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Anyone like painting ABS shells?

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Hi guys,

Does anybody like painting (and/or restoring) ABS body shells?

For my Blackfoot restoration, I'm hoping to find the original shell somewhere. If I do, I know I never painted it back in the day, and I just stuck the decals on the body as it came. This time around, I'd like it to be painted and lacquered, with fresh decals (probably reproductions as I haven't seen any original ones for sale) so that it looks really nice.

Alternatively (possibly in addition to) I'm hopefully going to get hold of a re-re shell and I'd like the same nice paint and lacquer etc. Maybe not quite so nice as the original, if I find the original, as in that case the re-re would be the runner shell.

Trouble is, I have all the painting skills of somebody who has no painting skills. I can manage to throw some paint at the inside of a lexan shell where the shell kind of hides the imperfections a bit. But I'd really like the BF shell(s) to be done properly.

I'm going to be getting my little boy a Lunchbox soon, and will be having a go at that one myself, but as I said I want the BF to look nice.

So, is there anyone, in the UK, who is good at that sort of thing? If so could we talk about the possibility of me getting you to sort the shell(s) out for me? Obviously we can sort out a fee and materials and such.

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I enjoy doing 'em, though I'm not great at it and tend to put a bit too much paint on.  I don't think I'm up to doing someone else's to be honest.

I agree with Shodog, it'll be much more satisfying if you've painted your own.  Take your time, you can correct any mistakes as you go until it's just right.  Proper modelmaking innit.

Having said that, I'd be very keen to find someone else to do all my polycarbonate shells for me.

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I've only painted one so far, but have painted other things in the past. It's easy to get good results, and I am confident that someone with no painting skills can do the same.

I did mine in the back yard on a piece of cardboard. I set the body on top of an old paint can, with the inside of the roof resting on top of the paint can. That way, the entire surface to be painted was not obstructed by anything.

 First, I wiped the body down with some alcohol wipes to remove any fingerprints or oils from the hands touching it, then wiped one last time with a clean dry microfiber cloth. I sprayed it with Etching primer in very light coats.

This is the primer I used:


Hold the can about 12 inches away and lightly dust the primer on. You don't want to completely coat it on the first pass. You want to spray it lightly enough that it won't have complete coverage until the 3rd or 4th pass. Now, let it sit overnight to dry. 

The next day, come back with some really fine sand paper, 2000grit or finer. You're not looking to sand the entire thing, just smooth out any rough spots, and be very careful on any corners or raised edges as the sand paper will take the primer off there very easily. You don't need to apply alot of pressure when sanding. Just lightly rub the sand paper over the primer.

Wipe it down once more with your clean dry cloth.

Repeat the same process with your paint. Hold the can 12 inches away and apply multiple light coats until you reach uniform coverage. Let it sit overnight to dry.

This is the paint I used:


My paint didn't show any imperfections, and I didn't see the need to sand it, so I moved on to the clear coat. Again, the same process with multiple light coats. The only thing I did different here was instead of 3 or 4 very light coats, I did around 8 to 10 for extra gloss, and wait between each coat so the clear gets tacky or near dry to the touch before applying more. Then, I let it sit for a few days to fully dry. 

This is the clear I used:


*When spraying the primer / paint / clear, do not point the can directly at the body and start spraying. Point the can off to the side, away from the body, press the button to start spraying, and once the primer / paint / clear is coming out of the can, then go over the body and pass it up completely. When changing directions (front to rear, rear to front, or side to side), go completely passed the body before you stop to go back the other way.  

*Before spraying anything, shake the can up for a minute. Then, point the can away from your model and spray just a little bit out. You're just priming the tip and making sure that only the shaken mixture is coming out.

*Practice on a cardboard box. Get a feel for how the paint comes out of the can. Too close, and you apply too much paint. Too far away, and no paint is applied. Go to Youtube and search for "How to spray paint". You'll see examples of how to hold the can and how much to apply.

Here's my Lunchbox right after it was fully dry.


Practice on other things first. You'll get a feel for how the paint comes out, and how to hold the can when applying the paint.

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Thanks guys. I'm definitely going to have a go at the Lunchbox as it doesn't matter if that isn't pristine so will be good practice.

Another member has been in touch and offered to help me out with the Blackfoot shell(s) and having seen some of their other projects I'm sure they will do a really good job.

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Painting shells for other people is really a tricky one. I generally don't mind doing it, but I do find it quite stressful, and it is also difficult to agree to a price that makes it worthwhile for the painter.

Doing a one-off job for a friend is a completely different kettle of fish than doing it regularly for paying customers.


For example, how many hours do you think it takes to paint an ABS shell to a high standard? Most people I ask guess about 5-6 hours. And then how much should they charge per hour? How much do you get paid per hour?

The reality is that it takes 5-6 hours if you are doing your own shell and everything goes perfectly first time, which it never does. And even then, it is up to the painter when to call it a day

and perhaps leave a few defects that they know they can live with.

If you're painting a shell for someone you don't know well, then you really do have to strive for perfection. Which means repairing even the smallest defects as and when they happen. This is the bit that takes the

time. At no point can you say "Oh well, that'll do. It's good enough", because you don't really know the standard the customer is expecting. People's ideas about what constitutes a good job vary hugely. So you have

to assume the worst and get everything spot on.


The last time I painted a polycarbonate shell for a paying customer (that M-Truck body I posted in the "what have you done today" thread, took me more than 20 hours. Simply because rapairing tiny bleeds

and blow-throughs took 5 times longer than getting to that stage in the first place. The more colours, the more expense, the more time, and the more opportunity for things to go wrong. And when they do,

the more materials you need to buy to fix them.


I know a Scorcher isn't a Blackfoot, but to give you an idea of what's invovled, they can be compared. Both are 2 colours, and both have a driver that needs painting. So I'll use my box art Scorcher for an example.


Stuff you know you're going to need before you start.

-Tape for curves. At least one roll, say 3mm as one size fits all.

-1 roll narrow masking tape.

-1 roll wide masking tape.

-probably 2 new X-Acto blades.


-Putty like blu-tac for masking parts of the driver.


-Spray cans, 1x Fine surface primer, 2x Pure White, 1x French blue, 2x clear, 1x Flat Clear, 1x Flat Black

-Paint pots, 1x Flat Black, 1x Flat Red, 1x Flat Flesh, 1x Nato Brown, 1x Flat White, 1x Chrome Silver. 1x Clear Orange, 1x Clear Red, 1x Semi Gloss Black


That's a lot of stuff. To buy it all costs a fortune. Of course most people who regularly paint shells will have quite a few of the pot paints already, and not much of each colour will be needed, the spays

will be almost entirely used up on the shell. But every time the painter doesn't have a particular colour, a whole new pot will need to be bought.

So even if just missing a few colours, each one added to the bill makes quite a bit of difference.


Then on to the work. Say a couple of hours scraping off the mould lines and sanding smooth. Flatting down the body, poly-welding various styrene parts together, and making good the seam, and

just generally getting the surface as good as possible ready for paint.

Then waiting for good, low humidity weather, washing and drying the shell, and firing 2 coats of primer. Then, after 24 hours minutely inspecting the shell for imperfections, proceeding to the next stage

or starting again from the beginning, depending on what was found. If starting again, yet more primer might be needed.

Then on to at least 2 coats of the base colour to give a decent thickness, which allows repairs to be made later should they be required. Then another inspection for imperfections with the same

implications as for the primer coat. Again, if anything isn't good enough, more paint is required.


Then on to the masking, which requires an almost sterile level of cleanliness. A small hair or bit of fluff trapped under the tape means a lengthy repair job is imminent. This is probably the most

time-consuming part of the job. Time invested here will pay off later with far fewer rapairs to perform.

After that's done, the 2nd colour goes on, and 24 hours later you get to find out how many imperfections need to be fixed. Hopefully not many, but even one or two can take several

hours to fix as the colour borders need to look perfect.


If that all goes well, then 2 coats of gloss clear can go on and left to harden. Then the clear needs to be polished to a smooth, glossy shine. Then the window frames degreased and painted,

then the stickers applied.


So that's the shell done. Now it's time to get the driver figure started.........................


By this time I'm sure you get the idea, so I wont rattle on any further. Suffice it to say that it can end up costing several times the price of the original kit, and the painter can easily end up getting less

than 50p an hour for the job.


Painting shells just for yourself is a breeze in comparison.


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Painting can be a nightmare but I have learned to enjoy the preparation part and once you have come to terms with the fact that painting a good body is all about patience then it can become quite zen.


The Blackfoot is the perfect shell to start with too as long as you want it black.

Stage 1 - sand out the mould-release seams with any of the following... 3m sanding paper - (I would recommend 800), Tamiya Sanding Sponge - (try 1000 or even 1200) or Squadron Signal Sanding Sticks - (course). The sanding sticks are now my favourite.

Do your sanding by the kitchen sink and frequently rinse the body and the sanding paper / sponge / stick

Stage 2 - 

Sand the whole body with 3m sanding paper - try 1500. Again do it by the sink and don't be afraid to keep it very wet. I soak the sandpaper for 5-10mins before hand so it has no sharp edges and conforms to the body like a cloth.

Step 3 - 

Wash the body with Fairy (other brands are available) and rinse thoroughly. The body should now be completely matt. If there are any un-sanded, shiny smooth bits left, sand again, wash the body again, rinse thoroughly and then ideally dry it with a hair drier. This will stop you getting watermarks.

From now on, every-time you stop, put the body in an airtight box so dust does not settle on it.

Stage 3 - prime it. I would use Mr Surface Black Primer for this body. https://www.scalemodelshop.co.uk/170ml-mr-finishing-surfacer-1500-black-mr-hobby-b-526.html?fee=1&fep=6596&utm_source=google_shopping&utm_medium=shopping&utm_campaign=google_shopping

Spray from about 20-30cm away in as dust-free environment as you can manage. Let it dry in your airtight box. Once dry give it a once over under a strong light. If you can see dust marks, rough bits, dog hairs etc, then simply sand those parts with wet 3m 1500 sanding paper, re-wash, re-rinse, re-dry and re spray. 

Step 4 - paint. I personally prefer the Tamiya TS paints. Firstly shake the can for 2 minutes until you can hear the ball bearing inside rattling with no friction. Then warm the can in hot water for a couple of minutes. 

Now spray as above but go for really light coats. A dusting for a first coat, then store in your airtight box for at least 30 mins, then hit it again. 

Now leave overnight and follow the mid-primer process... identify blemishes and dirt, lightly sand, wash, rinse, dry, respray. 

About 4-6 very light coats should be perfect on top of the black plastic and black primer. 

Leave it to dry for a weak. 

Step 5 - wash the body again. It seems overkill but well worth it. Dry it and then it is time for the 1st level of clear finish. About 2 coats, applied as above will do for now. Sand out dirt, wash, rinse, dry repeat.

Step 6 - decal. Cut the decals as accurately as you can, dip them in a saucer of water with a tiny splash of Fairy liquid, apply and then when you are happy with the position, hit them with the hair drier and you will see them mould to the body and any curves. Store for a couple of days and address any pealing / raising issues now. 

Step 7 - wash the body one more time. Apply 2-4 coats of clear, very lightly applied... VERY lightly! 



Not quick at all but if you want a good finish, remember you do not really need any amazing skills, just a lot of patience.



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Wow just seen the lunchbox and Fruijo's reply all done while I was typing mine. There is a lot of good advice here!

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7 hours ago, njmlondon said:


Not quick at all but if you want a good finish, remember you do not really need any amazing skills, just a lot of patience.



That sums it up very nicely. It isn't really down to skill, just not giving up, and doing whatever it takes to get the result you're after.

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On 2017-6-20 at 11:42 AM, Fuijo said:

and the painter can easily end up getting less

than 50p an hour for the job.

50p an hour???!!!! I DREAM of making 50p an hour on my paid jobs!! 

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1 hour ago, jonboy1 said:

50p an hour???!!!! I DREAM of making 50p an hour on my paid jobs!! 

Aye. Well I can't live int' shoebox int' middle of road for ever lad.

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You've got a complete shoebox??!!!!!! :D

I dream of a shoebox!!! You must be very posh :P


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