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The Wash

by Mig Jemenze

The wash is the wet technique by excellence, the most ancient of all and, perhaps, the most used. Its accomplishment simplicity, its good results and its versatility to be elaborated with different paints, have turned the wash into the most popular technique in the modelling world. But in spite of its extraordinary results and its simplicity.... it is far from being a technique close to all of us as many times these emerge us tremendous problems that ends ruining the model. But if we domain this technique... half of a good work is already done.

What is it?

Of course it is not to wash the model with water and soap or to put a detergent pill and insert it into the dishwasher. Maybe, the wash name comes of its characteristic applying way, as like if we wash all the surface of a vehicle but with a concrete colour. But that just anecdotal name serves to call it and it is far away of the action of washing anything.

What does it symbolise?

The tremendous dirt, the added greasy, the own shade of the things or even the mere caprice of emphasizing a volume, are represented by the wash. This technique covers a wide effects range and achieves that a base color model, flat and monotonous, takes life and shows an attractive contrast in all of its shapes. But an excess in its use can finish in a typical dark or overdone model, full of highlights and pronounced shades. Just the balanced use of this technique will give us to our model an adequate aspect and a splendid tapestry to work other techniques over it.

How is it Done?

It is easy to make a wash.... but... of what type?... What??... Did you believe also that there is a unique way of wash? You are wrong!... neither much less. And we are lucky as there are several types, for each moment and each type of model. I will explain it with examples since it will result easier.

General wash: imagine we have a beautiful Renault FT, or a Crusader full of nuts and bolts. We wish to make a wash to heighten all those details, Ok? Well, in this case, and to make a fast work we can apply it a general wash. Use some dark colour (brown, dark oxides or almost very dark gray) of enamel -I use Humbrol- or mixing it with some oil colors. We diluted it on a 70 or 80% of turpentine essence (not thinner), and we apply it with a number #6 paintbrush (aprox.) with soft hair and round point, all over the surface to cover. We will see how that mixture reflects quickly all over the surface and begin to flood the corners and grooves, darkening these quickly. We will give that wash to all the surface, but trying with the paintbrush to accumulate that color in those grooves, around seams or recessed lines, etc... We should let to dry well that first phase, but not to go ourselves to have a cup of coffee!! We should monitor the drying time to avoid those hate marks of dried turpentine. If these begin to appear, the can go amending with clean turpentine and a paintbrush. We must not to give too washes, since this will darken too much the base color. We will attempt to make just one wash. Once dry, we will see how all the details are slightly shaded and they have collected much volume.

Flowing wash: but this time, suppose that our model is a bright Panther G, in which prevail the flat surfaces and very few details and volumes. Here it is more appropriate to give some filters to the surface (already explained in the Know How Series #1) and, after them, to apply smaller and located washes. I mean, a 50% of the previous mentioned colours plus a 50% of turpentine. With a rather small and fine paintbrush, we will take that mixture and we will apply it to the smaller details and recessed or raised details that interest us without wetting the rest of the surfaces. We will see as upon supporting the paintbrush in a groove, how the colour will flow quickly by that groove without extending to the other surfaces (CAUTION!!, be sure that this is not applied over a MATT surface!!). In this way, we will obtain an outline with more precision solely on the wished zones. Now we let to dry a pair of minutes that wash. Maybe this will remain us very hard and ugly, but be quiet!! Once just dried, with a clean paintbrush and a little of clean turpentine too, we mix and stump the wash hard edges so that remain more softened. But never do it immediately!! Always when it has just dried a little. Once dried, I guarantee you a surprising result. Make it with patience and step by step, do not try to advance so fast.

Fresh wash: imagine that we have now a Pz III J in gray or sand colour... We wish to give a wash to those typical fenders, full of small volumes looking like small dots, the fenders holders... Ok. We can do the following. We wet those fenders with clean turpentine. Before begin to dry, we take quickly the color mixture to a 70% of this and just a 30 % of turpentine and we let fall a drop over that wet surface. We will see how that drop is expanded quickly and darkens the surface deeper but much smoothness. Then we can go handling with the paintbrush, trying to accumulate more color in some zones than others, even, we can take directly the paint color and apply it in the surroundings of the fender holders, to contrast more that zone. We let to dry monitoring the drying time. The final result is different than the previous methods.


What is most important to obtain the best washes it is the use of an appropriate turpentine, that it will be not too greasy. As in the paint filters, we should test several trupentine brands until we find the ideal one. More tips... the Humbrol enamel colours or oils are ideal for this assignment, as acrylics dries excessively fast and become uncontrollable. You do not have to use black colour directly, or you will obtain a pretty "night" camouflaged Panzer. Do not care too much about the turpentine drying marks. With the help of the following painting steps -drybrush, rain marks or dust- those will be less evident. I believe that in more than 14 years making models, those marks have been always present on my models. They are so familiar that they are trying to have a dinner with my wife and me!!. And if you cannot fight them... join them, so If at last those marks remained on your model, try to give them irregular forms that suggest stains in the vehicle or things like that.

Use it to...

...give depth to your model, to heighten forms and fine details, to give volumes, to give an aspect of a very used vehicle, to represent working motors or mechanisms... You cannot live without them!!

Be aware !!

Remember that a matt surface is your wash fatal enemy, just like a harmful virus. Vaccine your model with a good satin coat medication mixed with the base color of your model or with thousands of previous filters. That will cause that your washes will be accurate.

As some details will be covered by the wash, do not worry. As you will be monitoring it you will have time of bearing you and to arrange those small mistakes that may have emerged.

Hhhmmmmmmm!...the smell of turpentine on saturday morning. There is nothing like a wash to fall in love with modelling for the rest of your days


MIG - 2001

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