How to Paint Model Tanks: Make Your Models Stand Apart

  • By: Richard
  • Date: August 8, 2021
  • Time to read: 22 min.

Hi, I’m Richard. In this article, we’ll be looking at how to paint model tanks and make them stand out from the crowd. There are many tutorials on painting models on the internet, and they all have their own merits, but there’s no substitution for an expert opinion, so that’s what you’re going to get here!

What Is The Point Of Painting Model Tanks?

The point of painting model tanks is to make them stand out from the crowd. When showing off your painted models at a tournament or just around the games club, the last thing you want is for someone else’s beautifully painted miniature tank to eclipse yours and overshadow it completely. You’re trying to get people looking at YOUR work, not theirs!

So we want to paint tanks in a way that looks good and makes them stand out from the crowd. And there’s no greater thrill than being on top of your game and looking down at all those tiny little models, knowing you’ve got one up on everyone else!

Here are some tips for painting model tanks:

  • Firstly, you need to choose your paint colors. There are many manufacturers out there, and they all have their own signature color sets for painting tanks, so it’s best to do some research beforehand. But in general, just pick something that looks good on the model and suits your needs!
  • Secondly, we recommend using an airbrush. It’s a higher quality of paint, and it’ll give you that professional finish in next to no time!
  • Thirdly, remember to use your airbrush for every step of the painting process. For instance, if you’re going from light colors (such as cream) to darker shades, then start with an undercoat before applying the darker colors.
  • Fourthly, this is more of a personal choice, but we recommend painting the tracks separately from the tank and then gluing them on at the end to make sure they’re straight. It takes a bit longer, but it’s worth it in terms of the final product!

All that said, there are some ways you can paint tank models to make them stand out from the crowd. Here are some examples:

  • Painting a different color in a camouflage pattern and then applying dirt textures over the top of it. This will give your tanks that extra bit of realism!
  • Paint up the tracks separately and add rust around all the edges for an authentic look.
  • Paint the tank with a base coat of gloss paint to make it stand out from the crowd.

The Types Of Paint I Use For My Models

Another thing you’ll want to know is the types of paint I use for my models. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, so don’t worry about that! We’re just giving you some examples of the types of paint that I use.

So, what do we recommend? Well, it’s going to depend on your personal tastes and preferences, but here are a few things:

For camouflage patterns, try using Tamiya paints or Vallejo colors. For regular painting jobs, then go for citadel acrylics or Vallejo model color.

For rust, try using some pastel colors and watered-down gloss paint to make it look authentic!

Wrap up: Here are the steps you need for painting tanks and making them stand out from the crowd:

  1. Choose your paint colors wisely. There might be differences in shades across different manufacturers, but the best advice is to pick something that suits your needs.
  2. Use an airbrush for every step of the painting process. This will give you high-quality results quickly and with a professional finish.
  3. Paint tracks separately from tanks before gluing them on at the end
  4. Experiment! Try new things, use different colors, and experiment with different techniques to see what you like best.

Painting A Tank Without Airbrush And With An Airbrush

Painting tanks without an airbrush is possible, although it does take more time and effort than if you use one.

Here are some tips for painting tanks:

  • Use a primer as your first coat on bare metal models or any other metallics you want to highlight.

A gloss coat of primer will help the paint adhere better to the model.

  • Remember that you can use any acrylic color on your tank, whether full coverage or an airbrush highlighting effect.
  • It is best to use white as your first highlight and then lighten colors with tints from there. For example, you can mix a little white with green to make lighter shades of green or add some red for purples.
  • Remember that paint will blend, so do not worry if the two colors look like they are touching too much and just start going off-color.
  • You always want to focus on painting one side at a time before flipping it over and continuing from there. This way, your brush does not pick up any old paint and keeps the tank steady while working on it.
  • Primer is key when using this technique because without primer; paints may react negatively to each other or change color due to having multiple layers already applied onto them from previous steps. It also helps build more opacity than starting fresh would with just paint.
  • If you are using a brush, make sure to wash it off and let the water dry before moving on to the next step, or else your colors will mix into one another more than they would if you were painting with an airbrush.
  • Once again, remember that white is your first highlight color when doing this technique, so keep adding layers of thinner coats for it to show up more clearly as being different from other highlights.
  • Do not worry about blending too much because we are going for an overall effect here rather than something meticulous like an airbrush where each layer has a specific purpose.
  • -When spraying paints without an airbrush, always go slowly across the model instead of back and forth. This will help keep the paint from getting too thick and avoid issues with overspray or creating a pattern of stripes in your model.
  • When spraying paints without an airbrush, take note that it may be best to use less water and thinner coats than you would if using one because they spray out more liquid when doing so, which can lead to unintended results on your tank, such as running over other colors or even flinging off onto nearby models.
  • Make sure not to sand down the surface beforehand since we are going for a rougher texture rather than something smooth like what you see with most painted tanks.
  • Use appropriate chipping mediums (i.e., primer) before painting just like you would with an airbrush, and then use a medium like Citadel’s weathering powders to create different effects.
  • Do not paint one color on top of another unless you use a gradient blend to achieve the effect.
  • Always go back over any areas that need more attention, such as chips or scratches, etc., not to stand out too much afterward.

Tips On How To Make Your Models Look Like They Are In The Battlefield With Dirt, Mud, Or Camouflage And Other Realistic Effects

  • Use various dirt, mud, and camouflage color in different areas to make the models stand out.
  • Always highlight details with white paint before applying the final coat of black or brown for maximum realism. Â Create realistic effects using the wet on dry technique: apply water, then layer black/brown over it without completely drying. The result is a gritty effect that really makes your model tanks look like they’re just coming back from battle!
  • Use an airbrush to get a streaky effect.
  • Use a sponge to create realistic mud and dirt. Â Take the time to make sure they are layered with different shades of brown or black in varying degrees of thickness for maximum realism! Â Experiment by applying your paints on tops of other colors, such as blue sky, green grass, and dunes.
  • For camo effects, use watered-down paint that’s slightly darker than the base color; this will give you an effect without going overboard with too much detail.
  • A transparent gloss topcoat is a must for any model tank to give it the wet shine and protect its paint job from scratches. The final step of applying this clear protective finish will make your tanks stand out in striking detail!

Remember: don’t worry about making mistakes! Even if it looks bad at first, you can always add more paint over it until you get the desired results.

I’ve often had models where some areas look way better than others, but they all look great once I’ve finished painting.

The Benefits Of Painting Model Tanks (Why It’S Worth The Effort)

The first advantage is in making your finished project stand apart from others. If you want your army to look more realistic when displayed on the tabletop, then it’s worth investing some extra hours into each tank by hand-painting them rather than simply relying on decals or dry transfers (although these have their place as well).

This will ensure that no two tanks in an army list will be identical, even if they’re both painted red! This is a good thing as it will help distinguish them from one another on the tabletop.

Another benefit is that you might be able to charge extra for your painted tanks because they’re more time-intensive than their unpainted counterparts. It’s always nice when someone wants to pay you for what would have taken an hour or two of work, and sometimes, people will even pay more than the original cost of the kit.

Finally, if you’re a hobbyist looking to make money from your modeling, then it’s always better to go with the higher-end products worth their weight in gold and carry themselves well on display. Painting tanks by hand might seem like an extravagant process, but the benefits of doing so are indisputable.

FAQs

 

How to Paint Camouflage On Model Tanks

Since there are many different ways to paint camouflage on model tanks, it can be hard to know where to start. Some people will use the standard colors for their models, while others like experimenting and getting creative. No matter what your taste is, you will want to make sure that your pictures stand out from all of the others in these categories:

  • Sports Teams – If you’re painting for a sports team, go with the theme color scheme (reds/greens) or create something new using one main accent color and another background palette. The sky’s the limit, so have fun!
  • Nature – There are many combinations in nature-themed models because they cover an entire spectrum. Some people find it easiest to paint a tree or something like an elephant with its habitat in the background.
  • Modern Warfare – These are perfect for war games enthusiasts who want their models to resemble real-life combat scenes
  • Cartoon Characters – If you’re into more of our animated friends, then this is the category for you! Just be creative and have fun drawing out your favorite characters.
  • Fantasy – This may sound intimidating, but there really isn’t much to do here except put on some of those movie scores that always give off that “fantasy” vibe and go at it!

Some things to keep in mind when painting camouflage would be:

  • What will color scheme work best? Will you make your camouflage with one main color or a mix of colors?
  • When you paint a model tank, there are many factors to consider, including the scale of your project and what type of detail you want to add.
  • When adding weathering, what kind should you use – dirt, dust, rust, etc.

How to Make Mud For Model Tanks

The first thing you need to know about making mud for model tanks is that it’s easy. The second thing you need to know is that there are various methods and materials at your disposal. This post will detail three different approaches, so read on!

Poster Painting

Use poster paint, which comes in many colors, or use an oil-based enamel like the kind used by professional painters. Brush this over your base color until it starts to look right. Then stop applying more paint when it’s time – if you want some variation, brush another coat with a slightly lighter shade over areas where the sun would hit (shadows) and let dry before applying anything else. If doing camo patterning, divide the vehicle into sections using masking tape and paint each section with a different color – black, browns, greens, etc.

Acrylic Paints

These come in many colors and are easy to apply using an old brush or make your own by rolling up some paper towels (or toilet tissue) into tight rolls, cut them off at the desired length, then use your fingers to dab them onto the model however you want. This is a great way to give surfaces more texture, like rusted metal parts where irregular shapes work best. They can be mixed for variation but do not overwork this type of paint because if it gets too thick, it will crack when dry, so stop adding new color before that happens. Acrylics also have two other advantages: they are water-soluble, so you can apply them to damp surfaces, and they cover great over dirt, making it easier.

Oil Based Enamels

These paints come in various colors but tend to be dark rather than light like the others. They also require more patience because drying time is longer – if using a brush might mean waiting up to an hour before applying another coat. But for those who want that ‘weathered’ look, these are perfect because when dry, they create stiff texture with raised bumps which make things feel old and worn out (which would not happen with acrylics). The downside is that you cannot use complicated techniques because the paint’s thickness will stay applied.

Painting Techniques

There are many painting techniques to consider when starting work on your model tanks, and understanding these will help with the overall look of the finished product. For example, dry brushing is good for adding highlights or making something seem dusty – apply it by dipping an old brush in paint then using light strokes against raised surfaces (like rivets). Wet washing involves applying paint to a wet surface, resulting in textures that feel more natural than those created via other methods. The downside here is that some colors can be difficult to get right since they tend to mix instead of staying where applied; this might not matter if doing camo patterning but would otherwise create confusing areas on vehicles like green mixed into black.

Camouflage Patterns

Camo patterns can be applied to your tanks (or any other model) in many ways, and the first thing you need to do is decide what kind of pattern best suits your needs – tiger stripes, woodlands, or urban digital camo, for example. Once that’s done, consider things like color choice (matching it to a specific army), size of vehicle or tank-type, etc., then figure out how each section should look. If doing one large area rather than sections, use masking tape as a guide and paint accordingly; if creating multiple areas divide with more taped off lines, so colors don’t bleed into neighboring zones when dry. Steps on applying different types are outlined below!

The three main camouflage patterns are Tiger Stripes, Woodland, and Urban Digital Camo. Here’s how you can use them:

  1. Tiger Stripe Pattern: This is a popular pattern used in armies such as the US Marines because it looks great on any vehicles or tanks that might be found in contrast environments – desert sand being one of those spots where this style would work best. To paint tiger stripes start by dividing your vehicle into sections using masking tape, then brush over with browns (or tan) before adding black to create a striped texture; if making camo patterns for an entire tank rather than just specific areas, consider painting all surfaces at once, so they have the same look when finished.
  2. Woodland Pattern: The always classic woodland pattern may seem easy, but there’s much more to it than just splotching on green paint. It takes two colors (one dark and one light) plus black for creating the desired effect, so you should always start with yellow or tan before adding in olive drab then brushing over that with a lighter shade of brown.
  3. Urban Digital Camo: This pattern is perfect if your tanks will be used in an urban environment – as long as they’re not too tall because this style does not work well when applied vertically! To use it, start by painting all areas you want camo using flat gray, then add orange and red blotches randomly while following natural lines like those found on roadways; next, brush some khaki color into these blotches to give a more natural look.

How to Weather Model Tanks

To get your models up and running, you must know how to paint model tanks. A lot of people will tell you not to worry about weathering since they’re just toys, but the truth is that these details are what can make a mediocre tank stand out from all the rest. This step alone will have people asking where you got your miniature army figures for years if done properly!

The first thing anyone should do before painting their tanks is prime them with black or brown primer depending on whether they want metal or rubber effects, respectively. Then mix some grime by applying brown earth colors over the top of each section using an old brush (which also needs priming). At this point, there are two ways to go.

The first is to paint your tank with brown earth colors (or whatever color you want the grime). Then, a spot of black ink washes over the top of them for more detail.

The second way, which gives better results, in my opinion, is to put down an olive drab or khaki basecoat followed by several coats of darker camo colors such as green and brown until it looks like dirt has been baked on. Then use the same technique as before but start with dry brushing some lighter greens over the top instead of starting dark. This will create that ‘earthy’ effect while still looking natural at the same time.”

How to Airbrush Model Tanks

If you don’t want to go through the work of hand-painting, here’s how to airbrush your tanks. You’ll need an airbrush and compressor (I used a Paasche) to paint in colors that match or contrast your tank. I also recommend getting thinner paints for when it comes time to blend colors.

  • Paint in layers: The biggest mistake beginners make is trying too hard on their first layer while going over the whole model at once because they think this will save them time. Still, since they’re using the wrong color or not thinning it enough, they end up covering everything.

One layer should be lighter, and one should be darker – this creates shadows and highlights to give your tank more depth. You can also use colors similar in tone but different in hue for a dark/light contrast on each side of your model’s panels (i.e., blue-greenish light green versus bright, vibrant green). The next layers will go over these colors with an accent color, so you’ll have pretty hues like purple-blue against pink, orange against yellow, etc…

  • The right paintbrushes: There is no such thing as too many brush sizes! I start with a 0 round fan brush and then move on to a detail brush and an angled shader. For large flat surfaces, I use the fan brush; for smaller areas (i.e., top of turret), I use the detail brush, and finally, on all edges or curves in your model, which will show once it’s painted, you’ll want to finish with an angled shader – but always be sure to keep one clean so that you can have some control over where you’re applying paint!
  • Go slow: When spraying, move at about 15-20 inches from what you are painting.
  • Covering up mistakes: If any part of your tank didn’t go well, don’t give up yet! Grab a pencil eraser and lightly rub across the surface until only patches remain as shadows. When you’re done, take out a detail brush and paint over the patches to make them less obvious. If it’s still not working for what you need, try using some of your lighter layers to blend out the problem area so that when viewed from afar, it’s undetectable!
  • Top coating: Once everything is painted in with thin layers (even if handpainted), I like to go back and touch up my model with an acrylic gloss or matte topcoat. This will protect all of your hard work and also give any bits of metal on your tank a nice shine without having to worry about rubbing off too much during handling or use because they’ll be protected under this layer!
  • Paint after drying time: Letting paint dry overnight before your topcoat ensures that all layers are dry and the resulting finish is more durable.
  • Tools to use: I recommend a good detail brush, angled shader, fan brushes in various sizes (0-12), some paper towels for cleaning up mistakes or excess paint, an airbrush with a compressor, and at least one other person – sometimes you’ll need someone else’s opinion on what looks right!

The biggest mistake beginners make is trying too hard on their first layer while going over the whole model at once because they think this will save them time, but since they’re using the wrong color or not thinning it enough, they cover everything. One layer should be lighter, and one should be darker – this creates shadows and highlights to give your tank more depth.

You can also use colors similar in tone but different in hue for a dark/light contrast on each side of your model’s panels (i.e., blue-greenish light green versus bright, vibrant green). The next layers will go over these colors with an accent color, so you’ll have pretty hues like purple-blue against pink, orange against yellow, etc…

How to Whitewash Model Tanks

Painting model tanks can be tricky. You want to make them stand out, but not too much – after all, they’re models! The perfect way to paint your tank is by whitewashing it. Whitewashing will give the effect of a lighter color and bring an overall brightness to the tank.

What you’ll need:

  • White primer coat such as Tamiya or Mr. Hobby (you may have this from previous projects)
  • Tamiya paints for painting base colors on top.
  • “Semi-Gloss” spray varnish in aerosol cans like Krylon’s “Super Fine Matte Finish.”

A good technique is spraying down the entire surface with white primer, then applying a thin layer of semi-gloss across the surface.

This technique will work beautifully on any of these vehicles – especially the M26 Pershing tank because that vehicle has such an iconic look.

How to Paint Tracks On Model Tanks

  • Paint the bottom of the tracks in a dark color.
  • Mix and match colors to create an effect, like wearing shoes with different colored soles or stripes on socks. Paint light yellow at one end of a thin strip of blue near where it meets black track, for example).
  • If you want red tank treads (honestly, who wouldn’t?), paint them using red acrylic paint if possible; otherwise, use brown pastel crayon stained with watercolor paints. Thin lines are best achieved by pressing down harder while drawing them.
  • Tape off the area that will be painted dark brown, and paint it. Paint a base coat of black over tracks to make them stand out more against other colors in your model’s scheme.
  • Paint the area that will be yellow with a mixture of light brown and white, then add some orange. Keep adding colors to make it more interesting.
  • Lastly, paint dark grey tracks over them for contrast against your base color scheme (or green/brown).
  • Draw on details like bolts, rivets, and other metal bits. You can use a silver pen for this if you don’t want to paint them by hand.
  • Add grass or dirt patches in places that would be more affected – tracks are great examples of these areas! When painting dirt patches onto your model tank track sections, use brown pastel crayons stained with watercolor paints mixed with acrylic felt tips. For some variation, add yellow stripes around the outside edge of the treads as well.

If anyone ever tells you that there is one secret method for painting tanks, they’re wrong! There are plenty of ways because every modeler has their own style, which might not match yours but is just as valid.

How to Put Tracks On Model Tanks

Models with tracks on their tanks have a more realistic look to them. Modelers often paint the track pattern and drive sprocket wheels dark brown or black, just like real life. You will need the following items for this task: Cheap Track Links (aka “track”), Hobby Knife, Sheet of Paper Towel.

  • Take your sheet of paper towel and fold it so that two edges are overlapping by one inch.
  • Cut out rectangles from each half until you get something about 12 inches long and six inches wide; when unfolded…you should now have a rectangular piece of paper towel approximately 18″x12″.
  • Place folded side down onto your work surface. The length depends on how many links per tank model kit you have, but you’ll want to make sure that it is at least twice the length of your model kit when unfolded.
  • Place one line (or track) into the 18″x12″ rectangle and fold over on top of itself by two inches; this will create a 12″x24″ rectangle with an overlap in the middle. Take your hobby knife and cut out along that 24-inch line all the way down to where it meets up with your original sheet of paper towel, forming another long strip or “track.” This should give you about three feet worth of strips per tank model kit which means more than enough for many kits.
  • Now take each link from your model kit(s). Place them onto either side within the long strip of paper towel. They should be lying on their sides, not standing up vertically.
  • With your fingers or a hobby knife, gently push the links in place so that they are all touching each other and have space to move about freely; this will make it easier for you when painting as well. You can also use masking tape to hold them in place while you paint.
  • Take the time now before we continue with putting tracks onto our model tank kit(s) for some final assembly tasks ( namely, adding detail pieces ).
  • The track links have now been placed onto the paper towel. Take your hobby knife and carefully cut a line across in between each link so that they can move about freely to make painting easier.
  • Now take off any masking tape or anything else holding them together if you used it during assembly, then turn over the paper towel exposing all of the tracks on one side; place an identical sheet of folded paper towel underneath with all of its folds facing up towards you. This will provide stability for this step and allow us to see what paint we are applying. Now spread out your model kit’s tank body parts such as turret(s), barrel, gun shield, etc., taking care not to get too close to the paper towels and not move the tracks on your paper towel.
  • For this first step of painting, I would recommend black primer spray paint and some camouflage colors; these will be used for all spraying except for the tank body, which should be painted a flat color such as gray or white.
  • Place a heavy coating of black primer onto everything but the tank’s hull (or whatever part will end up being painted in a different color). Take caution when getting near turret(s) so that you don’t get any overspray into them. Any metal parts like axles must have been primed with metallic paints before applying base coatings.
  • Now we can move on putting tracks onto our model tank kit(s). You may have noticed that the tracks from your paper towel are now on one side of your work surface and will need to be placed with their underside ( or top for your righties ) facing up. Take a strip of folded paper towel, place it over the track like so
  • With your fingers, gently push down any loose ends, so they don’t stick out while we’re gluing them in position. It is important to take care during this step because if some paint gets caught under there, it can ruin all future painting efforts; make sure not to get too close! Next, grab a glue bottle such as Tamiya Extra Thin Cement and put just enough around both runners where they meet the paper towel. And with your fingers, gently push the track back and forth until it’s on to where you want it.
  • Once in place, take a hobby knife or scissors and cut through any loose ends sticking out from one side of the paper towel onto its other end; trim them off as close as possible but not so much that they are barely touching each other at all. If necessary, use some pliers if there is too much glue for you to get down with your fingers alone.

The tracks have now been glued together and secured in their positions!

How to Dry Brush Model Tanks

Dry brushing is a great way to get a nice, smooth finish on your miniature. It’s also an easy technique to master! Let’s go over the basics of dry brushing before we start with some model tanks:

  • Grab a brush with short bristles. Your standard paintbrush won’t work because it will leave too much paint on the model tank. A dry-brushing brush is perfect for this job.
  • Pour a little paint onto your palette and dip the end of your dry-brushing brush a few times. You want to make sure your paint is mixed well with the bristles of the dry-brushing brush.
  • Gently brush the paint onto your model tank. Your goal is to get just a little bit of paint on the top surface of the model tank. This will ensure the paint is light and translucent, giving it a nice finish.
  • Repeat this process with other colors on your model tank.
  • Once you’re done, seal your paint with a clear spray sealant like Krylon’s Crystal Clear Acrylic or Vallejo’s Clear Acrylic.
  • Once again, don’t use a standard paintbrush! The bristles will leave too much paint on your model tank, and you’ll have a hard time getting the brush to dry.
  • The best way to paint is with an airbrush. Keep in mind that an airbrush will require a compressor.
  • The dry brushing technique is great for painting the top of your model tank. Once the paint is dry, seal it with a clear acrylic spray.
  • A good rule of thumb for dry brushing is to add one more color than what you want to use on the tank. This will give your model tanks a nice, vibrant look!
  • When painting models, dry brushing is a great way to get an even coat of paint.
  • Remember that it’s important to use a clear acrylic spray sealant when dry-brushing on acrylic paint.
  • Use an airbrush if you want to paint the whole tank.
  • This technique is perfect for tanks with a lot of detail.
Richard

Hi! I'm Richard Baker, a miniature painter who has been painting for about ten years. My website is packed with great advice that I've learned from both books and personal experience on building and painting miniatures.

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