How to Paint RC Shells

Written by paul miceli Google
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How to Paint RC Shells
RC shells can be painted in a variety of colour schemes. (Radio-controlled model of the red car close-up image by terex from

Model enthusiasts often choose to apply their own colour ideas to remote-controlled vehicles. Although most purchased models will come with a colour scheme already in place, it is relatively inexpensive to purchase a replacement shell that can be customised in many different ways. Some hobbyists prefer to use solid colours while others will prefer the eye-catching effect of flames or stripes to really make their RC vehicle stand out. With the correct preparation and finishing techniques, it is entirely possible to produce a unique paint job every time.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Warm water
  • Liquid detergent
  • Sponge
  • P1200 grit wet-and-dry paper
  • Superfine grade soft sanding pad
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Can of compressed air
  • Water-washable pen
  • Plastic masking tape
  • Masking paper
  • Airbrush
  • One-pack plastic primer
  • Acrylic paint
  • Hardeners
  • Cellulose thinners

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  1. 1

    Fill a sink with warm water and add a small amount of liquid detergent to create a soapy wash. Immerse the RC shell into the water and thoroughly wash the inside using a sponge so that all corners and crevices can be reached. RC shells are always painted on the inside but new ones can often contain layers of dust which are residues of the moulding process. Once cleaned, remove the shell from the water.

  2. 2

    Rub down the inside of the shell with P1200 grit wet-and-dry paper or a superfine grade soft sanding pad. Ensure all areas on the inside of the RC shell are sanded as this will create a keyed surface that will promote primer and paint adhesion. Dry thoroughly with lint-free cloth. Blow off the inside of the shell to remove surplus water with a can of compressed air and ensure it is completely dry before continuing.

  3. 3

    Place the RC shell upright on a table and use a water-washable pen to draw the paint design on the outside of the vehicle. Turn the shell upside down and mask out one of the individually coloured areas using plastic masking tape. Block out the remainder of the shell interior with masking paper and ensure the outside is also masked off to prevent overspray.

  4. 4

    Add a small quantity of one-pack plastic primer to the pot of an airbrush and spray one light coat over the surface to be painted. The primer will help the paint to adhere and also promotes flexibility so that colours won't crack while the new RC shell is being fitted. Allow to cure for 5 minutes and clean the airbrush thoroughly by spraying through with cellulose thinners.

  5. 5

    Activate enough acrylic paint to provide coverage for the painted area and place into the pot of the airbrush. Apply the colour in light, even coats from a distance of approximately 4 inches. Aerosol cans of acrylic paint will also suffice if you find them easier to use. Build up the paint layer so there is no transparency and leave to dry completely before unmasking.

  6. 6

    Continue masking and painting individual colours in the same fashion until your design is complete. Ensure that each colour is completely dry before masking over the top to help prevent tape sweating or peeling. There is no need to add an acrylic clear coat to the outside of the RC shell. Simply wipe away the marks created by the water-washable pen and the shell can be fitted to the rest of the vehicle.

Tips and warnings

  • The outside of an RC shell is finished to a high shine so avoid the use of clear coats as these can cause plastics to melt.

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