Soft Masks: Child’s Play

I hate masking. Of all the various aspects of modeling, it’s probably the task I enjoy least.

Unfortunately, until model paints are replaced by nanotechnology and little pigment robots that can lay down exactly where you tell them with no hint of overspray, masking is a necessity.

With the Eduard Yak-3 and Zvezda La-5, I’ve recently found myself tasked with masking soft-edge camoflage for the first time since my return to modeling.

Masking hard lines is fairly easy. You use tape. Soft lines are more difficult, since you have to get that feathered edge. Sure, you can go freehand, but I don’t trust myself enough to do so quite yet. The other option is to use some sort of a raised mask. The most common recommendation is Blu-Tack, a malleable, putty-like removable adhesive used for hanging posters and the like. I typically use the stuff to hold small parts for painting, but I shy from using it as a mask since I’ve found it tends to have a bit more “stick” than I’d like, and can be tough to pull up.

I’d also read about using two popular children’s products – Play-Doh and Silly Putty. Since I had some Play-Doh on hand, I decided to use that to mask the Yak.

Things went well enough at first. The Play-Doh didn’t really want to grip onto the Yak, but after some finagling I managed to get it where I wanted it.

Painting went well enough…

And then I went to pull the Play-Doh off.


I have no idea why the Play-Doh stuck to the surface like this. But it did. And no amount of rubbing or scraping seemed to get it off. Goo Gone ate through the paint. I was getting really close to hurling the Yak across the garage on its first and last flight when I decided to see if I could wet sand the offending Play-Doh away. Which is when I discovered that the Play-Doh softened and came away when wet. It took some repainting here and there, but I managed to salvage the situation well enough.

1/48,Nikon D300s,Eduard,2010,Yakovlev Yak-3,scale models,October

So, lesson learned. Actually, two lessons.

  • First, Play-Doh residue can be softened and removed with water and vigorous wiping.
  • Second, don’t use Play-Doh as a soft-edge mask.

When it came time to mask the La-5, I decided to try out the other recommendation, and picked up some Silly Putty.

1/48,October,scale models,Zvezda,2010,Nikon D300s,Lavochkin La-5

I still need more practice painting with this type of mask. Some lines came out nice and feathered. Others came out harder than I’d hoped. But…the Silly Putty worked like a charm and pulled off without leaving any of itself stuck to the plane.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Pepper Kay says:

    Howdy Do:

    Been reading all your meanderings through modeldom … very nice and refreshing to read real and honest opiinions … those coupled with the frustrations YET joys of the hobby float my boat …

    Since I now have discovered these, I’ll be reading everything and following your progress from here to there …

    Being a native San Diegan, I sorely miss going out to the old Miramar NAS (now Miramar USMC Air Station) to watch Top Gun come home in the afternoons … my Dad started taking me to Miramar when the USN was still flying Hellcats …

    Too bad there aren’t any bases close to my home in Garland, TX to get some photos or just ‘watching’ opportunities …

    Anyhoo, just wanted to drop a line or two to tell you how much I appreciate all your work, writings, postings and reviews – the good, bad and ugly, yes ? ..


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