Painting a Model Tank in 9 Easy Steps

If you love model tanks, this simple tutorial will teach you some of the basic techniques.
Christopher McFadden

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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. 

diy t-34 complete
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

But, before we get stuck in we will need some things first. 

Tools and equipment needed

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. 

diy t35 tank model sprues
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t35 tank mold lines
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t34 tank begin assembly
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t34 tank turret
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t34 extra details wire
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t34 tracks
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t34 tank tracks
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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.

diy t-34 prime
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 paint tracks
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 yellow green
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 olive-green wash
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 drybrush
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 drybrush 2
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 wash 1
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 metal parts
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 black and white
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 decals
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 details
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 washes
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 blend inks
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 varnish
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 streaks
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

Keep working the streaks until they blend into the background. Take your time and enjoy the process. 

diy t-34 streaks1
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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.

diy t-34 edge highlights
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 damage
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

diy t-34 weathering powders
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

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. 

doy t-34 weathering powders
Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

 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?

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