Sunday, April 22, 2012

Painting SdKfz 251 (D)

My recent project relates to SS-Panzerpionier Company I'm currently working on. I have already painted a single platoon and now it is time to add more half-tracks. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I received an airbrush meanwhile, so probably I will have to re-work four previously painted half-tracks.

I decided to document my work on the half-tracks. Maybe someone find it useful. What I'm going to paint? I have three SdKfz 251/7D by Battlefront and five SdKfz 251/1D by the Plastic Soldier Company.

I'm sorry for the quality and inconsistency of photos. They were made at different stages of the project, in different places and with different lighting sources, so they might be a little bit misleading if you consider the exact shade of models.

1. Prime the models

The first step is rather obvious. I had to prime the models so the surface is ready to be covered with other layers. I was using the army painter's cans, but since I had an airbrush I've started to use Vallejo 74.601 - Grey Primer (Acrylic-Urethane). It takes little bit more time to prime the models, but I enjoyed it more, and it doesn't smell so toxic as the paint in cans ;)

2. Pre-shading

I decided to try a new technique (at least for me ;), which is called pre-shading. The idea is to emphasize all the shaded places with dark paint - e.g. black. Then, when you base coat you should put thin layers to let the shading be visible through it. To be honest I was not able to obtain the effect I wanted. 15mm models are so small that this technique is very difficult to use. I'm also not an airbrush pro, so maybe some other time I will be able to make a good use of this technique. For now I think that washes will better do the work.

3. Base coat

The base coating was also done with an airbrush. I used a mix of Vallejo middlestone and white in proportion of 5:2 thinned with Vallejo 71161 thinner. I had to mix the base color with white because further steps are going to make the model darker. Once you make the model dark it is not much you can do to increase the contrast. Actually, you can only dry brush, but if you do too much of it, models start look unrealistic.

4. Camouflage

And now the time for painting camouflage. I used a standard combination of Vallejo reflective green and chocolate brown. I used to hate this stage, but with an airbrush it started to be a pure pleasure. You just can't do it wrong ;) The only problem you can encounter is incorrect thickness of paint (I mean too thick paint) or a problem with correct pressure.

Reflective green and chocolate brown

5. Filters

The next stage was to apply filters. This is a technique I used for the second time (the first time was with Panthers). First you have to prepare (or buy) a filter. I use oil paints and turpentine, which you have to mix to create a very diluted wash. Let say 1:10. Then you apply very thin layers of the filter. When it dries, it changes the shade of the model and makes the edges of camouflage smooth.

I apply first layers of dark filter, which is black + brown. Then, I apply the one with light ochre.

After brown + black filter (more brown)
5. Dry brush

Although I'm not a huge dry brush enthusiast, I think that if done in limited way it enhances a model in such a small scale as 15mm. Unfortunately, sometimes I had to use more of it to light up the model that I initially made too dark.

With the half-tracks I decided to do a limited dry brushing with a mixture of oil paints: light ochre and white. I dry brushed mainly the edges of the model to make the silhouette of the vehicle more visible.

After a limited dry brushing of edges with a mixture of light ochre and white oil paints

6. Tracks

I started to paint tracks with a 50/50 mixture of german gray and gunmetal gray. It gives the base color and small amount of gunmetal makes it glimmering a little bit. Then, I dry brushed it with pure gunmetal grey. Finally, I prepared a mix of white and gunmetal gray, and dry brush it quite delicately. This makes the tracks a little bit too shiny, but don't worry.

The next step is to wash the tracks. I use a cocktail of burnt sienna and turpentine mix for that (1:4). You can also add a little bit of light ochre. This makes the tracks look rusty.

Finally, I re-did the last dry brush to make the details more visible.

The process of painting tracks

7.  Assault bridges

In all the photos of SdKfz 251/7Ds that I've seen so far, the assault bridges were painted in the same color as the vehicle, however, I decided to make the bridges more visible and paint them with grey color. You can see the same idea in the Battlefront's spotlight of the product. Actually, I followed the same procedure as with tracks, however, I decided to not make it less shinny.

Assault bridges of SdKfz 251/7D

8. Exhaust pipes

Sooner or later exhaust pipes get rusty, especially if in difficult conditions in which battle vehicles are used.
I obtained the rust effect by starting from painting the pipe with Vallejo hull red. Then, I gave them a wash with exactly the same mixture of paint as for tracks. Exhaust pipes were also pin washed as all other details. Finally, I used a Vallejo burnt sienna pigment, which I mixed with matt varnish (it gets sticky then) and put it into exposed parts of a pipe. This makes the surface look more bumped.

Exhaust pipes - so rusty - so nice :)

9. Details

Well, the next stage was pretty boring... I had to paint all the details. If you consider 8 half-tracks full of stowage, this make the task exhausting...

I use the following colors to paint stowage:
  • Cloth - two pea leaf patterns: background Vallejo palm brown; summer version - Vallejo dark cam. green with bright cam. green; autumn version: Vallejo chocolate brown with bright brown.
  • Bags (and some cloths): background Vallejo beige and dark sand to highlight.
  • Cans - Vallejo middlestone (highlighted with the same color mixed with white).
  • Helmets - Vallejo german field grey (highlighted with the same color mixed with white).
  • Wood elements - Vallejo beige brown.

10. Pin wash

Pin wash is one of the key steps in painting models in my opinion. It helps to expose the details by adding shadows. I use a mixture of oil paints (brown and black) diluted with turpentine (4:1).

Half-tracks after pin wash

11. Decals

Decals add some realism to the models. This time I used the decals that you can buy at Maelstorm. I especially like the registration plates...

I apply decals right on the surface. Only if I have to tackle with zimmerit, I apply a layer of gloss varnish before. After a while I apply decals softener by Humbrol, which in my opinion is a very important step. It makes decals borders less visible. Finally, I apply the coat of matt varnish with a brush.

12. Battle damage

It is a matter of taste if you like weathering of vehicles or not. I personally like to see some battle damage on vehicles. However, it is quite easy to add too much of it, which makes them look like scrap (actually it spoils all the work one has put into the model).

My guru when it comes to adding damage is Ruben Torregrosa, who is painting miniatures for Forged in Battle. You can see his works on his blog. Beautiful, aren't they?

I followed the foam technique with the half-tracks. I mixed german grey with hull red (50/50) and used blister foam to apply scratches. To be honest this requires a little bit of practice, because it is easy to apply too much of dots. When you apply the paint remember to make some pats on the paper towel to remove the paint. Then pat the edges of the model.

13. Crew

Another element that makes models look more realistic is to add some crew members. I decided to add only the Battlefront figures as they don't look well together with the PSC ones. I used the standard painting of SS infantry, leaving some of the Germans in field grey uniforms, if I will have to use the half-tracks with Heer forces.

14. Varnish

Finally, the last coats of matt varnish applied with an airbrush.

Final result

It is time to celebrate a new set of vehicles in my small army... I will consider adding some foliage camouflage later on. More photos are available in the gallery.


  1. Good article, a strong entry. I really like your blog.

    For the shading, I am using a lot more contrast:

    It is a bit crass as these were my first shading attempts but now I got the hang of it and paint in the length of the panels. The primer should be very dark with a strong contrast.

    I found out also that shading doesn't work very well with more than one color. Indeed, when one paint the main color, the following layers don't "take" the shading as well as the first coat. You thus end up with shaded dark yellow and "unshaded brown and unshaded green. It doesn't work too well on a model.

    As you rightly pointed out, the pin wash adds a lot to outline the features of the vehicle.

    Really nice stuff, I'm glad I'm following your blog.

    1. Thank you for warm words and piece of advice :)

      You are right with the contrast. You were able to achieve a very nice effect with the Soviets. To be honest I'm still looking for a color palette for German camo that will give a nice contrast without making models "cartoon-like" looking.

      A good point with shading and camo. I had the same feeling that in the 15mm scale it will only work on vehicles that are painted with a single color. For camo patterns it won't be visible too much. I guess it might even impossible to do it right.

      Thanks again and best regards :)

  2. Great article mate. Another way for preshading is use a grey primer than use black or a dark brown for the shadows, and then white for areas hit by the sun. Hard at this scale.

    regards Crossy

  3. Mirek, added to the database. THANKS SO MUCH!!

  4. You wrote that You use a mixture of oil paints (brown and black) diluted with turpentine (4:1). Which colors exactly? Could You give number? How You put that mix /with brush, which size/?

    1. These are regular oil paints that you can buy in any shop for artists. It is regular black, brown, light orche, burnt sienna (that are typical names for all brands). I put one drop of black and brown into small cup and then mixing it with turpentine (also counting drops). Finally, I use a gel brush to mix it together.
      One remark, there is a huge difference between paints bought in the shop for artists and these that are sometimes available in supermarkets. The most important factor here is the pigment, which in paints for amateurs is limited...