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  • How To; Paint Wood Grain Effects

    Wood Grain Effect; A closer look at how to get that authentic look and feel to your models.

    Things you will need:

    • Base coat – I use Vallejo natural wood but Tamiya XF78 is also a good base layer.
    • Fast drying oil paints;
    o Raw Umber
    o Burnt Umber
    • Masking tape (I recommend Tamiya tape as it will not pull the paint from your model but has a good bond)
    • Craft knife – SHARP change the blade before you start work!
    • Old brush for masking
    • Selection of brushes – a fan brush is very useful for this process
    • Sponge – have a few different types at hand, course, soft, airy or dense. Each will give a different effect.
    • Varnish
    • Air tight container to place your work in to dry.

    For the oil paints Raw and Burnt Umber will give you very good results but you can also go with Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and mixing the oils will also give you a more unique partner and texture. Experimentation is the key here so practice on a sheet of plastic first and get a feel for how the technique works. However for this process I will use Raw and Burnt Umber.


    This is very important as you don’t want to ruin previous work that you have down so make sure you cover your non-working are well. I use and old brush to push the tape down in to tall the crevasses and fine detailed area to prevent bleed. For an in depth 'How To' on masking go here.

    Base coat:

    Don’t rush, either using an airbrush or wide brush lay down your base coat. If you get streaks don’t worry as these will add to the overall effect, if you are deliberately streaking your work then I suggest streak each individual panels in different direction. As I mentioned before, aircraft buildings painstakingly cut each section so the grains would not follow the same seam to give more strength to the airframe.

    Once this is down you can leave it to dry, I would recommend over night. The reason for this is because you really want the base coat to fully harden as we will be masking a lot for this process. It also gets you in to the good habit of taking your time.

    More Masking:

    12 hours later and I’m ready to get the first panels coated. We are only going to work on a few panels at a time that will have the same direction of grain. So I will carefully mask of the other surfaces that we don’t want to coat.

    Oil Paints:

    I’m going to start with the burnt umber and using an old wide brush I put down a good coating, you’ll see the lines and streaks, don’t worry about these as they will help with the deeper seams in the wood and you’re not going to be able to paint the oils on evenly anyway.


    Now here is the fun part, breaking off a small piece of sponge of the density you want I will wipe it gently across the surface of the paint. In this case I will wipe diagonally across the panel. I found turning the work piece so that I’m wiping vertically easier then wiping across the work.

    •Notice the buildup of oil paint next to the masking tape, do not worry about this as the oil paint will also take on the role of ink/washes and darken any indentations in the work.

    To help with the swirls and knots in the wood I used a fan brush an flicked/rotated 180 to swirl the oil paints around and then using a smaller brush and the sponge worked the grain again.

    The great thing about oils is that if you go wrong you can just wipe it off with a lint free tissue and start again.

    Removing the masking

    One thing I have started doing is removing the masking tape about an hour after I have finished painting, but before the paint has dried. The reason for this is on a few occasions when I have removed the masking only to be either left with a very high ridge in the paint or for the overflow to peel off some of the finished work area.

    But slowly peeling off the masking you remove this, however care must be taken not to disturb or damage the work you have put in.

    Storage While Drying:

    I put the pieces in an air tight container to dry, this is essential as oil paint attracts lint and dust like nobody’s business so keeping it covered during the drying process is essential. Also make sure your container is CLEAN! I throw mine in the dishwasher on wash and dry cycle and only remove them when I'm about to put the pieces inside.

    This is also good practice when varnishing your work either with mat or gloss finishes, the last thing you want is a bit of hair, dust or lint settling on your beautifully finished model!

    I normally use a piece of thick masking tape folded in half to stick the pieces to the bottom of the container and then tape one end down just to be safe. Again this protects your work if you incidentally knock it or need to move it.

    More Masking:

    So now all we do is repeat the process, some like to leave the masking tape on around the edges but I prefer to remove it all and get a good look at what it looks like so far. It gives me a better idea of which way the next panels grain needs to go and ensures that the bond between the model and tape is good.

    Next Panel:

    So now we repeat the process laying the oil down first in the direction of the grain we want and then using the sponge and brushes to get the effects that we want. This is a very lengthy process especially if you have a lot of panels, Early Albatros are a real chore however once you look at a fuselage with all the grain affects in different directions the model becomes something more and unique drawing the eye each time to different areas of detail.


    How you lay this is just as important as the oils and I would recommend brush on the gloss varnish rather than airbrushing. Again I would recommend brushing in the same direction as the grain as this will really highlight all the ridges and gullies of the oil paints that you painstakingly applied.

    Remember patience is the key, some of the models that you see displayed have taken over a year to build and in many situations waiting takes up the majority of the build time.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: How To; Paint Wood Grain Effects started by FarEast View original post