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5 Step Winter Whitewash

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Achieving a nice whitewash can be difficult to do. Like many things in scale modeling it is easier to overdo it than to get it just right. The method I present below is quite simple and represents a sprayed on winter camouflage quite well. Iíve used it on a number of models and I find it to be more or less fool-proof. A swabbed or brushed on whitewash will require a different technique from this. The model shown below has a moderately distressed finish; however, by varying the intensity of the steps presented below a freshly applied or almost entirely destroyed finish can be achieved as well. I will be using the 1/35 scale KV-1 Heavy Cast Turret kit from Trumpeter to demonstrate the technique step by step. Materials needed for this technique are: 1) Base-coat paint: Tamiyaís XF-61 was used for this kit. 2) White paint: in this instance I used Polly Scale. 3) Dual action airbrush. 4) A cheap small brush with stiff bristles. 5) Raw Umber oil paint. 6) Turpentine or other thinner. 7) Toothpick. 8) A fine pointed brush. 9) Imagination!

steps 1 and 2
Begin by base coating the model in your desired color. I sprayed my KV with straight Tamiya Dark Green followed by another coat lightened with white down the sides of the turret and the rear engine deck. If, on your kit, the whole tank will be covered with whitewash, donít bother with lightening the base-coat just go on to step 2.

At this point, mix up a suitably sized batch of white paint and thinner. I never take exact measurements but eyeball it to about 4 parts thinner to 1 part paint. Mist this mixture onto the kit, with one or two passes over each area sufficient before you move on. Try to get more or less equal coverage onto each area of the kit and the result should be a ghostly grey finish as seen in the second photo.

step 3
Now, in this step, you can begin to build up the white coat to differing intensities. I do this by spraying in an up-and-down motion over the sides to attain very subtle vertical streaks and in a cloud pattern over the horizontal surfaces. As the paint builds up, reduce the amount of area which is being sprayed. In the end you should be spraying nothing more than thin squiggles onto the horizontal surfaces and thin stripes on the vertical. It is important to not have too high of a contrast between each area or your tank will look like it has zebra stripes! Therefore, try not to concentrate for too long on a single area before moving on to the others, letting the colors mix and blend together as you work. In photo three, you can hardly see differences in color saturation; even up close in photo four the streaking is not pronounced. Subtlety is key here.
step 4
This is where it starts to get fun. The first part of step four is to get a stiff brush, like the cheap kids' brushes they sell at dollar stores, and dip it into some of the base coat paint. Once you have some paint on the tips of your bristles, stipple it on in an irregular fashion onto high traffic areas, around hatches, and onto edges. **AVOID the urge to simply drybrush on the basecoat as itíll turn out faded. I found that unnecessary drybrushing is what ruins most whitewash finishes** Follow this up by taking a toothpick and making some long scratches into the whitewash. I should note that I always use acrylic paints and am not sure if such scratches will work when using enamels. The final part of step four is to mist on your thinned coat of white paint onto some of the scratches to tie them into the finish. Steps one through four can be accomplished in a single session, they took slightly less than two hours in total on the KV. However, the model should be left to dry overnight before proceeding to step five.

Step 5
Step five is little more than a pin-wash of Raw Umber paint applied into the corners and bolts of the model. For a whitewash, I dilute the Raw Umber with a lot of thinner so that it isnít too dark. I also spread some dirty brown thinner around the flat surfaces and quickly wipe it out with a towel to dirty up the finish. This can be avoided for a less distressed finish if desired.

You can now proceed to painting the undercarriage and any other details as you see fit. Finish up with a light application of pigments on areas which were likely to get covered by dirt or soot. Be careful though, since youíll be working on a white surface, any wayward pigments will really muck up the finish. Whatever you do, do not try to rub them out, as the mess will only spread; if you do make a mistake, carefully mist on fresh white paint to the area to correct. That is all there is to it. I find this kind of whitewash to be one of the simplest finishes to achieve. Give it a shot, but make sure to practice on some scrap models first to get he hang of it before tackling your next big project!
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About the Author

About Ralph K (BornToDig)


Very effective, and easy to complete process. And a good looking KV to boot. Thanks for putting this together Ralph. Henk
JUL 20, 2007 - 03:39 PM
Looks good, Ralph! I will try this technique on my next white wash vehicle. I think you are right in not overdoing scratches etc. on the vehicle. Thanks for your time and effort
JUL 23, 2007 - 05:33 PM
Really nice article! Thanks for taking the time to pull it together. I haven't tried a whitewash yet, but your article makes it look very easy. Kudos for pointing out the small things, such as using acrylics and dealing with misplaced pigments. Very nice touches. It's interesting to see that you do the pin wash over a matte surface. - Frank
JUL 24, 2007 - 12:01 AM
Appreciate the article, Ralph. I've got some Soviet armor that I'm going to try this out on...been wanting to do a whitewash for some time, but have been putting it off because I haven't been very confident I would get the results I wanted.
JUL 24, 2007 - 02:52 AM
Thanks for the article Ralph. The KV looks great.
JUL 24, 2007 - 03:25 AM
hello all, I'm glad you guys found this article useful. Frank, I started doing pinwashes on a flat coat just to see what would happen, and while it doesn't look great on dark colors, I found the effect pleasing on yellows, tans and whites. Right now I'm experimenting with techniques to simulate hand-painted/swabbed whitewashes. Once I come up with something that looks good to me, I'll throw together another article. and thanks again for the kind words
AUG 04, 2007 - 06:30 AM