April 1945, it’s certain that the end of the war is just a matter of days. German armored troops are defending their last stand at the gates of Berlin and although well known by their discipline, the last thing that German soldiers were thinking of is weapons and armor maintenance as often seen on the photos and video footages of that period. Severe fighting and urban battlefield conditions contributed to dirty and neglected look of vehicles and tanks that were often so muddy, dirty and dusty that we could not see the original camouflage. In this part of Airbrush Armor we will try to replicate that look on Italeri’s Tiger I tank by using Testors Model Master paints, oils and pigments.
To start off, we will spray a base coat of Testors Model Master 2088 Sandgelb, no shading or fading is done at this stage. The next colour is 1736DE Leather airbrushed freehand to create first, brown camouflage pattern. Good idea here is to try to outline the pattern with very thin airbrush line and to fill it in with a wide spray. Second camouflage colour is Dark Green 1710E airbrushed on in the same manner as the brown by spraying at 15 PSI and keeping the airbrush roughly two centimeters from the model, again first outline then fill in. With the model now looking too vibrant we need to tone it down a bit and to do so, we will spray a very diluted base colour of Sandgelb all over the model. There are too reasons for overspraying the model with light base colour, first is to lighten the model as the oils will darken it later and the second, urban battlefield is always dusty from all the devastated buildings and things and this overcoat will give us the effect of a dust.
We will set the model aside for 24 hours or so and once the paint dry, it’s time to spray Testors Flat clear acrylic as a base for the paint chipping phase. Using a finest ‘zero’ brush and Testors 1785E Rust we will create areas of chipped paint and rusted iron randomly distributed with focus on the areas most prone to chipping as the top of the turret, around the sharp edges and hatches. To get even more realistic effect, we will outline the chipping spots with Sandgelb colour which would give us the feel of lifted paint edges. Testors Flat clear acrylic is sprayed again to protect the chipping from our next stage – oil wash. Once acrylic flat is dry a diluted mix of Burn Umber and Sandgelb in 3 to 1 ratio mix is brushed all over the model with soft flat brush in repeated short motions until the entire surface of the model is uniform and free of brush stroke signs. Now it’s time to apply some fading, add some stains and dirt marks by using a few shades of oil colours.
Routine for oils is as simple as it can be, a fine brush is used to apply small spots of oils on to the model and then larger flat brush to blend it in the oil base with gentle stubbing motions. Same technique is used for dirt streaks on the sides, a post of white or yellow oil paint is applied to the vertical edge and with ‘top to down’ brush motion blended in the base leaving a nice subtle streak of oil, water, dirt etc. Although not so usual my routine for the decals is to apply them directly on the oils but instead of in the water i will place them in Future floor wax for a few seconds and then just slide them on oily surface of the model and burnish it in with the soft brush.
At this stage our model looks dirty and beaten while the decals are shiny and undamaged but we will take care of it with pigments at the end. While waiting for oils to dry a bit before the pigments we will take care of the tracks which were painted in 1749E Flat Black, sprayed with Flat clear acrylic and treated with oils as the rest of the model but this time we will apply pigments while the oils are still wet to get that muddy mix. Try not to use more than 2 or 3 pigment shades as too many will create neutral and dull effect. Set the tracks aside for a few hours to dry and as the last step we will apply some steel to it. Take a 6B soft pencil and make some iron dust by rubbing the pencil on to a piece of fine sanding paper, then use a cotton swab, rub it in the pencil dust and gently apply it on to the tracks, the same goes for outlining the wheels. Some more dusting, blending of the decals and for the end we will apply some reddish pigments on the exhaust pipes and engine cover meshes to get even more rust and burn out of our heavily beaten Tiger.
Tip: In a situation when you are unable to open an old Testors paint jar simply turn it upside down, add a drop of thinner between the lid and a jar and leave it aside for a few minutes and the lid will slide off as easy as of the new one.
Model, Text and photos by: