So we finally come to the meat and potato parts of the build: painting and finishing.
I begin with a base coat of Mr Hobby Black Surfacer 1500 thinned with Mr Leveling Thinner which results in a smooth and semi-gloss surface. This is now my go-to base coat when I can spray outdoors.
For the marble coat, I decided to try out the Artool Freehand Airbrush Templates I got off Amazon. These are laser cut er… templates for airbrushing. I’ve read it makes marble coating a much faster affair.
I have to say it did make it much quicker.
But I’ll need to remember to keep the template at a reasonable distance to keep the marble coat edges more feathery.
TOPGUN 51 was initially painted in an all round 3-tone brown camouflage. TwoBobs called for FS30279, FS30219 and FS30140. Testing on a plastic plate, I’ve found that I can paint the two darker browns out of the bottle. I have to mix the lightest brown though. I finally decided on using Model Color Iraqui Sand with some Model Color Flat Earth mixed in a 4:1 ratio (middle row, second color below). It looks right in some reference photos but not quite so in others but different lighting conditions changes the tones of any color that we see so I think it’s fine.
The kit gets an overall coat of first light brown color. The marble coat is still quite visible at this point because there’ll be subsequent colors which will cover more and more of the marble coat.
I then masked the camouflage for the second color using rolled up blutack and backfilling them with masking tape to reduce overspray. This is not the first time but TwoBobs’ camouflage pattern info needs some tweaking to make sense.
The medium brown is AK Interactive Dark Tan. Like a lot of AK paints, this one dries into a satin finish which looks odd against the flat first color.
Then it’s more blutack, masking tape and Tamiya JDSDF Brown for the dark brown color.
Note that I’ve also masked and painted the refueling door on the spine of the F-16 with Game Color Gunmetal. Now I need to go back in and repaint the light brown to cover the marble coat more.
I freehand sprayed the light brown again.
Which made some of the demarcations feathery again. But the opacity looks ‘right’ now.
I then finetuned the two darker colors again with blutack and masking tape. I also painted the wingtip rails at this point with Model Color Medium Sea Grey which matches FS36270.
I tend to get some demarcations wrong in the first try. By painting in thin coats I can go back and forth to fix the mistakes without really causing weird color shifts in the demarcations.
After 2 days of curing, I gave the whole kit a spray of gloss using thinned AK Interactive Intermediate Gauzy. The decals from TwoBobs are as usual, very easy to use and react very well to Mark Setter and Mark Softer. Best of all, minimal stencils on Aggressors!
I’m not quite sure this is the way the decal over the refueling port should look like. I think the decals are designed for the Hasegawa’s design. In any case, I can live with it.
While waiting for the decals to cure properly I went ahead and painted the details all over the kit: 1) the nose AOA vanes, nose sensor bumps and the intake lights (I’ll paint the blue and red in the final stages) 2) the antenna on the spine 3) the identification lights on the rear fuselage 4) the tailfin tip light and the various rear antenna. These were all handpainted with either Model Air Metal Silver or Model Color Medium Sea Grey.
The ACMI pod and inert AIM-9L were also painted. These will definitely add a splash of ‘color’ to the overall brown look of the kit.
Weathering begins with a coat of satin coat using Vallejo Satin Varnish. The panel wash was done using thinned Abteilung Starship Filth.
I gave the wash 30 minutes to dry and then wiped off with a tissue dampened with odorless enamel thinner. I then decided to give the area around the exhaust heavier weatherong. This was done with neat Starship Filth then using a dry brush to stipple the paint onto the surface.
After a few sessions I get a semblance of soot stains.
The same was done for the top side but I went lighter with the weathering here.
The overall wash gave the whole kit some subtle weathering besides highlighting the panels.
I decided to not do any more weathering elsewhere as I’m modeling TOPGUN 51 early in her service life.
I next removed the canopy masking. I was expecting some bleeding but was glad to see that it went very well. There’s only one spot where I needed to fix where I didn’t paint properly.
So it’s out with the masking tape again.
Looks good after a respray. I had tried to replicate the thin black line around the canopy but I’m not sure I have pulled it off. Nonetheless I’m moving on.
Next was the landing gear. Unfortunately the instructions were vague for some of the placement and some of the parts needed careful shortening before they fit right. I ended up using photos and the Hasegawa instructions for the proper placement instead. It also turned out that there were superfluous parts that aren’t supposed to be there. Once it all came together though the gearbays look quite good.
The nose gear was less complicated but also had superfluous parts that shouldn’t be there. These were let off.
Then of course disaster struck: this time it was a drop of cement on the wing.
So it’s the usual sanding down, buff, mask, prime, marble coat, paint, satin coat and wash again.
Last on were the nose probe, the wingtip stores and I can call this done.
It look a while but I’m happy how it has turned out.