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Words from THE MAN

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I sent an e-mail to Paul Olsen, the guy that painted the Enterprise for the motion picture. I suggested he write an article about how to paint her in 1/350 or write a book or something. His response is below.


Hi Drew....

Thank you for such a lovely email....I'm chuffed! (English, for very pleased at the compliment).

If it's 1/350, I'm assuming it's about 3 feet in length? As I recall, the Big E was supposed to be 1,000 feet, is that right? (it's amazing, but you know that none of us who worked on the film were real Trekkies? Terrible to hear, I know....only Andy Probert who designed the model).

To do a great paint job on the model, it is important to prime the thing first...and that is EXTREMELY time consuming....but if a model builder has the time and really wants to end up with a gem, that's what needs to be done.

As Mark Stetson and his crew did all the priming working just ahead of me, I can't remember every detail of the priming as I was concentrating on what I was doing, but I think I remember most of it. The primer they used was a lacquer-based flat white (automobile primer that was airbrushed on quite thick in several coats, and sanded between each coat with 600 sandpaper....and I think they used it wet, to make it real fine....but I can't be sure about that. I'll ask Mark, he'll certainly know---in fact, I've just emailed him, so hopefully I will hear from him within a few days and I'll let you know about that.

I used four pearlescent colors of paint....they were horrendously expensive back then and made by some small company because the labels were hand-made and I bought them at a commercial automotive paint supply store....in 1978 they were $45 for 8 ounces. The pearl paints are probably a lot more accessible and cheaper now, but I'm not sure about the colors that are available...but I would have thought with all the fancy women's fingernail polishes out there now, you can get just about anything.

The colors I used were: red, gold, blue, and green....so those colors would have that color-cast when they pearlesced...but would also "flip'flop" to the complement of that color when you changed your angle of view...so they were always "moving" as you moved. Incredibly beautiful when the surface is broken up in various combinations and densities of these colors. The paints are completely transparent and just "cast" a color of pearl...so when the ship was finished, it looked like an opal or like it was made with mother-of-pearl. Stunning.

As you know, the ship is broken into etched panels, and then it was up to me to further break those panels down into smaller, "human-sized" panels to give the ship scale. For that I spent a week cutting friskets (stencils) of every size and shape of square and rectangle and curved rectangles for the dish, and lightning-bolt shapes for the wing-struts. I was limited to right-angle shapes because of all the etched panels...but where there weren't any, I was free to use other shapes (as in the struts).

When I would illustrate an album cover, or any commercial job using an airbrush, I would always spend more time cutting friskets than spraying the job...because essentially, your stencils give you all the tools you need to paint, and it's important to get them right and spend time on them. I used 5 and 10 thousandths acetate sheets cut with an X-acto #11 knife. You need to keep the sheets relatively small because they have to bend over compound curves, which flat sheets of plastic don't like doing, of course.

Then I would begin to spray one panel with various shapes, using various colors, and overlay some of the panels so I would get layers of color, and also spray some friskets lightly, and some a bit more heavily for more density of color....but doing this, and going back and forth overlaying various friskets and spraying them, I would end up with infinite colors and densities and shapes. I wish I had kept those friskets! What a wonderful souvenir they would have been! But I used the same ones, cutting new bits I needed from time-to-time, for the whole model.

I used a simple Paasche 1-a airbrush---the Chevy of airbrushes....but it always worked and was robust. Spraying lacquers is terrific because the thinner is also the solvent, so not only would the airbrush be self-cleaning (always a problem with airbrushes---keeping them clean and free from spitting), the paints would dissolve into themselves as they were sprayed, giving the surface a perfect sheen. I should think painting the small model will be more difficult than painting a larger one, for obvious reasons, and I would advise anyone who wants to really do this right, to allow a year just for painting if you can spend a couple of hours a night on it. The end result will be worth it if the model is of good quality and you have spent the time to assemble it, sand it, and prime it so it's PERFECT before you paint.

I was very impressed with the model-makers I worked with....how patient and detailed they were, so when they finished a part of a model it was absolutely flawless from inches away. Total perfection.

The blue parts of the model were already done in a kind of colored plastic insert, and the "engineering" section was done by Ron Gress in model railroad colors that have a weird thinner...I can't remember the name of the paints, but they are the most commonly used ones for model railroaders. The engineering section was in a kind of light sage green FLAT paint.

The underside of the rear of the fusilage (I know it has a name, but I don't know what it is) was sprayed free-form with no friskets, using all the colors and going back and forth along the length of it in "rays" to make it look like energy was flowing from there.

That's really about it, Drew....it was a very simple process, but very detailed and time-consuming....and when the ship was finished, I went back over what looked like weak spots to charge them up a bit.


Thanks again for your kind letters, Drew......and good luck with your model! Just take your time.


All the best,

Paul


If you want to see something you might find funny and interesting, go here: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/ebayISAPI.dl...item=3824106461


Hi Drew....this just in from Mark Stetson in red (in charge of all the miniatures and who worked on the Big E getting it ready for me):


Sorry Paul, I don't remember. I remember I hated that plastic primer, and it was really grainy. It did stick, though. I remember we had to chase it out of the scribe lines between each coat. It had too much filler in it.

Using common sense, I'd say that we both wet-sanded and dry sanded it, starting with 400 and finishing with 600. In some cases, when we got into areas where we knew the camera would get very close, we used that plastic sandpaper that goes down to 1200 grit. We used sanding blocks whenever we could to keep it flat. I still have my nifty little x-acto sanding block set of aluminum extrusions. And, I think, the same rubber automotive block I used during STTMP.



Me again....yeah, I remember the primer was very grainy and thick, but it sanded beautifully as a result, which, of course, is the purpose of primer.


Cheers,

Paul
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Change name of thread?

I just realized this shoud say Refit not Enterprise to avoid confusion with NX-01... but I don't know how to change thread name
 

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To add to the above:

The pearlescent paints used on the model were almost completely clear - with just a hint of color. Very, very thin and transparent - almost a subtle suggestion of color - built up in layers to add density, as what was described above. The average depth was about four layers of paint for density and scale.

For example:

Each curved, rectangular panel on the upper and lower saucer, as defined by the deflector grid (for the main frisket layer, anyway) was divided into a smaller 9x9 grid (9 wide by 9 high) - used to plot the EEE design of the aztec pattern for the base layer. Smaller, more random layers of frisket panels were applied to this to break up and "scale" the pattern down - averaging about four different friskets in total.
 

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Will you guys be using Pearlescent paint?

Will you guys at Polar Lights try the Pearleascent paints on the sample model? I've read about folks painting the Deboor model and I was disappointed to find nothing about this process in any of them. It saddens me that such a beautiful model was built in such small numbers and noone did it real justice! I tried to order one about a month ago and was told they are no longer available. Right around the time that I found out that this Polar Lights model was coming.

I don't know If I'll do it justice... but I, for one, am going to try!
 

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I went to Michael's the other day and picked up some Golden brand Interference paint. They, serendipitously, had gold, red, green and violet in the Interference line; I got the gold, and will have to get the other three. It looks like that stuff, when thinned way down, will give the exact effect he described.

By the way, thanks drew! That's great information to have around!

Edit: I originally said they had red, when it's actually violet.
 

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Trek Ace, thank you for finally mentioning the one thing that's been confusing me during this whole issue: That the pearlescent paints/lacquers used were basically transparent.

I couldn't understand how all the frisketing and airbrushing blue, green, gold and red lacquers could result in a vessel that ended up basically white. So it's the white basecoat or even the white primer that we can see through all the transparent lacquer masks, right? That makes sense.

Now my question is, are these pearlescent paints normally see thru tints or do they have to be thinnned down to virtual transparency by us? In the article cited the painter makes mention of using thinner, but doesn't say how much. It kind of sounds like he was using the lacquers almost as "mist coats".

Thanks.

PS, we're all discussing the pearlescent look of the E refit, but so far nobody's talking about doing this model as the E-A with its "flat" paint job. I wonder why.

D.
 

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because the Pearlescent sounds so Cool!

I'm going to try the Pearlescent look... but I'm not a stickler for accuracy so much as for making a really cool model that satidfies my obsession with this ship. That's just me.
 

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justinleighty said:
I went to Michael's the other day and picked up some Golden brand Interference paint. They, serendipitously, had gold, red, green and blue in the Interference line; I got the gold, and will have to get the other three. It looks like that stuff, when thinned way down, will give the exact effect he described.

By the way, thanks drew! That's great information to have around!
Carol Bauman from ILM mentioned that in her talk at WF, then I asked her more about it later. She said the Interference paint comes as paint but also as raw pigment. ILM gets the pigment, then they mix it into clear glosscote. That allows them to control the strength of the effect, using different ratios of pigment to glosscote.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Any experience with Pearlescent?

I was just thinking... would you paint the base coat, then apply decals, THEN apply the miriad of pearlescent tiles on top of it all? Any words of wisdom from any experienced air brushers?
 

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columbo-like...just one more thing

and would you do a base coat of Pearlescent and then begin to layer on top of it the miriad of pearlescent tiles. Thoughts?
 

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and yet another...

any advice on airbrushes? I had one about 20 years ago, but I haven't done any serious work off the computer in ages... I'm wondering what air brush to get? Thoughts?
 

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Paul didn't happen to mention whether or not he might have some nice color photos of the ship stuck in a desk drawer somewhere waiting to be pulled out and scanned, did he?
 

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drewid142 said:
I was just thinking... would you paint the base coat, then apply decals, THEN apply the miriad of pearlescent tiles on top of it all? Any words of wisdom from any experienced air brushers?
no... pearls first, decals after, as to pearl over a pearl base, no again. (i think subtlty is the key here)

myself im going to see what the auto painters have available readymade. short of that i'll go with the interfrenz pigments in a clear base, probably acrylic laquer.

as to an airbrush. mr. olsen says he used the paasche a, which a lot of illustrators like, but its a pretty alien piece of equipmentin relation to other airbrushes. its configuration's completely different.

as pearlsescent paints have a pretty course pigment, i'll be using my workhorse paasche h, and switching to my f for the finer work. for a newbie, i'd reccomend a single action airbrush till you get the hang of it.
 

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No more Pics from Paul

I asked Paul Olsen if he had any more pics... sad to say no.

They were not allowed to take any and at the time he didn't realize how really really important that ship was going to be to so many people. Now I'm going to leave the guy alone for a while. I don't want to uninvite myself to contact him as I did.

Drew
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
More From Paul Olsen (Part 1)

Hi Drew...I just sent this off to Playing Mantis....you may want to update
anything you have posted.

Cheers,

Paul


Dear Starship modeler,

If you would like your model to look as close to the real thing as possible,
and are willing to put in the time---and it will take a LOT of
time.....possibly two to four years if you work on it 10 or 15 hours a week
(but if you are serious, the end result will be worth it), you'll want to
paint the Big E exactly as I painted her.

The original model was 8 feet long and I would have thought it would take
even more time to paint a smaller one.

First of all, the paints: the primer was a coarse, white, lacquer auto
primer...none of us can remember the name of it, but it was a common primer
we obtained from a local auto paint store meant to go on thick so it could
be sanded, re-sprayed, sanded, re-sprayed, etc, until you achieved a
perfectly flawless, smooth finish.

At any given time, there were two to four modelmakers sanding the plastic
surface and making it perfect, as well as spraying and sanding various
sections of the Big E, working ahead of me; so in terms of man-hours, I
would say AT LEAST twice as many man hours went into the preparation of the
surface than into my finish, which took me six months, working 5 to 7 days a
week, upwards of 16 hours a day! Over the course of six months, I probably
averaged 12 hours per day, 7 days a week. The actual job took 8 months
because someone tripped a circuit and blew half of the electrics, and the
model needed major surgery.

The engineering section was painted by Ron Gress, who used Floquil
paints....a kind of matte, opaque, pale sage green color.

I found the pearlescent lacquer paints at a huge automotive paint store in
Hawthorn, just south of LA, that sold to the trade and custom shops only. I
can't remember the brand of the paints, but they were made by a specialty
outfit who only produced these paints, because the labels were quite
home-made. The paints came in 6 colors, in 8 oz. glass jars, and were $45.00
each in 1978! The paints looked milky in the jars, but were utterly
transparent when sprayed, just giving a pearl-like luster to the
undercoating---just like pearl fingernail polish today. So you can see where
the quality of the preparation of the plastic surfaces and the undercoating
is paramount (yuk-yuk). I bought four colors: red, green, gold, and blue.

Mark Stetson, who was in charge of all the miniatures, and helped prepare
the surface of the Big E, just sent me this: "Paul, I remember I hated that
plastic primer, and it was really grainy. It did stick, though. I remember
we had to chase it out of the scribe lines between each coat. It had too
much filler in it.

"Using common sense, I'd say that we both wet-sanded and dry sanded it,
starting with 400 and finishing with 600. In some cases, when we got into
areas where we knew the camera would get very close, we used that plastic
sandpaper that goes down to 1200 grit. We used sanding blocks whenever we
could to keep it flat. I still have my nifty little x-acto sanding block
set of aluminum extrusions. And, I think, the same rubber automotive block
I used during STTMP."

AIRBRUSH: You HAVE to have a DOUBLE-ACTION, internal-mix airbrush...a
single-action one isn't precise enough...don't even think about it. In case
you are unfamiliar with airbrushes, a double action airbrush has a
top-mounted trigger that when pushed downwards, releases air into the tip,
and when pulled back, retracts the pointed needle from the nozzle and allows
paint to be siphoned through. The airflow creates a suction to draw the
paint from the bowl, cup, or jar. You essentially control the airflow with a
pressure regulator in the air line (usually at the junction where you hook
up your airbrush hose) and can then precisely control the paint flow by
pulling back gradually on the trigger whilst the full airflow you have
determined is correct passes through the brush.

I would highly recommend the Paasche V-1, SIDE FEED airbrush...they are
reasonably-priced, and very good airbrushes. You can drop them, and knock
them about and they will not get harmed. Don't use a gravity-fed airbrush
(with a built-in cup on top)...they are a pain the ass to use for all sorts
of reasons. If you have an Iwata, or more precise airbrush, that's fine, but
what I like about the Paasche is that you can get little color bottles for
it. The beauty of that is if you have four bottles filled with the four
colors, you can switch bottles back and forth endlessly and
effortlessly...and trust me, you will be doing that all through the job.
They slip in and out of the hole on the side where the paint cups go. You
can use paint cups, too, but the paints will tend to evaporate, and you can
spill them out of the cup. The bottles are much better.

You only need the smallest of compressors, any of which will have a
regulator mounted on it. I highly recommend getting a separate
regulator---they aren't expensive---that you can mount within easy reach of
your work area. Also, you MUST wear a carbon filter rubber respirator and
ensure you have adequate air flowing from behind you to carry off any fumes
and overspray. Lacquer fumes are DEADLY. If you have built, or bought a
small spray booth, then you can do without the respirator if you can't smell
any fumes as you spray.

I can't remember the general air pressure I used, but it would have been
between 20 and 35 psi. The higher the air pressure, the smaller the
droplets....up to a point. Then things begin get messy because of the high
rate of flow of air against the model surface.

...continued in Part 2
 

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Part 2 of Paul Olsen Email

...continued from previous (Part 1)

If you are not used to using an airbrush, they can be quite daunting. Just
follow the instructions that come with it, and try it out with some inks on
paper until you get the hang of it. The little tips at the very front
usually need some adjusting in and out to get the correct airflow. Make sure
the tip is kept clear of paint build-up. The beauty of working with lacquers
is that the thinner is also the solvent, so the airbrush is constantly
cleaning itself and will always work smoothly as a result. Also, the pearl
paints will constantly "melt" into themselves, giving you a lovely sheen to
your work....assuming the surface has been prepared perfectly! As you
prepare the surface of the ship, think of what you are doing as applying the
skin to a naked woman, with all her intimate details, and the paintjob as
giving her a see-through outfit to wear over her perfect, bare skin, and you
won't go wrong.

Try to find another piece of smooth plastic that you can prep with the
primer, and practice spraying the pearl colors on that until you are happy
with the results. Remember, you can ALWAYS spray more, but you can't
un-spray...so always lay your colors down sparingly and keep building them
up. Don't try to cover what you are doing in one coat. Easy does it, bit by
bit...that's the secret to using an airbrush for anything.

The colors I used were: red, gold, blue, and green....so those colors would
have that color-cast when they pearlesced...but would also "flip-flop" to
the complement of that color when you changed your angle of view...so they
were always "moving" as you moved. Incredibly beautiful when the surface is
broken up in various combinations and densities of these colors. The paints
are completely transparent and just "cast" a color of pearl...so when the
ship was finished, it looked like an opal or like it was made with
mother-of-pearl. Stunning.

I would assume there are many more pearl paints out there now....and maybe
they all work the same way by pearlescing in the main color, and then when
the angle of reflection (incidence) is changed, they pearlesce towards the
complement (the opposite color on the color wheel) of that color,
"flip-flopping," so-to-speak, though I'm not sure if commercial "flip-flop"
colors are the same thing...best to check.

As you know, the ship is broken into etched panels, and then it was up to me
to further break those panels down into smaller, "human-sized" panels to
give the ship scale. For that I spent a week cutting friskets (stencils) of
every size and shape of square and rectangle, and curved rectangles for the
dish, and lightning-bolt shapes for the engine pylons. I was limited to
right-angle shapes because of all the etched panels...but where there
weren't any, I was free to use other shapes (as in the pylons).

When I would illustrate an album cover, or any commercial job using an
airbrush, I would always spend more time cutting friskets than spraying the
job...because essentially, your stencils give you all the tools you need to
paint, and it's important to get them right and spend time on them. I used 5
and 10 thousandths acetate sheets cut with an X-acto #11 knife. You need to
keep the sheets relatively small because they have to bend over compound
curves, which flat sheets of plastic don't like doing, of course. You could
easily end up with 30 or 40 little sheets of plastic with various sizes of
squares and rectangles cut into them.

Before I started on the model (read all about it on my website,
www.olsenart.com), I tested the colors on scrap bits plastic to get used to
them and how they would lay down.

Then I would begin to spray one panel with various shapes, using various
colors, and overlay some of the panels so I would get layers of color, and
also spray some friskets lightly, and some a bit more heavily for more
density of color....by doing this, and going back and forth overlaying
various friskets and spraying them, I would end up with infinite colors and
densities and shapes. I wish I had kept those friskets! What a wonderful
souvenir they would have been! But I used the same ones, cutting new bits I
needed from time-to-time, for the whole model. I would have to clean off
excess paint from time-to-time with lacquer thinner, laying them down on
paper towels, and they would clean easily. Use cling-film to protect the
bits you've sprayed with pearl.

The reason you don't see the bright pearlescence on the model in the movie
is that the model was so sparkling, that when lit properly, there were too
many light "kicks" off the edges of the model, and a clean matte could not
be made to isolate the model from the studio background so a star
background, or other background could be cleanly dropped in behind the
model. Consequently, the model had to be shot in low light, which
substantially lessened the effect of the sparkling pearl finish.

As to reference photos, you'll have to ask the model company....I don't have
any good close-ups of the Big E. If I knew then what I know now, I would
have tons! The panels on the dish were an Aztec motif....you'll have to try
to find a photo of it, as I don't have any close-ups and I can't remember it
precisely. Each panel had the same Aztec design, but broken up in different
ways with differing patterns and colors.

I was very impressed with the model-makers I worked with....how patient and
detailed they were, so when they finished a part of a model it was
absolutely flawless from inches away. Total perfection.

The blue parts of the model were already done in a kind of colored plastic
insert before I got to the model.

The underside of the rear of the fusilage (I know it has a name, but I don't
know what it is) was sprayed free-form with no friskets, using all the
colors and going back and forth along the length of it in "rays" to make it
look like energy was flowing from there.

When you are figuring out how to break up any area of the ship into panels,
let the shapes you are working with guide you, and always think of jet
aircraft. Imagine laying the metal skin on a 747 and how that would
look...and when you get to complex shapes on the stern of the model, around
the front, or on the engine nacelles, think of the jet engines and the
pylons that hold them. Go out to an airport and have a look at jet planes to
see how those complex shapes are covered with metal skin. That's what I
did....I drove out to LAX and took tons of photos of aircraft to understand
what was going on. That will be a little tougher to do these days, but you
can take pictures from an airport lounge. I highly recommend you do this, if
you can. It will give you a good visual foundation on which to build as you
bring your beauty to life.

What I loved about the way the artists up at ILM broke up the skin of the
ship on the second movie was that they worked with smooth surfaces, which
gave them carte blanche to use more "alien" breakup techniques...a more
advanced form of construction....but this model forces you into more
familiar kinds of shapes, which is why I used the pearl paints to give it
that "advanced" civilization, techy look. If it was going to look like
"familiar" construction, so the mind would see it as a spacecraft
(understand the panel breakup), I wanted to give it something extra that
would make it "advanced."

Good luck! Just remember to take things slowly and bit-by-bit, and you won't
go wrong. You can always go back and build up areas you think need
it....just keep laying on the colors until you are happy with the result!
You are the artist on this one....you can make it what you want!

Paul Olsen
 

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I just wanted to add to what Mr. Olsen said about looking at aircraft panels and how they appear on different aircraft...he's correct about the possiblilty of taking photos being more difficult with terrorist threats today, but fortunately there is a wonderful resource on the net that some of you may already know about, a really cool site called Airliners.net...there are tons and tons and tons of beautiful airplane photos up there to look at, so check it out if you don't want to make a trip to the local airport and perhaps risk getting questioned or worse by the authorities. Here's the link:

www.airliners.net

Hope this helps.
 
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