Painting Photo Etched Instrument panels

Tools 'n' Tips Article by Robert Kwikkel in 2001

A long time now I've been fiddling about with painting photo etched instrument panels. My first technique was to spray it black and then use the weather-wash way to fill in the gray. But the wash colour always showed the black thru it. Technique two was to spray the gray first, mask everything with Bare Metal Foil, cut out all the instruments and then spray them black. Drawback was, it is very time consuming and the foil glue, that softened the acrylics. I know that a lot of people use the old method of dry brushing,
but I find it messy.

Now my new technique: with the knowledge that acrylic clear varnish is the toughest thing there is, I came to the following way to do my panels.  First I clean it, of course. Acrylics bond to metal like nothing else, so the panel is sprayed Tamiya XF-63, dark gray. Now you can clean your airbrush. 

By the time your done, the gray is dry. Here's the key point. Spray a layer of Tamiya clear X22 Acrylic. Clean airbrush. Varnish is dry. Now it's time to spray the gray.

Use an enamel paint. This is crucial for this technique to work. I used Xtra x131 dark gull gray 16231, with their airbrush thinner, which speeds up the drying time. Let it dry, so that you can touch it without leaving finger prints. Now take a tightly woven cotton cloth, damp it with white spirit and wipe it over the instrument bezels. You remove the grey enamel without harming the acrylic clear. And look at that tight panel, everything that's etched in to it is grey.  I've also tried my index fingertip wetted with white spirit and that works even better.  


Experiment and see what works best for you.
Try it, you won't be disappointed.


Robert Kwikkel

Photos and text by Robert Kwikkel