Radio Control Car Action

Drawing the line

Drawing the line

Thiel, Josh

secrets from the paint booth

Everyone knows that you’re supposed to paint between the lines, but the problem is there aren’t any lines on bare Lexan shells; that’s where your creativity comes in. Although painting lines might sound simple to do, you need to know a few tips and techniques to do it properly.

Sharp, clean lines are the hallmark of a well-painted body and can make the difference between a concours dazzler and just another paint job. Quite often, thin borders or pinstripes surround the major shapes of a design to add accent color and depth to a paint job. This month, I’ll give you the skinny on adding fine lines to your next paint job.


I’ll explain the key features of each line-making method for you. I’m working with a body that has been washed and sprayed with three coats of liquid mask. All painting was done with an airbrush and Parma Faskolor paints. You’ll probably notice that I incorporated several different techniques to add lines to the body; combining various methods can be an excellent way to create a desired effect.

Typically, I create all of my pinstripes by cutting the lines freehand into a masked-off body with a no. 11 hobby knife. Don’t worry; if that sounds difficult, you can also use fine-line masking tape, which is marketed specifically for this purpose, and Pactra sells several different widths.


At first, cutting out freehand lines can be somewhat difficult, but it is the simplest method for creating thin lines, and once mastered, it also becomes the most versatile. Their quality is the direct result of how cleanly, evenly and straight you can pull the razor blade.

A well-laid-out design is key to creating well-cut lines Before you begin to paint, draw the design on the outside of the body with a permanent-ink marker; you can clean it off later with isopropyl alcohol, or if the body has an external protective overspray coating, the lines will come off with that. Very clean and evenly drawn lines on the outside will help you easily trace a design when you’re cutting into the inside of the shell. Create a design with fine-line tape, and use it as a guide for drawing it on the shell. Just run your marker along the edge of the tape to guide you.

When you start cutting a design, carefully follow the lines that you have drawn. To paint a section of pinstripes first, you can trace a set line width that has already been drawn or use a previously cut parallel line as a reference. Look carefully for any cuts that you made, and follow them smoothly at the line width that you are trying to achieve, e.g., an 1/8-inch stripe. It is often very difficult to see these lines, so I tend to cut pinstripes against an already painted line to make the line that I’m following easier to identify.

Ultimately, line quality depends on how smoothly you can cut a line. To help cut smooth lines, steady your hand by dragging your finger along a smooth portion of the body as you drag the knife, and whenever possible, pull the knife toward you; don’t push it away.


You can make perfectly straight and even lines by doubling the knife blade. Carefully place two no. 11 hobby blades into a knife handle and position a shim between the blades that spreads the tips into the line width that you’d like to cut. Don’t try to do this with your fingers. Instead, use a small, flat-blade screwdriver to separate the blades. Then tighten down the blades; make sure that the tips are the same length and are parallel to each other. Wrap a piece of tape around the blades to keep the shim in place.

Because the blades are rigidly positioned, this technique is best for straight or gently curving lines. I used this method to cut the many straight parallel lines that I had incorporated into my design. I removed the alternating stripes and sprayed them with a violet fade; then I removed the background layer and sprayed it with a fluorescent pink and purple fade.


Plastic fine-line tape is a sure-fire way to achieve uniform lines, however, it has some limitations in certain applications. The plastic tape that Pactra markets is made from a very thin material that makes it very flexible and good at making tight turns. The narrower the tape you use, the tighter the curve that can be created. Make sure that the tape sticks properly to the compound curves of a body. Also, any time you use tape, you must burnish its edges (by rubbing the edges down with your fingernail or a credit card) to prevent bleeding, and the paint should be applied in light coats.

When you use fine-line tape, paint the background colors first and the stripe last (it is generally best to apply the tape first). If you want a bordering stripe, mask off neighboring sections of color by overlapping additional masking tape on to the tape and paint the surrounding background sections one at a time. Then remove the additional masking tape and paint the stripe. If this isn’t practical, use the tape to just barely overlap a painted edge, paint the next background color, and then remove and paint the stripe. To create a double pinstripe, just apply a line of tape along, but offset it from, a painted edge or another tape edge.

Tape is also excellent for making multiple faded lines similar to those I made using the double-blade technique. First, position the tape in parallel lines (paint the background beforehand). Next, remove the tape and paint in a gentle fade along the leading edges, but leave an unpainted end. To finish the effect, fill in the unpainted area with the original background color.

I hope this helps you to follow the straight and narrow-at least when it comes to painting. Regardless of the methods you use, always choose your design ahead of time and develop a plan to achieve it; you’ll be sure to create a sweet-looking body. Keep the paint flowing!


EXCEL EXECUTIVE Retractable Knife

This knife uses a retractable blade and is ideal for cutting out stickers and masks. The handle of the pen-tike knife is black-anodized aluminum and has a comfortable textured grip section. Replacement blades and a sharpener are also available.

in the zone

Each month, RC Car Action’s super online resource, “Radio Control Zone.” hosts an online painting contest. The winner gets to show off in “Body Shop.” Click over to radocontrol for the submission rules. Maybe we’ll see your work here!


PACTRA INC. distributed by Testor Corp. (815) 962-6654;

PARMA/PSE (440) 237-8650;

TRINITY PRODUCTS INC. (732) 635-1600;

DETAILING DILEMMA? Send your Body Shop questions and comments to Josh Thiel at

Copyright Air Age Publishing Jun 2004

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved