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Bob's Tip #2: Bringing Out the Details

It's one of the most disappointing occurrences when modeling. You spend hours and hours detailing a model to the nth degree, adding color, texture and ensuring that every detail is coated. When you're done, you set down the piece in utter satisfaction to admire your handiwork and what you see... disappoints.

Why is this? Our eyes are used to much more vivid contrasts in real life, those offered by larger differences in a texture's high and low points. When we reduce these differences in scale models, these details begin to blend together more and more until we end up with bland, featureless miniatures.

Fortunately, there is a modeler's trick that helps to restore the illusion of texture, and that is the color wash.

There are a few ways to accomplish this, but all involve the use of a carrier medium such as water, solvent or (in the case of the example I'm about to show you) floor wax. Paired with the carrier is a pigment. The finer the pigment is, the better off you'll be, particularly when you get to very small miniatures where the viewer will be looking at them from a very close distance.

The technique that I like to use involves the use of three simple ingredients:

-Pledge FloorCare floor wax

-Art-Time water-soluble paint powder

-Paint brush

To create your wash solution, add the liquid floor wax to a container such as a dixie cup and then add your paint powder. One thing to note is that while I used black in my example, you can use any color to create very unique shading effects, depending on the effect you're trying to create. I recommend trying shades such as brown and gray in addition to black, which can sometimes come across too harshly, depending on your subject.

Mix the solution together with your brush and test the concentration of the pigment by pressing your brush against the side of the container. A proper mixture should show a distinct path behind the drip from your brush. Too clear and you won't be highlighting your details enough. Too thick and you'll obscure everything behind a dark film. Be sure to play around with a scrap subject until you're satisfied with the result.

That done, simply wash the model generously and let the solution flow down and off the model, pooling in low areas such as panel lines, clothes creases, or other low areas of your subject.

Before the solution dries (about 20 minutes or less), check the model for areas where the solution has pooled too much and if so, use a fine brush or Q-tip to absorb the excess in that one area.

This solution tends to dry in a gloss or semi-gloss finish, so if you want a different finish, you'll need to clear coat in the appropriate lacquer, be it matte or semi-gloss.

Cleanup is quick and easy using soapy water.

There you go! A quick and easy way to really make the details of your model pop.

BONUS TIP: You can use the same wax to create a tint for clear plastic parts! One pigment that works particularly well due to the exceptionally fine particles is printer ink. You can use an old printer cartridge from your inkjet printer to tint the solution for a clear part, offering you dark-tinted, red-tinted, yellow-tinted or any combination for lenses, windows or canopies.

I hope you enjoyed this little tidbit! Be sure to check out the video below for a walkthrough of of the technique being used on some small diver miniatures from 20000 Leagues Under the Sea!

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