Markings give the model identity, personalise it and bring it to life. Commercially available markings in one sixth scale are virtually unobtainable. No matter, they're not that difficult to do and are very satisfying to achieve.
There are three ways to realise markings: paint by hand, use a stencil, create decals. With very few exceptions, real tank markings are painted, by hand or spray and usually using stencils. Crew and personalised markings are invariably hand painted.
Which method you choose is influenced by the original: is it complicated, multi-colour, - use a decal, is it very precise and accurate, largely text - use a decal or stencil, do you need to repeat it - decal, was the original hand painted - hand paint if you can mask it or used a stencil and airbrush it. There is no simple rule but the choice is really between stencil and decal.
This topic covers stencils. Part 2 covers decals.
I've selected three examples, an Afrika Korps palm tree marking, an Australian call sign and crew barrel name.
To create the stencil, you're going to use a sticky film, preferably one with reduced tack. Tamiya masking tape and Frisk Film, a purpose made stencil medium, are amongst the easiest to get and use.
Next, you need good reference photos of the original. If you drag and drop the photos onto a Powerpoint blank slide, you can then crop to focus on the markings, group a number of images together and then right click on the image and Save as Picture. You now have an image. Print it off and check it for size on the model. If you need to adjust the size, back into Powerpoint, adjust the image size on the blank slide, save and print again and check until you get the exact size you need. Easy.
Sometimes the photo isn't quite square. You can usually adjust this easily by drawing a square image by hand or using a Powerpoint text box, superimposed on the image:
Now you create the stencil. You can either place the print over the stencil film/tape and using a fine modelling knife, cut through both or with Frisk Film, print directly onto the film. The latter is obviously muck easier.
Finally, apply the stencil to the model and either hand paint, using a stippling motion and quite thick paint or better, use an airbrush and cover with several very thin passes at a very low air pressure, in order to avoid bleed through behind the stencil.
Carefully remove the stencil and enjoy your handiwork. You can always touch up any errors by hand.
In Part 2, I'll cover creating decals.
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