Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Other Side of the House – Initial thoughts/Forays

A comment from a while ago that got me thinking (The bolding is my emphasis):

Josiah said...
Your entire paint discussion has been a great read. Growing up around a military aircraft modeler, I had very little experience with acrylic paints. High level model builders use thinner based enamel paints almost exclusively.

I think that many Wargame modellers could learn much from "the other side of the house." The techniques used by aircraft modelers, especially the bare-metal finishes that can be achieved with aluminum sheet applications or powder coats, is amazing.

I whole heartedly agree. Though, I’d also like to add that the military model crown could learn a few things from the high-level wargame painters as well.

There are a ton of techniques, tricks, materials, etc. that can really be of benefit to a more serious wargame modeler. Specifically as they apply to the various warmachines, tanks and aircraft that populate the games. I find that there are a lot of people who know how to paint their individual soldiers pretty damn well, but appear to have no clue as to what to do with their tanks. The reverse is true for the military crowd though – while I was bopping around doing some research, I found a ton of dioramas with really great vehicles, but full of, what I consider to be, god-awful figures.

Some of my Thoughts at This Juncture
Due to an upcoming project (and the above comment), I’ve been doing a lot more research into the tricks and tools that the military modeler crows uses. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the individual soldiers, but some of my tank painting experiences in the past have left me feeling a little like a noob. I want to advance.

Its worth mentioning that while the skill sets associated with the wargamers and military modelers are large, the successful application of these skills is entirely dependant on the results you are trying to achieve. Just because you can make realistic dirt or are an expert at two-brush blending, doesn’t mean its right for the project.

Now, the first thing that really strikes me at this early phase of my research, is the interesting differences between how the two sides of the house pursue the same goal - to create a great looking model. The military modelers seem to have an almost religious dedication to historical accuracy. You see a ton of extremely detailed kits with many, many aftermarket options as well, color schemes entirely focused on faithful recreating the original and a careful attention to what things look like at different scales.

Despite this, at the core of it, military modeling is simply a different style of painting.

Some Stuff I’ve been reading
Military modeling books are extremely easy to get a hold of and there are a ton of them. Many can be had quite cheaply. It’s actually quite easy to pick up one of these books and get started with some of the techniques. Much more accessible than the ‘high art’ approach you often see with the wargaming crowd.

Last Christmas, I got the Imperial Armor Masterclass book - a really great read full of super useful ideas. I grabbed a number of ideas and, I feel, successfully applied them to my first Iron Warriors rhino. But don’t let the book fool you, the author may be painting 40k models, but there are display pieces.

I also picked up two other books more recently:

Airbrushing and Finishing Scale Models (from Osprey, I believe) and Modelling the Messerschmitt Bf109B/C/D/E as they were both relevant to my new project (that I am being mysterious about for no reason).

I’ve learned a lot from all three of them. I’ve gotten a ton of weathering effects for both tanks and aircraft that I would have never known about or even considered as well as a wealth of plain old ideas.

Final Thoughts
My advice to you would be that if you want to take your vehicles in a new direction or just got some advice, taking a look at what military modelers are doing is extremely useful.

My other piece of advice (more of a heads up) is that if you want to make use of most of these techniques, you’ll need an airbrush. Again, the right tool for the job is always important.

If you have an airbrush, putting a base coat on a tank takes almost no time. Totally worth the cost. Especially if you play mechanized anything in 40k.

As I dig deeper into the seedy underground of military modeling, I’ll report on what I’m learning. Expect to see “The Other Side of the House” as a semi-regular feature.


  1. I started with building historical vehicles when I was a kid (about 9 years old) and 40k I first painted around 13 or 14.

    Very very different techniques.

    Sad that I can't paint anymore, irks me. I do have a good eye for what will end up looking good, which means all I've learned isn't totally lost.

    I find most sites I visit don't translate that 'eye' and 'how to' together very well.

    PS: Best thing about military modelers? There are very few color pictures to go from. I painted all my Pz4's in a nice schlock'd on mud scheme and got laughed at. I am not one to get offended easily but boy, that still irks me. Pretty tanks don't fight battles. Must be the actual 'I served in the military' experience that gets me--not a single pretty ship, rifle, or vehicle in the military exists once it's being shot at.

  2. John, I'm flattered that you have taken off in this direction. I'm over at my folks house this weekend, and I'm going to show your article to my father. He and I have been talking about spending a little "father son" time together doing modelling on the weekends. I have 4 unpainted rhinos, 4 unpainted speeders, and 1 dread to paint before my 1850 list is complete. I suspect I will learn a great deal from him along the way. I'll keep you posted if he points me towards any really good tips for any of these projects. I am thinking about painting my Marines in the "Iron Knights" scheme. I dig on baremetal finishes. I know how to do the mini's already, but as you probably know, slopping boltgun paint across the side of a rhino looks anything but good. My father is REALLY talented with baremetal finishes. He has done everything from paint to powder coats to actual sheets of specialized aluminum in order to achieve the polished aluminum effects so common in military aircraft prior to about the 80's.

    I'll keep you posted on my progress.