Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tiger Tank, Part 1

I see the incredible potential of airbrushes for model painting, but my experience is limited. Even so, I have managed some decent results, but getting them has not been without some frustration (this frustration is admittedly due to my unfamiliarity with airbrushing.

A while back I did what I thought was a pretty decent job airbrushing a Tau Devilfish, but it's been a while since I picked up my airbrush--a long while. In the meantime I purchased a new airbrush set and compressor, which is much better than the 30-40 year old piece of junk I had.  Although, to be fair, if it was still running at 30-40 years old, it must have been pretty good. It lacked a regulator though, so I went ahead with the upgrade.

I've learned that there's a lot of trial and error to airbrushing. Getting the paint properly thinned and setting the correct air pressure is key. Time and again I would mix up some paint, thin it with some water, only to have the airbrush jam. Then I would thin the paint more, and the result would be dirty water spraying over the model. Then I would attempt to thin it midway between the two extremes, and I would test spray the airbrush on a paper towel, and what looked like a good spray of paint would come out. Success...not.  By the time I would move the airbrush from the paper towel to the model, it would clog again.

In frustration I ordered some airbrush specific paints (up to this point I used mainly standard model paints).  Since my first project was to be a Tiger tank for Bolt Action, I ordered the Vallejo AFV Camouflage set for German Camouflage 1943/1944.

Figuring that since these paints were designed for airbrushing, I would be able to paint with them straight out of the bottle, or at least with minimal thinning.  No such luck. I had the same problems I did with the other paints.

I did some searching on youtube for airbrush tutorials to get tips on thinning, but without much success. I finally decided to buy some Vallejo Airbrush Thinner and Flow Improver, in the hopes that these would save the day.

To my vast relief, they did. With 2-3 drops each of Flow Improver and Thinner to ten drops of paint, I got a very good mix of paint that actually gave a decent spray of paint without clogging. I still need practice with flow control on the airbrush and technique, but at least now I was in business.

So after that very long introduction, I could finally work on the Tiger tank. Conveniently, the Vallejo German Camouflage 1943/1944 set comes with illustrated instructions on the back of the box:

Step 1: Airbrush Dunkelgelb #604 Surface Primer over the entire model.
Step 2: Airbrush #230 Light over the most exposed areas, centers of panels, and the upper surfaces of the model.  This step requires a little bit of control to get the centers of the panels, but I didn't worry about it too much if I didn't get it perfect--this is partially to get a gentle highlight on various parts of the model.
Step 3: Now to start the camouflage. Airbrush stripes with #092 Olivgrun. This requires some control, and it's the first place where I can "really" screw up.  Since this kind of airbrushing is all about gentle transitions between colors, if I mess up severely, I need to start over.  Completely over.  Still, I did a decent job here, although I did get something of a heavy spray onto the top of the turret--you can see how the camouflage stripe is thicker and darker than the other stripes. But it's not too bad. For a perfectionist like me, it's hard to overlook it, but I need to move on.
Step 4: On the previously painted green camouflage stripes, airbrush a highlight using #006 Camouflage Light Green.  Here I was pretty careful not to overdo it, and gently added the color to the stripes.
Step 5: Airbrush the brown camouflage stripes using #041 Rotbraun, Again, I had to be careful here, and you can see my little mistake with the heavy/dark spray on the left side of the hull, aft.  But it's not too horrible, so I'll go with it. I console myself that I can mitigate these mistakes somewhat during the weathering phase.
Step 6: Airbrush a highlight to the brown camouflage stripes using #040 Burnt Umber. Like Step 4, I took it easy here, just trying to modulate the stripes a little bit.
Now I can move onto the next steps, which is painting in some details, putting on the decals, and then weathering it. One thing I'll say at this point, is that this initial paint job is bright, as in, straight out of the factory bright. In order to look like a vehicle in service, it needs weathering, and lots of it!

In the next post in this series I will add the decals and start the weathering process.

1 comment:

RAZ said...

I have had similar struggles during my infrequent attempts at getting my airbrush up and going. Maybe when I get the itch to paint models again I will try using the thinner and flow improver and wind up with better results.