A Tale of Two Tigers
(Well, Sort Of)
by Bill Wolfe
When you’re a model builder, things don’t always go as planned.
I originally built this King Tiger to be entered in what some local scale model clubs call their “out of the box” category. Not bad. I often wonder what non-plastic model builders think of this hobby. I’m sure many of them (who don’t just dismiss model builders as ‘weird’ offhandedly) think of plastic models as a kind of 3-D puzzle. Put the parts together and slap some point on it, what’s the big deal? While they are correct about the puzzle part, the real meat of the topic, the real work, where the model is made or lost is in the paint job.
There are some tried and true steps of course, but many would find it surprising just how much these vary depending on what part of the country you live in and even the time of year!
So, painting a plastic model can be treacherous – to say the least. Any single step in the process can mess up the whole project. I did enter this model and it was soundly trounced by the other models in the category.
Now, I like to tell myself that I don’t build for competitions, that I “build for myself and my own enjoyment.” Well, actually, both are true. I do build for my own enjoyment, however, I like to enter competitions because they keep me “honest.”
Knowing that eyes other than my own will be looking at my work keeps me pushing myself to do better and better work (that’s the plan at least.)
Taking a second look at this model, I decided to start again. This time I wouldn’t be restricted by the rules of an ‘out of the box’ category. Not that I planned to make any wholesale changes, the kit was basically already built, but I felt it came out too dark and I wanted to take another stab at it.
The first step was to strip all the paint off of the model. It’s a messy process, but the paint stripper takes the kit right back down to bare plastic. Some small delicate pieces did break off, but that’s just part of this kind of undertaking. Some were actually found and others would need to be fabricated to replace them.
These are some images of the kit having been repainted, the paint has been chipped using the hair spray technique and the tools given a basic base coat of black to prepare them for their final color.
The model has also been gloss coated, so you’ll notice some shine to on some of them.
I decided early on that I wanted to do some new things with this second go around. First, I wanted to really work to get realistic paint chips, not “over the top”, but certainly some wear and even a little damage were in mind. I also wanted to try my hand at using the hair spray technique on a three color scheme. I hadn’t done this before (see… pushing my work further).
I wanted to try to create a “story” about this vehicle. For one thing, I wanted to depict a tank which had its main gun replaced. There would be no camo on the replacement gun as well as some more heavy wear. I also wanted to show some damage to the side skirts which seemed to befall nearly every King Tiger that I found photographs of. I still used the kit side skirts, but cut them and thinned them to a more “in scale” thickness.
The paint chipping is something that I feel is the future of the hobby. It takes things way beyond the “paint, wash and dry brush” steps of earlier times in the hobby. Paint chipping seems to be a bit “taboo” among the local builders. Still, I’m going to push on and build the way I want to build.
As I mentioned, the tank has been given three coats of gloss to prepare it for the markings. With the markings applied, sealed and the detail work started on the on-board tools, the King Tiger is starting to take shape. Still, the markings are too stark and will need to be toned down. Now the fun part of the project begins.
The next step is to accent the shadows of the model to give it some depth. Model builders have the task to try to make a relatively small item look much larger than it really is. One of the ways we do that is to exaggerate the shadows and recesses of the model. I used both a black pigment mineral sprits pin wash and a black enamel paint pin wash.
It’s best to give the model these washes when the finish is glossy as the wash will flow better than on a flat surface. At the same time some additional work was done to the tools and streaks were also formed where rain water would run off of the vehicle. Before the washes, however, the model was airbrushed with a filter. I used a very thin blue tinted filter to try to even out the color and bring out some of the green and red of the three color scheme. The filter also darkened the model a bit.
The benefit of the pigment wash is that, once dry, it can be made even more subtle. While the changes may be subtle, that’s really the idea. No big movements! Now thatthe shadows have been enhanced, the next step will be to highlight the raised areas. We’ll use the old stand-by, drybrushing, for this. Even with the paint chipping calling attention to most of the tank’s edges. There’s just something about dry brushing to bring the model to life.
The dry brushing was added to bring out the overall shape of the model and some oil paint applied in a few areas to brighten them up so the finished model didn’t have a ‘flat’ appearance. There’s no doubt that I like this second attempt at this kit much better than the first.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip into the mind of a plastic model builder. Was this “re-do” necessary? Of course not. I could have just put this model in a box and moved on to the next one. The challenge of getting it “right’, however, attracted me more than the prospect of just starting a new model.
While certainly not perfect, this second version of this particular model is much more pleasing – to me at least.
Photos by Bill Wolfe