How to Paint Foam Planes

Updated July 19, 2017

Remote controlled cars and planes are popular additions to the collections of many model enthusiasts. Part of the enjoyment of collecting remote controlled planes is painting them in decorative colours, but foam structures can often present adhesion or absorption difficulties. However, an effective preparation system can help to alleviate these problems, and the correct choice in materials will help modelling enthusiasts to create perfect painted planes that can withstand the demands of day-to-day use.

Take a medium-grade sanding block (P320 grit) and run it over the surface of the foam plane to remove any bumps. Sand any indentations caused by the moulding process until they are reduced to small chips. Apply a small quantity of spackle into the chips with a plastic spreader and leave to dry. Rub the spackle down with the sanding block until it is flush with the surface of the plane.

Use a can of compressed air to blow off any dust remnants. Apply thin layers of fibreglass cloth to the surface of the foam and use a small paintbrush to add water-based polyurethane coating over the top before leaving to dry. This will make the fibreglass cloth adhere to the foam and create a hard, sealed surface that creates a barrier between the foam and the paint. Use the sanding block to smooth the polyurethane coating once it has dried.

Create a mix of water-based polyurethane coating and talcum powder at a ratio of 1:1. Apply generously over the sealed fibreglass cloth with a plastic spreader to fill in any indentations and leave to dry before sanding again. Blow off any excessive dust with the canned air.

Take a foam brush and apply two full coats of latex house paint, allowing the first to dry before the second coat is added. This will act as a suitable primer. Leave to cure completely and sand down to a smooth finish with P800 grit wet-and-dry paper and a small quantity of water. Wipe dry and remove excess moisture with the can of compressed air.

Spray the foam plane in the colour of your choice. An acrylic paint from any reputable modelling store will be ideal and should be thinned in accordance with the technical data sheet provided before it is added to the pot of the airbrush. Spray from a distance of 4 to 6 inches and allow for multiple coats to reduce the risk of transparency. Leave to dry overnight.

Apply two full coats of acrylic clear coat over the coloured paint. Once again, the material must be activated and sprayed through the airbrush. The clear coat will seal in the colour, provide a high-gloss finish and protect the integrity of the paint underneath. Leave to dry overnight before adding decals and transfers.

Things You'll Need

  • P320 grit sanding block
  • Spackle
  • Plastic spreader
  • Can of compressed air
  • Fibreglass cloth
  • Water-based polyurethane coating
  • Small paintbrush
  • Talcum powder
  • Foam brush
  • Latex house paint
  • P800 grit wet-and-dry paper
  • Water
  • Airbrush
  • Acrylic paint
  • Acrylic clear coat
  • Hardeners
  • Decals
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About the Author

Based in the United Kingdom, Paul Miceli has been a professional writer since 2006. He has been published online by Ideate Media and Promiga and has a proven track record of producing informational articles and sales copy. Miceli is educated to U.K. "A-level" standard, continues to work as a paint sprayer and has more than 25 years of automotive body repair experience.