Painting a Model Tank in 9 Easy Steps
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If you enjoy painting miniature vehicles, then this tutorial is right up your street. Forget model planes, or ships, it is time to roll out the tanks!
In this case the famous Russian T-34. Enjoy.
But, before we get stuck in we will need some things first.
Tools and equipment needed
- T34/85 1:72 scale model tank
- Model pliers
- Modeling knife
- Other modeling tools (file, etc)
- Polystyrene cement (plastic glue)
- Model paints
- Model metallic paints (silver, chrome, etc)
- Model paint brushes
- Masking tape
- Matt varnish
- Oil paints and thinner
- Weathering powders
With all these in hand, we can now get on with recreating this wonderful model.
Step 1: Clean up the mold or print lines
The first step is to carefully and systematically remove the tank parts from their sprues. Use a mixture of pliers and a sharp knife to do this.
Try to remove as much of the sprue material as possible during this phase and be sure to keep the parts somewhere you can easily find them. It is very easy to lose the smaller pieces.
If you'd prefer, you might want to consider skipping to the painting stage if you prefer to paint on the sprue. If you chose to remove the parts at this stage, the next step is to remove any excess pieces of sprue from the parts.
You will also want to remove any mold lines on the model parts as well. Use a mixture of a sharp knife and modeling files for this step.
Step 2: Begin assembly of the model
With the parts removed and prepared, you can no begin to assemble the model. If required, follow the instructions to the letter.
For best results use polystyrene cement glue, but you can also use super glue. For larger segments, it is usually best practice to squeeze and hold the pieces together with clamps or elastic bands to ensure any, and all, seams are fully flush.
You can always fill any gaps later if needed.
Use tweezers to manipulate smaller, more fiddly, parts too. Add extra details like antenna, handrails, etc too using lengths of wire, paperclip, or solder.
You can drill holes, if needed, too for things like gun barrels, etc.
Once the turret, top, and bottom of the main chassis are complete, you can then move on to the more tricky part -- the tracks. Fit the wheels to the main chassis as instructed,
Then carefully bend the track, where needed, using tweezers but be careful not to snap it. It should be fairly flexible, but be careful nonetheless.
Then begin to wrap around the tank wheels. Ensure any seams on the track are at the bottom of the tank. Depending on the model kit, they should either snap into place or need gluing.
Step 3: Undercoat/prime the model
With the main assembly complete, you can now begin to paint the model. You will first need to apply a layer, or several layers, of primer/undercoat first.
Ensure the paint is slightly watered down so it flows over the model and doesn't obscure the fine details. You can either do this by hand or using an airbrush.
For this particular paint scheme, the undercoat is a lighter grey. Next, use a pre-mixed, or mix your own, shade of dark grey to paint the tracks.
Water down some black paint, and add to the deeper recesses of the model too. For example, the hull behind the tracks.
Step 4: Begin to paint the main camouflage
With the undercoat/primer dried, you can now begin to paint the main color scheme. First, take a yellow-green shade of paint (either mixed or pre-made).
Water down as before, and begin to apply to all the armored parts of the T-34. Also, paint the track wheels.
Depending on the paint you use, you may need to apply a few coats. Allow the paint to dry before moving on.
Next to move on to the next tone. Mix up or use pre-made olive-green paint and make a wash with it by adding a lot more water than before.
Apply the olive-green wash all over the green areas you previously painted.
Allow drying once again.
Step 5: Drybrushing time
Now grab a yellow, green, and white paint. Mix together a small amount, and thin a little bit when mixing. Take a dry brush, dip in the paint, and remove as much moisture as possible by brushing over some toilet paper, or similar material, and drybrush over the armored areas.
You are trying to pick out the details of the tank model. This technique takes some practice, but models like tanks are a great way to master it.
If needed, allow drying. Next, use the same shade of green and add a small amount of white to tone it up.
Drybrush over the armored sections once again but to as much of an extent as you did with the darker tone. You'll want to see some of the lower layers showing through and only pick out the uppermost parts of the model if you can.
With that complete, it is now time to add some more depth to the model. Mix up some darker green shade and thin to make another wash.
Apply thoroughly over the surface of the armor paying attention to getting it into the crevices and grooves. For best results, you might want to consider using oil paints for this stage.
Step 6: Metal time!
With that complete, it is time to start picking out the metal details. Grab some metal tones, and, if you have it, use the gunmetal tone for now. Paint the exposed metal parts of the model using a fine detail brush.
This will include things like the trackwheel rims, gun barrel, handles, etc. If you are feeling adventurous you could also add some battle damage, scuff marks, etc. Make sure to add a "wash" of sorts of metals over the track treads too. Alternatively, you could drybrush the tracks too.
Next, paint pipework and other metal details (like tools, etc) in black on the model. Any parts that will be more colorful, like lights, should be painted in white at this stage.
Allow all parts to dry before moving on.
Step 7: Add decals or hand paint them
Next, thin down some white paint, and handpainted on any details like tank IDs, etc. Don't worry about getting it right the first time as you can remove any mistakes while the paint is still wet using tissue paper or cotton buds.
As you get more confident with the form of your hand-painted details, you can make the white stronger and stronger with each pass.
Alternatively, you could prepare and apply any ready-made decals that come with the model. The choice is up to you. In our opinion hand painting them is better as they "feel" and look a little more authentic. You can also better blend them into the model.
Step 8: Pick out more details
If not already done, you can now also pick out more details using water down matt black "wash" around the model as needed. Things would include, for example, exhaust grills, etc, above the engine housing.
For the main armor, you can also give the model some real "punch" by using a dark brown wash/ink (either DIY or bought) to accent the armor joints and other features, like hatches, rivets, etc, on the main tank armor.
Clean up any spills using an absorbent material like tissue paper. Blend in the inks using some X-20 thinner, or similar product, to the main armor paint scheme.
Step 9: Varnish the model and add some weathering
Now grab some matt varnish. Apply generously over the entire surface of the model.
This will help flatten the colors and protect the paintwork from damage in the future.
When wet the varnish will look shiny but don't worry it will dry clear and matt.
Now add some weathering streaking using dots of dark brown or grey. Apply to areas that will likely streak in real life like rivets, handles, etc.
Spread the dots in thin streaks across the armor.
Keep working the streaks until they blend into the background. Take your time and enjoy the process.
Take a graphite pencil and rub over the edges to create an easy, and effective, edge highlight. Do this on all angles of the tank's armor as well as things like sticky-out parts.
Unless already complete, you can also add scratches and scuff details too. To do this, take a darker green, or black, paint, thin down, and hand paint damage wherever you want on the model.
Ideal places are around the base of the turret, hatches, welds, etc. This is to simulate the main paint being stripped away to expose the primer.
If you are struggling with this, use some reference images on the internet. There should be plenty available.
Now we can start to add some other environmental effects on the tank. Grab whatever weathering powders you have to hand.
Apply the powders to the areas of the tank you want to show mud sprays, rusts, heat damage, etc. Use your imagination and have some fun.
Don't forget to neglect the tank exhausts. Adding heat damage and soot really brings the model to life. Blend the powders into the model so they don't stand out too much.
The tracks, front, and underside of the tank will also benefit from some mud effects, or sand, or whatever.
With that, your model tank is basically complete.
Now you'll be looking for a new project. How about some trucks to go with those tanks of yours?