One of the more interesting aspects of painting models recently has been the rise of color modulation, pre-shading and other techniques designed to more-realistically replicate the paint tones of scale vehicles, aircraft, ships, etc. Using Panzer Gray, for example, on a 1:1 tank produces an overall different result than on a 1:35 scale model. Shadows, fading, proportion and other factors combine to make a uniform color on a scale model look false and unrealistic. You can't rely on natural shadows to deepen the color tones, so you must come up with artifice to replicate nature.
In response, modelers have developed a variety of methods for handling the problem, including the use of different shades of the same basic color to replicate how paint looks on smaller surfaces. Color modulation is one technique that employs progressively lighter shades of the same color to deepen the perception of depth, highlight prominent features, and bring out the fading that inevitably occurs when military vehicles are left exposed to the elements for long periods of time.
All manner of tutorials have come out attempting to teach the basics of color modulation (which is not difficult), but applying the techniques requires practice and runs the risk of ruining a perfectly good kit.
As a result, paint manufacturers have picked up on this trend by offering sets of "German Armor" or "British Uniform Colors" that take the guesswork out of things. No company has jumped in quite so forcefully as Acrylicos Vallejo
, who has released several sets designed to make color modulation a no-brainer. Their newest set is "NATO Armour."
Inside a standard cardboard box is a plastic insert with six Vallejo
acrylic colors in 6ml "mini" versions of the standard 17ml ones:
- 612 NATO Green Primer
- 231 NATO Light Green
- 249 NATO Brown
- 040 Burnt Umber
- 251 NATO Black
- 054 Dark Blue Grey
On the back of the box is a step-by-step guide for applying the colors.
The set would seem to be the "quick & easy" solution for modelers who want ease and consistency in applying the standard tri-color NATO black-brown-green camouflage. The bottles are half the size of Vallejo
's standard ones, but this keeps the price of the set more reasonable and will satisfy most modelers looking to paint a vehicle or two.
The principal behind the set is for modelers to begin with an overall application of NATO green primer, then add the light green, followed by base and light coats of NATO green & brown. By controlling the amount of lighter color, modelers can shift the tonal range according to their preferences. Instead of trial-and-error shadings, you get a consistent color match.
In order to test the paints, I sprayed them on a sheet of white styrene alongside of Tamiya's XF-1 (flat black) , XF-67 (NATO green) and XF-68 (NATO brown). Many paint makers sell NATO colors, but my goal was to provide a reference that is easily replicated.
I apologize for the smears, but a can of lacquer thinner I was opening for the first time burst forth with a splash of liquid that left a few drops on my plastic card stock.
It should be noted that these are "air brush only" paints and are not intended for application by hand.
The results show a gradual lightening that will give painters a chance to deepen color in the recesses and crevices, and enhance the tonal variation in exposed or weathered parts. The color range isn't very wide, but will provide a refreshing bump for novices and those who don't want to spend a lot of time figuring out how to modulate these iconic camouflage colors. Tamiya's flat black, for example, is virtually the same as Vallejo
's #251 NATO black, but the application of #054 dark blue gray over top will give the black a slightly-faded look.
These paints can be further tweaked by the use of a little extra thinner or water, thus providing an expanded palette for modelers willing to take the time to experiment and adapt the basics.
While more experienced modelers might laugh at a set like this, I found it a refreshing departure from the pressure of having to "figure it out" myself. You could experiment with out-of-the-bottle paints and achieve the same results. But for the casual NATO vehicle builder, this set is both reasonably-priced AND convenient to use.
Thanks to Acrylicos Vallejo for providing this review sample. Be sure to mention you saw this set reviewed on Armorama when ordering.