How to Paint a Model Helicopter

Written by sean kotz
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How to Paint a Model Helicopter
Even relatively complicated paint schemes like the one on this helicopter model are not too difficult with the right technique. (helicoptere modele reduit turbine image by jerome scalvini from

There are a lot of different types of model helicopters on the market in many scale sizes from small 1/72 scale kits to large flyable RC helicopters. Also, commercial and sport helicopters require different paints and paint schemes than military choppers, which are often a single flat green or grey in colour. However, the basis for painting a helicopter is the same in any case. The main thing is to work in stages and be patient in between those stages.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Spray primer
  • Two-sided tape
  • Sheets of thick cardboard
  • Painter's tape or model masking strips
  • Airbrush
  • Airbrush paints or spray can paints
  • Acrylic spray sealer

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  1. 1

    Assemble the major sections of the kit first but do not attach the rotors or clear canopies until all the painting is complete. It is best to keep the fuselage separate from the frame and separate out any chrome parts as well until final assembly.

  2. 2

    Lay out sheets of cardboard in a well-ventilated area to serve as a backdrop for painting. Small parts may be held in place temporarily with two-sided tape to prevent flyaway during spray painting.

  3. 3

    Prime all non-chrome parts with a spray primer by spraying even coats in a slow, horizontal motion approximately 8 to 10 inches from the surface. Allow it to dry between coats before proceeding.

  4. 4

    Apply the base coat for the body with an airbrush at a distance of about 4 to 6 inches or with spray cans at a distance of 8 to 10 inches. Allow it to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

  5. 5

    Mask areas of the paint job that need to retain the base colour with painter's tape. This may require more than one application of tape.

  6. 6

    Spray on additional coats as desired. Add layers of painter's tape to mask off painted areas as necessary.

  7. 7

    Seal the paint job with an acrylic sealant. Use flat finish for military helicopters and a gloss finish for other types of choppers.

  8. 8

    Assemble the helicopter from the ground up for best results after all sections are painted and sealed.

Tips and warnings

  • You may need to move the parts occasionally to get all of the sides covered.
  • It is practically impossible to get a decent paint job on a helicopter with a brush, so consider investing in an airbrush or at least a collection of good quality spray paints designed for models.
  • If you are using an airbrush, you may find masking less necessary, especially when it comes to military camouflage.
  • If you are applying decals, you will have the best luck if you apply a little glossy floor wax to the surface where the decal will go first. You can coat it with a flat spray acrylic if necessary after they are cured.
  • Always spray in a well-ventilated area.
  • Do not touch the painted surfaces until you are sure they are dry.
  • Do not spray clear plastic parts with spray sealant. It will ruin the appearance. This means canopies and headlights are the last things to be assembled, generally speaking.

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