Over the last few decades we saw a lot of change regarding our hobby: New companies entering the world stage, tons of new paints, tools and accessories. But the biggest change of all of them, is the ability we’ve been given to present our work we have accomplished by sitting for months at our modelbenches to people all over the world. And while I’m generally cautious with praising the internet and the obnoxious behavior of sharing anything at any time, I must admit it favors our hobby very much. Especially when it comes to all the different approaches to build and paint a model people have been come up with.
In the early days, it was common to just put some paint on the model with a brush while nowadays we have a lot of different painting techniques to choose from. In the recent years, more and more modelers stopped doing the panelline-preshading technique and transitioned to the marbling technique. And because of that, we now can buy airbrush stencils that are trying to recreate the random patterns you would get by marbling the paint with the airbrush to save you some time.
After painting a couple of my models by black-basing them and freehand marble the highlights on it, I went ahead and bought some of these stencils. But when trying them out I noticed that, when blending the patterns together to achieve the desired paint job, I’ve always lost a good amount of the preshading effects. The reason for this is, that it’s easy to get hard paint edges from the stencils and in order to blend them together you’ll need a lot of blending layers. Therefore, I decided to “come up” with some solution for that. The result was the 50/50 Technique I want to present you in the following. The story behind that name is, that you are going to use your normal handbrush just as much as the airbrush.
Please note that my naming of this technique may sound to you like it’s completely new and never seen before, but this isn’t really the case. The individual steps itself are to some degree well known, but the complete package, the combination is rather unusual. Especially when it comes to using the ordinary handbrush. This technique is great when you want to achive a lot of weathering effects during the normal painting process instead of adding them afterwards (with oils).
But enough with chitchattering. Let’s go through the paint process.
For the demonstration purpose of this painting technique, i used the F-104G 1/48 Kit made by Kinetic.
It is going to be the german 3 color camouflage scheme called “Norm 83” consisting of 2 shades of green and a greyish black. For spraying with the airbush i mainly use acrylic laquers since i prefer their spraying behaviour.
After the assembling of all the essential parts of the Starfighter i went ahead and primed the model with black color. As you can already see on the picture, i highlighted the whole aircraft with random patterns of white color using the airbrush stencils made by Uschi van der Rosten and a ripped scouring pad.
I also went ahead and sketched out the pattern of the areas that are going to be painted with the black camouflage color, since im going to preshade the supposed to be green areas differently than the black segments.
For preshading the green sections even more and to create some tonal variation, i searched for a color that fits the green color. If you are unsure what colors match together you can use a color wheel, but your intuition should automatically tell you that yellow might be a good idea.
I highlighted all the surfaces that will recieve a green paint job with a zink chromate color. Again, using the airbrush stencils.
Here comes an important aspect: When using these stencils or the scouring pad you should spray highly thinned paint at rather low pressure and only one delicate opace layer in order to avoid hard edges. The latter will need heavy blending and you are running a high risk of losing every effect. The key for having as much control over the blending process as possible is keeping the contrast between the light and dark areas as low as possible.
For the later black zones i didn’t add any more preshading at this stage since black and white go along well.
Using the handbrush
After you finished the previous stage, you are now going to use your ordinary handbrush as promised. Take some yellow acrylic paint like Mission Models, and mix about 1 drop of paint with 1 drop of water together (you can thin more or less, depending on what feels right to you). Put some of this paint on your handbrush and start applying it onto the previously with yellow paint highlighted sections. For me, this works best when you apply the color in a stippling motion. The purpose of this layer is to add some more tonal varation as well as reducing the contrast between the light and dark colors even more.
The same thing was done with some white acrylic color stippled onto the black areas. It might appear messy by now, but don’t worry. It is supposed to look like this!
Applying the main camouflage colors
In the following steps we are going to apply the main camouflage color and combine it with even more preshading and tonal variation steps.
The first color we are tackling is the light green color. Again, we are using the airbrush stencils and only apply one very light and opace layer. Remember the advice i previously gave to you: Avoid hard edges! Always keep your airbrush moving. You can even try to move the stencil a little bit around aswell while you are spraying.
After that, we will apply one light layer of blending. This wont be the final blending layer so it’s okay if you can still see all the mess shining through.
Now we return to our handbrush and acrylic colors. Im using some green acrylic color and apply it all over the green surfaces to make it work like a filter. Then, im going back to my yellow acrylic color to create some nice texture effects. In order to do that, im going to use the almost dry yellow paint on the sides of the paint cup.
When stippling them onto the surface, you wont have a lot of working time, therefore it’s important to do it quick and only work in small segments. If it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, you can overspray it in the blending process afterwards so that you wont be able to see it anymore and then go try it again if you want to.
With the yellow paint you can also try to achieve some nice streaking effects. This might look ugly at first but keep in mind that it has to appear a bit stronger so that it can shine through after blending it in. Talking about streaks: You can also check out this article i wrote about creating streaking effects using acrylic paints instead of oils.
Dont limit yourself to only yellow or green acrylic paint just because i used them in that case. Go and experiment with different colors!
If you are done with this you can start adding some blending layers with the light green camouflage color. Stop at each layer to evaluate if you are going to need another layer or if you already achieved what you were looking for.
Repeat all of this for the other colors.
Final touch ups
When you are done with the previous steps and all the surfaces are painted with the camouflage colors, take your time, look at it and ask youself if you need to do some touch ups. You can always go back and repeat the acrylic color effects, or add one more blending layer if that’s needed.
Another cool thing is, that you can use some high grit sanding paper and start sanding down some of the paint. This will reveal a bit of the random preshading patterns underneath and will look kind of like chipped, faded or melted paint.
I also went ahead and did some “salt”-weathering to create some more variation and chipping effects with the exception of not using salt. Using salt always means a lot of cleaning afterwards, therefore i used some masking fluid instead and applied it randomly with a sponge. Everything else works just like the salt technique.
And there you have it! You could actually use this not only for aircraft but also for AFV.
Preshading effects like those almost always mean that you have to own an airbrush. But what if you want to create some nice tonal variation and preshading effects when you don’t have one? When painting the Starfighter like this, i had one thought crossing my mind: Could this actually work for people that dont have an airbrush? I didn’t try it out yet but here are some thoughts of mine to make this workable for those folks.
Obvioulsy you wont be able to use the airbrush stencils to create random patterns of highlights. Instead, you could stipple white acrlyic paint all over the model, then go ahead and stipple some yellow color onto the segments that are supposed to be green. After that, you stipple the main green camouflage color on top of that etc. When you are about to do the blending layers you can apply the paint in the old fashioned way when painting a model by handbrush. But only in thin layers of course!
Im really eager to find out if this would work. So if you want to give it shot, make sure to make a post on scalemodelling.wiki and share your experience and thoughts!