Thursday, 12 October 2017

T-55A Medium Tank [WIP - Road Wheels]

There are more ways than one to paint the road wheels of a tank. Among the choices available to scale modellers are to use an air brush/spray can in conjunction with a commercial road wheel template or to hand brush the rubber sections separately from the steel rims. In between are of course many other variations of these two techniques. What I eventually came up with may not be the best method to paint wheels but it's definitely one that works for me. It involves creating disposable paint masks with a circle template plus a combination of hand brush and spray can painting. 

Tamiya T-55A Medium Tank work-in-progress, metal tank wheels with rubber tyres

My initial priority was to find a suitable material for use as a paint mask. Ideally I would've preferred to use masking tape. But the largest one I had was 18 mm in width so short of sticking several together and cutting through a sticky mess I was left searching for an alternative masking material. In the end I settled for some cheap index cards which I cut into a circle and inverted circle (waste not, want not). The former was used to mask the steel rims while the latter masked the rubber section. Adhesive tacks and rolled-up Tamiya masking tape were used to stick the masks onto the wheels.   

Using a circle template to make disposable paint masks for the tank road wheels

First up for spray painting were the rubber sections of the tank road wheels. So the steel rims were masked with the circled cut-outs. In hindsight, I should've spray painted the steel rims first followed by the rubber tyres. This was because the circled mask worked so well that I had an almost flawless results i.e. practically no visible overspray of Rubber Black paint on the steel rims. This was largely due to the slightly larger size of the circle mask versus the inverted circle mask. 

Steel rims of the tank road wheels were the first to be masked out
Tamiya TS-82 Rubber Black was then sprayed on the road wheels
Road wheels with their rubber tyres/liners all painted up
Seeing how well the paint masks worked, I should've painted the steel rims first instead

As you can see below, overspray was a problem when the steel rims were spray painted. Some of the Olive Drab 2 colours had gotten onto the rubber tyres, which was to be expected seeing that the inverted circle never fully covered the rubber section of the wheel. In addition I made a technical error of spray painting the insides of the road wheels (side facing the lower hull). If I had analyzed the whole process better I wouldn't have wasted precious paint (and primer) on the insides as they aren't visible once attached to the lower hull. Something to take note of in future builds.

It was now the rubber tyres' turn to be masked out for spray painting
Tamiya TS-28 Olive Drab 2, the tank's primary hue, was then sprayed on the wheels
This time the masks didn't work as well with paint overspray hitting the rubber tyres

Fixing the overspray on the rubber tyres was easy for two reasons. Firstly, painting black on top of any colour is always going to be easier than vice versa. Secondly, there wasn't much surface area to touch up with paint anyway so it wasn't a wasteful, time consuming process.   

To fix the overspray I used Tamiya's paint bottle version of rubber black i.e. XF-85
A milk-like consistency of Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black was then hand brushed on the tyres

Tedious as the whole process was, it has positives too. There is something to be said for the repetitive nature of painting tank road wheels. It begets an almost similar zen-like state I find myself in when applying layer after thin layer of acrylic paint on miniature figurines. Not quite as calming. But as monotonous tasks go, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It all boils down to one's state of mind when working on parts of a scale model that require repetitive tasks. You can either get hot and bothered or you can enjoy it. Since you're already spending precious little free time on a hobby you love, I say enjoy it. If not why do it, right?


  1. Great idea these masks, though a bit timeconsuming and it takes some skill to get these perfectly round.

    1. Thanks and yep I agree with you. I'm pretty sure those commercial wheel masks coupled with a controlled airbrush application would be far easier and faster :) I certainly have to invest in an airbrush system one of these days.

  2. I'm more than impressed. Wow.

  3. Fantastic sir! Wheels of perfection!

  4. Great work on the wheels !


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