Daily Archives: February 19, 2008

Paint color call-outs in kit instructions, believe ’em? Mfg’s own paint #s…

“Propwash” over on the Aeroscale.kitmaker.net site asked the following, excellent, question, and I put together a pretty good reply, I thought:

Q: “I have 2 Academy P-51s, a ‘C’ and ‘D’ type, however, there do not appear to be any colour codes on one, and the other has 3 numbers (3,9,10) in triangles, but no hint of the paint manufacturer they refer to.Is this normal for Academy? I can work out the colours of course, but it would have been nice to have a chart to look at……..”

A: You’re asking some terrific questions, but the answers aren’t short!

1) Different kit-makers use different ways of identifying what color you should paint what on a kit.

1.1) Probably the most important thing to remember is that the kit maker’s instructions MAY NOT BE CORRECT! Its your model, you can accept what they say, or what someone posts on the internet, or what’s in a hobby magazine or book, or what’s on the specimen at the local museum, or what reasoned argument with your pals tells you.

1.2) Second most important is that any given kit maker will use either their own brand of paint, a brand they are ‘friendly’ with, or perhaps a range of particular pre-mixed paints. So even if they know the correct color, and even if they mean to tell you the correct color, if they’re Dragon/DML or Hasegawa they’ll likely indicate whichever Gunze-Sanyo color they think is the best match. If Gunze-Sanyo doesn’t offer a very good match to the actual color… the results are not going to be very good.

Tamiya and Revell Germany give mixing instructions (using their own paint #s) for colors not available out-of-the-bottle, but don’t necessarily give a *name* for the resulting color, just names for the elements used in the mix. When the results are normal colors which are standard and available premixed in other brands, the results make commercial sense, but aren’t a great help to the gentle modeler. (Cite examples from Revell Hurricane IIB, Tamiya Mustang GT and an airplane kit)

1.3) While kit instructions are written for each kit by each manufacturer, the real things were subject to both reality (materials such as bare aluminum, stainless steel, rubber tires, etc have the own colors) and applicable standards. For military airplanes,
United States Army/Navy (WWII US) “A/N612 Interior Green…”
Modern US: Federal Standard 595a & b “FS 36440 Flat Light Gull Gray”
US Navy, WWII (Measure 05 light gray)
British WWI (name?) “Green Drab PC10”
RAF/RN (WWII) “Sky” “Night”, “Dark Earth”, “Extra Dark Sea Gray”, etc.
German WWII: what are called “RLM” but are mostly Luftwaffe: RLM 02 Gray (this IS an RLM color), “65 Light Blue”, “66 Black”, etc.
Contemporary German – RAL #s
Japanese WWII: Named colors for Imperial Japanese Army, Imperial Japanese Navy, and specific depots and manufacturers.
Italian WWII – named colors
Russian WWII – named colors with USSR number system defining the names

Regardless of what the kit instructions say, the typical 1940s USAAF airplane either had Neutral Gray underside and Olive Drab topside, possibly with Dark Green mottle on the leading and trailing edges of the airfoils, or were Natural Metal, on the outside. US Navy aircraft from the 1950s to the 1980s were FS595a 36440 Flat Gull Grey or 26440 semi-gloss Gull Gray or 16440 Glossy Gull Gray over 17xxx Glossy White. Early WWII RAF airplanes in the UK were Dark Earth and Dark Brown upper side, with Aluminum, Aluminum, White and Black, Sky, or Sky and Black undersurfaces/.

(Descriptions and examples will be provided for the list below:)
Academy put letters (A-Z) on the plan which are defined in a simple table: A = Dark Blue, B = White, C = Steel, etc. The letters don’t corespond to any particular brand of paint.

>Airfix gave names in the old days, then switched to providing the paint numbers for Airfix brand paint. (I’ll check recent Airfix instructions and report what I find)

Bilek, a Czech outfit who re-issue Airfix and Heller molds, give …
Kiel Kraft
Minicraft (recent)
Monogram were providing Federal Standard #s, very nice for US subjects, somewhat problematic for others.
Revell Germany put letters on the plan which are defined at a table at the beginning. The table uses Revell Germany paint #s, both for out-of-the-bottle (“A 111 Light Gray”) and for specified mixes “Z Blue-green: 20% 333 + 80% 222”.
HOWEVER, they also provide color names in a large number of languages for each of their numbered colors.

Tamiya use their paint numbers in the plan, X-1, XF-16, TS-26, for glossy black, flat aluminum and glossy white spray, respectivly. A table at the beginning of the plan gives names in several languages, Japanese, German, English.

2) Sooooo: if your Academy kit calls for /A and /B and /C colors and then defines them as Silver, Black, Interior Green (for example) you need to stand back and filter that:
2.1) Probably Testor’s oil-based Chrome Silver, glossy Black and Nakajima, Mitsubishi or RAF Interior Green are NOT what you wanted for a P-38 or a P-51.

2.2) Lesson one. Natural Metal Finish, aka NMF, or Bare Metal Finish, BMF, is REALLY hard to model correctliy. While there are many paths to a pleasing effect, no kit instruction I have seen in 45 years of building kits has captured what I believe it takes to make a reasonable model airplane or car model with large areas of bare metal. Its specialized knowlege and a constant source of curiosity and experiment, kinda like the guitar players “quest for tone”… ie, never ending.

2.3) For example, on a P-38, you’ll have
bare aluminum areas,
two mirror-polished aluminum areas on the inner engine nacelle that allow the pilot to see if the landing gear is down or up,
turbo-supercharger exhaust (steel/??? that’s been well heated),
I believe some fabric covered control surfaces painted with ‘aluminum’ dope
Possibly some stainless steel skinning near the turbo-supercharger
Gun barrels and air-cooling shrouds
Pitot tube
Reflectors in the landing lights
Landing gear oleo legs, which really ARE chromed
Landing gear wheels and legs which may appear to be bare metal but may be painted ‘aluminum’ or ‘steel’.

There’s nothing wrong with painting the whole business from one tin/jar of ‘Silver’ or ‘Aluminum’ or what have you. From the distance you’d have to stand back from a real airplane to see it as you see a 1/72 model at a ‘normal’ viewing angle, there probably aren’t more than 2 or 3 distinguishable colors/tints/tones to the natural metal area, and the play of light and shadow completely overwhem the small variations in ‘absolute’ color. Maybe 3 or 4 tones are possible for a 1/48 or 1/32 kit. This includes using a piece of shiny side metal foil for the landing light reflector…

If you put a dark wash over the guns and turbosupercharger, a flat or Dulcote on the fabric covered surfaces, polish or use Chrome Silver on the oleo legs, I think anyone who faulted your choices would be hard pressed to explain why. IPMS/USA rules certainly don’t speak to color ‘accuracy’ at this level because its just too subjective. They judge negatively and on craft- symmetry of shape, color, decals, square or correct alignments, kit seams and tooling marks made invisible, lack of glue globs, nothing out-of-scale visible, no tooling marks, no brush marks, no wrinkled decals, no airbubbles under decals, no dust, hair or orange-peel effect marring the paint… This knocks out about 95% of all entries, long before anything more than ‘silver’ paint is needed, in competition.

For your own satisfaction, do what makes you feel good. I built a 1/400 Dragon airliner kit, same size as a die-cast. I used one tone of flat aluminum for the jet engine intake lips, a shinier polished aluminum tone for the leading edges (possibly accurate for the vertical fin but maybe not the wings, on an A-320), a burned metal color for the engine ‘hot sections’, very shiny ‘silver’ for the gear leg oleos. Had it been a 737 I’d have painted the front landing gear wheels an ‘aluminum paint’ color- flatter-than-flat aluminum, maybe washed with flat or thinned white…Later I built a 1/400 widebody and used ‘flat aluminum’ everywhere. Looks pretty good too!

Back to your P-38, you’ll need to consult photos of (ideally) the plane you are modeling at the time you are modeling it. Next best is planes from the same unit at the same time, then other units at the same time or same unit different time, etc, etc. Just like one of those forensic shows on TV.

More fun comes for landing gear door interiors, gear wells, cockpits and the inside of scoops leading to radiators, intercoolers, air intakes and the like.

Some gear doors are natural metal everywhere, some painted inside with primer (yellow or green Zinc chromate) some with “interior green” which is zinc chromate tinted with black and possibly aluminum paste. Vought used “Indian Red”, as in the sub continent India, to tint zinc chromate primer on the SECOND coat inside gear wells and inside gear doors- the product was a sorta salmon color (remember, they were tinting yellow-green zinc chromate, not a darker green zinc-chromate + black). Check your photos, they’re mostly black and white so guess, ask your significant other, read online, read books and magazines. Isn’t this fun?

“interior green” is a USA Army/Navy shade numbered 612, but actually no paint of this shade was made. The 612 color was what the manufacturer was supposed to tint their zinc chromate primer to… using black and possibly aluminum paste. The reason for the tint is 1) neutral color easy on aircrew eyes 2) tinted primer makes it apparent whether the first primer coat, not tinted, has been covered completely by the second coat.
So if you’d like to get REALLY into it, get some zinc chromate Testor’s Acryl and black Acryl and tint the zinc chromate as close to ‘interior green’ as you can get. Maybe add some aluminum if you think its called for.

British interor green WAS a particular color, a paint, which had fuel-proof qualities. Every inch of the wooden structure of a de Havilland Mosquito which wasn’t camoflagued was painted with the fuel-proof interior green.
Hawker Hurricanes were *largely* painted this color but some photos clearly show the steel and aluminum tubes and brackets of the structure were painted silver (there can be NO question of bare metal on in-service WWII Hawker airframes…) Interiors of wheel wells and the like were often painted ‘aluminum’ on UK airplanes, because aluminumized laquer was great at protecting cloth airplanes and the requirements dated back to the cloth and wood era… and there were more important things and updating such. And underside colors quickly got into gear wells on single engined fighters since underside colors on fighters could be ‘silver’ (ie aluminum), white, black, ‘sky’, ‘sea gray medium’ or ‘special night’, a very, very, flat black. Specifications changed during the first 3 years of WWII and many aircraft undersides were repainted in the field- some planes may have carried all of the colors listed above.

Some of us thought, from recovered relics, that in the 1930s and 40s Mitsubishi had used a translucent blue for interior color, but it now appears that they used a grayish green, and Nakajima used a grayish green, but they were different grayish greens. The Soviets used a greenish gray, but worked under tremendous strain and so a wide range of colors could be ‘correct’. The German standard was RLM 02, a brownish-gray but they quickly added flat black above a certain waterline, as did the UK later in the war. No doubt the Italians, French, Belgians, Poles, etc, etc, etc. all had their own standards for building and for maintenance too.

And in the USA, Bell used a “bronze green” of their own devising, and Boeing and North American proposed a slightly different “bronze green” for cockpits and othe inhabited spaces.

By the way, on the P-51, the laminar flow wing that was thought to be so special was puttied and sanded and painted, even if the fuselage was bare metal, so your P-51 in bare metal has bare metal, aluminum laquer on the wings and aluminum dope on the fabric covered control surfaces.

I’ll let you or someone else discuss black, flat black, glossy black, wrinke-finish black, black tires, etc etc. Just to keep it interesting, remember that early WWII USAAF airplane propellers were ordered to be painted with a mix of glossy or semi-glossy black paint and gasoline (!) to produce a flat black finish over the previous shiny polished metal…. So black on a tire and black on a control box in the cockpit and black on a propeller blade and black anti-slip strips on the wing and black stripes or other markings are, or could be, wait for it, different colors…

Is this fun, or what?

Bill Abbott