How to make your own masks easily

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Every modeller can visit the hobby shop and buy the professional pre-cut mask there – many people like the MONTEX masks for instance. But what if you want to make a different camouflage which is not in the offer? The answer is simple – you can make your own mask! Here is my short guide how to make it easily.

Trace the camo pattern onto tape

You may have various sources of desired camouflage, like photographs, books, modeller magazines or the instruction sheet which comes with the model kit. Basically the principle how to get the mask is the same: Firstly you will need the pattern in the same scale as is the scale of your model kit. Then you will be able to prepare the masks and apply them onto your kit.

Scanned instruction sheet

The original instruction sheet from the EDUARD Spitfire Mk.IXe was used this time (upper picture). Edges of the particular camouflage colours were traced by a black pen to gain a higher contrast. You would probably not want to emphasize the edges this way if you had the magazine or book as the camo source :-) Make similar outlines into own copy of the original if needed.

Please note: depicted views are not in the same scale. In addition to this – neither top view nor the side views are in the needed scale (scale of the plastic model kit). So the plan needs further adjustmets.

Adjusting the camouflage pattern into scale

The instruction sheet was scanned and placed twice into one Illustrator document side by side and then scaled according to the model-kit (1/144) scale. You need no complicated calculations though – use your ruler to gain the kit dimensions first: i.e. the fuselage length and the wing-span. Then draw these main measures as thin longerons within your Illustrator document (seen in red in above picture). And finally you can adjust both scanned pictures into desired scale easily (according to your pre-drawn longerons). Both side views are on the left and the top view is on the right (What will not be needed is depicted in lighter hues).

Please note: If you have the original plan in the needed scale or if at least the whole plan is drawn in the same scale you will need less work on your computer.

Basic tools to use

You will need these basic tools (upper picture).

Masking tape sticked onto printed copy

This is the scaled copy of the instruction sheet printed by a home ink-jet printer (picture above). Please be sure you print it using 100% scale (do not choose “scale to fit paper size” or so). Stick your favourite masking tape onto the camouflage pattern.

Trace the camo pattern onto tape

Trace the camouflage field edges onto the masking tape. You can use any CD/DVD marker for instance. I drew the wing edges and wing panel line too (seen in red colour).

Hint: It is fine to draw the position of the gun or other points which would help you to position the masking tape onto the model-kit.

Cut out the mask

The mask was cut-out by the sharp knife. It is ready to be applied onto the kit – you can use tweezers.

Please note: do not trim the tape beyond the “wing edges” red line – these endings will be helpful while positioning the mask.

Mark each part of mask

Hint: You may want to mark every piece of entire mask by a number – and to mark these numbers into the plan – for a better orientation.

Masks positioned onto model kit

You can see all the masking tapes already placed onto the model-kit (upper picture).

Not everything will fit according to the printed pattern every time. You will need to make some remedies – especially in those areas where side and top views meet together. You will find some mistakes in your instruction sheets too – your skills will be needed there. So please leave the particular pieces of mask a bit longer – you will be able to overlap these endings (no gaps will occur this way).

Hint: All the eventual gaps can be fixed – cover them by a piece of masking tape or use the Maskol (fom HUMBROL), TACK-IT (from Bantex) or other medium.

Masks close-up

The side-to-top masking tape connection is better seen on this close-up. You can see the overlapping tapes trimmed (by a small manicure scissors). More than one attempt was needed of course :-)

Spitfire Mk.IXe 1/144 Final photo

This camouflage pattern was airbrushed using the same masking process as described above. Grey colour had been sprayed first and covered by a pre-cut masks. Then a green camo colour was applied.

Please note: Depicted Spitfire is not finished yet. (The model kit was photographed prior to final varnish coat, washes and further weathering touches, coloring position lights etc…)

There is more than the one way how to make home-made masks of course. But this one is quick and relatively simple. You can send yours and I’ll post it here if you wish.

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Images & Text Copyright © 2014 by Marcel Meres.

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