RC Body Art
by Chris Rupp
In this article I hope to help both amateur and seasoned airbrush artists alike. While I do not claim to be a professional artist, I have done my fair share of airbrushing. Throughout this article, I want to take the reader through all the steps I take when I paint a clear, polycarbonate, Remote Controlled Car body. You will learn all the steps from cleaning and preparation, to the finishing touches, as well as some tips to help preserve your work of art from the typical rigors of RC use, such as dirt, nitro fuel, and general wear and tear. Before we begin, I would like to introduce myself, my name is Chris Rupp, I am 23 years old and I am currently enrolled as a student at the Art Institute of Philadelphia in the Industrial Design program. I have been airbrushing RC bodies for about five years now and, as many artists can probably attest, I find it to be generally very rewarding, albeit occasionally frustrating. In this article I will cover some basic concepts, as well as some more advanced tricks of the trade, such as stenciling, painting carbon fiber, and painting headlights, taillights, and grilles on your RC vehicles. I hope you all find this article, as well as its photographs to not only be informative, but to help you avoid some of the common mistakes made when painting these shells.
Here is a list of materials you will need, as well as the order they will be used:
1-Clear RC Body Shell- There are many styles and manufacturers to chose from, be sure you pick the right one for your vehicle
1-Bottle of Dish Soap – Original Scent Dawn Brand works well
1-Roll Paper towels
1-Bottle of Liquid masking film – Bob Dively Liquid Masking Film and Parma Fasmask work excellent
1-Acid/Epoxy Brush, Sponge brush, or Spray gun – for applying the Liquid Masking
1- Fine tip permanent marker
1-Hobby Knife with fresh #11 blade, keep multiple blades on hand, you will go through them
-Select the colors of paint you are going to use for your paintjob. I primarily use Parma Fascolor paints, as well as Auto Air Colors for my paintjobs.
-Your Airbrushes, For this job I will be using a few different brushes, all Iwata, including Eclipse HP-BCS and HP-CS models, as well as a Custom Micron C Plus, and a Kustom Series HP-TH
Here is a list of other materials I keep on hand for painting RC bodies, use them at your discretion:
– Roll non-slip toolbox mat- for painting carbon fiber
Package of hole punch reinforcement labels- for painting headlights
Roll of mesh sheetrock repair tape- for painting grilles and other designs
Bottle of glass cleaner (dollar store brand will do just fine) – for reducing Fascolor and Auto Air paints
Solvent proof Stencils such as those produced by Artool
The first step in painting any RC body is to thoroughly wash the body. Keep in mind at all times during the process of this paint job that RC bodies are painted in reverse, from the inside of the body. I always wash and rinse the inside of the body with warm water and dish soap.
Make sure you properly rinse the body free of any remaining soap. Then dry the body with a fresh paper towel.
Once the body has been dried you can now use the supplied “window masks” to mask off the window areas that will remain clear throughout the paintjob. These will not be removed until the very end of this article. Here is the first helpful tip for beginners, To get clean, symmetrical painted headlights, taillights, and grilles, I cut the headlight stickers out that are provided with the body, and apply them to the inside of the shell to use as a mask.
Now that those basic steps have been completed, its time to apply the liquid masking film to the inside of the shell. I personally use a small acid brush and brush the mask on, however, spraying the mask through a full sized spray gun works the best. Since I do most of my RC painting in my college dorm room with a small compressor, this is not an option for me. If you do choose to spray the mask on, you can thin the material with water so it sprays easily, keep in mind the consistency of the masking film can vary from brand to brand and bottle to bottle, so always test it before you spray it on a body.
The mask will dry clear after each coat has dried; I personally brush on 4 even coats to ensure it will be easy to peel off. Also, be sure to let the mask dry thoroughly between each coat.
This means you are ready to get started.
There are a few ways to go about drawing your design onto the body itself. If your body has a protective, “over spray film” as most do, you can choose to draw your scheme on the outside of the body, as you will remove the marked up film when you are finished. You can also draw right on the dry liquid mask on the inside of the body. If the design calls for it, pay attention to the symmetrical aspect of the scheme while you are drawing it out, this will make the rest of the process go much easier. I always draw my designs on the outside of the body simply because the ink is easier to remove from the over spray film if you decide to change the design.
Now that your design has been drawn out, it’s time to start cutting your mask. There are a few rules to follow when you cut liquid mask, the first of which is ALWAYS use a fresh #11 blade to ensure clean, precise lines. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you are cutting on a thin piece of plastic which will see a lot of abuse. Every cut you make with your knife creates a weak point on the body, so press very lightly and be mindful of where you make your cuts. I usually cut my design to spray the base color first; in this case the base color I will be using is Fascolor Fasescent Blue with a coat of Fascolor Blue Flake. Make the cutouts for your design and peel away the film from the area you would like to paint.
At this point, I like to add a drop shadow under some parts of my design to help give the paint scheme some depth. For this I spray Auto Air Transparent Black out of my Iwata Custom Micron C Plus, I recommend using a finer tip brush for this. An important side note, always build colors slowly when spraying an RC body as the polycarbonate is not porous and will cause heavy amounts of paint to run and pool up, making a mess of your design.
Once I have everything drop shadowed I have decided to add a little flair to this design. I took one of my Artool stencils, the Multiple II from the Return of Skull master mini series, and found a great spot for it on the bed of the truck shell. I sprayed my transparent black through it and then dusted in some shadows with my Custom Micron to add a little dimension to the skulls. Now that all my shading is complete, I’m ready to base out the body.
The next step is to spray some flake, mixed with Fascolor Faskoat. For this job I chose to use my Iwata Kustom Series TH because it won’t clog with flake. Once the flake is set I spray my Fasescent blue behind it, creating a deep blue with a nice eye catching flake. Incorporating metal flake into your color choices is a fantastic way to add flair to your paint jobs when they are run outdoors. Natural lighting really makes the flake sparkle and stand out.
Our next move is going to be to add some flair to the rear wheel wells. I personally love the look of carbon fiber, and I like to change it up once in awhile with some white “carbon fiber” effect. For this you will need some non-slip matting. I usually try to find some with the largest openings, as this helps to create a more realistic effect. This mat is available at most hardware stores, as well as drug stores and Wal Mart. Take the mat and cut it to fit the area you would like. At first I recommend starting with flat surfaces, as areas with complex curves can be tough to conform the mat around. Then tape the mat in place and spray your first color, in this case, pearl white, through it.
Once the paint has dried, remove the mat and spray the rest of the area white with your trusty Eclipse BCS.
Now it’s time to start pin striping. Don’t bother breaking out the brushes folks; it’s not that easy on an RC body. In order to make a thin stripe on an RC body you will have to cut another line in the mask parallel to the original design lines you have cut. Follow around your entire design with the knife, and then peel away your stripe. Once the mask is removed you can spray the stripe whatever color you choose, I always enjoy using chrome or silver for my stripes, I find that it makes the scheme stand out better.
Now that you have the stripes done you can move on to painting your graphics. For this design I chose to add a secondary graphic within my original to help fill some space and add to my design. Cut and peel your secondary graphic first. I use my Custom Micron C to spray some fluorescent green fade to fluorescent yellow along the edges of the design.
Next we will remove the remaining mask in the design and repeat the spray colors, then back the whole graphic in white to make the fluorescent colors bright.
Its time to paint some headlights! For this design I decided not to use my normal hole punch reinforcement labels, but instead to add some flair by using the eyes of a skull from the Curse of the Skull Master Bonz II template. This worked well because the headlights on this particular shell were much too large to use the whole punch labels.
I sprayed transparent black through the stencil as well as around the headlight and grille areas in order to help them look like they are set back into the bodywork, like a real car. My next step is to cut some mesh drywall repair tape and apply it to the grille area.
I also cut the stripe lines for the remaining parts of the design, as well as around the windows. In order to minimize the time it would take I sprayed the headlights, grille, and stripes with Faspearl Silver, through my trusty Eclipse BCS. Once the paint has dried you can remove the mesh tape, as well as the parts of mask that remain. It’s time to lay down some carbon fiber and wrap this job up.
Lay more of the non-slip matting on the final clear areas of the body and tape it down. I always save used pieces of mat because you never know where you might be able to reuse it. In this case, I’m using the same pieces I used to do the white “carbon” over the wheel wells in the rear of the body. Lay the pieces in place and tape them down.
I personally use a mixture of about 70% Faspearl Black and 30% Faskrome (satin) for my initial carbon coloring. There are as many color mixtures out there for “carbon fiber” as there are artists who do it. This is just my personal method. I spray the Black/Silver mix through the mat from my Kustom TH, being careful not to apply it too thick, two to three light coats will do fine. Let the paint dry and remove the matting.
Now it’s time to finish this one. In order to achieve a nice, finished look I back all my bodies with black. This helps to make the shell look finished when people look through the windows. The last thing you want someone to see is a bunch of different colors and over spray when they look through the windshield. For this body it worked out nicely that the last color to finish the carbon fiber and grille was also black, so I sprayed two medium to heavy coats of black over the whole body to ensure sufficient coverage.
The final material we will spray on this body is some Parma Faskoat. Faskoat helps to make the body waterproof, as well as resist damage from the harsh nitro fuels used for RC racing. I apply two heavy coats of Faskoat to the entire inside of every shell I paint. While Faskoat helps to seal the paint, there are other methods of helping to increase the longevity of your paintjobs. This particular body will be used on an electric powered vehicle and will most likely not see the abuse that most nitro bodies see. For nitro bodies, especially those being used on off road vehicles, I always recommend the user spread a thin coat of “Shoe Goo” on the inside of the body. The “Shoe Goo” will not only protect the paint from fuel, water, dirt, and heat, but it will also add significant strength and rigidity to the body. On average, bodies that have been coated in “Shoe Goo” will last two to three times longer than bodies that have not been coated. That’s good news for you and your investment, and bad news for painters looking for work! For most bodies being run on electric vehicles, the “Shoe Goo” or any other type of protective coating is usually not necessary.
Now that the body has been properly sealed, the window masks can be removed as well as the outer over spray film. I always enjoy these last steps; take a moment to savor the rewarding feeling of completing your work. Now trim your body and get it ready to hit the track! In this case, this body is a donation to the Hadley Jr. High RC club in Glen Ellyn, IL. Special thanks to Parma International for donating the body, which is a Rattler, part #1230 for a Traxxas Slash.
I hope this article was informative and helpful for those getting started in RC body painting. Remember to take your time and practice, these skills cannot be developed overnight so don’t get frustrated. Remember, when you want a product you can trust and rely on, time after time, reach for Iwata!
Good luck and Happy Airbrushing!