Thursday 30 May 2013

Attack a Submarine with sanding paper.

The submarine is finished, but before I can start placing the decals, I need to (try to) repair a few spots where painting or varnishing went wrong.

The top of the sub has a pebbled surface, where the gloss varnish went on too thick. I scrubbed this down with fine-grain sanding paper. It's still easily noticeable, but hopefully wil be better after another layer of gloss.

The right side, under the tower, had some runners. I can't remember if it's paint or varnish. I sanded a little too deep and the bare plastic peeped through. Some paint will be required.

You may remember a big blob of varnish that had pooled up at the bottom of the nose. I sanded it away as far as I dared before I would start removing the brown paint.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Second camo colour

The second (and last) camouflage colour has been added. I'm happy with the result, although I know it could be better. I also (think I) know HOW to do it better.

What I did :
  1. Paint the base colour
  2. Mask everything that should not be green
  3. Paint green
  4. Remove masks
  5. Mask everything that should not be brown
  6. Paint brown
  7. Remove masks
Step 5 was the difficult part, because I had to mask nicely around the edges of the green areas. As you can see from the bottom picture, this was not very succesful, although the result is still looking good. I will touch up with a brush, if I can do it without it being too noticeable.

What I think I should have done :
  1. Paint the base colour
  2. Mask everything that is to remain in the base colour
  3. Paint brown
  4. Leave the mask in place
  5. Put additional masks where the colour is to remain brown
  6. Paint green
  7. Remove all masks
This way, there will be no space between the green and brown lines, as is now the case. You won't have to wait long to see this newfound knowledge in action, because I intend to apply this "technique" to the M60, which is probably the next model I'll (try to) finish.

Ready for the next colour
Painted chocolate brown
The result

Saturday 25 May 2013

M1A1 Abrams is finished (for now)

I consider this one finished, except for further weathering. I tried a sand-coloured dust-wash but the first try was too subtle and the second too heavy. I tried streaking grime on one panel, but was heavily overdone and I removed it again. 
I'm putting it aside and continue on other models, until I want to experiment more with weathering.

Price : € 29.95
Number of parts : 300
Time spent : 23.5 hours
Project completion time : 4 months

Paint : (unless otherwise noted, all are Vallejo)
  • Black primer
  • Sand yellow
  • Matt black (wheels)
  • Olive drab (Stowage details)
  • Steel (guns and track details)
  • Transparent red (tail lights)
  • Silver (head lights)
  • Gold (monitor screen)
  • 50/50 mix of Dark green and Sand yellow (smoke grenade launchers)
Other :
  • Alclad II Semi-matt clear
  • Tamiya Panel line accent color (dark brown)
  • AK interactive Africa dust effects (tracks and wheels)
  • Vallejo black wash (grilles)

First camo colour complete

I carefully laid out a camouflage-pattern on the Puma using Silly putty. It's a tedious job, but since free-hand airbrushing is out of the question with my current airbrush, this is the only option. 
I've already used play-doh and modelling clay for masking, but silly putty is simply the best substance. It sticks in place very well, doesn't dry or shrink and is very easily removed without damaging the model or lifting the paint.

Ready for painting.
Painted in Panzer green 
Carefully lifting the silly putty
Looking good so far.

The result is what I'd hoped for. On to the next batch of putty, because we need a second camouflage color : chocolate brown.

Friday 24 May 2013

Capillary action in action

I mentioned capillary action earlier as a law of physics that pulls a liquid into small spaces. Just touch the tip of a small brush loaded with the wash or ink against a panel line and let the liquid do it's magic.

Here's an animated gif of it in action. It's taken at 10 frames per second.
I'm using Tamiya's "Panel line accent color" in dark brown.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Too much wash?

After successfully applying the dust wash to the rubber tracks, I wanted to try and give a slightly sandy/dusty look to the entire model.

I started on one of the vertical sides, but the fluid just falls to the bottom and pools up or falls off. To counter this, I tipped the tank on it's side, then re-applied the wash to the (now horizontal) side.

I may have overdone it and after the thinner had dried, it left circular stains, not exacty representing the look I wanted. So, I added a second layer, after tilting the model 45 degrees, and worked out the stains by repeatedly brushing accross them. The thinner in the solution picked up part of the stains, so it looked promising.

The result after 12 hours is "slightly" overdone and far from the subtle dust-effect I was aiming for.

Because I was told you can remove the wash up to 24 hours after applying it, as soon as I came home, I loaded a paintbrush with a small amount of White spirit and started (gently) rubbing.
I'm happy to say all the pigments dissolved again and were easily wiped off with a cloth. The clear coat of varnish has protected the underlying paint, so no damage is done. (Hence the importance of protecting your paint-job)

It's now 24 hours later and there's no layer of dust, but at least we've learned something, fixed a mistake and can start over.

Monday 20 May 2013


Washes are used to put accents on certain parts of a model. Mostly it's used to accentuate (recessed) panel lines. By loading a paintbrush with a little of the solution, then touching the tip of the brush to the edge of a panel line, something called "capillary action" will draw the solution into the entire line.

(Capillary attraction: the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, and in opposition to external forces like gravity)

I have two types of washes to try. 

One is the AK Interactive desert dust wash I used on the rubber tracks (see earlier post). This beautifully flows around all the details of whatever you're touching your paintbrush to. This one is dissolved in "White spirit" (also called "Mineral spirits", I believe).

The second is the Vallejo black wash, which is water based. I used it before to dirty up the floor of the Puma's interior. There's almost no capillary action happening here, it tries to stay together as a big drop. You really have to brush it where you want it.

I applied the black one on everything that looks like it might get dirty.

Left : applying the wash on all the details.
Right : removed excess fluid with a piece of cloth.

Why varnish?

Why is it important to put a layer of varnish (or clear, or gloss, or whatever name you want to give it) on your model?

A first layer after you've finished painting protects the paint by sealing it in airtight.

  • It protects against moisture in the air and handling it with your hands.
  • It enables you to add weathering with washes, inks or pigments without accidentally damaging the paint. More importantly, it enables you to remove excessive weathering, again without damaging the paint (more proof in my next post).
  • It provides a smoother surface for placing decals. Decals adhere better to a smooth surface than a rough one. Unless your paint is glossy, you might have problems getting your decals to stick.

After applying decals, a second layer of varnish will protect those decals from silvering and make the edges of the clear film (on which the decals are printed) less noticable.

A rather large decal , easily placed on the first layer of varnish.

A second layer of varnish seals in the decal.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Dust wash

I tested the "African dust effect" wash on the vinyl tracks, because they are separate from the model and can be easily rinsed if it goes wrong.

The AK Interactive wash is super-fluid and capillary action works it's magic : just one touch with a paintbrush to the track and it flows perfectly in all the small crevices. The result looks good and even better on the assembled model.

The model itself is now drying after two layers of Alclad 2 semi-matt clear. When dry, I'll start applying this same wash to the entire surface.

Play- ... d'oh!

I used play-doh successfully to mask and airbrush difficult shapes, but you'd have to paint it right away after applying it. If you don't, 24 hours later it looks like this :

It's pretty much useless now. It's not really a problem since the pieces remove easily.

I tried again with modelling clay. The clay seems to dry slower and shrinks less, causing less or no cracks.
I didn't wait for it to dry though and sprayed the final color : insignia blue.

The letters are impossible to mask and will be done with a brush.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Trying new things and new brands

Because my experiments with Vallejo varnish (especially the glossy one) are far from good, I decided to get some info on other brands. I had to pick up new paint anyway and was hoping the storekeeper would have some experience, which - turns out - he had. This may seem logical, but some hobbyshops (especially the larger ones) have cashiers who know nothing.
  • For the regular varnish, to protect the painted model, apply decals, then seal in those decals, he recommended Alclad 2 lacquer (semi-matt). It's not water-based, so you need a lacquer-thinner to clear your airbrush afterwards and it smells a lot more pungent than acrylic paint of course.
  • He didn't have the glossy one in stock, but - since I''m experimenting with other brands - I took the Tamiya X-22. According to online references it takes weeks to dry and many people don't like it, but the trick seems to be to thin it heavily with lacquer thinner, even though it's not the logical choice.
    (I'll try it soon)
  • I want the Abrams to look dusty, but not too much, so I enquired for that also and he suggested a wash from AK Interactive. They have a range washes and dry pigments, depending on how thick you want to create the effect.
From left to right, top to bottom : AK Interactive Africa dust effect (wash) + white spirit, Humbrol maskol (liquid masking, supposedly 10 times better than Vallejo's), Tamiya X-22 gloss clear, Alclad 2 semi-matt lacquer + Tamiya lacquer thinner and the reason I went to the shop in the first place : Olive drab and Insignia blue.

I've tested the Alclad lacquer right away on the Abrams and, at first sight, the results are very promising. I used it straight from the bottle, sprays nice and even. Extra bonus : no tip-dry. Slight disadvantage : the smell, so wear a mask and ventilate well.

I used it on the submarine as well. Pictures soon.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Brushing varnish

Because airbrushing gloss varnish is still a skill I can't yet call mastered, I tried brushing the varnish on, just in  those places where decals will go. The entire model will be coated matt, not glossy, but for best decal adhesion, a gloss coat is highly recommended.

I applied it to the two sloped panels, on both sides of the canon. The left side with unthinned varnish, the right side with 1:1 varnish and thinner.
The thinned version (right) smoothed itself out evenly, but you can still see it's brush-applied. The unthinned side (left) shows an uneven, pebbly surface. I'll redo the left side, then start placing decals.

First round of camouflage

The first camouflage colour ("Tank green") is applied to the Puma's turret and I removed the putty soon after.
If you look close, you can see the edges where the paint pulled up against the putty. Even though I was careful with applying the green paint, the consistency wasn't perfect and it went on too wet. I'll try gathering some tips to prevent this on the next IPMS meeting.

Overall, the result looks fine, even if it will require some clean-up work.

I removed the protective cover from the body, only to find the paint peeled off with it. The paint seems to stick harder to itself than to the model. Maybe the model wasn't sufficiently clean, or I should just be more careful. Won't happen again!

Transparent parts

Transparent parts have always been a little difficult to get right for me.

In the distant past, I painted them with normal paint, which totally ruined the transparency of course. 
Then I started painting them on the inside (still with normal paint), which kept the idea of transparency, but no more then that.

Ideally, I'd find a way to make it appear as if there's a lightsource behind the part, but that might be overreaching.

For now, I'm painting the inside with transparent paint, which exists in practically all paint brands. When dry, I will coat one with aluminum foil, just to see the difference with the other part.

(Yes, one of the parts is broken. This Enterprise is clearly cursed, but if you know the Enterprise C's story, that's no surprise)

Below is my test card for the transparent blue paint.

On the right side, I mixed 1:1 transparent blue with glaze medium. The result is rather pebbly.
On the left side, I mixed 1:1:1 transparent blue, matt varnish and thinner. This result is smoother. Not sure whether the varnish is better than the glaze or if the extra thinner did the trick. (Maybe I should start skipping steps during experiments and not change 2 variables at the same time.)

M60 wheels

The M60's wheels have all been painted in their desired colours. Time to remove the latex that was protecting the hole with which it'll be glued in place.

The latex is easily removed with tweezers.

Here's all 16 wheels, front and back.

Rusty tracks

Unless you want to model a tank fresh from the factory, it's not gonna be shiny and clean. Depending on how old the tank is, its gonna be rusted and slightly banged up, as you can see from the picture below I took when visiting the military base in Brasschaat.

The first thing I want to experiment with is adding rust to the tracks. I mixed up some base rust color with equal parts glaze medium and spray that on the tracks.

(I have yet to determine what's the difference between glaze and gloss, but I happened to have it lying around)

The M60's tracks are plastic parts. I covered the middle with an index card and gave it a quick spray on both sides of the tracks.

The M1 Abrams' track is flexible. I taped off the inside, where the rubber padds wil remain black and did a very faint pass with the same rust mixture.

The tape stays in place because the middle is yet to be dry-brushed with a steel colour.

Sunday 12 May 2013

More masking

The Enterprise's display stand is coming along nicely. The gold and silver is done. It'll probably look even better with a coat of gloss varnish.

Underneath the black piece, airbrushing was impossible, so I had to brush by hand. This serves as a lesson learned to think about painting when doing the assembly.

Now the center part needs to be done in blue. The easiest masking material for this particular case is Play-Doh. It does not lift paint and is extremely malleable. It dries rock-hand, but does not stick to the model whatsover, so is very easy to remove. It can't be reused however - unlike silly putty - unless you do the paint-work and immediately remove the play-doh, before it dries out.
This is the first time I use it in this quantity, so let's hope the above statement about easy removal remains true.

Just one small problem: I don't have the necessary colour yet.

Preparing the Puma for camo

I've given up on free-hand camouflage, at least with my current airbrush.

  • Without any masking, free-hand brushing just gives too much overspray. 
  • Masking like I did with the Jaguar gives very hard edges, which is not the effect I wanted. 
  • Spraying through a small rectangular mask, that I hold a few millimeters from the surface of the model, gave me the desired "soft" edge, but I can only do straight lines with it.
  • Free-hand camouflage? Buy a better airbrush.
  • For now : use the same technique as on the Jaguar and stop trying for soft-edge camouflage.
I'll start small, only with the turret, and spray very carefully, because the biggest problem on the Jaguar was that the paint was too thick.