I’ve always enjoyed the imagination aspect of modeling. Whether it’s building a completely imaginary object, such as Gunpla, Warhammer, or Star Wars, or attempting to recreate a real object as seen in a photo, I can’t help but to be drawn into the subject.
When looking at a photo of a real subject, I will wonder about what happened just before that moment in time, and then just after. If it’s an aircraft, for example, I will speculate on how a certain oil stain got there, or why the paint was discolored in another area.
Attempting to replicate that photo, then, is not so much a process of deciding on techniques to apply, and then finding a photo that fits. Rather, the photo will dictate what techniques must be used.
When building models of the imagination – scifi, stompy robots, etc., , things are a bit different. There are no “real life” photos of them in action. They’re make-believe. (I know, I know, I was shocked at the news too…) 🙂
However, the same principles apply.
The best part is, as the artist , you can make it ALL up.
Developing A Scenario
Certainly you can take cues from the particular franchise your model belongs to, and seek to depict your build at a particular point in that series.
Yet it’s often fun to imagine your subject in a setting completely from your own imagination. And just like the photo of a slice in time of a real event, the weathering can be dictated by your imaginary scenario.
An example is a kit I recently finished, the HG RCX-76-02 Guncannon First Type.
While I was initially considering going with canon color, something about it just said “custom paint scheme”. And I knew I wanted to make it fairly heavily weathered. I’ve always liked the World War II RAF Desert Air Force color scheme, so that settled the color choice.
Then I let my imagination take over. I pictured the suit at some remote desert outpost, not of great importance, but enough to need mobile suits for security. Having been in a desert area before (in combat, no less… :/ ), I began to consider the effects environment would have on the suit.
Certainly it would be hot and dry, so no rain or water marks would be needed. The continual exposure to sun would mean a lot of fading. And the constant presence of sand – it gets everywhere – would really take a toll on paint, metal, etc. Adding to these brutal conditions would be the sandstorms, and a 60 foot tall mobile suit can’t always hide indoors when a sandstorm blows through.
All of these factors dictated a faded, highly chipped, and dusty finish. And those conditions are what then determined the actual weathering effects to be applied. Various edge chipping techniques, airbrush fading, and weathering powders would all feature heavily.
Cues From The Environment
Another example is my MG GM Sniper II Gunpla. While I decided to go with (mostly) cannon colors for the armor, I opted for my own invented scenario to drive the weathering. I pictured it operating in a suburban/rural border area, perhaps just outside of a major city. Forests, lakes, and the occasional swamp would make up the landscape, and the climate would have been reasonably rainy.
Those factors, in turn, drove the decision of weathering techniques. While it too would feature chipping, the lack of extreme sun and sand reduced the amount of overall chipping and fading needed as compared to the Guncannon. However, operating in a wetter climate meant rain streaks, damp mornings, and mud. Lots of streaking!
And as with the Guncannon, the imagined scenario dictated how the model would have been affected by the climate, and thus that informed the decision I made about the weathering tools and techniques to be used.
Factoring In The Real World
Another aspect to consider are common factors in any scifi combat vehicle build. Despite being imaginary, in their world they’re machines of combat. They move about rapidly, accelerate quickly, decelerate suddenly, pound into the ground while running or driving, and impact with other vehicles or objects. No matter what scenario you place your model in, that overarching narrative is always present.
Thus, the realities of fluid leaks – hydraulic, lubricant, or otherwise – can always come into play. Dents, scrapes, scorch marks, and other blemishes can also be considered. Gun barrels may turn sooty, but if it is firing kinetic rounds, there is also an ejector port for the shell casing, potentially. Thrusters and verniers cause incredible heat, and possibly smoke effects, on anything near them.
So there can be a “default” set of weathering that takes place on any scifi model, and the degree to which its presence is made known can be determined by the age of the vehicle, and how much it has been used.
Which is all factored into a story for your model.
Let Exploration Drive Imagination
Of course, there may be times when the core of the weathering is driven by a new technique or product you may want to try out. Even in these situations, however, a story can be developed that helps “fill in the gaps” that a particular technique or product may not determine. Suppose you wanted to learn to apply a product designed to simulate extreme mud effects. How would it look? For example, imagine a mobile suit in a wet, swampy area. Perhaps it has mildew growing on it. How would it look if a 60 foot mobile suit fell over in the mud? How high would the mud splash? What would cling to the suit after it stood back up? How long after the event is the model depicted – should the mud be wet or dry?
Even though the core of the focus is learning to apply a product that simulates mud, using imagination to complete the story gives a cohesive focus to the model build, and helps the artist apply the appropriate techniques.
And it doesn’t take an elaborate underlying story to be developed. While some folks may enjoy the process of creating a fully developed “mini-story” (even if only in their mind), others may just state it as a simple sentence: “What would it look like if an older, worn, combat scarred mecha fell in a swamp?” That one sentence can help drive all of the techniques that need to be applied.
So on your next build, give this approach a try. Instead of asking “how do I use chipping fluid?” (though a valid question in and of itself), have a bit of fun making up your story. Imagine how your mobile suit would look in that story, and then apply the techniques needed to replicate that.
Image published under Creative Commons License.