How to Detail Your FT Airplanes like a Pro!

by FliteTest | November 27, 2017 | (12) Posted in How To

You know, something that makes the FT Swappable Series great is that they're super easy to build. Another reason why they're great is because they're wonderfully easy to customize. We've seen some remarkably advanced builds out there in the community where people have put together their own realistic looking aircraft. This has inspired us to share a few tips and tricks to show you that it might be easier than you think to get some fantastic results. 

Make some little details:

Cockpit controls and gauges are very easy to make and add a lot of detail to the cockpit of almost any FT design. All you need are these things: some card, a black ink pen, a few permanent markers (or just some normal felt tip pens) and a pencil. If watching a video is more your thing, check out this build video on how to make cockpit instrument panels. 

It's worth noting that those of you with photoshop skills out there may find it easier or preferable to print off your own control panels from images of real cockpits. If you want to go the more physical route, getting ink on yourself using real pens, read on! First cut a piece of card to the desired shape and size. Often this can follow the shape of a bulkhead or former on the airplane.

Next, use a pencil to mark where the dials, gauges and other controls that you want on your instrument panel. Checking out some pictures of real instrument panels online should help with this!

Next, use a marker to neatly draw around each instrument on the panel. You can choose whatever colour works for you. This panel is supposed to imitate wood, so I used brown. 

Investing in a good collection of pens is useful for detailing your planes.

Following this, fill in the rest of the areas that need to be coloured.  

Now comes the detailing part. Use black pens to fill in the gauges and dials. I like to leave a little white space around the rims to make the gauges stand out. 

Next, glue the finished control panel in your model. Looks great!

Taking cockpit detail to the next level, you can include an FPV setup and fly like you're inside the cockpit. This is a simple pan system with a micro FPV camera and transmitter (like this one in our store). Perched on an FT mighty Mini Scout, this makes for a great light-weight experience. You really feel like you're inside the plane going on an adventure somewhere. 

Here is a more heavy-duty setup including a GoPro. These days, you could use a Runcam, such as our Runcam FPV Split Cube Kit, which is just great for scale FPV. It includes a servo driven system that allows you to look about. Imagine looking down your wings and seeing your engines running. Fantastic stuff!

Moments like this can sometimes feel a little too real.

Being able to record your flights in HD, mitigating the need for a bulky GoPro, the Runcam FPV Split Cube Kit does make all of the difference. 

Wheel details are great additions to add to ready bought or homemade wheels. Simply take a marker and dot some rivets. If you're plane is of the era, you could also colour some WW1 inspired swirls or squares onto a circular piece of card that can be glued to the outside of the wheel. 

Radio wires are gear that a lot of real-life airplanes have. Lucky for us, it's rather simple to recreate them in miniature. However, one thing to consider before jumping in and adding this to your model is that mod this is a little more fragile than some of the other mods in this article. If you're cool with fixing it if you flip the plane upside down occasionally, then this is a great addition you'll love. All you'll need is a scrap piece of foamboard, a craft knife, a pencil, and some wire. 

Take a pencil and mark out the antenna pole shape. 

Cut out the shape using the knife. As a side note, cutting boards are always helpful to have lying around. You can get lots of different sizes. We supply some in our store!

Next, if necessary, colour or paint the antenna pole to match the colour scheme of your plane. 

Use a hot glue gun to stick the pole to the aircraft. 

Take the wire and cut a section to the required length. Straighten it out if necessary. This one had lots of bumps. 

Glue the wire to the pole and tail (or wherever else on your model the radio wire should go).

It looks more like a real Spitfire now!

Painting and colouring:

Painting your plane is (in most cases) a must when it comes to realism. By just adding a splash of colour here or there, a model can look ten times better. 

Painting with rattle cans is one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways for you to add a little 'razzmatazz' to your builds. Instead of leaving your plane the colour of foam board, a great way to add colour is to use stencils.

One step above rattle cans is painting with an airbrush. Unlike rattle cans, you have much finer control over the application of your paint and can also mix your own colours. This allows you to do a lot more, although it does come at an extra cost. 

Weathering brings life to your models. It gives them a backstory and a little more character than planes that look like they've just been rolled from the factory floor. Warbirds often benefit from looking like they've seen a few engagements in the skies, as do many other types of aircraft. 

Some Inspiration 

Now that we've had a look at some ways that you can detail your FT planes, here are a few stand-out examples of the types of planes that inspired this article, and hopefully will inspire you to take your aircraft to the 'next level'. It's hard to believe some of these results came from foam board!

Rasterize's FT Mighty Mini Scout 

This superb-looking Scout was done using printable skin files that could be used to cover the foam board. 

This FT Spitfire, although an older design, just jumps out at you! The RAF (Royal Air Force) camouflage was created using masking tape, first applying the lighter brown colour and then the green on top. Extra details, such as the simple home-printed decals and gun smoke add to the realism. Tally ho! 


Grifflyer's Bell's P-39 is a custom design that really grabs your attention with its green camouflage and Soviet decals. Both the exhaust smoke and good-looking scale spinner complete the model. 

Some of our own models have also sported good-looking colour schemes that you could take inspiration from, such as this FT MiG-3 and FT Pietenpol.

We hope you enjoyed this article and take away some helpful tips from it. If you're looking for somewhere to share your own builds, check out the FT Forums! If you have some tips and tricks of your own, on anything to do with the hobby, why not post an article? It's easy! Just make sure to add lots of content, pictures and quality advice that can help others out there in the community. We're excited to see what you come up with.

Article written by James Whomsley Editor

Instagram @jameswhomsley


gofaster72 on December 12, 2017
It is nice to see some of these planes detailed a bit instead of being all white or brown. Thanks.
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awesomeSHEEps on January 6, 2018
On the Simple scout, how did you add the dummy machine gun?
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How to Detail Your FT Airplanes like a Pro!