Monday, March 24, 2014

Resolutions and hairspray

I admit it: I used to use hairspray. Back when I was as handsome as Tom Cruise and the ladies would swoon when I'd walk into a room carry the latest Monogram release under my muscular arms. Those were the days!

I have a different relationship with hairspray these days. I don't need it for my hair as much as I do for my models. Unless you've been living under a rock or been overly preoccupied with The Simpsons, you're at least vaguely familiar with the use of hairspray in scale modeling. In case you're not, it's a technique that allows you to create extremely realistic paint wear and chipping. Here's an example, a 1/48 Hs-129 by Bob Windus seen at last year's IPMS Nats.

 The general process looks something like this.

1. Apply color #1.
2. Apply hairspray.
3. Apply color #2.
4. Use a pointed tool or brush to removed color #2, allowing color #1 to show underneath.

Mig Jimenez has a very nice tutorial on his blog, and if you can find your way to Google and can type on a keyboard, a quick search will turn up dozens of other articles and SBS's where the technique is shown. There are even some very helpful videos on YouTube. The ultimate FAQ, in my humble opinion, is found on this thread on the Mig Productions forum.

I'm talking about the hairspray technique because, as you may recall, one of my New Years resolutions for you (and me) was to experiment. I've wanted to try this technique for a long time but have been afraid of failing -- because, you know, if you screw up a model your life has no value, right? So I found an inexpensive Hobby Boss 1/72 MiG-3 (which is quite a gem, by the way), purchased a bottle of AK Interactive's Worn Effects Acrylic Fluid (i.e., hairspray), and said a prayer to every god I could think of, including Tengri, the primary deity of the the Xiongnu, Hunnic, Bulgar, and Xianbei peoples.

I won't go into great detail about the process I used on the MiG, other than to say I used Tamiya paints exclusively, with a typical application of Future before and after applying the decals...and before the application of the chipping fluid and white paint. I'm pleased with the results, but I'll offer the three reactions I had to my efforts.

First, the paint didn't come off as easily as I had expected, even though I started working it within 10 minutes of applying the chipping fluid. Maybe it's my choice of Tamiya, which is a surprisingly durable paint. Next time I'll try Polly-S.

Second, it's very easy to chip or rub through the paint right down to the bare plastic. I did so on one or two areas, though it's not obvious given the color of the airframe. This may be the result of my using Tamiya, but in general I'd suggest proceeding carefully.

Third, the results are somewhat random. I guess this is a good thing, but as an "artist," I like having much more control of the final effects that I have envisioned. Some spots on the MiG are over-worn and others under-worn, at least to my eye.

Overall I'm very happy with the model. I think it turned out quite well for my first attempt at a new technique, and I'm eager to try it again. I hope you're experiementing as we move further into 2014. I'd love to hear what you're doing!

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