Drybrushing aircraft cockpits

will-drybrush-main.jpgOne of the most effective ways to make small details “pop” is a technique known as drybrushing. Though a very simple technique, it can add life and realism that can take an average build to being a show winner. And it’s so simple that practically any modeler already has all the tools at hand to use this technique. Will Nichols shows us how he does drybrushing, and makes very effective use of a few simple steps to produce a great looking cockpit. And the same technique can be used elsewhere on a kit, whether it’s an aircraft, armor, car or whatever. So sit back and enjoy a few moments of “Drybrushing with Will.”

Drybrushing can add a lot of depth to your models, either in the cockpit of aircraft or the exterior of armor. This article will focus on aircraft cockpits.

Tools needed:

1. Several shades of gray paint
2. A good stiff brush or make-up brush
3. A little time, patience, and practice

The way I drybrush cockpits, especially mostly black cockpits, involves a few shades of gray. I find that usually going straight to the lightest color can be a little harsh. What I like to do is start with a dark gray, and work my way up to the lightest. This adds more depth and warmth in my eyes. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the end result.

will-drybrush-paint-1.jpgFour of the five colors I use come from the Vallejo line of excellent acrylic paints:

1. 994 Dark Gray
2. 869 Basalt Gray
3. 992 Neutral Gray
4. 870 Medium Sea Gray

The final drybrush is done with Model Master Camouflage Gray, FS 36622.

The Basics
Drybrushing is just what it sounds like. The most common mistake made when drybrushing is not drying the brush enough. Wet paint on the bristles can ruin your project as you smear the paint over the parts. Ideally, the brush needs to be so dry, that you can barely, just barely tell that any paint is on it. Remember, all you are doing is ‘dusting’ the parts with the lighter color. It may take a few good passes to do this, but the end results will be much better if you go slow, and take your time.

I like to use dead flat paints for my base coat, as they are slightly rough and provide a better surface for the following drybrushes. Tamiya flat black XF-1 or NATO black XF-69 is my starting points of choice, usually the NATO black because it has a nice “in-scale” look to it.

The brush you use is also critical for good drybrushing. Micro-Mark sells a wonderful set of purpose made drybrushes, but any short, stiff bristled brush should do the trick. I prefer to use a Prescriptives eye shadow brush bought from a department store. The bristles are incredibly soft, and they never come loose. I’ve used this brush for about five years now with great results. The down side of good makeup brush, it will cost you about $20.00. It’s an investment, but it’s worth it. (Gotta love the modeling hobby…. makes manly-men wander the make-up aisles…. Ed.)

The subject of this demonstration is the cockpit from Trumpeters F9F-2 Panther. It has lovely raised detail, just perfect for a drybrushing. The accompanying pictures will follow this format: The right side will show the current step, the left side will be the previous step. This will help illustrate how each step changes the appearance of the parts.

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First Drybrush- Vallejo Dark Gray
This photo shows the base coat of Tamiya NATO black, and the first drybrush coat of Vallejo Dark Gray on the right.
Second Drybrush- Vallejo Basalt Gray
Picture two shows the second drybrush of Basalt Gray on the right, and Dark Gray on the left.

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Third Drybrush- Vallejo Neutral Gray
Picture three shows the third drybrush of Neutral Gray on the right, the previous two shades on the left.
Fourth Drybrush- Vallejo Medium Sea Gray
Picture four shows the fourth drybrush of Medium Sea Gray on the right, and the previous work on the left.

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Final Appearance- FS 36622 and detail painting completed
Now you see the final drybrush of FS36622 and some details picked out in various colors.

See! Drybrushing is not so bad. It just takes some imagination and practice. Variations on this theme can be done with shades of olive drab for armor, with naval colors for ship superstructures, with flesh tones on figures, so on and so forth.I sincerely hope that you have found this to be informative and enjoyable.

Happy modeling!

William Nichols grew up around Air Force bases between Arkansas and Georgia, and attended Christian schools through out highschool. A 2002 graduate of Auburn University, William is currently teaching U.S. History at Sumiton Christian School in Sumiton, Alabama. He is the propaganda pusher for IPMS Birmingham, the Phantom Phlashers, and an fan of anything related to model airplanes.

“I am proud to say that my mother led me to the Lord at age 11, during a Billy Graham Tv Crusade! Teaching in a private school allows me to show future generations the spiritual origins of our nation, & help shape and mold our future leaders.”

4 comments

  • Nice to see that you can get $40 resin aftermarket results with a couple of bucks worth of paint, some patience, and some practice. I’ve always maintained that God gave me all of my talent from the elbows down, but your work pushes me in the direction of the whole envy thing. Guess I better “brush up” on my own techniques.

  • Nicely done and its good to see a brother enjoying the hobby. Maranatha!

  • Many thanks

    Have just taken up the hobby of model aircraft (50+ not allowed to fly any more and love aircraft).
    Your tip and explanations are spot on.

  • Thanks for your testimony and enthusiasm!

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