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Realistic Tarps!

Initially I tried using the PVA glue method but found the result too stiff and unworkable (probably my fault), so I tried various methods until I hit upon one that worked well for me. It produces a tough sheet of silicon treated tissue that is very hard to tear, takes paint really well, and can have creases imprinted and removed at will. You will need the following:
  • A water based bathroom silicon sealer (Photo 1)
  • Extra strong pocket tissues
  • An airbrush
  • A good half to three quarter inch flat paintbrush
  • Getting started
    The pocket tissues used are generic Walmart, but they have about 3-4 ply and the edges are pressed together. They are also a good size for this work. The first thing I do is iron the folds out of them, as I want the central area smooth (Photo 2). Next squeeze about 3 inches of the bathroom sealer into a small sealable container and add warm water (ratio about 1:2). Seal the container and shake it for a few minutes until most of the sealant has liquidized and its foamy (there will be some residue, don’t worry) (Photo 3). Take a tissue and lay it a flat surface (I use paper card), and using short strokes with the flat brush, paint the solution onto the tissue, making sure each area is soaked through, before moving to the next (Photo 4). When one side is done, turn the tissue around and do the other. When both are wet, hold the tissue between your fingers and gently tease the major creases from it (similar to how you work a pizza base). When done, take a hair dryer and dry both sides of the tissue. Now peel the single coated outside ply from each side of the tissue and repeat the steps above for the uncoated side of each. When finished you will have two rubberised textured sheets of fabric. At this point I roll them against a flat surface to further force the sealant into the fibres, and remove creases. I then cut the patterned outside edge from each side, retaining the 6x6” area in the middle. At this point you should have two sheets of treated tissue that are tearproof, flexible, and will retain a fold or imprint (which can also be removed if its not right).

    Base Paint
    I do not use primer as it makes the tarp too smooth when finished. Take a tissue and spray both sides with your chosen colour. I use a 1:1 mix of XF-65 Field Grey and XF-26 Deep Green mixed 1:1 with IPA (don’t use water, the alcohol ensures a dense paint coverage). Mix quite a bit of paint, the tissues are thirsty! When dry, take the tissue in one hand and draw it gently between your thumb and first two fingers of the other to smooth out the final creases - expose any unsprayed areas, and fix them. (Photo 5).

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    About the Author

    About Brian Steven Balkwill (dsotm)

    Spent time in specialised sales to militay, non-destructive testing, risk engineering, engineering underwriting surveys on mines and mineral processing plants. Modelling from Airfix days, I took a 25yr break and came back to the hobby 18month ago. Currently working on a Sturmtiger with fully detaile...


    Nice tips, lovely, thanks
    DEC 23, 2015 - 07:43 AM
    I happend to have an old Fug5 radio fret from Aber and it had a few 'rings' on it. If anyone has any thoughts on where to get more eyelets of this size in bulk I would love to hear. Its possible I could have a fret made commercially by Scalelink that would have hundreds on it, but there would need to be a demand. As tarps are common across several modelling areas (air, ships etc) maybe we could get them interested. Or if there was something else currently unavailable I could add it to the fret to increase demand and commercial viability. Thoughts? Brian[/quote] Another thought is the BRAVO 6 Smoke Grenade set as the pull rings for the grenade pins are small rings of PE.[/quote] Good source is the Royal Model 1/35 PE eyelet set, here: LINK
    DEC 26, 2015 - 03:16 PM
    Anyone tried this with acrylic Gesso in place of the sealer? I mixed water and clear gesso on a glass plate to spread the tissue on. It came out with a kind of smooth texture, but still experimenting here. Just wonder if others have tried? Seems very durable and easy to shape after drying over night
    DEC 29, 2015 - 11:34 AM
    Never even heard of Gesso. I'll have to look and see if they have anything like that at the local DIY store.
    DEC 29, 2015 - 07:20 PM
    The brand I tried was Liquitex medium clear gesso acrylic. It is a paint base and thickener that is available at most art supply places such as Blicks or Hobby Lobby. Many use this for water effects like ripples or wave shapes. If it is thinned with water then it soaks into the tissue for a tarp. My issue was how to carefully get out the wrinkles without tearing when first wetting the tissue. A glass plate seems to help.
    DEC 29, 2015 - 07:35 PM
    Might have to give it a try. I used wax paper as a work surface. Seems to work okay, but you're right; trying to do much with the tarp soon after painting it with your rubberizing medium of choice is tricky work.
    DEC 29, 2015 - 07:39 PM
    I've found a single tissue gives enough material for many projects. I have also found that once it is completely dry I can form it into whatever rough shape I want and then paint it with isopropyl alcohol to soften it up enough to be able to precisely tune the shape. Worked like a charm for making a new canvas roof for a quad tractor and a spare tire cover for a scout car.
    FEB 10, 2016 - 05:44 PM
    Resurrecting this old thread because the final product looks so good. I tried it twice with facial and wrapping tissue but could not get it to work. Questions for those in the US that got it to work: 1. What exact product did you use? 2. What surface did you use under the tissue when applying the liquid? (I used wax paper.) How do you lift the wet paper off the surface without tearing? 3. How do you dry it? Is it on the surface? How do you keep it from bonding to the surface when dry? Thanks, KL
    DEC 22, 2018 - 07:38 AM
    Kurt, here's what I do with Vinnie's EXCELLENT technique. First you must use a good quality smooth tissue - I use the stuff that comes with men's shirts. The latex I use here in Canada (I'm sure similar stuff is available in USA) is DAP brand Acrylic Latex Caulk Plus Silicone. I mix it 50/50 with water to make a very dilute "solution". I do not apply it on a hard surface. Instead I have a 4" by 6" frame onto which I tape a piece of tissue. Then using a broad 3/4" to 1" wide SOFT brush I wet one side and gently dry it with a small hair dryer, which takes only a minute or two. Repeat on the other side. It is during these first two applications that you are most likely to tear the wet tissue . . . so be careful. I then do two more double sided coats. I'll do a fourth if I plan to cut the tissue into strips for belts, etc as it a little stronger. The "cloth" takes acrylic paints very well. There are photos of this technique used to make a canvas roof of my Schwimmwagen on Missing-lynx 3 Sept 2018. Good luck . . . you only need it for the first coats.
    DEC 22, 2018 - 09:49 AM
    Thanks Tom! I was thinking of attaching it to a frame. I have been using an acrylic caulk that is listed as "paintable". The small pieces that have survived the previous experiments did seem to be pretty durable, even with just a single coat. I will try this tomorrow. Thanks, KL
    DEC 22, 2018 - 04:05 PM