Chip, Wash and Smoke
First up is chipping. This is a step that I’ve changed a lot over the years. I almost cringe looking at some of my older models now to see how over done I used to do this. The idea is just to show some wear, some abrasion. I used to dry brush (or even not so dry!) over large portions of the model. But really, most planes only chip a little. So I’ve scaled it way back. Now I use mostly a silver colored pencil to put small marks in areas that would see serious wear. Like moving parts of the canopy, engine and gun covers, and occasional marks on the leading edges of wings, tail and propeller. The pencil is more subtle, allows fine control, and can be painted over immediately. I can obviously go heavier on this for a beat up, or crudely painted air frame. But that should be the exception not the rule.
Next I applied a wash. While the interior got black, the exterior gets Burnt Umber. This adds a slight dirty, greasy, almost sepia tone cast to the whole subject. As before, the wash will settle into panel lines and details causing them to “pop” a little more. Much more than on the interior here I use a Kleenix to wisk away any puddles or thick spots; ideally this should be lightly streaked in the direction of airflow. Depending on the subject I may mix this darker or lighter; or even use or mix Black in. I also have a lighter yellow I sometimes use for for very dirty/dusty subjects; but mostly that means vehicles.
After the wash dried for several hours a sprayed “Smoke”. This is just a Tamiya paint color that is a sort of translucent dark grey. I spray it on areas that would be stained by engine exhaust, gun smoke or even extreme oil staining (like behind the cooling flaps on a radial engined aircraft).
All three of these steps can be varied a lot based on how clean and well cared for a subject was. And most aircraft were kept pretty clean. They represent an expensive asset for most national militaries and were a source of pride to their crews. So except for extreme situations and environments aircraft should be fairly well cared for. This particular aircraft served in China, at the end of a long supply line and in a primitive environment. But pictures I’ve seen it still looked pretty tidy.
And we’re nearly done! I’m excited.