Thursday, 4 July 2013

What next? Fun with airbrushing?

Well, I'd like to get back to vehicles again, I'm sort of 'planed out'! I did enjoy my little 1/144 aircraft projects but I think that was because they were small scale, both in terms of size and work. My Finnish Army project is on hold while my brother investigates moulding parts for me, so it's perhaps time I really sat down and took a look at my 'new' airbrush.

I have just dabbled a bit with my reserve airbrush - my cheap Revell starter brush - and I now fancy doing some more ambitious work with it's bigger brother. Naturally I want to try out a couple of ideas:

  • I want to see if I can finally get that illusive 'Russian Green'
  • Have another go at the 'pre-shading' technique
  • Also, I would like to try my hand at some airbrushed camouflage.

The Pegasus ISU-122/152 - a nice big canvas on which to try out new
techniques. The Finns capture two of these monstors during the
Continuation War in 1944, but neither saw use as far as I know.
The Pegasus ISU-122/152 was picked up very cheap indeed - a sale at ModelZone - and I have been saving it for just this occasion. It is simple enough to put together and I will be treating it - like my MiG-15 - as a experimental platform.

'Russian Green' - 4BO
The closest I have come to a satisfactory Russian Green was with the Flames of War Warpaint - a spray can which seems to have disappeared completely off the UK market.

It's funny how you can soon become geeky about 'the correct colours' as, in truth, while there was a designated recipe for 4BO - the official Soviet army green - really the Soviets tended to slap on whatever green happened to available as they just wanted the tanks out as quickly as possible. Others might spend a long time arguing the point!

The best 'Russian Green' I have achieved - here as the base coat for my
SU-122M - was by using Flames of War War Paint spray. But supplies of
this in the UK have completely dried up.
Anyway, all I really wanted was a distinctive green with which to paint my Soviet vehicles so that they would be easily distinguishable from American or British 'green' vehicles in my collection. Think of Russian Green as   a slightly darker version of Humbrol's lovely 'Light Olive' with a smidgen of yellow in it...Does that help? (Possibly not!)

Pre-shading - done right
I have had a failed attempt at pre-shading a vehicle, but without a proper airbrush this technique is hard to achieve correctly. Basically you start by either a base of plain black or black with highlights shaded, on top of this you spray a light coat of your predominant base colour (e.g. olive green). The idea is that the pre-shading shows through the light coat of green to provide what hair dye adverts like to call 'tonal highlighting'.

My early failed attempt at 'pre-shading' a model. This version of pre-shading
involved spraying white highlighted areas in the middle of panels white to
contrast against the black edges. But my attempt with spray cans was a
too heavy-handed, only an airbrush can produce the fine layers I wanted.

I had made some progress in my masked camouflage technique, but once again the use of spray cans resulted in an effect that wasn't as subtle as it could have been.

Oh so close! I was quite pleased with this...BUT...
The things make spray can painting inferior to using an airbrush - the size of the paint molecules sprayed shotgun fashion out of the can, the lack of control of the volume of paint which comes out and the restricted colour palettes available to you.

Believe me I have tried a great many brands in my hunt for the 'perfect' spray can paint - Humbrol, Tamiya, Plastikote, Flames of War (Vallejo) - but all suffer from the same basic problem, the plastic paint nozzle.

As for paint palette, well you will never have the range of spray can shades that you do with the vast variety of paints available in bottle form. Add to this the flexibility of being able to mix your own shades - precisely - for use with airbrushes and the advantage of airbrushes becomes glaringly apparent.

Take the photo above - I wanted a chestnut brown, but the closest I could find in a good quality spray can (Humbrol) was this buff brown. As much as I tried to convince myself that it could be a 'weathered' chestnut brown it just wasn't right!

So, I have a few things to practise with. I don't expect to get it right - as with my MiG-15 - but that is the thing about experimentation. I'd rather be practising of a £2.99 Pegasus kit than on a £20 Dragon kit!


  1. My hallway and stairs needs doing....

    1. :D ---- Tell me about, also - apparently - according to the note the wife left me, I also have to hang out the washing!