Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Star Wars TIE Fighter [WIP - Pilot and Cockpit]

In what is a first for me, my painting skills (or lack thereof) was largely irrelevant when working on the Bandai 1/72 scale TIE fighter pilot. Minimal colours were applied on the pilot. It comprised just a few dabs of white, grey, blue and red in addition to painting matt black on the uniform while leaving his (or her) helmet, life support pack and gas transfer hose in gloss black. In the final scheme of things, the only thing that truly mattered was the two extremely tiny decals on the pilot's helmet.    

Enlist Today! The Imperial Navy Needs Your Help (to rid the galaxy of Rebel Scum)

To appreciate just how detailed the decals were, you had to view it under the magnification of a DSLR camera's dedicated macro lens. Only then could you make out the intricate Empire logo design that wasn't visible to the naked eye. Looking at the water decals as they are, without help from any form of magnification, is to see only a decal of a white blob with barely a hint of a design. But that's just me, an old guy whose 20/20 vision had long deserted him more than three decades ago.

[Before decals and paint] Both pilot options at 1/72 scale for the Bandai TIE Fighter 
Eventually only Mr.Mark Softer, a sharp hobby knife and a toothpick were needed for proper decal application

Plainly obvious from the immediate photo below, the helmet decal is small. So small in fact it's barely bigger than the tip of a hobby knife. Applying such tiny decals require patience. But that alone wasn't enough. I found out the hard way that two other items were needed: a decal softening solution (e.g. Mr.Mark Softer) and a toothpick. The former made the decal pliable enough to adhere to the plastic surface while the latter was the smallest tool I could find to manipulate the decal without getting it stuck to the said tool. Add a healthy dose of patience and ... wa-lah ... mission accomplished.  

No.33 decals are the Imperial symbols on the pilot's helmet; pictured next to a hobby knife blade
Bandai 1/72 scale TIE Fighter pilot, standing version
Bandai 1/72 scale TIE Fighter pilot, seated version

Decals also played a prominent role in the TIE Fighter's cockpit interior. While not as small as the helmet decals, the red-on-black-instrument-panel decals weren't that much bigger. Moreover, the uneven concave surface of the interior complicated what would've been a straightforward task. 

Initial steps in the assembly of the Bandai TIE fighter
This angle gives a clear view of the TIE fighter pilot's helmet decal
Eleven instrument panel decals were applied to the back, and another four in front (not shown here)
Once fully assembled, the cockpit interior will darken considerably thus reducing visibility
Red LED lights shining from the bottom would've been the perfect final touch ... if only

One thing I took out of this hobby session was the amount of practice I got in water decal application. I no longer hold any fear of using/applying water decals, at least Bandai ones. It's actually quite fun to be honest and a job well done gives almost as much satisfaction getting a paint job done right. Soon, I'll be starting work on the TIE Fighter's central hull. This one is going to be the Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi version which means a blue gray colour scheme. Updates soon ... I hope.



  1. Very impressive, I think I would have had tantrum with those decals though - so small!

    1. Occasional I still do ... have tantrums with those tiny decals that is. With such a small size, a mistake is just a hand twitch away :)

  2. I think I would have just plotted on some white and said "good enough" haha

    1. LoL :) I was tempted to do just that but in the end I couldn't resist putting that wonderfully detailed decal on the pilot's helmet.

  3. Woooow, just magic, you do just magic!


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