Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Preparing to Paint

June 26, 2016

Day 86.

It’s time to paint the hull.  This is the point where the model starts to look a lot more finished.  The paint will hide all the bits of filler, many of the seams, and will let me start making things look ‘clean’.

A lot of work needs to be done before I even touch a bottle of paint.

Planning the Color Scheme

First, what colors am I even going to use?  Certain elements of the Bluenose are iconic – the black hull with red below the waterline, the yellow strip at the waist – but what about the rest?

I’ve seen models that used different colors for the waterways and rails.  Even though I’m not painting some of those just yet, I want to know my color scheme before I start.

Since the original Bluenose was build in the 1920s, there aren’t any color photos of the ship.  There are a ton of the Bluenose II (a second version of the ship that is still around today), but they took some liberties with the II, so we can’t use that as a reference.

Additionally, the Bluenose was in use for many years, and was probably repainted a few times.  There are a couple different ways I can go, and none would be ‘wrong’.  So it really comes down to what I like.

After looking at countless build logs, I decided on the following:

Specific Paint Colors

With these general colors in mind, I need to pick the exact paints and shades I’ll be using.  White and black are pretty straightforward, although there are differences between the different brands.  The red, yellow, and grey will need more thought.  There are a ton of different shades in each.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been casually browsing and collecting potential  paints for the hull.  I knew I needed a red, yellow, and grey, so I’ve grabbed a few that I thought might work.

How paint ends up looking depends heavily on the wood it is applied to and the method used for application.  Airbrushed paint looks different than brushed paint, and painted basswood looks different than painted walnut as the two woods absorb paint differently.

So, I cut a length of basswood material, and lined off a grid of 1″ squares.  Over several days, I masked off several of these and primered them, then applied the different paints.  I used basswood since that is the material on the hull, and I applied the paint with an airbrush since that’s how I’ll do it on the ship.


I was testing two brands of paint – Model Masters and Humbrol.  I’ve used Model Masters in the past, and I like it because it is widely available and their acrylics are pre-thinned for airbrushing.  But I’ve heard a lot of praise for Humbrol, so I got some and decided to give it a try.

The Humbrol paints are a little harder to work with, since they have to be thinned for use in an airbrush.  I wasn’t able to get a good consistency for the Humbrol black, so I left it off the board and won’t be using it.

Photo Jul 04, 7 04 45 AM

The other side of the board is the Model Masters paints.

Photo Jul 04, 7 04 48 AM

Comparing the two…

Black – I’ll go with Model Masters since the Humbrol was too difficult to thin.

White – I’ll go with Humbrol, because I just liked the finish a little better.

Grey – I tried several greys.  (Worth noting that a few of the grey squares on the board above are not actually painted grey – they just didn’t get paint and are showing the grey primer).  I tried a Light Grey from Humbrol, a Medium Grey from Model Masters, and a light grey from Model Model Masters.  Of these, I preferred the Model Masters.  They were easier to use.  I’ll go with the light grey.

Red – Here’s where it gets a little tricky.  Red is a major color on the hull.  I don’t want something too bright or ‘candy colored’.  The reds I tried are a little darker and less punchy.  I tested Carriage Red from Humbrol and Insignia Red from Model Masters.   I had to stare at these samples many times, but I think I’ve decided to go with Insignia Red from Model Masters.  The Carriage Red is just a little too muted.

Yellow – I don’t like yellow.  It is such a bright color that it just jumps out at you.  So, I want to use a shade of yellow that won’t grab as much attention.  I tested Trainer Yellow from Humbrol and Insignia Yellow from Model Masters.  Of these, I prefer the Trainer Yellow as it is a little less ‘in your face’ than the Insignia Yellow.  I think it will look nice over the black.


A lot of the ship won’t be painted  – it will be stained.  So my test board included a few different stain samples.  Again I did this on basswood, since the color and grain of the wood affects the results.

The deck will be stained, and I’m going to use a slightly darkened ‘natural’ color.  I want it to be a little darker than the natural basswood, but I don’t want a dark walnut or chestnut color.

I think I’m going to use the ‘Natural’ stain.  This adds a slightly darker tint to the wood compared to its actual color.

The roofs of deck buildings will be stained a darker color, perhaps with a reddish tint.  Coamings around the buildings will match the roofs.  I don’t want these to be too dark, but I want a lot of contrast with the deck.  I’m thinking ‘American Oak’.

Masts, blocks, and deadeyes will be stained a medium-dark color, lighter than the deck buildings but darker than the deck.  For these I’m thinking I’ll use a combination of ‘Cherry’ and ‘Golden Oak’.  Cherry will be used for larger pieces (masts, etc.) that I don’t want to get too dark.  For smaller pieces that I want to darken a little further, I’ll use ‘Golden Oak’.

How I’ll Be Painting

I’m really bad at painting.  Its why I never got into plastic modeling.  When I brush paint onto something, it looks really, really bad.

However, I’m not awful with an airbrush.  The airbrush removes ugly ‘strokes’, and gives me a nice, consistent finish.  My plan is to airbrush everything I possibly can.

I also plan to primer everything.  On my last build, I primered some things and not others, and the difference was obvious.

So, the general process will be:

  1. Sand the area to be painted, in increasing grits up to 800 grit.
  2. Mask off everything using tape.
  3. Spray on a coat of primer.
  4. Sand
  5. Apply filler as necessary and sand.
  6. Spray a second coat of primer.
  7. Sand
  8. Repeat with a third coat if necessary.
  9. Paint with a coat of the desired color.
  10. Sand.
  11. Paint with a second coat of color.
  12. Sand with really high grit paper
  13. Paint with a clear coat to seal everything.

The primer coat tends to highlight any defects, which is really helpful.  So after the primer is applied and sanded, I’ll know exactly where the problem areas are.  Those will be filled, probably with Tamiya filler paste, and sanded down.

For priming, I’ll be using Tamiya Liquid Surface Primer, which I’ll thin using lacquer thinner to get the right thickness for use in an airbrush.  (You really, really need to thin that stuff to spray it – I’ve killed an airbrush before because I didn’t thin this stuff out.)

Getting Started – Masking

After giving everything a good sanding, it is time to start masking.  I don’t want to get any paint on the deck, because we’ll be staining that.  The outer hull, waterways and bulwarks will end up being different colors, but they all need primer.  So I’ll start by masking off the deck, and spraying everything with primer.  Once the primer phase is done, I’ll focus on applying colors appropriately.

To mask for painting, I use a combination of Tamiya tape (hard to find, get it at a hobby store or special order) and generic blue painters tape (available at any hardware store).  The Tamiya tape is yellow, and gives very precise edges.  It grips strong, cuts clean, and leaves no residue, but it is a little pricey.  The blue tape doesn’t work as well, but it is really cheap.  I typically use the yellow Tamiya tape for the edges, and fill in big open areas with the blue tape.

Photo Jun 25, 10 03 01 AM

Tamiya tape (yellow) is a specialty tape for modeling.  It works great, but is a little pricy. Blue painters tape is available at any hardware store.

To get started, I put down some strips of yellow tape to mask out just the edges of the deck.  The tape ran right along the edge of the waterway.  I smoothed it down with a burnishing tool (a metal ‘stick’ with a ball at the end) to make sure it was all the way down.

Photo Jun 25, 10 19 45 AM

Tamiya tape is used for the edges, since those are critical.  The tape is pushed down with a burnishing tool.

Once I had all the edges done, I covered the rest of the deck in blue tape.  I used the tape liberally – you can’t have too much.

Photo Jun 25, 10 27 04 AM

Once the edges are masked, the larger open area of the deck is thoroughly covered with blue painters tape.

At this point, the deck is protected.  Everything else will get primer.  But…

The tops of the stanchions and the top edge of the bulwarks (which is really, really thin) don’t actually need paint.  The main rail will cover them.  They could be left exposed, and they could be painted.  However, wood glue doesn’t like to stick to paint (it can’t penetrate the wood if it is sealed).  So if we don’t want to be stuck using CA glue for our main rail, we need to prevent paint from getting on the tops of these things.

For this, we don’t need to be perfect – if some spots get a little paint on them, that’s fine – as long as we have enough exposed wood to glue on the main rail.

I took strips of yellow Tamiya tape and stuck them on top of the stanchions.

Photo Jun 25, 10 45 17 AM

To start masking the tops of stanchions and bulwarks, a strip of yellow Tamiya tape is applied.

Then I used a #11 blade and pushed it up through the tape on the outside of the hull.  I held it against the hull as I ran it down the length of tape.  This removed the excess tape on the outside.

Photo Jun 25, 10 46 07 AM

The outside edge of the tape is cut flush with the hull.

Then I cut the tape narrower on the inside, being sure that I was cutting flush with the inside edge of each stanchion as I went.

Photo Jun 25, 10 48 42 AM

The inside edge of the tape is cut flush with the stanchions.

Finally, I cut out the sections between the stanchions.  This took two steps.  First I sliced through the tape along the sides of each stanchion (leaving the tape connected at the bulwark wall).  Then I went back over each section one at a time. I grabbed the tape between the stanchions with tweezers, then used the #11 blade to slice it along the inside of the bulwark wall.  The excess piece stuck to the tweezers, allowing me to easily remove it.

It was time consuming, but not hard.

When it was finished, I had both the deck and the tops of the stanchions/bulwarks protected with tape.

Photo Jun 25, 11 14 43 AM

Once the sections of tape between stanchions are cut out, everything is masked, and we are ready to paint.

Which means the only thing left to do is start painting…