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To Preshade or Not Preshade - Part deux

How it came to be.
In my previous article on pre-shading I finished with this paragraph: “Build the paint up slowly, to cover where the black pre-shading is will require more paint, where the primer is will require less. By varying the amount of paint, in these areas you will be able to adjust the affect, lighter or darker. You will get darker paint around panels, details, and lighter in the centre of panels and on high spots. This is the theory, and you can see by my Hasegawa 1/48 Hurricane (I hope), that it will work. This was my first attempt and I’m pleased with the results, although I think it could be a little better. One reason for this is the poor lighting in my spray booth, for this technique to be a real success you will need to see what you are doing. As I mentioned before, I think that the way to go would be first of all to use white primer, instead of grey. This, I think would allow for slightly better contrast, and/or more control. It’s easier to add than take away. In other words, as the light spots are the grey primer showing through more than the darker areas and the darkest areas are the camouflage paint toning down the pre-shading. The affect should be easier to control, because you will need slightly more paint, to cover the lightest areas, and therefor you would have more time to stop, if you see what I mean. Secondly by lightening the colours, to take into account the darkening affect of Klear and other varnishes and washes, the darker colours will automatically lend themselves better to this technique”.
Link to my first article. To pre-shade or not to pre-shade

Not long after writing this I did indeed switch to white primer (same stuff Halfords plastic primer) and it does work better, or it is easier to control. So, in my opinion, white primer is the way to go, but the same problems remain, when pre-shading darker uppersurface colours, it is just that now it is easier to control, much as I predicted.

While thinking of ways to make pre-shading even easier to achieve I hit on, what might be seen, as a totally backward step. This idea came about when I was working out how to pre-shade over a natural metal finish, which would be painted over and weathered back quite dramatically, as on some WWII Japanese aircraft. The natural metal will take over from the white primer but the black will show through when the paint is weathered back to the metal, so pre-shading would be impossible, in the normal way. It is from this thought process that I hit on a new way to pre-shade, use the camouflage colour to do the pre-shading. Sounds bizarre, but it does work. I say it does work, but at this moment in time I have only tried it on 2 models, a Gavia Lysander and a Tamiya FW 190D-9. The results are not as I would have liked but do show that the idea has merit, the biggest problem is photographing the technique because, in my spray booth, I have to use a flash, which “washes” out the areas that I’m trying to show. I have had to move my spray booth, which has meant no painting since before Christmas, but my new one is bigger so I might be able to get some better lighting for photography in there. I also have several projects lined up on which I am hoping to show how this technique works. In the meantime I am just letting you know so you can try it, if you like, and give me some feed back. The pictures aren’t the best but they hopefully show the way.
  • Lys047
  • Lys050
  • Lys057
  • Lys058
  • Lys059
  • Lys060
  • Lys061
  • Lys062
  • Lys065
  • Lys071

About the Author

About Mal Mayfield (Holdfast)

Hi, my name is Mal Mayfield and I have been modelling seriously for about 25 years. My main interest is 1/48 scale second world war. I build all types and all combatants. I have built 1/35 scale "targets" and 1/72 scale modern aircraft, plus a couple of cars. I have also dabbled with figure painting...


Nice article Mal. Good - easy to follow, and understand.
MAR 02, 2006 - 03:19 AM
Nice one Mal. I have been using white primer on my Jap planes for a while, and with the black pre-shading most of my planes look like chessboards. I put a coat of future over the pre-shade, then shoot Alclad metal, then the top coat and then do the paint chipping. Seems to work but you still have to be a bit careful when taking the paint off . Andy (++)
MAR 02, 2006 - 03:58 AM
Great article Mal. I'm I big fan of pre-shading, I've been using this method for sometime. I also like to post-shade. Will you have an article on that. Joe
MAR 02, 2006 - 04:14 AM
This is a very instructive article. I love the look of a pre-shaded aircraft, but have been reluctant to try it...just not confident in my airbrushing skills I guess. But, you may just have me convinced to give it a go. Cheers, Mike
MAR 02, 2006 - 04:21 AM
Just wondering, with all this talk of pre-shading, would it be vaible to take each color, mix it with a drop of black, and then spray that over the panel line sof each camo color? It seems to me this would achive a nicer and more subtle effect with more control as well.
MAR 02, 2006 - 05:05 AM
Joe I don't use post shading so I'm not the guy for an article on that, any volunteers..............Joe Mike Thanks Mike, I too like the look that pre-shading can give, but it is easily overdone, making a model look all wrong (IMHO) the trick is to be subtle. The beuty of using the actual colour, rather than black, is that you don't need nearly as much paint to cover and therefor it is easier to control. If you like what pre-shading can do then you must give it a go, just don't parctice on your latest masterpiece Gautam Well each to their own, but I think adding black would kinda defeat the object (of what I am trying to do). Give it a try though and let me know how you get on. If you can't get on with using the camo colour as is then lightening it for the layering might be a better way to go. Although in the article I do say that there is no need, but doin so might help achieve the aim. If you haven't already done so it might help to read my first article. Remember though this is only my way of doing this. Mal
MAR 02, 2006 - 10:21 PM
Someones been a busy lad... ...and well worth the effort. Another excellent article by our Mal. I'm relearning the little I know with new eyes now....and picking up so much new stuff...great. Cheers Peter :-)
MAR 03, 2006 - 02:41 PM
What you describe is post shading, best done by diluting this mix with about 70% thinner, in misty coats. and, yes you can do both on the same surface. Frank
MAR 03, 2006 - 02:47 PM