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Panel Line Wash - Tips for a beginner

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Hi All,


Ive come back to the hobby after a fan of about 7 years! Previously I’ve always built models as ‘neatly’ as a could and then finished off with a satin/gloss varnish. This time round I want to try and add a bit more depth to my models.


I found a technique on YouTube where you run a 4B pencil along the panel lines of the model, then smudge the pencil using a cotton bud. On the topside of the model the effect looked ok, but on the lighter underside of the model it looked awful! So I’ve sanded back the paint and will start again.


There’s a huge amount of info on here about panel washes but I’m afraid I still need a hand.


The Tamiya panel line accent seems to get good reviews? I’d be looking to use a very small brush to highlight the panel lines, black for darker surfaces and then a light grey for lighter surfaces, such as the underside of a BoB Spitfire. I brush paint using enamels and I guess the panel line accent would work over an enamel gloss coat?


Cheers, Al

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One of the problems with panel line washes is that it can be very easy to get paint outside the line, so you need to be able to remove it without damaging the underlying paint.


The panel line washes I am aware of (Mig, Tamiya) are enamel based intended for use over acrylic - this way you can use white spirit to remove any excess without damaging the finish.


Working with enamels, unless you are very quick, careful and sparing the user of white spirit to remove excess wash will damage the underlying paint.


You could try providing an acrylic protective coating to the enamel finish (varnish or Future) before the panel wash. Alternatively, you could try using water-color paint, which I've had some success with.


One final thought (one I've been meaning to try but haven't got round to yet) is to use tinted charcoal pencils in a similar way to the pencil technique you've already tried.





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My 2 cents on the matter...

First bit of advice: don't use black ! A blackk wash is too stark and results in generally unrealistic models. There are a couple of exceptions to this:

- A black painted subject.... where the idea is to paint the model in something lighter than black like a very dark grey, Then it's possible to add a black wash.

- Moveable surfaces. In this case a black wash makes these contrast differently against the other panel lines, making these lines look deeper.. as they are in reality.

On camouflaged aircraft, generally a raw umber wash is much better. A darker wash can be had by mixing raw umber and Payne's grey. On grey aircraft, Payne's grey is a good colour for a wash, unless the base is a very light grey.

If using the commercially available washes, it is also possible to choose a darker variant of the colour used on the model.


Regarding materials, there are a number of options, I can list a few that I tried. As you're using enamels to paint your models, the ideal solution would be to use something that is water soluble as this would not attack the underlying paint. Lifecolor have a range of what they call "Liquid Pigments" that is water based. The range includes a number of "liners", designed exactly fot this kind of application. I believe anyway that all products in the series can be used to make washes.

The method I use at the moment is to make washes using Vallejo colors and a product called "Glaze medium". This when added to any acrylic color turns it into a glaze.. and can be used to make washes in practically any colour. Of course you don't need all the colours, but having say a very dark brown, a very dark green and a 2-3 greys would sort most schemes.

It is of cours possible to use pencils...yes the old trick of using a pencil to highlight panel lines can work well, but it's better to have a range of pencils of different colours, as you have discovered. Particularly on light colours, a grey pencil would look too dark.

A variation on the technique is the use of chalks. They can lead to nice results but are IMHO a bit too tricky to use. The idea is to grind some powder, add some water and then with a small brush apply the mix to the panel lines. Chalks can in some cases also be applied directly to the model surface. I have a set of grey chalks going from white to black that I used on some of my grey painted models and they can give good results with practice.

Last but not least, the method I used when I first started adding washes to my models and one I still use: water soluble oil paints. I sue the Artisan series from Winsor & Newton and they work pretty well. The pigment is not always the finest but really I never had problems. These can be thinned with water but dry in a time long enough to allow removing them wit a wet rag or a cotton bud. Using just raw umber, Payne's grey and black I managed to add washes to a lot of aircraft. I would probably add a lighter grey for use on very light greys and whites though.


To give an idea of the results, here's a link to a model I built a few years ago where I used the Winsor & Newton water mixable oils on the upper surfaces and a wash made with a Vallejo acrylic and their Glaze Medium on the lowers. Raw umber on top and a medium-dark grey on the bottom, with black used to highlight the control surfaces and other details like vents, grilles and similar stuff



Edited by Giorgio N
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Thank you all - great response as always!


I think I will look to try a water/clay based wash after an enamel gloss varnish? I assume this will allow me to wipe away areas of the wash that I don’t want using a damp cloth or cotton bud? Would I then be able to apply an enamel satin varnish over the wash? Im brush painting by the way.


Cheers, Al

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Yes you will be able to wipe areas away, but by the same token I think any brush applied final coat will also risk smearing the wash (and of course making it impossible to remove afterward). 

If you don't use an airbrush, then a spray can may be necessary - and use light, almost dry, coats.


Note that if you are using a wash over very light surfaces, you may find some staining will occur, even with water based washes. Personally I find this quite effective - a pristine white underside is in my eyes most unrealistic! But be warned and perhaps do some experimentation on some test subjects.





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I spray my models with enamels (Humbrol, Colourcoats, Xtracolor) and use highly-thinned Tamiya acrylic or Model Master acrylic as a wash, applied with a microbrush to just the panel line. I put a drop of flow enhancer in the wash prior to applying it. The acrylic is usually black, but is highly thinned so as to create just a shadow of a slightly darker color than the paint it is applied to. You can use other colors, but subtlety is the key.

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Good quality artists watercolours thinned and a tiny bit of soap added to break the surface tension works well over enamels.

They can be used as an all over general weathering wash over matt paints, put plenty on, wait until nearly dry then start removing the excess with a damp soft brush. Keep washing the brush out and wiping away until you get the desired effect.

They can also be used as a pin wash for panel lines, best on a gloss finish, and wipe away any excess with a damp tissue when nearly dry.

If you don't like the effect they can be washed off quite easily, if you do like it you can spray a coat of varnish to seal them in.

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  • 11 months later...

Really appreciate this thread and OP. Sticking with my smudge fantastic Staedtler pigment liner for now, only because I’m barely learning scribing and oil. Use clear coat or 50/50 Future floor polish brush is fine. Check forces acting on aircraft for brush strokes, apply thinly, but it’s like a undo button. Check this far after Humbrol Acrylic Varnish OVER klear disaster, that was the problem. I’m Acrylic all the way but and it’s worth noting be patient, do a test on a sprue or old aeroplane you can then dip, buy two copies of. With optimism and love, here’s a Germanic Horror with a fascinating history. Accept I can’t find insert pic, I’ll start a new thread fellow aviation fanatics. When you build, fall in love it, you tube it, you prolly do but the mechanics and history interests me more than the build. That’s where GW went wrong, the lore suffered. Now it’s Duplo. Mines the first show and tell so be easy!

Edited by blanco77
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I like Vallejo Model Wash as both a filter and a wash.  They thin with water, come in many colors, and are flexible and fun to play with in achieving many effects.  The only downside is once they dry they are permanent so work in small areas at a time.  They are not like a and enamel or oil wash where you can reactivate them with thinner.  Although I haven’t tried them, Flory Models weathering wash looks impressive and I have heard many good comments on it.

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So far, I have only used Citadel Washes ( Nuln Oil ) on the radiator surfaces of my Airfix 1/72 Hurricane. It was painted Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum first.

Came out nicely.








When I finish painting and decaling, I'm going to try some Tamiya Panel Line Accent.







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Ok, this seems a convenient place to ask as I’ve read such conflicting info on what is Acrylic, or Acrylic with “oil” or “enamel” that is driving me mad.


1. Make model

2.Paint with Vallejo Air brush colours, a few citadel paints, water based paints.

3. Spray Klear/Future floor polish (thin coat) with airbrush to seal and prep surface for decals.

4. Make sure there’s a shiny finish for decals, repeat step three if not.

5. Apply Decals, using Micro Sol and Micro Set. 
6. Spray Klear/Future floor polish, thin coats again. Hopefully protecting decals and not clogging panel lines.

7. Spray/brush Vallejo Acrylic Satin Varnish to get shiny glossy surface. It’s the only varnish I currently have, happy to get something else.

8. Use Tamiya Accent Panel colour on panel lines.

9. Using cotton bud, apply White Spirit, Vallejo airbrush thinner, or Isopropyl even water, clean away unwanted Tamiya wash not in panels.

9. Thin coat of Klear to take the gloss down.

10. Promise never to ask this again.


It would help me so much if someone could tell me if the points are ok. If not please refer to numbered point (not 10) and suggest a specific change , product change and reason.


Thanks in advance.










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