All posts by fossiljellyfish

I'm a biologist who enjoys building scale models... I write popular science articles in my spare time, play World of Tanks, and publish scale model reviews in Armorama. I have decided to start a blog to show the work I've been doing; any comments are welcome. Please subscribe to the blog, and give regular feedback; this would greatly help me to improve both my skills and my blog.

Mud -how to (tips that apply to weathering in general)

I think I would like to write some short posts on techniques for beginners Not sure if it is a useful idea, or the post themselves are going to be good, so I would like to ask for some feedback.

That being said… how to mud.

Making mud is a difficult issue. It has to be realistic -or feel realistic, at least. This has always something that eluded me; and I was quite worried with experimenting since I did not want to mess up a model I’ve worked on. We all have seen horrible examples which looked as if some brown substance was crudely brushed all over the model; I do not wish to include examples here for those since I do not think we should put others’ work in display as a bad example. And we all saw the good ones and the amazing ones.

My efforts fall in the middle somewhere: some are good, some are not so good.

  1.  

I keep buying magazines, promising to show me the way, and I keep testing different products that guarantee a great results straight out of the bottle. But there are no short cuts. I found that you have to work just as much with a dedicated product as using home-made alternatives -or even actual mud. (More on that later.)

So let’s see the different options (which are normally used in conjunction with each other)

  1. Using, well, mud. This is an often overlooked option. 
  2. Pigments (artists’ pigments or ready-made products) NB: raw umber is a great pale color for dry mud color. 
  3. Pigments with some bulking agent mixed in (plaster, texturizer acrylic resin, static grass, sand, or all of the above) This will give volume
  4. AK interactive’s mud product
  5. Vallejo’s mud product
  6. Tamiya’s mud stick and makeup kits

The secret of application is to recognize that one product will not do everything, and one application will not achieve a realistic look. Just because it is on the bottle, it does not mean you will get the effect you want just by smearing the stuff on the model -something I learned to my own surprise.

As with all weathering generally, the secret is on observation and on the application (and partial removal) of layers.

Dry, powdery mud goes on first in a thin but large area. This can actually be sprayed on as an actual paint layer. This is normally light in color, and goes on the complete underside, and some on the top of the vehicle.

Then come the pigments, similar effect, smaller sized area. Using a wet brush (moistened with the appropriate diluent, it being water, turpentine or something else the mud product in question uses) gently remove some of it,, “washing it back”. This is an important step. You can also use paints to modulate the color of pigments (oils, acrylics, watercolor, tempera -whatever you fancy.)

Then come the darker, wetter mud, – again pigment, or pigments mixed with some volume giving material, Adjust, remove some using an old brush again. If you use a special made product, like AK’s mud, make sure you add some volume to it as well, as it is only a thick slurry, and will not give the results you see on the photo on the bottle just by itself.

And on and on -working on smaller and smaller areas, with darker pigments. Some “wet effects” products can actually be used to simulate wet patches, too.

The final touch is to load a stiff brush with thin mud mixture and just flicker it onto the model as splashes -again, done in several sessions in several shades. The trick is to slowly build up the effect.

And that is it. Simple. (Riiigh.)

This same idea can be used with dust as well: apply, remove, apply again. In theory you do not actually need fancy products -pigments should be enough; however they do give a convenient way to get the color right -which is the hard part. Mud is different everywhere, depending on local geography, so keep this in mind. You may think that purpose made products will give you a shortcut to achieve amazing results, but the fact is you need to learn how to use them properly -and you can easily create similar “products” just by using pigments, plaster, etc as mentioned above.

1:76 TOG-II Giesbers Models 

This was always something of a holy grail for me … The obscure and unknown TOG-II achieved a mythical status thanks to World of Tanks, where it is a playable premium tank , giving birth to a multitude of memes.

I also had the fortune of seeing the original in Bovingdon… (Follow the link for photos.) It looks so absurd, so strange, you just want to have a scale model of it.

There is only one company that I know of that produces this tank in a model form, Giesbers Models.

I have been aware of this model for a long time, but the really high shipping costs always held me back from ordering it. However in 2021 I finally took the plunge and ordered this model and the Vickers Independent (another strange tank on the list of must-haves).

The model is a classical small-scale resin model in the favor of Cromwell Models, Armory, or Hunor Models – a sturdy little box, a few parts, lots of flash, and some pouring errors… The biggest problem with the model are some casting issues: on one side where the side-sponson would have been mounted it looks like the resin poured into the edges. Also on the turret the resin looks like it is flaking off in layers. The gun itself has some problems, too. The shape is a bit of an oval, not circular, and the “peeling” effect you can see on the turret is very much prominent there, too. The detail on the muzzle break is not exactly sharp, either, and will need to be drilled. These are just your bog-standard “garage kit” issues. The other big problem is surface. This model has a lot of it, big, flat surfaces, and they are far from perfect. The master of the model was obviously produced using 3D printing, and the layers from the printer have not been smoothed away. They are very prominent after you prime the model. Obviously you can sand them off, but then you have to replicate all the fine little detail you just destroyed. Very unsatisfactory, honestly; you would expect some pre-production work on a model.

The cleaning of the parts took about thirty minutes, assembly approximately twenty… so not a complex model for sure. (It is a hilariously long tank when put next to other small-scale models.) I did some sanding, but decided against spending hours and hours with a sanding stick, so some layer marks stayed. They are very prominent on close-ups, but when you view the model with a naked eye it is not that bad.

It took me some time to figure out what sort of paint scheme I want to use -since I did not like the one it actually has in the Tank Museum, and I decided against the usual “boring” green. I just “stole” a desert pattern the British used in Africa -although I highly doubt this tank would have been transported to that theater. (Maybe the in-doors swimming pool I always supposed it had inside would have been useful there.)

Overall I really am happy with this model since this was always something I wanted to have on my shelf, regardless of the issues it presents. However, just as with the Independent, the HMS TOG would also benefit from a 1/35 full interior version.

1/76 Vickers Independent Giesbers Models 

This tank is one of those strange ones build between the wars. by the British. When I first saw it in Bovingdon, I really liked how it looked -the riveted, domed turret, the long shape, the multiple gun-turrets… as if someone tried to build a steam-punk tank back in the 20s. It wasn’t ver practical, but hey – looks beat practical. Naturally I wanted to have a scale model of it, so after much deliberation I ordered Giesber’s models’ offering.

The model is made out of relatively few parts, and assembly is quick once I finished cleaning up all the flash and pouring blocks. There are a couple of bubbles in the resin which is not welcome; correcting these is a pain, but what are you going to do? This is part and parcel of resin kits.

The model is reasonably accurate: a few viewing ports are missing from the main turret -the rest of the detail is there and accurate. The detail on the machine gun barrels is somewhat soft, but in this scale it is probably expected. As a side-note: there are no hatches on the main turret, so the only way out would be the two hatches on the side of the tank. The very thought of being in that thing without an easy way out gives me serious claustrophobia…

The assembly is quick as I said, although the fit is not perfect. Regardless the tank can be built in an hour once the cleanup is done.

Painting was done using the usual acrylics (Tamiya) over Vallejo primer. I tried not to go overboard with weathering since in this small scale it can look quite bad; some careful pinwashes, some filters, oils and pigments were added -and my own little HMS Independent was ready to sail.

It is an unique tank with an unique design, so not surprisingly I really would love to have a 1/35 version of it with an interior. Since this is not actually an option now, I am content with this option.

Avunculus Fragili (Imperial Knight) part 3.

So I never actually liked the result with the Kinght. It is OK, but it is far from how a corrupted, ancient machine should look like. (And it is very far from a Golden Daemon winner.) After my little experiments with oils, I decided to give the Knight a doover. The edges got some serious highlighting, the deeper areas got some grime and shadows -it now looks much better (still no Golden Daemon) than before.

This is what it was like
The magic of oils

Now I can do something about the former, not much about the latter… so oil paints here I come.

All this gave me a serious push to finally start my Chaos Warhound Titan I bought long-long time ago.

Blending with oils

Well, mini painting is definitely a challenge for me. The different techniques -blending especially- with acrylics are kind of difficult and they take a long time to achieve. It is a lot of practice and patience to force the quick drying acrylic paints do things they would not be doing normally -too much for me, to be honest. I did, however, find the light… in the form of a couple of youtube videos.

One of the most useful -or rather, eye opening- was this one:

So obviously I decided to give it a try. I used a Warlord Titan head by Forgeworld as a test piece. (As a side-note: JESUS CHRIST, IT GOT EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE -it was about 60 quids when I bought it a long, long time ago).

It has been painted in a blue/white scheme, but was just sitting in the “to do” pile” as it looked very bland and clean, and I had no idea who to proceed apart from adding some stains and streaks. But now… I have been using oils on minis before, but this was, I think, the most extensive use yet.

As per the video I based the mini with white and blue paint, and started adding different colors.

With the white I went with a dirty look (not that kind). I added raw umber out of the tube to the edges, and using a dry brush I spread it out a bit, adjusting constantly. It made the surface used filthy and also three dimensional, by adding some shadow effects as well. Then I picked burned umber and repeated the process on a smaller area (signifying darker shadows, closer to the edges), and repeated it with black using it on a very small surface. A day or two after I used a brush moistened with ZestIt to remove some of the paint, adjusting the effect, and to create some faint streaks.

With the blue I went with a similar route first: adding darkened spots, shadows to the edges, lightening up the middle with lighter colors. However I also added highlights to the panel edges as an experiment. It something that is not easy to do with a brush, and which requires a lot of masking with an airbrush. The results were pretty impressive considering the amount of time and effort they took (which was very little). First I used a light blue color to create a gradient, and then repeated the process with white on a smaller area -and it is done. If you want to smoothen it even more, you can adjust it with a slightly moistened brush after a couple of days of drying.

Really simple, really effective. The drawback is that the paint takes a long time to dry. However it is not as if I do not have a ton of other projects waiting for me to finish… So here it is. A simple, fast way to blend. Not sure if I will get a Golden Daemon for it (well…) but as a technique it is more to my taste: does not require an immense investment of time and effort… The lazy man’s blending, I guess.

The head is not yet complete – I will add some more tonal variation, some streaks, etc, once the paint had dried, and I can seal it with varnish. I will also go over the Imperial Knight I built to spice it up a bit.

In the process of blending
Finished article (for now)
Adding dark paint to the corners, bright colors to the middle

Finished

Raw umber applied

I quickly painted the gold edges to give a better idea how it will look

ICM Marder I on FCM 36 base

If you want to read a review of the model, I published one on Armorama. I only learned about this tank destroyer from World of Tanks where it is an incredibly overpowered tier III premium vehicle.

In short: it is a simple, easy-to-assemble kit of a cool little tank destroyer. If you are a fan of this vehicle in World of Tanks and have no modelling experience, it is actually a model you can build with ease. If it was not a review sample coming with its own paint-set, I would have painted it in the “green grove” camo from WoT. ..

The paints performed admirably; the only issue I have -which might not be an issue at all- is that I find the base yellow (dunkelgelb) provided way too dark. (It is “middle stone” in the paint set.)

What I did was to use it as a base layer and “modulated” it with Mig’s Dunkelgelb…

I used silly putty for masking, and added the other two colors of the camo. The paints performed perfectly well; I had no problem using them with airbrush or brush, although they needed to be diluted with water heavily. (The paint is very thick,) Which is fine as you get a lot actually in those tiny, 12ml bottles.

Weathering…

I started with filters -ochre, brownish, a touch of green.

Then came the chipping, the wear-and-tear and rust inside: the trusty German Black Brown applied with a 0 sized brush. I applied some scratches and whatnot on the superstructure, and added a little bit of rust streak to some of them. (Most of it is hidden by the dust layers…)

Dust and mud were adding using these products mainly. The very light brown “light sienna” was a transformative product (any pigment would suffice, not just Vallejo’s); after all dry mud is almost grey in color. (One of my constant struggle with mud has been the unrealistically dark color.) The structured mud by Green Stuff World is essentially the same thing you can get from Tamiya or Vallejo- a thick paste you can dilute with water, and mix it with pigments, ink or acrylic paints (or anything water-soluble, really). There was no strict order or method – generally I tried to apply the lighter colors on a larger surface (dried, older mud, dust), used a wet brush to remove some of the material using vertical strokes, simulating rain and other effects, waited until it got dry, and went ahead with a thicker, darker mixture on a smaller area. I also applied some splashes using an old brush and a piece of card on the lower hull using several different shades.

Mystic Wargames: The Death Lord (70mm)

OK, this is the third version of Morti, the Primarch of the Death Guard I painted. I think it is one of the best versions of him pre-Heresy. (And also that I need to get better light sources.) I cannot recommend this company enough -they make some real nice looking alternatives for Warhammer 3- 40K,

I tried to paint his armor as dirty as possible, and had a little experi8ence with OSL -with some success, but not to my complete satisfaction.ű

(I just noticed I forgot to paint the chains holding the skeleton to the scythe. .. will do that tonight. Also: it is a really freaking stupid choice of weapon if you ask me.)

Turpentin alternatives

A quick post about turpentine alternatives (mostly as a note to myself).

Turpentine is smelly, but more importantly, it is also quite toxic -not to mention flammable. (Even the odorless terpenoid is quite toxic. Aromatic compounds are not good for your health as a general rule.) However, since oil paints are part and parcel of scale modelling, not to mention enamel-based weathering products (such as AK’s  and Mig’s  weathering range), you are forced to use it. (I am still experimenting with water-based oils.)

I found two viable alternatives, which I would like to share. While they are certainly better than the original, they are still not healthy for you. It is still important to have proper ventilation.

Zest-It

I have been using Zest-It for diluting oil paints, prepare washes, apply filters, and cleaning brushes. Perfectly serviceable – I can only recommend it.

Turpenoid Natural

Now, just because “natural” is in the name, does not make it healthy. (Arsenic is quite natural, too, after all.) I have not had the chance to use it, but once I run out of Zest-It, I will probably give it a go. It claims to be non-toxic and non-flammable, which, in my book, makes it an acceptable compromise even if the performance is inferior to turpentine’s. (It does mention a maximum mix ratio, which suggests to me that it may not perform as well as the good ole’ turpentine,

A short intermezzo

Well, as they say I managed to deliver a running kick in my own nuts in February, and underwent laser eye surgery (PRK, not LASIK).

Well, the doctor promised it would be over in a week, and I would be back at work and my life by the next Monday. Well, it took me three weeks of sick leave, and on the 5th week my vision is still not very good, so no model building for me. (Although it would probably be amusing to do some minipainting with these eyes….) The ironic thing is that my mother bought me a 1:32 Tamiya Zero (she has never done anything like that before), and I still cannot actually see well enough to take a good look at the model. Oh, and there is a war in the neighborhood.

Anyhow, stay tuned. In case my eyes get better and the world is not animated in a nuclear war, I will start posting soon(ish.)