Masking for Neater Painting
There are no wrong ways to do things in model making, but there are definitely some ways which are better than others for most people most of the time!
If you've been making models for a while but envy the neatness that some can display, then the following tips on masking techniques may be of interest, since untidy painting can be one of the biggest detractors in terms of visual appeal or, to put a positive spin on it, neat painting can greatly improve how the model looks.
I'm going to discuss a few simple things you will likely have anyway, plus some things you may enjoy for the ease they bring.
The first thing I recommend is proper Kubuki tape, and can happily recommend Tamiya masking tape. I've had some disasters with Hobbycraft's own-branded similar looking tape, so personally don't use that any more.
Before going into masking canopies/windows and camouflage demarcations specifically, let's cover a golden rule:
Don't use your model as a cutting mat! Even if you're careful, you'll likely score cut lines into the surface of the model. This applies to camouflage demarcations but especially to transparent parts. An errant knife cut down your windscreen can really spoil the final look.
For masking camouflage and wiggly lines generally, I suggest you try ordinary household Blutac rolled into thin 'sausages'. You can fill in the spaces using paper, tape, clingfilm or more Blutac...
For canopies in particular, there is an easy way to do it involving some money but also a cheaper way to do it including for anything else which needs geometric shapes masked.
First the easy way - a commercial set of pre-cut masks such as the products by Eduard, P-mask, Montex and others:
These come with a set of graphic instructions. It requires nothing more than picking the relevant pieces up with a set of pointy tweezers and applying them neatly to the intended part of the model. Usually these commercial masks include the glazings and often wheel hubs and/or tyres. Pricing in the UK is usually somewhere between £3-6 per set for most kits.
The cheaper way to do it involves cutting your own pieces of masks, and I personally find that easier to do using small pieces to suit one line at a time. I suggest outlining with narrow strips of tape and filling in either with rougher cut pieces of tape or masking fluid, and you'll end up with something looking similar to the jet at the top of this blog. You don't need one, but a hugely popular accessory to make this really easy and consistent is a cutting mat such as those by Infini Model which have spaced grooves to guide an ordinary modelling knife blade.
These strips will give you lovely neat edges to your masking, and marking with a sharp pencil once first placed on the model can help you find what the ends need to look like to avoid using the model as a cutting mat!
As you lay other pieces on top of existing pieces, it becomes safer to trim them off without removing first. If you're absolutely dead-set on cutting against the model, use a fresh blade. This minimises the pressure you need and will help cut the tape without you digging in to the plastic.
Ultimately, practise makes perfect. Have fun, and let me know if any of the above helps you improve your results!