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!