Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dirty by choice

Well it looks like we're seeing a lot of folks falling in line with a lot of scale modelers by adding weathering to their creations. This is great, seeing models as an actual vehicle would appear is what it is all about for me. Replicating real life in miniature is of course what all of modeling is about. Of course viewing vehicles in a shiny, spiffed up condition happens and we all strive to own a good looking vehicle no matter what we drive. But let's face it folks, a vehicle that is driven on the highways and byways of the world just don't look as pristine as we would hope unless they are destined to be automotive show pieces. And even then there are indications that a car or truck have traveled in spite of it's owners desire for it to be perfect. It is then, that the worlds most renowned modelers use some kind of technique to give their models a real look by weathering. But "adding" weathering is not what the best of the modelers in any scale that I see do to get realistic results on their pieces. It has just recently been said by a pretty darn good modeler that he weathers his pieces to cover up flaws in castings and his own mistakes. I'm sorry but I don't aspire to that attitude. This isn't meant to be, nor are the techniques as effective as, a well planned model. Excellent weathering techniques start at the beginning of a build.  Above I show one of, what I consider to be, a weathering success in the chipping technique on the Mack FCSW.  Right from the start, I needed to provide a base coat that would show the haphazard loss of paint in the life of this truck. The next step would be to lay down a 'resist'. This is any type of product that will allow the modeler to remove the finish paint in a way that would reflect that loss of paint in a realistic fashion. The resist in this case was a coat of Future Floor Finish but many large scale modelers use an acrylic hairspray and in some instances rubber cement or salt. I'm not trying to dictate the process here but merely wish to point out that these techniques need to be contemplated before the model even gets it's first coat of finish paint. This can't be painted on later with rust colored paint, chalks or washes and would certainly not give the same look.

On the red Mack H63 you see every care has been taken to give the model as flawless as possible finish. The weathering that has been added after was not intended to cover mistakes or flaws in the casting. I purposely build the model and finish it so it can be displayed without weathering in this example to show that moderate or light weathering can be added to give a realistic look. This somewhat contradicts what I've just said above but remember that I'm not trying to make a beater here but simply a working truck with some road grime. Regardless, the weathering here is a combination of well thought out techniques here and not just adding stuff until it 'looks right'. Study trucks and cars and look at prototypes. Know what it is you're striving for prior to putting a brush to your models. And then of course is practice. I spend many hours fooling with washes, chalks and painting techniques to see just what the results will be so when it comes time to weather a piece, I know what will look right, and real. And of course, I'm not always as successful as I would like. But just guessing has never given me satisfactory results.

 I now cite a model that I hope will show the influence of some larger scale modelers on me. Simply stated, less is more. Very little change from the original paint with the 'addition' of a few paint chips on the bumper and a dusting of tires is seen here. It isn't necessary to make a God awful mess of a model to show some use. Another technique is that of a panel wash one might notice here. An acrylic wash with a darker color of the finish paint is applied to accent panel lines and small details. Especially in this small scale details are so small that they cast no significant shadow when trying to photograph them. a color that is slightly darker that the finish paint can give a much more realistic look and can turn an average model into a really great one. A word of caution when doing this to white and lighter colored models, this technique can ruin it if the panel wash is too dark and is virtually impossible to fix.  Weathering should not be all that obvious and again, look to the prototype. Does it have large black lines all over it? Less is more!

I refer back now to the beginning where I stated that some weathering needs to be planned from the start. On really old vehicles, paint fade is always an issue. You will notice on the Mack LT above that the finish coat has been removed in a way that imitates sun faded and rain washed paint. It was done with a method similar to the chipped paint on the FCSW but done a little more aggressively. Future Floor Finish is soluble in Windex and/or windshield washer fluid so the model was washed (literally) with Windex to achieve the look. You will also notice the chassis and wheels have been painted the same brownish color that the cab was before it got the red paint. And that the wheels were painted white in the second shot and the holes in the steel rim have been filled with black. Here is the perfect application for a black wash that I previously poo-pooed. 

What you see immediately above is the  results of having darkened the chassis, fuel tanks etc. with an India ink and alcohol wash. I wanted some rusting effect of the base coat to show through without having to do any paint removal. Some acrylic washes of raw umber and burnt umber accentuate the collection of rust in specific areas. And finally below, you see the finished model complete with a coat of clear flat lacquer and some dusting with ground up artists chalks and touching of high wear spots with graphite. It is important to give the model some tooth for the chalks to adhere hence the flat clear coat. Stains on the gas tank were made by wetting the whole tank with washer fluid and streaking with some acrylic 'oily black' (PolyScale color) after the chalk application.

I know this has not been a comprehensive step by step on weathering. But I wanted to make the point that this weathering thing isn't something one should attempt to cover a bad modeling job. On the contrary, it is intended to enhance a well made model and if you wish to do it, should be a well planned sequence of procedures. Because I plan to broadcast this writing to attract readers I suppose I should add this 'disclaimer'. If you believe I am addressing you personally, perhaps I am. However it is not a condemnation of your work. It is merely a hope that I may be able to improve your endeavors into the realm of weathering in this scale. If not for the constructive criticism of others, I certainly would not be the modeler that I hope to be. And remember to kiss and hug your loved ones at every chance.

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