Whether to Weather?

Tough question.  If there is a trend in the hobby related to finishing models, I’d say we are definitely in the weathering era.  We are way past basic drybrushing, oil pin washes and pastel powders on our models.  There has never been a time when so many purpose designed weathering products have been available.  Moreover and perhaps more importantly, the ability to understand how to apply this products is incredibly easy.  My friend Panzermeister36 has plenty of videos explaining his techniques and how to use many different products.  And his results are amazing.

I’ve also observed a general change in attitude towards “weathering”:  It seems to me the prevailing view among scale modelers is that all models MUST be weathered.  Or, without weathering, the model is somehow “incomplete” or lacking.  I don’t agree with this view, and there are a few reasons why.

There is Good Weathering and there is Bad Weathering

Someday I will do a write up about bad dioramas but for now, I am talking “bad” weathering.  A few years ago I responded to an ad where a local model builder was selling off a significant chunk of his stash.  The modeler was a very kind guy and let me check out the kits in his workshop.  Once we agreed on a price I asked if I could take a look at his models.  Each one of his tanks was heavily weathered as were his airplanes.  Actually, the tanks were so weathered they were indistinguishable from one another.  Frankly, they just looked like dirty models.

Doing a crappy weathering job on a model is very easy to do.  Weathering a model well is incredibly hard and requires a lot of practice and patience.  I’d also venture to say that when starting out, you must be prepared to sacrifice more than a couple models as you build your skills.  Because, if overdone, it looks overdone and if done ‘incorrectly’, it just looks dirty.

What about aircraft?

I won’t go into the “realism debate” that seems to get rehashed every few months around the internets.  I am simply talking about interesting looking models and I am still trying to figure out if I like weathered airplanes enough to start my journey into the weathering wonderland.   Right now my simple highlighting of panel lines and/or fading paint is enough ‘weathering’ but these days some would say that isn’t weathering at all.

I also go to a lot of aviation related museums and inevitably these contain what I call “museum” models.  Typically larger scale, typically scratch built but almost universally finished to a supreme level of perfection with no weathering at all.  And just like weathering a model correctly is incredibly hard, finishing a model airplane to museum display standards is also incredibly hard as it too requires practice and patience.

Here is a good example of that style:

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Not mine and I can’t remember where I found this picture.

Getting back to the “bad weathering” idea from up above – for an aircraft model, anything short of weathered perfection absolutely looks like crap to me.  And I am not keen on having shelves displaying crap.  Like I said above, my approach has been “reluctant and timid weathering” which has generally been some form of pre or post shading, panel line washes (usually applied inconsistently), “rusting” exhausts and fading markings.  Definitely not heavily weathered and some would even say not even weathered at all.

A quick search of the internet will turn up a pile of perfectly weathered models.  Here are some good examples that I saw at Nationals in Phoenix as well as one at ROCON in 2018:

If I could do weathering to these levels, I would definitely do it.  There are a lot of products, magazine articles and youtube tutorials to guide me.  What is holding me back?  Currently my output is about 4-6 models per year if I have a good year.  My fear is that I will do a lot less as I wreck a few models on my way to weathered perfection.  One trick is to do multiples of the same model so that at least I get the benefit of a few attempts and improve my skills.  I have enough Tamiya Corsairs to pursue this strategy!

Hey, I like it both ways

The idea that an unweathered model being “incomplete” is completely absurd.  The thing of it is – I really like both: A museum model is just as visually pleasing to me as one that has been weathered to perfection.  I really can’t just choose one.  On my own skills spectrum I am much closer to getting museum perfection than I am to weathered greatness – but you know something?  I will try it.  Yes, I might wreck a few finishes along the way and waste a lot of weathering product, but its the process right?

I’d like to hear some thoughts about this weathering era we find ourselves in.  Do you like a specific “style” of model?  Have you tried either the museum perfection stream or the weathered greatness stream?  Do great products lead to great finishes? What works and doesn’t work for you?

10 thoughts on “Whether to Weather?

  1. Interesting article, (I got the article link from FB), even if it is about planes, I make armour myself. I do do some basic weathering, applying mud etc to the vehicles I make, but I try to bear in mind that everything was new at some point, so dont slather it over everything and try to keep it in line the the terrain,
    if I’m basing it. With planes, and maybe more so with jets then prop jobs, surely keeping the airframe reasonably clean is a must; you wouldn’t want crud gumming up something important! FOBs excepted i guess. Weathering on planes is, of course a different matter, I’m talking about gobs of mud, unless its a wreck.

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    1. It would be very fact specific, I think. I can see paint fading, chipping in well worn spots and the accumulation of grime in some panel lines, etc. There might be a bit of dust and mud on the undercarriage. But yeah – ground crews did try to keep the fuselages and the wings as clean as possible as it does not take much to affect performance or even lift.

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  2. Being a modeler of various genres, automotive, aircraft and armor, I have been reluctant to weather anything much beyond the basics. For myself, car models in general are finished to a show room or show car level, mainly because I like hotrods. My tractor-trailer kits on the rare occasion have received some minor weathering but never beyond fading of the kit supplied tires to a more realistic gray shade, light chassis dust and maybe some drivetrain oil leaks. Only in the past few years have I begun to dabble in weathering of my aircraft, experimenting with pre/post shading techniques, chipping etc. To be honest, most of my aircraft have the appearance of nicely restored warbirds that receive plenty of care but still show the light wear and tear of being flown on a semi-regular basis. Armor is my next venture, to date I’ve only really weathered one tank…and that was way back in my misspent youth in the 1980’s! Having had the opportunity to watch Panzermeister36’s videos and attend a workshop of his has me looking forward to making my small fleet of armor look a little less “squeeky clean”!

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  3. Weathering is my favourite part of the modelling process so I definitely partake. My models are almost always based on subjects that I have photos of and I go strictly by what I can observe or surmise as my guide to “appropriate” weathering.

    I think there’s an interesting distinction to be made however between weathering and what I would call *styling*. I find many models to be styled with [IMO] over-accented panels lines, shading, etc. which isn’t replicating an observed effect, but is instead styling to *represent* an effect instead.

    My approach is to attempt to create a model of a real object and make it look like the real object would from a scale observed distance. Sometimes I’m even moderately successful 🙂

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  4. Enjoyed reading your article. I’ve been modeling most of my life (55 years old) and I tend towards the museum model as I do not trust myself with weathering. Tried weathering a tank, figured that would be the easiest considering the theatre they operate in and managed a “bad weathering” so decided weathering is not for me considering what we pay for these kits; I admire those who can weather well.

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    1. Thank you and thanks for your thoughts!My weathering is not very impressive at all but I took a couple of close shots of a Corsair model at a recent show… just to show me what is possible. I am under no illusion that it will be easy to achieve a good level of weathering skill, but I will try it on one of my upcoming builds.

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  5. I wrote a similar post a while back. Two things quickly;

    There is an assumption that ‘weathered’ (vs. ‘clean’ model) aircraft are somehow much more ‘realistic’ and that rather irks me. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t mind a bit of weathering. I will even occasionally introduce some – hopefully- subtle airbrush effects help to blur the line between ‘plastic toy replica’ and ‘scale model’. If I didn’t I’d probably just be happy with a new die-cast.

    Two, some so-called ‘super modellers’ have turned this into an entire aftermarket industry – presumably nice little earners they are too! While trying of course to persuade us that we need their products to make ‘proper’ models. That special effect you used to be able to create with oils, pastels, chalks and other media is now most of the time available straight out of a (very expensive) little bottle!

    very nice blog and model builds by the way !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Neil – fully agree. I point to the recent unpopularity of “drybrushing” as an effective finishing component. I mean, if it works, why not? But drybrushing does not sell fancy finishing products or advertisements for such things. I myself use pre-made washes because it saves me time and mess and gives me a consistent product to use (I could never mix these things correctly) so I don’t mind paying for the convenience.

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