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Chipped Paint Fever

by Mig Jemenze

These days, the medium modeller feels that he must to finish their models with a lot of paint chips distributed all over the vehicle. His main motivation is to think that if his model presents some of them it will looks more weathered and, therefore, more real. And this small effect is turned into a pitiless crusade that many times ends in a big paint chip with a tank and not on the other way around. And most times, the modeller doesn't even know what colour to use, what shape to reproduce or where that effect must be located. This last point will become the main key to reproducing chipped paint effects, even more than to know if we should or not to put some chipped paint effects on our vehicle.

The paint chips are just like the inner rings on a tree, through which much information is transmitted to us about that armored car or vehicle. We can't put rusted chipped paint effects to the hatches of an operating Sherman, because with all the handling done by its crew, it would never be rusted. Likewise, we could not paint the same on a M113, as its alluminium hull does not get rust.

But chipped paint goes beyond a rusty or worn surface. The paint chips can be shown in a great number of ways, like small dots, longitudinal scratches, scrawls, layers, etc. And each one represents a moment and a little piece of the history of that vehicle. Thus, the first thing we sould have to do is to think this stage correctly. We must start by asking by ourselvels why we want to reproduce chipped paint effects, where are going to be located and to check all of this with graphical references. These do not have to be from the same vehicle necessarily but we need a valid reference to follow. If we are using b/w pics, then we are in trouble as we do not know what the correct colour to use is, or if we are looking a real chipped paint effect or just grease or a water stain. Only the experience and looking at equivalent colour pictures -in example, Desert Storm Op. ones are excellent- will give us the correct answer.

Many known modellers drag a routine in the creation of chipped paint effects. They use the same mechanical technique and the same colours on any kind of vehicle, without realizing that the materials and the interaction of the colors is different in every case. The interaction of a color is the influence of one color on another, something which tends to alter its final result. For example, a dark brown paint chip over olive drab will appear almost invisible, but on a desert vehicle, the contrast will emphasize it and it looks almost black. In the following reference table that I have prepared, some examples of the most characteristic paint chips effects on different surfaces are shown.

  1. When we want to represent a subtle paint chip, caused by the vibration of the vehicle or a small scrape, then we can appeal to these primer chipped paint effects. The paint is lost at its last and newest layer but there is no exposing of bare metal. Then the previous layers of paint reaches the surface that, in many cases, can be a primer which is red, gray, etc, but almost always the vehicle tends to have been repainted with the same colour and the paint chip can be done with a lighter shade of the base colour. This is a very easy to reproduce paint effect and we do not take too much risk on our model as it is easily corrected if we were wrong. We must give all of our care to where to paint them and which shape it will present. We must avoid regular, rounded, homogeneous or repetitious shapes. It is better to make some small paint chips beside a larger one and we have to make them in a way that always they are coherent to some structure of the vehicle, an edge, a volume, an opening mechanism, etc. We should never paint them on hidden or protected areas away from the effect of hits or friction.

  2. The drained rust chipped paint effect is one of the most used whose results are always quite good. It give an aged character to the vehicles, as these types of paint chips are present after a long period. With orange enamel we will apply some paint chips, with diverse size, enrich them with some fine vertical lines in their lower part that we will stump later with the help of thinner and a clean paintbrush. Once dry, we will apply a centered dot of darker brown colour in the previous orange chipped paint. This example is very useful to make non working or abandoned vehicles.

  3. This is the typical deep chipped paint effect and it is same that can be seen both in the desert or in Russia. It is an older paint chip when compared with the ones above, so we can cover it with dust or a light layer of mud. It is accomplished inversely that the previous. First we apply the darker colour, and we enrich it with some small dots around it. After that, and always in the center, we apply the ligther orange colour, but without covering the darker base colour on the edges. In the desert Chevrolet truck different examples of this chipped paint type can be seen. Also it could have been done only with darker colours as in the Pill-Box Panther, so we can achieve older and still wet rusty chipped paint. Keep in mind that a paint chip may present different colours if it is dried or still wet, newer or older. A new and dry paint chip will looks orange but an older and wet one will look red brown.

  4. This example it is not a real chipped paint effect as it is produced by the rubbing of objects on a dusty surface. We can imagine a small vehicle, a Panzer Grey Horch, in example, in the warm russian summer. The vehicle is taking more and more dust but it is forced to be hidden in a small forest. The undergrowth rubs on its dusted surface and this ends chipping off the adhered dust. Also its own crew will cause those frictions and superficial wearing. Now we repeat the action. Another dusty road day and again the friction. The different layers are one over the others creating a kind of transparencies. We can simulate this gray base colour effect, applied with a paintbrush over the dust.

  5. Chipped camo schemes. Many camouflages were applied at the front. Sometimes with good quality paints or with any other one available. These improvised colours do not tend be as resistant as the factory applied colours, so they were easily chipped. This was very common in late war vehicles, or in both desert or winter camo schemes. We can reproduce them as in step #1 now using the base colour over the camo one. In this example, the base color is sand while the camo is green. When the green paint is chipped off, the previous sand colour reaches the surface. Take care. these effects should be done in the very early stages of our painting works, even before the apliying of filters and washes.

  6. And, finnaly, the usual paint chip that has been well spread by Uncle Verlinden during his more creative period. The metallic paint chip. Perhaps this is the most difficult to reproduce, as a wrong application or chioce of the colour can make our model looks like sci-fi 23rd century Warhammer armour. We can think again of a M113 in Vietnam. In the jungle the hull was heavily clawed by the dense undergrowth. The crew was always riding atop their vehicles to avoid mines and they were contributing to these polished surfaces. We can try to use a little amount of Humbrol Silver enamel and to mix it with a little of Olive Drab, and then to directly draw the paint chips. The result can be outstanding when controlled, but it's best to be careful than than try for too much. We must to try to perfectly outline the cutting edges. These zones present very fine and polished chipped paint effects. And remember that there is a very easy way to reproduce them. with a pencil !!

The chipped paint world it is a wide field and we could devote a whole modelling life to research them. It is an apparently insignificant effect, but it gives real life to a model. That it is, perhaps, the reason that it is so wanted by modellers. But they enclose many more mysteries than we can imagine, and many times the best and most realistic chipped paint effect we can obtain it is made by mistake. When we are painting them on a model, it tends to increase in size, so it's hard for us to apply them in a coherent way over all the surface and not get out of control. I recommend you to paint the main "structure" of all of them not too close to the model so you do not loose the perspective and the scale. And after this, we can start to detail them or to make small dots around these main chipped areas. Anyway, do not be afraid to make bigger chipped paint areas. This is very usual and you can always hide them with the dust work. You can see this on the M88 pics. Notice how the chipped paint around the MG cupola is almost covered by dust while the other areas closer to the most beaten zones are clean.

And some last advice. Always look at reality, at that caterpillar bulldozer that it is working close to your home, at an old road sign, at the chipped paint of your own car... and if you look at them closely and with care, even you will find the way to reproduce them.

MIG - 2001

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