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Panel line washes - why can't I get them right?

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I've been trying to bring a bit of life to my models by adding a dark wash to panel lines, using Humbrol enamel washes. I give the model a coat of Klear first and let it sure for minimum 24 hours, the theory being that with capillary action the wash should "flow" down the panel line, but it doesn't, so I end up just painting a line of wash along the line. Then when taking off the excess (after a drying time of 20-30 minutes) I find that most of that I've put on just lifts out of the line and I'm back to square one. I've tried dabbing with just the most slightly thinner-moistened bit of kitchen towel then using a dry bit to wipe it away, but I can't seem to get a satisfactory result. I feel this is much harder than it should be, What am I doing wrong?

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Hi Tony


I couldn’t ever get panel line washes right, it was a bit hit and miss at best although for different reasons to you I think.


Have you tried Flory Model’s washes? They’re clay based so can be applied over any finish left to dry and just wiped off with damp kitchen roll. Job done!

It maybe something that’s worth looking at. 




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Depending on the depth and nature of the scribing, the klear coat may be your problem. Unless applied very thinly this can fill the lines to some degree and round the edges meaning that the wash won't stay in the lines when you wipe.


Try your technique on a test piece without Klear coating. I realise you may be trying to protect the underlying paint from the wash - to that end I usually use a watercolour wash, then Klear (sprayed) afterwards to seal it.





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@ckw all the lines I've tried to so far are of my own making - Heller kits that have had raised panel lines, but I've scribed myself. I suspect that adter 1 coat primer, x coats of paint and the Klear they might not be very deep any more! 


@franky boy I'll look at the Flory stuff, thanks.

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1 hour ago, TonyOD said:

I've been trying to bring a bit of life to my models by adding a dark wash to panel lines,

maybe just beginners luck,  but 



"I had a go at an oil wash earlier, and rubbed off some of the Sky when trying to scrub it off...  bit of a panic, redid some Sky,  didn't match.... redid the Kleer, and then did it all over,  I  thought I'll do a bit more oil wash quickly....


half an hour of of oil washing later



shows better on the underside




in the background, some lighter fuel, and oil paint, the really old tubes, black and burnt umber, date from about 1973 (I know this as they are German, from a years spent in Germany then)..... the white is merely from the late 70's....

I just used lighter fuel as a solvent, applied it, wicked, scrubbed it off etc etc.... using a either black/brown, or with some white for dirty grey.

it's worked quite well, added some depth to panel lines, and added a bit of tonal modulation. "


I just used the flat brush dampened in clean lighter fuel to scrub off the wash,  you can 'push' the wash about quite easily.   


this is the underside before for comparison, note even after the wash it not that different,  just a bit of subtle shading and some overall modulation of the finish, and it's more noticeable on the underside. 




this is the dirty grey wash after a coat of varnish, in natural light,  which gives a shadow, but avoids the stark effect of pure black.  If you look at the green area round the wingroot and fuselage, you can see traces of the wash,  which gave a subtle modulation.  




Again, this was my first go, and it worked very well.  



Again, maybe a lucky combination, it's brush painted, so not airbrush really smooth, even under a coat of Kleer, so the wash stays in the tiny dips.


And, not an enamel wash, just some old oil paint.    


You might want to try the humbrol enamel wash thinned with lighter fuel,  it evaporates in seconds,  and then use a brush dipped in clean LF to clean off/push around.    Just experiment a bit really and see what works.

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@Troy Smith Thanks for this, I'll spend a bit of time with it later on. I've had my fingers burnt a couple of times by oil washes and have pretty much decided that weathering isn't for me, I'm looking for my models to look sort of smart, like they've just had a wash even (which I know in real life situations especially in wartime... I had an online chat a while back with a guy who served on HMS Ark Royal when it had the Phantoms and he said they were filthy, "cleaned" with WD40 because they didn't have ready access to the large quantities of fresh water needed!) Still, without a bit of something going on int he panel lines it can all look a bit flat.

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53 minutes ago, TonyOD said:

I'll spend a bit of time with it later on. I've had my fingers burnt a couple of times by oil washes

the main point is lighter fuel,  it's very very thin and seeking, and evaporates really fast.  makes white spirit seem like thick sticky gloop

The oil paint thinned with LF was like dirty thinners, and the capillary action from it is great, and the paint dries off really fast. 

Obviously, well ventilated, but you only need a tiny amount. 



I used it on a figure, over matt vallejo


Paynes Grey over Xtracrylix


black/burnt umber over Kleered Vallejo



Over Kleer you can mess about a lot,  I found it really easy to adjust what i wanted to get where, the paynes grey over xtracylix didn't work as well, but really was cheap oil paint.   The other I use were old, but better quality.


53 minutes ago, TonyOD said:

and have pretty much decided that weathering isn't for me, I'm looking for my models to look sort of smart, like they've just had a wash even

I think it is often forgotten by modellers that Aircraft are not tanks, and need to be cleaned to work properly, so oil and exhaust deposits, and other gunk gets cleaned off, or wiped off.  

You only need a little for a bit of contrast.   Also, ground pastel chalk over the matt coat (it stick better)  can help with modulation. If you are not handling the model much, you don't even need to seal it.   In the plane builds,  I like that the airframe (eggshell), exhaust (matt)and oil streaks (a bit glossy)  have different sheens,  many modellers go for an overall final varnish, which evens this out.  Real gunk is not the same.


The other thing is study photos and ignore models, unless they look like the reference photos, and go from there.   


And, doing some photos of your model and uploading them, seeing them onscreen can really put it into a common perspective for other models you see on here. 



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Thanks for that @Troy Smith, again my modelling aspirations are very modest and the skill sets I develop will be likewise, but the lighter fuel for thinning panel line washes is a tip I'm going to keep a note of. 

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