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Making negative masks

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A negative mask is one that is grumpy and has a bad outlook on life. OK, that’s not true. A negative mask is one that shows an area to be painted, while a positive mask covers an area already painted. Anyway…

On the rare occasion that I get adventurous and try to do a paint scheme that I don’t have decals for, I may try masking. Normally I go with a positive mask, as it’s a bit easier. I’ll paint an area of the aircraft the color of the marking, add a mask over that, and then paint the rest of the model.

But sometimes I forget to do that first, and rather than going back through the entire paint process, I’ll create a negative mask. (Although the process is actually about the same, you just need more “edges” for the negative mask.)

First, I’ll put some masking tape down on on a piece of ceramic tile. Using ceramic tile gives a good, hard, smooth cutting surface, and it can be easily rotated around for cutting curves.


Next, I place a print out of the markings to be painted. I make sure they are sized correctly ahead of time by “testing” them on the model first- just holding it up in place.


I then securely tape down the print out, which is essentially my cutting guide.


Using a brand new #11 blade, I carefully cut out the markings. I do the small cuts first, so that the paper will stay in place securely as long as possible, and then do the longer cuts.


Once the paper mask has been cut, I carefully remove the tape holding it in place, leaving just the single piece of tape underneath. With the tip of my #11 blade, I carefully lift up the mask, making small cuts as needed where it did not cut fully through. Slow and careful wins the day at this point!


This is how it looks once the tape in the area to be painted is removed. Keep in mind, this same technique can be used for positive masks!


Carefully place your mask on the model, making sure to get the alignment as straight as possible. I prefer to airbrush my markings. I use paint that is very thin but not too runny, and give numerous light coats, making sure the airbrush is perpendicular to the models surface. (And make sure you mask other areas to avoid overspray.)


After painting, but before buffing out and clean up.

Once you’ve finished that, you can use a small, pointed brush or even a toothpick to make any paint corrections needed. After sufficient drying time, going over the area with a coffee filter or soft cotton t-shirt will smooth out the marking, and remove and edges and blemishes.

So the next time you can’t find decals for your project, consider making your own masks!

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