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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hobby Techniques: The Hairspray Method

by Throckmorton

While I love going to tournaments, hanging out with friends old and new and throwing rounds down range, my real passion is the hobby aspect of the game. I'm one of those sickos for whom there is no better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon than painting up a platoon of tanks of 10 stands of infantry. 

From unit research, to color and weathering techniques, I find the process of finding, building and painting models to completion to be the most fulfilling part of the game. In my search for new techniques and styles, I came across a most excellent pair of books (for which I plan on doing a review at some point) called Tank Art 1 & 2. Not only are these books filled with some of the most gratuitous tank porn you'll find anywhere they're also full of awesome tips and techniques explained in detail. 

Having always wanted to try the hairspray technique, when I read about how to do it in the Tank Art books I decided to give it a go. 

I have 2 tanks I need to paint up for my mid-war Flames of War list, a captured KV-1e and a Ferdinand (err.. Panzerjager Tiger P? Elefant? Sd. Kfz. 184? something). We'll just call them Kevin and Fred (h/t Hect). So, I decided to give them the royal treatment. Kevin will be painted up in a winter white-wash scheme and Fred will get all scratched up right down to the primer.  

They'll end up looking like this:

Ready for action!

But how did I get there? Well, follow along dear reader and I'll show you. 

Start with a flat black prime. 

Base coat in whatever you'll be "scratching" down to. In the case of Fred, it's Vallejo Cavalry Red to represent the rust red primer used by the germans. 

Ends up looking like this.

For the Russian tank I went with a Vallejo US Dark Green, I've never painted a Russian tank before, but the color looked spot on to me. 


Next up, and this is the critical part: Go out and buy yourself a good high quality hair spray. I didn't know the difference between a good or bad hair spray to save my life so my lady room mate was kind enough to humor me and show me what to get. 

Spray the models. When you do this make sure to do two light coats of spray and spray evenly across the model one side at a time. Spraying should start before the end of the model move smoothly across the model in one motion and end when the full spray plume has passed the model. After the first coat, let it dry completely and then apply the second. After the second is completely dry (this shouldn't take more than 5 minutes or so) you're ready to paint. 

Starting with Fred. After looking up a ton of different camo schemes I decided to go for tiger stripes. I thought it would break up the model nicely and would be easy to fix to if I made any mistakes. Note here, I didn't do another basecoat over the the Cavalry Red. You want a solid, but thin layer of paint over the base coat so doing the whole thing in Middlestone and then painting the stripes would make the paint too thick to chip off easily. 

Next up I add in the middlestone, straightening out any lines (a little overlap is OK, just not total over lap). Another note here, normally I wet my paints a good deal, don't do that here, just a touch of water to get the paint moving easily otherwise you'll rub off the hairspray before you want to and it will be difficult to paint solid blocks of color due the capillary effect being enhanced on the glossy surface. 
Next up, and much easier, is Kevin. I'm going to be doing 3 hairspray coats on Kevin to give the white wash a really faded and layered look. Step 1 though is to take a low opacity white paint (most of them are) and dab randomly across the body giving yourself 85% to 90% coverage. 
Next up - and this is where the hair spray shows its worth - we're going to create the scratches. Lightly add water to the surface of the model over the portion you're going to "scratch up," not so much that it pools up but just enough to get a wet sheen. You should do this one small portion of the vehicle at a time, a side panel along an edge is usually the best place to start. Let the water sit for just about 30 seconds then take your brush and begin to vigorously scratch away at the paint. You will notice small holes in the top coat start to appear. Don't be afraid to have small scratches but always remember to work in a scale appropriate way. Really small stuff doesn't show up all that well so focus on some big chips surrounded by smaller ones.

Click on the image below to see a video of how to do this. (Apologies for the blurriness still working out the tech)

On Fred, we get a bunch of scratches that look like this. 
On Kevin, we've significantly worn down the white wash. 

Kevin gets two more goes, first looking like this
And then ending up closer to this. 
Now Fred, because he's all scratches, has a few more steps. To give your scratches visual depth take a lighter version of the color that was scratched away, I use Stone Grey with a just touch of Middle Stone or German Camo Dark Green, to highlight an edge or two of the scratch. Below are some pics showing different angles of those  highlighted scratches. 

Make sure to keep the highlight lines both very light and very thin. You can clean them up by either adding more of the under color to thin out the lines from the inside or the top coat to thin them out from the outside. Just make sure you retain the random looking character of the scratches. 

Starting to work in some details here and it's really starting to take shape. 

I do think the rear turned out particularly well. 

As you can see, scratching like we have on Fred is much more time intensive than the white wash on Kevin. In fact, in the future I think I'll be doing all my white washed stuff this way as it's relatively quick and gives excellent results. I do think I'll keep the scratch work at this level to show pieces though.

Once you've finished up painting on all the details, you must do a matte varnish or the paint on the top coat will work itself off the model over time.

The final result in both cases is well worth it:
For the first time I actually used the Black-ish Magik Mudd Wash by CGR painters to do the pin washing and dirtying up on Kevin and it worked out really great. I'm really impressed with the softness of it and the fact that you don't get "tide lines."
To create the extra dirt and grime in the recesses of Fred here, I used successively darker and thinner washes in the cracks, recesses and on some of the flat spaces. Normally I'd add a pumice dirt mixture but I didn't want to detract from the scratches and other bits so I went with a lower key sort of dirtying up. 

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed painting it.

Throckmorton is an avid llama farmer, part time Flames of War player and runs his own hobby blog: Throck Of WarPhotos were shot using an HTC One on HDR set to ISO 1600. 

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