Reviewed: Jan 2017
JM Villalba is a Spanish master modeler with whom anyone who has a Facebook account will be familiar with (you will have seen his work even if you don't recognise the name). JM is one of those guys who very generously shares his techniques via mini tutorials, inspirational photos and more recently commercial DVD videos. Needless to say, being an aircraft modeler I am a big fan of JM Villalba's work.
JM's first foray into commercial video tutorials was aimed at the hugely popular Luftwaffe market. His first DVD was simply entitled RLM and TMN previously reviewed it back in April 2016 here. To compliment that excellent publication, JM has now followed up with a new DVD which deals with Allied fighters (actually a 1/48 P-51D). TMN previously did a pre-review (is that even a word?) of the new video, which is simply entitled USF - Detailing, Painting and Weathering United States WWII Fighters.
Running for a total of 85 minutes, the DVD is broken into 8 chapters, covering the detailing work prior to painting, the interior detail painting, exterior painting and finally decals and weathering. Unlike other videos you may see on YouTube, there is cleverly no verbal audio on the DVD with all of JM's thoughts and comments provided as selectable DVD subtitles, in any one of six languages. A video sample of what you can expect from the DVD has been posted by JMV on YouTube for you to 'try before you buy'.
Lets now dig a little deeper now into each chapter of the DVD and share with you some of the content and tips n tricks that JMV demonstrates for us.
The first thing you will notice is that JMV hardly ever uses commercial after-market sets in the making of his models. It's pretty much all old-school plasticard and copper wire. His preferred scale is clearly 1:48 and 1:72 which makes the level of detail he achieves even more impressive in my book.
Details about what tools and materials are being used are provided on-screen at each step, curiously right about the time you find yourself thinking "I wonder what size he used for that" !!
As you can see from these screen grabs, the video is sharp and professionally lit. Time and effort has been put into production of this DVD which makes it enjoyable to watch. No annoying camera auto focusing or unintelligble mumbling to be found here folks, the video quality here is gold standard.
Once the detailing construction work is complete its time to get to the business end of this DVD, the Painting. I personally learnt many useful airbrushing tips from both the RLM and now USF DVD's, everything from how to mix and thin the paint to correct air pressure and nozzle distance from the surface.
JMV has an obvious preference for working with Tamiya Acrylic paints. I think this is a good thing as during my travels around the world one thing you can reliably count on in most hobby shops is the availability of the Tamiya paint range. Watching tutorials where the modeler uses some obscure or hard to source paint is less than helpful. The obvious downside of using only Tamiya paints is that many of the 'standard' colours used by military aircraft are not available straight from the bottle. This requires some mixing and blending and first up we see JMV doing just that.
Airbrushing is one of those modeling skills that is best learned from actually doing it and second best way is to watch someone else (who is an expert) doing it. I really like how they have overlayed the suggested air pressure on the screen (top right corner) so you have a better chance of actually duplicating what you see on-screen.
Of course not everything can be done with an airbrush and so its not long before we see JMV reach from his paint brushes. I don't think I have ever seen anyone with such steady hands before, no part is too small or delicate for JMV to hand paint, including the dials on 1/48 instruments or lettering on placards.
One technique I now use regularly is to switch thinner from the standard Tamiya X-20A Acylic thinner to pure Isopropyl Alcohol when you need to thin the Tamiya paints way down, to the point of only being a glaze. This seems to help the paint stay suspended in the air stream and gives you much greater control at low air pressures.
JMV is what I would call a minimalist modeler. What I mean is that he never uses more glue, paint or putty than is needed to get the job done. He uses very small dabs of glue when applying parts and only ever paints the area in question (using masking to keep overspray off other areas of the model). This is never specifically discussed in the DVD but the more you watch his progress the more it becomes apparent. The lesson here is that many of us could be less heavy handed with our modeling.
Two chapters are dedicated to the subject of Cockpit painting. This makes sense as the cockpit is a very interesting and visible part of any aircraft model. Chapter 3 covers some detailing techniques using common materials like copper wire and its also where JMV shows his method for detail painting and shading.
Practical examples of using basic copper wire and insulation to make realistic scale cables are covered off. Tips like how to use a naked flame to anneal the copper are also shown.
As the cockpit work progresses we move onto more detail brush painting techniques. As before tools and paints being used are described in the subtitle commentary.
Possibly one of the things that impressed me the most was JMV's ability to hand paint just about anything. Have you ever tried to hand paint the dial interiors of a 1:48 scale instrument panel? I have and mine did not end up looking anything like this one :)
By the end of this section, the cockpit has been completed and ready for final assembly. Note that this DVD does not cover any basic model assembly techniques such as gluing, sanding or cleanup. It's assumed that the viewer has mastered those steps elsewhere and is now looking to step up the detailing of their model projects. One last comment about this photo, notice how the interior green paint is only present in the area that it is needed, no messy overspray, it has all been carefully masked off prior to painting. This is the JMV way, almost surgical in execution.
The cockpit floor now has the seat attached to it. JMV used lead foil for the belts with PE buckles then hand painted. The plywood floor panels are achieved using woodgrain decals.
Moving along now to chapter 4 and all the main airframe prep prior to painting is covered off.
The main focus in this section is applying rivet detail to the model surface. Because JMV chose to use the Tamiya P-51D as the base kit for his build he needed to add the missing detail. Other P-51 kits in 1:48 have much of this surface detail included. Regardless of which P-51 kit you use, the riveting and washing techniques shown here will one day be useful for your modeling projects.
JMV shares with us an alternative method for applying panel washes to the rivet details. He applies his wash before painting, essentially making it a form of pre-shading. This is an idea which I had not tried before as I always apply my panel washes after painting (and decaling) normally. I'll be tempted to give this a go on some future build.
Once more sticking with Tamiya paints, JMV shares his formulae for mixing standard FS colors. These ratios will be worth noting somewhere for future reference I'm sure.
As we get closer to putting paint on the model, JMV discusses the use of various thinners. The use of Tamiya X-20 Enamel Thinners as a safe way to apply washes over their acrylic paints is a helpful tip to remember.
As you watch this video and see the results that JMV gets with an airbrush you assume he must use a top of the range Iwata or similar to achieve such precision. Turns out nothing could be further from the truth. JMV uses a basic Badger 150 with a medium tip. This really highlighted to me that it's often not the tool that holds us back but our skill to use the tool.
Moving onto Chapter 5 and it's finally time to get some paint in that airbrush. JMV covers off masking and painting in this section of the DVD.
First step is to apply the characteristic 'invasion stripes' to the lower fuselage. Look closely at the rivet detail on the model and you can see that pre-wash he applied in the previous chapter. I was also a bit surprised he chose to leave the windshield off during painting. Something else for me to try.
Wherever possible (practical), JMV seems to like to paint on markings rather than use decals. Here we see the decal sheet being used for dimensions which are then transfered to the model surface. The use of masks is becoming quite popular these days with several companies now making full sheets of aircraft markings in mask form as an alternative to water slide decaling.
The nose band on the P-51 is a red and yellow check which is painted in two passes. As I mentioned before notice how carefully the red first coat has been masked rather than just sprayed loosely like most of us would do. JMV is very precise in his modeling with little or no mess to clean up as he goes.
Unfortunately static pictures like we have shown in this review don't do proper justice to the usefulness of actual video. Something as mundane as painting olve drab on a model like this becomes quite interesting when you watch the video. You can see how he moves the airbrush across the model's surface, how close he holds the tip to the model and at what angle. The point being that even watching paint dry can be interesting :)
With the base paint colours applied it's time for Chapter 6 and some weathering. Most of the weathering shared in the video is done with the airbrush (fading etc) as well some spot dirt application with a brush. JMV does not got to town with the weathering on this model, which for the subject matter is probably quite realistic.
Weathering JMV style begins with the selective masking each each panel. Overspray is your enemy in such situations and its worth the effort to apply enough tape to prevent this.
>Notice in the top left corner of the screen the indicator of how close to the surface you need to get when spraying such a fine pattern. Remember that JMV normally sprays at a fairly low pressure (15 psi) which allows him far greater control. These are all valuable learnings to be picked up as you watch the video.
Weathering techniques using washes are also demonstrated, in this case to reduce the contrast of the chipping effect on the ammunition bay access doors.
Oil streakinga and paint fading variations are further discussed and demonstrated for the lighter underside surface.
Decaling is the the final stage covered in Chapter 7. JMV steps us through preparing the decals (ie removing any and all clear carrier film) then applying them to the model surface and finally blending them into the model so they appear like the real thing (ie painted on)
First up is a demo of a homemade tool to help applying the decals to the model surface. I took particular note in this section as I normally just use tweezers for this.
The acetate decal applicator tool seems to do a great job as shown here. Another thing I found interesting is that JMV never applies any gloss clear coat under his decals. He does make mention of a product called Marabu Satin clear which he uses as a base for decaling. I'll have to try and track some down for testing.
Once the decals are dry, some final surface weathering is apply roughly with a brush. This photo shows to pretty good effect the subtle, but still noticeable, weathering on the airframe.
Not the first thing you notice when looking at this picture and he never discusses it but look at the protective holder that JMV is using to grasp the wingtip while he works on the decal.
To finish off he once again blows us away with his skill by freehand painting some panel lines over the decal surface !!
With the demonstrations complete all that remains is to see some gallery shots of the finished model in Chapter 8.
I think it's pretty obvious from my comments along the way that I really like this video and believe that it contains something valuable for modelers of all skill levels. Like the RLM video before it, this new USF video series is filled with precision modeling techniques with clear and logical demonstrations. The production quality of the DVD mastering and packaging is very professional and for 16 euros with free shipping worldwide I certainly have no hesitation in highly recommending this for all modelers (even ones who don't build aircraft, you know who you are ...)