Monday, October 25, 2010

How to: Hairspray and Salt Weathering Technique

 Today I'm gonna show you how I went about trying some weathering techniques for the first time.  I "borrowed" the models from my cousin for this experiment so I wouldn't mess up my own. Haha, sucker.  I'm gonna go through the pics and give my step by step for this method.  At the end I'll go over a couple things I learned that worked really well and a couple things that didn't go so well.

First up are the tools needed for this technique.  Above you can see the salt that I used for this.  It is very irregular in size and shape, so perfect for this.  Also it happened to be free as it was in the cupboard.  It does only costs a few bucks for 3 lbs though.  Below you can see that I used a Ruddy Brown primer from Wal-mart that costs 3 bucks.  This would give me a rusty, dirty look after weathering.  I also bought a 2 dollar can of hairspray, also from the walmart.  I was also using this exercise as an excuse for practicing some more with the airbrush, but you could just use some spray colors to get your desired effect.  You will also need an old toothbrush, some warm water and a toothpick is helpful.

 First prime all models used with the Ruddy Brown Primer

 Next spray a light coat of hairspray on the models and quickly sprinkle with salt before it dries

 Don't spray to many parts at once, just one at a time, then salt, then move on

 Top of Hammerhead after spraying and salting

 Side view

 Pic of bottom

 Next I airbrushed a light basecoat and then a darker pattern camouflage.  I need more airbrush practice, first time doing anything other than basecoating.

 Here you can see the salt still under paint, be careful while painting not to knock this off

After scrubbing the salt off using toothbrush and warm water.  You can also use the brush to weather the edges more if wanted. 

 Side view after weathering

 Other side view

 Rear view

 Bottom view

 This even worked on a couple crisis suits

The other Crisis suit

Group Hug Photo

Okay, so that was easy.  These four models only took me a couple hours from start to finish including waiting on everything to dry.  Granted i haven't touched any of these with a paintbrush yet, but they are definitely tabletop quality and ready to go with 3 colors.  Not perfect, but hey it's wear and tear after a long campaign.  Now for what I learned through this process to do better the technique.

1.  The undercoat can be any color you like, I just used the ruddy brown because it would show up well through light undercoat.
2.  You only need a very light coat of hairspray.  Don't overdo this step. 
3.  Make sure you let the hairspray dry for at least an hour depending on how much you applied.  I got to excited on this step and had some paint cracking issues.  I was able to cover these up with more coats, but I noticed on another model I did later that with a very light coat of hairspray and a longer dry time I had none of this.
4.  Let the paint dry for at least an hour after you apply over hairspray.  Again I got to excited here and in some places the paint came off too easily.   
5.  When brushing off the salt with toothbrush and warm water, DO NOT saturate the model over large areas.  On a separate project I had used to much hairspray and to much water.  This released most of the paint and I had to use a hair dryer to dry before it just flaked off.
6.  It is also very easy to remove the salt with a toothpick.  Just use the side and rub off.  This is also a great tool for weathering edges.  Just dip in water and rub the edges with side.  Paint easily comes off and looks great.

Well, I hope this has inspired you to try some simple weathering.  I would suggest you practice on some spare tank parts before going at a Landraider, etc.  It is very easy to do and gives good results.  The model I did after these worked out really well and I will be showing it off later.  If you have any questions about the process or if I left something unclear let me know in the comments and I'll try to give you an answer.  This was my first time doing this, but I feel like I learned a lot in the process that could help others not make the same mistakes I did.


  1. Excellent, I'm loving this and gonna give it a shot! Great idea!

  2. Thanks for sharing this technique. The finished product looks great and I plan to use this technique painting my buddy's Kriegs army!

  3. Looks kind of like you could have gotten the same result by just doing the camo/base colours and then loading a brush with reddish paint and flicking it onto the models?

    They meet the 3 colour requirement, but tabletop 'quality' is a bit of a stretch.

    I'd be interested to see the finished product though, to see whether you work the weathering into the colour scheme a bit more.

  4. Thanks for the comments. The more I think about this technique the more I think it can be easily expanded upon. You could do the salt after two different colors to get different levels of weathering. This was just the first time I used it to get the feel for it.

    I think my next project will really show how this can be used to make really realistic looking weathering on edges and flat surfaces without taking the time to line/weather with brush.

    @Kris: I don't think flicking paint would give the same effect as this as the weathering would be on top of the topcoat. This salt technique gives the weathering a true 3D effect from under the paint. Also flicking would give more circular patterns, instead of the irregular ones given by the shape of the coarse salt. Also the hairspray is the biggest part of the puzzle as it allows weathering edges easily with just a toothpick.

  5. Ctreleb is right the splattering or flicking would produce round oval shapes and look poor.

    How easily does the paint rub off in the long run?

  6. @Black Matt: As I just did this over the weekend I am not sure of the longterm affects during game use. It seems though that the hairspray only releases the paint when made wet. I know using a toothpick dry will rub off the paint but it isn't very easy. Personally though I wouldn't play with them until a good coat or two of matte varnish was used just to be safe.

  7. Who built these models? They have some terrible mold lines :)

  8. I just tried this technique. Worked really well! Thanks.