Simulating passenger windows curtains in aircraft models

Curtains are always present in civil aircraft. The big airliners have plastic covers for their windows today, but smaller and vintage aircraft typically had the characteristic accordion-fold, fabric-type curtains pushed to the sides or tied with laces by the crew. In typical airliner modeling scales like 1/144 or 1/200, some manufacturers offer very nice decals to be applied over the model windows, with the curtains and sometimes even the passengers printed on them.

But in larger scales this may not be a very convincing solution. I faced this problem recently while building the AModel D.H. Dove in 1/72 scale. Virtually all photos that I studied of this aircraft showed curtains partially covering the passenger windows. After scratching my head for a while, I came up with a method to simulate the curtains in my model. If not perfect, the method resulted in something convincing enough. It may work for your current project as well. Here is how I did mine.

Start cutting a heavy-duty aluminum foil stripe. I guess you can use the very thin type as well, but I found that the thick type will make more realistically folded curtains. In my case, a 6 mm stripe worked fine:

The stripe was then cut into small rectangles. Their size will depend on the window dimensions, so adapt it to your case:

Now an important step. I would like to see the accordion-fold that I saw in the photos. In order to replicate the effect, I scrubbed each rectangular foil over a corrugated surface. I found a model part in my spares box that worked fine. A sharpened balsa stick helped to emboss the corrugated effect on the foil:

After embossing all the rectangles (plus a few extras), I had to make them look like they had laces holding them. One way that worked for me was to crumple the rectangles by pressing the longer side with tweezers while holding the other sides with your fingertips. It usually worked on the first try, but sometimes it ended in a messy ball of aluminum foil...(Yep, it's a random process - I research structural instabilities at the university). That is why I made a few extras...

The only way to know for sure how convincing these pieces would look was to paint them. I have chosen a light earth color, and a dark brown wash helped to highlight the folds. Now I had everything I needed to finish the fuselage interior, including scratchbuilt seats (not included in the kit):

Each curtain was glued to the sides of the windows. PVA glue was used to allow plenty of time for adjustments, but take care to avoid smearing the clear parts. If it happens, just remove the curtain, clean up the glue and start over - another advantage of using PVA. After waiting a few minutes for the glue to start setting, check your work from outside the fuselage halves to ensure that all curtains are where you wanted them:

At this point, the windows will already look much better. However, if your kit has a cabin interior, now it is a good idea to dry-fit the fuselage halves to check whether the seats are interfering with the curtains or not. Pressing the seats against the curtains is not a good idea, as the paint may come off from the foil, or the curtains may get loose inside. It is better to provide some spacing between the windows and the seats, just like the real thing:

Here is a glimpse of my painted model with masks removed. As I said, it is not perfect, but is convincing enough for modeling purposes, isn't it?

And here is a shot of the finished model allowing you to see through the windows. These little touches add a lot of interest to the model. Civil aircraft is not my main interest, but I think this worked well

I hope you find this article useful for your next project. Let me know what you think.

Rato Marczak 2022