Painting 1/2400 Ships with a Spray Can

Painting miniature scale ships (or any model for that matter!) is a skill that takes time and patience.  Painting to a standard that you’re happy with can take a significant amount of time.  For some, this is the goal itself…  to enjoy the process of modeling and painting for super realism.  In fact, this was my goal for many years before back surgery.  Now, I strive to paint to a realistic standard with as little time in the painting chair as possible.  This tutorial outlines a method that I use that has produced pretty good results and in my opinion is more about process than artistic skill.

STEP 1:  Base coat the model with a can of spray paint.  I use Testors (now Rust-oleum) Model Master enamel sprays because they apply thin, are durable, and have colors that I like.  I prefer the Light Sea Gray, but used a slightly darker Navy Aggressor Gray for this tutorial.  Spray paint is not healthy stuff…  so be sure to use a spray paint mask and gloves.  Spray in a couple of light coats and be sure you don’t drench the model in spray as it will obscure details.  Enamel spray is a little more forgiving here, which is why I like it.  It’s also more durable for the steps that come after.

STEP 2:  Apply a wash across the whole ship.  I use Citadel Nuln Oil and Agrax Earthshade mixed at 50/50 with no dillution.  There is no need to be perfect here as you’ll clean up in the next step.  Don’t apply too much, however…  be sure to draw off some of the excess so you have smooth and consistent coverage.  Let your model dry completely for a few hours.

STEP 3:  Clean up the wash.  This step can be skipped if you want a dirty look.  Essentially you are erasing the wash from large areas; pay particular attention to areas where you don’t plan to highlight or where you have large stretches of steel deck (no deck planks).  Dip a medium sized flat brush into airbrush cleaner (I use Vallejo Airbrush Cleaner) and use it like you would a pencil eraser.  The dried wash will come right off!  For smaller or hard-to-reach areas you can use a finer point brush with a firm tip.  Don’t worry too much about cleaning the wash from areas that you plan to paint over.  For example, on this Battleship I plan to pain the deck brown and so there is no need to remove the wash in these areas.  

STEP 4:  Drybrush your entire model.  Using a light gray color (I use Vallejo Sky Grey 989) brush gently across your entire model paying particular attention to guns, raised detail, and corners.  Use a small flat brush (I prefer natural bristles); load the brush with paint and then brush most of it off on a paper towel.  Gently brush across the whole model in quick strokes.  If you make a noticeable mistake, you can use the previous step to gently clean up some of the errant highlights.  You’re almost done!

STEP 5:  Paint your deck and details.  Painting the deck is the hardest step for me as it still requires a little attention and focus to avoid making a mess.  If you don’t mind a gray deck then perhaps you can skip much of this step.  Paint your deck in a color of your choice and also paint other details like floatplanes, gun barrels, etc.  Be sure to touch off any raised details with a small amount of paint and the contrast in the details will really stand out.  I find that contrast here makes the best impression when viewed from a distance.  Up close (using a macro lens on your camera?) will make the details look out of place…  but with 1/2400 scale you’re not likely to view so closely.

That’s it!  You’re done with not a lot of time invested.  Be sure to seal your model with a couple of coats of matte varnish.  I use Testors (Rust-oleum) Dullcote.

Coming Soon articles:
-Visual reference on how to “clean up” a wash coat.
-Visual reference on how to drybrush
-Painting small details