Natural metal finish weathering

I have an Electric lightning in shiny polished aluminium that needs some panel lining. I wonder which color I should use for those panel lines. I am affraid that just black would give too much contrast but a lighter gray may be too little.

Anyone with experience?

I use Payne’s Grey for panel lines & washes for colors /finishes that have lighter tones .

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I’ve hung around a lot of real-life natural metal airplanes, some of them are show planes that have been highly polished. Kind of depends what the aircraft is and the method of construction but as you’re doing us English Electric Lightning fighter, I doubt you’re having to deal with lap joints. With jets, even well polished maintained one’s, I’m not sure that there are a lot of panel lines to be seen, unless of course you’re dealing with Soviet things that were basically assembled with boilerplate. Panel lines on most Jets, especially supersonic jets, are almost non-existent from a normal viewing angle. However, access panels do leave some noticeable gaps, sometimes visible even from quite a ways off. However, even those stay fairly clean. You get back towards the engine area or where they work on hydraulics, you’ll start getting residue, very very fine layers of grease and oil, which then collects soot from the engines. I think paynes-grey is a great idea, although you get farther back to some of the aft areas and also the underside of the airplane, you can get away with actually using black, or a very dark brown. However, dilute it, or else from normal viewing distance, the intense dark of the washer against the shiny natural metal will play a trick with the eye and make it look more like a pencil drawing in a 3D model.

To ad to Fred’s sound advice -
If you want to darken the Payne’s Grey try using Burnt Umber rather than black - gives a warmer, softer tone that doesn’t jump out at you.
I only do panel line accents if the lines are very fine because as Fred noted , in real life they are not very prominent. All subjective of course .

Thanks to all of you for the very useful input.

I have always been scared of weathering and panel lining because too my eye it often looks exagerated. If you look at some models it looks as if the aircraft are bolted together using large M24 bolts.

So, I will use a little Payne’s Grey to put some accents but nothing more.

FWIW, here is a polished airshow F-100F. I got up close and personal and it may answer your questions. What fascinates me is how the mirror shine changes to almost a matt appearance depending on the airframe oriented towards the sun.

F-100F Walkaround