How to Weather Model Cars


Model cars look terrific as part of a miniature collection, whether you collect muscle cars or vintage pick-up trucks. True collectors and modelers, however, like to take their model cars a step further by giving them custom detailing. One of the best ways to make a model your own is to weather it. Whether you add rust, dirt, shoddy upholstery or anything else, when you weather your model cars you make them unique.

Things You'll Need

  • Modeling ink
  • Sand paper
  • Pin vise (a miniature drill)
  • Hobby knife
  • Modeling clay (called Green Stuff)
  • Paint your model car with "chips." To make your car look like its paint is chipping, simply apply an undercoat of silvery-metallic paint to the model (to simulate steel). Once it's dry, paint the entire car as you normally would, but leave a portion of the metallic paint exposed in an irregular pattern. You can do this all over the model, but it looks best at points where bending and dents are most common (around the wheel well or on the fender/bumper, for example).

  • Apply a dark red/brown ink at select points on your model to simulate rust. Simply thin out a painter's ink with water (about 50/50) and load a few drops onto a paintbrush. Then simply press the brush to the model where you want to simulate rust (a little pressure is all you need). The ink will run into cracks and darken the lines, and if you brush across certain spots of your model it will adhere and dry. Apply successive layers if you want the rust to look "worse" in some spots.

  • "Break" your model! Use a hobby knife or a pin vise to cause damage to the model. For example, you can drill holes in the doors to make a 1940s sedan look like a Mafia getaway car, or you can cut away pieces of the wheel well with a hobby knife to make it look like it's seen better days.

  • Texture the frame of the car with low grit sandpaper after you've painted it to dull the finish. It's important to be very careful using this technique. If you apply too much pressure you'll end up wearing through the paint. You only want to rub some of the top layer away. It also helps to apply multiple coats of paint to help give you a buffer between the sandpaper and the model.

  • Paint your model using different colors for different parts of the car. For example, you could paint your car with a dull brown or completely neutral color in points, much like a car that is being prepped for a new paint job would be. This will help give the car a tremendous amount of character, while also eliminating the need for causing actual damage to the model.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you're using inks on your model cars to weather them, remember to give the ink plenty of time to dry before you start adding additional details. Most inks will, if applied thinly, dry in a matter of minutes, but some take much longer. A good bet is to wait between 8 and 24 hours before moving on in an area recently inked.
  • Be aware that some techniques you could employ to weather your model cars are irreversible. Paint can be stripped or painted over, but if you choose to physically damage your model to produce rust or dents/dings, then know those changes can rarely be reversed. Don't attempt to weather a model unless you're sure it's how you want it to look.

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