how much you can stretch without breaking the tape.
After stretching, I lay the film carefully on a flat surface and cut it up to the size I want.
You can then stretch it in the other dimension. The film becomes even more transparent. "Electrostatic" builds up and the film becomes tacky in a strange way.
To apply, keep pressing the film to the surface of the kit and advance slowly. Don't pull too hard or it'll come off. It's not easy for sure, takes some practice.

 

For difficult to mask areas, I use Modeler's Mask Sol (see my tools section for a description) although Elmer's glue thinned with water (add a little detergent to reduce surface tension) works pretty well. The disadvantage of liquid mask is it can give you irregular edges which you need to fix later on. The problem is this:

While masking tape can easily give you a straight edge, liquid tends to form a dome due to surface tension. Therefore when you peel off the liquid mask paint tends to get lifted off. Also liquid mask tends to get stuck to your paint brush if that's what you apply it with. You can remove it by soaking it in baby oil before it gets completely dry (or dip some oil on the brush before applying the mask), but I prefer to apply with with a toothpick. To remove liquid mask, you can use a toothpick to gently lift one corner of the mask, and slowly roll the mask away. Rolling is best done 45 degrees away from the edge of the mask to minimize the amount of paint lifted away. Anyway I don't use liquid mask very often, and I don't feel it's an essential item in modeling.

One thing liquid mask is useful for is for the eye whites. If you prime the kit with white (or airbrush the whites in the eye socket after priming), you can use liquid mask to cover the area and paint the face. One reason for doing this is that opaque white is difficult to obtain. I recommend this procedure if you're starting out.
I looked awful!




Here I'm masking the whole face trying to paint the hair. You don't really need to cover the whole face with the mask of course, it's pretty wasteful, I just got lazy. You can mask with the 3M tape first, and leave the irregular edges to the liquid mask. I pour a little Mask Sol on top of the "lid". Mask Sol dries pretty fast, so try not to expose it to air often. I have a half-used bottle all dried up.

I use the following procedure for complicated edges:


Here I'm trying to paint inside Misato's skirt. I have already painted the inside pearl white, now I need to paint the skirt with navy blue. There's a V-shaped concave edge that's difficult to mask. So I hand painted some navy blue alongside the edge. Try not to cause a paint build up.

Then I mask the white area with 3M blue masking tape. I don't need to kill myself trying to fit the edges here. Just enough to hide the white.
After airbrushing the navy blue and removing the tape, I get a good finish.


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