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How To: Get the Flat Look!

How To: Get the Flat Look!

The matte or “flat” look is a hot trend in the full size car world and easy to duplicate on a “hard” body—just choose paint with the level of sheen you want and spray away. But what about Lexan bodies? All the gloss comes from the plastic itself, and the paint goes on the inside. No matter how “flat” the color is that you spray inside the shell, it’s going to be glossy on the outside. “Paint it on the outside,” you say? That’ll work, but the paint will be subjected to all sorts of wear and damage. Here’s how to get the flat look, without losing the benefits of paint under plastic. While we’re at it, I’ll also show you how to add a realistic texture to a bed cap, as seen on this Pro-Line 1981 Ford Bronco body.

Step 1: TRIM AND MOUNT THE BODY

Mounting the body before painting is easy to do and, in this case, will prevent damage of the painting done on the outside.Mounting the body before painting is easy to do and, in this case, will prevent damage of the painting done on the outside.

Before painting the body, I decided to mount it onto my Vaterra Ascender RTR chassis. That way, I would have a perfectly aligned body and I wouldn’t risk damaging my done-on-the-outside paint job when reaming the holes. Once the body was trimmed, I placed it on top of the chassis and marked my body post locations, then ran a ream through the body.

STEP 2: SCUFF AND WASH

A Scotch-Brite pad is all you need to scuff up the inside of the body. is will give the paint something to grab onto.A Scotch-Brite pad is all you need to scuff up the inside of the body. is will give the paint something to grab onto.

Many modelers skip scuffing and paint directly onto the smooth body after cleaning, but I prefer to scuff the inside of the body to promote better paint adhesion. I do this with a Scotch-Brite pad because it’s easy to hold and conforms easily to the body. Rub the pad along the inside of the body, making sure to stay away from the window sections to ensure that they stay clear. Since chrome paint will be used on the bumpers and grille, you’ll also want to avoid those areas. If you scuff up those areas, the chrome will look like silver rather than bright plating. After scuffing, wash the inside of the body with dish soap (I prefer Dawn) to remove any debris from the scuffing process, oils from your fingers, or anything else that might otherwise contaminate the paint. Rinse and dry thoroughly, and watch out for water drops trapped in panel lines and other detail. Dry them out.

STEP 3: APPLY THE WINDOW MASKS

When applying the window masks, place a corner down, line up an edge of the mask with the window, and press down with your finger.When applying the window masks, place a corner down, line up an edge of the mask with the window, and press down with your finger.

Apply the supplied window masks to keep the paint off the windows. Stick a corner down, and carefully align the edge of the mask with the window. Once you are happy with the alignment, rub the mask down with your finger while holding the other end in the air. As you move along the mask, lower the other side onto the window. This will ensure that you don’t end up with air bubbles under the mask. Once the mask is in place, rub the edges with your finger to make sure that it is completely stuck to the body. Repeat for the other windows.

STEP 4: MASK THE GRILLE AND BUMPERS FOR CHROME PAINT

Any place that is going to get chrome paint will require masking. Lines along the edge of the grille and bumper will help you align the tape.Any place that is going to get chrome paint will require masking. Lines along the edge of the grille and bumper will help you align the tape.

Before you lay down masking tape, run a Parma Dual Tip Detailing Pen along the edge of the areas to be chromed on the outside of the body. This line will be a guide for you while applying tape to the edges of the area. Don’t skimp on the tape; I like to use Parma and Tamiya masking tapes because they come in a variety of widths, seal well, and give a crisp line.

Masking tapes for modeling, such as these from Parma and Tamiya, are much better than the stuff from hardware stores.

Masking tapes for modeling, such as these from Parma and Tamiya, are much better than the stuff from hardware stores.

STEP 5: SPRAY THE MAIN COLOR

main-paint-color

Apply the color that you have chosen for your paint job. I went with Duratrax Racing Red for a single-color paint job; I didn’t mask the bed cap because that will be painted on the outside. Apply a mist coat to start; this will help seal the window masks and keep them from lifting. After the mist coat has dried, you can apply more paint, but don’t try to get full coverage in one coat or you may get runs and puddling. Two or three light coats are much better than one heavy coat.

I used Duratrax paint for this project. Big can = more paint! Spray coats of your main color until you have full coverage.

I used Duratrax paint for this project. Big can = more paint! Spray coats of your main color until you have full coverage.

STEP 6: SPRAY THE CHROME

chrome

Remove the mask that you applied to the grille and bumpers. Apply the chrome in a light coat, allow to dry, and repeat until you have full coverage. Once you’re satisfied with the coverage, back the chrome with black for the full plated-metal effect. I went ahead and backed the entire body with black, so the body color is not visible through the windows and wheel wells. If you’ve chosen a light color for your body, such as white or yellow, avoid backing with black as it will make the color appear muted or muddy.

SpazStix mirror chrome paint really works—you’d swear it was chrome plating. Once you have full coverage of chrome, back it and the rest of the body with black.

SpazStix mirror chrome paint really works—you’d swear it was chrome plating. Once you have full coverage of chrome, back it and the rest of the body with black.

STEP 7: TRIM THE OVERSPRAY FILM

Remove the overspray film from the main part of the body and take your time. Make sure that you don’t remove the film from areas such as the bumpers and windows

Remove the overspray film from the main part of the body and take your time. Make sure that you don’t remove the film from areas such as the bumpers and windows

We are now going to prep the body for the fl at clear coat, and we will use the body’s overspray film as a mask. Trim the overspray fi lm around the bumpers, grille, front and door windows, and cap using a hobby knife and a sharp blade. We want these areas to remain glossy. Once you have the overspray film cut, you can remove it from the main portion of the body. Make sure that you remove the mask slowly, and pay attention to the areas that you cut to make sure that you didn’t miss any spots or accidentally lift the film where you don’t want it to. If you peel the film off anything you want to stay shiny, no worries—just remask it with tape.

STEP 8 (OPTIONAL): SCUFF AND CLEAN THE EXTERIOR

Scuff up the outside of the body just as you did with the inside.

Scuff up the outside of the body just as you did with the inside.

In the next step, we’ll spray the body with Tamiya TS-80 Flat Clear to give the paint a matte finish. ‰ is can be done directly over the glossy plastic, or you can take the extra step of scuffing the body for the best adhesion, just as we did on the inside of the body. Make sure that you stay away from the bumpers, grille, and windows so that you don’t lift the overspray film in those areas. After scuffing, clean the outside of the body to remove any debris from scuffing and oils from your fingers.

STEP 9: SPRAY THE FLAT CLEAR PAINT

Spraying the clear in a dust-free environment, such as a spray booth, will ensure that you achieve a flawless paint job.

Spraying the clear in a dust-free environment, such as a spray booth, will ensure that you achieve a flawless paint job.

Here’s where the body goes flat, thanks to Tamiya TS-80 Flat Clear. Place the body on a tall can or piece of wood to lift it off the surface of your paint area so that you have full access to the body. Two light coats should be sufficient to fully “flatten” the body.

Tamiya’s flat clear paint will give any color a fine, flat sheen that looks killer.

Tamiya’s flat clear paint will give any color a fine, flat sheen that looks killer.

STEP 10 (OPTIONAL): ADD GLOSSY ACCENTS

A Bronco logo mask on the door will give me a shiny logo once it’s been removed after fl at clear has been applied. The finished effect is subtle but trick.

A Bronco logo mask on the door will give me a shiny logo once it’s been removed after fl at clear has been applied. The finished effect is subtle but trick.

If you want to create glossy graphics in the fl at finish, just mask them off. I used a vinyl cutter to make Bronco logos out of Parma masking sheet. After painting with fl at clear, removing the masks will reveal glossy Bronco logos for a neat “ghosted” effect.

STEP 11: MASK AND PAINT THE CAP

Mask off the cap of the body, and spray on some stone textured paint. Once it’s dry, you can spray on the color of your choice.

Mask off the cap of the body, and spray on some stone textured paint. Once it’s dry, you can spray on the color of your choice.

We can now shift gears to painting the cap on the rear of the truck. Cut the overspray film around the window area, and remove the overspray film from the cap. Fully mask the rest of the body with tape and paper. I like to use phone-book pages for this job. Before painting the cap in its final color, I sprayed it with a textured “stone” paint. This stuff is pretty thick, so let it dry completely before applying the final color. I let mine dry overnight before spraying tan paint on top of it.

Textured paint will give the cap a more realistic look.

Textured paint will give the cap a more realistic look.

STEP 12: FILL IN THE WINDOW TRIM

Window trim on the windshield was sprayed on, while a Parma marker was used to detail the other windows.

Window trim on the windshield was sprayed on, while a Parma marker was used to detail the other windows.

The last step to painting our Pro-Line 1981 Ford Bronco body is to add some window trim. I wanted the windshield to have thicker trim than the other windows on the body, so I masked off the windshield using tape on the outside and by cutting overspray fi lm on the window to mask the inside. Once I pulled off the overspray film from the outside edge of the windshield, I sprayed the area with semigloss paint. I could have done the rest of the windows the same way, but this would have taken a long time for me to mask. I finished the trim by running a Parma Dual Tip Detailing Pen along the edges of the windows to give them a factory look.

FLAT AND FINISHED! ­

finished

That’s it for the paint work. You can now remove any leftover masking material and apply the stickers that are necessary to finish the body. Painting a Lexan body on the outside with fl at or semigloss clear does add a bit of time to the process. But to me, it’s worth the time to have something that looks great and is very different from other vehicles with Lexan bodies. Another nice thing about this type of paint job is that when the body gets a scratch or scuff, it doesn’t show up as much as it would if the body were glossy. – Kevin Hetmanski

Updated: February 3, 2017 — 10:02 AM
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  1. Great idea! I like to paint the lid as normal, tape off the outside (as required for windows, chrome, etc.) then hitting the outside with a glass bead blast. The paint/matte/flat doesn’t come off after “spirited” use.

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