By Terry Miesle - images & text © 2007
These EX-Models from Bandai are little gems. They're every bit as good as the Hasegawa Valkyie fighters, but substantially less complicated. They're smaller, but no less detailed or less well-engineered. Painting sub-assemblies is possible for several parts, which helps with masking. Do be careful, though, if you decide to paint sub-assemblies. The fit tolerances are very tight, and if you apply too much paint, you may have trouble assembling.
Image: Rear view
Image: Starboard side
Image: Right/rear view, high
Image: Left/rear, low
Image: That's a lot of stencils....
The Black Tiger kit is molded in bright yellow, while the Cosmo Zero is in the familiar light gray plastic. The parts are immaculate, with petite detail and no flash. The clear parts are protected by a box-like sprue. This is the first I've ever seen this trick, and I'm quite impressed. Bandai has quite a few tricks up its sleeve which make these delightful little planes. The wings are single pieces, the snap-fit is perfect, and the parts breakdown is very smart. While the kits cost as much as many 1:48 scale single-engine airplane kits, they're extremely well-engineered and a fair value for the cost.
Unless mentioned otherwise, I assembled both models with Tenax cement using a capillary applicator from Touch-and-flow. The kits are essentially snap-fit, and are very well-engineered. You have a few choices, such as whether to assemble gear up or down, open or closed canopy, and with airbrakes closed or deployed. On the Cosmo Zero, you will use a "retracted" ventral stabilizer when displaying a gear-down plane.
I did not assemble this one in the order outlined in the instructions. I painted the exhaust cone separately and attached after the painting was all done. I also painted the ventral stabilizer, the inlet covers, and the little inlet details separately. This was to make the inlet details metallic, and make masking the plane much easier. This presented no difficulty, but the inlet cover parts were a little difficult to fit once painted. Remember this when you paint; don't overpaint, or at least clean off the mounting posts and holes. I depicted mine as gear down, brakes closed and canopy closed. I probably should have chosen to depict the canopy open, more on that later…. Otherwise, no difficulties presented themselves during assembly.
This I built following the instructions with the exception of the ventral stabilizers and engine tip part. Since I planned a different paint scheme, this would help eliminate a fair amount of masking. I depicted this aircraft as gear down, canopy and airbrakes closed. A fair amount of Mr. Surfacer was required around the shoulder gun mounts, wing roots, the nose piece, and the dorsal stabilizer. You will notice where the filler is required when you assemble. Not much was required, but it's a useful step. I did need to sand joints smooth here and there, mostly with the nose piece. All things considered, there is very little sanding or filling required.
After this assembly, I primed the models with Gunze-Sangyo Mr. Surfacer 1000 in the rattle-can to make sure I didn't miss anything, and to cover the Tiger's bright yellow plastic.
Now that the models were primed, I began painting. Described below are paints with Gunze-Sangyo (GS) Acrylic numbers. I also used occasional Tamiya Acrylic colors, Alclad metallics, and some other paints I will specify as required.
I wanted to tie some historical and modern aircraft colors into the fictional models. I decided to paint the Cosmo Zero with Imperial Japanese Navy Gray (GS H61), and the Tiger with FS16440 Gray (GS H315) used on US Navy aircraft like the F-14, A-7, A-4, etc. The red on the Zero's nose is a base color FS11136 (GS H327). The Yellow on the Zero's leading edge trim is Tamiya XF-3 Yellow. White is GS H11 Flat White. Black anti-glare panels are Tire Black (GS H77). I started using Testor's Acryl International orange, but had to switch to a mixture of Tamiya Flat Yellow and Flat Red for reasons I'll describe later. All paints were toned with a fading technique I will describe below.
The Tiger color scheme was inspired by artwork on Yamato Mechanics, a site with a trove of goodies. Unfortunately, the Yamato Mechanics site is frequently down. I saved images to my harddrive some time ago, as I often will with images I find online. I do this as a hedge against the website collapsing, not as any attempt to take something for which I have no copyright.
The first colors I painted were the Alclad metallic lacquers on the engine sections. I painted most areas with their Jet Exhaust color, using two fine coats to avoid pooling, particularly on the Black Tiger, with its deep aft details. The nice thing about these kits is that you can leave these areas partially assembled. This is necessary with the Cosmo Zero, as details are occluded when assembled. I used some Alclad Dark Aluminum to lighten the end of the engine cone on the Zero.
After painting the metallic colors, I used a wash mixture of India Ink (Windsor & Newton) in Future. The dilution rate is about 5 drops per 10ml (1/3 oz) for a light wash and about twice to three times that for a dark wash. This wash is meant to collect in recessed areas, and move toward raised details. It is very sensitive to gravity, so you will need to work on surfaces as close to horizontal as possible. India Ink is pure dye in an aqueous media, so there are no pigment particles to worry about, and the fluid merely tints the color below. The result is a grimy look or an increased contrast, depending on the effect you're after.
I masked the metallic areas with a combination of Silly Putty and Parafilm M. These both have no residue, and are good in irregular areas. I used Tamiya Tape to get a good hard mask line on the Tiger, as the engine section is also painted. The end detail for the Tiger's engine was cemented with CA at this point.
Next, the landing gear and bays were painted Flat White. The gear bays were masked with Silly Putty. Cockpits were then painted Neutral Gray (GS H53) before fuselage painting, and masked with Silly Putty.
Now the base coat could be applied. In both cases I followed my standard fading technique: base coat, then a darker gray along panel lines, recessed areas, wing roots, and anywhere I wanted to depict shadowing. After that darkening, some selected areas were lightened, to give better definition and a greater sense of scale. Typically these are on upper surfaces where you would expect light to be brighter. The third and most important coat is the base color again, carefully toning and blending the darker and lighter areas resulting in a scale weathered look. The idea is to provide an exaggerated but appropriate appearance. You will need to do this with every color to make this look right. You can darken a color with a dark gray like Tire Black, or find another paint which will serve. Remember, you're after the illusion of scale. Breaking up the color with shading makes a subject look bigger and less toy-like than a broad expanse of uniform color. Nothing weathers uniformly, after all.
After the main color was complete, I sealed the models with a very light coat of Future. This protects the layer below, and makes masking easy. On the Tiger, that meant masking the gray areas and painting the rest white. After shading the white areas I applied a bit of Future and masked. Then came the problem. I have noticed a problem over the years with airbrushing gloss acrylic over gloss acrylic. This isn't too bad with Gunze's paint, but very bad with Testors Acryl colors. It's probably something to do with the way the paint cures, I'm not sure - I just know it crackles as it the surface tension pulls the paint away. After sanding the orange away, I added some Gunze Flat Base to the Acryl paint. Not enough, apparently. After sanding the orange away again, I mixed some Tamiya Flat Yellow and Flat Red to get the color I wanted. If Tamiya isn't flat enough, nothing is!
Shading the orange was done with Tire Black. The result was paint a bit thicker than I'd normally like, and a little leakage under masks. Most of this could be buffed away, but some gray and white areas needed to be touched-up. After touch-ups, I sealed the paints with a couple light coats of Future, in preparation for decals.
Similarly, I painted the gray color on the Tiger, then masked everywhere “not gray.” I put a thin layer of flat white then painted the yellow and red. Again the shading technique was used, except on the yellow - which I didn't think needed it. The interior of the wing intakes received a lighter gray color, the same as the base color for the Tiger. I wanted the intakes to be light, as on a “real” jet aircraft.
These little fighters come with a vast array of stencils. Just as on real aircraft, every little access point, grapple points, intakes, warnings, and No Step warnings need decals. The decals are very nice, just thick enough to manipulate easily. I'm highly impressed. Since the Tiger was not to be the Black Tiger, a lot of the white stencils and numbers were useless to me. I relied on a Two Bobs decal set for AV-8B US Marines Harriers. If you build a lot of these 1/72 or 1/100 fighters, pick up 1/72 decal sheets from these premium aftermarket decal manufacturers. You'll get loads of stencils, numbers, pilot names, graphics and “slime lights.”
So, the Cosmo Zero was decaled as per instructions. The Tiger was decaled as close as possible to the instructions but using a fair number of decals from the Harrier sheet. Numbers and slime lights were also from that sheet. The decals were applied with my preferred method - one I don't always use, but I really should. I put a drop of Future on the model where the decal should be applied. The decal is placed on this puddle, and a clean paintbush is used to gently squeegee the fluid away. Remove excess liquid with the brush, blot it away on a clean paper towel. Use a rolling motion with the brush to avoid moving the decal. If you happen to move the decal, get more future on the area, and work the brush beneath it. Fully remove all fluid. Gently apply a small amount of Future over the decal and allow to cure. You can re-apply a small amount over the decal later. This should fully seal the decal. It will conform to gentle curves, and does fine with fine panel lines. If you need to conform the decal over more difficult details, Future will not work as a setting solution.
After decals, I applied the panel washing. I used Payne's Gray Watercolor in water with a little Liquitex Flow-Aid to help flow. This dries quickly, and a nearly-dry cotton swab removes excess. I have found no quicker or more satisfying method. On the dark red, it's dark enough. On the orange, you will want to redden the wash with a bit of red watercolor. I have a set of Van Gogh watercolors, which does not include Payne's Gray, you will want to buy a small tube of this as well. It's designed to mimic a scale black, or the black in clothes and shadows - not a true black, but what you more commonly see.
On other areas like vents, landing gear bays, the cockpit and engine details I use the Ink-in-Future glaze. A dark solution will be good for vents. The idea is to blacken selected areas. After dullcoating, the effect is stunning.
I used PolyScale's Tire Black on the tires. Here, again, you can use your dark Ink glaze to get black color right up to the wheel hubs without trying to paint. Try it on a test subject, you'll like how it flows and snugs right up to that rim. The RCS thruster recesses are painted with a Dark Gray color, and glazed with the ink. After all these glossy painting steps are done, it's time to dull it down.
My dull coat of preference is PolyScale's Clear Flat. In the bottle, it is much too thick. I find I need to thin it by about half with water and the PolyScale thinner. I keep filling an older bottle with the thick new material and dilute it. Mix well, as with any dull coat. When you apply it with an airbrush you need to follow the “Less is More” philosophy. Position the piece where you can see reflectance from a light. Airbrush a light amount until you see the sheen change. DO NOT OVER-APPLY. Pools of most dull coats are bad, and this is no exception. If you need to apply more do it later, after the first coat cures.
Detail painting was pretty standard. The formation and wing lights were painted after dullcoating. A bit of Testor's Model Master Enamel Chrome Silver provided a shiny base, over which Tamiya Clear Red and Green was applied. Atop that, a bit of Future sealed everything and keeps it shiny. The Chrome was also used on landing gear oleos, and occasional details.
I wanted to do something different with the canopies. Modern canopies have monolayer metallics to shield the interior from ultraviolet and other radiation sources. Glass can be polarized, tinted and laminated for various reasons. On a model it can look very cool. The artwork for the Tiger shows very green tinted glass. Of course it's exaggerated, but cool anyway. India Inks in Future can be used to apply a fine tint. I also wanted to add a pearlescent effect. Initially, I wanted to use gold pearl in green ink, but didn't have any gold on-hand. I didn't have anything which would blend well, so I used green pearl. Don't ask me how much I added, but the first try was too light. A couple dips in the ink and pearl mix yielded the tint I wanted.
I masked the canopy with Tamiya tape and airbrushed the frames. It looked terrible. I stripped the canopy, didn't like it again, stripped it again, and finally after three whole green treatments I hand-painted the canopies. What an ordeal. It's still not AS good as it could be, but they're OK.
After all that painting, it was time to put all the parts together. I found a couple issues here. First, the tolerances are so tight the primer and extra paint on the Tiger made fitting the ventral stabilizers tough. They fit, but it was tight. The bits on the Zero were a little easier, but you might want to make sure the holes for the intake cover parts are clean. The bigger problem was with my canopies. I think I had too much Future even though I tried to wick as much away as possible. I think a bit too much accumulated at the critical areas. After Wonderfest, where you could see a visible gap, I stripped the canopies AGAIN! After being more careful, and filling the gaps with white glue, I achieved very good results.
These kits are outstanding. I literally cannot say that emphatically enough. If you think the Hasegawa VF-1 aircraft mode kits are great, and Tamiya's recent aircraft kits are great, these kits will impress you more. I've built my share of easy kits, and more than my share of difficult ones, and I have to say Bandai really impressed me here. The price may seem high at $38, but compared with a newly released aircraft kit from the likes of Tamiya or Fine Molds, the price is perfectly reasonable. Plus, you'll be satisfied with your purchase. You'll be painting in no time.
I made a few mistakes during my painting, but even so, the results are stunning. If someone takes the time and adds a few bits and pieces like antennae, vortex generators, probes and such they'll have a show-stopper. I didn't bother to put pilots in the planes, but I've seen pictures from someone who has, and they seem to fit quite well.
This page copyright © 2007 Starship Modeler. First posted on 9 July 2007.