Airfield Models - Painting Scale Wheels

Scale Painting Techniques

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( and Shading with Washes

I said in Part 4 that we would make each wheel look like it was all in the same place at the same time.  What that means is that the entire wheel will be subjected to the same environment at all times with the exception of parts that have been recently replaced.

That's why we need to blend the entire wheel.  Right now it looks like it came brand new from the factory and was painted with enamels.  Again, I want the wheels to look used, but not too worn or damaged.

Note that you should attempt to achieve subtlety.  The biggest mistake with this type of detailing is not using too little, but using too much which not only doesn't look realistic, but can make a model look unserviceable or just plain gaudy.


Practicing Weathering Techniques

Panzer Kampfwagen 2 Aus. FG WWIII strongly suggest that you purchase inexpensive plastic model kits to practice on before attempting these techniques on a model that is more important to you.

Armor models are excellent because they are easy to assemble, usually of one base color and have all kinds of small details on which to try various techniques.

To the left is my Tamiya Panzer Kampfwagen 2 Aus. FG.  Older kits such as this one are obsolete in terms of mold quality, surface detail and fidelity to scale.  They also tend to have fewer parts than current kits and are much less expensive.

As I recall, the kit cost less than $10.00 when I purchased it in 2001.  The sole purpose of this kit was to try out different techniques with a new airbrush.  My Panzer II is not intended to be an example of excellence in modeling or weathering techniques.  Much of the detail was never painted.

If you look at the various display models on this site or other modeler's websites you can see how various weathering techniques are used to give the appearance of age, wear, shading, highlighting, damage, etc.


About Washes

Wermacht is the Airfield Models Shop Kitty

Wermacht - Master Modeler, Elite Infanty KittyWashes is REALLY stinky!

Have lots of ventilation!!

The Guild of Model Aircraft Shop Foremen advise that you give your Shop Foreman a day or two off - with pay - so he may go outside and catch geckos while your washes dry.

Wermacht thinks washes stink

A wash is nothing more than dirty thinner.  You can use any paint that you like to make the wash but some paints work better than others.

A wash can have several purposes and a variety of colors can be used on the same item for different effects.

The most basic use for a wash is to blend all the details of a part to make it homogenous.  A wash helps make a part comprised of multiple components look more natural.

These multiple components may actually be individual pieces glued together or integral details molded on the part.  In the latter case, shading is even more important to disguise that these details were molded in place rather than attached.

I've found a blending wash to work best if it is a dark shade of a color contained in most colors of the component.  For example, this wheel has a tan base, gold grommets and leather colored laces.  Therefore I made the overall wash from a base of brown as it seemed the most harmonious color.

The next most common use of a wash is to create shadows (shading) around details.  This type of wash should be several shades darker than what it will be next to.  If you are in doubt about what color to use for a wash, gray is almost always a safe choice.

So how do you create a shadow next to a black part?  First, never ever use black to paint any part of a scale model.  It never looks right.  Always use a dark gray instead.  It will look black when it's finished.

You can either make the wash using black which doesn't always work or you can use a different color.  I like to use burnt sienna sparingly.  If you use too much of the sienna wash then the part will look rusty instead of shaded.  Another way to go is to use a light color such as gray or tan (dirt) which will accentuate the corner but will not give the appearance of a shadow.

Other uses for washes include creating oil drips, rust streaks or rain-washed dirt.


How to Make a Wash

Make a wash by adding a pea-sized amount of paint to a small glass jar.  Fill the jar to the shoulder with thinner.  Cap it and shake well.  The pigment settles out of the wash quickly so you will need to recap and shake periodically while using it.

A Wash is simply dirty thinner of a specified color.'The arrow in the photo to the right indicates the amount of paint in the bottle.  The bottle is then filled with thinner.  Adjust quantities to your preference.

Use a wash that will not damage the existing paint.  The best way to accomplish that is to use a different base for the wash than for the paint.  For example, if you paint with acrylics then make the wash from oil paint or enamel paint mixed into turpentine or mineral spirits.

If you paint with enamels then make the wash from acrylics.  I have had poor results with acrylic washes so I don't use them.  That's why I paint my plastic models with acrylics and then use oil paint washes which work much better for me.

In this case the base paint is epoxy and neither an enamel or acrylic wash will damage it.  But the details are enamel paints so an oil or enamel wash will remove the detail painting.  I didn't paint with acrylics because they aren't very durable and this is a working model.  I don't want the paint chipping or flaking off.

That's not the only problem.  I also don't care for how washes apply to gloss paint.  I think they work better on flat paints.  To solve both problems I sprayed a barrier coat of Klass Kote flat clear epoxy.  I sprayed around the rim and stitching twice just to be sure.

No matter how you do it be sure the existing paint is absolutely dry before you even consider adding a wash.  That means days not hours.


Applying a Wash

Paints and tools used

  • The existing paint was sealed with Klass Kote satin clear applied with an Aztec airbrush.
  • Turpentine to prepare the surface prior to applying the wash.
  • Washes are made from oil paint and turpentine.  The blending wash is applied with a soft, flat brush.
  • Detail washes are applied with small, round brushes having a sharp point.

Applying a detail wash

Use a sharp, pointed brush to apply a wash around details.  Don't brush the wash on.  Touch just the tip of the brush to an edge, corner or groove.  The wash will be drawn from the brush and flow along the edge.  The thinner collects in grooves and corners as the thinner evaporates.

For an area wash, use a wide brush to flow on an even coat.  If you've never applied this type of wash before then try not to have a heart attack when you see how it looks at first.

Brush on a light coat of thinner to prepare the surface for washes. Wipe the part with a tack rag to remove loose particles.

Use a wide, soft brush to apply a thin coat of the same thinner you used to make the wash.  You simply want the surface to be slightly moist not soaking wet.  Don't create puddles.

Shake off the excess and give the thinner time to evaporate if you put too much on the surface.  If you have an air compressor then you can blow the thinner off.

Don't blot with anything because it will leave lint all over the surface that may mess up the wash.

Touch only the tip of the brush to the area where the wash is applied. I do washes for small details before the overall wash.  The reason being that the overall wash will bring the items together for a more natural appearance.

Conversely, if the detail washes are done last they may stand out in an odd way.

I used a brown wash around the grommets and lacing.  Use a pointed brush to apply the wash to corners and crevices.  Touch only the tip of the brush to a corner or crevice where you want the wash.

Do not apply too much wash at once.  You do not want the wash to spread too far from the line it is applied to. Don't try to build up a dark wash all at once.  Hit all the details and then give the thinner some time to evaporate.  Leave the room and do something else for a while.

Come back later and look at the whole part.  If more wash is needed then go ahead and apply it.  Keep in mind that later highlighting will make the darkened areas appear darker than they do now.

There is too much wash applied in this photo.

If you are using more than one color wash you do not have to wait for each one to dry before applying the next.  In fact, some mixing of the washes in various areas can enhance the effect.

Apply an overall wash using a large, soft brush. Give the detail washes plenty of time to dry.  You need to get a feel for when it is set enough to pretty much stay put (not wash out when the next wash is applied) but also not so dry that it can't be blended.

Use a wide brush to apply the overall wash.  I used a gray-brown color.

Allow the wash to set up for an hour or more if using an oil-based wash.

Don't panic.  It's ugly but if it didn't come out I wouldn't have posted this article, right?

By the way, I finally found a good use for the jig.

Wipe open areas between details to remove excess wash and leave shadowing in place. Use a soft cloth to gently wipe the open areas leaving the wash only in areas that you want darkened.  If the paint comes off then you've learned a valuable lesson use washes that won't damage the underlying paint.

Too much of the wash may come off if you concentrate on the corners or if you wipe the part too soon.  If that happens, simply add another wash.

Always wipe across details, not along them.  I turned the wheel while pressing the cloth against it to remove the bulk of the excess wash.

Next I wiped radially between the spokes without actually contacting the spokes or the shadow areas next to them.

I then moved to the lace/rim area and wiped radially across the edge of the rim.

Finally I wiped more of the wash from the wheel while turning it until I was pleased with the effect.

If the shadows are too light then apply another wash after the first one is dry.  If the wash is too dark then wipe more of it away.

If you think the washes may have come out too dark then you can go back over them with a lighter wash.  I normally leave them alone and move on to dry-brushing which will lighten everything somewhat.

If you do that and the shadows are still too dark then you can go back and apply a light wash and then dry-brush again.  Note that the wash will remove the previous dry-brushing.  The dry-brush color and wash color may turn to mud so think before you act.

Another thing you can do is spray dust coats of white to lighten the part overall after you have finished dry-brushing.  I've done this a few times and it came out well, but it's a spooky thing to do.

I sprayed straight down on a part from several feet.  Once you see the part changing color you've probably already gone too far.

The wheel looks much better now with the subtle shadows around the rim and spokes, but if no further work is done the part will look oily forever.  This property is excellent for modeling oil streaks and such, but not so great for the dry canvas covers on these wheels.  It's a problem that will be eliminated by the flat clear coat sealing the work when it's complete.

Put the part aside for several days in an environment that promotes drying particularly if you used an oil-based wash.  Mineral spirits, turpentine and the like take forever to dry and won't dry-brush well.



Painting Scale Wheels
Dry-Brushing to Create Highlights

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