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How to Paint Tissue-Covered Model Airplanes

Updated March 23, 2017

Building model aeroplanes evokes a certain nostalgia in many people, hearkening back to simpler days when children could easily purchase a quality kit at a five-and-dime store. Today, commercial model planes are available at any department store, but the quality is often disappointing to the serious hobbyist. This is just one reason why there is a growing movement for hobbyists to build their own models from scratch. A tissue-covered model aeroplane is a good choice, featuring a light body that is conducive to those who want to try their hand at flying their creations. Most hobbyists begin painting their tissue-covered plane after it is fully assembled.

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  1. Push and hold in the end of the compressor nozzle. Place the hose of the airbrush firmly on the end of the compressor and release the nozzle to lock it into place.

  2. Unscrew the paint jar on the airbrush and place it on your work surface. Fill the paint reservoir about 3/4 full with the enamel paint. Thin the paint with a small amount of paint thinner. Screw the jar back into the airbrush.

  3. Cover your work surface with newspaper or another protective material. Put on the face mask to protect yourself from breathing noxious paint fumes. Open any windows in your work room for ventilation.

  4. Place some test paper on your work surface. Compress the trigger on the airbrush to test your paint mixture. The paint should come out easily and without a greasy residue. If the paint has difficulty spraying, add a bit more paint thinner. If you see a greasy residue, add more paint to the mixture. Discard the test paper when the mixture is properly adjusted.

  5. Hold the tissue-covered model aeroplane gently by the wood frame of one wing and over the newspaper-covered work surface.

  6. Point the airbrush tip at the opposite wing of the tissue-covered model aeroplane. Compress the nozzle to gently release a stream of paint. Pass over the wing several times until you have fully covered the surface.

  7. Change your grip to another part of the model that is not yet painted. Repeat the painting process for each part of the tissue-covered model aeroplane until it is completely painted. As you finish the painting process, grasp small areas of the model, such as the wheels or any protruding parts.

  8. Set the tissue-covered model aeroplane on a fresh sheet of newspaper with as little of the model touching the surface as possible. Allow it to dry completely before handling or flying the aeroplane.

  9. Tip

    Use a tissue colour that is similar to the desired paint colour to minimise the layers of paint needed to achieve the final look. Decals can be added to the completely dry, tissue-covered model aeroplane. Bottles of compressed air from a craft or hobby shop may be used if a compressor is not available.


    Adding too much paint to tissue-covered model aeroplanes can ruin your project. Exercise caution when building up the layers of paint. You may paint your hands as you airbrush the model plane. Disposable gloves may be desirable.

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Things You'll Need

  • Compatible compressor
  • Airbrush pen with external pain reservoir
  • Enamel paint
  • Paint thinner
  • Face mask
  • Test paper
  • Newspaper or other protective material

About the Author

Rosa Lyn has been a freelance writer since 2009. She has worked as a ghostwriter for companies such as eBay and was the editor-in-chief for the member newsletter at the websites SewingMamas. She specializes in subjects such as home and family, parenting, alternative health and crafts.

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