A guest article by Rubén Torregrosa (aka “HeresyBrush”)
In this tutorial, I would like to focus on how we can improve a simple painting job by adding some extra details -such as antennas, improving the stowage, and applying several weathering effects with a special focus on the utilization of oil paints to create contrast.
One of the cornerstones when painting 15mm miniatures is contrast (i.e. the difference between dark and light tones and/or colors). These models are extremely small, meaning that the amount of light reflected by them is also very tiny and that is why they often look overall dark. This is especially the case when using the “real” colors, which at a 1:1 scale work fine but not at a 1:100 scale. Therefore, we normally should use lighter colors than the corresponding ones. At the same time, another trick we can use to enhance the contrast is playing with the shades and highlights. There are different lighting options, but the final purpose is the same: combine shades and lights to create points of interest. The best results are often obtained using an airbrush and following some complex methods such as the grisailles, paneling, or color modulation. However, here we will see another option that does not require an airbrush and only moderate painting skills: oil paints.
Most wargame painters are used to using one type of paint: acrylics. These are thinned with water, dry in seconds, and are not toxic. However, if we have a look at what Scale Modelers use, we will notice that besides acrylics they use lacquers, enamels, oils, pigments, watercolor pencils, etc.
In this tutorial, we will focus on oils (which are pretty much like enamels). Compared to acrylics, oils, and enamels are thin with a special solvent (white spirit or turpentine) that is toxic and they dry in hours. The latter feature is critical because it implies that oils are extremely easy to blend -and we can even remove them completely if we do not like the results-. We will exploit this property to create contrast in our FoW tanks.
I am not planning to explain here how to paint a tank from the beginning. I will focus only on how to improve a basic paint job. I think that this might be useful to more people because anyone can proceed with these steps regardless of how they started.
For the sake of this tutorial, I am using as a test model a tank that is already painted following very simple painting techniques. Over a dark grey undercoat, I applied the special acrylic paint Washable Dust A.MIG-0105 to create a worn and realistic desert camouflage (more about this type of paint here). Then I applied an enamel wash Brown Wash for German Dark Yellow AMIG-1000 only on the recesses. And then I painted the crew and stowage using acrylics.
We begin creating chipping effects using a dark brown acrylic paint, such as Chipping A.MIG-004, and a thin brush. We paint tiny dots and lines in the more exposed parts and here and there. We should avoid overdoing this step.
To quickly create chipping effects along the edges of the armor plates we can use the body of the brush rather than the tip.
Optionally, we can apply additional highlights on the crew and stowage. This will make them stand out even more on the tank, and overall increase the contrast. For that, we use acrylic paints and a thin brush. When applying highlights avoid using pure white and instead use very light yellow or ivory to create warmer and more natural lights.
It is a nice detail to paint rust effects on the exhausts. We can easily use the stippling technique (painting dots) and a few red-brown and orange acrylic paints.
Additionally, we can add an antenna. First, we use a manual drill to create a small hole in the right spot.
And then we glue a 0.3mm nickel rod using super glue. I find these tiny rods perfect for this scale.
Finally, we paint the antenna with black using acrylic paint and a thin brush.
Oils are normally quite dense, especially those sold in art shops. Here we will use AMMO Oilbrushers which are more liquid and are specially formulated for scale models. As mentioned earlier, we will need an organic solvent to work with these, such as Enamel Odourless Thinner A.MIG-2018.
Using the brush included in the Oilbrusher or a clean brush, we apply a bit of oil paint in the desired spot. In this case, we want to create shades on the dark yellow camouflage. For that reason, we apply a bit of Oilbrusher Dark Brown A.MIG-3515 on the areas we want to become dark.
And then using a brush moistened with Enamel Odourless Thinner we blend the oil paint. Literally, we drag it towards the lighter part to create a short color gradient.
Another option is to apply the oils as a filter or glaze. In this case, we must first thin the oil paint with thinner in a 1:10 proportion (1 drop of paint + 9 thinner).
And then we apply the filter on the tank. We brush off part of the paint before moving onto the tank (this is not a wash!) and the brush stroke is applied in a very specific manner: it must end on the zone we want to darken. This is important because we always leave more paint behind in the area where we separate the brush from the surface.
After a first layer of Dark Brown oil our tank looks better: better definition and more contrast.
We let it dry for at least one hour and then apply a second layer, this time using a reddish color by mixing Dark Brown with Rust A.MIG-3510 in the same proportion. We work in the same areas as before. I normally darken the upper or rear part of each panel of the tank.
The filter is a very subtle effect. But if we want to get a more evident result, we can apply consecutive layers. For example, I wanted an even more reddish tone and I applied a new filter with Rust A.MIG-3510.
Finally, we can add an additional weathering effect to simulate dust. The best way to do it is using pigments, literally, colored dust. Pigments are dry powders that can be applied as such. Or we can mix them with Enamel Odourless Thinner to create a sort of wash that will help to accumulate the pigment on the recesses. Here we mixed two pigments with the same amount of solvent.
And then we apply the “wash” all over the tracks.
We let the solvent evaporate completely overnight. The next day, the result is not that impressive -it might look a bit artificial-, but we will fix it in the next step.
Using an old brush we rub gently and spread the pigment all around. This will help to create a more realistic looking.
Finally, we can add wet or oil/grease stains using a glossy oil paint such as Oilbrusher Fuel Stains A.MIG-1801 which we apply with a thin brush.