Friday, March 31, 2017

The most realistic photography I've ever seen of scale model dioramas

Wow, that's a title full of hyperbole. Like so much of that clickbait crap one encounters on the internet: "The most amazing [insert ridiculous claim here]... you won't believe what happened next!" However, I chose my words carefully. The photos below by one very talented Russian modeller are the most amazing and realistic diorama photos I've ever encountered, and have given me a new benchmark to aim for in photographing my own work.

Now I'll begin this by saying I have no copyright of any of these shots. None of the work is mine, I just want to share something that is worth sharing. All images are taken from the following link, and remain the property of their original owner:

With that out of the way, let's get stuck in.

A few months back I saw shared on Facebook the following shots of a German airfield in winter. They blew my mind. The winter scene looks so real, the early morning light is so perfect, the real trees in the background so seamless! I was in awe. Foolishly, I did not save the post and as things do on Facebook, it scrolled on and on and I lost the images and attribution. But the images stayed in my mind as an inspiration.

If those were black and white images, I honestly could not have picked that this was a diorama rather than a real shot from the 1940s.

And now I have found more by the same modeller, Boris Karaev from Saint Petersburg, who also goes by the forum name KarBor, and he is a master at shooting his dioramas so that they look like real life scenes. The dioramas are great, but the carefully thought-out photography is just world class.

Here is another series of shots based around a diorama set in Stalingrad:

Here is a series around Belgium in winter 1944:

And finally here are some set in the battle for Kharkov:

All images in this blog post copyright KarBor.

This isn't all of them. I encourage you to visit the link above and see the rest for yourself.

What I love about these is that Boris just gets every element right:

  • The camera angle is spot on. 
  • He shoots on days when the weather matches the scene he has modelled - look at the Kharkov series there, Boris was standing outside on a freezing cold snowy day to get those shots. 
  • The light and sky are just right. 
  • The location just matches his diorama perfectly.
  • There is no clear line between where the diorama groundwork ends and where the real ground begins. 
  • And my favourite touch - it is a 360 degree setup: he takes shots from all angles, and the background buildings or trees match the diorama scene from every angle, not just from one perfect position.

So as I said, I have a new benchmark to aim for when I am photographing my own dioramas. Sadly, we don't get many snowy days here in Australia, so I might struggle to find a snowy mid-20th Century factory as a background for my Russian dioramas!

I tip my hat to you, KarBor. That is stunning, my friend, and I just had to share your work with my audience.



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Video tutorial: How to mask and paint Japanese markings on a scale model WW2 fighter

Most of my posts on this blog have been about 1/35 armour, but I am also a voracious builder of 1/32 fighter planes from the Second World War. Yet I've hardly spoken about them. Time to fix that. My latest video tutorial shows you how to mask and paint the round red markings (hinomaru) on WW2 Japanese planes.

Seriously, once you have painted your own hinomaru, you will never use decals again. It's so easy, and the weathered end result is so, so much better than any decal.

Seriously, how good does that look? Faded, weathered. No decal can do that.

Don't believe me? Check out the video below to see how easy and effective it is.

I've included an Amazon link below so you can purchase the one tool required. It's 5 bucks, and you can use it for Japanese markings, RAF roundels, whatever. Bargain.



Monday, March 27, 2017

Video tutorial: Painting scale models - Washes, Pin Washes, Filters and Dot Filters explained

There seems to be some uncertainty out there when painting scale models around the topic of filters and washes. These painting and weathering techniques can seem a little daunting and confusing: what exactly is the difference between a wash and a pin wash, and where do filters fit in? Have no fear, I'm here to sort you out - the naming is confusing, but the techniques most definitely are not.

My latest video tutorial explains the differences and shows you in detail how to do each:

In case you're too busy to watch a 13 minute video, here is the basic breakdown.


A thin layer of murky paint, roughly 1 part paint to 10 parts thinner.
Applied with a medium brush.
Good for making large areas look dirty and grimy, e.g. tank tracks.

Pin Washes

The same thinness of paint (1:10).
Applied precisely with a fine brush.
Uses capillary action to flow it along seams and panel lines.
Brings out detail.


An even thinner layer of paint, roughly 1 part paint to 20 parts thinner.
Applied over large areas with a large brush.
Used to even out colours overall, tone down the different tones on camouflage, or change the tone of an overall colour. Can warm or cool the tone of the base coat.

Dot Filters

Splat on little daubs of oil paint onto a surface.
Then use a large flat brush which has been soaked in thinners to brush off most of the daubs.
Used for colour modulation, breaks up a monotone colour surface.
Good for weathering: dust, rain streaks, etc.

One final note

I have to stress this: if like me you're using oils or enamels in any of these washes or filters, make sure you apply them onto an acrylic paintjob! The copious amounts of thinners involved will destroy an enamel surface, and your carefully applied enamel paintjob will be back to raw plastic before you know it. You don't want that.

I hope that answers any questions you may have. It's not complicated, it's just confusing nomenclature. If I haven't answered your questions, please comment below and I'll do my best to answer any queries you may have.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

My beaten-up old test bed tank: a Tamiya 1/35 King Tiger

This is my test bed for all new techniques. It's an ancient 1/35 scale Tamiya King Tiger tank. I first built this in about 1988, when I was a teenager, and although it is a terrible, terrible build, as a workhorse this model has served me well ever since.

The finished build really is atrocious. There are globs of glue everywhere, just great run-off rivers of the stuff from when I first built it.

It has lost a lot of pieces over the years. Road wheels, the main gun muzzle break, hull-mounted tools, and turret mounts for spare tracks are all gone.

One of the back idler wheels has broken off, so the rubberband tracks on that side are loose and funky without sufficient tension now.

But, all that aside, this is a great beast for taking whatever caustic or ill-advised crap I throw at it. I've tried out paint removal methods (oven cleaner, anyone?) and rust duplication (dissolve steel dishpads in vinegar, watch out for those toxic acid fumes which can accidentally kill you!). My first ever airbrushing attempt was on this baby.

But most importantly, as a test bed I don't care if I stuff something up on this model when trying out a new technique.

Ah, that spidering on the turret was a very early airbrushing attempt...

That splodge of yellow down the front glacis plate? Dot filtering.

Look at those globs of glue.

Yesterday I airbrushed it Russian Green overall, in preparation for a video I'm hoping to shoot today about washes, pin washes, filters and dot filters.

A Koenigstiger looks mighty strange in Russian Green.

You can see the broken idler wheel here.

Is than main gun actually drooping???

It's good to have a test bed model. I really recommend trying unreversible techniques on a test bed, rather than on your latest pride and joy that you've spent dozens of hours carefully creating. Much less stressful.

The old beast comes in handy once again.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Slow going this week

It's been a slow week this week. I haven't touched a model in a few days, due to a freelance graphic design job I've got on. Plus I've lost a little inertia since completing the Sherman and Scout Car. Next step for that diorama is beginning either the ruined building, or beginning the various figures. Both are big jobs, and I can't decide which to start first.

Meh, just get on with it Dave!

This weekend I hope to put together a video on the difference between washes, pin washes, and filters. I'll keep you informed.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Top 10 scale model boards on Pinterest

For a long time I ignored Pinterest. I had heard it was mostly used for "girly" stuff like wedding inspiration and fashion ideas (yeah, I know, that sounds ridiculous). About a year ago I started using it for photo references for my full-time work as an art director. Then one day I decided to look for scale model references on Pinterest. And you know what? It's chock full of amazing modelling ideas. If you are a modeller and you don't use Pinterest, you are missing out on some Good Stuff.

For any of you who don't use Pinterest (yep, another social media to have to keep track of!) I thought I would do you a favour and share with you my list, in no particular order, of the:

Top 10 scale model boards on Pinterest

#1 DAK
Over 6,000 images of the Afrika Korps during WW2. 6,000!  And they are all great images, and constantly added to.  If you model anything DAK, you will find useful reference photos here.

#2 Japanese "Things to try"
The title in Japanese translates to "Things to try". It is an amazing board full of images of built models and dioramas. What I love about this board is that they are really, really high quality builds. Nothing average here, they are all world-class models. Inspiring stuff.

#3 Rusted Models
Not a huge number of images, but if you want to build any kind of rusted model, there are wonderful references here to aspire to - if other modellers can do this, you can too. I found this helpful when I was building my rusted abandoned SU-122 tank diorama. Rusted models? Does what it says on the tin.

#4 Military dioramas
Over 1,000 images of military dioramas. Again, what I like about this board is that it is curated, you only get the really good stuff build by master modellers. And that is one of the reasons I really recommend Pinterest - all the wheat has been sorted from the chaff, people only pin images which are important to them, it's only the good stuff which tends to be pinned.

#5 Quality dioramas
A bit like the last one, it's only quality dioramas that make it onto this board. You want inspiration? You got it. Also, not everything is 1/35 military dioramas, there are some fantasy pieces, some planes, some figures, about 15% is unexpected. In my book, that's a good thing to expose yourself to inspiration from other fields of model building.

#6 Scale modelling techniques / references
Lots of "how to" guides linked to. The images give you an idea of what each tutorial is about, and you click on the link to take you to the original web page which gives the whole story. Easy.

#7 Knocked out tanks
Again, does what is says on the tin. If you want references of tanks which have been disabled, knocked out or brewed up, this board has lots of good quality references all curated in one place. Not the hugest number of images, but they are good ones.

#8 Apocalypse Model Ideas
A little left of centre here, but I really like this genre of models. Post-apocalyptic stuff, think "Mad Max" style vehicles and dioramas. Fun, interesting, diverse, and lots of inspiring stuff even if you are a rivet-counter and insist on historical accuracy in your own builds rather than flights of fancy (pfft, how boring are you, eh?) Nice.

#9 Infinity
Sci-fi, medieval, lots of WW2 models. Again, it's world-class stuff. Visit it and see.

#10 My own Dave's Model Workshop Pinterest boards
What, you didn't think I would leave out my own stuff, did you? Check them out. There are boards for weathering ideas, techniques and tips, diorama ideas and inspiration, figure painting, scratchbuilding scale models. It's the best of the best, if I do say so myself ;)

So there you have it. I guess it all boils down to this: Pinterest supplies a curated series of images to your eyeballs. Only the really good stuff gets in, compared to say a Google Images search for exactly the same term/s. It's visual heavy (I think most of us model builders are more visual than text people) and it is an amazing resource.

Try it. Add to it. Get out there. Let me know what you find in the comments below.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Video masterclass: How to Weather Scale Models

I've got two photos to share with you today. First up is the BEFORE photo of my 1/35 Italeri Sherman tank. Next is the AFTER shot.  Quite a difference. And it's all down to the weathering techniques I share in my two-part weathering video tutorial series.

Back when I was starting out making models, I would have killed for this information. This is effectively a half hour masterclass in weathering scale models.

Part 1 dealt with the salt technique, washes, chipping and rust. Now Part 2 goes into how to weather scale models using pigments, adding mud, unifying the overall tone, some final paint chipping, and the finishing touches to bring it all together.

Here are the two completed videos.

Part 1: Salt technique, washes, chipping, rust

Part 2: Mud, pigments, tone, chipped paint, finishing touches.

There's a lot gone into these two videos, and the building and recording took place over a couple of months. If I may toot my own horn for a moment, I think it's paid off.

Until next time,



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Finishing touches to the Sherman and Scout Car

The vehicles are almost done. I've been doing those fiddly little bits and pieces at the end of a build (this was my to-Do List a couple of days ago).

Tonight I modelled some damage to the front left fender of the White Scout Car. I normally wouldn't be screwing around with heat near a built model this late in the game, but truth be told I lost the headlight protector grill and so I decided to make a feature of it and damaged the area.

Tonight's effort.

That said, I think I ballsed up the fender a bit. I fear it looks like melted plastic rather than dented sheet metal. Hopefully my paint and rust will save it. I pushed it just a bit too far.

Ahhh, in the immortal words of Mr Kenny Rogers:

"You gotta know when to hold them,
Know when to fold them,
Know when to walk away
Know when to run."

Should have walked away just that little bit sooner.

Until next time,



Monday, March 13, 2017

Modelling as a mindset: Great weathering references

I just got back today from a 3-day weekend away in Ocean Grove, on the Bellarine Peninsula south west of Melbourne (feeling suitably relaxed, thanks for asking). While we were there, we went to an agricultural show, and I spotted some great old pieces of farm machinery.  More importantly, I spotted some great references for future weathering of models.

Check out these shots. These are going in the reference library.

Perfect reference for faded, rusty metal.

Chipped paint!




Bare metal tracks!

Chipping and rust!

Oil stains!


Rust streaks!

Once you start making models, you tend to pay more attention to the world around you in a way that "normal" people don't. You see how light affects how you view something. You see how sun and rain weather metal. You see how dirt and mess really look, so you can replicate them in the future.

I really like that I view the world this way.