I've had an airbrush for years, my uncle generously got it as a gift way back when I was seriously into fine arts. I haven't actually taken the opportunity to use the setup, but it was always comforting knowing that I had it at the ready should I want to become one of those guys in malls doing terrible recreations of scenes from Scarface on t-shirts. The time has come for me to learn how to use it, so I've been doing a bit of research, and finally stopped at a hobby store the other day and picked up some paints and other goodies.
The hardware itself is a Paasche VL dual-action airbrush. Word is that single-action units are easier for beginners, but there's a handy adjustment that allows you to preset the amount of paint flow, making it easier to get the hang of things. The accompanying compressor is a Paasche D500 1/10hp unit. I spent part of the morning figuring out how the airbrush goes together, because I had to switch the tip and needle to the proper one for the type of paint I'll be spraying. In the tip, there's a ferrule that slides over the needle, and I managed to damage one while trying to remove it with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Note the lack of roundness. I'll attempt some careful repair on that bit. I found a couple of extra tools like a hammer, an 11MM wrench and a pair of duckbill pliers are useful if applied carefully.
For paints, my research showed that it's pretty hard to go wrong with Tamiya paints, so I locked onto that display in the store and selected my body colors. I'd done some research at Edsel.com about available colors for the 1958 Pacers. The AMT kit is done up in yawn-inducing red, so I decided I'd try to replicate the factory color scheme of Charcoal Brown Metallic with white roof and scallops.
The plan is to spray the pieces first with a light coat or two of Tamiya X-21 flat base, then hit the roof and scallops with the X-2 white, then mask and get the rest of the body with the X-34 metallic brown. I'm a little nervous over how the metallic paint will work - when painting real cars, it's pretty difficult sometimes to get the flakes to "lay" uniformly over the entire car, and you have to be a good painter to avoid lines in colors like silver. I'm not a good body man, so I'm only marginally better when it comes to polystyrene resin kits.
Body prep has begun. It basically consisted of washing the parts I plan to paint with dish detergent to strip any oils and residue. Once washed, I left the body pieces to air dry, and I'll hit them with tack cloth before I spray the first coat. In between coats, I'll be wet-sanding with 1200 grit paper to smooth out any bungles. Just like a real car, getting the paint on is only part of the job. I did shake up my body colors and give them a stir with a toothpick. Curious about how close I might come to the actual colors, I put a dab of each next to eachother on a piece of parts tree. The brown might be a little darker than the factory color, but anything is better than the clichéd red.
I also picked up a tube of Testor's model cement, its familiar incense bringing back lazy summer days in the basement gluing tiny little versions of big-inch V8s together. For the chassis bits, the kit specifies lots of gloss black and silver for metal bits, so I grabbed a couple little Testors bottles of those colors as a start. I'm going to be varying the "metal" hues, depending on what the material is actually supposed to be - steel looks different than aluminum, and iron has its own patina, too.
Past frustrations with making my plastic model kits look realistic will have me trying a couple new techniques this time around. Firstly, I not only despise the look of silver paint on pieces that are supposed to be chrome, I was never very good at getting it in the right place with a toothpick. I'd often have just a bit too much paint on there, and the glob would get away from me. The hotshot model builders use metal foil and a burnishing tool to make their chrome pieces look realistic, something I'm going to attempt. Chrome parts like grilles never looked three dimensional on my past models, because parts there was no definition. I'll be digging up more information on how to do a technique called blackwashing, to fill in those low spots, so there's actually the illusion of a hole behind that hunk of chrome on the front of the car. Lastly, those metal pieces underneath often lack definition, too, so a practice called dry brushing accentuates the shading, making things like differential housings and transmissions look far more like the real thing. Stay tuned, as there's sure to be hijinks along the way.