(Continued from Part 1 on prepping your helmet and removing the helmet visor area)
Painting Your Helmet
Mandalorian helmets are painted in various stages. Usually, they include a primer coat, metallic base coat, and it’s common to have a 3 color paint palette. For a chrome-like metallic helmet, do a primer coat, a glossy black base coat, and Alclad airbrush paint. A graphite rub over gloss paint can also be used for a metallic-looking helmet. Stenciling can also be added on if desired, and the paint job is finished off with weathering. A top coat sealer is optional. Beware that top clear coats usually dull metallic finishes. Most people don’t do a final clear coat. But some people do choose to use an automotive 2-part clear coat like Spray Max 2K clearcoat. Chrome-like finishes are challenging to do so you may want to consider just buying a Hasbro Mandalorian helmet instead.
Before you start painting wipe off any dust on your helmet, tack cloths are handy for this. Be careful handling your helmet since its structural integrity is reduced without the visor, and it’s easy for it to roll off a table. Try to support your helmet on a stand. A paper towel holder or wooden stand is handy.
Decide if you want to paint the interior of the helmet. If the helmet will be worn, darkening the interior helps reduce the potential of your face being visible through the t-visor face shield. If it’s just for display on a shelf, you can skip painting the interior.
If you’re not sure what color combinations you want on your helmet, this MandoCreator tool is handy for trying out different color schemes. It’s a good idea to have a color plan before you start painting.
If you’re not sure what color section to paint first, consider working from light to dark sections. It’s easier for dark colors to cover light than for light colors to cover dark. And if you’re using masking fluid/toothpaste masking, add it after the silver base coat.
Tape off any areas you don’t want paint entering, like the open visor area or the inside bottom edge if it’s already painted black. Scrap paper, plastic bags, kitchen cling wrap, and painters masking tape help protect areas where you don’t want overspray. Paint the helmet earpieces, rangefinder, or other parts separately. When they are dry, attach them to the painted helmet before weathering. For more on weathering your Mandalorian see here.
Wet sanding with 400 – 800 fine-grit sandpaper after paint coats helps to remove overspray and get a smoother finish. When wet sanding your helmet, feel the surface with your fingers for any roughness. Use progressively finer grit if you’d like to get a glass-like surface.
The most important painting tip is probably to do multiple light thin layers to avoid drips. But remember if you do get paint drips, it’s not a big deal, just sand the spot and re-paint it. Also, read your spray can instructions for recoat times and avoid painting in humid weather. For more painting tips read this post on painting Mandalorian armor.
To paint the curved cheek area, you have a few options. You can “tip-toe” your tape, use vinyl flexing tape (or electrical tape), curved tape, or you can make a cheek template. Place wide painter’s tape on the cheek, trace the cheek outline, remove the tape and cut the curve with a razor. Apply your template, cover the other areas, and you’re ready to spray paint. I’ve tried a few options and found that electrical tape cut into slim pieces worked well.
After each paint coat, let the helmet dry/cure for at least 24hrs. This will help prevent the painters’ tape from lifting or peeling off the previous paint layer. Apply tape after the paint has fully dried, but remove the tape while the paint is still wet or tacky. You may want to use Frog Tape for delicate surfaces. Or you can clear coat after painting if you’re really worried about the tape lifting off paint. Personally, I think some paint peeling adds to a natural weathering effect.
Once the helmet is fully dry or cured, you can add stencils if you like. You can easily make your own helmet stencils by tracing an image straight from your computer onto wide painter’s tape. Then carefully cut out your stencil and apply it to your helmet. There is no need to buy expensive stencil templates or helmet decals unless it’s a very detailed design.
Once done painting I suggest you move the helmet to a spot to dry where there is less chance of dust/dirt settling into your fresh paint job. This is why I prefer using spray paints that dry faster, like automotive spray paint Duplicolor. When the helmet is dry attach the earpieces, range finder or antenna, and back key slot vent before the final weathering.
To finish off your helmet, consider adding weathering. A weathered helmet looks “in-universe”, and more authentic. A final paint wash or dry-brush of burnt umber can transform a good-looking helmet into a realistic-looking, great helmet. A dirty graphite rub on top of rub n buff also looks great. Try to keep the weathering consistent with the weathering you use on your body armor. And if you feel your weathering was too much, you can use rubbing alcohol to gently clean it up a bit. You can read about other weathering techniques and tips here.
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