Weathering techniques for scale models are a topic we’ve been asked about frequently. What kind of weathering do you use on your models? Which technique is the best? Is there one that always works better than others? It seems everyone has their own opinion, but no one can agree! So, in this blog post, I will give you our top six favorite weathering techniques.
The 6 Weathering Techniques
I’m not sure I can rate the techniques to tell you the ones I most often use on our own models. So, here, in no particular order, are the top six weathering techniques for scale models.
Modelers usually start with washes to weather their models. Awash means painting a thinner and layered paint over a base color. It makes your work look more attractive. Using premade products such as acrylic, enamel, or oil paints, you can make these yourself.
The two most common wash techniques are pin wash and overall. You use a small brush to clean small details with a pinpoint-style washing. Then, the paint will flow by itself for more delicate lines. You can also do this for an overall look with lots of color on one part of your car.
Keep cotton swabs handy to soak up and remove any unwanted washes. Washes can also substitute for fuels, oil, or grease stains; they work great on rust!
When dry-brushing, you apply nearly dry paint to a model’s raised details. The brush you use doesn’t have to be perfect, and because the technique can be complex on bristles, it might make sense for some models like yourself to be equipped with extra brushes!
To dry-brush, pick up just a bit of paint on the tip of your brush and then wipe almost all off onto some paper towels or cloth. Then put it on your skin in the area you want. Move quickly, but use gentle motions. You are not trying to make one big glob of color; you want a gradient that changes colors as you apply lighter shades. Keep playing with different colors until it looks good!
Dry-brushing is an easy way to flatter the paint job on your model. You can create light highlights or dark shadows with this single technique, but if you overuse it, your model will start looking like it was painted in cake frosting!
Pigments and Pastels
There are many different colors to choose from when adding dust and dirt. You can use pigments, which come premade in shades like European mud or desert sand; they save you time by doing all the grinding for yourself! Pastels also offer an easy way to add some realism, but only certain artists grade pastels work well with paints as others might cover them up too much (as Blackboard Chalk). If you want to use powder, there are two ways. Either grind up sticks with knives on fine material like sandpaper OR buy ready-made colored powder at Michaels near you – but don’t use baby aspirin first!
The advantage to using pastels is that you can blend custom colors. This may be a daunting proposition for many modelers, so they stick with the pigments and don’t experiment much in their painting techniques.
You can add an extra layer of texture to your models by applying the powders with a soft brush over flat finishes. Flat surfaces hold pigments better than gloss, so you don’t have as much risk for them being washed away when using this medium; plus, it gives more variety in terms of effects! If used delicately enough (and sparingly), lines or patterns will show up nicely on top, too–just experiment until finding something that suits what kind of work look like best: even coating dirtiness sounds good 😉
Chipped Paint and Scratches
One of the most effective ways to chip the paint on a model is with an artist’s brush and/or microfiber sponge. This technique requires two coats: one in which you color over your primer coat and another where each “chips” area has its own individual design (depending on what will show up). To create these random designs, I recommend using dark gray for natural wear spots like engines or exhaust pipes; lighter grays can also be used but should match other areas nicely that receive more light contact to not stand out too much!
Alternatively, you can tear a small piece of micro-fiber sponge and use it to blot paint onto models. This sponge will have different colors, but you can change the colors. Twist the fibers around so that they point towards your desired color. Then touch them down on an area for which you want depth from varied shades or textures.
If you want to make deep gouges that go all the way through your paint, use a metallic color and work on those areas with extra care. When trying this out, you should be cautious and assess how much force was used, so it doesn’t get over-done in one session!
In a way, dusting accomplishes the same purpose as a wash. You apply a filter to the model’s surface in a controlled manner, avoiding accumulation around edges of details or in recesses and panel lines. The aim is to change the vehicle’s overall color, generally to create fading and discoloration. Various shades of artist oils and a thinner such as mineral spirits or Turpenoid are required for a dot filter. Choose three or four different colors and apply them to your model using dots. Then wetting an ample flat brush with your thinning agent, blend the colors together, pulling with the natural direction of airflow or gravity. The filter will subtly change colors in that area.
Another way to apply a filter is by using an airbrush. Using artist oils and a thinner airbrush, you can spray the colored mist onto your model. Then use a dry brush or paper towel to remove some of the paint from specific areas like weathered panels that conceal underlying rust and grime. You’ll need several colors for this technique, including browns, oranges, yellows, blues, and greys, so you have various tones when mixing together in the palette cup. Using on with painting for a more vibrant final product!
Be careful that your paint doesn’t turn muddy. Every few swipes, clean the brush with water and then dry it off with a rag. Repeat this process.
One way to finish off a painted model is with edge highlighting. The idea here is that the contrast between light and dark paint will make your model pop! For this technique, you’ll need:
- Modeling knife (or another excellent blade)
- Toothpick or pin for mixing paint
First, choose an appropriate color of paint; I recommend choosing something close to what you used as your base coat. Then dab some onto the end of a toothpick/pin and mix it up using just a tiny bit of water – kerosene also works great because it doesn’t evaporate quickly as mineral spirits do. You want just enough liquid so that when you drag the point over where you’ve mixed it up, a thin line of paint is pulled off the end.
Now comes the tricky part. You’ll want to hold your model so that the light shines from behind it and hits the edge you want to highlight. Then, using a very steady hand, drag the point of your knife/toothpick along the edge while keeping it parallel to the surface. Don’t try to do too much at once, or you’ll end up with a streaky mess!
It might take a little practice, but eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and be able to produce some really nice highlights.
Materials for Weathering
The first step in weathering your scale model is to gather the necessary materials. While this may vary depending on the technique you’re using, there are a few essentials that you’ll always need.
Some essential items include:
- Paintbrushes – various sizes and shapes
- Weathering Powders
- Weathering Oils
- Microfiber Cloth
- Masking fluid
Tips and Tricks for Weathering
- There are a few different ways you can weather your model. You can paint it or use a sponge with a bit of paint on it.
- You could also use a pencil with a bit of graphite on it and apply it to the model’s surface as if it were dirt rubbed on by your finger.
- To make rust, run an old pencil or pen through sandpaper to make speckles of metal shavings. Then, take a lighter and melt them together.
- You can also use a toothbrush or an old makeup brush to apply different shades of paint and make it look like dirt, dust, or mud has been caked on.
- Once the weathering is done, seal it with a matte varnish so that the finish doesn’t change over time.
FAQ about Weathering Techniques
How to use acrylic paints for weathering scale models?
Acrylic paints are an excellent option for weathering scale models because they’re water-based and designed to work on multiple surfaces. Plus, you can add in some really cool effects with them too.
Once your model is painted up and weathered how you want, try adding an acrylic wash over the top of it for added effect. The best part about using this technique? You don’t have to worry about any oil paint seeping into crevices or joints since these washes use only water!
When weathering scale models, what kind of thinner should I use for acrylic paints?
When it comes to thinning down your acrylic paints for weathering scale models, you’ll want to use something like water or an acrylic medium. This will help the paint blend in better with the surface of your model and create a more realistic finish.
How to make realistic scratches with a pencil?
Creating realistic scratches with a pencil is easy. All you need to do is use the side of your lead and drag it across the surface in one direction for best results. You’ll want to make them long, thin lines that are close together, so they look more authentic.
How to restore dried-out paints?
All you need is some water and your paint- we’d suggest using distilled water for best results since it doesn’t contain any impurities that might affect how well this technique works. Then just pour a little bit of water into your jar or container (you don’t want too much), put the lid back on, and shake away! The amount of time you’ll have to leave it alone will depend on how dry your paint has become; usually, somewhere between 15 minutes and overnight should do the trick. When you open up your jar/container, take a look at all those beautiful colors again! More info in this article.
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.