Without A Net.
Sometimes here on BrushThralls we need to push ourselves and try something new. We do this both in an attempt widen our skills and to give readers new and different ideas that they can use. What follows is an adventure. As I write this intro I have no idea of the outcome. I have a theory, and it will either succeed brilliantly, or go down in flames as a disaster of epic proportions.
I’m flying without a net here for two reasons; the first is that I like showing you guys the thought processes that we go through, the theories, the ideas and how we put them into practice. The second reason is that even if this idea fails miserably for me, maybe it will be exactly what someone else is looking for, or will simply spark an idea in one of you. Together maybe we can hash out a way to make it work. BrushThralls, despite being run by the 6 Thralls is still a community based project. Hopefully there is something to gain for everyone here. So then after all that yammering what exactly am I up to?
I’ve been pondering some things recently about my own painting style. For a very long time I’ve been doing classic studio-styled miniatures. It’s how I learned and it used to be my favorite look, but things change. You’ll notice even the studio models have changed slightly. Instead of being “factory fresh” they’ve begun to adopt a more battle worn look that is more appropriate for war torn machines. I’ve adopted some of the styles, but still feel like my look is a touch on the cartoony side. In researching some other styles I found a method that WWII modelers use on airplanes to represent battle damage; rock salt.
Essentially we’re going to use the salt to remove the topcoat to reveal the rusted undercoat. This is one of those total outlier methods. Maybe one in fifty of you will ever give this a shot, but I have to keep trying to think laterally as I try to develop a style that feels all my own. I have some hesitations here, but the old adage of “nothing ventured, nothing gained” won’t leave my head. To force myself to take the time the theory needs, I up the ante. I break out a model I’ve been meaning to work on forever. The nomad I converted for an article a few months ago. There’s a reason I don’t play poker. I bet hard when the stakes are high and I don’t’ let up. If I totally screw this up, then I’ll have ruined a conversion too. Nothing like a little pressure eh? Let’s roll the dice shall we?
I’ll be using an airbrush for my theory, but I will provide an alternate method to my madness for those of you lacking the luxury of the airbrush. Because I’m using an AB, I’ll need to actually prime my model. I begin by priming my model black. Use the primer of your choice, but for the real deep color the rust needs I’d stay away from white and go with black or gray. I’ve recently switched to Duplicolor as my primary black. I’ve used Citadel for the last 10 years or so, but lately the quality has been crap. My last can of it ruined my converted Avatar, so to hell with ‘em. I’m actually pretty damn impressed with how smooth the coat was, so I think I’ve found my new favorite primer.
I’ll begin by airbrushing my model a rust color. This is going to be the undercoat of the ‘jack, the exposed metal of the plates used to make up the hull. This is the Iron Kingdoms after all and exposed iron is going to rust. Those of you without an airbrush might want to consider skipping the black primer and priming rust to save yourself a step. This next choice is optional. I’m going to do some small patches of P3’s Pig Iron (Citadel’s Boltgun metal will work just fine too) to try and represent good metal that’s going bad underneath the rust. It may or may not come out.
On top of this I’ll spray on a light coat of VMC:MA Hull Red. I try to stay pretty transparent with it, but before long I’ve covered most of my metals below. A bit shows through, but it is less than I intended. Now before I get fancy with the salt, I’m going to wash down the model with various browns and oranges. The goal here is to create a non uniform undercoat. I’ll be using P3 Bloodstone, and P3 Khador Red Highlight. Use all sorts of mixes of the two. Rust should be random. I’ll still try to work the highlights where I can because I think it’ll help define the model when it’s done. When these washes have dried; I varnish the model with a spray matte varnish. When that dries I spray it again with Testor’s Dull Cote. I’m doing this because I’m not sure how the salt will react to the layers of paint below, and it’s a minor step that should save me trouble in the future.
A pinch of salt.
Now it’s on the leap of faith. In a small container I crush some rock salt to get some varying shapes and sizes. To this I’m going to add a very small amount of water. I don’t want to dissolve the salt completely, I just want to make a rough paste out of it. Then I’ll take a junky brush and apply the paste to areas I think would have seen battle damage, and let it dry. I’m using salt for two reasons. One it’s handy and two; because it dissolves in water. That means that the water in my paste will dissolve the salt a little and will re-crystallize as the water evaporates. This becomes is important later too. I let it dry overnight.
Now it’s on to the next color. We’re going to spray a color on over everything we’ve done; salt and all. Then we’ll rub off the salt and expose the rusted hull beneath thereby creating a realistic damage pattern. This could even give you the bit of texture of peeling paint. It might be too subtle. We’ll see.
I try to apply some logic to this step. I going to assume that the arms manufacturers in the IK would use the same principles that any military contractor would today. That is to prime the machine to protect it before it’s sent out for final paint based on who’s buying it and where it will be used. When an item like that gets damaged you can generally see bits of primer and previous coats of paint below. It could be done a few different ways and all will depend on how you think they would primer in the IK. You could simply re-prime your model with the spray primer of your choice. Black or gray would be my recommendations but it’s your call. If you don’t want the primer look, you could go right to the basecoat, but that will need to sprayed on in one way or another. A brush will only dislodge the salt and ruin the effect. In my case I am going with the airbrush again. The reason behind my choice is that drying acrylic paint has a bit of elasticity to it, and I want to push the peeling paint element as far as I can.
Once this coat dries I begin to pick off the salt with a dental pick. I’m very pleased with what I see. It flakes off with little trouble and exposes exactly what I wanted; rusted metal below. I’m glad I went with the sealing portion. I think it was the right move, because now. I need to wash off the remaining salt. I take a soft junky brush and do my best to wash off the remaining salt crystals with a lot of water. When I think I’ve got most of it washed and the salt dissolved I give it a quick rinse under the tap so that none of the salt water remains on the model. Now I just need to let it dry completely. I pat it down with a towel gently. Be careful here. The “primer” coat is going to be pretty fragile, it’s wet and torn. You don’t want to rub at it too vigorously or you’ll simply tear the paint right off. Just to make sure it sets up nicely, I use a blow dryer to dry the last of the water. The heat helps the torn acrylic edges to set it in place, but until it cools the paint will remain fragile so try not to handle it too much. This is what it should look like. Neat huh?
At this point the experiment portion is pretty much complete and I’ll finish the model as I normally would.