How to Cover a Balsa Airplane With Tissue Paper

On model airplanes and other crafts, tissue paper can easily tear or crease if applied in the wrong way.
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Once you have built a balsa wood airplane, you will need to cover its frame to make it flight worthy. Numerous materials and techniques are available for this procedure, ranging from methods as complicated as the home production of elaborate chemical-based skins to simple processes involving tissue paper and white school glue. In fact, the tissue paper method may be the most versatile and least expensive of them all.

Determine the color of tissue paper that you will use. If you are working with a kit, you will find that most of them come with tissue paper in a pre-determined color. However, if you choose to build a balsa airplane from scratch or from plans, then you’ll need to make these decisions on your own.

Trim each piece of tissue paper down to the rough dimensions of the piece to be covered. Trimming the tissue paper down to the smallest possible size before gluing it to the frame will ensure as little waste as possible, while cutting back on labor at the same time--the less tissue paper you have to deal with, the less work you have in the end.

Dampen the tissue paper. Either spray the tissue paper with a spray bottle or dampen it between two wet towels. Either way, the objective is to keep the paper moist until needed.

Glue the dampened tissue paper to the balsa frame. Apply dots of glue over all the frame's parts that will be coming into contact with the tissue paper. Once you have done this, you should spread the glue clumps out until these areas are evenly coated. Spread the tissue paper over the frame as tightly as possible. If the paper tears the least bit, discard it and start that section all over.

Trim the excess tissue paper. Once the glue and tissue paper have dried completely, use a hobby knife to trim the excess tissue paper as closely and accurately as possible. This step will be especially important if you plan to fly your balsa wood airplane when it is complete.

Things You'll Need

  • Tissue paper
  • Glue
  • Hobby knife
  • Scissors
  • Spray bottle or damp towels


  • While it may be tempting to forgo the dampening of the tissue paper, it is an important part of the covering process. The moist tissue paper will shrink significantly once it has dried, allowing for the amount of airflow necessary for flight.

    In covering with tissue paper, use any type of glue you would like. However, simple white school glue seems to work best.


  • Hobby knives, razor blades and scissors can all be sharp and have the potential to cause serious bodily injury.