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Adding Washes To Your Models! Basic Skills Series

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Adding washes to your models is one of the simplest steps to add realism and weight. It helps define detail, making the features on the model stand out.

In terms of stand alone techniques, it’s arguably the most dramatic addition for any model. What might have seemed a bit flat will suddenly “pop” when a wash is added.

Adding Washes To Your Models

While there are several “sub-genres” of washes, such as panel washes and pin washes, all work on the same basic principal. Thinned paint is applied so that it flows into and around details. The media and dilution may vary, but the basic principle applies across the board.

A wash can be applied over any finish, though generally a satin or gloss coat will be most beneficial. This is especially true for oil and enamel washes.

Using oils and enamel for washes is a subtractive process. Thinned applications are added to the model, and then any excess is cleaned up. Having the surface prepared with a satin or gloss coat facilitates this process. In most cases, a small amount of odorless thinner is used. The effect is refined until the desired look is achieved.

Examining The Process

Acrylics are an additive process. Because of their fast drying time, most acrylic products can’t be applied and then some removed. Instead, smaller amounts are carefully applied, building up the effect until the modeler is happy with it. Any areas of “overspill” may be cleaned up with a very light application of acrylic thinner. Alternately, paint touchups, using the base paint color, can correct errors.

Both processes have their advantages and disadvantages. oils and enamels are much easier to refine and clean up, but they have longer drying times. Acrylics aren’t as flexible in application, but their drying time is almost instant.

I’ve always felt the best approach is to work with each product until proficiency is achieved. The decision then is simply choosing the best method for a given project, based on the modeler’s desired outcomes and time windows.

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