Technique: Multi-Layer Chipping

M-LChipping

I’ll straight-up admit it. I’ve been procrastinating on my big Tamiya F4U-1 Corsair. Oh, sure, part of it’s been working on other builds, but a bigger part has been sheer anxiety over how I’m going to paint the thing.

The problem is pretty basic, really. I have a pretty reliable painting process that puts a lot of variation into potentially monochrome schemes – a must for a worn, faded, battered Marine Corsair serving in the South Pacific. I also have a need to introduce some fairly aggressive chipping and worn paint effects – a need that my black-basing process doesn’t really make provisions for.

I knew hairspray or some other kind of chipping solution would play into the answer, but how, specifically?

I decided to do a little experimentation to sort that out. Continue reading

By Grabthar’s Hammer

GrabtharsHammer

By pretty much any measure, running a popular Facebook page is pretty damn awesome. I get to post things and people like and comment on and share them! I get to share techniques and works in progress and great reference pics and the amazing work of modelers all over the world. I occasionally get responses in weird languages that even Facebook’s little translation tool can’t sort out.

As a nice little bonus, a lot of the little tricks of the trade have proven quite useful to me professionally, as well.

But…it’s not without its annoyances.

Such as dealing with tedious, repetitive questions.

This morning, I woke up to a new comment on a picture of my Corsair I posted last night.

“What scale?”

Now, I’m sure the poster was thinking something like “huh, that looks like a neat kit, I would like to buy one. I wonder what scale it is?” Or perhaps “I can’t tell from the angle if that’s the 1/48 or 1/32 Tamiya kit”.

My reaction, on the other hand, was something more like this:

What scale? WHAT SCALE? I’ve only been working on this thing for THREE *#*!$%#@! MONTHS! What do you think I did, swap it out for a 1/72 kit randomly? 

I was very tempted to answer 1/350.

But here’s the thing. I get this question ALL. THE. TIME. And I know why I get it, too.

It’s all Facebook’s fault.

WARNING —– BORING STUFF TIME —- WARNING

Facebook’s algorithm basically “gates” page posts so that they only reach a small percentage of a page’s followers. This is as it should be. It keeps your news feed from being overrun more than it already is by annoying brand pages that suck at content marketing. The only way to push a post up the tiers to more and more exposure? By hitting certain engagement (i.e likes, comments and shares) levels. Or, you know, paying Facebook.

In effect, this means that someone who likes Doogs’ Models on Facebook may only see something like one in ten of my posts (it varies based on use habits, too…seriously the algorithm is scarily smart). So it sets up this weird sort of news feed relativity, where people reading my posts don’t have the same context that I have posting them.

END WARNING

Of course, knowing what’s going on intellectually doesn’t make such comments any less tedious or repetitive to me, in my specific news feed reality. So when I get questions like:

“What kit is this?”

“What primer is that?”

“What paint is that?”

“What aircraft is that?”

“What is that acrylic rod stand thing?”

“Why do you use black primer?”

…know that I will answer them dutifully and politely, but behind the keyboard I will probably look something like this:

And if you don’t get the title of this post, for the love of god go watch Galaxy Quest. It’s on Netflix right now, so you have no excuse.

Austin SMS 2014 Entries

2014ASMS

The 2014 Austin Scale Modelers’ Society contest/show/etc* is tomorrow, and this is the first time in a few years, it feels like, when the evening before is not going to be a rush job to finish up a build in time to hit the contest tables.

To be honest, I’m a bit worried about this year’s show. Last year was markedly subdued, and this year it will be competing against not only the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Festival, but a Longhorns home game and Austin Comic Con. But, you know, fingers crossed there’ll be good turnout.

As with every year, I’m planning to bring a medley of builds. I learned a while back that you never really know what will and won’t do well with the judges. I mean, last year I had two 109s…a Revell G-6 and a Hasegawa G-4. In my opinion the G-4 was the better build, with the better paintwork, etc. But the G-6 won 1st in the category while the G-4 got a big fat goose egg.

So what’s coming with me tomorrow?

1/48 Jets: Hasegawa A-4F Skyhawk
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1/48 Jets: Trumpeter MiG-21F-13

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1/32 Jets: Trumpeter Me 262A-2a

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1/32 Props: Hasegawa Ki-84 Hayate

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1/35 Armored Cars: Trumpeter LAV-AT

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1/35 AFVs 1960-Present: Tamiya Challenger 1

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1/35 AFVs 1960-Present: Trumpeter T-80BV

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Tonal Crush

TonalCrush

I’ve touched on the idea of tonal crush in a few posts here and there, but it occurs to me that I’ve never stopped to fully explain the concept – or its implications for modeling.

Time to fix that!

A Brief Explanation

Tonal crush is, at its most basic, the apparent loss of tonal variation within a certain color, when placed alongside contrasting colors. The tones are literally crushed together, so that a color looks more monochromatic.

To explain why this happens, it helps to come in through a side entrance. Continue reading

My Own Worst Enemy

MyOwnWorstEnemy

When it comes to modeling, I am my own worst enemy.

This is something I’ve known – at least subconsciously – for a long time. I’m the reason I abandon so many builds, and dawdle along with others. I’m the reason I get into the weeds with a tiny piece of a far larger project to the point that it burns me out. I’m the one that cuts corners to my later chagrin. I’m the one that turns the intended light, fun projects into long, slogging builds.

I realized this anew the other day as I was working on Trumpeter’s LAV-AT. It was picked up with the intention of being a breather between other, far more intensive armor builds. It’s a decent kit, but held back from being good due to some soft detail and laziness on Trumpeter’s part.

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I told myself not to worry about it going in. Just build through it. Have fun, try out some new techniques, and come out the other side refreshed.

So what did I do? Focus on those little things. Get bogged down. Get frustrated. Maybe I should add this, or fix that, or redo this.

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Then a few days ago, I realized what I was doing. I’m so close. I’m almost done with the LAV-AT. It’s time to stop obsessing. Put my head down and FINISH. IT.

So that’s my goal. Finish off the LAV-AT by the end of the month and move the hell on. I’ve spent too much time this past year hobbling myself and my builds, and it’s been a killer to my output. Some builds demand maximum effort, sure. But others, it’s okay for them to be good enough.

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Are you your own worst enemy, too?

Bench, Interrupted

Eagle-eyed readers may note that it has been over a month since my last post.

Lamentably, yes.

Life over the past six weeks has been…full. Some things have had to fall by the wayside. Between the time crush and a general sense of malaise with the “non-modeling” aspects of modeling, the blog has definitely been back-burnered.

I’m hoping to change that soon…but before I do I want to think through a bit where I want to take things. My usual build posts are, to me at least, growing a bit. stale. Construction and priming and so on is generally repetitive. For me to write and, I’m guessing, for you to read. So…I’m considering a shakeup that would focus more on technique, or on the unique aspects of a build. 

Long story short, excuse the inactivity. It’s temporary. And the usual order of things might be getting an upending soon.

Technique: Black Basing

Technique---Black-Basing

I’ve never been a big fan of the standard pre-shading, where you trace panel lines in black and then try your damnedest to cover the gray primered areas without completely blowing away all that fine airbrush work that went into the preshade lines. It’s a very delicate balance that, for me, usually just leads to a lot of swearing.

Instead, as I got back into modeling, I picked up what I call the Three-Layer Blend technique.

This is still an awesome technique and a lot more controllable than basic pre-shading. But a few things.

  • It’s a crapton of work. Work that may look gorgeous and subtle one moment, but then be completely lost when you start adding additional colors or decals (because adding wildly different colors tends to crush down tonal variation…thanks a lot, eyes).
  • You still have to fight the battle to “cover the gray” of the primer.
  • Did I mention it’s a crapton of work?

Over my past…I don’t know, it’s been several builds now…I’ve been refining a different technique that basically takes the entire concept of pre-shading and flips it. I call it “Black Basing”.

I’ve found Black Basing to be extremely controllable, a LOT faster than the Three-Layer Blend, and very good at introducing tonal variations, even in pretty basic monochrome schemes. And if you look at actual aircraft, that’s often exactly what you want. Yeah there’s some weathering that aligns with panel lines, but a lot of times, it’s a more random variation than that. And with Black Basing, you can still get that nice panel shading if you want it.

The First Rule of Black Basing

The first rule is simple. Use a black base. You can prime the model, and then paint it black, but I find it’s easier to just use a black primer. My go to is Gunze Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500 Black, but your mileage may vary.

For the purposes of this post, I’m just going to focus on a current bench occupant, Freedom Models’ 1/48 X-47B.

Here’s the black going down…

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And here it is fully primed…

Why Prime in Black?

Two reasons.

First, it makes whatever you’re working on look temporarily extra mean and badass.

Second, it immediately gets rid of the “cover the gray” problem. You don’t have to worry about getting enough coverage to hide the primer, because if you don’t put the paint down as thick, instead of obvious primer peeking through, you get….SHADING!

Adding Color

Now that the black is down, it’s time to add color. And this is where you can really have fun with tonal variation. There are two ways you can go about this, and they can be used together.

The first is paint opacity. The heavier you put on the paint, the more it will cover the black – i.e. the more opaque it will be. Conversely, the thinner you go with the paint, the more black will show through. So just by painting as you normally would on the centers of panels and going lighter over the panel lines, you’re getting basically the same result as panel line pre-shading. But you can also do this all over the surface, for varied, weathered finishes.

The second is color variation. If you’re painting, say, olive drab as a topcoat, you can lay down various browns and greens, heavily thinned, that will subtly change up the color tones of the final coat. Just be sure to thin the olive drab down enough that it doesn’t cover over all that work! And be very mindful of “tonal crush”. A gray jet in low-viz markings will show a lot of tonal variation all the way through, but if you’re adding invasion stripes or brightly colored cowl or fuselage bands or high-viz markings, whatever tonal variation you introduce at this stage will be cut down by as much as half by the time you get to the end of the build.

My X-47 is more an exercise in opacity than color variation, so let’s see how that works in practice.

First, take your paint – in this case Gunze C13 Neutral Gray – and thin it way down. You want to build this effect in layers. Gunze thankfully dries very fast, so all this layer work can be done in a night or two. I typically thin mine about 3:1 thinner-to-paint.

For the first “layer”, I wanted to set up the opacity variation, so I went very small and random. This isn’t particularly difficult since you aren’t trying to get the pattern just so or anything. Actually it’s very good practice for other small-and-subtle jobs like Luftwaffe mottling.

The goal here isn’t to cover the whole thing, but to build in different levels of opacity.

If you were adding some color variation, this is where you would want to do so. Again following the same random distribution (unless you want to represent, say, replaced panels, in which case just focus on those panels, etc).

The Thin Top Coat

Once you have this layer (or layers) in place, using the same very thin paint mix, go wider with your spraying and build up the paint slowly.

If you think about it in opacity terms kind of like the way Photoshop works, an opacity of 0 = black and 100 = whatever your color is. On the first passes, you’re basically ratcheting up very localized opacity. Now you want to bring up overall opacity to something like, say, 70. But work slowly, and with very thin paint, because it is possible to overdo it.

Here’s what the final result looks like:

Overall, I find this to be the best, simplest, most controllable method I’ve found for adding in this variation at the painting stage. If you haven’t tried it – give it a shot!