The last time I’d blogged about this Gundam Mk. III, it was just after having been painted. I’d opted for a more RX-78-2 approach to the colors, rather than the all light blue scheme the kit had been cast in. I hesitate to call this a “custom color scheme”, because it’s simply lifting the colors from one, and applying it to another. Besides, I’m not bright enough to come up with anything custom. 😉
I’m always a bit hesitant in the time between finishing the base paint work, and beginning the weathering. While I’m a strong believer in not getting hung up about “ruining” a model, I also know that a model that enters the weathering stage looking pretty sharp can emerge from the other end of the pipeline rather dull in appearance.
I know the techniques, the tools, the mediums… all things I am comfortable with. Though I’d never claim to be exemplary in weathering by any means, I know that I can hit close enough to the mark most of the time. Yet every time… every single time… it often feels as if I am careening downhill on a sled, with little control. All I can do is aim for the mark at the top of the hill, adjust as I go, and hope that the resulting impact at the bottom of the run doesn’t break any limbs. 🙂
Into The Laboratory
On this build, I decided to experiment a bit. I’ve mentioned on and off over the last few weeks that I hoped to work up to a 100% acrylic finish – paint and weathering. For one, doing so would speed up my build process. To get models in this blog, I have to build models. Build and finish models, more precisely. Waiting on oil and enamel products to dry is a bit of an impedance to that process. So developing my skills, and learning products, applications, and techniques that reduce the time I have to wait will really be beneficial.
A second reason I want to work out doing 100% acrylic finishes is simply to improve in my work. The processes and methodology for applying acrylic weathering products is very different. The things that work with oils and enamels don’t work quite the same when it comes to applying acrylics. So exploring this avenue to completion forces growth in the hobby.
Finally, and I must admit this one is a big motivator – it’s simply different. Over the last year, as I have explored new genres in my own modeling journey, I’ve come to appreciate the simple benefit change can bring. The eye and the brain must view things in a new light. Familiar things are pushed aside, and the lure of the unknown is sparked. Of course, it’s not as if I’m going to explore some far-off exotic land… all of this takes place within the confines of my model desk. Yet the simple act of exploration, in any endeavor, brings a fresh perspective and excitement.
Color In The Lines
I stated the weathering on somewhat familiar grounds, adding panel lining. I gave the model a good gloss coat, using Future. Instead of reaching for my familiar enamel panel line washes, I grabbed my bottle of Citadel’s Nuln Oil Gloss. If you’re not familiar with it, the product is an acrylic “wash” that is basically a black paint, heavily thinned with a gloss medium. It flows into panel lines much like an enamel wash. However, due to its quick drying time, excess cannot be easily wiped off later.
By adding a gloss coat to the model first, and using the gloss version of Citadel’s product (a matt version is also available), it lets me take advantage of science. (Cue Thomas Dolby… SCIENCE! 🙂 ) Now, what that science is precisely, I don’t know. I’m a modeler, not a scientist. 😀 But… gloss and gloss don’t have a lot of surface tension. This means the Nuln Oil wash will generally flow into the panel lines nicely, but the amount of tide marks outside of them will be reduced greatly… with careful application. (I use a #0 liner brush.)
If any does get outside of the lines, I have a handy fix for that. I keep a small water bottle lid nearby with some Vallejo Airbrush Thinner in it, and a clean brush. If some of the Nuln Oil goes outside of the lines, I let it dry briefly… maybe 2-3 minutes. I then grab my clean up brush, touch it in the airbrush thinner, then briefly touch it to a paper towel. I can then use this barely damp brush to clean up any errant wash. The gloss coat protects the underlying paint from damage, and the Nuln Oil lifts of in almost a peeling-type fashion.
In the end, I don’t know that this application method is any faster or slower than using traditional oils and enamels. However, the full net benefit is immediately observable. I was able to begin applying additional weathering steps within half an hour after I finished the panel lining. Had it been oils or enamels, I’d have needed at least 24 hours drying time.
Need More Chips
Chipping was next, using the familiar sponge chipping method. I decided to forego the multi-color chipping method. While I like how it looks, in my mind it is a particular style of chip, and for the finish I had in mind it did not fit. While two-color chipping is most definitely observable in the real world, I wanted this model to have more of a gritty, viewed from a distance look. Examining a piece of machinery up close shows all of the variations in colors and chips. However, stand 100 feet away, and all of that blends in, to the point that all the chips appear simply as contrast to the base.
For the white areas I used Vallejo Mecha Color Phantom Gray, which is a neutral-gray type paint. It was dark enough to provide good contrast, but not quite as stark as black or brown chipping colors. I went for a heavier look too… loads of chips. I’ve tried to get away from “too much” or “too little” in my thinking. Rather, I find it more enjoyable to aim for “just making it look cool”. (Quoting Linc Wright there… credit where credit is due!)
The chips in the blue and red areas were applied with a sponge also, the color chosen being Vallejo Model Color Sky Gray. This is a very useful color in my “toolkit”, finding its way on to almost every model I build in some way. In using this to chip the red and blue, it “reads” almost as white, but is not near as bright or as stark as actually using white would look.
I tried to shift the bulk of the chipping lower on the mobile suit, around the legs and feet, and in a few areas higher up more likely to receive wear. However, I didn’t over think it. In fact, I was applying that chipping while talking with other modelers on Discord, so it was a very relaxed and fun modeling session.
Streaks And Stains
The next step would be much more in the realm of “unfamiliar” for me. I’d purchased several bottles of Vallejo acrylic stain and streaking products, both in the standard Vallejo line, and in their Mecha Color range. All were basically variations of black, gray, and browns… ranging from a medium, slightly red-brown all the way to essentially pure black. Two of the colors were gloss, so these would allow for the SCIENCE! previously mentioned to take place.
I took a brief detour from the build to head over to the Tubes of You. I watched quite a few videos, everything from Vallejo’s own product demonstration videos, to modelers simply showing how they employ them. One fellow – and I can’t recall his name now – demonstrated weathering a German tank using nothing but acrylic products. So I knew going in that it was quite possible to get good results.
I started in some simple places… undersides of armor sections, nooks and crannies, and places that could be easily repainted if it all went completely wrong. (Self-confident I am… 😉 )
I’d recognized both in some previous use as well as watching videos, that the acrylic weathering process is much more additive than subtractive. To get a grimy streak with oils or enamels, the product is placed on, and then through the use of brushes and thinners, excess is removed until the desired effect is reached. With acrylics, it is generally the opposite. Smaller amounts of the product are added, and then built up, to reach the desired outcome.
I quickly discovered several helpful things as I worked out how to make practical use of acrylics in this fashion.
- First, using the products straight from the bottle was not always optimal. While it worked for recesses and corners, or areas of very heavy staining, achieving nice streaks worked much better with thinned media. I simply used water for this, adding various amounts to small pools of the products on my palette to see which worked to my liking. A basic rule of thumb emerged – the thinner the solution, the more control over the application.
- A second thing I saw – that technique I mentioned about using Vallejo Airbrush thinner to remove errant wash worked in the staining too. And I made a fun discovery in putting that to use… in a limited way, the acrylic weathering products can be streaked in a fashion similar to oils, though the window for doing so is very narrow.
- I also realized a third aspect to these products that only emerged the further I went – they seem to work well for heavier weathering processes. More and more thin layers, built up on top of each other, seemed to work out very well. Lighter, more subtle application seemed to not work out quite as well. (Of course, I am new to this!) I think the reason these work well for heavier, more dramatic effects is because of the fast drying time. Many layers can be built up very quickly, using quite a wide variety of colors and tones. This can give a great depth to the finish – without the long wait times that enamels and oils often require.
One caution – I had to be very aware of pooling, because this would leave very obvious “blobs’ of stains, often where I did not want it. I did find that by starting a streak where I want it to terminate, and then going back to the source, worked best. the brush generally leaves more paint at the end of the stroke than the beginning, so I used this to my advantage.
The final step was a shift back to more familiar ground – airbrush weathering. I employed a highly thinned mix of Tamiya paints to add exhaust streaks, blend in some of the stains, and to generally add grime here and there. Just as using brush applied products gives a certain look to your weathering effects, adding in airbrushed elements imparts dimension and visual interest that can’t be achieved otherwise in my opinion.
I focused the bulk of my effort to making sure the various jet nozzles were appropriately smoky, and that parts of the mobile suit that might be the beneficiary of their exhaust were given a smoky look also. The heavily thinned application through an airbrush really offers a super degree of control to be employed in placement, allowing gradients to be nicely worked in.
With that all done, the final bit was to give everything a coat of Vallejo Mecha Color Matt Varnish. With that applied, I thought it all looked reasonably decent.
In many ways, this RE/100 Gundam Mk. III was a bit of a sacrificial test dummy. Much of the weathering looks very random in places, and that is simply because I chose to experiment in one area or another so I could then compare the two. It is by no means an exemplary piece, but rather a step on a journey. I’m certainly happy with it… I don’t think it looks bad at all. But what I do see in it is the possibility that acrylic weathering will bring. Unlike making use of oils or enamels, and their resulting drying times, this weathering process was fast. I did it over the course of a day and a half, spending just a few hours in total on it. More importantly, I could have compressed all of the work into one session – the drying and working times were that fast.
So I show this not to say “here’s a great example of acrylic weathering”, but rather to point out that it is easier to do than I realized – and holds out far more possibility than I’d initially thought. I’m actually quite excited about it. I really want to explore where these products shine, and where they don’t. Knowing this will help me plan my builds. I can factor in both a final look AND a time frame, to help me keep the work flowing – so the blogging can keep happening!
As for the kit – it is superb. There are no seam lines to note, no fiddly assembly parts, and i think its overall design is quite cool. The articulation is very good too, with a great articulation built-in. The only downside to the kit, for me, was simply that I did not build it sooner. I’d let the boring canon color put me off. A simple color swap was all that was needed.
If you’ve not used many acrylic products in your weathering process, give them a try. The application process is a bit different, and you’ll likely have a few fails in the learning (I know I did!), but I really believe that the benefits are worth it. While speed is certainly a big plus, the compatibility with other acrylics (assuming that is your primary media) is too nice to overlook. And for Gunpla, and the sensitive Bandai plastics, it’s a great solution to avoid problems.
Most of all, it was a fun process for me. Employing the same old techniques and over has left me feeling a bit stale, so this refresh is quite welcome.
Best of all, when I accidentally clean my brush in my coffee, I don’t have to dump the coffee out now! 😉