A few easy steps to make your warbird look better.

The last 3 - 4 years we have seen some very nice EPO warbirds in various sizes from the WW1 and WW2 periods. Some of them more true to scale than others. The latest Durafly Me-163, P-40N and the two Spitfires Mk1a and MkVb, we have got flying models looking like an upsized plastic model with regards to scale accuracy and details.
These models are very nice right out of the box and can even be used as display or desktop models, just by adding some of the optional decals that comes in the box.

This article is a few easy steps on how to make your model look more realistic and true to how they looked during the war time years. I have been studying hundreds of original wartime pictures and also many wartime film clips to find correct camouflage and markings on wartime planes. Especially from the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) 1940-45 in Canada, England and after the invasion in France, Holland and Belgium. What I learnt from this, is that you rarely see a front line fighter in pristine conditions. They have various degrees of fuel and oil spill, paint is flaking off and fading. Sand and dirt are also adding to the overall look.

Today’s WW2 warbirds on display and in airshows are much more glossy than any operational warbird was in real life. The glossy finish is made on purpose to make them look better on photos and easier to maintain and clean than a flat or matt finish.

If you like how the display aircrafts look, then you can build one right out of the box. If you. Like me enjoy recreating history and have the planes more like how the used to look, read on.

Before I start, I will advise you on two things:
  • Study lots of real wartime or period pictures to see how a real frontline plane looks like.
  • Less is more! It is very easy to overdo weathering. It is much easier to add some more, than to remove it when it is overdone.
Here are some wartime pics showing various degrees of weathering:

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There are several techniques you can use when weathering a model and you can find videos on YouTube showing how to do. Here I will go through a quick and easy way to weather your model with the main goal having your model look more realistic both on the ground and in the air.
  1. Airbrush are used for shadowing and making exchaust stains.
  • Exchaust stains can be made without an airbrush, and is explained later. With an airbrush I first spray a light grey base because exhaust edges are almost always light in colors. Next up is dark brown and finally very lightly with black in the center of the exhaust stains.
  • For shadowing I use the planes colors with a few drops of white paint or  dark grey added, to spray a light mist and shadows on the camouflaged plane to make the pre painted colors look like they have been exposed to the elements. You do not need to have an exact color match since you should only spray very lightly in some places. Not all over the model. This part is not necessary to do, if you don’t have an airbrush.
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2. Dry-brushing are used on exhaust stubs, to create oil spill, footsteps on wings and propeller blades. I also use drybrushing on exposed parts were paint is wearing off.
  • Colors I use are water based and in aluminum/silver, black and grey and I use a stiff brush and some paper towels.
  • I dip the brush in color and wipes it on the paper towel until almost no paint are left in the brush. Then I brush it where I want a worn look. Aluminum paint on worn places and aluminum, black and grey on exhaust stubs.
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3. Pigments is used to mark panel lines, gun smoke, exhaust and dirt. I use a very dark brown pigment from MIG called Russian Dirt. Pigments can be made easily by sanding a color pencil or sanding pastel chalk. I use a stiff brush to add pigments in panel lines and to add dirt. Remember ALWAYS in the wind direction of a plane. Also remember to add pigments in the panel lines where the decals are.

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4. Paint chipping is created by a small pencil and some aluminum paint. This is easy to overdo. Start with little paint on the brush and try making the illusion of paint chipping off on inspection hatches, bolts, wing leading edge, cockpit frames and other places were the mechanics work on a plane.

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5.   Finally, I am spraying the whole plane except the canopy with a clear flat or sating spray. I spray this on the entire model to give it a more even look. Decals and the weathering will blend more into the models and will not stick out so much.

Here, some of my models with weathering added. The whole weathering process, takes maximum two hours per model.

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