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Pre-shading: an advanced paint technique




Submitted By:

Ward Shrake


Pre-shading is a painting technique often used by the best military modelers.What it does is make selected parts of a paint job just a little bit darker than the surrounding areas.Used with some restraint and care, it gives a three-dimensional look to otherwise flat surface areas.

Edges of boxy forms and recessed panel line areas are where they usually do use this technique. It adds a lot of visual interest to a model. It helps to emphasize all of the interesting textural details on a kit, as well, especially if it is followed up with a light drybrushing over high points.

Basically, you are first laying down your shaded areas as an opaque coat. Then you go over that with transparent coatings, slowly building up to a finish that has a gradual change from one tone to the next.

First you prep and prime your kit normally. With your airbrush, spray on a dark color (not necessarily always black) any place that is supposed to be darker than normal when you are done. Note that some people like to just spray the entire kit with a dark primer or paint coat, if there are lots of areas you want to eventually be dark. That is up to your preference.

Next you mix up some paint for your base coat, with the idea that you are going to purposely over-thin, it to the point that it seems transparent when you spray it on. As a ballpark figure when mixing, I generally add about twice as much thinner as I would normally add, if I were trying to spray a normal, opaque coat of paint.

If you mix it properly, the main coat sprays on in a transparent layer. You keep lowering the amount of contrast between the two paints, with more and more of these transparent layers. Spray one coat at a time, then eyeball your work and repeat as necessary.

If you do it correctly you end up with smooth, subtle color blends that add interest. It is easy to keep going, though. You then lose all contrast and end up hiding too much of the shading. Stop when it is "good enough".

This technique definitely takes a lot of patience and practice to master, but the results can look fabulous. If you are just trying this out for the first time, do your practicing on a sheet of white paper or posterboard. You will quickly find out if you have added too much or too little thinner, by test spraying your mix on this sheet. I use this practice / test sheet any time I use this technique, in between colors. When you have the paint mix just right, then start painting the actual kit parts.

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Tips database last updated 21 July 2014

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DISCLAIMER: These procedures and practices represent the recommendations of the members of the Starship Modeler readership. These ideas are not necesscessarily endorsed for their saftey or results by the staff of Starship Modeler. The reader assumes full responsibility for any and all results stemming from the application of the procedures and practices listed here.

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