F-35 Part 7 – Masking for days (weeks)

With paint on I sprayed and lightly sanded a few clear coats in preparation for all of the handling I was going to be doing during the masking process.  It’s worth pointing out that I’m not actually sure what I’m painting here.  From what research I was able to do, it appears to be a radar absorbent paint applied directly to the panel lines. I guess this makes sense, but I’d be happy to be corrected.  These lines areas are raised on the kit, however I wasn’t able to find any evidence that they are raised on the real jet.

Here’s the kit – ready to start:


The kit comes with SOME masks – but not enough to be really useful. The instructions call for the model to be painted in the light grey first, then use the masks to cover up some of the panel lines, use Tamiya tape to cover the rest, then spray the dark grey.  I decided to to the opposite due to the lines being raised, so the masks were useless to me anyway.

The first thing I noticed was that the instructions in some places are very vague on what should be painted and what shouldn’t.  Here’s an example.

This is the gunport.  You can see there is a fairly complex arrangement of raised panel lines here:


The instructions on how to paint this area show a very simple outline that not only isn’t to scale, but isn’t even the same shape!


Compare that to the actual raised areas for masking and it leads to a lot of confusion:

20170716_135834 LINES.jpg

It seems the instructions don’t show the actual panel line itself, which would make things a bit easier.  But when the shapes aren’t even close, I don’t know why they bothered.  This is an issue that seems consistent over the whole model.

Anyway, I started by cutting Tamiya tape into a lot of consistent shapes. I used different sizes of tape and cut different shapes depending on where they needed to go.


Then with a pair of tweezers and a lot of patience, I started the masking. It took about an hour to get to this point and that’s when I realised this was going to be very tedious.


Another hour later and I’ve made another small dent.


It took another 4 hours to get to this point:20170709_214638.JPG

Unfortunately the top appears to be the easiest to mask.  I’m dreading doing the under side, but at the rate I’m going it will probably be a while before I get there! Masking the jagged edge around the nozzle was particularly painful, but I’m hoping it will pay off once finally painted.  It will likely take me a couple more weeks to finish masking, by which point I’ll probably have gone insane.

I also assembled the weapons that would be stored internally.  To be honest, I probably wasted a lot of effort on them since not only are they not visible when the jet is on its landing gear, but even when on its back only the bottom of the weapons will be visible.

First step was photo etch on the JDAM’s:


I used a Hold & Fold to bend the parts then a rolling tool to put a nice bend in them. I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – the photo etch is incredibly thick which actually made it a little harder to work with.

JDAM’s and AMRAAM’s assembled and primed for painting:


I painted the coloured stripes instead of using the decals:


I used some 3mm Tamiya Tape (for curves) to mask off what I wanted to save:


I then painted the main colours of each weapon:


Tape off – happy with the result:


I then mask again for secondary colours.  The JDAM’s were particularly painful to mask:


Another round of colour and the masks removed:


Decals on:


And finally some weathering:


I’ll seal these then maybe add some scuffing but then they’ll be done.

Hopefully my next update will show a fully masked off jet.  It’s hard to stay motivated though when the task is so tedious and boring! I think a better solution for the F-35 would have been no raised panels and just some high quality decals instead.  Or more thorough masks.


7 thoughts on “F-35 Part 7 – Masking for days (weeks)

  1. The incredibly tedious masking job makes me think of that infomercial line: “there has to be a better way!”
    Forgive me if my suggestion is not possible but: maybe you could use tracing paper (I think it’s called that in english, it’s ‘overtrekpapier’ in Dutch if you want to look up what I mean) to draw out the jigsaw lines and cut out the correct lines directly from the masking tape? It would still be a complex job of course but you can always make small corrections as long as you can keep the tape sticky.


  2. Is there any further update on the F-35 please i.e. beyond part 7….. or did all that masking resign it to the “shelf of doom”?
    Having seen this model built (but not painted) at the recent Scale Model World 2017 at Telford (UK) I was quite interested in building it, but having seen the problems that you’ve had to overcome I am definitely having second thoughts, given that my modelling skills are nowhere near yours!


    • Hi!

      I haven’t given up on the kit – almost the entire upper fuselage is now masked. I’ve just had to slow down (and take a lot of breaks) due to work. I’ll be crazy busy until early December where things will get easier and I’ll have more time for it.

      The masking broke my brain for a bit, so I started what I HAD planned to be a 1 weekend build of a Hasegawa 1/48 Harrier. But of course, I start noticing things, and fixing things, and now it sits next to the F-35, painted, but needing attention. I’m looking forward to getting back into the models soon!


      • It may be too late now given that you’ve invested so much time and patience in the masking you’ve done so far, but since my post on 18 November I’ve been digging around the internet and came across this new-ish product from DN Models:


        They are not cheap at 34.99 USD , but then again how much is our time worth!
        They also offer free world-wide postage, which is a bonus. I can see me investing in a set of these masks since I’ve decided I am going to get me one of these kits!


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