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Mottle Camouflage Question

August 17 2009 at 7:14 AM
Carl Weaver  (Login fredjocko)
HyperScale Forums
from IP address


Does anyone have any suggestions as to how apply a mottle camouflage pattern. I tried spraying random spots of paint and it doesn't look right. I am building my first German plane and this mottling thing has got me flumexed.

Any help is greatly appreciated.


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Steven Modeldad Eisenman
(Login modeldad)
HyperScale Forums

Two ways: Use a painting mask or practice, practice practice

August 17 2009, 7:44 AM 

Sorry I don't have the site, but IIRC there is a mask for doing mottle. Montex?

But remember each one was slightly or greatly different.

You could just spend some time practicing. Take scrap material and just give it a go.

Until masks came about, all mottle was usually a free hand effort. Look at example in the articles and features section:http://hyperscale.com/features.htm


There is no such thing as an unbuildable kit, just some kits one may consider not worth building.

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james burris
(Login jqb122970)
HyperScale Forums

this was a mask

August 17 2009, 8:07 AM 

i painted this with an eduard mask. but i havent seen it for sale on a site other than eduards

[linked image]

[linked image]

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(Login chrishallpingu)
HyperScale Forums

Quite a few mottle masks out there.

August 17 2009, 11:11 AM 

Go to Hannants website,


and put 'mottle' into the keyword box of the search engine. Returns eight different masks.

But the thing to do is practice. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheap kits of German fighters you can use for this. Spend some time paying about with thinning ratios, air pressures and aperture size, and yu'll soon find it's not as scary as it seems.

Mind you, in 1/144, I did once experiment with decals:

[linked image]



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Shuey, William
(Login Williamshuey)
HyperScale Forums

practice target...

August 17 2009, 2:16 PM 

using a model kit as a practice target can get $$$. I use an discarded 1 or 2 liter plastic soda bottle. I have received a few comments from neighbors to the effect "what the H--- are you drinking"?? happy.gif

Bill Shuey

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Jeffery S. Harrison
(Login jshphoto)
HyperScale Forums

Why would that get expensive?

August 17 2009, 3:13 PM 

I have two Airfix 1/48 Bf 109F kits that I quick glued together some 20-odd years ago as "paint mules". I've been using them ever since (I have no idea how many layers of paint are on them by now) to test out paints, select colors, paractice new techniques and anything else that pops up. I prefer to practice on something like this because while a soda bottle will work, it doesn't have things like wings and other bits sticking out at inconvenient angles and locations.

You don't have to use a good model for this. Any of those "dog" kits from the thread not too long ago would work. I certainly don't have any money worth mentioning tied up in these "practice targets".

IPMS something or other

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(Login Wolfgang_Henrich)
HyperScale Forums

patience, practice, and a good airbrush

August 17 2009, 8:14 AM 

are the three main parts of a good mottle camouflage. Beside this and a correct thinning of the colors there is no other secret.

I have done all my Luftwaffe camos in 1/72 freehand, using acrylics or enamels.


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Kevin ''angry white guy'' Martin
(Login 109ace)

Best way to mottle? Don't overthink it.

August 17 2009, 9:02 AM 

Just get in there and apply paint. Random, just like real life. Go back with underside color and remove and massage to what appeals to your eyes. Tone down the heavy areas. It's not a black art.

This message has been edited by 109ace from IP address on Aug 17, 2009 9:03 AM

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G. Boyd
(Login Confido)
HyperScale Forums

Don't be afraid to repaint either

August 17 2009, 10:32 AM 

If the effort looks clumsy, it probably could use some more 76 over some of the more offensive blobs of paint.

The very first mottle job I did was in 1977 on a Fujimi 109G. It came out perfectly because I had thinned the paint just right almost by accident and was using one of those awful badger air cans (each model cost another $3-5 just paying for that stuff). Once I got a compressor, I began to get a bit lazy on the paint formulation and began having problems occasionally. Practice on a piece of paper beside the model until you get just the right consistency. Put the spray on the thinnest lines too and work in small circles. . .

Mottling is my favorite part of the hobby. Gadzooks my typing is bad these days--eyesight and wireless keyboard deficits I fear.


This message has been edited by Confido from IP address on Aug 17, 2009 10:34 AM

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Rian J
(Login Rhinosd)
HyperScale Forums

Air brush + practice

August 17 2009, 10:36 AM 

You need an airbrush with a fine tip and low air pressure so you can work close to the model. Practice on a piece of cardboard until you get the "feel" for it.

[linked image]

[linked image]

[linked image]

[linked image]

It is better to be the stomper rather than the stompee!
[linked image]

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Jared Taylor
(Login natique18)
HyperScale Forums

Hi Karl

August 17 2009, 10:51 AM 

Like all of the guys said above me theres no real magic to it. Let me offer a few thoughts about mottling. I always try and put myself in the place of question in this case who was it spraying the mottling and what were the conditions like. Was this a factory fresh job? Was it applied out in the field? If it is a late war bird your modeling, was it done in haste? You have to figure most of these planes were better taken care of earlier in the war and rushed later in the war. The point of the above questions are there is no one style to the mottled look.
A good dual action airbrush is the best tool for applying a mottled finish. An operator who is skilled in using a dual action airbrush is just as vital. happy.gif Thin your paint just a bit more than you normaly would.
I sometimes apply my mottling on the heavy side, and then go back with a very thin coat of the base color, say RLM 76, and spray over some of the mottling to tone it down and give it more of a feathered look.
Good luck Karl! One last thing dont think about it to much. Remember by the time you get most of the decals and weathering on, it changes your perception of the paint finish. Just get it done and chaulk it up to a learning experince. HTH - Jared

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(Login stevegallacci)
HyperScale Forums

And what kind of mottle

August 17 2009, 12:26 PM 

WWII German mottle can be generally described in two ways, dots and squiggles.
Sometimes the dots are very much literal round spots of color, the pain sprayer set to round and the operator simply floods a spot with color. Of course, doing it in miniature can be tricky, but experiment and practice can get it. And I like to emphasize Experiment, since airbrushing is a lot more subjective than some might think. Paint mix X and pressure Y through airbrush Z can produce very different results depending who is doing the deed.

But back to mottle patterns. Some spots are random shapes, either the spray gun set round and the operator wiggles the shot, or even the spray set fine and the operator draws a shape outline and fills it.
The more subtle spot effect is actually a transition from spot to squiggle, in which the operator is misting the spray in swatches, and overlapping or lingering the shot to make more solid areas. This misting spray can also be done very fine and broad to, in effect, tint or tone down the previous color in a fairly uniform fashion (and drive future color researchers mad) or just random swatches to break up and/or tone down base color effects.
Full on squiggle patterns do more or less the same effect, but in a more obvious squiggle of paint without any effort to be subtle.

The reason I mention the effects this way is to suggest that you consider thinking like the original paint crew and approach the model as a spray job in miniature, thinking about how they did it and replicating their effort. This approach can give you a much more accurate effect than some in which a rather arbitrary airbrush effort might match the official pattern, but not the subtilties of effect of the orginal.

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Stan Traas
(Login HowardCGreen33)
HyperScale Forums

A mottle mask idea...

August 17 2009, 12:38 PM 

...OK, I haven't tried it yet (as I'm finally getting along a little better with my airbrush) but, I've been thinking about making a mask from a piece of regular copy paper and gently burning irregularly shaped holes in it with a low wattage (pencil type) soldering iron. It could then be stuck on and held 1/16-1/8" from the models surface with dots of blu-tack for a soft edge.

As I said, totally untried but seems to make a lot of sense to me. Anyone tried this or care to comment? (All above suggestions about free-hand airbrushing are great advice.)



"Can I buy an amplifier, on time?... I ain't got no money now but I will pay you before I die" - Moby Grape 1967

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james burris
(Login jqb122970)
HyperScale Forums

look at my post above

August 17 2009, 1:13 PM 

it was done with an eduard mask that is photo etched brass. i held it close to the surface and started painting

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(Login 86Sabreboy1)
HyperScale Forums

use a business card for a mask,,,

August 17 2009, 1:54 PM 

The card stock that is generally used for business cards works really well. The purpose of using a business card is two fold. First, you can tear various shapes that will in turn have an inconsistent and frayed edge all around. You don't need more than a few torn holes as you can use the same holes over and over again shooting through both sides of the card, over lapping the holes as you shoot paint and/or turn the card at varying degrees to create different mottled shapes as you shoot paint.

Second, the business card has enough strength that you can hold it off of the model by a few fractions of an inch which will help to facilitate a good feathered appearance when paint is shot through it. You can either hold the card with one hand while you shoot or use some blue tack(or reversed masking tape) to hold it in place for the few seconds you will shoot with the airbrush and then reposition.

Now even with this technique you will still have too much contrast between the lighter color of the scheme and the darker mottled areas and the frayed edge created by the business card still too sharp. This last tid bit is the trick that pulls everything together. Once you have airbrushed your mottled pattern. Reload your airbrush with the original base (usually lighter, often RLM 76 for example) color. Now all you want to do is lightly dust the model with this color. This will provide a very realistic mottled effect feathering the edges more and muting the contrast.

If you are not sure how much or little you should dust the model. Squint your eyes as you evaluate what is contrasting too much on the model. It's an old artists trick to determine if the contrast is what you are looking for or not. By squinting it breaks up the linear (or line) qualities of the model and allows you to see darks and lights (contrast) better.

I personally have an Iwata airbrush and generally free hand my mottled effects on 1/48 scale models but otherwise the card trick works very well. As for dusting the model with the base color I have created a realistic mottled effect time and again. I don't have time to post pics right now but if you want to see some of my work or have more questions, please feel free to email me off line.

FYI I will be leaving Tuesday to head out for the national show.

You don't have time to think up there,,,,you think, you're dead!


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Dave Sherrill
(Login davesherrill)
HyperScale Forums

Freehanded is best

August 17 2009, 3:33 PM 

You'll want to thin your paint more than you would normally. I think it also looks better if you go about the fuselage randomly when placing your spots filling in here and there. If you simply start at one end and proceed right to left or left to right it's hard to get the spacing to look random. I also will go back with some highly thinned RLM 76 color (usually the color to which mottling was applied) and clean up any slight overspary between the mottle patches. I can't recommend masks because I think they would make the edges of the mottle look too sharp in definition. I believe mottles should look soft like leaf shadows on a flat surface. I'll attach some photos of some models in which I've used the method I've described.

[linked image]

[linked image]

[linked image]

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Michael D Scott
(Login mayonardo)
HyperScale Forums

Floyd Werner's method

August 17 2009, 8:01 PM 

if you have access to a copy of the DVD in which he built and painted a BF109 G6 (can't remember the title), he has a very good technique you might like.

"Clear, low water fly fishing is like sub-atomic fishing, dealing with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle at work in the stream. You never quite know where the fish is, the only thing you can be sure of is where it was and how fast it was moving when it left." - me

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Terence Burns
(Login gbooth95)
HyperScale Forums

Funnily enough, there was an article on this very topic on Hyperscale...

August 18 2009, 1:39 AM 

just a few weeks ago. Go herehttp://www.hyperscale.com/2009/features/fw190a8tam48ms_1.htm
for an excellent article by Marty Sanford on how he built and painted Tamiya's FW-190. He explains his painting technique in detail (and he was tutored by some of the best), and the amazing thing is the quality of the results he was able to get using a "humble" Paasche H external-mix airbrush! I'm surprised nobody has mentioned this article - it was really informative and Marty's FW was just gorgeous. Frankly, it's one of the best articles I've seen on the subject in awhile.

There's some great - no, scratch that - some EXCELLENT advice here in this thread. I can't disagree with anything that's been said: thin your paint down much more than your normally would, lower the air pressure into your airbrush, get in close, and practice, practice, practice. I also second the idea that you view Floyd Werner's excellent DVD on building and painting Hasegawa's Me-109G. I bought Floyd's video when it came out, and I still find myself viewing it - and skipping around from section to section - every few months. It's both educational and inspirational, too. English modeler Jeff Ilsley has a couple of good DVD's out too; one on general airbrush techniques, and another on military aircraft camouflage, with an emphasis on Luftwaffe WW2 paint schemes.

There's also some references available on the web that might help you. In Hyperscale's video series (viewable on YouTube as well) there's a couple of short films by Brett where he demonstrates how to apply a dappled Luftwaffe- type camouflage, as well as a good interview with Chris Wauchop where he describes - albeit much too briefly (we want to know EVERYTHING, Chris!) - his painting methods. I also suggest you check out Jean Barby's article over at STORMO! where he describes how he applies the intricate mimetic camouflage to his Regia Aeronautica models (go herhttp://www.stormomagazine.com/Articles/HowTo_JB_1a.html).

For what it's worth, my own progression was a lot like G. Boyd's. The first model I ever airbrushed was a Matchbox 1/72 Bf-109E Trop that I painted back in 1980 with my then-new Badger 200. I followed the instructions - and the advice I'd gleaned from IPMS members, my local hobby shop, and a few good books - scrupulously, and got a surprisingly good result. And with Humbrol enamels, to boot! From that point on it was all downhill, at least for awhile. I had several years where I couldn't seem to get the combination of airbrush, paint, and thinner right for the circumstances. I even spent my hard-earned (for a teenager) wages on several other airbrushes in an effort to find a solution. Now, though, I realize it was all just "operator error".

After about five or so years of frustration I went back to the basics - paint, thinner, distance from subject - and my work began to improve. I did go through a phase where I tried to measure out paint and thinner in "exact" ratios using various tools - eyedroppers, pipettes, graduated cylinders - only to learn that while recommended mixing ratios are a great *starting point*, you're almost always going to have to add just a bit more thinner, or a bit more paint, to account for whether you're spraying small, fine lines and dots - like mottling - or area coverage, and to accomodate different brands and types of paint, different reducers, and factors like temperature, humidity, and air line pressure. I completely agree with the other comments in this thread; where airbrushing's concerned, experience and continued practice are the best instructors. Practicing on old "scrap" models or on three dimensional surfaces like pop bottles helps, as does simple practice exercises like spraying dots, lines, and squiggles on waste pieces of card or heavy paper. This kind of training is a staple of art schools and classes for professional artists, and it's equally essential if you're going to paint dappled or mottled camouflage schemes.

Other miscellaneous advice:

Solvent-based paints seem to work better for fine work than do acrylics. You'll note that in the article by Marty Sanford, while the large areas of camouflage were painted with Tamiya acrylics, he painted the mottle on the FW-190 with Model Master enamels. I admit that I have gotten very good results with Tamiya and Gunze acrylics, using their proprietary thinner, but I find that I get even better results if I cut them with an acrylic lacquer thinner like Gunze's "Mr Color Thinner". I can also do fine work with Polly Scale and Lifecolor, cut with proprietary reducers or with distilled water, but I find that they both work better if I add a drop or so of Liquitex Flow-Aid or Golden's Acrylic Extender, and even then I have to stop periodically to clean the needle and tip with a swab dampened with thinner. "Tip dry" seems to be endemic to water-based acrylic paints - even the professional artists complain about it.

On that note, even if you are using solvent-based paint, keep a thinner-dampened swab handy and periodically clean the tip and the end of the needle. When you're doing fastidious and time-consuming work, stopping occasionally to rest your hand, flex your fingers, and clean your airbrush really improves your results.

For fine work like mottles and squiggles, you have to thin your paint much more than you would for area coverage. A good starting point seems to be a ratio of 70:30 thinner:paint. Adjust the mix from there depending on conditions. Keep a panel of scrap cardboard handy while you spray your model. Shoot a few lines or dots on it after mixing up your paint but before applying it to your model. You can use this "test card" to fine-tune your paint:thinner mix, line pressure, and distance from the surface. I keep some old laminated card CBOE options calendars handy for testing, and periodically stop to check my paint mix and pressure while I'm working. If you're working through a long session, you may find that the pigment has settled out in your paint reservoir or your airbrush while you've been working, or that some of the thinner has evaporated (a problem with solvent-based paints), so you may need to stop from time to time to give the reservoir a swirl or adjust the paint-thinner ratio.

If you've got a compressor, get a regulator. An adjustable pressure regulator is one of the most important aids you can buy, especially if you intend to to fine, close-in work. To do fine work, move in close where the cone of atomized paint produced by the airbrush is finest. Be prepared to work as close as 1cm - or less - from the surface of the model. The downside of working in close with heavily-thinned paint is that it goes on very wet, so you also have to adjust the line pressure into your airbrush to avoid getting "spiders", runs and puddles of wet paint. Reduce the output pressure on your compressor or propellant can down to below 1 bar (14psi). Many modelers work at pressures as low as 7 to 10 psi. Less pressure = less paint flowing through the airbrush.

Don't try to build up each blob or squiggle in one shot. Work slowly. Go over each mottle several times, gradually building the paint up in layers. If you look closely at pictures of Luftwaffe machines, often the mottle on the fuselage sides was sprayed loosely over a wide area, and the more prominent spots of color were simply those areas that received more than one pass with the paint gun. And don't be afraid to retouch or repaint areas. You'll often find that you have to tighten up a "blob" here, or reduce the coverage of a darker color there, or soften the edges of an area where paint pooled, or that you've simply got "too much" RLM 75 grey in one area or another. As Marty Sanford suggests, you can use a light, broad overspray of the HEAVILY thinned base color to "soften" the contrast between the mottling and the base or background color.

When applying the mottles or squiggles, don't allow the airbrush to rest on one spot. Keep your hand moving, working in small circles or squiggles and moving the airbrush in and out relative to the painted surface. Use a stand or box to hold the model in a comfortable position, and don't be afraid to use two hands on the airbrush to steady the hand that controls the trigger. Spraying mottled camouflage or fine lines is time consuming and tiring, and using two hands will help delay fatigue and cramp and avoid unfortunate accidents.

Lastly, don't obsess about your airbrush. Your skills and the practices you employ as the artist are much more critical than the tools you use. While I wouldn't ever recommend that you buy a cheap airbrush, or one of those Chinese-made Iwata clones of indeterminate quality, very good results can be achieved with any reasonably good quality, mid-priced airbrush. I know a lot of people who slate Paasche's H for it's relative unsophistication and the fact that the parts sometimes appear to have been machined on 18th century equipment, but Sanford's FW-190 was painted with an "H", and others like Roy Sutherland and Mike Oehler have done some excellent work with this airbrush. Italian artist Alberto Ponno produces some INCREDIBLE miniature portraits using automotive acrylics shot through an "agricultural" Paasche V. I personally don't like Aztecs, but Brett Green and Chris Wauchop produce some simply amazing camouflage finishes with them. Iwatas, Harder & Steenbecks, Richpens, Tamiya's HG series - all are finely made precision instruments, but as much as I love Iwatas and Olympuses (Olympi?), I have to concede that there isn't much I can do with them that I cannot do just as well with my old Badger 200. Double-action 'brushes may be more convenient to use for mottled finishes, but these techniques apply equally to single-actions. Just remember the basics: keep your airbrush clean, use appropriate paint-thinner ratios, air pressure, and distances, and practice, practice, practice.

I'm sorry this is so long, but this is a subject that I have a great interest in, and that I've been collecting information about for a long time. I've tried just about everything at one time or another, and made a lot of mistakes along the way. Recently I've been teaching my eleven year old nephew how to spray mottled camouflage on one of his projects (and he's astonishingly good!), so these thoughts have been frequently in mind of late.

This message has been edited by gbooth95 from IP address on Aug 18, 2009 1:51 AM

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Carl Weaver
(Login fredjocko)
HyperScale Forums

Thank you everyone for your

August 18 2009, 7:52 PM 

advice and suggestions. I took the plunge and wnt ahead and did it. I started small I used the RoG Arado E555 and only did the tails and engines but I like it.

I thinned the paint 75% thinner and set my air pressure to 10psi, took the tip off my airbrush. Took a sip of my vodka and cranberry juice and jumped in.

Here's some pictures of what I did. Once again thank you for very much. Someone said it wasn't a black art and they were right and it was pretty neat.


[linked image] [linked image] [linked image]

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