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Post Shading 
With Pastel Chalks

by Russell M. Field





Giving a model a well-worn look is, for me, one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby. With subtle signs of use and age, a model can take on a stunning aura of realism, as many of the works here on Hyperscale demonstrate very well.

This article describes an alternative to both preshading and post shading with oil paints. While pre-and post shading can be used together, as can oils and pastels, I feel the scale I usually work in (1/72) lends itself best to a focus on one technique or another. Larger scales offer opportunities for more combination of techniques, and may require some adjustment for scale effect.





The primary effects achievable with chalk pastels are applied to areas rather than specific features or details. The nature of the material does not lend itself to draftsman's lines or small points. I group these effects into five major categories:


Equipment exposed to the elements, particularly sunshine, is subject to fading. It's typically greatest on the upper surfaces, and particularly on those exposed to the direct rays of the sun for the longest periods; this is why, for example, fuselage sides are often less faded than the spine and upper wing surfaces.


Using darker colors sparingly in places normally in shadow can enhance the effect; natural shadows on a scale model seldom approach the same depth and impact of their 1:1 counterparts.


Certain areas of a surface may be more protected than others, or may fade differently depending on a variety of factors. Applying a slightly darker color in such spots can enhance the impression of aging and wear; it can also be in some instances an alternative to fading.

Operational Grunge 

Dirt, oil and general grunge that is ground into a surface or that has settled into panel lines is often partially "liberated" by moisture. If enough "liberation" occurs, that grunge will flee its prison, travelling a route dictated by gravity and airflow.


Fluids, dust and dirt will, over time, stain the surface of a plane or vehicle. While precise streaks and drops are better achieved with other mediums, chalk pastels can be used to great effect in replicating stained areas and their feathered edges.


Keep in mind that grunge and stains have a kind of layered priority, like hydraulic fluid streaking over a dirt-stained surface or cordite residue over a faded and chipped leading edge. Proper sequencing will help keep your model looking more realistic.

Like anything, these effects can be overdone. Get a good idea what you want the finished product to reflect before you start. Especially in the smaller scales, it is unlikely that more than a couple of these categories will be appropriate. Enthusiastically applying all four to a 1/72 piece would very likely give it unrealistic contrasts and detract from an otherwise superb modeling effort.



Tools of the Trade


These are the tools I use to create the faded, operational effects with chalk pastels:



Clockwise from the top: small brushes, ultra-fine point black marker, scalpel, artist's blending stump and powdered chalk pastel mixtures.

Taking these in order, the brushes I use are fairly stiff, though not hard. I use them solely for pastel work, and pretty much just to deposit chalk dust on the surface in the area(s) I want most dense.

The ultra-fine point marker is used on a gloss surface (important note there; semi-gloss or flat will trap the ink more quickly and may cause problems) to highlight portions of panel lines. Note that I said PORTIONS, not an entire line. This gets the idea across without overemphasizing the fact that there's a line there; it creates more of an impression than a statement (if that makes any sense must be getting close to Cuervo time ). I I'll line about a quarter of an inch and IMMEDIATELY lick my thumb and run it across the line at a 90 degree angle to remove most of the ink before it sets up (how's THAT for a high-tech tool - a spittle-covered opposable digit?). Experiment with different brands of markers on "test units" before committing on your latest gem, because some marker brands become permanent more quickly than others and a sloppy line may not be easily corrected. This picture shows a model before shading/fading, but with panel lines lightly accented with the marker:



The scalpel is used to scrape fine powder from the pastel sticks. If the resulting dust is not fine enough, you may want to grind it some more with a scalpel handle or other pestle. IMPORTANT NOTE: you MUST use chalk pastels for best effect; oil-based pastels won't do the trick!

The blending stump is one of the most versatile and useful tools I have for final finishing. Made of compressed paper, it is soft enough that it won't mar surfaces but hard enough to blend and burnish. Like a brush, it can be used to drag colors out for a feathered edge or draw them together for a mixed interface. I like to use one for applying the pastels and dragging them out, and a cleaner one for feathering the edges. A used stump retains some of the pastel dust, and can be used for faint shading and touch-up without additional powder.

As for the pastels, you can get a wide variety of colors and use them either as is or mixed to match shades or tints you want to apply. Again, use CHALK, not oil pastels.



Shading Patterns


There are a few basic patterns you can use, depending on the area you're working on and the effect you want to achieve. You can apply them to individual panels or to general areas; in the latter case, you might have two or three areas covering several individual panels. Here are some ideas:



Again, which pattern(s) are appropriate will depend on what you're trying to represent or want to emphasize. If you want to depict a relatively clean plane that's been used but cared for, then the general fading patterns would be fine. If, however, your subject has been flying quick-turn-around sorties or has not been detailed in a while, the grunge patterns may be better.

Of course, you can mix and match as well, using darker chalk on the leading edge panel lines to simulate grunge flow and lighter shading on the trailing panel edge just to highlight the area. I think mixing like this is more effective on the larger scales; on 1/72 at least, it tends to make the unit look too busy for my eye.





After some experimentation, I find that I get the best results applying pastels to a dead flat finish. This means:

1) paint; 

2) gloss coat; 

3) decal; 

4) apply oil or watercolor wash (if you're going to wash); 

5) if you intend to line panels, do it now; 

6) flat coat; 

7) apply pastels: Fade Shadow Shade Staining and operational grunge 8) apply sealing coat if desired.



Pastel Sequence


Generally speaking, I like to fade the areas I'm highlighting before shading anything. This entails using very light chalk, either white - which is often too stark - or better yet, white mixed with a little chalk matching the base color(s). Special attention should be paid to the colors used and the amount applied when fading insignia and other decals.

Fading is followed with shadowing if that's part of your plan. I do very little shadowing in 1/72, either on planes or armor. I tend to simulate or deepen shadowy areas with an oil or watercolor wash instead.

Shading is the next step, to get the basic airframe looking weathered and perhaps to highlight certain areas. This is followed by operational grunge and staining, keeping in mind that some "grunges" will overlay others. For example, gunpowder stains will be on top of dirty panel lines even if they don't totally obscure the lines themselves.

When all the dust settles (so to speak), I like to seal it all with a light overcoat of clear flat. The pastels adhere well enough on the flat surface they're applied to that I've never had a problem washing them off with the overcoat. Applied to gloss or semi-gloss surfaces, the pastel coatings would be much more fragile and likely to rub or wash off when not intended.





This sequence illustrates the basic technique I use.


Step 1 - I dip a brush in powder and dribble it where I want the most concentration of color. If I'm fading the center of a panel, an insignia or a general area, I'll drop chalk in the middle; if I'm shading a corner or edge, I'll concentrate the powder there. (You can use the blending stump for this application, but I feel I get better control with the brush as I can always blow off any excess before I rub it in.)

Step 2 - Take a blending stump and lightly rub the loose chalk dust into the surface with a circular motion. Start with a small circle and then expand it just a little. Make sure that the stump you use is either clean or has been used with a similar color - that is, don't rub light fading chalk in with a stump that's been used for shading or shadowing, or you will likely not get the light appearance you're after. (You can use a cotton swab for this also, although they are not as firm as a stump; be sure that your swab has a fiber, NOT PLASTIC OR WOODEN stem, or you might mar the model's surface!)

For fading, you will usually continue to rub in larger and larger circles until you cover the area you want to fade. You will see that the fading effect is greater in the center, where the powder was dropped, and decreases as you go out from that point. This is the effect you want; just as no painted (or natural) surface is entirely uniform, neither is the fading brought about by age and exposure.

Step 3 - When shading, put the blending stump or swab tip where you "circle-rubbed" the powder and stroke it outward in the pattern you want to create. REMEMBER THE EFFECTS OF AIRFLOW AND GRAVITY on these patterns (see the list of considerations below). Use strokes that get lighter as they go, lifting completely off the surface at the end. This helps get the feathered effect and avoids clear demarcation between colors.

Step 4 (not illustrated) - Use a clean swab to blend the outer edges of the shading so that it becomes a gradually disappearing effect rather than a distinct area of color.

Operational grunge and stains are now added. All these techniques should be used in consideration of the following:

Gravity - Obviously, gravity will draw liquids like hydraulic fluid or rainwater toward the ground. Resultant streaks and stains should reflect this.

Taxi attitude - The angle at which a plane sits on the ground will determine the path that gravity will draw fluids along. For example, fuel spillage stains on tail draggers run at an angle to their longitudinal axis rather than perpendicular to it because of the inclined body angle (though fluids may follow a panel line for a distance). Tricycle geared planes, on the other hand, tend to carry their fuselages more parallel to the ground, resulting in a different fluid path down the sides.

Airflow patterns - Fluids that are wet or gases that are created during flight or engine run-up will be subjected to the pressure of airflow along the surfaces. Operational grunge and stains should reflect this when appropriate.

Exposure angle and degree - For example, the top spine of a plane tends to get more direct sunshine for longer periods than the fuselage sides. Therefore, it would naturally be more faded.

Material - Finally, remember that different paints (like insignia) and materials (like fabric) may fade or stain differently.



Sample Subject


Here's a 1/72 Me 109 I used this technique on (you knew I was gonna sneak one of my projects in here, didn't you?). The first pic shows the port side and spine faded and the starboard side untouched except for lining:



Here we contrast the faded starboard side with the port side, which has now also been shaded:



On the left is the upper surface before any fading or shading; compare that to the shot on the right, where all fading, shading and operational grunge has been applied:


And the shots belowcompare the underside before and after treatment. Note that fading is not an issue on the under surfaces:






Study lots of pictures, paintings and drawings to learn where your subject is prone to leaks, wear and staining. Then try post-shading with pastels to achieve some of these effects, and I think you will be pleased!

Article, Model and Images Copyright 2000 by Russell M. Field
Page Created 01 January, 2000
Last updated 26 July, 2007

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