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Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #035-- "Get Out Your Coloring Books"
November 15, 2009
November 15, 2009

Color Makes Models ‘Cool’

No matter what you are modeling, you can’t really call it your own until you change its appearance.

Whether your starting point is a plastic rattle box, a few pieces of stripwood, or a blob of plaster, you never will be very satisfied with the original color. It just ain’t cool.

And since we’ve just come through New England’s most beautiful season, we’re devoting this issue to color, how to mix it, how to apply it and how to age it.

Here's Some Resources

So if you are mixing, applying or aging, hopefully you will find something here to guide you.

Let's Mix It Up

Without a doubt model builders could easily spend a lifetime exploring the results of mixing paints to get specific colors, there are just so many possible results from mixing two or three colors together.

One man’s auburn, for instance, is another man’s rust and what one individual sees as rust. What one calls chestnut, another refers to be as being hazel-colored. What one person sees as burnt sienna, another sees as reddish brown.

If it was only a question of what you call the color by decreeing this particular color will always be called auburn.

But what do you call the same color that has a little more red or a little more brown?

In the final analysis the “that’s it!” decision will be made by the viewer and not you.

A general formula for creating brown is one part red, one part blue and a little yellow, but how much of each will depend on what you and your girlfriend recognize. You can make a substantial change with just a drop or two difference in any of the primary or secondary colors involved.

To be more specific, you can use the formula part of burnt umber, three parts of golden ochre and twenty parts of white lead (I n art, lead white is known as flake white, also sometimes known as Cremnitz white.) It depends on how artistic you want to get.

Things to remember when mixing paints:

1. Get Out your paints (I find you can mix brands as long as you stay within the acrylic or oil-based paint families.
2. Use a color wheel to help you learn to mix paints to get the colors you want. Color mixing adds detail and excitement to your work.
3. It is a very good visual tool that demonstrates the relationship between the different types of colors of the spectrum. Learn the three elementary divisions of color:

• Primary colors are red, blue, yellow. These are the three 'starter' pigments and can’t be created using any other combination of colors, hence the term 'primary'.

• Secondary colors are orange, purple, green. They are the products of the three combinations of primary colors.

• Tertiary colors are those that involve all three primary colors (red, yellow and blue) in some combination or another.

4. Recognize the various hues of a color. All colors have various shades and are either 'warm' or 'cool'. Warm colors are prominent and bold, whereas cool colors are subdued and sober.
Traditionally, yellow, orange and red are considered warm colors while blue, green and purple would be classified as “cool”.

5. Create a color grid. Use a piece of water color paper and mark of a grid with several blocks. In each block, place a splotch of your one of your “created colors with the “recipe” (measured color combinations) beneath it.

Incidently you will find a color wheel in the Download Center.

Give Your lungs A Break

You can’t begin weathering your model until after you have finished painting, detailing and decaling it. This is probably a good time to get into the brush vs spray fracas.

Being an apartment dweller, I do come to the fray a bit predisposed. There are few places in an apartment complex where spray painting would be considered ‘neighborly’. Even my wife would not tolerate my spraying paint inside my modeling room/office. Firing up a spray gun inside an all but closed tight 10’X14’ space doesn’t really sound all that healthy for a Senior Citizen.

Anyone who has ever applied multiple colors to a model of significant size has had the experience of blowing their nose afterwards and “Yuk, that’s gross”. If you spray indoors, you will see a spray mist drifting past your model to land on your layout, walls, windows, computer screens, anywhere you don’t want an “extra coat of paint”.

Brush painting with acrylics from your local craft store can be a lot more user friendly. You aren’t breathing paint propellants, there is no serious overspray problem and both the tools and the paints are cheaper.

I have a collection of about 50 brushes in various states of wear I use to create different textures. The oldest work really well as applicators and tampers for powdered weathering colors.

Also, brush clean-up is a lot easier.

What's So Easy About Brush Cleaning?

Weathering Your Armory

Military vehicles have always been known to take a beating and keep on keeping on so they seldom look realistic without a strong dose of weathering and outright abuse (not unlike the real thing).

Over the last few years there have been changes in the way military models go through the weathering process. There are new methods of dirtying them up with “dried mud”, there are new methods for fading paint jobs, adding spills, embellishing with wear and tear and rusting and chipping.

Doesn’t sound too healthy for your newly assembled, painted and detailed WWII GMC 2.5 ton tank truck but if you are building a contest quality model, you won’t win without it.

Do Everything else first Only begin the weathering process after you have completed all of the painting, detailing and decaling your model requires then top it off with a coat of gloss varnish. The shiny surface will contrast well with your weathering and it is also better for wet weathering techniques.

Add Some More Color Apply a very thin layer of an extra color which will highlight uniform and flat surfaces. Make sure this his highly diluted (5% paint, 95% water). This will add an earthy tone to the model’s surface and will tend to blend the different colors of your camouflage plan.

Wear it and Tear It Now is the time to add wear and tear. Painted objects like vehicles, loading docks, planes and most railroad cars seldom get pampered. They are exposed to handling, walking, bumping, spills etc. You can simulate a lot of scratches and bruises with colored pencils. The choice of colors is less important than uniform application.

Armored vehicles inevitably developed large and small scratches and scuff marks which, in time and greater numbers, altered the overall appearance of the surface from "uniform" to "worn".

Scratch Your Neat Paint Job Using the pencils go over the entire model, drawing thin lines that resemble scratching. At this stage the effect of the pencils may look a bit harsh in places. Don't worry; everything will blend in nicely once the weathering continues.

Chipping Without A Nine Iron With the thickness of paint (after many repaints) armored vehicles were easily chipped on and around protrusions and exposed edges.

Realistic chipping can be accomplished by giving an area you want chipped a coat of metallic (aluminum colored) paint. Let it dry for three or four hours. Apply a coat of Future Wax or your favorite clear coat. Set this aside and let it dry for at least 24 hours. Next coat the Future coating with the base color. Cover it completely and let it dry for an hour so it is dry to the touch.

Next is the fun part.

Tear of a piece of masking tape and dab the area pressing on the tape and pulling it off quickly lifting “chips” of your base coat exposing the metalized surface beneath. Don’t get carried away. You can pull off more around the leading edges and protrusions which would be subject to glancing blows.

Chips tend to concentrate around hatches, foot steps and handles as well as other protruding details that would be subject to heavier wear and tear.

After before
Before detailing and weathering More realistic looking water tanker

One last step is to enhance the light and dark areas with a dark wash, which will add depth to the areas which normally remain in shadow. A "wash" is an application of highly thinned paint (10-20% paint, the rest water) intended to deposit color in the nooks and crannies of a model.

Six different steps may sound like a lot of work, but once you have tried the described techniques, you will notice that most of them are both quick and easy to apply. I think you will agree that the final effect is worth every bit of effort!

Until Next Month...

Make It Your Best Effort!

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