What is the first thing that catches your eye when you see a fresh R/C build? Chances are it is the body, and most likely the paint job on the body. A cleanly painted body can really make any build stand out from the crowd! Paint schemes don’t have to be overly complicated to be appealing to the eye either. Sometimes less is better, especially is the “scale” R/C world. Most scale builds are created to replicate a vehicle you would see on the streets or off road trails, not a “show” vehicle that is rarely driven on public streets. For this month’s tech article we will cover painting tips for Lexan R/C bodies utilizing standard rattle can spray paint. You don’t need an expensive airbrush set-up to create a clean, eye catching paint job! And if you are new to the R/C hobby chances are you will want to buy upgrades for your R/C rather than drop money on an expensive airbrush set-up and paint. For this tutorial we will use a Jeep Nukizer body from Axial as our canvas. So let’s get started!
The first thing we do is pull the body out of the package and roughly trim it to the body cut lines. This allows us to set the body in place on the vehicle without any interference. Once trimmed out you will be able to check how the wheelbase of the vehicle lines up with the body. Make sure the vehicle is fully loaded with your battery so it is ready to run. You don’t want to spend a ton of time trimming and painting a body only to find out it interferes with your battery when you go to mount it. It is important to plan ahead to see the best overall results. Take your time!
A couple shots showing how the tires fit in the fender wells. We had to shorten the wheelbase a little in the rear to get everything lined up properly.
Once we are happy with where the body sits on the chassis, and the wheelbase lines up properly with the wheel wells, we will use a black Sharpie to mark where the body post holes need to be. This Nukizer body has pre-marked body post holes molded into the body for a stock SCX10 chassis. But, we aren’t using an SCX10 with this body so we had to mark our own. Make sure the body is centered side to side on the chassis, as well as front to back before marking your body post holes. Again, take your time. The devil is in the details!
Since this is a multi-piece body we went ahead and trimmed up the front grill and bumper on the factory cut lines using our curved Lexan scissors. Then used a sharp X-acto knife to clean up the cut lines where needed. Now, we already know that we will be cutting the stock molded bumper off this body. But, we left it on for now and will trim it to fit later. The last thing you want to do is trim too much body away and be left with a big gap between the body and bumpers, so keep that in mind before you turn into Edward Scissorhands.
After we trimmed up the grill, we checked the overall fit with the body. Everything seems to line up great!
Now trim the body to the factory cut lines everywhere, and ream your body post holes. Next mount the body and sort out your intended ride height. Cycle the suspension and check for interference with the body and tires. Then you can adjust the ride height to fit how much you want to cut away on the body. If you are going for the “lifted’ look you shouldn’t have many interference issues. But, if you want that slammed low center of gravity look chances are the fenders on this particular body may have to be trimmed or cut off completely depending on the look you are after. We are trying to replicate the stock 1:1 Nukizer stance, which is low but not slammed.
With our body ride height established, we marked our intended cut line on the back tailgate with our Sharpie and cut the back of the body to fit our rear bumper. This body does include a Lexan rear bumper as well, but with our rear bumper’s higher location we didn’t have a use for it. So, into our spare parts bin it goes!
A few outside shots showing the finish trim and overall ride height.
Next we will cover the body post holes with masking tape and wash the body thoroughly with dish soap and water. Repeat the washing process with the grill as well. This removes any residue that may be left on the body after the molding process. You want your paint to have a clean surface to adhere to for best results. If you skip this step you run the risk of the paint chipping off your body over time. Dry the body off with a soft towel inside and out before moving on to the next step.
Once the body is dry you can apply the window mask. We went ahead and masked the headlights as well, just in case we decide to add lights at a later time.
The Nukizer bodies have a molded soft top to mimic the 1:1 vehicle. We wanted to give this body a retro look, so we decided to paint the soft top white. In order to do this we had to mask off the top with 3M masking tape from the local hardware store. This can be the most tedious part of the painting process. But, if done right, it can make the overall look of the body stand out. Take your time and start applying strips of tape where needed until the whole top is covered.
Start with the soft top lines that meet the body and apply the masking tape filling the gaps as you go. For the hard to reach corners it helps to use a ball point pen, or something similar, to push the tape into sharp corners. Take your time, some spots may require a few tries to get everything lined up properly.
The toughest part to mask on this soft top was the top corners of the windshield. We had to custom cut small strips of masking tape to fit the shape we needed. It took a few tries to get it right, but it will be well worth the time later.
A shot showing the masked off top before we started laying down the paint.
When painting you want to make sure it isn’t too cold in your paint area. Ideally 70+ degrees is best. We also heat our paint cans up under warm water first too. This helps the paint thin out and allows it to spray in a finer mist. Warming up the body with a blow dryer is another good tip. These two steps will help the paint dry a little faster too. Give your masking tape one more check to ensure the edges of the tape haven’t lifted. Now start by applying a really light first coat of paint as evenly as you can. Use a lighted background to check shade and coverage, such as a window or light.
First coat of red applied. Notice how thin we sprayed this first coat. Let the first coat dry for about 30 minutes in a warm area. This will help seal the seams between the paint and paint mask to avoid “paint bleed” during later coats of paint.
Second coat of paint laid down. Slowly getting darker!
Third coat applied and the tone of the color is starting to even out.
Check the body against a light source from numerous angles to make sure every area is properly covered. We ended up doing a final fourth coat just to cover any light areas. Better safe than sorry here. A little extra paint is better than not enough.
Once the paint dried overnight, we removed the soft top mask.
Next we sprayed the top white using the same method that we used for the red.
We don’t have any plans for a detailed interior on this build. So, once the white paint dried we removed the window mask and “tinted” the windows with black paint. We actually backed the whole body in black at the same time to darken the red paint a little too. Notice the patches of masking tape on the outside of the body in the last few photos? In order to add some highlights to this body we are going to paint black accents on the exterior. We had some dings in our clear mask on the exterior of the body. So, we covered those with masking tape knowing we had plans to paint on the outside of the body. Any holes in that clear mask will let paint through. We definitely don’t want that!
Creating painted highlights on the outside of the body is fairly easy using the stock clear paint mask. You can use a sharp X-acto knife to cut recessed areas out of the mask to create matte black highlights. Axial supplied stickers for the vents in the grill, but we choose to paint them instead. Use your knife to carefully cut along the body lines of the area you wish to highlight. It takes very little pressure with the blade to cut the mask, so be gentle! Don’t accidentally cut through the body in thinner areas. Remove the mask from the cut areas. Take your time at the cut junctions when removing the clear mask to ensure you don’t peel up an area of the body you plan to stay the original color.
We also wanted to black out the flat area of the truck bed, so we cut that section of mask out too. Last, we cut the recessed areas on the sides of the bed near the top rails.
Start by spraying another thin first coat with whatever highlight color you choose.
By the third coat you should be pretty well covered, depending on color choices. Staying further away with your paint will give you a “matte” looking finish. The closer you get with the paint will yield a more “glossy” look. We went with matte!
Now remove the leftover clear factory mask to reveal your masterpiece! You may have some paint flake off the clear mask during removal and stick to the body, but that can be cleaned up with a wet paper towel
Now it is time to add the desired decals. Use your X-acto blade to assist with the smaller decals when needed. It can make the detail job a lot easier!
For the last step we had to mount the grill to the body. Axial supplies screws and nuts to attach them, but we wanted a cleaner look with our bright red paint. So, we decided to use Shoe Goo to attach the grill to the body. We applied the adhesive to 5 different areas on the grill insert, one spot on each fender and 3 spots across the hood. Once we had the placement right we used modeling clamps to hold everything in place until dry.
The finished product! Clean and simple paint schemes aren’t really that difficult. It just takes a little time, some patients and attention to details. The best advice we can give is start simple, and take your time. Happy painting!