Obligatory "tools 'o da trade" photo to illustrate my credentials as a buyer of art supplies. It doesn't mean that I know how to use 'em.
10/16/13- When I first saw this Jagdtiger on eBay, its finish was one of the main things that made the sale (the other was that it was a Jagdtiger). I really liked the unusual coloration and the crude, irregular zimmerit. It looked unlike any other I'd seen, which hints that it wasn't intended to be an accurate historical rendition of an actual WWII Jagdtiger. That wasn't a problem for me: I'm not a rivet counter and I'm not doing this to relive my WWII glory days as a Jagdtiger commander (I'm old, but I'm not that old!). It's even shallower than that: I like variety, so each of my tanks has a different paint scheme (so far I've avoided painting any of 'em with the fearsome polka dot bikini camo pattern).
As I work on a project, I'm exposed to information that nudges me towards a deeper awareness of historical accuracy. Although I'm far from a rivet counter, I feel obligated to keep one foot in the real world of plausible tankery. For example, I wouldn't want a Jagdtiger finished in carbon fiber, or with fancy neon lighting, no matter how cool it looked. I would prefer that my Jagdtiger have accurate scale dimensions; I just don't value that enough to do the hard work. With setting the bar that low, I think it's okay to consider things for which there is no historical documentation or evidence, but which were possible and could have actually happened. For example, headlights on an Elefant are cool, even if they were removed during conversion of the Ferdinands. For me, it's easy to imagine someone saying, "Screw it. I'm putting 'em back on." Even easier for me to say, "Screw it. This is my RC tank and I like fun features!"
As I learned more about the Jagdtiger, I learned that only the first 11 with Porsche suspension (8 wheels per side vs. 9) wore zimmerit. Mine has zimmerit, but it has 9 wheels! Omigosh! I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about this historical truism, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. I simply don't care that much. After all, a Jagdtiger crew could have done a field zimmerit job (before being ordered to take it off). Besides, I can't delude myself: The Matorro Jagdtiger's dimensional inaccuracies make this a "fun" tank and not an accurate replica. That's liberating (or sour grapes, depending on how you want to look at it).
Paint Matching: I don't know if it's generally easier to touch-up someone else's paint job or to strip it and do the whole thing yourself. My goal was to preserve as much of the original paint job as possible. In order to do that, I needed to match the colors. it was easy enough to ask the artist what paint was used, but while artists can name a brand and colors, the colors you see are probably the result of different paints overlaid at different densities, and custom color mixes. In other words, colors that you can't buy in a bottle. The artist had used Mr. Color paints, but getting the exact same dark yellow he used wasn't any help: That pure color wasn't in evidence anywhere on the tank. The greenish/khaki-ish color is the result of spraying/blending with a darker color-- I guesstimate at least two mixes. The final color was more a result of technique than the specific bottles of paint.
That meant that there was no secret paint I could buy that would do the job and I'd need to develop a plan to approximate what the artist had done. I figured that I'd need a light base color and a darker overspray paint for airbrushing and brush painting. For the basic color, I found something fairly close in Testor's SAC Bomber Tan spray. By itself, it's not an exact match for anything on the original tank, but it's good for spraying larger areas to get them in the ballpark. It becomes a closer match when it's misted with the darker color.
For the darker color, I mixed up an airbrush batch of Vallejo's usual suspects: Khaki, Dark Yellow, German Cam Pale Brown, German Cam Med Brown, Grey Green, German Grey and Neutral Gray (I think!). It's sort of a "kitchen sink" color that got nudged darker or slightly redish-brown depending on inspiration. This base mix turned out to be good for spot brush painting touch-up, and when adding new details.
The side skirts were a virginal add-on part and were the first test of the color-matching plan. Since they were such a large addition, a poor color match would make them stand out as add-ons. Fortunately, the plan seemed to work, so I had the confidence to attempt mods that I knew would trash the original finish, like the hatches.
Weathering: I bought Michael Rinaldi's excellent "Tank Art 1" book to learn new techniques and update my antiquated weathering routine, which consisted mainly of washes, dry-brushing, and shaved pastel chalk (modulation? filters? wuzzat?). I was blown away by all the new painting and weathering products out there, and the results could be pretty spectacular if you knew what you were doing. That in itself is an obstacle, but there's another obstacle to getting onboard: $$$$ You could spend a small fortune buying the MIG and AK Interactive products, even assuming that you knew which ones would be most useful. (Naturally, it would be best to have all of 'em, just to have on hand for any situation.)
The techniques in the book were intriguing and while it was tempting to try them, I wanted predictable results instead of using this project as a test bed for new techniques. Safe and boring, but doing what you know often gets you closer to what you want than doing what you don't!
I'm just an amateur at this, but I felt that I'd already done whatever filters and modulation were supposed to do: There weren't any solid expanses of a single color, and there were lots of shade variations throughout the tank. I'd used the airbrush and the darker color to emphasize shadows and done spot washes of lighter and darker shades. To my eye, these made the tank look more "used" and less toy-like.
The concept of painting chips, wear, and rust was fairly new to me four years ago; I became aware of, but never tried the newer salt or hairspray techniques that yield more realistic results. I'm still not bold enough to try them, mainly because they require advance planning, preparation, and a sequence of steps-- I'm more inclined to wing it as I go along, deciding what I want to do as I go along. In this case, I played with dust and dirt effects before chipping because dust and dirt was a new (ergo, more interesting) technique for me and I wasn't ready to tackle the tedium of painting bunches of tiny chip marks. At any rate, the sequence wasn't critical: In real life, both weathering events are ongoing and logically it really doesn't matter that there aren't any chipped areas under the dirt accumulations because you wouldn't be able to see them!
Dust and Dirt: Dirt and dust weathering was done with dry pigments and powders. For the most part, the dirt accumulations were done by brushing on an old powdered dust product for model railroading (called "Dust"). When brushed onto thinned matte medium (as a fixative), it tended to clump, making bigger dirt clods. When sprinkled on the liquid, it made the dirt effect and when brushed onto dry surfaces, it made the finer dust effect. The dust (and pigments) helped tone down the Balkan Cross decals so that they blended better with the finish.
Pigments: I bought a set of Bragdon Enterprise's (poor man's?) pigments as an alternative to the pastels that I would have normally used. Pigments are touted as having a finer grind, richer color, and are mixed with a dry adhesive that makes them stick better than pastels. I don't dispute any of those claims but the result is very similar to what you'd get with shaved pastels. The Bragdon pigments are much cheaper than MIG's and AK Interactive's. Even though I bought a bottle of AK's Earth pigment,I can't say that the price difference equates to a noticeable quality difference. For that matter, I haven't done any extensive testing to definitively say that they're that much better than shaving pastel chalks. (The pricing makes me believe it is, but that's a psychological effect.)
Regardless, whether it's pastel chalks or pigments, the technique is extremely versatile and super easy to use in an ad-hoc way: I used them to do streaks, bring out details, and add large-ish areas of color variation. They came in handy for doing the rusty tailpipes. The effect can be very similar to using an airbrush since they blend onto painted areas with graduated density. Different colors can be blended more smoothly and easily than using wet paints, and you don't have to worry about hard edges, drying time, or color shifts. The downside is that they don't adhere as well as paints, despite the dry adhesive additive. However, on a textured matte surface, it sticks very well and can be difficult to get the stuff off. However, topcoating them with a spray like Dullcote tends to make light-colored dusts disappear, although to a lesser extent than pastel chalks.
Gourmet Products: The Bragdon pigments and dust I'd used were developed for the model railroading hobby and have been around a long time. The MIG and AK Interactive stuff is relatively new, mainly targeting the military/armor niche and are marketed as tools used to achieve the effects of the spectacularly talented artist, Miguel Jimenez. (For whatever it's worth, Mig Jimenez has recently severed his association with AK Interactive, so who knows what new companies will emerge?) Consequently, they have a "gourmet" cachet, with a matching price tag. They're high-quality goods, but in many cases simply a refinement of techniques originally achieved by the creative re-purposing of common products, like pigments = shaved pastel chalks. Similarly, chipping products achieve the same basic effect as using the hairspray technique. Hobbyists have been doing this kind of stuff for a long time and have achieved very impressive results, so it's more about talent than spending money (something that I have to keep telling myself). Proof? I can use the latest top-shelf stuff and still get crappy results!
Chips and Rust Painting chips, scratches, and rust is tedious, but is an interactive, straight-forward way to work: You add it where you think it's needed, no advance planning is necessary. The results are almost immediate and it's extremely gratifying when it looks realistic. At any rate, I'd decided to make this tank newish but slightly dirty, so there wouldn't be extensive chipping and rust. That seemed to fit with its relatively unblemished and intact skirts.
For a more heavily-worn look, I think the hairspray technique would be more practical and a time-saver (basically, you paint the basecoat, put a couple layers of hairspray where you want chipping, topcoat it, and scrape/chip away the topcoat by the application of water which softens the hairspray underneath). Of course, this probably isn't as easy as it sounds, and probably takes practice and experience to get good results!
For the less-adventurous, painting seems to work well, even if it doesn't replicate the actual mechanics of chipping wear. First, a series of random chip marks are painted in the color of the basecoat (usually lighter than the topcoat) replicating a light scrape, then a darker mix is painted within it replicating the deeper scratch/chip down to the metal. I used a palette mix of licorice and rust for this, adding additional rust or gray if it looked too black. In raised areas to replicate shiny metal, I go over it with a pencil (graphite = shiny). It's relatively easy to do, and I'm always surprised at how much better it looks when the paint's dried than it does while you're doing it.
Obviously, this doesn't replicate the way wear actually happens since it's added on top of the painted surface. This would be apparent under extreme magnification since actual chipping produces edges around the depression from the missing paint. This is why the hairspray technique is a superior way to achieve realistic, in-scale chipping.
Practically speaking, this probably isn't going to matter to most folks unless examined under magnification. From a typical viewing distance, most of this type of detailing isn't apparent in a lightly-worn treatment anyway. I think such attention to detail contributes to the overall look in a subtle way, but at a typical viewing distance you're more likely to notice larger, more obvious things like streaking, shading, and dirt accumulations.
I mention this mainly because I think my close-up shots are a little misleading, a manifestation of "building for the camera". I notice the obvious stuff and the overall look; I barely notice all the little scrapes and chips. I think it's generally true of the way weathering is documented in close-up photos, and the impression that it creates. My reaction to seeing a small section of weathering in close-up is usually, "Wow! That looks cool!" However, at actual size it's not quite as impressive because it tends to get lost in the bigger picture. I liken it to microphotography that's used to illustrate how beautiful insect eyes are. Cool in photos, but I don't want a collection of insect heads: At actual size they ain't so cool!
RC Tanks and Superdetailing: Long before there were RC tanks, there were static model kits of tanks. In the military modeling hobby, a popular goal is to make the most realistic representation possible, often including delicate photo-etched parts and highly-detailed display backgrounds drawing upon techniques commonly used in model railroading. RC tanks added the dimensions of movement and radio control, so the focus was not solely upon display, but also play. The evolutionary roots are still there in the goal of making a realistic representation, but compromises have to be made to accommodate the "play" feature. For example, there's a limit to how much mud you can slather on and still have wheels and sprockets turn.
As a practical matter, if you run your tank outdoors, it will probably get paint scrapes down to the bare plastic. Although this is an authentic weathering event, it does tend to spoil the effect of carefully-applied artificial weathering.
The degree to which you superdetail with delicate parts should also be a consideration with RC tanks since play involves much more handling than display. It's harder to find a tiny part that's been knocked off outdoors than it is to find one indoors in the vicinity of where a model's displayed. While model glue and press-fitting is usually fine for display, play often requires screw-attached parts in high-risk areas, or adhesives like contact cement that stand up well to shear forces. I've lost a few parts to the great outdoors because I didn't consider that a jack might be bumped and snapped off while traversing rocky terrain, or that it was better to have a part retained by a rubbery adhesive remnant than to have lost one that was formerly retained by a rigid adhesive. It happens, and you make adjustments so it doesn't happen again.
As the photos show, there are a number of obvious detailing options that I've left untouched, such as the towing cables and tool clamps. Some of it is because I don't have the parts and am not in a hurry to spend on the parts (gotta leave stuff to do for later). Some of it is because I've done it before (on my Panther) and feel that it really doesn't add that much to the overall look versus its detriment to play value: It doesn't improve the appearance by the magnitude of difference between weathering and not weathering. Still, it's the nature of the tinkerer to not want to let go of a project, so there's always some bit of detailing that can be done. I think there's a subconscious desire to ultimately turn it into a delicate shelf queen that's too perfect to risk running outdoors.
The Rear Idler Wheel Kludge:
This topic has been with the article ad nauseum since the first page, so I thought some closure was in order. As I've said, I'm too lazy to fix the hull length problem the right way, my rationalization being that if I wanted accuracy, I'd then need to fix the hull slope and the front deck height. The idler wheel gap is the most obvious indicator of the inaccuracy (IMO). Originally, I was okay with the Heng Long hull's tiny gap. Mid-way through, I replaced it with a Torro lower hull.
The Torro lower hull has stiffer suspension and rides higher than the Heng Long hull, which made the idler wheel overlap the last road wheel. For some reason, that really bugged me (while the length of the superstructure doesn't). Adding a pair of track links allowed the rearward adjustment of the idler arm to give a small gap. While this doesn't fix the dimensional inaccuracies of the Matorro Jagdtiger, it's a kludge to help it appear to be a little more accurate,the lazy man's way.
RC TANK INDEX