Once you have designed your model plane following it up with putting all the fabricated/molded pieces together by gluing and fixing to give it a constructed shape, you need to spruce it up to give it an eye catching appearance. The fact, however, is that you need to be careful right from the beginning to if you want the final result to be of high standards. For example, when you start making balsa wood or plywood parts for your plane, all part surfaces need to be sanded flat and smooth. When sanding a built-up or sheet balsa wood component like a tail, it is important to ensure that the same amount of material is removed from each side for a truly flat surface and flush joints.
The trick for achieving this is to use lots of sandpaper of the correct grade. Sanding paper is available in many grades and it is advisable to buy it in boxes to economize. However, this would depend on your requirements. Many people use wet and dry paper, which is not right for wood and is meant only for non-porous materials like metal and paint etc. However, this type of paper available in very fine grit is excellent for sanding blocks of soft balsa or the wing tips of your model plane as it removes very little material and leaves an extremely fine and smooth surface. Before you begin sanding go over the surface of your model and remove any blobs of glue you find. Carefully cut them off with an X-Acto knife. Then, vacuum the structure to remove any loose particles to prevent gouges in the wood as they get trapped between the sanding block and the sanding surface. The sanding block should also be examined before use, to ensure that there is nothing sticking to the bottom that may cause gouges.
You should take on sanding on sunny days, which will let you examine the surface for the sanding perfection. The sanded surface is the base for the quality of appeal your model plane will acquire when you complete applying the final finish. Air brushing is the best way to apply the final finish. Painting requires skill and you should spend some time practicing with cheap paints before attempting to paint your model plane. Painting is time taking and labor intensive. If you want your model to look great, you must be prepared to put in what is required.
The most popular paints that are used these days for model planes include polyurethanes and enamels. These paint types provide better coverage and have less shrinkage to provide an attractive, economical and durable painted surface by application of lesser number of coats. However, the downside is that they take much too long to dry and are not always fuel proof. On the other hand, automotive urethane is of very high quality and also provides excellent coverage, very quick drying time, is fuel proof but is extremely toxic. At the same time it is also very expensive. And if you need a custom color mixed, most companies will mix a minimum of one quart, whereas all you may need may be half a pint. So the result will surely be a lot of wasted paint if you have no other use for it. Finally apply a final coat of clear gloss and fix the decals. Now your model is ready to attract envious stares!