Saturday, May 24, 2014

Painting Late War German Panzer IV's

The following won't win any awards (unless you are a much much better painter than me), but is a simple straightforward way to get nice results on a non-airbrushed late war German 3 color camouflage scheme.

The basis of any (or most) German armor camo schemes is "dunkelgelb", or "dark yellow". This color has always apparently been a problem for military modelers, as the interpretation of what dunkelgelb means has been tremendously varied, with tones ranging from darker to lighter, more yellow to less so, brownish or not, a tint of green, or orangish, or apparently just about anything else even remotely in this color family. The issue for someone like me, who wants to base coat my models with a spray can, and doesn't have an airbrush (not a functioning one anyway), is that I need to buy something off the shelf that works. You'd think that within this hobby that such a thing would be easy. Well, it's not as easy as you'd think.

For this batch of models, which were primed a couple of days ago and painted today, I used the Plastic Soldier Company's dunkelgelb spray. When purchasing this at the local game store, I was concerned that it seemed way too green, but I have seen a lot of German armor done by Flames of War players at that store that had similar green-tinted base that looked nice, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Stage 1 - Base coating and foundation work:
  1. Prime the models with Plastic Soldier Company dunkelgelb spray. At this point, the models were way too apple/olive green for my taste, so I planned to address this in two ways - dry brushing before any further painting, and an extra dry brush of a light tan color at the very end to knock the colors down more.
  2. Using a large #16 artists shader brush, I dry brushed the models with Americana brand craft paint "celery green", a muted light green, and then a little very light dry brushing with Folk Art brand "camel", a light tan color. Picture #1 shows some models after this step. [although this particular picture may be after the celery but before the camel...]
  3. Citadel "mechanicus standard grey", a dark grey, was then painted on the tracks, the spare road wheel tires (but not all the road wheels), and the commander figures.
  4. A heavy black wash was then given to the tracks, the rear deck engine vents, the road wheels, drive sprockets and all other suspension components, the commander figure, and the gun muzzle. Picture #2 shows the vehicles at the end of this stage.

#1 - Primed and "foundation dry brushed"

#2 - Foundation work done

Stage 2 - Basic camouflage:
  1. For these models, I opted for a very basic squiggle pattern of short thin lines. The red-brown is Citadel's "doombull brown" and the dark green is Citadel's "castellan green". Both of these colors work very well. Picture #3 shows the models after this step. At this point the models look way too bright and clean, and the colors too stark. This is taken care of in the next step.
  2. Dry brush lightly but thoroughly with Folk Art "camel". This serves to knock the colors down and dull everything up quite nicely. It also takes the green down some and adds some tan back into the mix.

#3 - After camo but before dry brushing

Stage 3 - Detail work:
  1. Flesh - base color of flesh is painted and then washed with a flesh wash. At this scale, that's all the detail these little guys get. I used an unbranded basic flesh color and whatever Citadel is calling their flesh wash these days. [I still need to go back and pick out a little detail on the commanders after I do a little research to remind myself of what that little bit of detail should be]
  2. Tools and other bits on the tanks are painted brown for wood handles, gun metal metallic for shovel blades, etc.
  3. Tracks, which are a very dark grey at this point (having been heavily washed with black in stage 1), are highlighted by dry brushing the road contact surfaces with a gun metal silver color.
  4. The edges of the tracks (the parts susceptible to rust) are dry brushed with a rusty reddish brown. I used an older Citadel color called "terracottta".
  5. A judicious amount of mud splatter is painted around the road wheels and other suspension parts. If nothing else, this serves to disguise the fact that I only black washed the wheels, and didn't take the time to actually paint all the tiny little rubber road wheel edges black...

The acceptable finished product

I'm not sure I'm 100% thrilled with the end result, but this is the process I used to do three perfectly acceptable Mark IV's in a fairly short period of time today.

The one thing I think I will try next time, way back in step 2 of stage 1 (the foundation dry brushing), is to use a color that is even less green and more yellowy-tan. I am OK with today's result, but not so thrilled that I don't want to continue to tinker with my dunkelgelb just a little. That being said, I have seen a LOT of WW2 German armor painted in this light greenish base, and it does look good.

Product note - These three Panzer IV H's are all-metal Command Decision models from Old Glory (as is the incomplete King Tiger that snuck into one of the pictures). They are decent casts, considering their age, but are nothing like the box of five Flames of War all-plastic Panzer IV H's that I assembled this afternoon. But more on that soon.

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