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Starships, Painted Fast

Dvora Class Escort Frigate
Product #
SFS 027
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Shafrir Class Assault Lander
Product #
SFS 025
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POSTIT Shuttle
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10 March 2000new photos, new format
2 July 1997page first published

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(Note: For a full description of the miniatures used for this report, see our Showcase articles.)

Perhaps you've heard the expression:

"The great is the enemy of the good."

Well, that's an idea that certainly applies to miniatures, in the sense that it's easy to spend so much time on your paint jobs that you never actually finish your armies and get them onto the tabletop. Not that that's wrong - if that's what some people want to do, more power to them. I'm just pointing out that the hobby of painting miniatures can conflict with the hobby of playing with miniatures, and that for some people, getting a good paint job into action on the tabletop is better than waiting for a great paint job.

Therefore, I've been mulling over some ideas on fast-painting techniques for 1/3000 scale starships - largely based, I'll admit, on some imported-from-Asia metal pencil sharpeners I saw in a store a few years ago. (Apologies if someone else has already had this idea - it's not earth-shattering, and I'm sure others have thought of it and are using it.)

So when the starships from Brigade Models recently came across my desk, I was inspired to conduct a painting experiment. Here's what I did:

  1. I primed the figures with a spray coat of white indoor-outdoor enamel paint.
  2. Next, I painted the ships with an over-all coat of dark paint. (You could skip this step by just priming with a dark color.) I was looking for a dark color, but didn't want black, so I dug around in my paint coffers until I stumbled upon Testor's Model Master brand acrylic enamel, color "Gunmetal." Ordinarily, I never use this paint, as it's darker than I'm looking for in gunmetal, it dries semi-gloss, and it has both coverage problems and a tendency to be "gloopy." But it was fine for this purpose, settling into all the crevices nicely, and I didn't care that the primer coat was showing wherever there was a protrusion, because...
  3. When the gunmetal coat was completely dry, I used a large brush to dry-brush the entire model with silver. I happened to use a heavily pigmented but rather thin paint which I picked up in some crafts store (I'm a compulsive buyer of metallic paints), called DecoArts Dazzling Metallics brand "Shimmering Silver" DA70.

The end effect was not at all what I expected. First, as I had foreseen, the starships now look mostly a subdued shade of silver, but with all of the recessed detail nicely standing out due to the gunmetal base. The surprise was the look of the silver, which very much has a "stroked on," kind-of-worn look to it. Very different, very pewter-esque.

A technique tip, and I don't know why this should be, I merely make an observation: Stroke direction counts, particularly on flat areas such as wings and flight decks. (I suggest a front-to-rear dry-brushing motion.)

What models should this technique work for? Anything with lots of detail, and not a lot of flat areas. I don't think it would work well on a ship made up mostly of smooth curves, or "boxy" ships with featureless flat sides. I'd also avoid lower-quality figures with this method, as the dry-brushing does emphasize any imperfections which the ship might have.

Do you need to use these exact paints? I doubt it, but I haven't tried anything else yet. In fact, I'm looking forward to trying some other combinations - perhaps blue metallic on a dark blue basecoat, for one of my other fleets?

Even with this "fast paint" method, you may want to go back and paint in such details as guns, viewports, engine exhausts, landing gear, squadron markings, etc.

This method isn't perfect for everything or everyone, but might help get a dusty unpainted starfleet into action.

side view of Ben-Avis front quarter view of Ben-Avis side view of Shafrirtop view of Shafrir POSTIT shuttle