Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Calamity gets and Undercoat - Weathering Old West Buildings

I started this last weekend and discovered I didn't have all the materials and none of the local craft stores had what I needed. Fortunately Dick Blick ships quickly and I had the rest of my materials yesterday. I started with the Gamecraft Miniatures building last weekend to decide which fabric dye would work the best. I tried three brands of black; Rix, Scribbles and Dye-na-flow fabric paint. The Gamecraft building was primed with my airbrush using an acrylic primer ( I don't remember the brand). The fabric dye just didn't flow evenly across the surface and left a lot of streaks. Of the fabric dyes Scribbles and Dye-na-flow, are the best choices as they are actually black. The Rix comes out decidedly purple so I won't be using that one anymore. I picked up the fabric dyes at Joannes. The first pictures are of the Gamecraft building and I'm just unhappy with it, the back was done with the Rix dye and you can see how purple it is in the pictures.

Friday the inks arrived that I needed to pull off the effect. I purchased two different brands to try; Liquitex and Trans Mix Media Brilliant Ink (by Chartpak) from Dick Blick. I also primed the next two buildings with Kilz primer. I thought that the enamel surface would let everything flow a bit easier. I grabbed two Sarissa Small Heroic buildings for the next attempt.

I grabbed some big bottle gaps to serve as large palettes. The Scribbles dye comes out very thick so it needs to be cut down with water to create a wash. I had a cap each of Liquitex Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna ready to go as well. The process works much better if everything is wet (well except the primer, that should be dry).

Pick a side to work on liberally apply the black fabric dye wash, as it dries this will give that nice silvery gray color for exposed wood. Your brush strokes should be in the same direction as the wood planks. While this is still wet apply a bit of raw sienna in places that are more protected, under the roof eves, under the windows any place where there is more protection. Use the burnt sienna (The Liquitex Burnt Sienna is really strong and you should probably cut it a bit with water) in the most protected locations. Feather the inks together with the same brush, then feather some black up into the area. You are going to create different tones in the wood this way. After the initial feathering I added a bit of raw sienna into the lower portions where I already had black. This gives a random look to the wood. For a newer building use more raw sienna, just keep in mind that exposed wood tends to weather very quickly especially in areas that see extremes in weather like Colorado.

Let everything dry a bit, you may need to go back with the black if it dries lighter than you would like. This is definitely a season to taste technique. This goes quickly, I did all three buildings inside of 30 minutes. This "undercoat" will serve two purposes. For the sides and backs of the buildings it will be the finished look. Paint was quite expensive in the Old West and typically only the front of a building would get painted, especially because of the boom and bust nature of small towns in the Old West. On the front of my buildings this will become the undercoat. When I reach the color stage I'll borrow a couple of other railroad techniques to create a peeling paint effect to expose this undercoat.

At this stage I'm pretty happy with the results so I'll move on to the rest of Calamity. Pictures will probably help explain what I was doing better than my writing so on to the snapshots!
1st attempts with the Fabric Dye.

Started with the Rix dye which ended up quite purple. Then went over it with the Scribbles brand. Now the whole back is really to dark. I might just paint this up as a rare building painted on all 4 sides. Or re-prime and try again.
Sarissa Precision Small Heroic Plus building. Primed with Kilz

Liquitex, Raw Sienna on the left, Burnt Sienna on the right.

Scribble, Black Fabric Dye

Scribble straight from the bottle, thicker than Vallejo! Add water to create a wash.
Apply black over the whole side. A bit of raw sienna higher up the side and under the window. Burnt Sienna on the very top board. You can see the different tones this creates.

Front of the Sarissa Small Heroic buildings, finished.

Back of the Sarissa Small Herioc buildings, finished.
Trying to save the Gamecraft Miniatures building. I think I can call this a sucess.

The back is still way to dark. Although it looks better in person. Maybe I'll just paint all four sides.

A small Calamity street shot

A small Calamity alley shot


  1. wow! it seems so easy!!!!
    Many thanks for the "how I do" !

    Just a question: at the time they were built, they were new, so not a lot of weathering, maybe ?

    1. I'll vary the amount of weathering. Some will be newer, some will be older. To make them look newer just add more raw and burnt sienna and less black. You would be surprised at all quickly wood weathers especially in the western US.

    2. Sorry, I didn't reply before...
      I've read all the comments and it seems that you're right!
      I've seen wooden houses here, and they take very fast a grey colour (I like it!).
      But: it seems that some buildings were painted (red, yellow, etc....), maybe if they were (are) repainted, they don't have the weathering effect ?
      Thanks for all !

    3. The next step in my process is to paint the buildings. On a painted building you are only going to see the faded gray on exposed wood. For my peeling paint technique I need to do this weathering first which will then be exposed when I "peel" the paint. That will either reveal new wood, or weather wood depending on where I peeled the paint off. That's why I apply the weathering in a more or less random fashion. I don't know what color wood will be exposed when I peel the paint. You will see it better when I get a little further along with pictures of finished buildings.

  2. The darkened building looks quite good. All of them look great. As you noted wood ages quickly, and I've seen purplish black buildings here in the north and out west. Popular wood does purple with age! The whitewashed city barn at my childhood home had a dark blue gray tint to it's iron hard timbers!
    Looking forward to the finished structures!

    1. That's interesting, I haven't seen a wood fade like that. The Rit dye is useful after all!

  3. Looks great! Can I just check: you're undercoating in white and washing with black, right? With a little dark brown added to sheltered parts?

    1. Prime in white, then wash with the black, but I don't use any actual brown, the burnt sienna has really a very intense reddish brown. If you wanted to use something more brown, then try raw or burnt umber.