Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Techtip VIII Splinter and urban camouflage with a paintbrush

Military equipment from the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland) is quite known for it's splinter camouflage. This camouflage pattern is characterised by straight lines and sharp edges. The so called 'urban camouflage' is made out of square blocks but has straight lines. Both patterns have great similarities and the same techniques can be used to paint them on a model.

Some examples of Splinter camouflage on a Swedish Saab 37 Viggen, Strv. 122, Strv. 104 (a British build Centurion tank), urban camouflage on a Chieftain tank and a prototype of a Leopard II A5 PSO respectively.

These schemes look quite challenging to paint. Most model magazines recommend using an airbrush. With every round of 'airbrushing' the pieces of color you want to keep are masked off and the next layer is brushed on. When working with paintbrushes this is obviously not an option. When Revell released the Strv.122A/B I tried the painting this camouflage scheme on a Finnish Leopard II A4 first. The results look quite good to me and are not difficult to achieve. Some specific problems of brush painting don't are not as large as I always expected. The 'algoritm' for painting these kind of schemes is as following:
  1. Cut narrow strips from 'magic' tape or the model masking tape.
  2. Paint the entire model in the 'dominant color'.
  3. Mask off the circumference of the next color.
  4. Paint the color.
  5. Remove the masking tape.
  6. Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 until all colors are on.
  7. Correct errors.
We take a detailed look at every step with Strv. 122 serving as an example. At the end of this article we take a look at the pro's and con's of this technique.

Step 1: Cutting the strips

Use magic or model masking tape. Cut strips as quadrangles of different lengths. The sharp and obtuse angles will make it easier to connect the different strips and mask of a variety of angles. This is especially useful when making mask for Splinter camouflage. For Urban camouflage straight edged strips are better. Use a (steel) ruler to make sure the edges of the strips are straight.

Step 2: Paint the model in the 'dominant' color

Most of the time one color covers more of a vehicle then other colors. This color can simply be applied all over the model just as usual. If there is no dominant color the model can be painted in just one of the colors as a start.

Step 3: Mask off the circumference of the next color

The next step is to mask off the circumference of the area to be painted in the next color.
Some times it is difficult to get the masking tape around small surface details. You can use a tooth picker or other narrow kind of rod to push the masking tape around these details. It is important to do other wise you end up with these kind of 'gaps' between the tape and the model:
It is important to avoid these kind of gaps because the capillary action pulls in paint leaving you with a very thick ugly looking result. Special model masking can stretch a little making it easier to avoid these gaps.

Step 4: Paint the color

When the edges of area are masked off the color can be painted on. Don't use to thick paint and move the brush parallel to the masking strips to reduce the problem of 'edges'.
Painting the edges in this way reduces the size of the 'ridges' that can form at the edge of the area:
The result:

Step 5: Remove the masking tape

This step is pretty much straight forward. It is, however, smart to do this before the paint the fully cured to reduce the danger of pulling off paint from the area you actually like to paint. It is not good to keep the tape on the model too long since it can damage the paint underneath.

Step 6: Repeat the steps 3, 4 and 5

This is simply a repetition of steps 3, 4 and 5 but you can save some work in step 3 'Mask off the circumference of the next color'. The edges than can form against the masking tape at the edge of the painted area's are sometimes high enough to be used as a boundary between the different area's. Careful painting is necessary however!

Step 7: Correct error's

The last step is to correct errors. This involves removing the 'ridges' that can form at the places where the masking tape was located and paint sucked in under the masking tape by capillary action. The more careful you worked in the prior steps the less work you have here. I remove these errors with very fine sanding paper. (In the Netherlands the most fine grid of sanding paper sold at the 'Karwei' (a regular 'do it yourself store') is very good. I remember the first time I masked off pieces of a model, I was afraid the 'ridges' mentioned before would be very prominent and ruin the entire model. It turns out most of the time these ridges are very difficult to make out. One of the reasons is that they are hardly any higher as the normal paint layer. An other reason is that they run along are straight lines, for some kind of a reason this seem to render them 'invisible' or at last visible from certain angles of sight. It feels like your watching a sort of hologram when you are really looking for them.

Pro's and con's

As mentioned before most model magazines recommend using an airbrush to get these results and the technique presented in this blog is very different. I think this techniques has the following two strong points compared to airbrushing:
  1. No compressor and airbrush are needed.
  2. Faster.
  3. The masking proces is very easy since tape doesn't have to form interlocking area's because the colors you want to keep have to be masked off.
The strong point of airbrushing however is the fact that you don't have a lot less problem with capillary action. The gaps between masking tape and the model is the largest weak point of the brush painting technique.

I do have an airbrush but I prefer this technique because it takes less time and the masking is easier. There are more ways to get this kind of camouflage right with a brush. You can read here and view in progress pictures here about an other technique too achieve straight edged camouflage with paintbrushes. The result can be seen here.

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