Getting the small detail lettering for my SBD, like the lettering/markings for the hatches, prop, bomb, etc. was a dilemna for me until I came across Hans at Heavy Date Hobbies.

By supplying Hans with vectored art of all the markings I needed, Hans was able to produce them for me as water-slide decals to my size and spec. This included white lettering and colored graphics. Hans does a great job on these at a very affordable price.

The water-slide decals that Hans makes are extremely thin, and do not require decal set to get them to conform around panel lines, rivets, etc. So thin in fact, that they can be very difficult to apply without destroying them. It took some practice and a few tries to get some of them on, but the end result was worth it.

Be sure to let the decals soak in water long enough that the whole decal is ready to "float" right off the backing. Any resistance to coming off the backing will result in a torn decal. Also, keep the surface to be applied to very wet while applying and sliding the decal into position, or it will wrinkle and tear as well.

Here are the decals that were applied to the airfame exterior, but I still have to apply the ones in the cockpit and on the bomb & prop later.

Before applying the decals, I gave the whole airframe it's first clearcoat (see below). This provides a better surface for the decals to slide on than just the raw latex and acrylics. Once the decals were all applied, I went back over them with a slight touch of airbrushed weathering to help blend out the edges of the decals and also make the lettering itself look weathered like the rest of the plane.

Clearcoating the paint job

All the fancy paint and weathering would be ruined in short order after a few flights without some clear coat to protect it. After extensive testing, I decided to use Nelson Hobby Waterbased PolyUrethane Clear Coat Paints.

I bought both Gloss and Flat finishes so I could mix them to the desired specularity. However, I eventually found that even the straight flat clear was not really flat enough for my taste and ended up not using much of the gloss at all.

I mixed the Nelson clear about 60% paint to 40% water and it shoots fantastic through my detail gun. Not a single problem with plugging, spattering, or orange peeling throughout the entire process.

I used the Gloss clear on the airframe prior to applying decals, as I wanted to save my Flat for later coats. Also, the gloss gives a smoother surface for the water-slide decals to slide and stick to. After decals, I tried a 50/50 flat/gloss mix on the bottom of the plane. It was still too glossy, so I switched to flat for all subsequent coats.

Basically, I ended up giving the airframe 3 coats of clear, one prior to decals and 2 after. The control surfaces got only 2 coats, since I was trying to keep their weight down, and they don't get the abuse and handling that the fuse and wing do. Here are some pics after clearcoating, with the masks finally removed from lights and details.

Unfortunately, even with nothing but pure flat coats, I was still not real happy with the "flatness" of the clearcoats. The bottom white is perfect but the rest of the plane has a little too much specularity for me. Especially the dark Non-specular Sea Blue on the top and the smoke stains. The smoke should be flatter of course, and "Non-specular Sea Blue" should obviously be... well... "non-specular!"

Actually, my research found that after painting the fullscale planes, they would apply a varnish coat over the paint. This varnish was supposed to be glossy on bottom transitioning to flat on top. I did some testing and experimenting later to see if there was anything I can do to "flatten" the specularity on the topside blue...

Finishing Tip!

My best results were with steel wool. I ended up going back and "buffing" the areas that need a flatter finish with 000 Steel Wool. It was just the right grade to dull the finish to a satiny matte finish. All the hot specularity and light bounce was pretty much muted out.

It also did a good job of knocking of any gritty stipple in the finish from dirt/granules in the paint. Another side benefit was that it hit the raised dome rivets a little harder, lightening them slightly which made them stand out even more!

I hit the Non-Spec Sea Blue areas the hardest, hit the Intermediate Blue areas less, and did not hit the White areas at all. I'm now verly satisfied with the finish.

"Hinging the Control Surfaces"