Painting Ships for Dummies & Redditors - Part 3: Dazzling Splinters September 22 2016

And so we come to part 3; tackling the camo pattern on the hull. "Dazzle" or "Splinter" camouflage patterns were common on Allied and Axis ships of war, the intent was to decrease the distance at which ships could be identified. By breaking up the lines and shapes of the ship, the range at which lookouts were able to identify ships was reduced rather dramatically. If a marauding cruiser could look like a lone patrolling destroyer, she might have more success in ambushing her prey, who might have mistaken her for a lesser threat and taken potentially fatally misguided action (like not fleeing at flank speed) because of it. So this scheme is likely to challenge any WW2 era naval modeller as it appears often, but even without an airbrush you can still make a good go at it with the correct technique.

Here is an image of Tirpitz's paint scheme as she was in 1943:

The process of painting the pattern is as follows:

1. Paint the rough outline of the splinters in one colour.

2. Neatly mask off the splinters.

3. Seal the edge of the masks.

4. Paint over with different colour splinters.

So to dive right in: here I have taken my light grey and roughly painted in the outlines of the light grey splinters. As you can see, I cocked up midships but don't worry, you can correct mistakes as you go. Because this is a light colour, apply as many coats as you need to get a solid fill, but be as neat as you can.

Next, after the light grey had dried completely I masked off the light grey splinters. You may have to cut the tape (I'm using Tamiya tape) to specific shapes and sizes. A fresh scalpel blade makes easy work of this. Where the mask goes over a kink in the hull, gently work it into the crack with a cocktail stick.

In order to stop the next colour we'll be applying from bleeding under the mask and onto the light grey, we're going to seal the mask as best we can. We can do this by painting a bit of the paint under the mask over the border between the tape and the hull. This will mean we get a nice crisp line when the tape comes off. You'll want to use quite thick paint to do this, I'm using Vallejo and in this case I'm using it neat out of the bottle. If it's too thin it will bleed and not make a good enough seal, it may also lift the tape's glue!

Once these sealing strips are dry, we can paint in the darker grey areas. Again, where there is no mask you can roughly sketch out the edges where the medium grey will be. Our base coat is medium grey, so all you'll be doing is tidying up the edges later.

When it's all dry and we remove the tape, you can see how clean the lines are between the light and dark grey. There are bound to be a few leaks and blemishes, but you can tidy them up with a fine tipped brush.

The next task is to mask off the borders of the dark grey, where we want the medium grey to start. We can leave the light grey unmasked as we won't be going near it with wet paint for the most part. But if there is an area where medium meets light, mask it off. Again, we apply a sealing strip of dark grey around the edges of the masks to prevent stray medium grey bleeding under them.

Now paint in the medium grey. Use thicker paint on the edges, and thinner paint in multiple coats in the broader areas to get a nice finish.

When it's all dry and the masks are removed, tidy up any further strays. If you've followed the technique there shouldn't be many, and they'll likely be confined to the tricky cracks where we couldn't get the mask in quite entirely. No matter, a good enamel wash will do much to hide any blemishes that you can't correct completely! 

And here she is! What a handsome model this is becoming! You can repeat this process for the port side.

In the next instalment, we'll cover doing the same pattern on the superstructure. This will be much more difficult. However, on balance mistakes and imperfect splinters will be much harder to spot because of the detail and structures. They eye is drawn to the stark borders of colour on the hull, so it's important to spend time getting that looking good now.

See you in part 4!

Painting Ships for Dummies & Redditors - Part 2: Smart as Paint September 18 2016

Painting Ships for Dummies & Redditors - Part 2: Painting the main colours.


It's been a long time, but I've finally found a few hours to put part two of this series together as I am seeing so many questions on /r/modelmakers about painting ships and I feel terrible about having no resource to link to these lost souls, adrift in oceans of paint. If you need refreshing, here's part one.

So, pull on your boat cloak, grab a tot of rum and gather around while I spin 'ee a yarn.

One of the most useful skills in all of model making, whether you are painting ships, planes, tanks or cars is being able to apply a nice even coat of paint with a brush. Many of you modelling newbies don't have airbrushes yet, so it's a great opportunity to learn how to brush paint properly as an airbrush will not help you much when you come to paint the teak decks of a battleship, where you must pick your way neatly around the infernal multitude of hatches, companionways, turret rings and chains. If you can brush paint nicely, then adding an airbrush later of is only going to make your models better. Nonetheless, if you're just looking to achieve a solid coat of colour with no brush marks and minimal loss of fine detail then you definitely can get very close to sprayed finish using brushes with a little practice.

The golden rule in brush paint is: many thin coats are better than one thick coat. Thick and un-thinned paint will leave ugly brush marks, achieving even coverage will be difficult and you may also get variations in the gloss/matt finish. It is much better to do two or three thin coats. In general, the lighter the colour you are painting, the more coats you will need to apply to get an even and solid colour.

How much should you thin the paint? This is a matter of experience, and you'll find what's best for you with some experimentation. But keep these points in mind:

- When you brush the thinned coat onto the surface, there should be no brush marks left in the paint when dry.

- "Milky" is better than "watery."

- A blotchy first coat is ok, with each additional coat you will see a more solid colour appear.

- The paint should be thin enough to leave no marks, but not so thin that you get capillary action when the paint runs into corners or fine details of its own accord. It should only go where you brush it, if it spreads by itself, it's too thin.

The paint of different manufacturers will require different amounts of thinning, but if you apply the above principles you should be good. For example, Revell acrylics are very thick, Tamiya is a bit less thick and Vallejo needs very little thinning in my experience. Enamels are the same, you just use enamel thinners instead of water. When using acrylics, clean distilled water is better as it is free from mineral and chemical impurities. It's not essential though, and if you don't have "hard" tap water you should be ok. As you can see in the photos, I like to use old CD's as mixing palettes but you can use anything non-porous.

Now on to the model in question. In the last instalment, we primed all the parts and got them ready for painting.Before I started, I made a palette of greys to choose the most suitable for the colour scheme for Tirpitz in 1943. It's no 100% perfect, but it's good enough for this build, but if you really want accurate colours there are plenty of resources on the net to help identity them.

In the end I settled on Tamiya Neutral Grey, Vallejo Extra Dark Sea Grey and Vallejo Light Grey - which I couldn't fit on the palette, oops!

Using the principles of thinning the paint down, I gave the upper hull surfaces and deck clutter three coats of Neutral Grey. It now looks like this:

As you can see, the colour is smooth with no brush marks and no blotchyness or odd sheen. This is what you want to aim for. I also did the same for the superstructure part - ignore the other colour grey on it - that was a test coat and I didn't like it. So this was Neutral Grey all over again.

Next I started work on the main deck teak. For this I use Tamiya Buff. In the below photo you can see the effect of two coats of Buff - I left a patch just for'd of the turret ring with only one coat so that you can see what the first coat might look like. It's blotchy and uneven, but as you can see the second coat does much the correct that and by the fouth coat it's completely even.

I picked my way around the deck clutter carefully with a fine brush, but some mistakes are inevitable. Don't worry, these are easily fixed with some more grey once the deck is painted.

When that was all dry, I started work on the decks and the painted dark grey waist of the superstructure. Please forgive the potato lighting.

Finally, I tidied up any areas of stray Buff (there were quite a few.) Then it was on to the small structure and fittings.

I checked the colour scheme, and some of the fittings were primarily Extra Dark Sea Grey (EDSG) in the camo scheme so I painted them as such. I also painted the stack top a very dark shade of grey by mixing some black with grey - you don't want it to be completely black as we want to wash into the recesses later.

Here's the finished result:

And that's it! It's quite a lot of work, but it all uses the same techniques and when you're done you'll have parts with a very neat and even finish. For ships without camo, you're now ready to start weathering! Unfortunately, Tirpitz had the dreaded "splinter camouflage" scheme in 1943, which at small scale is difficult to say the least. Nonetheless, in part three we will attempt it. See you there!

Painting Ships for Dummies & Redditors - Part 1. March 06 2016

Painting Ships for Dummies & Redditors - Part 1: Sub Assemblies and Priming.

Good evening my fellow aficionados of plastic and glue!

Today is most auspicious. I have finally got my butt into gear and started work on the guide to basic painting techniques for finishing small scale ship kits which I have been promising to write over at /r/modelmakers for so long. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Reddit, I go under the name /u/Resinseer there, and we have many ship modellers on the modelmakers subreddit both old salts and seasick landsmen freshly pressed into 1/700 scale service.

In this series of blog entries I will be covering as many of the basics as I can regarding painting 1/700 & 1/350 (etc) scale model ship kits, using brushes and spray cans only. Guides for more advanced techniques like airbrushing will come later, but for now there are many on the sub who are beached on the jagged reefs of achieving smooth topcoats and applying that most dreadful of adversaries - splinter camo!!

All this assumes a basic working knowledge of how to assemble plastic kits, by following instructions and cleaning up parts etc.  

For this series I have chosen an appropriate kit on which to demonstrate these techniques. Appropriate meaning "it's a complete t**d." Yes, the Academy 1/800 Tirpitz that we all played with in the bathtub as a kid will serve as our noble vessel on this voyage of modelling discovery. It's a rather diminutive model, the detail is pretty sparse and frankly it's little better than a toy. However, the reason it's perfect is that if one can make a kit like this look presentable Out Of Box, then one will be able to actually get value for money from premium kits with acres of photo-etch and resin parts equal in value to the GDP of a small nation state. If you cannot paint to a good standard, aftermarket parts will only give the dog a shiny coat and a wet nose. It'll still be a dog. This goes for you 1/35 armour modellers every bit as it does for us!!

Now, on to business. Here we have the bits in the box that actually matter. There are some electrical gizmos that we will be leaving in the box, but here is the top and bottom hull and fittings frame. Yes, my mat is filthy. I know.

Our first task is to decide how we can best put the bits together to facilitate easy painting. The rule of thumb here is that if you would struggle to get a brush into a nook or cranny if you fixed a part in place, leave it off as a sub assembly. Because I want to wash into the recesses of many of the decks later, I will leave the various superstructures as sub assemblies along with the gun and ship's boats etc. There are no cast iron rules here, it is better to leave something as a sub assembly when in doubt than to fix it to the main assembly and regret it later when you can't get paint past it. Some small parts are best left on the sprue, you may have to partially free them and then clip that section of the sprue away. As you can see, the number of parts we are left with is not too scary.

Now that we have all our sub assemblies we have to make them easy to handle while moving and painting. At this scale, one may as well have lobster claws for hands - if you try to paint a tiny flak gun by itself, you'll make a complete salad of it and more than likely that salad will be the carpet monster's next meal. The sign on the wall is in plain sight: DO NOT FEED THE CARPET MONSTER.

The best way to deprive him of his next meal is to mount the small parts on cocktail sticks. To do this you will need a small pin vice and drill bit, about 0.5mm size will be fine. Carefully drill a hole in the bottom of each piece you want to mount, usually on a locating stud. The hole needs to be 2mm or so deep. When that's done, trim 1mm ish off the point of the stick, that way when you insert it there should be a good interference fit. There's a bit of trial and error here, but you want a good snug fit that doesn't require glue but won't fall off the stick while you're working with it.

Repeat this for all the small sub assemblies, and put them onto a spare box or piece of foam etc. This makes them much easier to spray with primer later.

Now that all our sub assemblies are put together and easy to handle, we can move on to priming the model. Primer helps give the model a nice even coat, which will help the topcoats adhere and prevent chipping. I would recommend using a quality acrylic modeling primer, I prefer Tamiya as the coverage and fine coat is excellent. But more or less any primer formulated for models will do - just spend a bit and don't cheap out on hardware store primer. That stuff is thick and nasty.

Place the part on a piece of scrap paper that's big enough to turn without getting paint on your fingers, like so:

Now, some care in the spraying really pays off. Remember, at all stages of painting I will be repeating this axiom: multiple thin coats are better than one thick coat. This applies to primer too. Using smooth stead movements holding the can between 6-12" away from the part, hit it with a coat of primer. You only wants a light coat, don't worry if it's a bit patchy. Don't hold the can much further away or you'll get rough dry spray on the model. If should be shiny on the model immediately after you have given it a pass. Now, rotate the part 90 degree and do the same. Do this twice more until all four angles on the model have been covered - you may need to give a pass over the top angle just to cover the upper surfaces. An even coat is all you need, it doesn't need to be flawless.


Repeat this for all the parts, and you should end up with something like this:

You may need to use some double sided tape to fix some parts in place, then flip them over and do the other side.

It's best to let these dry for a good few hours, preferably somewhere free from airborne dust and moisture. When it's all dry, your model will be ready for the main colours and top coats which will be covered in part 2.

See you there! 

Big Bad Bison - Assembly and Painting tips for the 1/700 Zubr class LCAC Kits August 26 2014

Hey guys,

In this entry, I'm going to elaborate on the instructions included with the 1/700 Evgeny Kocheshkov kit and show you some of the tricks and techniques I used to assemble the model. Advanced modellers will recognise these techniques, but for those new to the world of resin modelling I hope this is of use to you. Anyway, let's jump into the build!

The first thing I did was to carefully cut out the painting mask template that I wanted to use, I used a new scalpel blade and really took my time. The cleaner this is cut out, the shaper the paintwork will be later on.

The next thing I did was to cut out the superstructure from them frame, and trim off the small amount of visible mould lines using an abrasive file to get a really clean finish. Then I attached the booms and bridge wing parts.

Next, I carefully cut out the main mast parts from the brass fret. I used Evostik PVA adhesive to fix them in place, it's easier to use than superglue and still holds the brass parts tightly in place. Best of all it can be applied with a paint brush to get very precise fixture. I then attached the top of the mast, and the small radome - also using PVA.

Next I added the fine details to the mast. I took my time and used tweezers to place them in the desired place with a small amount of PVA glue.

Now that the superstructre was nearly finished, it was time to assemble those three gigantic fans that give this model its character! I cut these from the frame, tidied them up with a knife and then assembled them as per the instruction - I left the brass propellers until later.

Then it was time to glue the fans, gatling guns and rocket launchers in place. I also test fitted the superstructure - which I didn't glue in until later because I wanted the area clear for masking.

Next it was time to get the airbrush out. Masking in this way can only really be achieved with an airbrush, though if you have a steady hand you might be able to get a good result with brush painting too. I mixed up some Russian Navy Deck Red from the White Ensign Models Colourcoats range. I have found these to be superb paints that have great coverage and accurate colours, I highly reccomend them. I sprayed all around the upper deck area where I wanted the red part of the deck to be. I then fixed my cut out paper mask in place by applying a few drops of Humbrol Maskol to the underside to act as temporary glue. This holds the paper mask firmly in place, and you can eaily peel it off later.

Then, I loaded the airbrush up with Russian Navy Baltic Fleet Grey and sprayed the entire hull. I did about four thin coats, and I was careful to only spray onto the deck directly vertically so as not to get any grey under then mask. When it was dry I removed the mask, and the result was actually better than I had anticipated.

I sprayed the superstructure seperately, and when it was dry I fixed it in place on the hull.

Now there was some brushwork to do, I painted the liferaft canisters white, the gatling gun barrels black, the two radomes light grey, and the fan exhausts aluminium silver. When the exhausts were dry, I gave them a light wash with thinned down chestnut ink, followed by thinned down blue ink - this was to represent the tempering that the metal receives due to the hot exhaust gasses. At this point I should also have painted the skirt black, but I forgot to. You should paint them at this point!

Once all the brushwork detail had been done, the decals were applied. I use an ALPS printer to print the decals - which means that the decal film covers then entire sheet of paper. Therefore the best thing to do is to cut out the area around a decal so you can handle it, then score around the decal's shape with a very sarp knife blade. The aim is to cut through the decal film but not the card, this makes handling them and applying much easier. Once the decals were all in place they were given a coat of Microsol, and when dry this was followed by a a thin coat of Vallejo satin varnish just to protect them from clumsy fingers.

The next stage was the etched brass. This is by far the most challenging part of the entire build, and great care must be taken with each part. If you make a mistake and need a replacement part, please get in touch and I can supply you with an extra fret so you can complete your model. 

I sprayed both sides of the fret with Baltic Fleet grey with all the parts still in place, and I sprayed the propellers light grey and added the red points to the blades by hand. These were the first parts that were fixed in place, again using PVA glue. With all the brass parts, i strongly reccomend handling them with tweezers - in some cases you may need a pair of tweezers in each hand to bend some parts into the correct shape, though they are designed to bend easily and you should not need any special tools. Take your time, and work from the back of the model to the front - this way you have somewhere that's safe to handle the model for most of the brass fixing process.

Once all this was done, I gave the model two coats of satin varnish with the airbrush to fix everything in place and to create an even finish. The result was very pleasing!

This is a basic guide to building the model OOB, however I know that many modellers will want to go into even more detail with weathering techniques and rigging - which I am really looking foreard to seeing! Please send photos of your model to me, and i will feature them on my facebook page. I hope you enjoy this unusual subject, and as ever I appreciate any comments and feeback on the kit.


Happy modelling!