Some Advanced Stuff

The photograph above is of a Twin Bolster set from Tri-ang bodies on Red Panda underframes.  The lettering is based on a shot of an early prototype, I’ve since found a photo of one with boxed lettering …

I was asked in the 6WTS thread whether I’d be moving on to give advice on advanced techniques, the answer being a definite (but hopefully polite) ‘no’.  The reasoning here wasn’t to copout, or to be secretive about my methods, but that it is genuinely difficult to do so.

Think of the learning curve as an inverted pyramid, or perhaps more aptly,  a tree – the roots are the reading up on techniques and materials drawn from disparate sources, then the basic techniques that you try at first form the firmer but narrow trunk.  As you progress, they again branch off in all sorts of different directions.  Of these various branches, some will be techniques new to you, others might be older ones that you revisit with more experience and a fresh attitude.  Some (in fact quite a lot, if you’re anything like me) will be mistakes; things that haven’t gone to plan first time but that you ‘rescue’ by trying something else; these can be particularly satisfying if  they turn out to be ‘stepping stones’ and the new and old applications blend together to produce something you could never have planned.

In short, what I’m saying is that it’s not really possible to ‘teach’ advanced weathering in the same way as the basics, because almost by definition, it’s something you kinda teach yourself.   It’s as  much about an advanced approach, a different way of thinking, as it is about advanced techniques as such, and this rather ties in with the comments about an ‘apprenticeship’ back on the introductory page ‘Whither Weathering’.

If you’ve never seriously tackled a weathering job before, you’ll almost certainly have an underestimation of how long it takes (that’s if you’ve even thought about timescales at all).   We can obviously ‘shortcut’ reality to some degree because we’re not waiting for the environment to do its work, and a lot of impressive effects can be achieved with essentially simple techniques, but only by layering and building up the various finishes over a period of time.  I suppose this is another potential definition of advanced weathering, in its being work that encompasses significantly more layers and textures than the processes already looked at.

As well as the physical time in applying and working the paint, it’s often necessary to set a model aside whilst each application dries off.  This might make things sound unacceptably long-winded, but the idea is to have several models on the go at any one time so that you can work on all of them for the one stage, or go back to others whilst you’re waiting.  In my experience, most modellers have no shortage of half-finished projects!  Added to that, touching in the odd corner you’ve missed or going over areas where you’ve caught the wrong colour can take up time that you’d probably rather be using on something more exciting – but if you don’t do this, it will compromise the eventual finish.

One of my oldest models, an early conversion of an Airfix kit into a late period rebodied example and an example of how I sometimes go back to models to incorporate further nuances and build up a depth of finish.  Having not touched it now for about five years, I think I can actually call this one finished though! 

At the risk of sounding all dreadfully superior and elitist, perhaps what separates the men from the boys in this lark is that its best practitioners are prepared to experiment and take risks, rather than follow some prescriptive recipe, and they also have the self-discipline to be their own worst critics. I should also add a note of perspective here, in that I use the term ‘advanced’ in a relative sense; compared to what’s being achieved for instance in the military modelling field, my own methods are pretty pedestrian.

So whilst it’s not possible for me to bestow on somebody the confidence and judgement that can only come with practice, I can give a few pointers.  There’s no guarantee they will work for you straightaway, experimenting is very much the name of the game but it can be very rewarding when things turn out better than expected.

*  Don’t always think in terms of taking a factory finish and applying your weathering coats straight over it.  Consider if there’s anything you can do to vary that base coat first; a lighter application of livery colour, for instance, will suggest faded areas.  Open wagons in particular will benefit from having planks painted individually, then carefully blended.

*  A more advanced version of the above is to build up a finish from a base coat that’s significantly different from the final intention, but possibly still complementary in some way.  For instance, a van in GW dark grey can be overpainted with wood mixes, dark browns and earths so that it no longer looks like it’s painted grey, then a few areas of patch-painted BR bauxite will give it a careworn, well-travelled look.  Rusty steel wagons can be particularly effective when done this way, with several rust shades blended in and then vestiges of livery grey applied.

*  Think about using mild abrasives for distressing and blending.  A glassfibre brush will produce quite a coarse effect, which can be useful, although I prefer the use of wet and dry paper (usually used wet), to distress a base coat as above or to subtly blend different coats or patches of weathering paint.  Don’t think of this as a ‘one hit’ process, it can be of particular advantage in adapting a finish you’re not happy with but unless I strike gold, I almost always finish off with some fine dabbing or patching.

*  A lot of my finest work is done with very fine brushes (as small as 000 or 0000) and minute amounts of paints.  This can be seen as both enhancement and combination of  processes previously mentioned – it’s particularly useful for rusting work to produce flakes, spots and scores.

*  Gouaches are a water-based art paint which is very controllable for achieving fine effects over an existing basic finish, such as streaking, or shading of larger areas.  They can also be stippled to produce varied rust effects.

*  Once you’ve got the hang of multi-layered effects, experiment with using different types of paint for them.  This can avoid the waiting time for thorough drying, inherent in applying oils over oils, for instance.  I’m not suggesting this solely as a shortcut though, another benefit is that the differing textures can produce further subtle effects.  Gouaches over enamels works very well, it’s also possible to apply enamels over acrylics and as suggested above, a mildly abrasive blending process can be worth experimenting with.

As a tailpiece, the Toad below is a good example of the potential pitfalls of advanced weathering; the peeling effect on the cabin planking was done with a mix of red car primer and conventional enamel.  Unfortunately I can’t remember how I did it and haven’t been able to replicate it since!

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