Sunday, 12 February 2017

Starting with the Big Cats - Part 2: Weathering and Mud

At the end of the last article we had two tanks that were colour modulated and camouflaged. Now we need to finish painting it and do some weathering on it to create a more realistic finish. First we need to paint the tracks; I used AK Interactive's 'Rusty Tracks' (though any dark reddish brown would do) and then drybrushed this with Gunmetal from Vallejo. I then painted the tools, machine guns and stowage. As this is a very late war force I painted some of the road wheels in red oxide; the colour that German vehicles were primed with before painting. This gives the impression that replacement parts have been used but that these had not been painted due to time or lack of materials. I also added transfers at this stage, this was the end result, as you can see the modulation has been toned down slightly by the camo.

Another good technique used by scale modellers is paint chipping. This simulates the wear and tear on paintwork that daily use of the vehicle would create and is very easy to do using a piece of sponge, for example from a blister pack. Rip off a piece, dip it in some thinned paint and then dab it onto the sections of the tank that would see the most amount of wear, for example the crew hatches and any edges. It's important to build the effect up slowly and stop every so often to assess how it looks. Don't overdo it though as it will begin to look unrealistic. A way of enhancing this is to apply a thin line of the original paint mixed with white to the edge of some of the chips. This can be quite a time consuming process though. After this is done we can then move onto further weathering using oil paints which will involve using white spirit; a paint stripper. In order to prevent all of our previous hard work being undone we need to give the vehicle a coat of varnish. I've found gloss is best as it enables the oil paint to flow better. If you can apply a few coats this will protect the model better; I've found an airbrush again makes this easy to do.

Once the varnish has dried (best to leave it overnight) you can apply the oils. These work well for weathering as once they have dried they can be manipulated to create very realistic effects such as streaked dirt, rust and soot. You can either buy oil paints from an art shop (lamp black and burnt umber are good ones to pick up for general weathering) and thin them with white spirit or companies like AK interactive carry a dedicated range of weathering enamel paints that are the perfect consistency. Apply the brown and black into any crevasses and contours on the tank and then leave it to dry, usually about an hour or so.

Then take a cloth and wipe all over the tank to remove the majority of the oil from the raised sections. If you also take a brush (a drybrush works well) and dip it in a little white spirit you can then drag this down the various panels in order to create the effect of dirt being streaked down them by rain and moisture. Once this is done you can apply another coat of matt varnish which will seal in the oils and stop them being wiped away during handling and stop the tanks looking shiny.

A final effect I wanted to add was some realistic mud on the tracks of the tank. After researching techniques I found one using the airbrush which created a realistic spattering effect. To ease the process I picked up AK interactives 'very muddy' set which includes various mud colours and also plaster and pigment powders that can be mixed in with them to make a thicker paste. However you can easily do the same using some brown paint thinned and mixed with water. Basically load an old brush up with paint and then spray the air from the airbrush over it to spatter the colour onto the tracks and running gear. I think you could also easily do this by flicking the brush to spatter the paint too.

There you have it, a realistic looking tank that looks like it's seemed some action!

Starting with the Big Cats - Part 1: Colour Modulation

The first thing I have painted for this list is my Tiger I (well 3 Tigers and 2 Panthers to be precise...). A few years ago I hated the prospect of painting vehicles and could literally think of nothing I’d want to do less. I think this was largely down to the fact that no matter what techniques I used to paint them they always seemed to come out looking flat and unrealistic. However over the last year I’ve gone through something of a vehicle painting renaissance and would now even go far as to say I actually enjoy working on them.

This started when I needed to paint some vehicles for my Bolt Action army and decided to do some research into the various techniques that I could use to make my models look more realistic. In doing so I began to look into the world of scale modelling and was amazed. Some of the vehicles people were producing looked so realistic that they were indistinguishable from photographs of real tanks and AFVs. My intention in this article is to take you through the various steps I used to paint a Tiger I and Panther from Warlord Games in order to show you some of these techniques and how easy they can be to do.

The first technique we will look at is colour modulation. This is a scale modelling method used for painting vehicles in order to artificially create contrast and shade between sections of the vehicle; making it ‘pop’. It is not necessarily the most realistic method to use for highlighting vehicles as it focuses upon highlighting each panel individually rather than having a single light source. However for models at this scale it can create some really nice effects.

The main tool for doing this is an airbrush which, if you do not already have, I would recommend picking up as it will revolutionise the way you paint models. I’ve been painting for almost twenty years now however after my first time using an airbrush I wondered how I’d managed so long without one! They don’t need to cost a fortune; the one I’ve used for this tutorial set me back about £40 with a compressor and works perfectly well. The one thing I would say is worth picking up is a thinner needle for doing detail work. Mine came with a 0.3mm needle which worked very well for undercoating but when it came to things like camouflage I use a 0.2mm one as it makes a big difference and enables you to produce much more narrow lines. The advantage an airbrush offers is that it creates a very fine spray pattern with a feathered edge which makes it perfect for highlighting or colour modulation as you end up with a gradual shift between colours rather than blocky edges as you would get with a normal brush.

In order to create a modulated effect the idea is to build up highlights slowly as you move up the panel and one way to do this is to start with a base colour and slowly add white to it; slowly increasing the highlights. This works if you are painting a single vehicle but if you are doing several (I did 5 at once!) it can get very boring very quickly. As a result, being lazy, I picked up AK interactive’s ‘Dunkelgelb’ set. This provides you with the various shades you need to build up a nicely modulated base which is pre-thinned for the airbrush and consistently decent. This raises an important point – you can use normal paints through an airbrush but make sure you thin them down beforehand! I usually use water but you can get specialist thinners, the paint needs to be about the consistency of milk before being suitable for spraying. Make sure you do this before adding the paint to the airbrush and not in the paint holder as you will just end up blocking the brush and end up having to clean it. Alternatively just purchase pre-thinned paints, for example from the Vallejo model air range or AK Interactive, which can save a lot of time.

Before beginning to describe the process it’s important to say that I have next to no experience using an airbrush and am an absolute amateur. My first efforts, late last year, were fairly shocking and quite frustrating. All I can say is stick with it and take your time! You’ll get there in the end.

The first step is to prime the models. For this I used Vallejo model air grey primer (val097). This provides a good base layer and covers well.

After doing this we will ‘pre-shade’ the model. This technique consists of spraying a darker shade into the recessed areas of the vehicle which would be in shadow. So for example the joins in panels and areas where light would struggle to reach. The reasoning behind this approach is to add further depth to the model. For this I used AK Interactive's 'Dunkelgelb Shadow' but any dark brown would do.

The next step is to spray over the entire model with the basecoat, in this case 'Dunkelgelb base' by AK Interactive. This should be a light coat that covers well but does not completely obscure the darker shade we applied before. As you can hopefully see on the below photo this quickly creates a subtle sense of depth on the models.

After this we apply the next lighter shade (Dunkelgelb light base by AK Interactive). This is applied fairly liberally to the tops/fronts of panels where light would strike them. Each panel is highlighted individually and I have found it useful to use something like a post-it note as a stencil in order to delineate panels and create hard edges between them. To give you an idea of how panels should be highlighted see the below image which should give you an idea (copyright: Model Brush.comm

Finally we will go in with our last highlight (Dunkelgelb highlight by AK Interactive). This is the lightest shade and is applied very finely to the tops of panels. There we have it; a modulated German tank. As I say this isn’t the most realistic way of painting vehicles and you could argue it currently looks slightly cartoony. This will all change once we have added the camouflage and weathering though; which will blend it all together.

Camouflage and weathering
Next we will apply the camouflage pattern, also with an airbrush. As these vehicles will be used in my Last Levy army list which is themed around the siege of Breslau in early 1945 I have gone with a classic late war green and brown scheme. This was applied very slowly in order to build up the pattern until I was happy with it. If you aren’t sure where to start I would recommend searching online; there are some very good images that can guide you. To finish this off I mixed some white in with the original colours and sprayed this at the top of each panel in order to continue the modulated effect.

So now we have some nicely modulated and camouflaged tanks. In the next article we will look at realistically weathering them with oils and mud effects.

So now we have some nicely modulated and camouflaged tanks. In the next article we will look at realistically weathering them with oils and mud effects.

An Introduction

Hi everyone and thanks for looking at my blog. I've set this up to chart the progress of my new very late war German Army for Bolt Action, partly to share my progress and also partly to motivate myself to keep painting. The army will be based roughly on the 'Last Levy' list in the Armies of Germany book and will be themed around the siege of Breslau in 1945. This was one of the last of Hitler's 'Fortresses' to fall and is a battle that really interests me for various reasons. If you'd like to read some background to the siege have a look on the Wikipedia page below as it provides a good summary.

The planned army list will consist of:

- 1st Lieutenant (One extra man)   83 points
  Assault rifles

- Medic  25 points

- Fallschirmjager Squad (8 man)  153 points
  Light machine gun, 3 x assault rifle, 2 x panzerfaust, 1 x SMG

- Volksgrenadier Squad (9 man)   97 points
  5 x Assault Rifle

- Volkssturm Squad (10 man)   93 points
  3 x SMG, 3 x panzerfaust

- Volkssturm Squad (10 man)  93 points
  3 x SMG, 3 x panzerfaust

- Medium Howitzer   85 points
  w/ spotter

- Tiger I     410 points
  Extra MMG

Total points: 1,039

Total order dice: 8

I'm aware that it isn't going to be the easiest army to use but I quite like the challenge. The Tiger I is a pretty big points sink but I quite like the prospect of having one on the table and the psychological effect it can have. The medic is there solely for the extra order dice. Only actually playing the list will show whether 8 order dice is too little for a 1,000 points list.