Author Topic: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial  (Read 7549 times)

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Dave V

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Based on some recent trains.com threads with some “unconventional” suggestions for rolling stock weathering (such as dipping cars in an aquarium for a month, burying cars in the yard, etc.), I felt there might be a need for a “Weathering for Dummies” thread.  This may be old hat for Railwire folks, but I figured I’d share anyway.  So, inspired by the work of the likes of Tom Mann, Ed K, Lee Weldon, and Rich Yourstone, I'm presenting how I weathered four N scale 50’ boxcars using only acrylic craft paints, Testor’s Dullcote, and windshield wiper fluid.

Prototype photos are from Fallen Flags unless otherwise noted.



Although I’ve used an airbrush to weather before, I find it hard to control (this is a tool I haven’t mastered!) and I’m also aware that many modelers don’t own one.  So I won’t use one here.

The paints we’ll use are the cheap acrylic craft paints you get at any craft store like Michael’s or A.C. Moore.  They go for between 50 cents and $1.50.

Here’s what we’ll need:



In addition to a few paintbrushes (including a fine point stiff brush), I used Color Traditions Warm White, River Rock, Black, and Burnt Umber.  I also picked up Anita’s Burnt Sienna.  I don’t use pure white because it looks a bit too harsh; the Warm White is “earthier.”  The decal sheet is Microscale 60-4280 (Automatic Car Identification bar code labels, mandatory on cars painted between 1967 and 1977).  We’ll need the ACI labels for our two Penn Central cars.

Our victims will be an N scale Atlas Trainman RBOX car, an Athearn M&PA Berwick box, an Atlas Penn Central Precision Design outside-ribbed box, and an odd-ball Micro-Trains lot 968-B Penn Central smooth-side box.  Weathering will be according to relative age of these cars as of July 1980, my new era (Conrail in Pennsylvania).



By the way, we’ll thin our paints on a palette (you can use scrap cardboard) using water mixed with a few drops of windshield wiper fluid.  This is a Rich Yourstone trick (I think he may use it straight up without water).  Why?  It helps the paint flow and breaks the surface tension of the water…  but doesn’t react with Dullcote the way alcohol does.  It also doesn’t attack plastic or paint.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 11:34:33 PM by Dave Vollmer »
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2008, 11:04:37 PM »
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First, the easy:

The Maryland and Pennsylvania boxcar has a built date of 1/80, so is 6 months old in my era.  Photos confirm that in 1980 these cars were still immaculate:

http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/mpa/mpa39677atw.jpg

So, all I did was paint the trucks and couplers with Burnt Umber.  I thinned the Burnt Umber and then added a slight hint of rust below the door track.  A touch of Burnt Sienna on the knuckles of the couplers suggests fresh rust.  Then a very, very, very thin wash of the River Rock…  Very light.  Then wiped off before dry.  The roof got one very, very thin wash of Burnt Sienna, wiped off and one coat of extremely thinned black, allowed to dry.  Car was then Dullcoted.



The result is a boxcar that looks new, but has taken a trip or two down the line.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2013, 12:44:57 PM by Dave Vollmer »
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2008, 11:05:11 PM »
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Next up is a Railbox car, new 7/79.  This time I washed the car with a very thin mixture of Burnt Umber and Black, and I wiped it down with a paper towel.  The roof got a few very thinned coats of the same mixture, wiped off between coats.  I also added one thinned layer of Burnt Sienna for newer rust.  But overall the roof is still mainly silver.  Trucks and couplers got the same Burnt Umber treatment.  Car was then Dullcoted.



At one year old, this car is still a baby.  Pretty clean.
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2008, 11:05:45 PM »
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Now the fun begins.  PCA X71 #166653 was built in early 1972, and so is 8 years old on my layout.  So we can be dirty.



The first thing to do is to add the ACI decals and seal them with Dullcote.  Photos show the ACI labels below the PC “worms” logo on the right side:

http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/pc/pca166673akg.jpg



So, that was the easy part.  Up next is the weathering.  I used several washes of a Burnt Umber and Black mixture on the sides, wiping off between layers.  Oh, by the way, the great thing about craft paints is that they don’t become permanent until you seal them with Dullcote.  Don’t like it?  Just wash it off with a wet, clean brush! 

The roof gets 5-10 coats of much thinned Burnt Umber/Black wash, with 1-2 layers of a much thinned Burnt Sienna wash.  I let these coats sit and dry rather than wiping them.  The result is a fairly rusty roof, but not a complete rust bucket.  Once again, Burnt Umber on trucks and couplers.  Seal the car with Dullcoat.





http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/pc/pca166265awb.jpg
« Last Edit: January 05, 2013, 12:45:45 PM by Dave Vollmer »
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2008, 11:06:28 PM »
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The last one was the most fun.  This car was one of a lot of cars (designated 968-B) built by the NYCRR just prior to merger by extending 40’ boxcars.  They were painted new for Penn Central, but with an eclectic combination of black and white, NYC and PC-style lettering.  Too cool.  The Micro Trains car body is not quite correct, but the lettering waaaaaay too cool to pass up.  So this car is 12 years old by my era.

Add the ACI label as before.  I’ve found only two pictures of this class of car and each has a different ACI label position, so I went with one that had the label to the left of the door:



Dullcote the car after the decal is applied.  Now I’m going to start with a “fade coat.”  Now, Tom Mann did this a few times with washes, although he now recommends an airbrush.  I wanted to see if I could do the entire car with acrylic washes and brushes.  So I washed the car with very, very thinned Warm White with a drop or two of River Rock.  I left it very thin and let it dry on each side of the car, lying on its side, before moving to the next.  I held the car while the ends dried.



Then I went nuts.  I let a thin wash of Black and Burnt Umber dry on each side again.  I then played with the washes to make the sides look splotchy.  The magic on this one comes from using a stiff pointy brush to add rust pits and streaks.  Use Burnt Umber and a mix of Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna for rust.  Old rust and rust pits can use a mix of Black and Burnt Umber.  I use the paint straight-up (no thinning) for this.  Remember to rust the trucks and couplers with the Burnt Umber.  The roof was tough.  I did a few washes that came out too dark and needed to be wiped clean.  Each coat I removed left some dark color in the crevices.  I ended up using a thick Warm White (with a touch of River Rock) to make the roof look faded.  I then added a few rusty washes on top of that.

I could have also added a flaking paint effect by dry-brushing the roof with aluminum model paint, but chose not to at this time.

Rich Yourstone hit upon an awesome yet shockingly simple technique for the door scrape marks we usually see on smooth side boxcars.  Open the door (thankfully MT doors open!) and add a drop of paint (I use Burnt Umber and Black straight up) on the back of the other door; then open and close the door a few times.  Voila!  Do it for the other door.







So…  does this match the prototype?
« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 11:15:56 PM by Dave Vollmer »
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2008, 11:07:03 PM »
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http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/pc/pc160236akg.jpg



From Penn Central Online:
http://pc.smellycat.com/pics/equip/pc160211.jpg



I hope this has been informative.  I can’t take credit for any of the techniques I used; I owe The Railwire guys for blazing the trail.  If you haven’t tried weathering yet, I hope I’ve inspired you to try.  This technique is relatively clean, reversible (i.e., you can fix your mistakes), and easy to master.

The trick is to use thin coats of wash and build up in layers.  And, just about the time you think to yourself “it’s almost there,” stop.  Less is often more when it comes to weathering.  For each rust-bucket like the PC 160252, you should have many more cars that are in good repair save for a hint of grime.  Happy weathering!
« Last Edit: January 05, 2013, 12:46:35 PM by Dave Vollmer »
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2008, 11:30:02 PM »
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I really like that Penn Central Atlas car. VERY subtle, very good...
Sean

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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2008, 11:53:15 PM »
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what ever happened to the Ma and Pa?

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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2008, 09:48:11 AM »
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As I said in my email, these are awesome.

Matthew, the Ma&Pa abandoned much of its lines south out of York because, well, even in their heyday they were marginal at best. They kept the York operations and grew to incorporate a bunch of ex-PRR and ex-WM (then Chessie) lines in and around York PA under the umbrella of Yorkrail. Yorkrail was recently (in the last few years) purchased by GWI.
http://davecathell.tripod.com/linc.html


Dave V

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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2008, 11:35:55 AM »
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Thanks, guys!  None of this stuff is ready for Model Trains Weathered but I have to say, overall I'm quite pleased with the results.

If only I could hop on the "Way Back Machine" and go back and weather my other stuff this way!

That smooth-side PC box still looks a little dark.  Next time I'll have to do the fade coat with an airbrush.  Thought I could give the washes one more chance, but the experts are right!  I may yet try to lighten this car up a bit.
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2008, 12:45:07 PM »
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One more goody...

As I was examining that PC 968-B boxcar I began to realize it was too dark.  Micro Trains had used a very dark shade of PC green...  darker than any I'd seen.  So I flowed a very thin wash of PolyScale Penn Central Green onto the sides.  It looked pretty good, but it also made the rust patches look slightly green.  I Dullcoted the car anyway, figuring this was as good as I could get it.  But I was at the end of the can, and it came out in large splotches, ruining the finish.  Oh, boy.  I tanked another one, huh?

So, since I had nothing to lose, I tried to remove the Dullcote with straight isopropyl alcohol.  You know what?  It removed everything right down to, but not including, the factory finish.  So, I essentially had a brand new car to work with!  That's several coats of wash and three layers of Dullcote gone without marring the factory lettering one bit!

I re-applied the PC Green wash first, making the car look lightly faded and matching the prototype color much better.  Then I added the rest of the weathering.  I also added a 10' aluminum section to the roof, as another proto photo confirmed that this class of boxcar had been made by stretching 40' cars into 50 footers.  I'll post pics tonight.
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2008, 09:20:54 AM »
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To start, I just want to say thank you for taking the time to put this tutorial together.  As a "dummy" just getting into weathering it really helps to visualize the process.  With that, I have a few questions: 

1. When you thin the acrylic paints, what are the rough ratios of paint-water-washer fluid you used for your washes and such.  I understand when you thin the paint, it can be fairly thick or really thin.  2. When painting the wheels and trucks, do you use the same wash as you use on the body of the cars?  Do you also remove the trucks before painting or leave them attached to the body?  3. The last question is, how do you apply the wash to the body of the car?  Do you carefully "paint" it on or do you just slop it on and then wipe it off as you suggest? 

That should clear up the questions I have now for about your article.  Again this will be a great help when I start to weather my rolling stock.  The pictures help soo much.  Thanks for taking the time to put this post together and answering any of my questions.

Mike

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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2008, 09:55:25 AM »
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Okay, new and improved...  Faded the color first, so car appears lighter.  Notice that it's now lighter in color than the PCA X71...  that wasn't the case before, but now mtaches photos better.  I also added a 10' bare metal panel on the roof based on an overhead photo of the same class of car in NYCRR service; these cars were 50' rebuilds of older 40' cars.  Also notice the patch panel lines per prototype; 40-footers were notorious for rusting out just above the sill.  Though the model doesn't have these patch panels, they can be suggested by the weathering.






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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2008, 10:00:45 AM »
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1. When you thin the acrylic paints, what are the rough ratios of paint-water-washer fluid you used for your washes and such.  I understand when you thin the paint, it can be fairly thick or really thin.  2. When painting the wheels and trucks, do you use the same wash as you use on the body of the cars?  Do you also remove the trucks before painting or leave them attached to the body?  3. The last question is, how do you apply the wash to the body of the car?  Do you carefully "paint" it on or do you just slop it on and then wipe it off as you suggest? 


Mike,

Thanks!

1.  I would say for a pure wash, it's almost 10:1 water to color...  Thicker washes are probably more 5:1 or 3:1.  I like it really thin for more control.  The trucks get a 1:1 wash, and the rust dots are straight paint, no water.  But I don't mix them in cups or anything, I just soak the brush well and then dip it in the paint; how deep I dip it determines the strength of the wash.

2.  The trucks get strat Burnt Umber...  while the body usually gets a mix, to include some black.  Again, the trucks get a much thicker wash.  I leave the trucks on the body as I work.

3.  I apply the washes with a wide, flat brush for broad areas, but I always apply it "with the grain," either by following the roof panels or the body rivet lines.  Usually the wash doesn't leave any brush marks, but just in case, I always follow the route that water would in the presence of gravity (i.e., vertical on the sides).

Hope this helps!
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Re: Easy weathering with acrylic craft paints - photo tutorial
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2008, 10:36:36 AM »
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Dave,

Thank you for your reply.  That helps tremendously.  I am planning on modeling the same general time frame for Conrail and this was a great discovery.  Eventually I will get around to start weathering my rolling stock.  I will try to remember to post some pictures.  Thanks again for all your help.

Mike