Weathering Mecha using Artist Oils

August 21, 2015
(Originally written on September 3, 2002)
By Jordan Connor

With the increasing popularity growing ever more with Japanese Mecha Robot kits, specifically Gundam kits, many modelers are using techniques that have been used on Aircraft/Military models for some time.

Some of these techniques are not new to the modeling world. They are just new to this type of model.

The ever Gundam related "Max Technique" (Undershading) has been used for many years by modelers of aircraft/military. Max Watanabe (Hobby Japan) was the first to introduce this to Mecha designs.

With the painting of these kits getting more and more popular, and for those of us that paint the kits, (just spray painting them a simple color), more and more mediums are being introduced.

Enter~~ Artist oils. The basis of this article.....;-)
Artist oils are wonderful to work with. I am by no way an expert and still am very new to this. I will try to only describe a simple and effective way of using oils on Mecha to create many weathering affects. First off, let's start with some materials.....

Artist Oils- (Gotta have these right):
There are generally 2 grades. One is expensive and very high quality. The other is cheaper, but can still work. For the more expensive ones, you will have a better chance of achieving the best affects, (not to mention that one bottle will last you a very long time). So, the re-occurring costs are low.

Personally, I bought a "Cheap" $15-20 set of Oils - (Student Set) - from an art store.

OMS - or Thinner
Basically this is just regular thinner or "Odorless Mineral Spirits". You can get the normal Mineral Spirits, but it's called odorless for a reason - ;-). The performance for this type of technique is the same.

Cold Wax Medium
When the Oil and the OMS are mixed, the paint will turn into a large glossy mess, the Cold Wax will take away the gloss, and make it more workable, or "brush ready."

I use old bottle caps....(you only need a little!) Soda, or some type of lipped, smaller type paint cup will do.

Drying agent
Oils will take about 6-7 days to dry completely; add a little of this, and it will dry in hours (more on this later).

Should be hard bristled. I use a small, cheap little fabric brush that I got in a set for about $3 bucks. It works very well. A soft hair brush will not work with Oil's.

Now that we have the materials down, let's talk about colors. Personally I use mainly black (Ivory black) or rust (Burnt Sienna/Mars Brown). For other affects, such as sand (yellow ochre/mars brown) or concrete (Titanium white w/a little Ivory black). All of these colors conveniently came - (I think) - in the $17 Student paint set that I bought. If you would like to know the name of the type of paint I have, please feel free to e-mail me.

Ok we know about the Gundam Kits, we have the materials and know some of the colors used. Let's get to some painting!

First off, let's start with a bit of practice. Oils prefer FLAT coated surfaces, as opposed to washes and Dry Transfers. If the surface is glossy, you will just be moving the paint around in circles.....Testers Dullcote, or any other Flat coat will work.

Mix your paint of choice, for this I will say Ivory Black; you ONLY NEED A LITTLE! This is where the saying "A little goes a long way" comes in handy.

Then, apply some OMs and mix the paint around.

With a hobby knife, take out (again) a little of the cold wax and put it in the mix. With these three ingredients mixed together, you are ready for some weathering (About time huh?).

~(Optional, you can mix in also some drying agent. Some are called "Liquin". This will greatly speed up the time of drying).

Try this "blending" technique on a piece of paper or on an old unwanted model (see Practice Dummy) - ;-).

Dip your brush into the paint. Wipe off the excess paint on a Tissue/cardboard etc. When there is only a little paint left on the brush, touch the brush and drag it lightly, lifting up as you go. You may have to do this same movement a few more times to get the desired affect. Basically, what you should end up with is a really nice blend, meaning that you should have a strong black beginning, fading into a small light-grey streak. Practice this a few times, because it's a little bit harder on the plastic surface.

This blending technique can be used in many other areas and with many other colors.

Let's apply this blending technique with a few more techniques to achieve some really cool affects.....

Some of them are:
Bullet/Explosive Shell Damage!!
The bullets fly at the Mecha denting it, and/or explode on contact. Bullets will generally scar the surface, pushing through the armor, or just creating a dent.

Explosive shell damage will melt the surrounding armor. Both of these affects can be created by using one or two tools (or a combination of both).

A Soldering Iron (Low Watt) and/or a dremel (Rotary Hand tool). I use the Soldering Iron with a small tip. Touching the soldering iron to the surface. If you use a Low watt, you can make varying affects to create these bullet holes. Tapping it lightly on the surface will re-create small little dents, whereas holding it on the surface will make the Styrene melt, (IMHO this should be avoided).

BE CAREFUL OF THE FUMES!.....VERY DANGEROUS, kids! - get your parents's permission, and have them watch you!

Oh yeah, these affects can be created after or before painting.

Now that you have a few Battle Damages, lets get into "dressing them up". I have tried (on the Gouf Custom) laying some dry-brushed Silver onto the raised, recessed parts of the damaged areas. Even though the scale of the model is reduced when adding the silver (Especially 1/144), you can tone it down with the Artist Oils.

Time to break out the Oils again...OH YEAH! Mix up the right color, you can compliment the black, or even make the kit look "aged" by adding some "Rust" to the model (Rust explained later in the "Texture" section).

Once you figure out the type of color that you want to use (mainly black for the burnt areas) go at it! If the consistency of the paint is still too thin, add some more Cold Wax. Try not to put to much paint on the desired areas, you can always add more.

Also, with the oils, even with the drying agent it will be workable for hours. So you will have plenty of time to blend them in.

In addition, you may want to wait about 15 minutes after the initial application, and then blend some more. The OMS will dissolve and the paint will begin to dry. This will make it easier to blend.

Texture (Dirt, Grime, Rust and other affects)
For texture, or building up of various materials, such as rust, dirt, or mud, it's really easy. Just add more Cold Wax to the mixture of Paint, OMS and optional Drying agent.

For Dirt, I would use some Burnt Sienna, mixed with a little Titanium White. For darker dirt, use some Mars Brown.

For Mud, you can go straight Mars Brown, maybe with a touch of Yellow Ochre.

For Sand, try some Yellow Ochre with some Burnt Sienna or Mars Brown.

For Concrete (City), you can use Titanium White, mixed with some Ivory Black. Don't use too much black, though.

Also for Rust, you can mix some Burnt Sienna with Yellow Ochre, or even Mars Brown with Yellow Ochre.

Basically, play with the colors to get the right look that is desired. Dirt has no "perfect color match" and can differ in many ways. Get the color that you like and go with that.

Once the color is mixed with your blob of cold wax, I would - (depending on the size of the area) - dip your brush in the paint real good. No need to wipe any off this time! Apply it liberally in the areas where dirt would collect.

Special note here, about the rust. You can create the rust in little areas. You might want to just gradually add the paint for this area. Only because rust on a 1/144 or 1/100 scale, even a 1/60 scale should be sporatic.

Rain Marks, (and other streaks of oil, hydraulic fluid, etc.)
To create rain marks, or rather the affect of rain on a dirty MS (Mobile Suit), it's still the same principle of the mixing paint technique that I mentioned previously. You won't need a bunch of cold wax mixture for this, and it can generally be easier than the blending technique.

What you do is mix the appropriate colors, (mainly again, Ivory Black). Get some paint on the brush, wiping it again if there is too much of a buildup of paint. Then, in the same motion as with the blending, put the brush on the part, and quickly brush down, in the direction that you want the streak to go, adding less pressure as you go down. Basically, take the brush away from the part as you go down. You will not have to do this more than once. With the hard bristled brush, it should create a convincing "streak" of dirt, oils or other fluids.

Special note here: Not at any time has ANYONE ever seen a full scale 38-45 (16-18 meters) foot Mecha....and if you have, please email me. ...Sooooo, the basis on weathering how much or how little is still yet to be seen.

The rule of thumb would be to not put "too much" on, so the scale is reduced.

In addition to the rain marks section, if you are not satisfied with your streaks that you have created, let them dry. When they have, you can get a piece of sandpaper and VERY carefully sand in the same direction as the streak, to get some very small scratches in this area....Make sure you don't damage the lower paint job, though. This will enhance the rain affects, if you do not like the job you did....or want to just enhance it in general...;-)

Some other affects that can be used with Artist Oils.
Basically, almost all affects that can be done (except airbrush) paint wise can be done with the Artist oils.

Washes/Panel Lining
I have not tried this yet. However, you would simply use alot of OMS and Paint. You most likely would want to put a LITTLE cold wax in there to help it stick. For cleanup, carefully use some OMS on a towel, or Q-Tip.

On the plus side, I can see mixing a lighter color instead of the black that is normally used for panel lining. Although this can also be created using model paints.

Dry Brushing.
This is another technique that can be used with Artist Oils. This same technique is applied with normal model paints. WIth Artist Oils, I would use a big chunk of cold wax and add that to the oil paint.

Last but not least....a quick way to seal!!!!
One of the best methods to seal in the paint, if you don't want to use the drying agent, or you don't even want to wait after you do the blending with the Oils, get some Future Floor Wax. This can be airbrushed on, thinned and cleaned up with Rubbing Alcohol.

One coat of this and it will leave a nice shine, (Semi-gloss) and 2 coats will leave you with a blinding shine!

~Another Quick note, you may want to apply decals BEFORE you do damage and weathering. This will add to the realism of the kit. Not all decals should escape damage! - ;-)

In addition, you want to apply your decals AFTER you apply your Future Floor Wax sealer.

In my humble opinion, the use of artist oils, although timely and possibly messy, can greatly enhance your kits. I am still very new to this process. However, the use of Oil paints, along with some of these great techniques that I've mentioned can produce award-winning kits, time and time again.

The only associated costs here would be the average startup fee. I spent only about 30 bucks....Hey, I was at the art store! ;-)

This, for me is a fun and new way to accentuate my kits. It does take a bit of time to get used to the control of the oil paint. However, after doing it and feeling comfortable with these new techniques, I will not go back to any other method.

If you have any questions about the materials, or where to find them please e-mail me! Also if I missed something or you have some tips that you would like to share.....feel free.

Thanks for your time and as always


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Copyright © 2015 Anthony I. Wootson Sr. and Jordan Connor. No material may be reproduced without permission of Anthony I. Wootson Sr. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.