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Weathering with real dirt

Q: I've built a model, and I've done some weathering with paint. I would like to do some more weathering, with real dirt. But how do I keep the dirt on the model without it falling off?

- William Root
via E-mail

Ken: Weathering a model with paint has its place, but there's nothing like the three-dimensional look of real dirt to set the tone.

The first thing to remember, though, is to use real dirt sparingly. Consider the real-life use of the model you're weathering, and add dirt accordingly. You'd expect to see more mud and dirt on an off-road 4x4 than on the family station wagon, which would collect and show dirt in another fashion.

One of the best ways to subtly weather a vehicle is to use pastel chalk, available at art-supply or craft stores. I've used Nu-pastel sticks for years, but other brands will also give good results.

Scrape a razor blade across the stick to create a fine powder of pastel dust, and apply the dust to the model with a small artist's brush. If properly worked into the model, the pastel dust should adhere by itself and hold up to a certain amount of handling.

Another method is to brush-paint or spray the model with a dull or gloss clearcoat (or a mixture, depending on the amount of shine required) and sprinkle fine dirt onto the wet patch before it's had a chance to dry. The clearcoat will bond the dirt to the paint.

Yet another method is to mix up a batch of mud using real dirt, water, and white glue. Mix up the dirt/water mud first. When it's the consistency you want, add a few drops of white glue until the mud looks a little bit milky. Carefully apply the mixture to the model in the appropriate places. The glue will become invisible when it dries, and the dirt will be permanently attached.

To look convincing, this method will require some homework. Check out magazines and sports shows that highlight vehicles of the type you're weathering, to find out where real mud ends up on a car. Duplicate that with a paintbrush and our mud/glue mix. If all goes well, you should have a realistic mud-splatter pattern.

Hope this helps, William. Thanks!


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