by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Jeff Herne at Warpigs kindly sent me a selection of his new 1:32 vinyl painting masks. Two of the sets are specifically for Luftwaffe subjects (national insignia and numerals), while the third is a set of circles that is useful for tasks such as masking wheel hubs etc. in any scale.
Set #32001GER - Fw-190 Superset - $16.95
The masks arrive in a zip-lock bag with a set of generic instructions and a colour-printed sheet showing the types of markings included. I'd never used painting masks for full insignia before, so I took a moment or two to read and re-read the instructions before diving in headlong and racing towards possible disaster. I found them clearly written and helpful - and they offer good advice when dealing with easily damaged paint finishes such as acrylics.
The masks themselves are produced on 4 sheets of grey translucent vinyl, and are paired - 2 sheets each of 25mm and 28.5mm crosses. Each sheets contains 10 styles of crosses and 2 types of swastikas, so you'll need both sheets in the pair for one set of markings. The actual size of crosses used on Fw 190s varied, so check your references for which is appropriate for any individual aircraft.
Set #32001CHA - Luftwaffe Script 480mm w/outlined numbers - $14.95
Accompanied by the same generic instructions, this time the masks are on two sheets and cut from translucent turquoise vinyl. Along with the masks there's a printed sheet showing the designs - 2 sets of numerals, 0 to 9 (plus variations for 1, 4 & &), with the option for plain and outlined figures, and a Luftwaffe alphabet in DIN-1451/Deutsche Industrienorm characters.
Set #001GEN - $12.95
This is the simplest of the sample sets, with a single sheet of the blue vinyl containing four sets of cut circles ranging from 5mm to 20mm in 1mm increments. Using them is simply a matter of measuring the diameter you need using a ruler or dividers and choosing the appropriate mask.
In useI don't have a 1:32 Fw 190 build underway, but I felt that using the masks on the curves of an actual kit would give a much fairer test than simply testing them on sheet styrene. Therefore, I dug Pacific Coast's Ta 152 out of the stash and quickly painted one fuselage half and wing in representative camouflage using LifeColor acrylics. I didn't go for a strictly accurate scheme either in terms of camouflage or the markings I'd use - aiming instead to test a variety of types of masks. I followed Warpigs' advice and gave the completed paint job a good coat of clear varnish (Future/Klear) and let it dry thoroughly.
The masks peeled away from the backing sheets easily and adhered well to the surface. The die-cutting is very precise, so I didn't find any snags or need to use a scalpel to finish a cut. The masks can either be put straight into the correct position or applied with a drop of water, which allows some repositioning. The latter technique works very well and is a lot more "forgiving", but it's important to use pure water (as with applying decals, impurities can cause staining), so if in doubt use distilled water. I surrounded the masks with pieces of Post-It notes to avoid any over-spray.
The masks conformed well, although raised detail such as the hinge on the tail caused the swastika to lift slightly over time. In this instance it's just a case of pressing the mask down firmly immediately before spraying and you should have no trouble. I used the circle masks to paint the wheels for Dragon's 1:48 Bf 110D. Although they worked nicely, the prominent raised detail on the hubs didn't give the masks much to adhere to, so it would have been better if the masking sheet was also cut to allow you to apply "holes" instead of solid circles.
Despite using acrylics, I shunned Warpigs caution about applying a second coat of clear between layers when using multi-part masks like the fuselage swastika and numeral. With everything dry, it was time to peel away the masking and examine the finished markings. Having never painted anything like a number before, I was a little wary how well it would work, but it actually turned out to be very straightforward and I think the result is really excellent.
The masks are only designed to be used once, but if you're careful you may be able to apply them repeatedly, although Warpigs can't guarantee the results. Certainly, the masks I tried didn't get distorted when I removed them and the adhesive still seems to be sufficient for another couple of uses.
Of course, the beauty of painting markings is that there's no carrier film (so no danger of silvering) and every panel line is beautifully crisp and clear because you don't need to worry about getting a decal to snuggle down. Registration is really a question of your own accuracy and, while application is obviously a little more fiddly than decals, the overall process is quite intuitive. Because there was no need to wait for decals to dry out, I found using masks just as quick in the long run. Painting markings has big advantages when it comes to weathering and representing faded or partially applied/damaged markings.
ConclusionAs a died in the wool decal user, I was quite cautious approaching using Warpigs masks, but found them very straightforward to work with and the results speak for themselves. At the moment the masks are only available in 1:32, but I really hope the range is extended to include 1:48 too, which should be well within the capabilities of the medium. Highly recommended.
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