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Pilot Painting

The first task is to choose a suitable pilot for your model. Do you want a full figure or just a bust? What size do I need? Which type of model is best latex, vac form, polystyrene?

Take your time and have a good look around at model shops, shows or magazines. You might be surprised by what you find.

I decided on a simple Williams Brothers bust and a J. Perkins pilot.

The latex moulded pilot (J. Perkins) needed an undercoat of either cellulose or Humbrol matt. This will help create a good base for the acrylic artists paint to adhere to.

The polystyrene moulded pilot (W. Brothers) will need cleaning up and then glueing. To clean I use needle files and sandpaper before finishing with fine wet 'n' dry paper. The two halves can then be stuck together using a polystyrene liquid poly glue. This type of glue tends to weld the two parts together and dries very quickly. The joints melt together well and can then be sanded to an invisible seam.

Modifications can be made at this stage by using either Milliput putty or plastic card. I am turning a male William Bros. 1/6th scale bust into a female head and shoulders. Most of the hair is sanded off and the face is made slimmer. Next I took two equal size pieces of Milliput. One hardner, one putty and mixed them together until the colour is even and ready to use.

To make the flying helmet I rolled out a flat piece of the putty to about 4 mm thick and moulded it onto my pilots head. A good tip I find is to work with wet fingers so the putty doesn't stick to your hands and allows you to get a good shape to the model. Let this dry for a moment and then using a wet modelling knife cut and shape the helmet. Other details can be achieved by using a cocktail stick.

Now to make some seat belts. Again using putty roll and cut strips of about 6 mm wide x 3 mm thick and place in appropriate area. Add details by using a wet tool (cocktail stick). Happy with the additions .. then leave to dry overnight.

This pilot can now have an undercoat by spraying cellulose primer or applying a coat of Humbrol white or light grey. This achieves a good uniform service on which to paint.

First I apply a coat of Rowney Cryla Acrylic flesh colour or mix white, red and yellow to achieve a good colour to the face area. Allow to dry before adding more skin tones to the face for shading. Darker shades around the eyes, sides of nose and just below the lower lip area and lighter shades on the nose, forehead and then blended together to give subtle shading. Take your time over this as it is worth getting a good result.

Now to paint the eyes. I start by painting the area white. Let this dry, then add colour to the iris. Colours should be subtle and applied carefully leaving a faint edge and not a hard line. While this is drying spend time painting other bits like the hair or clothing.

Leather jackets can be attained by applying a solid colour of mid brown and before it dries mix lighter and darker browns blending in with the first brown. Remember to use darker colours around the collar and areas that would be in shade and use lighter colours which would be in full light or where worn or rubbed leather might be.

Now back to the eyes. By adding a very small circle of black or dark brown to the middle of the iris we create the pupil and just to finish off we need to apply a really tiny dot of white paint slightly off centre of the iris. Using again our flesh colour paint around the eye lids. Add a small line under the eyes to represent the lashes and small lines around the eyes.

For the lips I use a slightly darker flesh colour for a male pilot and a female I would add a hint of red. For male figures I also apply stubble by mixing a small amount of black to the flesh colour.

Once thoroughly dry I give the whole face a very light wash of flesh colour as this tones down all the colours and helps to make the eyes less starey and blends away any 'hard' edges. Allow to dry and then apply some varnish. I use polyurethane or enamel matt with a little gloss mixed together for the face and then vary either gloss or matt for the clothes. Leather look would be a silk shade, hair or jumpers a matt finish. Once all this is dry you have a more durable pilot.

You can always add further details once your pilot is settled into the cockpit. Again I use materials such as Milliput putty, plastic card and paper. Goggles can be made by using clear acetate (often found in packaging). Cut to the right shape and glued using a PVA glue watered down. Then cut paper into strips to make the straps and once painted can look just the part and are unique to your model.

So why not give your aircraft a treat and make the pilot look as realistic as your model. Bet you enjoy it. To see some other examples of pilots that have been made visit our Pilots page.