Unfortunately, as part of the clear-out and reorganisation, I think I accidentally threw the power pack away for the spray booth, so after an exhaustive search a replacement was ordered off eBay. But, during the search I uncovered the long-forgotten treasures shown below, so it was not all bad news ^_^
Well, there were two reasons. I intended to add paint chipping to the piece. My plan was to paint the exterior German Grey, mark out the paint chips with masking fluid, then overpaint with the main fuselage colours. Once the main colours had dried the masking would be removed and voila! - paint chips. I felt that black would look too dark, and chipping on the ILM studio models is more a grey colour. This did mean that I would not be able to add any pre-shading for panel lines, but that wasn't a problem as I don't do that anyway - normally I simply spray the model black, the way ILM used to, and then build the paint up on top of it slowly so that a pre-shading effect is still obtained.
The second reason is that I planned for the dark areas of the craft (the radiator and rear exposed area) to be Flat Black weathered back to a grey colour, to match the studio model. The first coat of Flat Black was really just for those areas and the German grey for the chipped areas elsewhere, so this plan would keep any masking of those areas as simple as possible.
The cockpit interior parts were kept separate and unassembled, and after priming were painted Tamiya AS-7 Neutral Grey. I had not assembled the cockpit to enable easy painting of the cockpit details.
At this point the chips look a bit bright but the last thing I will do on this model is a very light dry-brush of white oil paint - this will both help raised details pop and also blend in the dark chipped areas some so they are not as obvious.
I enjoy painting Rebel flightsuits. Brush-painted with Tamiya Acrylic colours, The base colour is a custom mix of Tamiya Flat Orange, Flat White and Flat Red. Helmets, vests and gloves were painted with Tamiya Flat White, boots with Tamiya German Grey. The doohickey on the chest was Medium Blue and the restraints were ( I think) Desert Tan. Once painted, they were washed with a thinned mix of Tamiya Thinner and Flat Black to give some depth, then thinned Tamiya Smoke to give some more subtle shading and warmer tone. The face, painted in Flat Flesh, was shaded with thinned red Brown and the helmet was washed only in thinned Smoke to give it that slightly off-white colour. Once washes had dried, a lighter tone of orange was drybrushed over the flightsuit, and Flat Flesh lightened with a little Flat White was carefully applied to highlight areas on the face. The Visor was painted with Clear orange.
For the helmets, Fine Molds only provided the insignia. I found this unusual as in the 1/72 X-Wing kit from 2001 they also included the red stripe and little hatched square too. In checking the reference pictures (examples here and here) of various studio models I found most helmets had ornate patterns and designs on them. Some very careful brushwork would be needed! I was making the orange-striped snowspeeder (Wedge's) and thought his helmet looked much better, so I plunped for that design. I couldn't replicate it fully, and these old eyes and hands won't tolerate such finery, but I was able to get the basic swoop with careful application of Flat Red (and A LOT of back-and-forth touch up painting). The little accent at the front of the helmet is Flat Green. I would have painted stripes on that if the figure had been bigger!
Once all this had been done, the pilots were coated with Humbrol Matt 49 varnish, the helmet given one last coat of Smoke to blend in the red and give a little gloss, and the visor repainted over with Clear Orange again to get the shine back. Note that the backs of the figures look a little rough and ready - the pilots would be glued in place so these areas would not be seen.
There was no alternative. I couldn't risk doing nothing and have the whole thing come out as dark as my Y-Wing. Reluctantly I re-applied liquid masking fluid to all the paint chips, masked off the rear and sprayed an extra coat of Flat White over the whole exterior.
And it looks like I made the right call. The vehicle now looked much lighter - not bright white, but that's not what I wanted. Where the old and new paint chips overlapped made an interesting half-and-half paint chip scheme, and I knew future washes would not make the speeder too dark. Phew!
This is also the second part that is easy to screw up. Fine Molds don't make clear on the instruction sheet that you MUST add the canopy AFTER gluing ONE of the rear airbrake pods and BEFORE gluing the second one. If you glue both pods in first, the canopy will NOT fit into place, and you'll be screwed. Thankfully I had read through someone else's build writeup in advance, and he had fallen foul of this and nearly written his kit off, so I knew to expect this. With Fine Molds, you must always read the instructions several times, and test-fit everything!
Next up was the decalling, and so my trusty Tamiya decal scissors came out to play!
- Many people will suggest applying a coat of gloss varnish or future floor polish to the model before applying decals to make sure the adhere to the surface better. You certainly can do that, especially if the model is a smooth or clean thing, but I find applying a matt varnish actually gives a really good surface for the film to stick to, and have never had any problems. This is a vital step whichever you use as it protects the paint from your tweezers/fingers/water/knife etc and covers up any grease, finger-juice or contaminants which would get between the decal and the surface. I find the matt varnish works best for things that are meant to be rough, dirty, unsmooth or otherwise have an unclean, unshiny surface.
- If you can, make sure to wear disposable gloves throughout the decal process, to prevent finger-juice and other schmutz getting on the surface of the model.
- Cut decals from the sheet with super sharp knife or fine decal scissors. Cut as much of the clear backing film from around the decal if it is possible to do so (you'll see it as a shiny halo around the decal).
- We are going to use two products - MicroScale Micro Set and MicroScale Micro Sol. If you read the instructions on both of the products, you will get confused and not know which does what - they both seem to do the same thing. Don't panic. You can use one without the other, but I find it best to use both.
- Add a little warm water to a clean bowl or upturned jar lid (something small but clean). Add a couple of drops of Microscale Micro Set (the blue bottle) to the water. Micro Set is an awesome solution that softens the decals to help them adhere to uneven or irregular surfaces, and promotes better adhesion. It sometimes also makes the decals come off the backing sheet lightning fast, so be ready!
- Just before placing the decal in the water, apply a small amount of MicroScale Micro Sol (the red one) to the area on the model where the decal will go. Then using fine-nose tweezers, place the decal in the water. NO HANDS! In most cases it will be free of the backing paper in a few seconds, so make sure you keep the tweezers holding the decal. If possible, try to keep the tweezers away from the printed decal and only gripping empty backing paper. If the tweezers must be on the decal - for example if it is super tiny - make sure to hold the sheet with only a gentle grip, and don't wiggle it around under the tweezers or you'll scrape it (or worse, rip it).
- Whilst the decal is underwater, periodically check if it has separated from the paper by VERY GENTLY nudging it with the end of a cocktail stick. At first it will not move but very soon it will start to move freely. When it does, pop it out (still on the backing paper) and place it on a piece of clean paper towel (toilet roll works, kitchen roll is better) to remove any excess water. After a second, you can now place the decal on the model - simply place it paper-side down and VERY GENTLY apply it in the following way. Model decals are pretty tough, but the safest way is to gently hold the decal in place with a cocktail stick and gently pull the backing paper out from under it. Sliding the paper and not the decal reduces the risk of damaging the decal. For very large decals or for ones with parts linked by thin strips (think insignia on an X-Wing S-Foil) it's sometimes better to hold the different areas of the decal in place with your fingertips at all the key locations and slide the paper out so that the decal maintains its shape.
- Now the decal is on, you'll need to move it around to line it up perfectly. To do this, brush a little Micro Sol over the decal and gently maneouvre it about with the cocktail stick. Be gentle, use little movements, push from the edge if you can, and don't press very hard. If the decals are fragile, you can sand the cocktail stick to have a rounded tip. For bigger decals, you can move them around with your finger.
- Once the decal is in place, leave it alone for a few minutes. then very gently dab it with a dry clean cotton bud to remove any excess water. It should start to set in place.if you have any air bubbles and they are not near an edge, you can prick a tiny hole with a pin - it will not be visible later on. After 5-10 minutes, it should have stuck down enough for you to gently brush more Micro Sol over it. The Micro Sol softens the decal even more and it will start to form around any uneven surface features. If the decal is on a smooth surface, this is all you will need to do. If there are any ridges, lumps bumps or panel lines under the decal that you need it to blend into or around, then you can add more coats of Micro Sol, usually with an hour or two between applications. BE PATIENT! It may sit proud of the surface features initially, but come back an hour later at it will have blended.
- If you have applied a couple of extra coats of Micro Sol but the decal still does not mould around a raised surface feature, then you can very gently shape it with a cocktail stick (use the side edge, not the point). If it is refusing to go into a panel line, then you can very gently push it into the groove with a pin (again, hold the pin flat along the length of the panel line, don't use the point. This little bit of the process is also covered in my Y-Wing build up.
- And that's it! if you have overlapping decals, or one decal on top pf another, then make sure any previous decals have fully dried and set overnight before adding more on top. This also applies if you have decals very close together.
Now, you should have a model with nice, flush decals. if you still have some silvering around the edges, don't worry, that will be sorted out during the weathering and varnishing that follows (or you can use something like Humbrol DecalFix to help matte them a little more).
Now, some folks would at this point varnish the model in advance of weathering, but here's a handy tip - don't! If you want to apply any chipping to your decals, you can do it once they are dried if they have not been varnished, using a sharp knife or pin (GENTLY). I didn't have to on this kit as the decals are designed to look chipped already. I also find that when I apply washes using Tamiya paints thinned with Tamiya thinner if the decals have not been varnished they go all wrinkly and then set to the surface ever better than before when they dry out (you just have to trust that they will flatten out! See my Millennium Falcon build for more details).
Here's the speeder with decals applied. Note the TINY little orange triangles, these were individual decals.
You can see more shots of the completed model in the T-47 Incom Snowspeeder Gallery Page.
Overall I enjoyed building this kit, and it gets a big fat thumbs-up from me. Aside from the usual litle booby-traps that I now utterly expect from Fine Molds, the build was a breeze, the casting is exceptional and the detail is phenomenal. There is still room for a little customisation and accurisation if you fancy that. It's a great little kit that with care and attention can build up to make a beautiful display piece. Go get one for yourself!
Stay tuned for more writeups including me teaching someone how to build a model without sticking it to his face (or his face to his elbow), and the Fine Molds 1/48 X-Wing.
Keep on building!