Goddamn, I love puns.
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.
No prob Bob. The whole point of this blog is to share. I can't, in all good conscience, ignore useful information. I figured I already had a decent airbrush and had already started playing with various new techniques, time to push it further. In any case, thanks for the suggestions. Your idea gave me a new and very large area to consciously experiment with and write about.
Now, on to my sagely advice (related to bare metal finishes).
As fantastic as using an airbrush is , the techniques used by military modelers to create realism are the most attractive aspect of military modeling for me. They're generally easy to learn and easy to employ, which are big bonuses.
Someday I'll go into more detail on my favorites, but there are a ton of books out there that detail these techniques. For now, I just want to give you some advice to keep in mind when employing military modeler weathering techniques:
Keep in mind how the model is going to be used when considering a weathering technique. As a general guide, ask yourself: is this technique going to look okay when sealed? Can I seal it? Am I prepared to handle the model with kid gloves if I can't?
There are a ton of neat military modeler things that you can do to add some zazz to your models. But keep in mind that you 40k models are most likely going to be functional. That means they're going to be used in a game (duh). You're going to be storing, transporting, handling and probably knocking them over at some point. This is why gamers seal there miniatures with some kind of spray varnish - protection from the things that are inimical to your paint job.
And that's the rub. Many of the techniques employed by military modelers don't like to be touched or, hell, even sealed. This limits their use for your gaming pieces. An example:
As much as I love these things (I have 9ish of the Mig Productions' brand), many of their applications are just plain unsuitable for a gaming piece. You can't just brush them on like so many military modelers do. All you're really doing is adding colored dust to your model. It WILL rub off. Plus, you can't seal them because the air blows the powder off and the sealant soaks up the remaining pigment.
The common practice of brushing the powders on and then wetting them down with paint thinner or water is also compromised. The sealant will still blow some of the powder off and ruin the color to a degree.
This is not to say they're of no use, however. I've had luck with heavy layers - each sealed with a spray varnish. This takes a while though, and its hard to get the same effect. I've had better luck mixing the powders with paint and then applying it that way.
Many weathering techniques work because they AREN'T sealed. The texture and various visual characteristics make the effect work - they are often very dependent upon the contrast between flat and gloss finishes. You may have to figure out a workaround or abandon it all together if you want to play with your model AND maintain the effect. Sometimes, you just have to settle.
I've begun to conceptualize my use of military modeler techniques as a result of the functional use of the end product. I think realism is a great touch to add to any modeling project. But seeing as how you may be painting a hover tank, feel free to play with it. You're model isn't being judged for total realism - you have a bit more room for aesthetics.
Advice for Josiah:
I can't claim to be an expert on the various methods of achieving amazing and realistic bare metal finishes, but I still have a few suspicions that I think I should share. From what I've been reading and from what you've described, many of the bare metal techniques you've mentioned seem unsuitable to wargaming. Specifically, because it seems like they don't work as well once you've sealed them and don't react well to fingerprints if you haven't. So, be careful when you select one.