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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bolt Action - White Washing Tanks

In September, I mentioned that I intended to do some winter-themed tanks in an attempt at representing a white wash camouflage typically seen on the eastern front in the winter of 1942 to 1943. After some easy to replicate steps, I'm very satisfied with the results, especially considering the amount of time dedicated to the project.

For those of you that might have missed it, this article explains what I did to get the three Panzer III tanks ready for their white washing. With everything now completed, I can confidently say that the most time consuming stretch was the decal application phase. The picture below depicts the results after applying the decals and three good coats of matte finish. Unsurprisingly, I'm a big fan of anything that combines good hygiene and gaming, so there will be more of these tanks in my future!

Some days later, after I was sure the matte had finished doing whatever it is matte spray does after you apply it, I set the materials I would need for the next phases out before me. The following is a list of everything you would need to replicate my results:

1.) A painted and decal'ed tank. There's no point in doing any washes or weathering at this point. Make absolutely certain that you've put a few good matte coats on this thing, because you're about to really abuse it, and the grey absolutely must withstand the beating the surface will take.

2.) Any old tube of toothpaste. For three tanks I used about two plastic soda bottle caps full of the stuff. Of course, to make sure the old lady gets a chance to provide valuable input, I suggest opening a brand new and preferably expensive toothpaste directly in front of her. Reassure her that there will still be enough left when you're finished for her to brush her teeth once or twice.

3.) One sponge. I've used one of the many I have kicking around from old Battlefront blister packs, but in later attempts I might even try using one with less density. I don't really think the delivery tool matters much, so long as you get toothpaste where you need it to be. Different sponge "patterns" might provide different wear patterns on your vehicles, though.

4.) A can of flat, white, enamel spray paint. You'll find several great tutorials on the internet to attain this effect, but many of them either call for, or strongly suggest, using an airbrush. If you're a hack like me, this is not something you're interested in investing in. I'm confident the fact that this spray was enamel, rather than acrylic, factored into some of the effects I ended up with.

5.) A toothbrush. Seriously. I'm not kidding. You'll probably want to use something even more abrasive as well, such as the dark green side of one of those cleaning sponges.

6.) A nearby sink with running water. Where else are you going to brush your teeth, man? I guess you could try this in the shower, but I didn't, so I can't suggest it - yet!

With a bit of toothpaste on a palette, and a sponge to dip into it, I got to work. This stage represents the closest we'll get to requiring any artistic flare. You dab toothpaste onto the tanks, with the sponge, in areas where you might expect the tank to receive the most friction. Since we're working with white on a black surface, attempting to end up with black on a white surface, I tried to think about it in terms of a photographic negative. Once I had white toothpaste in all the areas I wanted black wear and tear to show through, I threw the sponge down and immediately brought the tank outside to spray. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of what the tanks looked like with toothpaste on them, because I had been warned that the toothpaste could dry and make removal a bit more challenging. After having done it three times, I'm happy to report this is not something you need to concern yourself with. Don't leave toothpaste on it overnight or anything, but don't feel pressured to immediately remove it, either. It doesn't dry that quickly.

Pictures online showed me that of course edges tended to wear pretty regularly. Hatch handles, flat surfaces on top of the tank where foot traffic would wear on it, as well as the areas where markings such as numbers were painted on are all areas where toothpaste should be. Once you clean it off, the area will be black. Obviously, this is important in areas where you have spent a lot of time applying decals. If you don't toothpaste over the decals, no one will see the decals later on!

Spray lightly once around the tank, then take a good look at it. I didn't want a tank that looked spray painted white, so it couldn't be too light. I also didn't want a tank with eggshell armor, so it couldn't be too thick. This worried me at first, but just take it easy and you'll be fine. If I can do it, you can do it. For reference, it took two quick passes from the Rust-oleum "2x Coverage" can to get to the point you see in this article. That will, of course, vary by spray can.

When you're done with your first tank, it should look something like the one on the left pictured above. You'll know you've done a good job if it elicits a stream of profanity and a curse hurled at the BoltAction.Net site and all its authors. Don't worry, you haven't ruined your tank. Not yet at least.

The next step is to scrub that toothpaste off. This is why it was so very important to put a lot of matte down on top of that grey surface. I waited roughly two to five minutes on each tank before scrubbing, but no longer than that. It's hard to say definitively without testing it, but something tells me with this enamel paint, waiting much longer would have changed the results. For the purposes of this article, as long as the tank is not sticky to touch, I'd say it's ready for some quality dental hygiene.

Get it over the sink and with a wet toothbrush start scrubbing all over the thing. Predictably, it's going to get all sudsy and impossible to see before too long. Go ahead and rinse it a bit whenever you feel the need, and get back to scrubbing. If an area isn't behaving the way you'd like it to, take the more abrasive green sponge and bear down on the tank. You can't baby the vehicle during this step. The enamel can be a beast to remove. However, if you really bring the scrubbing pain, you'll end up knocking stowage off but more importantly getting weathering results like those pictured below.

You can see the numbers now visible above, as well as significant wear around the edges, on hatches, on handles, and on storage boxes. The picture above essentially shows exactly where the toothpaste was applied to the tank. The lighter wear in flat areas was done with a lightly applied toothpaste and the toothbrush. The heavier wear around the edges and on the glacis was done using heavy toothpaste and the dark green scrubbing side of a sponge.

After this step is completed, you've finished the worrisome work. If you're not a little worried as you're shaking that can of white enamel, there's something wrong with you, but you'll soon see that it comes off fine with enough scrubbing.

The rest is up to you! I spent a little time painting up what little stowage I used to hide model flaws like curving track sections. In case you wondered why much of the stowage is placed over the aft of the tracks, now you know my secret!

One thing I'd really like to point out is the value of Tamiya Weathering Master to this project. It might seem like a subtle thing, but check the image below.

I knew that I did not want to do my usual "slop a bunch of stuff on these tracks and call them muddy" routine with these tanks. However, I have never seen a tank with pristine tracks. To get around this, I painted them first with a mixture of black and gunmetal, leaning heavily towards black. The color ended up being a slightly glimmering black. I then dry brushed some areas with a rust color. I finally added an even lighter dry brush of gunmetal, then added the "snow" offered in a Tamiya Weathering Master.

You can cake a good amount on the sponge applicator by wiping it repeatedly on the snow pot. Then, rather than brushing it lightly over the surface, you can press it into one central area. This cakes it into deep areas where snow collects. Obviously, I didn't do it everywhere, as I imagine some of the snow falling out of the track crevices as it trundles along. Here and there, however, and this powdered sugar-like substance makes for a very believable snow effect even from up close.

I say this with the experience of a guy living in an area that gets more snow on average than CBax's frozen lair. Trust me.

At first I thought, "these things really need some stowage to break up the black/white starkness of it all" but after seeing the stowage, I don't think I still agree with that. Perhaps I should have focused on extremely dark or extremely light colored stowage, rather than the traditional canvas-y type colors you'd see. I'm not sure the wooden box fits particularly well, either. What I am sure of, though, is that looted booty and other necessities tossed onto tanks didn't always fit the "color scheme of the season" so it doesn't upset me too much.

You can see in the picture above how the front of the tank on the left has taken a much more significant beating than the other flat surfaces.

Some turret hatch wear can be seen above where hands might normally apply a bit of friction. Keeping the turret markings free of white wash is also something you readily see on winter tanks with a simple Google image search.

I'm still not sold on the stowage - maybe it also needs a dusting of snow, although that whole "put a ton of snow everywhere" deal was exactly what I was trying to avoid with these tanks. Regardless, I'm happy with the results, given the time it all took. I look back at my monotone Soviet tanks now and wonder if I'll ever be able to paint tanks like that again after getting these weathered results. Really, this technique could be applied for German tanks in the desert, with a brown spray substituted for the white, or even later war tanks where damage and use have stripped away areas of paint. Of course, this technique could also be used for winter Russians, Finns, or any other force you can come up with that slathered improvised white camo over the surfaces of their vehicles.

Unfortunately for my wallet, much like any good painting project, this has led me to the immediate realization that I need a winter table. The winter infantry, and even more vehicles, were already on their way.

Edit: Ultimately, I couldn't stand the stowage all clean - whether that might be accurate or not. So I "snowed" the stowage and was much more pleased.

Have you gone way out of your comfort zone before? Where did it take you? Talk to us about it on the forum!

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