Stencils: yes or no?

So I’ve started on the decals for my Crusader and as is typical of a modern aircraft kit it comes with many stencils. And since it’s 1/72 scale many of the stencils are really tiny.

This got me thinking about whether modelers actually put on every stencil available. So I googled around and saw a wide range of responses: some put every little decal on. Some only have the main markings. Some others just have the more obvious markings on.

In real life, full stencils seem to only happen when the plane is first delivered. During a wartime footing, I’m sure maintenance crew don’t have the luxury of making sure every stencil is painted back on after patchng up the aircraft. But there are cases where the stencils actually take the center stage on an aircraft: see the JADSF F-4 Phantoms.

I have here 2 photos of an F/A-18F I took in 2002. It was quite brand new to the service then. From a distance, I couldn’t make out much stenciling.

Even up close, the stencils become more visible but are still not very obvious.

On a sidenote, note the lack of visible panel lines even up close. But that’s for a different post. 🙂

I guess at the end of the day it’s my project: I can be as realistic or as relaxed about it as I want. It’s going to be bad if it ever stops being fun especially if it happens because I had to spend a week putting on many 2 x 5mm sized decals. Besides, if I was striving for 100% realism I wouldn’t have left the ejection seat bare without seatbelts in the first place.

To that end I think for 1/72 and smaller kits I will just thread a middle ground: put on the more prominent stencils, and not worry about the smaller details. I will adjust as the scale goes larger.

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