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!