Saturday, May 31, 2014

Natural Wood

As I mention in my previous post, when it comes to painting I much prefer those models where I can simply block paint in single colours. I can add a little detail with dry brushing, but I'm not particularly good at mixing paints to achieve a natural look; one of my main problems is choosing the right paints to start with. Given that most of the wagon is bare wood I knew I would need something slightly more convincing than the wooden floor I achieved on the workman's coach, so I went on a hunt for some wood coloured paints.

My local model shop stocks Humbrol, Tamiya, and Model Color paints, but out of all three ranges they only had one Model Color paint that contained the word wood; Natural Wood 70.834. Obviously I bought this one, although I also picked up some dark sand, brown sand, and khaki as a tutorial I'd read recently suggested these colours could be used to represent wood. Looking at all four bottles I wasn't convinced any of them were really wood coloured.

My first impression of all the paints wasn't encouraging, but I did notice that the natural wood appeared to be fairly transparent, and in fact a quick web search shows a number of shops where it is labelled as transparent even though the label on the bottle makes no mention of this. Given it's transparent nature I wasn't particularly convinced by it, especially as it would require quite a lot to cover a surface. A bit of experimentation though showed that I could get some interesting effects depending upon what paint I applied under it. After playing around for a while I came up with the following really simple approach to painting the wood and while it probably isn't particularly novel I think it is worth documenting, at least so I can remember how I achieved the effect when I want to repeat it in the future.

So the approach requires just three paints; a white primer, the Model Color Natural Wood (70.834) and Model Color Black Shade Wash (73.201). I started by priming the wagon using a aerosol can of cheap white auto primer to act as the base colour. Once this was dry I used the black wash to help pick out the detail (gaps between the boards etc.) and to provide some shading variation. Once that had dried I then brushed on the transparent natural wood. For both the black wash and the natural wood I brushed the paint across the model following the planks so that details didn't cross planks too much. As you can see, in the top right photo, this is already starting to look fairly good, but I repeated the process a second time (black wash first and then the natural wood again) to build up more layers and details. Given that both paints brush on well and dry as very thin layers you can add a number of layers before you run any risk of obscuring the molded details, but I found just the four layers (two of black two of natural wood) gave me a colour and pattern I was happy with. I then painted in the rest of the details and finished the model with a quick waft of matt varnish, which helps to tone down the final natural wood layer slightly.

I'm sure there are many other ways of achieving a similar effect (I know Paul has used Lifecolor's Weathered Wood acrylic set to good effect) but for shear simplicity I quite like this approach and I think I'll be using it again in the future.


  1. These have turned out perfectly.

  2. I like the way the wagon has painted up, and it looks superb for a new vehicle just in service. I hope you won't get annoyed with me for being a pedant, but in my experience with wagons on the FR the wood quickly weathers to a silvery grey. The floors of wagons are often oak which naturally weathers without preservative in a couple of months. Yesterday, whilst glugging a takeaway coffee from the garage, I sat down on a new cedar bench by the harbour in Port and noticed that although the bench was only six months old, it was also going a nice silvery grey colour- and this had been treated. But, your wagon looks superb and the finish is spot-on for a new vehicle. Please forgive me for being a fusspot...I couldn't have 3D printed it like you or made such a good job in the first's just one of the many bees in my bonnet! Now dashing in the nearest adit to hide :-)

    1. You're definitely right that the colour only works for a brand new wagon. No matter how hard you might try there is no way you could keep wood that colour when in use for anything let alone on a railway. One of the advantages of 3D printing them is that I can easily order quite a few more, and I intend to have multiple sets so I can show them as brand new, aged but well maintained, and finally rotting and decrepit. Hopefully I'll figure out a straightforward way of painting the other two versions, but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    2. Phew! Glad you are still speaking to me :-) That's a great idea, to have varied sets in differing conditions, and definitely one of the joys of 3D printing. For what it's worth and depending upon the material, my technique for older wood is to first paint it with a light grey..then run a very dilute, dark mix of Humbrol #27 mixed with some matt black. This runs into the texture, but while it is drying, dab it with a kitchen towel to vary the cover. Lastly, I go over the "wood" with a chisel brush very very lightly loaded with silver or gunmetal. This would only work for styrene that had been embossed with wood grain,a different technique would be required for something that had no texture. In that case, I would paint the base grey coat, then scumble the dark coat by dragging the chisel brush over the workpiece. Let that dry and then again scumble the silver/gunmetal mix, even more sparingly. This works for lightly weathered and heavily weathered wood finishes. I think for your mid-condition wagons a technique similar to the one you have been using would work really well, bottom left looks perfect to me on your "natural wood" post. Hope I haven't been teaching my granny to suck eggs!

    3. Silver paint! I never would have thought of that, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. I'll have a play with the paints I have (no Humbrol #27 in my paint box) and see what I can come up with.

      Out of interest, what kind of varnish do you usually use; matt or satin? I'm thinking matt would look better for wood etc. but would that tone down the silver too far? I feel an experiment coming on :)