Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Weathering with Oil Paints

For a while now, I have been describing my weathering processes for models by simply stating that I "used oils for weathering," which is pretty unhelpful to anybody who actually reads my ramblings. So, to remedy this, I've put together a brief step-by-step (SBS) to elaborate on how I use oil paint on my models. Oils have been used to weather models for decades, and the process has been covered thoroughly by many modelers. I'm walking this well-trodden path because I think I do things a little differently, and I wanted to start with something I really feel I know well.
Oh, and one more thing... this will be the first of (hopefully) many SBS postings, so be sure to ask questions and make suggestions on what you want to see in the future. For now I will be tagging each applicable post as "SBS", but I will also collect future SBS postings in a separate page next to the Gallery.

For the base color, I used Tamiya Dark Green, with a gradient of highlights up to Cockpit Green. I applied the decals over a glossy finish, and then airbrushed a thin layer of Future floor polish over the whole model for a semi-gloss finish. The oils and thinners will dull the sheen down by the end of the weathering process and do not need to be sealed with a flat coat.

I use Winsor-Newton oil paints for pretty much everything. The color names are strange, but it's the paint that's important. On this model, I used Gold Ochre, Raw Umber, and Mauve Blue Shade. I have tried countless combinations of colors, and each one has had an interesting effect on a finish. Every model I weather has a new palette, but I usually include a warm and cold color, along with a brown. I tend to avoid using pure white and black, unless I really want a strong fading or shadow effect.

Using a small round brush, I mixed each color with a little bit of mineral spirits to thin them down for easier brushing. I then painted streaks in vertical patterns, like you see here. I make every effort to distribute the colors in unbalanced manner: some areas get a lot of brown and violet streaks, another area might have a few stripes of yellow, and another panel might have no oil paints at all. This, I think, is the most important part. If all the streaks were evenly spread out, the result would still look like a boring monochrome vehicle, with each facet and panel no different than the next. The whole point of this process is to create variation in color, not to make more of the same.

Next, I take a flat brush and lightly dampen it in some mineral spirits. There is only a little bit of moisture on the brush, not very much. I then drag the brush downwards over the oil paints, blending the streaks with each other. Because oil paints take a long time to dry, I can manipulate them on the model as much as I like for the first few hours. Of course, it never takes that long, but at least I have the option.

With vertical or angled surfaces, pull the paint downwards from the highest point to the lowest; in the direction that water will flow. This way, the paint discoloration mimics the effects of repeated exposure to rain, snow, spilt chemicals, and other forces of nature. Besides, the streaks ran sideways, they might just look like a sloppy paint job!

On horizontal and nearly flat surfaces, I do my best to avoid leaving any solid blotches of color. Instead, I gently "massage" the oils into the finish with the brush, which distributes the color in a translucent layer across a small area.

You can always apply more oils if you need them, or remove all the oils with a little extra thinner on the brush. The paints are very forgiving, so it's safe to try something new and a little crazy now and then.

That's about all there is to it. I just work away at each surface until I'm happy with the result. I'll let the oils dry for at least two days before I apply any other oil-based products, like washes.

The final streaking effects, with the remaining assemblies assembled and painted.
Thanks for reading! You can see the finished BRDM-2 here.


  1. Kyle... How can I thank you? Since my post some weeks ago, wondering about "how to deal with oils" and your nice comments to help me out, I've still been wondering... Now this is all making sense and I am really glad you've written this SBS, with so many details and advice! Thank you so much! You're really helping me here! This really deserves a heartful applause! ;)

  2. Christ that is good work, what a good effect.

  3. You're a chip off the old block! Excellent work, Grasshopper...

  4. thanks a lot for this very helpful lesson

  5. Many Thanks ! Excellent step by step

  6. Simple techniques, simple brands, careful handling of brushes and extraordinary results. Great S.B.S.

  7. Thanks for the clear explanation, very useful. How about an SBS on using pigments? I can never get these to look how I want them...


[insert fiery hate rhetoric here]