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Painting a plastic model as if it was a wood model

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  • Member since
    January 2015
Painting a plastic model as if it was a wood model
Posted by rdiaz on Saturday, April 9, 2016 6:04 AM

I was thinking about this after looking at this amazing scratchbuilt model of the Victory.

Unpainted wood models have a special kind of beauty, which I personally love. Thus the idea of painting my Heller Victory in several shades of brown, then weathering it slightly to simulate unpainted wood, came to my mind. I know it almost makes no sense, as one should start with wood in the first place to get such a finish, but I'm just not good at handling that material. I was wondering what are your thoughts? 

 

Cheers!

  • Member since
    April 2016
  • From: Framingham (Boston) Mass.
Posted by Winter of 42 on Saturday, April 9, 2016 9:06 AM

First, that's quite a model. And modeler.

Re: your challenge: Hollywood does what you want. Almost any given movie-set wood-paneled room in a mansion is styrofoam + paint.

The thing is, Hollywood set builders don't have to simulate the depth of wood. You could get a perfectly realized surface color and it would still look plastic-y unless you could give it some visual depth.

Artist's oils will provide that depth because they refract light, but you'd have to plan out the use of opaque and transparent pigments, as well as build up layers with a variety of brush techniques. The first step would be underpainting in a thinned oil paint, so it flows and settles to a smooth surface. Then you'd begin building up layers with dry-brushing and a light touch.

As an artist, I can tell you that it takes some practice to mix colors, because you need both the hue (color) and the brightness (in the art world called "value"). It seems less of a problem when using acrylic craft paints, but most of those are opaque and you end up with (literally) a plastic surface, and it looks like plastic.

For colors, you need the summer grain and the winter grain for, say, walnut or pine. Emulating poplar would be easier, since it has a fairly even color. I myself would avoid the greenish heartwood poplar streaks. Very likely, burnt umber and mixing white could get you poplar colors. Mixing white is either zinc white & whiting (powdered limestone) or zinc white & titanium white. Titanium white by itself is far too opaque, and it's really a blue color. Lead white has great depth and warmness, but it's VERY toxic and very hard to obtain... if you decide on that route, wear surgical gloves, as lead can be absorbed through the skin.

Maybe the addition of some burnt sienna would emulate cherry or fruitwood-stained poplar.

Top it all off with a substantial coat of an artist's varnish, and you might have a model that would fool the eye. Krylon/Rustoleum clear coats won't be as depth-inducing as traditional artist's varnishes, such as damar (or, from Krylon, artificial damar they call Kamar) or even white shellac with just a touch of orange shellac mixed.

Good luck! It's all do-able... 

  • Member since
    June 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Saturday, April 9, 2016 9:20 AM

Here's a hint;

      On some of OTAKI'S models I wanted the same .I use 320 and 400 wet or dry ( wet )sandpaper  to establish grain .Then painted the model the right general colors in stainable paints . After you get the grain enhanced with color and then get a generally smooth surface with a few dinglings ( grain and bumps between planks ).

   You can then do any style you want from glass smooth to grainy and rotten ! Just remember don't over do the graining  .At 1/200 you won't really see much , and you should keep this in mind .Except for color, the grain and texture would be minimal .    Tanker - Builder

  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Saturday, April 9, 2016 9:24 AM

Is that for your 1:256 scale kit?  If so, at that scale you would not see the grain, so all you need to do is reproduce the colors, which simplifies the problem.  I have simulated oak by using a low saturation tan with an orange-yellow wash afterwards.  Maybe just adding some yellow and orange to a tan would be easier.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    January 2015
Posted by rdiaz on Saturday, April 9, 2016 9:46 AM

Don, it's for the 1/100 Heller kit, the 1/256 got ruined unfortunately, and I will have to start that one over from another kit.

So maybe it's doable after all... quite a challenge, but one worth going after. Thanks a millon for the suggestions! I will assort myself with artist oils and do some tests on scrap plastic. Hope I can come up with something decent!

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, April 9, 2016 12:28 PM

Hi, here's my opinion.

It is entirely "not doable" for the given subject.

That is a huge and valuable model that typical takes about 5-10 years to finish, if you ever do. To try out a new idea on something like that is so ambitious as to have a huge, well, risk of failure.

If I were to contemplate that kind of thing, I'd start with something like the Revell BHR or the Revell Vasa. No harm no foul if things go wrong. And the originals had a lot of exposed wood.

Or the viking ship.

As for the Victory, there is a lot of opportunity to use real wood on it, which would in turn make the painted wood look off. I'm thinking about planking my weather deck and quarter deck with strip wood. Something I practiced on with my America, It came out well, I learned a lot, and look forward to moving ahead on Victory again sometime soon.

 Roberto, if you haven't already, check out the Pete Coleman site. I think it is probably the most valuable source of information I've found for the modeler for this ship.

http://pete-coleman.com/forum/

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    January 2015
Posted by rdiaz on Saturday, April 9, 2016 1:06 PM

You do have a point. I was planning not to use any wood anyways, but it's certainly not an easy task, and prone to go wrong.

 

What I might do to experiment on this is getting one of the smaller ships of the line from Heller. For me the most beautiful unpainted wood models are ships of the line, there's something special about them, and that's why I was thinking of the Victory. It's not the first time I try to simulate wood on plastic (the Revell Santa Maria was), but that is quite different.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Saturday, April 9, 2016 4:35 PM

I think GM is thoroughly jaded when it comes to the Heller Victory. It is, indeed, a challenging and (at least by my definition) expensive kit, but if one worked on it steadily I don't think it would take five to ten years. The vast majority of Heller Victory kits never get finished, but that's because people either give up on them or get distracted by other projects.

For examples of how effective the "natural wood look" can be on plastic sailing ship kits, take a look at the work of two Forum members who have really mastered the techniques: Docidle and David K.

I do agree that the Heller Victory is not a good choice to try out - well, anything. But there are other options. For instance, the Revell Wasa was mentioned. (The Airfix one would be an equally good choice - some might say better.) A model of her finished in natural wood tones would be not only attractive but authentic. Recent research has established that, with the exceptions of the numerous carvings and some relatively small red areas, that ship wasn't painted.

Airfix used to make another kit that would be a great candidate: HMS Prince. The old dockyard model of the Prince has a white bottom and black upper works, but a "bare wood" version would be spectacular. Unfortunately the kit is almost impossible to find.

Rdiaz, the loss of your beautiful Revell Victory is a real tragedy - especially after that fire in your kitchen. I was really looking forward to seeing that model finished. thank goodness you at least have some good pictures of it.

If you want to go the Victory route again, you might want to look at the Airfix kit - which is slightly larger and much easier to find. My biggest beef with it is that, like the Airfix Wasa, its gunports below the upper deck are represented by recessed squares. It almost demands to have the gunport lids shut - but there's nothing particularly wrong with that approach. Longridge's famous 1/48 model has all those ports closed.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    January 2015
Posted by rdiaz on Saturday, April 9, 2016 5:47 PM

Thanks a lot, jtilley. Funny that you say that, because I was in fact considering leaving all gun ports closed on my Victory - my idea was not to represent the ship in the middle of a battle, and I don't think ports would be open, guns sticking out, in a different situation. I already had assembled and painted 40% of the guns, but oh well...

 

The Vasa is an excellent model indeed, which I want to make in the future, but there's just something about 18-19th century ships of the line (or frigates) that makes them so nice as unpainted wood models to me... can't help it! If I don't have the guts to try it with the Victory, I might get the Glorieux.

 

Here's a pic of my first attempt to simulate wood with oil washes. It's the Revell Santa Maria, which was actually my first ship model ever. It was finished 2 years ago, with quite a few issues, specially in the rigging Stick out tongue

 

  • Member since
    June 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Sunday, April 10, 2016 8:22 AM

Well;

 Why are you worried ? I would say you have a decent start on doing just what you desire .Perfecting technique is all I see that's needed here ! Go for it !

  • Member since
    June 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Sunday, April 10, 2016 8:35 AM

Hi " G " ;

      You have hit on something I have done before .I have tubes of very thin wood veneer I use to overlay my handcarved Basswood hulls .Now I have tried it on the old SubChaser kit with good results .

     The Basswood is nice , But, as you know, it would be a very intense move to carve planking in the boat .So--Overlay them with the right kind of wood . Besides , when I go for the ,as I call it ( Forties Gloss ) you can't beat real mahogany under miles deep coats of sanded and polished clear .

     Now, for say, the Victory, I would use my oak veneer and then seal it with clear flat .That way , I could Buff certain areas for a slight shine . Many wood ships do have a surface shine from some viewing angle ,even though they may be dead flat !

   Sunshine and light can play tricks on these Mk.-1- fleshy optical instruments ( eyes ), You are probably very aware of that ! I seem to remember a first rate in a museum somewhere, tha thad a semi-gloss look to it and it was in overlay of Red Oak and Mahogany .       Tanker - Builder

  • Member since
    January 2015
Posted by rdiaz on Sunday, April 10, 2016 10:12 AM

I should have mentioned that my goal is not really building a model that looks like an unpainted real ship (like the Vasa, or the Santa Maria, for example) but rather, make the plastic model look like a wood model. I think the finish would need to be rather different. It shouldn't really be weathered, just enough to make it look like wood and not plastic, but it would need to look like "clean" wood.

  • Member since
    December 2003
  • From: 37deg 40.13' N 95deg 29.10'W
Posted by scottrc on Sunday, April 10, 2016 11:09 AM

rdiaz

Thanks a lot, jtilley. Funny that you say that, because I was in fact considering leaving all gun ports closed on my Victory - my idea was not to represent the ship in the middle of a battle, and I don't think ports would be open, guns sticking out, in a different situation. I already had assembled and painted 40% of the guns, but oh well...

 

The Vasa is an excellent model indeed, which I want to make in the future, but there's just something about 18-19th century ships of the line (or frigates) that makes them so nice as unpainted wood models to me... can't help it! If I don't have the guts to try it with the Victory, I might get the Glorieux.

 

Here's a pic of my first attempt to simulate wood with oil washes. It's the Revell Santa Maria, which was actually my first ship model ever. It was finished 2 years ago, with quite a few issues, specially in the rigging Stick out tongue

 

 

 Judging by your work here, I would say you have a great grasp of the concept.  Now, like Winter of 42 wrote, you want to practice how to balance the color values. Before diving into the main subject of your Victory, collect some old, small, inexpensive models, don't have to even build them, just paint on the hulls and decks and start practicing until you get a folrmula and technique you really like.  Keep a notebook on what you use, what worked, and what did not work.  This is where art meets the building in ship modeling.  

  • Member since
    April 2016
Posted by Staale S on Thursday, April 14, 2016 7:27 AM

rdiaz

Thanks a lot, jtilley. Funny that you say that, because I was in fact considering leaving all gun ports closed on my Victory - my idea was not to represent the ship in the middle of a battle, and I don't think ports would be open, guns sticking out, in a different situation. I already had assembled and painted 40% of the guns, but oh well...

 

Actually, it would not be so very strange to open gun-ports and run out the guns outside battle. Opening the gun-ports would let in sorely-needed light and air to the gun-decks. Running out the guns would A) free a lot of space on deck and B) tend to steady the roll of the ship as a substantial weight would be shifted away from the centerline, increasing inertia. Besides there would always be a market for gun-drills or even live firing for practice, both of which would of course require the guns to be run out.

On the upper gun deck of the Victory, or pretty much any ship of the line of that era, there are no gun-ports at all - a weight- and cost-saving measure - which leaves the point moot, all guns would have been run out at all times in principle, the port opening being closed with separate half-lids fitted around the run-out gun barrel at need. Opening the lower-deck ports could be an issue if there was much of a sea going, in really bad weather this would apply to the middle deck ports as well. But there are many pictures of ships in non-battle conditions with all guns run out.

 

  • Member since
    December 2013
Posted by chango on Thursday, April 14, 2016 11:20 AM

rdiaz

I should have mentioned that my goal is not really building a model that looks like an unpainted real ship (like the Vasa, or the Santa Maria, for example) but rather, make the plastic model look like a wood model. I think the finish would need to be rather different. It shouldn't really be weathered, just enough to make it look like wood and not plastic, but it would need to look like "clean" wood.

Real wood is out of scale anyway; If you truly want to be accurate, you should sand/putty out the fake wood grain. If you want a plastic model to look like a wooden model, you would do likewise and then do (small and light) faux wood grain in full scale. Maybe look into faux wood grain techniques for furniture or get wood samples as examples?

Another problem is the nature of the plastic on these old kits;  sharpening rounded corners and replacing poorly molded details would go a long way towards making a plastic kit look more "high end".

 

 

  • Member since
    December 2013
Posted by chango on Thursday, April 14, 2016 11:24 AM

^ I think that's how the Mary Rose went under... just like today, people thought warships with with the guns run out looked cool and bad-ass and the Mary Rose was showing off for Henry VIII, who was watching on the shore.  She made too tight a turn, dipping the open lower gun ports below the water on one side and flooding the ship. Oops. Embarrassed

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Thursday, April 14, 2016 11:50 AM

Ships rarely if ever have gun port lids on the weather decks for the very simple reason that there would be no place to tie off the lift ropes, and the advantage of weather tightness would be relatively little since the deck was open to the elements anyways.

Ships definitely made use of lids on the decks closer to the water line to keep out the sea. And it's not turns that get you, it's the big waves in a storm.

I'd don't know what the guns run out would get you in terms of stability. Ships roll, that's what they do, usually in head-on or following seas. I could see where that would impede the rate of recovery in an "event", and slow down the rate of roll. That's not always desirable, except on passenger ships.

Running out the guns does not make them more ready to fire, rather much less so as they need to be run in to be loaded. And they'll not sail around with loaded guns.

I haven't heard of the Victory ever having split gun ports, either hinged up-down or hinged- buckled. That is an 1812 and on invention, as far as I know.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    January 2015
Posted by rdiaz on Thursday, April 14, 2016 12:07 PM
I'm finally painting the Victory in her true colors and leaving the wooden model experiment for other kits - but definately want to do it. As for the guns, since I'll probably leave the sails off or furled (as if the ship was in port) I wonder if guns would be run out in that case. Maybe guns would be run in but lids kept open?
  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Thursday, April 14, 2016 12:20 PM

I think the bigger issue is what looks best to you. You can certainly run them out and skip the tackle except up top where visible. I also would have no idea if the kit ports fit closed (I'll bet they don't) and what that all would involve to make them do so.

One consideration is what to do in the great cabins, whether to install the checkered tarp floor and the partitions, or the guns.

 

Again- can't beat Pete Coleman.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.

 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Thursday, April 14, 2016 1:39 PM

chango

 

 

 

 

 Real wood is out of scale anyway; If you truly want to be accurate, you should sand/putty out the fake wood grain. If you want a plastic model to look like a wooden model, you would do likewise and then do (small and light) faux wood grain in full scale. Maybe look into faux wood grain techniques for furniture or get wood samples as examples.

        Another problem is the nature of the plastic on these old kits;  sharpening             rounded corners and replacing poorly molded details would go a long way towards making a plastic kit look more "high end".

 

 

 

The question of making real wood look like scale (i.e., miniaturized) wood is an interesting one. Among veteran ship modelers there's pretty widespread agreement that woods like pine, mahogany, teak, and oak are lousy for modeling because the grain looks so far out of scale. (If a 1/192 sailor tried to walk across a full-sized piece of oak he'd trip over the grain.) Balsa is worse. Basswood is a lot better. But as modelers get more experienced they gravitate toward really hard woods with extremely tight grain, like boxwood, pearwood, and holly. Boxwood's grain is virtually invisible. Ditto pearwood, though it's darker in color. One of the favorite woods is holly. It has an almost invisible grain that, when treated with just a little stain, pops out and really looks like miniaturized wood.

There are three problems with those woods: they're hard to find, they're relatively expensive, and they're only available in a limited range of sizes. If you want to build a boxwood model from scratch, you really need to have a table saw (preferably a little one, like the Byrnes Table Saw or the Microlux Tilting Arbor Table saw. Those tools aren't cheap.

Here's a recently established company that sells nice hardwoods and caters to ship modelers: http://www.crowntimberyard.com . I haven't had occasion to order anything from this gentleman yet, but his website is impressive.

Regarding old kits - the age of the kit can be a double-edged sword. If you buy a recent boxing of an old kit there is indeed a fair chance that you'll find some effects of mold aging. (I've got an old Revell HMS Victory that I bought in the early eighties - when the molds were about twenty years old. One half of the hull is fine; they other has blobby steps leading to the entry port.) If, on the other hand, you get your hands on a kit that was actually introduced and molded in the sixties or seventies, there's a good chance that the styrene will be of a higher quality than the company is producing nowadays. I got sent a Heller Victory for review when it was brand new, in the late seventies. The plastic was of excellent quality. Recent purchasers of the kit have complained of warped parts and rubbery plastic.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    April 2016
Posted by Staale S on Thursday, April 14, 2016 11:57 PM

GMorrison

I haven't heard of the Victory ever having split gun ports, either hinged up-down or hinged- buckled. That is an 1812 and on invention, as far as I know.

For some notes on the impact of run-out guns on roll period, see Harland, Seamanship in the age of sail, p 47.
 
I was perhaps being unclear about the half-lids. I was referring to panels of wood, one upper half and one lower, each with a cutout so that they would fit around the gun barrel. At need, these panels could be inserted into the gunport to close it to keep the weather out. They were not hinged in any way and were not permanent fixtures, they were something a ship's carpenter could make easily at need if he had the materials. In some cases they would use glazed panels instead of massive wood, in officer's cabins for example, to let in light. They are usually not represented on models and would not have been used in the waist gunports because, as you say, those guns were open to the elements anyway.
 
Permanent side-opening, hinged half-lids were certainly used in the Restoration-era Royal Navy, the Navy Board model of HMS Prince, 100 guns, 1670, shows them for example. They were used for the gunports over the chainplates where there was no room for a proper top-hinged lid. Some years later they moved the chainplates one deck up and stopped putting lids on the upper gun-deck ports so the need for such half-ports went away. You generally don't see them on eighteenth century ships. Then they reappear in the nineteenth but in an top-and-bottom opening variant.
 
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