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Friday, July 11, 2014

1.04 Painting Paper Parts

OK: so we have cut our circles, and we have prepared them for painting.  Because my personal journey as a model builder/prop builder hobbyist has wasted a lot of time learning how to properly paint things -- especially things intended to look like leather or shiny metal -- I wanted to make one post for those of you who are new to this process so that you do not replicate the mistakes of my youth.

The first tip is that you need to go back and re-read my instructions on priming the paper parts with thinned-out wood glue.  Without any exaggeration, there is simply no other way to make a paper part ready to receive enamel paint except to have it adequately primed, and the only method I have found to do this is with the waterproof wood glue mixture recommended in that post.  The only thing you have to be careful of is overcoating the paper so that the glue isn't flaking off after it dries.  You want the glue to saturate the surface of the paper, dry with a water-resistant seal, and also not cause the paper to buckle or warp.

The second thing you need to paint well at this scale is one of these:

Personally, I don't care about the brand you use -- they are all about the same thing.  I prefer one like the item pictured above as it has an open space around the spray can nozzle rather than a closed dome.  But the point of using one of these is to have proper control of your spraying, which the classic single-finger technique for spraying from a can simply doesn't give you.

Next, you need to master how to use the trigger for even coating.  The key to spray painting is using as little paint as possible while also using enough to get a fully-covered surface.  You accomplish this by spraying lightly and quickly over the area to be painted, using strokes in the same direction.  There are about 100 videos on YouTube for painting technique, but this one from Ace Hardware, frankly, is brief and the most helpful.
Also, I cannot stress this enough: when you use any spray paint, SHAKE WELL BEFORE USING.  The standard line is, "shake for 60 seconds before spraying," but most people simply have no idea how to shake well and thoroughly, or how long 60 seconds is.  When you pick up the can, hold the can at the top with the cap in place.  Take the can and wave the bottom of the can until you hear that rattling noise.  That sound is a large bearing which is dropped in the can to assist you in mixing the paint well.  When you wave the can, the bearing will start to wander around the inside of the can, and now you're ready to shake well.  To get a good shake on, grasp the can with two hands, and shake it at least the distance of the height of the can up and down.  You will have a good shake on when you are shaking at 4 shakes per second.  Until you are confident in your ability to count to 60 at the right pace, use a timer to let yourself know when you're done shaking.

Now: why the kindergarten primer on how to shake a can?  Well, because spray paint is not some magic liquid: it is a chemical mixture of pigment, a solvent (and other balancing chemicals) which is the evaporating medium that carries the pigment to the object and assists in curing the pigment to the object, and a propellant which is what causes the mixture to fly out of the nozzle.  In order for you to use it properly, you need to get the mixture coming out of the can as close to what the chemist who refined this stuff intended as possible.

Before you start spraying, CLEAN THE AREA YOU ARE SPRAYING IN; wipe down the parts with a damp cloth to remove all dust.  Every hair in the air will immediately cling to damp paint.  Every stray dead leaf of grass will fly toward your project like a lemming trying to hurl itself over the precipice of your hard work.  Every grain of dust has waited since the beginning of time to fly onto the paint on your project in order to make it look like sandpaper instead of coated Vibranium, and your job is to remove them all from your work space before you start painting.

Also: it is easy to want to paint as soon as possible, but every paint has a temperature range recommended for application.  If you apply it when it is too cold, your paint will take too long to dry and it will puddle or run.  If you apply it when it is too hot, it may not stick at all as the solvent evaporates too quickly.  If you apply it when it is too humid, you may actually get paint taffy which will never dry but will always be sticking to something -- like hair, grass and dust (or worse: your costume).  Pick a time and place where you have the right temperature and humidity.

Last: as you spray, cross the painted surface in ONE DIRECTION ONLY.  The best result in this case comes from painting in strokes from the center of the circle out past the outside of the circle.  When you have painted as much as you can reach, move to the next section.  Work hard not to overspray because every drop of paint you overspray will be a teardrop of regret your shield will always wear.

When I painted mine, I painted a thin base coat of Silver, and then two coats of Color on the Colored parts.  The silver parts got 3 coats of silver, and when finished before assembly they were as shiny as the shiny side of tin foil.


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