Modeling Basics Part III - Other Painting Considerations by Doug Chaltry
4 October 2003 email: doug(at)
Painting Tracks
  • There are a couple of considerations for painting tracks. First and foremost is the fact that tracks rust. They rust very quickly. In addition to the rust on the tracks, one must also consider the amount of dirt, mud, turf and other debris that gets stuck in the tracks. Consequently, do not paint your tracks pure steel, unless you want to represent tracks right off the assembly line (but even then, they still need weathering).
  • I paint my tracks while they are still on the sprue. This makes handling them much easier (I touch up the cut marks after gluing to the tank). I paint the base color of the tracks dark gray (panzer gray works well).
  • After the gray dries, apply a heavy wash of red-brown for rust. If your wash is thin, give it several coats.
  • Then comes a black wash for the shadows, nooks and crannies.
  • Now I add some steel. I drybrush the steel paint over the raised portions of the track. This represents where the rust and grime would have worn off due to friction with the ground and wheels.
  • Depending on the look I am going for, I might then spray on a very light coat of dust. Sometimes I leave off this step, but not often.
  • The final step is buffing with my metalizer cloth. I rub the metalizer residue onto the topmost details, like the ice cleats, guide teeth and grousers.
  • Remember that you cannot make the tracks too dirty. Additional washes of brown, black or rust can only improve their looks. If you think it needs more dirt, go ahead and add another wash. The only consideration here is try to have a black wash as the final wash to ensure that all crevices are picked out in reverse relief.
  • For some tracks, such as those on Soviet vehicles, they seemingly rust as soon as they hit outside air. For these, I actually paint the tracks rust as a base color instead of gray. I follow that with brown and black washes, and highlights of steel and metalizer. The tracks on my BT-5 (see review) are an example of this method.
  • I have heard good things about the Rustall Weathering System, originally developed for use with model railroading, I believe. I've never used it (yet), but I'm hoping to give it a try soon. Anybody interested in this product can find information at:
  • "Doug, I enjoyed the review of the Hasegawa 251. I learned something from car builders who work with vinyl tires. They recommend painting the raw vinyl with Future floor wax prior to painting. The acrylic wax is designed to be applied to vinyl floors and is super tough when dry. It can be sprayed full strength or the tracks can be dipped. It worked very well on a 251 in 1/35 scale I built." - John Doherty


  • Do not paint rubber tires solid black. Black is too dark when you consider weathering and scale effect. Either use dark gray, or gray tinted with a bit of red-brown (this is good for gray vehicles, to help contrast the tires from the vehicle's gray paint). Drybrush with light gray.

Steel Bogey Wheels

  • Paint the entire wheels the base color of the vehicle, camouflage if necessary, then wash and drybrush. Paint the smooth, outer rims gray, and then buff with metalizer (or drybrush with steel if you don't use metalizer).


  • Do not use steel or gunmetal paint. Paint the item dark gray or faded black, and then buff with metalizer. I have heard that grinding down pencil lead (graphite) into a powder, and buffing with that works well also, though I have never tried it.


  • I usually paint these the same way as Soviet tracks, i.e., I paint them a base color of rust, give them a brown or black wash, and then buff them with metalizer. I've read that mixing talcum powder with the rust paint works very well for giving a corroded surface texture (must then be handpainted, of course). I have yet to try that, but it sounds like a great idea.

Scale Effect

  • Simply put, scale effect refers to the fact that colors look lighter from a distance. Since reducing the size of a vehicle (such as making a scale model) is, in effect, moving the vehicle further away from the viewer, the paint that is applied to the vehicle needs to be lightened to compensate.
  • I know that a lot of people like to compare paint samples from original vehicles to color charts and whatnot, in order to get exact color matches. This is fine, if they are going to paint a full size vehicle. But the second you reduce the vehicle in size, the color needs to be lightened.
  • Some of the newer paints, such as AeroMaster Acrylics and Testors Model Master, come pre-lightened (toned down). The amount of this toning down is usually suitable for 1/35th or 1/48th scale. They should be lightened even more for 1/72nd scale. I don't know if anybody has calculated exact recipes, but the common standard that I have seen is to add about half a dozen drops of white to a "standard" 1/2 oz. jar of paint. Remember though, the highlight coat of paint will also lighten the final color of the vehicle, so don't get too carried away with the lightening of the base color.
Back to Articles Page Back to Home Page