Rookie question for aircraft finishes

Is it better (or more realistic) to finish an aircraft in completely matte finish like this:

Or is a semi gloss/satin finish better?

It’s really a matter of personal preference. I like completely matte

It depends upon the basic paint scheme of the original as well. Late war USN aircraft were finished in Gloss Sea Blue. In Korea and Vietnam, the USN also used gloss paints on their aircraft. So in those cases I like to use semi gloss or satin finish to show that. Satin if the aircraft is particularly well used. But for most WWII, and for current aircraft, Flat or Satin finish in some cases is best. Then of course you have your aircraft demonstration teams, where a high gloss finish is preferable.


@Biggles50 As has already been said, it depends both on subject and personal taste. I for one do generally prefer a “slight sheen”, it makes the model stand out a bit and I find it looks less “flat” (kind of logical but by that I don’t mean flat in the paint-sheen kind of sense :slight_smile: ). On the other hand, I want a P-40 from North Africa to be really dead flat, I don’t think it would look right to me otherwise.



I usually go by the first number of the Federal Standard (FS) paint code.

The first digit of the FS code lets you know the level of sheen for the paint. If the first digit is a 1, it’s a glossy finish, a 2 is satin or semi-gloss, and if it’s a 3 it’s matte.

FS16440 was used on early F-14s and had a glossy finish for example. Later, FS36375 was used and they had a matte finish.

It would certainly be a gloss for a factory-fresh condition, but if it was sitting on deck, in salt and sun, in the Pacific for weeks, wouldn’t that dull it somewhat? It would be like dropping a model tank, without any weathering, into a combat diorama.
:smiley: :canada:

Like everyone here has already indicated, pick the finish, matte, satin, or gloss based on what was used on the actual aircraft. However, I always adjust the finish based on scale. To my eye, smaller scales like 1/72nd and even 1/48th tend to look toy like with a super glossy finish. Therefore, the smaller the scale, the more I matte the finish. As an example, I built a 1/48th F-106, but I muted the glossy finish to between a matte and satin finish, which looks more realistic.