Painting AFV Models Using Diffused Shading

By Andrew Dextras

One of the most difficult aspects of painting AFV models is to impart a sense of weathering to the paint scheme. There are many methods that modelers use to achieve this: pre-shading, post shading, washes, dry brushing, paint chipping and pastel streaking, among others. Some of these techniques, although very effective, can be considered "risky," as they can sometimes ruin a model because they cannot be reversed or are difficult to cover up if a mistake has occurred. Because of this I had been experimenting with ways to achieve depth to the model's finish and maybe eliminate some steps in the process.


I begin by cleaning the model well in soapy water and rinsing thoroughly in clean water. Once dry, I begin by spraying a "pre-shade" coat of Tamiya flat black paint with a ratio of 30% paint ­ 70% thinner using my Iwata HP-C. By pre-shading the model with a dark color you are able to gain some depth to the finish as well as integrate the various materials used to make the model (plastic, polyurethane resin, photo-etched brass, metal foil, etc.). After the pre-shade is dry you can now plan what the model's paint scheme will be. In the case of my Sdkfz 251/9, I decided to tackle one of the tougher schemes: winter wash. This white camouflage paint was applied over the vehicle's primary paint (usually dark yellow or dark gray) in order to conceal it in winter conditions. This whitewash would gradually wear away and was usually applied pretty sloppily.


I then mix up a dark yellow basecoat using Tamiya acrylics in a 25% paint - 75% thinner ratio. At this point you will need an airbrush with a very small needle/nozzle combination. I use my Iwata Custom Micron B , but an HP-B equipped with a pre-set handle and crown cap will also work. A pre-set handle is essential when applying the basecoat unless you have supreme airbrush control. I use the pre-set handle as a "safety net" when spraying with the needle closed down tight, as it is sometimes easy for your finger to slip and cause too much paint to hit the model. Begin by spraying very light coats of dark yellow over the black pre-shade, making sure that you let the black show through in random patches throughout the panels and particularly heavy in any recesses. If at any point during this whole process you apply too much yellow, (or white in the next step) simply go back and spray black over the area and reapply the dark yellow. You can recover from any disaster with this method.


Once this coat is dry, mix up some Tamiya acrylic paint at a 20% paint - 80% thinner ratio. Close down on the needle and begin spraying the whitewash, making sure you keep the edges quite dark (where the whitewash would wear quickly) and the centers lighter, all the while making the pattern appear as random as possible. By spraying very random patterns of white you are ensuring that the model won't appear too "toy-like" with very obvious light cloud pattern panel centers. By making sure that you've created a very random pattern that's very "splotchy," you are effectively eliminating other techniques that are used to create the same effect. Dry brushing your model can achieve the same effect of lightening the panel centers, but why not kill two birds with one stone and do this while you're painting with your airbrush?


One of the more common weathering effects is "washes." By running highly thinned dark paint in corners and recesses, you create an illusion of shadows and depth. Again, this can be a risky process, so why not create depth with your airbrush? Begin by mixing up some Tamiya flat brown and flat black paint in a 10% paint - 90% thinner ratio. This technique is known as "post shading" and was popularized by Australian modeler James Blackwell. Begin by spraying this mixture into corners, panel lines and recesses. You will need a fair amount of control to pull this off with subtlety, so practice first on a spare model or scrap plastic. A high precision airbrush such as a CM-B or HP-B is highly recommended and will make your job much easier. Once the panel lines are shaded you can begin vertically streaking the side of the vehicle to simulate dirt and grime. Try and be subtle and this will pay dividends. I finish off the model with some chipped paint effects using pencils and more streaks using various pastel powder shades.


Once these techniques are mastered, you will have effectively eliminated both washes and dry brushing in your weathering process; and by using a very precise instrument like the CM-B, you will have more control over the finished product. So grab your airbrush and try some of these effects. You will find yourself gaining more confidence in your painting and eliminate some tedious steps in the process.


1. The completed but unpainted model.
2. The black pre-shade coat has been applied and the dark yellow basecoat has been sprayed using a very random and "splotchy" pattern.
3. The whitewash has been applied. Notice how random the pattern is and how the corners and edges have been left darker.
4. The post shade effect has been applied.
5. Another view of the model with post shading. Notice the subtle streaking up the side of the model.
6. The completed model showing the diffused shading effect.
7. The completed model. Notice how random the paint looks.

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