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3 - The Anguish of Tiger Stripes

Osario 4000 Grav MBT
(pack of 5)
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Revision Log
10 March 2000converted to new format
19 September 1998page first published

6,892 hits since 19 Mar 2000
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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What I decided I wanted to do was add tiger stripes to my yellow tanks, only I was going to do brown stripes rather than black - more suited to the desert. Kind of.

However, upon painting my first tanks, I quickly became disillusioned. First, it took a long time to paint the stripes, since it took a lot of concentration to get the stripes even. Second, I was having the devil of a time with the brown paint, as it refused to coat well on the first pass, requiring me to go back and do extensive touch-ups to get an even coat.

This was not a process I was going to enjoy... There had to be a better way!


I decided there had to be a way to somehow spray the stripes onto the tanks. Or maybe I wouldn't do stripes - maybe some other camo pattern would work. I tried what seemed like a million experiments...

Micro Mask
I tried applying a brush-on mask to the tanks, then spraying the stripe color on. I used a product called Micro Mask from Microscale Industries, a blue liquid that brushed on and dried like some kind of rubber coat. After painting, the mask just peeled off.

The mask worked fine, but the technique wasn't much faster - I was still hand-painting an intricate pattern, only I was painting with the masking liquid rather than the paint. And at this scale it was hard to see what I was doing, since the mask was translucent.

Chartpak tape
I tried using Chartpak graphic tape to mask stripes, spray, then remove the tape. The first problem was that the tape was fairly rigid at this scale, making it hard to make any kind of curves. The second problem was that the paint tended to build up along the edges of the tape, so that after I peeled the tape, there were little ridges along the edges of all the stripes. Not a success.
wavy barrette
I found this wavy plastic in a discount store, some kind of inexpensive hair barrette. I thought it would make a great stencil that I could spray-paint through. I was wrong. Even though I laid the plastic directly on the tank, the pattern turned out too fuzzy and indistinct.
I tried spraying the model through the top of a seasoning shaker, hoping to get a polka dot pattern. I removed the lid, and placed my trial vehicle directly under the cover.

Again, the pattern didn't hold - all I got was speckles.


placemat pattern

By now, I had the idea that I had to find a way to "lay" the masking pattern directly on the vehicle in order for it to work. But what to use? I kept my eyes open for any material that might happen to fit my needs...

I found a soft rubbery placemat with round holes in it. It looked like it would make a great mask for a camo pattern. But the material was too thick, keeping the holes too high above the tank, and the pattern didn't show up in the end.

(no picture)I tried wrapping a test vehicle with string, to create a pattern of straight stripes...but couldn't get it to wrap right.

I noticed a piece of lace in my wife's sewing supplies which I thought might be just what the doctor ordered. I soaked the lace in black paint to make it more effective as a mask, then wrapped the victim of the experiment in the lace. But once again - failure.

(no picture)I found in my supplies bin a roll of a soft, clinging sheet called Parafilm, intended as a masking material. I shaped it to the tank, and intricately cut stripes in it. Then I sprayed the tank. This too failed.

So I Gave Up!

I re-primed my tank victims, and then gave them another coat of yellow paint...

  • maybe my hopes were unrealistic
  • maybe I missed out on the "right way" to do the job
  • maybe I was too much of a perfectionist this time
  • maybe I just ran out of patience

As I've mentioned in more than a few of these Workbench articles, I don't consider myself a master painter - just an average guy, trying to pass along my own experiences. I think it's important to share my failures as well as my successes, so that you understand that it doesn't always turn out right, that new techniques sometimes fail, and that you pick your models back up and try something else.