How-To: CP Rail Multimark painting

Often times when modeling Canadian Pacific (as one does), modelers get frustrated applying multimark decals from the CP Rail (1968-1988) scheme to their custom-painted locomotives and freight cars. Certain applications can be hair-pulling or near impossible, like trying to get one to settle into the side grills of a C424, or working them around grab irons or ladders on a boxcar model.

Here’s a quick and easy way to airbrush on your own multimarks using paint masks cut and applied to match the prototype. Once you get a hang of it, you’ll never have to struggle trying to get multimark decals to fit over rough or uneven surfaces again, and you can tailor-size the multimark to the model, rather than going over all your decal sheets to find one just the right size.

That ain’t no decal, that multimark was sprayed on! And while the ladder was installed too…


The Multimark or “Pacman logo” (introduced before Pacman was ever a thing) came into being in the 1968 “CP Rail” rebranding (that has ruffled purists’ feathers for decades) of the Canadian Pacific Railway and its other corporate operations by Lippincott & Margulies of New York. Apparently the triangle and circle represented motion across the globe. It adorned CP’s trains, trucks, ships, planes, and corporate materials until its use was discontinued around 1988.

There are many versions of why it was dropped floating around, but a well-connected source with CP has informed me it was for financial reasons: due to the extra cost of painting the multimark logo on equipment (the same reason the golden beaver crest was dropped in more modern times).

CP applied multimarks to most of its equipment using giant stencils, very similar to what’s going to be described in this very post…


The key to this DIY method is something known as a compass cutter – an adjustable compass tool like one you used in school, but with a cutting blade in one end to cut curves and circles out of paper. This is used in our application to cut half-circles out of painter’s masking tape, creating a painting mask you apply to the model in order to paint on the first part of the multimark (the half-circle part, typically white in most applications). This particular one is made by Olfa and can be found at most craft stores.

The benefits of this method are you can basically custom paint any size of multimark to fit on different pieces of equipment without compromising on close-enough sizes, and painting it on allows you to cover complex or irregular surfaces like vents, grills air intakes, and under things like grabs and ladders with ease.


As you can see in the picture above, there are two main ways of doing this (specifically referring to spraying on the white background):

A) The usual: cutting an outer half-circle mask, applying that to an already painted model, and spraying on the white half-circle. This is the method we’ll be using here.
B) The “reverse mask” method involving spraying the white on the primered body first before the main body colour, then cutting out the inner half circle mask, applying that over the white part where the multimark will go, and spraying over the entire model with the main body colour.

A) usually works fine on most equipment. B) is useful for dark body colours that white may not cover very well (like black), but A) usually works fine provided the white paint being sprayed isn’t too thin and has good coverage.

The second phase of painting the multimark on is masking and spraying the (usually black) triangle inside. This can easily be masked with painter’s tape, but must be measured out to get it dimensionally correct. More on that further below.

It should be noted that there are multiple versions of the multimark, including:

-The “slim” version (thinner circular section) often found on corporate documents, letterheads, publicity brochures, timetables, etc (often part of a large square as the logo)
-the version with the thicker white round area found on much of CP’s actual equipment
-the thin, slated version found on the rear tailwing of CP Air planes
-various others custom tailored to their applications
-Certain caboose/vans, notably the later Angus-built ones, have a “squished” multimark due to fitting between the end of the body and the closest window. The inside of the triangle is 90 degrees, versus the normal 80 degrees on most multimarks (more on measurements later).


1) Study photos of the prototype to get correct sizing and placement. Most of the time, you can use the locations of doors, body panels, grills, etc to help judge sizing and correct placement. This could differ here and there even on similar units, for example, some GP9’s had the multimark going all the way down to the walkway, others the bottom stopped at the bottom of the hood doors.

IMG_2301bes-MultiMarkStudyLook at that specimen! Always study prototype photos because variations did occur. Take note of multimark placement, where and how the edges line up, etc.

1) Measure and cut circle maskings. Measure the diameter of the multimark (top to bottom distance), and set your compass cutter to half that (the radius). Cut a few pieces of tape and place them on your cutting surface, and then use the compass cutter to cut the masks. It’s important to use non-fuzzy tape so you get clean edges when you cut it. Also check that the blade on the compass cutter is sharp, as a dull blade could leave jagged cuts in the masks.


2) Apply masks to model, using prototype photos to judge correct placement. The curved mask only covers part of the area, you’ll need to extend the top and bottom edges of the mask with straight masking tape, as the curved sections began about 1/2 of the way in.


Also, mask off the vertical straight end of the multimark with a piece of tape. If you’re doing a locomotive and need to paint the back white (to apply black stripe decals) you could extend the masking around the rear. You can do the same if you’re painting the back black (for white stripe decals) when the black triangles are sprayed on later.

Also important, cover the rest of the model around the multimark areas with tape to protect the rest of the body from any overspray (I like to use a combination of painter’s tape and paper for this).

3) Before painting, double check that the masking tape is worked into all the edges, door gaps, crevices, etc, and that it hasn’t “come up” or become unstuck (you’ll notice overspray in those areas when you remove the tape)

Check that tape to make sure it’s down snug before painting, and apply more overspray tape to the body! Oh, decals should be applied AFTER painting the multimarks. Somebody wasn’t listening here…

4) Spray on the white. A few coats might be required depending on the thickness of the white paint and the colour you’re spraying on (black might require an extra coat or two for proper coverage, compared to red or yellow. This is why some people prefer to “reverse mask” the entire model for the multimarks (paint the model white in that area first, mask off the rounded area where the multimark will go to protect it, and then spray the whole model the main body colour it will – black, red, yellow, etc)

5) Let dry and repeat if further coats are needed. Remember, always make sure the masking tape hasn’t come up before starting to paint again. Now’s a good time to check grills, gaps, protrusions, etc (e.g. under C424 radiators and around the grills) to make sure all sides and surfaces have been covered, and touch up with your airbrush as needed.

6) Let dry, remove the masking for the round part of the multimark. Admire, touch-up, or otherwise. A light paintbrush dab of body colour can cover up any overspray areas, and the masks can be reapplied if some touch-up around the edges is needed (note, you’ll probably get a light visible paint ridge if you need to move the mask and respray to make the multimark bigger after initially spraying on the white. This is why initial placement is key).



Now it’s time to mask and spray the black triangular part inside the multimark (not always black, sometimes it differed based on the car’s body colour: black cars got a red triangle). It’s done basically the same way, but with straight masking tape and a protractor to measure (no compass cutter required). For the half circle, good quality painter’s tape was used since a wider surface was needed, but for normal straight-line painting like this I like to use Tamiya’s yellow model masking tape.

The trick is to get all the angles lined up. I modified this basic handy-dandy diagram that was posted on another group to show how to apply the masking tape for the triangular section properly by checking with the angles. It’s a basic isosceles triangle with two inside angles the same (top and bottom both 50 degrees) and the outer side point 80 degrees ( on the Angus-built cabeese the top and bottom are 45 degrees, and the side point 90 degrees, since the multimark had to be squished to clear the end window).

 Checking the inside angle, spot-on at 50 degrees. Check them all to be sure.

7) Start by applying one piece of tape starting at a corner of the multimark and over the white portion, and check and adjust with your compass until you have the right correct angle. Then do the same for the other, and check to make sure the inside angle is correct. Sometimes it might need some additional adjustment or a redo if it’s off. When done, verify all angles to be sure.

8) Once everything measures up to your liking, work the tape down around any bumps, crevices, or around things like grab irons (some extra masking may be required to go around or over them). Then mask off the vertical side of the triangle at the end of the body (making sure this tape is also sticking down good, as it can come loose and cause overspray onto the end(s) of the car), and apply the overspray masking to protect the rest of the car.

A note, if you’re doing a locomotive with a black rear to apply white decal stripes to, you can mask around the end of the long hood to spray that at the same time.

IMG_9579s-MMIf your old tape is still sufficiently sticky, it can be reused to prevent overspray. In this case, one of the circular masks was reused. A piece of white paper (on the right) was taped on to prevent overspray on the rest of the body.

9) Spray the black on. Usually black covers quite well, so you probably won’t need too many coats. Again, check around any bumps or gaps to make sure all areas have good coverage (like the ends or insides of the grab irons on a boxcar).


10) Remove masking, touch up any minor areas of overspray. If you’re adding this multimark on a factory-painted car, you may want to apply your favourite clear coat of choice to seal it; if the model is still in progress you can wait until decaling is done.


And now you have a piece of equipment with a properly-sized multimark that you may not have been able to get from anyone’s decal sheet, or one that fits around, over, and in grills very well with no Microsol fussing and touching up.

Some examples of finished models that have had their multimarks sprayed on:

Factory painted equipment in need of multimarks? No problemo, use the same method:
17720s - CP 80967 81214 multimark masking

And finally, a redo of a factory-painted car that had a hack-job paint touch-up after a multimark decal applied didn’t adhere very well. The old multimark decal and touch-up paint were removed with some strong clear tape, the areas masked, and new multimarks sprayed on using the above method:

Happy painting.


About mrdan8530

The power of a thousand monkeys on typewriters is all for naught without the knowledge to pen.
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7 Responses to How-To: CP Rail Multimark painting

  1. Pingback: CP 298008 Double Door 40′ Boxcar | MrDan's Model Musings.

  2. Peter Graham says:

    Thanks very much for this Dan. I’m trying my hand at painting my first multi mark on a Proto 1000 RS-18. Do you have any advice on the stripe decaling? This is my first venture into CP modelling, no pesky stripes on CN! Many thanks, Peter Graham


    • mrdan8530 says:

      On an RS18 it shouldn’t be too hard, but you may have to cut or slit the stripe decal to work it around the numberboards. In a case like that, I usually apply the main stripe decal, then carefully trim it away around the numberboard housings and “continue” the stripes or fix up the area with spare bits of stripe decal as needed. A good amount of Microsol settling solution, bubble-popping and light patting down may be required (large decals have a tendency to show film and bubbles worse than smaller ones, especially on less-than-smooth surfaces).


  3. Pingback: CP Rail F7B 4459 – Highliners B-unit build | MrDan's Model Musings.

  4. Pingback: CP Rail 4203, MLW C424 Build & Paint-up | MrDan's Model Musings.

  5. Pingback: CP Rail Aluminum “Tank” Covered Hopper – Sylvan Scale Models build | MrDan's Model Musings.

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