Wednesday, 19 September 2018

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger with Henschel Turret [WIP - Part 1 of 2: Three-tone camouflage]

These last few weeks have been tough, to put it mildly. I've been battling to keep my mind constantly occupied so that thoughts (hence emotions) became an indistinguishable blur of white noise. (The irony ... writing is an activity in which I tend to hear my thoughts the clearest and loudest!) And because I haven't yet been able to devote any time to the hobby, I strove instead to chronicle attempts I made to paint a three-tone camouflage scheme, carried out sometime last month.

MENG King Tiger work-in-progress: German WW2 three-tone camouflage (Part 1of 2)

It all starts with the predominant hue in the three-tone camouflage i.e. a rather dull dark yellow (dunkelgelb) that was fairly common until end-1944. To be honest, the dullness of the dunkelgelb actually caught me by surprise. This was because up until then I had been more accustomed to German tank camouflage colors during 1945 which comprised a much brighter yellow hue. To my understanding, it became increasingly difficult for the German war machine to obtain supplies late into the war which may account for the camouflage color differences in 1944 and 1945. 

Basecoat of German WW2 dunkelgelb achieved using the Tamiya TS-3 Dark Yellow

Unless you're painting by hand, masking becomes a necessary evil during the King Tiger's three-tone camouflage creation process. Specialized tools in the market such as the Camouflage Masking Putty from AMMO by Mig Jimenez supposedly make the masking process easier. But like most scale model hobbyists I'm working with a tight budget so I made do with a cheap local rubber mastic adhesive product called Dolphin Sticky Stuff. (The international equivalent is Blu Tack by Bostik.) In addition to the rubber mastic adhesive, I also used Tamiya masking tape and pieces of white copier paper. 

Materials used: Dolphin Sticky Stuff (Rubber Mastic Adhesive) and Tamiya Masking Tape
Pieces of paper completed the triumvirate of masking materials used in a haphazard painting process  

Both the rubber mastic adhesive (essentially a reusable adhesive putty) and the Tamiya masking tape served to protect the dunkelgelb basecoat from being painted over.  Meanwhile, the pieces of copier paper functioned to shield specific sections from spray paint overspray. What I essentially did was to first spray dark green onto specfic unmasked areas of turret/hull. I then proceeded to shield those very sections from the resulting overspray when red brown patterns were in turn being sprayed onto the remaining exposed sections of the turret/hull (see photo above).

While the pieces paper (see above) functioned largely to prevent overspray, the rubber mastic adhesive and masking tape prevented the dark yellow basecoat from being painted on
At this stage of the painting process, the whole turret looked liked a horrendous screw-up

Ideally it would've been better to first wait for the dark green paint to dry, and then completely mask the dark green camouflage patterns before spraying on the red brown hues. But to speed up the three-tone camouflage painting process I had instead untidily positioned pieces of copier paper as a means to contain paint overspray. In my defense I had wanted to limit the amount of blue Dolphin Sticky Stuff being used. Even during those initial stages I could already tell that the rubber mastic adhesive wasn't going to fulfill its role as a masking material with flying colors.   

Masking process is repeated for the King Tiger's hull using the same triumvirate of materials
Again prior to the masking materials being removed, the hull looks like a complete mess

As I've never worked with a proper masking putty, I can only guess at why the cheap reusable adhesive putty I used as an alternative resulted in the damages that it did. But it's highly probable the cheap putty's adhesive qualities were far too strong for masking purposes. When the putty was being removed, its inherent stickiness caused the zimmerit decals to be removed together with the putty thus exposing bare plastic as well as primer coat layer. Luckily for me, the combined red oxide and light grey hues of the former and latter closely resembled actual battle damage in a King Tiger.     

Inherent stickiness of the rubber mastic adhesive tore out a section of the zimmerit decals thus exposing the bare plastic as well as parts of the primer coat 
More damage (sections with the red oxide plastic exposed) caused by removal of the rubber mastic adhesive
A momentary lapse of focus resulted in one of the exhaust pipes being snapped in two

Its overly strong adhesive qualities also meant the cheaper putty required a bit of rough handling to remove during the unmasking process. That combined with a momentary loss of focus saw me press the rear hull towards my body with excessive pressure thus snapping one of the exhaust pipes in two (see photo above). While not ideal, this again wasn't too serious an issue as the exhaust pipe could be easily glued back on. Below then are photos of the King Tiger's three-tone camouflage pattern prior to any touch ups that'll need to be done to correct the issue of paint overspray.

Section where the zimmerit decal tore off actually passes off as realistic battle damage
Rest of the King Tiger hull after the three-tone camouflage painting process
King Tiger turret after the three-tone camouflage painting process
Camouflage on the gun barrel has yet to be painted because its finer details require hand painting

One part of the King Tiger yet to be painted with any form of camouflage is the gun barrel. Due to the fine/thin patterns involved, the three-tone camouflage in this section will have to be done by hand. Revolving around overpspray touch up efforts and camouflage painting of the gun barrel, part two will be a continuation of the chronicle of my three-tone camouflage painting process. It's been three weeks since my dad's passing and I can't bring myself to paint yet. But at least I'm writing.

Monday, 3 September 2018

A brief hiatus …

I'm an extremely private person so it's not easy for me to put my recent thoughts into words. Even as I do this I cannot bring myself to weave personal thoughts into a narrative as cathartic as they may be. So I seek nothing but to acknowledge and mark a painful time in my life. For you see, my dad passed away peacefully last week. Regrets for things left unsaid will remain forever. I find comfort only in knowing the good he has done for many will stand him in good stead in his journey ahead.

It has crossed my mind to stop blogging for a significant period of time. Simply put, I can find no joy in talking about the trivialities of this hobby. But to stop what I'm doing leaves me with time to dwell on thoughts I rather not entertain. So I'll write again soon. For now though, I can write no more.

Monday, 27 August 2018

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger with Henschel Turret [WIP - Fine Surface Primer]

There's something about a freshly primed scale model kit or resin figurine that's so appealing to me. This is perhaps best understood using the analogy of a blank canvas/paper awaiting its first colors. Most figure and scale modellers are essentially artists at heart who have more than a passing interest in drawing and painting. But before the art can begin, there's the process of finding and sometimes prepping the right canvas/paper. Well, if you mess things up and fill your canvas/paper with tears instead then that's another story entirely. This one is about the King Tiger and its primer coat.             

MENG King Tiger and crew work-in-progress: After receiving a coat of light gray primer

Coming in at 1/35 scale, there is a considerable amount of surface area to prime. It didn't take me by surprise this time because I had encountered the same issue with the T-55A Medium Tank. Using my go-to primer product i.e. the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer meant this process is nearly foolproof. The fine-grained properties of Tamiya's primer means it doesn't clog up the details of a model kit or figurine. Provided, of course, you practice good work habits such as building up the primer coat in successive thin layers; spraying in a motion that starts and ends away from the model kit/figurine.

King Tiger tank crew and turret primed using the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (Light Gray)
King Tiger hull, road wheels and tracks after a coat of Tamiya primer

How I plan to approach the painting and weathering of the MENG King Tiger will largely parallel how I've approached its priming process. What this amounts to is a separation of the King Tiger into four sections i.e. the crewmen figures, turret, hull and tracks to be painted and weathered accordingly.

Closeup of the primed tank crew men, which had average level of details
Tamiya's primer is fine-grained enough to ensure none of the details of the King Tiger are coated over
Turret was primed with its spare tracks detached as those will be primer and painted separately
Zimmerit decals on the hull will retain their indented details provided the primer is not sprayed on too thickly
The fine-grained primer also meant that the photo-etch engine grilles did not clog up with paint

If you of the camp that feels what's not readily visible need not be painted then you're going to feel the following steps as a waste of time. Now my obsessive compulsive tendency towards details seen or unseen has softened somewhat over time. However, it was still strong enough to compel me to remove the road wheels and track ensembles from the hull in order to access areas which the primer couldn't reach previously e.g. the lower hull and swing arms as well as sections of the tracks, road and idler wheels, and drive sprockets that were facing the lower hull. These were then duly primed.

Tracks and road wheels detached to expose areas not reached by the primer; these areas were then primed
Side of tracks and wheels facing the hull were also primed
Disassembled from the hull, both tracks will be painted and weathered independently from the hull

Already primed, the King Tiger will require a lot work in the days ahead.To paint its WW2 three-tone camouflage, I will be using a combination of Tamiya lacquer spray paints and rudimentary masking materials. Following that the weathering will be based on a work flow strategy and techniques found in an AK Interactive ebook titled Abteilung 502 Mastering Oils - Oil Painting Techniques on AFVs by master modeler Joaquín García Gázquez. As I said, a lot of work. Best get started ... soon ... 'ish.

Monday, 20 August 2018

HQ12-02 Race Queen [WIP - Skin Tones Phase One]

Investing in a mid-range airbrush is turning out to be the best decision I've made in this hobby so far. It has allowed me to achieve ultra smooth skin tone transitions quicker and better than I ever could with regular hand brushed strokes. And because it's only my first attempt at airbrushing flesh hues on a figurine, there is still room for improvement. This is in itself extremely encouraging as it points to the tremendous potential to be had from being able to master or at least become proficient in using an airbrush to paint skin tones. After all realistic skin tones is my holy grail in this hobby.   

Skin tones airbrushed on a resin figurine using Gaianotes lacquer paints

In keeping with the subject matter being painted, I sought to recreate a fair East Asian skin tone for the atlier iT HQ12-02 Race Queen. Paints used were Gaianotes lacquer ones that I previously experimented with on plastic spoons. Ranging from shadows to midtones to highlights, they comprised Gaiacolor No.53 Notes Flesh Pink, No.51 Notes Flesh, Ex-05 Ex-Flesh and No.52 Notes Flesh White (see below) mixed with Gaiacolor T-06h thinner at a ratio of one part paint to slightly more than one part thinner. My aim? To slowly build up the skin tone with thin layers of paint.   

Gaianotes flesh colored lacquer paints ranging from shadows (right) to highlights (left)

In my very first skin tone airbrushing session I had already experienced the limitations of working with just one airbrush. When trying to blend smooth skin tone transitions, there is sometimes a need for constant back-and-forth between two shades of flesh color e.g. shadows and mid-tone. Having only one airbrush makes for a disruptive painting experience. This is because it takes time to properly clean/rinse an airbrush before loading it with a different colored paint in order to prevent color contamination. It's doable but I've begun the process of saving for a second airbrush.     

Frontal view of both the Race Queen's legs
Side view (from the left side) of both the Race Queen's legs

Taking photographs of skin tone can be tricky especially when considering the subtlety of color transitions involved between the shadows, midtones and highlights. If the lighting is too harsh or the ISO settings are set too high, then the skin tone takes on a washed out monotone look. Moreover when you factor in the fact that most electronic displays aren't color accurate i.e. they aren't 100% sRGB or Adobe RGB, then you face the issue of viewers not seeing hues as how they were intended to be by the painter. All things considered, the naked eye remains the best judge of colors.   

Back view of both the Race Queen's legs
Side view (from the right side) of both the Race Queen's legs

Results on the face, arms and hands weren't as satisfactory but it was to be expected. They all have smaller nooks and crannies which will require good old fashioned hand-powered brush strokes to reach. Details like the Race Queen's eyes, lips, cheek blush, teeth, nail, veins, etc. will have to be brought out using paint and/or pastels. Meanwhile on a more macro level, the overall skin tone currently has a semi-glossy to glossy sheen to it. This I may yet flatten with a matte clear coat later.

Arms and hands of the Race Queen with flesh shadow hues emphasizing contrast on the elbow joints
Her hands in particular will require additional work with traditional hand brush methods using paints and maybe pastels
Contrast was least pronounced on her face but it won't be a problem seeing a lot more work is to be done

Silly as this may sound, skin tones are the main reason why I continue to invest so much time in this hobby. Or course, I still find painting other textures such as cloth, hair, metal, wood, etc. rewarding. But none of them feels as satisfying as layering on flesh hues. Because for me, human skin color is the veritable definition of the realism that I try to recreate through art. No matter how well you paint or draw something, it all falls apart if you get the skin tones wrong. Anyway, enough of my platitudes about skin tone. There's a lot still to be done on the skin. But it has been a promising start. Cheers!

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

MENG Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger with Henschel Turret [Assembly Completed]

Assembly of the Meng Model 1/35 scale German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger (Henschel Turret) kit is complete. It took a while but the King Tiger is now ready for its coat of primer. In this final stage, the only things left to be assembled were the main turret hatches and the tank crewmen. Once done, the turret was then attached to the main hull and the figures posed perched halfway in open hatches. Going forward it's going to be all about painting and weathering the tank.

Mein kommandant, ahead lies the path to priming ... Ja, I too have spotted the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer  

First two of the final three steps of assembly involved putting together the main gun and hatches before attaching them to the turret. The machine gun was excluded from this build because Tank 124 of Pz.Abt. 505 was missing its machine gun, at least based on the historical photos I viewed. The final step involved the assembly of the tank crew figurines. Once done, they were posed in the open hatches of the turret, which was subsequently attached to the main body of the King Tiger. 

Step 33 and 34: Assembly of the main hatches and main gun barrel (machine gun excluded for this build)
Step 35: Assembly of the figures and attachment of the turret

Details-wise the MENG King Tiger looks excellent for a scale model kit assembled right out of the box sans any external parts ave for for its zimmerit decals. For a kit to look this detailed, usually a lot of external third party parts would have to be added, for example specialized photo-etch parts, metal tracks, etc. In fact, you could even ratchet up the (already good) level of detail by using Meng Model's specialized parts for the King Tiger, namely workable tracks with a form of suspension as well as an interior set. I'm forgoing these extra detailed parts for this particular build.       

Assembly of the MENG King Tiger tank and its crew is now complete
Fully assembled, the German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger cuts an impressive figure
Parts such as spare tracks, pioneer tools and tow cables all add to the tank's impressive detail

Having red oxide as the molded color was, to me at least, a cool move on Meng Model's part. In instances where the paint is accidentally stripped all the way down to the molded plastic, the red oxide color will ensure things look natural. This might not be too clear now but with my track record of messing up a kit's paintwork, it's only a matter of time before the usefulness of a red oxide part is laid bare, pun intended of course. Incidentally, the situation is the same for the zimmerit decals as damaged zimmerit coating tends to show up as a whitish gray color.        

Zimmerit decals were the only external parts used to complement the straight out of the box build
Inward tilt of the tracks is even more obvious when viewed from the back
Grilles located towards the rear form the tank's prominent photo-etch parts

Only thing that bugs me about this build is the inward tilt of the King Tiger tracks. The fact this has also happened to other modellers means either the problem is a byproduct of bad kit design or due to the assembly of the swing arms, wheels and tracks being a tricky process to get right. Either way, I'm trying to figure a way to make it right. In reality, (nearly) 70 tonnes of the tank would weigh down on its tracks thus ensuring no inward tilt. In other words, this tilt looks unnatural. There have been cases where the tilt became less obvious after painting/weathering. Let's hope it'll be the same for me.      

Square shaped zimmerit-less section on the turret will  house the 'charging knight' emblem
Perched halfway on the open turret hatches, the tank crew figurines add scale to the overall piece
Overhead view of the fully assembled Meng Model King Tiger

So the assembly process is finally over, leaving the King Tiger ready for the next step, i.e. application of a primer coat. At 1/35 scale, there is a lot of tank surface to prime so it will be a time consuming process. Only once the tank has been primed will any form of painting begin. And slowly but surely, the German Heavy Tank will start to take its chosen form namely Tank 124 of Pz.Abt. 505 in Poland during September 1944. That's it for this week. May you be well and happy until the next!

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