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To Pre-Shade or Not To Pre-Shade?

Pre-shading dark colors:

Basically this is down to airbrush technique. There are two problems to overcome, one the dark color and two the fact that, traditionally, assuming two upper surface colors, the lighter is sprayed first, the second is marked out, then sprayed over the first. To achieve the pre-shading affect on the dark colors the paint must be sprayed thinly. By spraying one color over another, the area of the second color is much too thick too achieve the aim. So, the first step is to eliminate this double thickness. That's easy, rather than marking out for the second color, mark out for the first. Spray that color, to the marked out pattern. You do not need to have a really tight spray pattern, as there has to be some overlap. This is desirable also because it will give another affect i.e. no pre-shading will show through where the colors overlap, giving a different hue. The second color is sprayed; you have the first color as a guide for the pattern, free hand or masked. Now the problem of the dark colors, as I have already mentioned, for this to work the dark colors must be sprayed thinly. I guess this probably goes against the grain, because most modelers would be looking for a nice even coat, with good coverage. I'm looking to get the color on but I want a used look. If you can free hand airbrush camouflage, then you can do this. The paint needs to be thin and the pressure low. Build the paint up slowly, to cover where the black pre-shading is will require more paint, where the primer is will require less. By varying the amount of paint, in these areas you will be able to adjust the affect, lighter or darker. You will get darker paint around panels and details and lighter in the center of panels and on high spots. This is the theory, and you can see by my Hasegawa 1/48 Hurricane (I hope), that it will work.

109E-4 Showing First Topcoat Sprayed On

This was my first attempt and I'm pleased with the results, although I think it could be a little better. One reason for this is the poor lighting in my spray booth, for this technique to be a real success you will need to see what you are doing. As I mentioned before, I think that the way to go would be first of all to use white primer, instead of gray. This, I think would allow for slightly better contrast, and/or more control. It's easier to add than take away. In other words, as the light spots are the gray primer showing through more than the darker areas and the darkest areas are the camouflage paint toning down the pre-shading. The affect should be easier to control, because you would need slightly more paint, to cover the lightest areas, and therefor you would have more time to stop, if you see what I mean? Secondly by lightening the colors, to take into account the darkening affect of Klear and other varnishes and washes, the darker colors will automatically lend themselves better to this technique.

109E-4 Showing Masking for 2nd Top Coat

About the Author

About Mal Mayfield (Holdfast)

Hi, my name is Mal Mayfield and I have been modelling seriously for about 25 years. My main interest is 1/48 scale second world war. I build all types and all combatants. I have built 1/35 scale "targets" and 1/72 scale modern aircraft, plus a couple of cars. I have also dabbled with figure painting...


Exactly!! That was my reasoning behind my original post, not to try and tell you how to do something but maybe give you some ideas to help you find a technique that works for you. I don't use David's technique exactly. I pre-shade on light colors because I feel it gives a better effect. On darker colors I pre-shade and then spray Tamiya's smoke as a post-shade color. Whatever works is my motto. I'll be a little longer on my wing, I had to go practice with my teamate tonight for a tournament coming up so I lost time to that. Should have pics tomorrow.
APR 23, 2003 - 03:08 PM
I've been thinking about this preshading for a day or so and am going to give it a try when I get my airbrush sorted out. I think I may try a base of white, then follow the panel lines with a wide setting with grey, then do the same areas again with a thinner setting with black, this should give a slightly greater tonal variation showing through.
APR 23, 2003 - 03:52 PM
:-) Tim Totally agree. :-) I am open to all suggestions, If it sounded otherwise, then I apologise. It is sometimes difficult to understand what someone means when you only have the written word to communicate with. bdUK Interesting veriation, need to see pics of the outcome. :-) Initial reaction is that this is adding to the process. In theory sounds like a great idea, but from what I have managed so far, and the reason I use black for pre-shading, is that the grey primer is pretty easy to cover. However, up to this time, I don't think I have thinned my paint enough, therefore coverage is easier. If you use well thinned paint (70:30?) or what ever gives you translucant paint, so you have to build up the coverage, and do a panel at a time, using a fairly fine spry pattern it should work. If this does work then other colours used in pre-shading can be thought about to give different affects. Nice one bdUK :-) Mal
APR 23, 2003 - 06:25 PM
Here you go, Mal. It was primed white, then painted PollyS Grimy Black, then post shaded along the panel lines with Tamiya Smoke at about 4:1 thinning. I didn't dull coat it, because the only dull I have is MM Acryl and it has a milky color to it instead of clear so the shading has a shiny appearance in areas because it is a gloss paint. If you want to email me your address I'll ship you the actual wing so you can see it better, it's from a piece of crap Airfix kit I'm NEVER gonna build anyway.
APR 24, 2003 - 04:08 PM
:-) Nice one Tim, looks pretty good. Is this what you do on all your aircraft models? Or was this an experiment? Does look something like what I'm trying to achieve. Would Tamiya smoke work over all colours? I will, hopefully start spraying my Spitfire, in the next couple of days. If my air supply machine (can't call it a compressor) holds up, I hope to be able to try spraying a panel at a time, so I will have some idea if it will work. Post shading might be an option when I can replace my compressor and get a better air brush :-) Thanks for sharing Tim Mal
APR 25, 2003 - 02:59 AM
I do it on all my dark colored models. Preshading is easier to do and control so on light models so I preshade when I can. Smoke works good on most colors becuase it will won't actually cover the paint. It will darken the color without actually recoloring it. What I do specifically is spray the color and then rinse out the color cup instead of actually cleaning it real good. Then when I put the Smoke and thinner in the cup, a little of the previous color will be there to tint it ever so slightly. Since it's so thin I use a low air pressure (10-15 psi) or you can easily get spiders and centipedes from the air blowing the paint mixture out. A thought occured to me last night, and I may try this with my BfB entry. Prime the model white, then paint a couple of panels gray, then preshade, then paint the color. This will give some of the panels a slightly different hue.
APR 25, 2003 - 06:45 AM
:-) Thats an idea Tim priming with white and grey. It will be interesting how that turns out :-) And thats a good idea of letting the colour coat tint the smoke. There is obviously a lot more to this pre/post-shading lark. It might be handy if you could write an article about your technique and maybe the outcome of your twin primming. I intend to update mine, when I can try out my latest theory. Then we just need some smart arse to combine the 2 and come up with the way it should be done lol Getting back to being serious, I use very diluted medium sea grey (seems to work best) to give a faded look, to Pacific and Hot climate based aircraft. I used to spray this in a "cloud" pattern all over upper surfaces. I now thin it more and build it up within panels (that's where I got the idea of applying the colour coats over pre-shading, to a panel at a time), this is also sprayed over decals and it fades them pretty well. Tim I would like to keep this discussion about pre-shading/ post-shading alive. I also keep studying Davids article, one of my goals is to do a really neat job of weathering a Neutral gray/Olive drab model. So I can build up the confidence to tackle one of those 4 engined beasts. I expect to only have one of each in my collection so I need to get them right. :-) Mal
APR 25, 2003 - 07:36 AM
hmmmm, 3 weeks until the BfB campaign starts. Maybe I'll give it a run with this Spitfire I have sitting here since I've decided to go Axis for the BfB campaign (my first German plane, come on HLJ ship that BF109E-1, don't make me convert an E-3 LOL) and won't need the Spitfire after all. I should be able to get the model finished by the 19th. Then I can write the article while I work on the Emil. It will be a good trial run before I try it for the campaign. Let me ask you this, when you do a 2 color camo as on a Hurri or Spit, do you spray the whole plane one color then paint the 2nd overtop or spray the individual areas seperately? If I overlay the 2nd color, the way I usually do, it will obscure any of the fun stuff I do under the colors.
APR 25, 2003 - 01:59 PM
:-) Tim In my article I talk about this problem and you have hit the nail on the head. The traditional method, as you say is to paint the whole plane one colour then the 2nd, but this negates the effect. So I, roughly, mark out the areas for the first colour, they need to be a tad bigger than finish size. Then mark out accurately, or mask for the second colour. Of course you do get an area where the 2 colours overlap but this will give you a different veriation. No pre-shading showing through and the hue of the second colour is alterd slightly by this "new" underlying colour. So you are able to have the pre-shading effects on both top colours. Part of the reason for taking this route is because the monotone affect of a nice even coat of paint. Of course this is what we are all after, at first and there is nothing wrong with that. I have seen lots of well built and painted models but, for me, the ones that really stand out are the ones that don't have monotone coats of paint :-) They are more interesting. I suppose in the end it's all amatter of taste. Mal
APR 25, 2003 - 11:07 PM
Guess I'll whip out the Tac 'N Stick and see what I can do then. If I mask both colors, I can probably keep the overlap to a minimum. I agree with the color variations making for more interesting models. I always did mine in smooth perfect colors (the auto modeler in me dictated perfect paint) and couldn't figure out why I was always unhappy with it. You may have it right there. Maybe I'll try to vary the color saturation a little on the fly and see how it comes out.
APR 26, 2003 - 01:24 AM