Thursday, 15 June 2017

Paint Chipping Test with Tamiya Synthetic Lacquer Spray Paints (& sneak peeks into future AFV projects)

To dip my toes into the weathering pool as it were, I tested out a few options for producing chipped paint effects using natural materials and chemical liquids/solutions I had on hand. These included the AK Interactive acrylic chipping fluids (AK088-Worn Effects and AK089-Heavy Chipping), various masking fluids such as Vallejo Liquid Mask and Mr Hobby Mr Masking Sol R as well as coarse grain and fine grain salt. They were used with rust coloured primers, Tamiya synthetic lacquer spray paints and the corresponding techniques to remove the basecoat paint and expose the primer coat below.

Paint chipping using (from left to right): Mr Masking Sol R, Vallejo Liquid Mask and AK Worn Effects
More paint chipping with (left to right): Coarse grain salt, fine grain salt and AK Heavy Chipping

This test was carried out in the following order:
1) Apply rust coloured primer (Tamiya Fine Surface Primer or Mr Surfacer Red Oxide);
2) Apply chipping material (salt, liquid mask or acrylic chipping fluid);
3) Allow sufficient dry time (overnight for the salt while about 30 minutes for the others); 
4) Spray on Tamiya Synthetic Lacquer paint (TS-41 Coral Blue and AS-29 Gray Green IJN);
5) Remove basecoat paint using an old toothbrush, paint brush or toothpick as a form of abrasive.

Additional notes: (a) To enable a thin coat of water to stay long enough on the primed plastic spoons for sprinkled salt to stick to it, I first applied a thin coat of Vallejo Polyurethane Matt Varnish.
(b) The abrasive tool must first be wet with water when using it on AK Interactive chipping fluids. 

Test spoons were sprayed with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer followed by its TS-41 Coral Blue paint
How some of the test spoons looked like after spray paint was applied on top of the chipping materials

In hindsight I should have set up a control to make it a true scientific experiment. That control - a test sans step two - is particularly important to confirm that the chipped paint effect actually arises from the use of AK088 and AK089 and not just through the abrasive effect of a toothbrush/toothpick. As I understand it, both AK products are meant for use with acrylic paints but I've seen some weathering magazines state they could be used with any type of paint. Based on past experience, I find it easier to chip acrylic paint compared to lacquer paint. But at least the paint still (seemingly) chips.

Results of the paint chipping experiment on Tamiya synthetic lacquer spray paint
Closeup of how the various chipping materials affect Tamiya synthetic lacquer spray paint

Unhappy with the large uncontrolled blobs of peeled paint which resulted from the use of masking fluids, I decided to redo that part of the test using the Vallejo Liquid Mask. To mix things up a bit, I used Mr Hobby's primer together with a new spray paint colour. This time around I applied the mask in a more judicious manner with the mantra less is more. As you can see below, a subtler effect can be achieved using liquid mask. And I'm sure better controlled results will be gained with experience.

Retested with the Vallejo Liquid Mask to see if more refined results could be obtained

My weathering journey starts with two sci-fi vehicles i.e. the Bandai Star Wars 1/48 scale Snowspeeder and an old neglected Chaos Rhino Transport. Technically, the latter qualifies as an armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) albeit of the make-believe kind. But more than that, I'm actually contemplating something a tad crazier. It involves working on four weathering projects at the same time, which would mean adding two military AFVs into the mix. Weathering is not limited to just paint chipping of course. Included are rust stains/streaks, dirt, mud and general environmental effects.

Sneak peek 01: an Incom Corporation T-47 Airspeeder and a Chaos Rhino Transport 
Sneak peek 02: the Russian Medium Tank T-55A and German Leopard 2 A5
Funnily enough I wouldn't be abandoning my miniature figure painting roots as I embark on these sci-fi vehicle and military AFV projects. All model kits shown above have accompanying miniature figurines for scale and I plan to paint the figures for at least three out of the four kits. More on this new journey soon enough. All I have to do now is to figure out how I'm going to cram so much hobby work into so little free time. I wonder if a TARDIS would help. Wouldn't hurt I guess.

My kingdom for a TARDIS, and I would gladly pay you Tuesday for one today

With that I leave you with a Doctor Who quote that just about sums up my hobby predicament at this moment in time ... Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it’s a plan!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Confessions of a Rust Junkie

I hate rust. The tetanus inducing kind. But then again I absolutely adore rust. Well, the painted kind. Cognitive dissonance you say? Nah, we just tend to underestimate our ability to hold two opposing thoughts in our mind at the same time. Anyway, there is a certain kind of charm exhibited by a scale model kit weathered in rust hues on an appropriate base coat colour for contrast. In almost every instance, a weathered scale model kit scales up realism a few notches higher compared with a scale model kit painted up to look brand new. And let's face it, most of us are in this hobby because we have this insatiable itch to recreate a piece of reality in miniature form.  

Over the years I've slowly but surely amassed a collection of rust weathering primers, paints, washes and pigments for use in my yet-to-begin weathering projects. While predominantly a figure painter, I've always wanted to expand my skill set to include vehicle scale model kits be it science fiction or traditional military armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs). While I've done so and will continue to do so with the former (as evidenced by my TIE Fighter projects) I've yet to properly begin my journey on the latter which will comprise mainly military AFVs. But I think it's about time I got started. 

Mr Hobby and Tamiya spray can primers come in oxide red, the colour of anti-rust paint
Brush-on primers with rust hues from AK Interactive (Tracks) and Vallejo (German Red Brown)

Why now? For one, I believe I finally have enough tools and materials at hand to approach a rust weathering project from a variety of angles. This is a good thing as each method has a unique  finish which mimics a small piece of our rusted reality. Methods differ in materials used e.g. salt, chemical fluids, paints, washes, pigments, etc. as well as tools used e.g. brushes, sponges, abrasives, etc. Regardless, most weathering projects would start with rust-coloured primers of either the spray can or brush-on variety (see above), followed by either chipping or masking techniques (see below). 

Commercial chipping fluids from Vallejo and AK Interactive which allow chipped paint effects
Masking fluids from Vallejo and Mr Hobby can be used to create chipped paint effects as well

More controlled rust weathering can be achieved through paints and washes as well as specific environment effect materials (see below). This group of materials can generally be divided into either acrylic-based or oil-based products. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, oil-based paints can still be manipulated with solvents/thinners even after they have dried up while water-based acrylics are both safer and easier to use as they do not require organic solvents. 

An acrylic paint set (Vallejo Model Color & Model Air) for creating rust stains and streaks
More rust related products from Vallejo - Acrylic rust texture environment effect and washes
Enamel rust washes, streaks and deposit from AK Interactive
Mr Weathering Color rust-like hues: WC02 (Ground Brown), WC03 (Stain Brown) and WC08 (Rust Orange)
Windsor & Newton Winton Oil Colour - Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber, both look just right for rust effects

Then there are the drier mediums such as pigments, pastels and abrasives. Pigments have the added flexibility to be used together with fixers/binders to recreate wet or dry mud. Meanwhile, abrasives are something of a last resort for me as I feel this method is both harsh and offers the least control. 

AK Interactive pigment fixer and rust-related powders i.e. Light Rust, Medium Rust and Track Rust
Vallejo Pigments 'Rust and Oil' set with pigment binder; they have since produced a better rust set
Tamiya Weathering Master - Rust (in Set B) and Orange Rust (in Set C)

Even with what seems like overkill in rust effect products, what I have in my obsessively garnered collection is way short of what is actually available in the market. In fact, there are many pieces missing from my collection such as AK Interactive's Rust Primer as well as Medium and Dark Rust Deposits, other rust coloured Winton oil paints, most of Vallejo's rust pigments, and so on. Those will eventually join the collection when my perennially limited hobby budget permits. Moreover how these materials/tools are used will be made clearer in future posts, if you were wondering.   

Abrasives are the absolute last resort; shown here is the Mr Chipping Rubber Block from Mr Hobby

Other than feeling like a squirrel who has just shown you his nuts stash, this blog post actually serves a more personal role. As silly as it may sound, I wrote this blog in part to vanquish the mental block that has build up against a weathering project from ever starting. Each new tool/material added to the collection seemed like a new brick in a wall of procrastination. There was always one more paint/wash/pigment I needed before I could start. The situation was becoming absurd. Bottom line is I've more than enough to embark on a few weathering projects. And it begins in the very next post!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Star Wars C-3PO - Bandai 1/12 Scale Plastic Model Kit [Completed]

In terms of difficulty, the Bandai 1/12 scale C-3PO is a plastic model kit that is hard to put your finger on. It's an easy enough kit to assemble straight out of the box. But following that, a fair bit of thought and effort is required to get it to closely resemble Threepio as he was in the movies. And even then there are many variations you can aim for be it the Tatooine sand-weathered or bright and shiny final scene look in A New Hope; the slightly weathered/semi-gloss look in Empire Strikes Back; or even the damaged eye-out-of-socket look in Return of the Jedi (optional parts provided).

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale C-3PO plastic model kit [Completed]
A satin or semi-gloss finish to Threepio's arnour provided a mid-level shine
Proportion-wise, this version of Threepio looks spot on

Personally I've always detested the shiny finish of Threepio's armour as seen in the medal award ceremony scene of A New Hope. Nor did I care much for his dulled, dirty look in the deserts of Tatooine. I strove for the middle path as in not too shiny and not too dull as how the protocol droid looked in the rebel base on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back. Even then I deliberately dialed down the weathering so that Threepio retained an almost-new-but-not-quite shine to his gold plated armour.  

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale C-3PO plastic model kit [completed, back view]
Careful positioning of the lamps ensured better all round lighting for this photo shoot 
Threepio's silver leg tends to reflect its surroundings (a white background in this case)

Paired together with his faithful companion Artoo is how Threepio should be effectively displayed. Earlier when working on Artoo I already had in mind how I wanted Threepio to look like. As such, the level of weathering on both had to be in sync so as to portray a harmonious color scheme.

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale R2-D2 and C-3PO, complete with paint and weathering
Be be beep ..... No, I don't think he likes you at all.
Beeooo ..... No, I don't like you either.

I absolutely love how Bandai Star Wars model kits allows us mere mortals to create a little piece of Star Wars prop magic of our own, albeit through some huffing and puffing with paint and scale modelling tools. Many, many hours have been pumped into this beloved duo with each and every minute absolutely worth it. And I'm certainly very happy at how they've both turned out. 

Threepio and Artoo ... long may their journey continue in the Star Wars franchise

Where Artoo and Threepio's ultimate destination will be is still up in the air. The intrepid duo might land themselves on the missus's personal collection display or even be sold off to raise some funds for a paint restock. But wherever their final destination may lie I've truly enjoyed every minute of my journey with them. Thank you too for taking this journey with me by following my work-in-progress update posts on Threepio as well as Artoo. Have a blessed weekend and stay safe!

Friday, 26 May 2017

Star Wars C-3PO [WIP - Arms & Legs]

Just a quick update before Threepio is put together. It's always tempting to quickly finish up a model kit as it nears the end of its build cycle. Having spend so much time working on the same model kit, I guess it's only natural to crave for something new to get creative juices flowing again. So I took a deep breath, shifted down a few gears and patiently worked on the protocol doid's arms and legs. Uniformity was key for his arms and legs to blend in seamlessly with the rest of his body. A long enough time had lapsed in between work on C-3PO that some technique inconsistencies could arise.

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 Scale C-3PO: work-in-progress on his arms and legs

Minor subtleties in technique application such as misremembering what paint:solvent ratio to use; how much pressure to apply; etc. can sometimes be a factor when one forgets to jot down the details earlier and when not enough muscle memory has formed especially for new techniques. Speaking of which, I painted Threepio's palms even though relevant decals had been provided. It just didn't make sense to use decals their 'look' would have been incongruent with the shiny gold plating. Painting the surface of his palms in matt black hues also made the gold-painted nodes stand out more.  

Everything on Threepio's open palm was painted i.e. the gold nodes and black coating

Options were available to make Threepio's arms either static or movable. Tiny parts (see below) representing the droid's intermotor actuating couplers allowed for simple extending movements in both arms. Originally, these parts was moulded in an ugly mustard yellow which looks completely out of place on the shiny gold plating. Solution? Paint them metallic gold and finish with a wash.  

Components which allow for movable arms on Threepio
Threepio's intermotor actuating couplers were repainted in gold vs the sprue's original ugly mustard yellow
Threepio's left/right arm options (movable and rigid) as well as shoulder joints

Depending on the type of paint used, the final level of gloss can differ. In my case, I used Vallejo Model Color Old Gold and Gold as well as a black acrylic wash. It resulted in an overly weathered and dulled down metallic look that I didn't care for. So the final built will instead make use of the non-movable version of his arms for a more uniform look. The static arm version has gold plated intermotor actuating couplers already moulded rigidly onto the upper and lower arms thus connecting them in a fixed position. Matching paints to the gold plating was always going to be a tough ask so Bandai could've at least moulded the movable connectors in gold plating.

Outer part of Threepio's legs were weathered with oil-based paints and a semi-gloss clear coat
Shown here are the inner parts of both the protocol droid's legs

Although I usually take photographs of my miniatures/model kits using a black background, this was the first time I was doing so for the Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale C-3PO model kit. Reflective surfaces don't play well with dark surfaces as they tend to reflect their surroundings. So that means Bandai's product photos of C-3PO were either taken against a black background using high-end photography lighting or taken against a white background and digitally edited onto a black one. Wouldn't I love to be a fly on the wall on Bandai's official product photography session of C-3PO.    

Threepio with his detached arms and legs, this time against a white background
Both the left and right hands have two options each: open palm and slightly clenched
Two different viewing angles of Threepio's arms against a white background
Silver-plating on Threepio's lower right leg is 100% movie accurate

So Threepio is essentially done. All there is left for me to do is put him back together albeit better than how Chewbacca did in Empire Strikes Back. Chances of Threepio being completed by next week are definitely higher than his oft quoted 725 ... to one odds. Until then, be well and be happy!

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