Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Fading Fast



Recently on RMweb the subject of fading paint came up. All liveries fade to some degree but it seems especially noticeable with more modern liveries on diesel locomotives. Though I say ‘more modern’ but all of this applies equally well to BR blue too!

Looking at more recent examples, diesel and electric locos can often see long periods of inactivity. Firms like DB Schenker often rotate locos through store if there isn’t enough work to keep all the members of a particular type employed as it means no loco will spend a very long time in store thus avoiding the possibility of costly work when the loco is eventually returned to traffic. This store tends to be in the open air too so paintwork is there exposed to the elements. The effects can range from a slight dulling of the paint to severe discolouration. The example I’m going to use here is a half way house.

The class 37s used by Eurostar for stock movements can end up standing for much of the time. As a result their once bright and shiny blue roofs become dull and faded over time, as can be seen here –


To achieve this effect is surprisingly simple and can be either applied with by a brush or an airbrush. In this case the colours were applied as intended and not varying the shades at all – changing the base colour can be used to create alternative effects as I will mention later. The basic ingredients for the EPS loco are matt varnish, your usual weathering colours and matt white all from your preferred brand of paint. My chosen brand is Humbrol and I wouldn’t use anything else colours wise.

I use white plastic bottle tops to mix paint – Diet Coke (my preferred soft drink – if you’ve met me you may have spotted the irony!) and cheap lemonade tend to provide a good supply of these. My airbrush doesn’t have a large cup and about half a top full will fill it! If we make a mix of three quarters of the bottle top we only need a few drops of well stirred matt varnish and the rest is enamel thinners. This will provide a workable thin matt varnish for spraying – if brushing I’d still use the same mix, the only change will be the extra patience I’m afraid. One drop of well stirred Matt White will tint the varnish to the degree we want. Now if you applied it in this state the effect would be very stark and not very realistic. So to this mix I add a hint or something like a sandy colour and maybe a touch of Humbrol’s Leather. This will just give a touch of realism to the mix once applied. It may even be worth adding a hint of green if your subject has been in long term store! These ‘hints’ need to be very subtle; once applied if you can immediately tell you added green then you’ve added to much. The whole process needs to have a huge dose of delicacy! Applying multiple thins mists (or coats if you brush paint) is the key to this so if the first couple of coats aren’t quite the right shade you can vary subsequent mixes. Once you look at the model and think it looks about right – walk away! Leave it a couple of days and then decide if it needs anything else; it’s much easy to add a bit more in the case than try to reverse the whole process.

With 37 603 once I had faded the paint to the degree I wanted I left it a few days then came back to it. On the face of it the roof was now one big bleached patch and looked, in all honestly, awful! This is where we need to breathe life back into the model. I used a very, very thin ‘dirt’ mix washed across the roof and let it collect around the raised details. I left this to dry and then used the same mix to go around panel lines and rivet runs to build up the dirt. The same mix was applied with a chisel brush over the engine access panels and exhaust silencer to build up an impression of deeply engrained exhaust deposits. The model was then weathered as I would normally and the finishing touch for the roof was the exhaust staining. The end result is something which, I hope, is convincing.



Other options for faded paint involve using different shades of paint as a base for weathering. My model of 37 677 is a good example of this; the real loco was incredibly faded in its triple grey livery. The roof colour was originally very dark and the tinted varnish method wouldn’t have worked at all. Well it may have done but it would have involved a stupidly huge number of coats! The decision early on was made to spray the roof in an approximation of the colour the roof had become. A full run down of this project may be found here.

There are of course many ways to approach weathering to get the effects you want; my methods are just one approach. The most important thing is to just to have a go yourself! Until then you won’t find what works for you. Weathering is great fun too!


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