Modelling tanks up for a jungle setting offers a lot of modelling and painting opportunities. Often these tanks have field modifications and unique stowage, and of course there is the extreme weathering due to the environment to play with. I've recently added a troop of Matilda II tanks to my Australian platoon in New Guinea, which I will use as an example. This guide is also great for British 14th Army vehicles in Burma and US vehicles across the Pacific.
Modelling the MatildasI've started off with a pair of 1:48 scale Tamiya Matilda II tanks, originally desert campaign vehicles. The scale is purely a matter of taste, so use your 1:56 vehicles as scale has no bearing on the following techniques.
I embarked on a fair bit of visual research to find out what I could add to these vehicles to give them the correct look to really capture that 'jungle feel'.
The Australian tanks crews, like those of other nations across Burma and the Pacific, made some modifications to their vehicles to cope with the harsh environment. I noticed the Australian Matilda's added heavy steel track guards, apparently a weak spot which the Japanese infantry would try to use their improvised anti tank grenades on.
In many of the photos I noticed the crew has mounted the stowage on top of some PSP (pierced steel plate) which was used by the Allies to lay down a firm surface for airstrips.
To show all these unique aspects of an Australian jungle tank I gathered some appropriate accessories from various places. The stowage came from the Tamiya 1:48 plastic 'Jerry can set' and some resin stowage from Eureka miniatures. But you can also easily use the Warlord Games metal stowage set.
The PSP sheets are brass etched and I picked these up from the same place as the unique Australian track guards, from Quarter Kit in France. The crew I made from combining parts from the Warlord Games British Commando and USMC plastic kits. One last thing I did before painting these tanks was to smear some poly-filla around the bottom of the hull and tracks. This will give some volume to the mud I will add later.
Step 1: Colour primerNow, onto the painting! First up, I began by priming the tank with a black spray (GW Chaos black in this case). Over this, once dry, I sprayed a base colour standard for British armour. I have found a good representation of this is the British armour spray by The Plastic Soldier Company.
Step 2: Drybrush highlightI don't have an airbrush, so I can't do the extensive and great looking modulation on my vehicles yet. Instead I have added some depth by drybrushing a highlight across the tank. Using a 70/30 mixture of Vallejo 924 Russian Uniform and Vallejo 819 Iraqi Sand, drybrush with a large soft brush the edges of the armoured hull. I have found brushing in a downward direction even adds some nice streaks on the larger hull areas, see the above photo for reference.
Step 3: Base coloursNext, after the messy drybrush (not before!) is painting the base colours of the rest of your tank apart from the hull. If you have a choice, choose a lighter colour than you might otherwise for the base as the enamel wash that comes later will darken things up a little. In the example of my Matilda I used Vallejo 984 Flat brown for the tracks (including spares) and PSP, then drybrushed them with a silver. The stowage is one of three colours, 881 Yellow Green, 988 Khaki and 888 Olive Grey
Step 4: Decals and gloss varnishWith the base colours done, it's time to add any decals you plan on including. I picked up a specific Australian set for the 4th Armoured Brigade from Company B. These are 1:56 scale and work really well. I love the Brigades symbol of the Crocodile and palm tree, very Australian! Speaking of which, I found this photo on the right while researching the project. I simply had to include this amusing graffiti from the crew on one of my Matildas.
When applying decals, first paint on a layer of gloss varnish in the general area you know a decal will go. Once dry, apply the decal. The gloss varnish provides a very smooth surface for the decal to apply too. Lastly, apply a coat of gloss varnish to the entire model. This is going to protect the colours underneath from the enamel weathering products we'll use in the following stages.
Step 5: Apply washWith base colours and decals done, next is a wash to add depth the vehicle. For vehicles I am a big fan of using oil & enamel based paints and products like this wash by AK interactive for example. These washes work in two stages, first you apply them, then you remove some of it to clean it up. So here, looking at the picture above you'll see I only paint the wash into the recceses, but am not overly neat or careful with this. This wash is an enamel product, so make sure to use a thinner like mineral turpentine to clean your brush afterwards, not water! This takes about 45-60 minutes to dry depending on the weather...but don't wait to much longer to start cleaning it up or it will be permanent.
Step 6: Clean up washNow for stage two of the wash, cleaning it up. Using some thinners, dampen a make up remover or small brush (like in the photo above) and wipe away any areas you don't want the wash. You'll notice adding the thinner 're-activates' the wash, so you can effectively move it around. One cool trick is to remove the wash by wiping down the armour plates as this will create some streaking effects. Perfect for jungle tanks out in the rain and muck. When removing some areas of the wash I keep a paper towel or rag handy to deposit the wash onto as my tool (brush or make up remover) takes it off.
Step 7: Heavy mud effectsOkay this next step is a lot of fun, time to add mud! I picked up this great set of mud effect products from AK Interactive, called the Heavy Muddy weathering set. It seems to be easily available online and wasn't too expensive, $30 Australian. The set has 5 products inside, of which I ended up using 4 on these tanks. To start off I used the 'Damp Earth' pigment mixed with the plaster in the set at a 50/50 plaster to paint ratio. I also added some static grass flock as I wanted some foliage to be caught up in the tracks and mud, as I had seen this in many of the historical photos.
Step 8: Dry mud effectsTo add depth to the mud (New Guinea is a very muddy place!) I utilized another product from the AK set. This was the 'Summer Kursk Earth' pigment. As before I mixed this 50/50 with the plaster provided in the set. This time however I did not include the static grass. I also applied this dried mud differently. Instead of painting it on with a brush, this time I loaded my brush up, but used my breath in short sharp bursts to blow the paint onto the tank and achieve these organic looking splatters you see in the photo above. This takes a little practice and is messy, so be sure to cover your work area with some protection as the paint goes everywhere!
Step 9: Crew & stowageWith the weathering now complete, finish painting the crew and stowage to your liking in your normal method for infantry. I do this last to avoid any of the weathering products going over these parts, which tends to happen. So this saves on clean up time.
Step 10: Matt varnish and jungle foliageTo finish off your jungle tank give it a coat of matt varnish, to protect all that hard work. I use Testors Dullcoate. I also prefer to base my vehicles, as you can see I have added some appropriate jungle basing material I have collected. Even if you don't base your tanks, you could very easily add a few bits of vegetation to the upper hull of your jungle tank to simulate foliage raining down on the vehicle as it bashes it's way through the jungle.
So there you have it, some ideas for giving your Pacific and Burma forces vehicles a really 'jungle' look. It was my first time trying out the AK Interactive Mud set and I found it fun and easy to use. However I may have gone a bit overboard with it, so you may want to follow the old adage...less is more!