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Two-tone paint job

Q: I'm going to try something I've never done before: a two-tone paint job. When is the best time to remove the masking tape after I've sprayed the second color? I'd hate to mess up my first attempt.

- Steve Aylwood
via E-mail

Ken: Steve, we at the T&T Workshop commend you for broadening your modeling horizons. Experimenting with new techniques makes the building process much more rewarding, and helps to keep us from falling into a modeling rut. With your positive attitude, you're bound to come up with a great paint job.

Masking tape should be removed as soon as possible after the color goes on. Give the paint a chance to set up, but it should be slightly tacky when you're ready to pull off the masking material.

Because this is your first try, let's go one step farther and examine some of the other aspects that should be considered before attempting a two-tone paint job:

Make sure the first coat is dry; otherwise, the masking material may pull some of the first coat off the body. If possible, use narrow automotive-quality plastic masking tape, available at most auto-supply houses. Automotive tape is made specifically for this purpose and will pull off much more easily than paper tape.

Paper tape is made to attach things, and right off the roll, it's too sticky for what you want to do here. It's also thicker than plastic tape, so you might get a thicker layer of paint at the seam.

If you must use paper tape, stick it to a piece of glass first to remove some of the adhesive before using it on your model. When the tape is in place, burnish the edge with a toothpick or similar tool to prevent the second color from running up under the tape edge. This phenomenon is called underspray, and it could spoil your day.

You may also wish to use foil as a masking material, and skip the tape altogether. Bare-Metal foil sticks well, is easy to cut, and creates a nice, crisp edge. It's more expensive than tape, but the results may be worth it if you're planning to create a complicated pattern.

You may also want to try respraying the first color across the edge of the masking material to seal the edge before adding the second color. This way, if you do experience any underspray, it will be the same color that's under the tape.

Now you're ready to spray on the second color.

Assuming you've done all this correctly, you're now ready to remove the tape. Pull the tape back over itself at a severe angle - where the tape being removed is almost touching the body. Pull the tape away from the paint seam as illustrated.

The reason you're removing the tape while the paint is still tacky is that this procedure actually tears the paint at the seam. The softer the paint, the easier it will be to tear. Hard, dry paint won't tear as easily and will leave a jagged edge.

Before removing masking material, some modelers run a fresh, new hobby blade along the tape edge to literally cut the paint before the tape is peeled back. This requires a steady hand with a light touch, and is not for the faint of heart - one slip and you can cut across the first coat of paint. Practice on another body before tackling this technique.

When the tape is off, clean up the edge with some fine polishing paper, throw on a coat of clear gloss to level out the two-tone seam, and you're ready for the next contest.

Thanks for the great question, Steve. Let us know how it turns out.


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