This is the first part of a step by step guide to F1 modelling. In the series we will cover
Part 1 - Painting Basics (this article)
- preparing your body
- basic painting
- basic masking
- advanced masking
- selecting a body
- selecting wings
- selecting decals
- applying decals
- step by step guide to painting a Mercedes F1
- airbrush painting
- and more
Part 1 - Painting Basics
There are many painting benefits to RC F1:
- You can paint your car just like your favourite team and driver (current or past years).
- No need to mask windows.
- No need to cut out wheel arches.
- Bodies tend to last much longer that other classes. When an F1 car crashes the wings, tyres and top of the air intake take the brunt of the impact, meaning you can put more effort into your body and enjoy the results for longer.
- You can add details such as side mirrors and expect that they'll still be there when you finish your race. Try doing that on a touring car!
Here's a nice little video from Ultimate RC explaining the basic body preparation and painting process and then we'll go through an F1 example:
What You Will Need
- A body to paint
- Dish washing liquid and a clean cloth or hair dryer
- Curved scissors (you can buy scissors designed for cutting Lexan RC bodies - visit one of our advertisers and search for "lexan scissors")
- Body reamer - you could use a drill to make the body post holes but that's a lot of tool to make some simple holes. We highly recommend you buy a body reamer which makes it really easy to make body post holes. You don't need to spend a lot of money.
- Hobby knife
- Masking tape (good quality such as 3M to get that straight edge)
- Hair dryer (which you can use on a very low heat setting to speed the drying process between coats of paint)
- Small hobby paint brush and paints (for the driver)
Choosing Your Design
We will cover this is more detail in a later article but painting your F1 in a single colour is discouraged. Even two colours will have a much better visual impact. Some tracks require you to paint your car like a real F1 team (check your local rules).
RC bodies are painted on the inside of the body. The outside has a protective film which you peel off once painting is complete.
You must use paint designed for use on Lexan (Polycarbonate) RC bodies. Other paints will crack and not stay on the body for long at all.
For a quick and easy job a spray can is a great way to go. For fine detail and more advanced effects an airbrush is a useful tool. For this tutorial we'll assume you use a spray can. The most popular options are:
- Tamiya make a range of spray paints. The ones that have a part number starting with PS are for Lexan RC bodies. You can find the Tamiya PS Colours here.
- Pactra used to make an excellent RC body range of spray paints which was discontinued. We understand that the Duratrax range of paints is similar or possibly even the same formula as the discontinued Pactra
- Spaz Stikx paints are also good.
- Parma, Createx, Faskolor and Wicked Colours by Auto Air have also been recommended to us.
You will need a least two cans, one for the colour you have chosen, and the second, white or silver (generally) or black (if using a dark color), to "back" the colour. This means spraying the inside of the body with this colour last. Light colours help to make the main colour look vibrant. A dark colour will "dull down" your main colour(s). The backing colour will also give your main colours some protection from wear and tear.
Lotus E21 by Will Haines
For the 2013 F1 Vic Cup Series, Will painted up two 2013 Team Lotus schemes for himself and his team mate. The only difference between the two paint jobs is the drivers helmet and air dam camera (one camera is red the other black). The red colours have been painted using the masking tape method that Will describes in his painting guide below. The decal kit is from F1 RCLAB.
F1 Painting Step by Step
By Will Haines
In this article I'll take you through painting an F1 body step by step.
Here's the finished body so you can see what we're making:
Step #1 - Trimming the Body
I trim the body first. This can be done with curved scissors stocked by most hobby shops. All trimming is done at the start. It is much harder to cut body post holes once painted and also trimming can scratch your paint.
Your body probably comes with optional side pods which can be cut out and then attached to the body separately. They add realism to the body and often include curves that it is not possible to have on a one piece moulded body. For your first body we suggest ignoring them. They are not needed but they do add realism to your body. To ignore them skip to step #3.
Step #2 - Side Pods
Before cutting out the side pods consider the positioning of your electronics and cables to make sure they will fit under the new side pods.
The side pods are moulded separately and must be attached to the main body in Step #9. So that the optional side pods will fit the one piece moulded side pods must be trimmed off. The photo below shows the cut out side pods, the dotted line is the factory cut line; I gave the side 5mm extra so the pod is more rigid (a stronger join).
Step #3 - Clean Up and Holes
Clean away all ragged edges carefully with fine sandpaper, don’t sand the inside or outside of the body, just the edge where the body's been cut / trimmed.
Place the body on the chassis and use a Sharpie (black marker pen) to mark the location of the body posts. Then with a body reamer (every hobby shop has them) ream all body posts, antennae and air holes (optional). Test fit your body on the car and make sure all the cuts are right and that the front and rear suspension links are free of binding and don’t hit the body. In particular watch out for anything that the rear of the body might catch when moving the side pod up / down and side to side.
Step #4 – Wash the Body
Place a little dishwashing liquid in warm water. Clean the body on the inside with a clean rag to remove all oils in the moulding process and all your finger prints. Some people use gloves (surgical gloves are ideal) from now on when handling the body so as not to put finger prints back on the inside of the body.
You can wipe the inside dry with a lint free cloth, use a hair dryer on a very low heat or let it air dry. If air drying make sure there are no large water droplets that might leave a mark when they evaporate.
Step #5 – Masking
Once the body is dry it is ready to mask.
TIP: Use a clear tape to hold the side pods in place temporarily so that any design work matches up when fitted. Don't remove any plastic body wrapping until painting is complete.
Mask your design using good quality masking tape (3M GREEN OR BLUE is best as they limit paint bleeding).
To mask up the scheme you have chosen you could use Liquid masking film but I don't recommend this for F1 bodies mainly because it is too small an area to cut detail in with a hobby knife. If you were to use it I would tape the air dam and liquid mask the rest.
Below you can see that I have applied all pin stripes using masking tape. These will be painted silver. On this particular body the design is not symmetrical ie; it is different on the left half of the body when compared to the right.
Next we’ll cover all areas that are not to be painted yet.
Make sure you use your fingernail to press along the edge of the masking tape to prevent paint bleeding under the edge.
The cockpit will be masked up first as it will the last area painted.
With painting RC bodies you will start with dark colours working your way to the lighter ones.
The fully masked body is below (note I sketched out the design roughly with a black marker pen first on the outside of the body. Remember the outside is covered in protective plastic and when removed at the end the marker pen will disappear):
Step #6 - Painting
The first colour to paint is black. Always paint darkest to lightest so the colours don't interfere with each other. The separate side pods are black and are done first as a matter of good habit.
Next is red and then orange on the main body.
Once each colour is complete carefully peel off the masking tape to reveal the area to be painted in the next colour in sequence.
For each colour start with light coats, and continue until you get the desired effect. 2-4 coats per colour is normal. After each coat is dry hold the body up to the light to see whether you can see any gaps or areas missed (natural light is more revealing than a light bulb).
If painting a fluorescent colour then once that colour is complete spray white over it to "back it" and ensure later colours don't make it lose its fluorescence.
Step 7 - Backing Paint
Once all colours are complete you might find that the inside of your shell is multi-coloured. To add uniformity and to protect the colours a backing paint is applied:
- If you have chosen a dark colour you can back it in black paint (make sure you don't back any light colours with black) as it will dull them down.
- If you have chosen a light or fluoro colour, back these in white or silver.
Step 8 - Peel off External Protective Film and Apply Decals
Carefully use a finger nail or hobby knife to get under an edge of the protective film covering the body. It might be very difficult to see the film but it's there. Once you get it started it will peel off easily.
The body so far looks like this:
At this stage you can see the cockpit hasn’t been painted I will be hand detailing the driver later. I got slap happy and have already applied some of the decals, not a drama at this late stage as mentioned the driver will be hand painted not sprayed so there will be no over spray.
Apply your decals.
Tip: Some F1 decals need to be precisely placed and some can be quite long and thin. To make life easier spray that area of the body with window glass cleaner and then apply the decal. The glass cleaner will prevent immediate adhesion and will give you time to move your decal around until it is perfectly placed. Then use your finger nail or credit card to "squeegee" the glass cleaner out from behind the decal. Voila!
Detail, such as matte black, carbon fibre effect and your F1 team’s decals are applied to finish and complement the paint scheme.
Tip: Any matte black areas are hand painted to the outside of the body. If it was to be painted on the inside then your effect would still be shiny. You can buy carbon fibre decals and we'll cover this in a later tutorial.
Step #9 - Attach the Side Pods
You can skip this step if you aren't using the optional Side Pods.
To attach the side pods you are generally supplied with double sided tape, I used the tape and some small screws removed from an old camera, they are the perfect size and when fitted look like rivets. You can buy small plastic rivets from Hobby stores online or ordered through your local hobby shop. In the photo below I used masking tape to get a straight line and with the rivets marked out evenly used a small drill bit and drilled slowly.
Note: don't ream the hole back and forth, drill through and pull straight out, we want the screws tight.
You can see the rivets, they are nice and straight and even along the whole side pod.
Step #10 - Paint the Driver
Next step is the driver, I painted him from the inside, but many people paint drivers on the outside.
A quick way to paint the driver is:
- Sparay paint the helmet separately.
- Paint the overalls one colour (a different colour to the car) using a small hobby paint brush and hobby paint (normally acrylic for ease of brush cleaning but enamel is fine too).
- Paint the harness and steering wheel black (small hobby paint brush).
- Apply the driver decals - job done!
I like to paint a lot more detail on my drivers.
Helmet - I left it white and trimmed off some decal on the sticker sheet and detailed his helmet, sprayed a metal flake clear coat over it, to give it the realistic look, then applied the visor, DONE!
Overalls - The black shading / detailing on the overalls was done with a small art brush and a bamboo skewer. The effect is hard to see here but very noticeable when looking at it. I even went to the trouble of detailing the harness with buckle and 3RACING emblem. I chose to paint this on the inside, so the detailed areas were done first and then the colour.
Step #11 - Wings
Next step is the front and rear wings. I also went overboard with this area too, as all wings are decaled in carbon fibre, adding realism to the F1.
The paint scheme has now been completed and you can apply any remaining decals. Then fit the body to your chassis ready to show it off to the world. Make sure you send in a photo to RC Formula1 for our Photo Gallery.
Too often people rush painting and are not happy with their finished work. Even a two colour paint job can look great. The main problems are:
- Not using your fingernail to press along the edge of the masking tape and paint bleeds under the tape.
- Spraying too much at one time and it runs everywhere. A number of light coats will give you the best finish and saves on paint in the process as well. I would give black four light coats to get my finish. Afterwards put the body up to the light and you can see how evenly your paint has coated the surface. One or two thick coats leaves the finish thin in some areas and thick in others and this is where the paint will start to crack or peel off when put under stress in a racing incident or hitting street kerbing when bashing. A thin layer will flex as the paint is designed to do.