Whether to Weather?
Part Two - Slightly heavier weather!
RICHARD SIMPSON with further thoughts on weathering techniques
Specific application techniques
Let’s move on and have a look in a bit more detail at some specific techniques and how they can be applied to your model.
Pastels and Pigments
Apart from using pastels and pigments as a colour medium to mix into washes they can also be used on their own. Pigments are generally nothing more than coloured powder, not far removed from the old powder paints we used at school but usually blended into more appropriate and useable colours and a finer consistency. You can buy them individually or you can buy them in sets, quite often designed for specific tasks such as for armoured vehicles or buildings and these tend to be that little bit cheaper, Photo 3. In this powder form they can be applied directly to a model with a brush to the area you want to weather and the effect is a very soft shading, Photo 4. You can of course apply one colour over another, but the pigments are very subtle and do not have a pronounced effect.
Oils and enamels
Probably most of us are used to applying enamels on our models with either a brush or spray application. It’s time to start thinking a bit more outside the box now as we venture into enamels as a weathering medium. To start with, for tools you will need a glazed surface that is impervious to the paint and preferably white. Old saucers are perfect. but check with your partner first that their perceptions of ‘old’ are actually the same as yours. Alternatively a clean piece of perspex or other non-absorbent material will do the job, but a saucer is best. On this surface, around the edge, put a few blobs of different coloured enamels that will be appropriate to the article you are weathering. Browns and reds work well with possibly a blob of green and a blob of blue with a light grey and a dark grey for lightening and darkening, Photo 6. Then start to play with it on your test piece. Mix the paints, a tiny spot at a time, in the middle of the saucer and generate the shade you are after. Keep it fairly thin with additions of thinners as your paint dries and apply in a mixture of techniques from dry brushing to solid painting and even a bit of shading and blending on the item in question. This is when it is really important to do the model as a whole rather than just one small area. This will ensure a consistency in your techniques and the model will not look odd. As with all weathering, be very cautious and gentle and don’t be tempted to overdo it. Enamels and oils generally give strong cover so what you do will stand out quite well so be very restrained to start with and use test pieces as you go along. I regularly have a test piece next to the palette and try out a technique before I apply it to a model before actually progressing with the model. This is the very technique that I use to create rust effects which we will discuss in a bit more detail later.
Let’s first have a look at very simple damage as a result of wear and tear. We have already looked at paint worn off surfaces such as handrails, but wherever crew regularly walk, the area will become worn away. Wooden deck areas around winches will be worn down and probably display damage where years of tool handling have taken their toll and there could well be handles bent out of alignment. The decks can actually be carefully rubbed away to ‘scuff’ the wood and as already described, steps can be eroded away slightly to wear them in the centre of the tread. Handrails are a really good example and are regularly seen damaged on real ships, but take care to bend them in a manner appropriate to the scale. Usually you are looking at a single horizontal rail slightly bent by inadvertent handling of an oil drum or striking with a paint platform plank etc., so do not over emphasise the bend on your model. Probably one of the biggest areas of physical damage will be around the hull and here again scale is extremely important. There is no ship at sea that doesn’t have a few dents and scratches around its hull, but the scale of your model will dictate as to whether you can see it or not. Taking the 1/35th scale coaster again as an example, there will almost certainly be quite noticeable dents and scuffing around the forward plating, vertical sides and rubbing strakes.
For dents of course, to attack your model with a hammer is only going to end in tears so careful removal of material with a grinding tool or abrasives is the only way. Scuffing is that bit easier and is best done with a very course file or sandpaper before painting inside the scuffs with a metallic paint and finally applying rust effects. Rubber fenders of course may have a multitude of scuffing effects on the outer surface as a result of rubbing against other vessels or the quaysides, so recreate these with a combination of paint and abrasives to build up the finish and texture you require, bearing in mind that the exposed material will now be matt black.
Although there are areas of various types of damage around the ship, there are probably not that many more that would be visible on a model except one built to a large scale, maybe 1/12th. Even here though, take very small steps to ensure that the model looks realistic, rather than to appear if it’s been in a tumble drier for half an hour!
There are also specific products on the market that are designed to give your model a rust effect straight out of the bottle. Some of these are more effective than others, but invariably most of them are nothing more than a rust coloured wash that you paint on and build up to create an effect. Again I would suggest the introduction of additional colours on top of these products to get away from the single tone that they generate.
First, get some matt white enamel on your palette and then tone it down with a spot of earth or dark grey to give you the colour. Then dry brush as described in the last issue, but rather than gently wipe over the detail, rub it into the model a lot harder. As with all dry brushing this will work best on a matt surface and as always, apply the effect according to the scale with which you are working, Photo 10. Another method of producing the salt effect is to add a spot of your off white enamel to some thinners and then place quite a significant size blob of it on a flat surface such as a steel deck. The thinners will dry out leaving the enamel looking something like a water mark and produces exactly the same effect as you would see on a steel deck when a puddle of sea water dries out leaving the salt behind.
Salt will also be particularly in evidence where heat is involved when obviously the sea water is dried out more readily thus leaving heavier deposits. Funnels on old coasters are a great example because spray would regularly be able to reach them and the heat of the funnel would dry out the water leaving quite noticeable salt effects around it. Dry brushing over the surface in conjunction with a few rust streaks and some soot will give you a very realistic effect.
Talking of soot, you will not find an engine exhaust that does not have soot around it, be it from a diesel, petrol or coal fired engine or a boiler, Photo 11 (the exhaust is in the side on the casing). Applying a degree of soot to the area works wonders bringing a level of realism to the model, but unfortunately it is the one substance that really has to be applied with an airbrush. You may be able to get away with a mini-spray can if you are careful on a larger scale model, but an airbrush does make life a lot easier. Some people would not consider purchasing one for single use, but perhaps when you get to the stage in your modelling when you want to experiment with new techniques and you decide to purchase one, the application of soot will be a perfect use for it. As with all weathering I try wherever possible to emulate real life in the way it is created. Painting with a small flat brush rather than spraying gives a much more realistic texture and creating the salt puddles is following the same process that creates the effect in real life. Similarly with soot, the only way to get the realistic sooty effect is by careful building up with a number of layers of airbrushed matt black paint. Also remember the effects of the exhaust on the rest of the ship and not just the funnel as well as bearing in mind the combustion process. Old coastal steamers were notorious for poor combustion, so they would tend to produce not only a lot of soot around the funnel top, but this would quite often be all over the aft mast as well. This is, of course, exactly why a lot of them were painted black, but quite often the soot would cover a wider area, Photo 12.
First, prepared planks as purchased may well require the surface to be roughened up slightly, especially if we are looking at a heavily used deck area. This is called ‘distressing’ and is best done with some sort of wire brush. With ‘distressing’ remember the scale you are working in and take this into consideration with the effect you are trying to achieve. You would not be able to distinguish worn deck planking on a 1/96th scale warship, so the wood would be best left in its as natural purchased condition, but certainly larger scales would benefit from some weathering effects. I have known modellers do this with wire brushes in a power drill, but I think there is far more control if a hand held brush is used. One very useful tool is a brass wire brush as used for cleaning suede footwear, but you can also purchase specific tools for the job which come like a pen with a retractable bristle, which can vary the hardness of the brush with the amount of extension. Distressing wood can be done on planks before laying them onto the model, or can be done on the model after the wooden sections have been fitted, which may be more appropriate where you may want to do an area of deck that is more heavily worn, such as around deck machinery. What you are basically doing is creating very fine scratches on the surface of the wood, which will then absorb a wash much more effectively than a pristine new plank. The washes should then be applied quite thinly and built up over a number of subsequent applications to create different depths and shades of the wash. Photo 13 is of the cockpit of a small fishing boat with planked decking around the cabin.
Finally sealing the wood after weathering is completed is important to ensure that washes and any pigments you may have added are not then eroded. I have not come across a clear finish that is really matt from a spray can, so I usually find that a dull coat of hand painted enamel matt varnish from a tin gives a much better matt finish. Most types of wood varnish will invariably leave the wood with a satin sheen and quite possibly create a degree of colour enhancement that you usually will not want after all your careful weathering, so perhaps it is best to avoid these.
As I final word I just want to mention the use of airbrushes. You will notice them used quite frequently on weathered models and they are usually used to generate dirty and stained areas of a boat. In my own experience and after studying numerous examples of weathered ships, I don’t think that airbrushes give the most realistic effect. Consequently, I use them only for one thing and that as already mentioned, is for making sooty stains from exhaust outlets. All other weathering is almost certainly better created by brush work with different types of media and trying to produce the effect in the same way it was in reality. Rust, dirt grime, salt and almost all other signs of use invariably form as a result of sea water or rain action and don’t end up being a very gentle shaded effect of a single colour. I know there are obviously a great number of supporters of airbrushing, but personally I really don’t think they give the most realistic effect.
These are my thoughts on the practicalities of weathering and are not definitive, but I hope the techniques suggested are useful. Photo 14 is of a very well and elegantly weathered tug.
Start with the easy techniques and move on to the more complicated, but always experiment on spare fittings or test pieces, Photo 15. I have no doubt whatsoever that you will enjoy playing with these techniques and will be impressed with just what you can achieve with them. Never forget though, that ‘less is best’ and build up the effects slowly and don’t be tempted to overdo it.
Want the latest issue of Model Boats? Use our magazine locator link to find your nearest stockist!
Make sure you never miss out on the latest news, product reviews and competitions with our free RSS feed
We welcome well written contributions from Website members on almost any aspect of Model Boating with a particular emphasis on practical hints, tips, experience and builds.
In order to maintain a consistent standard and format, all suggestions should first be sent to me by Personal Message for approval in principle. Only a very limited amount of time is available for editing contributions into a suitable format for placing on the website so it is important that the material is well presented, lucid and free from obvious spelling errors. I think it goes without saying that contributions should be illustrated by appropriate photos. I shall be happy to give advice on this.
The Member Contribution area offers space for short informative mini articles which would not normally find a place in Model Boats magazine. It is an opportunity for Website Members to freely share their expertise and experience but I am afraid that virtue is its own reward as there is no budget to offer more material recompense!
I look forward to receiving your suggestions.
Colin Bishop - Website Editor