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?
As a model tank enthusiast, I have found that the purpose of painting model tanks is to make them unique and eye-catching. When showcasing my work at a tournament or hobby club, I want my tanks to stand out and grab attention.
I aim to paint my tanks in a way that is both visually appealing and distinct from others. The thrill of being recognized for my work and having others admire it is unmatched.
To achieve this, I follow these tips for painting model tanks:
- Choose paint colors wisely – research different manufacturer’s color sets and select one that complements the model and meets my needs.
- Use an airbrush for a professional finish – airbrushes produce higher-quality paint and can quickly achieve the desired result.
- Airbrush for every step – for example, if transitioning from light to dark colors, start with an undercoat before applying the darker shade.
- Consider painting tracks separately – although it takes longer, painting the tracks separately and then gluing them onto the tank ensures they are straight.
Additionally, to make my tanks stand out, I consider incorporating these techniques:
- Apply a camouflage pattern and dirt textures to add realism
- Paint tracks separately and add rust around the edges for an authentic look
- Use gloss paint as a base coat to create a standout effect.
My Experience with the Types of Paint Used for My Models
When it comes to my models, it’s important to know the types of paint I utilize. This overview is not exhaustive, rather it provides examples of the paints I frequently use.
Regarding recommendations, the choice ultimately comes down to personal taste. However, I can share some of my go-to options:
For creating camouflage patterns, I often use Tamiya paints or Vallejo colors. When it comes to standard painting, Citadel acrylics or Vallejo model color tend to be my preferred choice.
To achieve a realistic rust effect, I blend pastel colors with watered-down gloss paint.
Wrap up: In my experience, the following steps are crucial for painting tanks and achieving a standout result:
When selecting paint colors, it’s important to exercise discretion. Variations in shade may occur between manufacturers, so choose a hue that aligns with your goals.
- I recommend using an airbrush throughout the painting process. This approach delivers quick, high-quality results with a professional finish.
- I paint the tracks separately before affixing them to the tank.
- I encourage experimentation. Don’t be afraid to try new methods, different colors, and varying techniques to find what works best for you.
Painting A Tank Without Airbrush And With An Airbrush
I have experience painting tanks both with and without an airbrush. Painting without an airbrush takes more time and effort, but it can be done with the right technique.
Here are my tips for painting tanks without an airbrush:
- Start with a primer coat, especially on bare metal or any other metallic parts you want to highlight.
- Use a gloss primer for better paint adhesion.
- You can use any acrylic paint, whether for full coverage or airbrush highlighting effects.
- Start with a white base for highlighting, then add tints for lighter shades. For example, mix white with green for lighter green shades, or add red for purples.
- Paint one side at a time and avoid picking up old paint.
- Use primer to avoid paint reactions and color changes due to multiple layers. It also helps build opacity.
- Wash your brush between colors to prevent mixing.
- Remember to keep adding thin layers of white for the first highlight.
- Focus on overall effect, not precise blending.
- Go slowly across the model when spraying, rather than back and forth, to avoid thick paint and overspray.
- Use less water and thinner coats than with an airbrush.
- Don’t sand the surface, aim for a rougher texture.
- Use chipping mediums before painting, and weathering powders for different effects.
- Gradually blend colors instead of painting one color on top of another.
- Re-visit areas that need more attention to avoid standing out too much.
My Experience with Creating Realistic Effects on Model Tanks
I utilize various dirt, mud, and camouflage colors in different areas to give my models a standout appearance. Before applying the final coat of black or brown, I always highlight details with white paint for maximum realism.
I create realistic effects using the wet on dry technique by applying water and then layering black/brown over it without fully drying. This results in a gritty effect that makes my model tanks look like they just returned from battle.
I use an airbrush to achieve a streaky effect and a sponge to create realistic mud and dirt. I take the time to layer different shades of brown or black in varying degrees of thickness for the most lifelike look. I also experiment with applying paint on top of other colors, such as blue sky, green grass, and dunes.
For camo effects, I use watered-down paint that is slightly darker than the base color to achieve a realistic effect without adding too much detail.
A transparent gloss topcoat is essential for any model tank to give it a wet shine and protect its paint job from scratches. The final step of applying this clear protective finish makes my tanks stand out in striking detail.
Keep in mind: don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If it looks bad at first, you can always add more paint until you achieve the desired results. I’ve found that even if some areas look better than others, they all come together to create a great final result 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.
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 tanks 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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Hey there! I’m Richard Baker, a miniature painter who’s been in the game for a solid decade now. I’ve been painting miniatures for ten years and I’ve got a ton of tips and tricks to share with you all. My website is a treasure trove of knowledge that I’ve gathered from both my own personal experiences and from reading all sorts of books.