Saturday, February 23, 2008

Finishing Up the Quick Carpet Interior

Another Saturday.....rainy day, good for working in the basement but bad for letting models dry......

A couple of blog entries back I went over using "Softflock" and acrylic hobby paint as a quick substitute for more time consuming carpeting things like "Kens Fuzzy Fur" or using the Carpeting Fuzz Stuff from Testor's. This week I finished up the interior that I used as a test bed for the quickee-carpet experiments.

I started by painting the dash with Tamiya Black #X-1. After this first coat was dry I covered the top part (the one that will show through the windshield) with liquid mask from MicroMark because every time I do this invariably I scratch or get some goo on the top of the dash, and this time I wanted to avoid it. I removed it for the final picture but will apply it again before the final assembly.

Next I painted the big dials with Tamiya chrome silver. Then once that was dry I painted the inside of the dials with Tamiya Clear Yellow #X-24. Now, I can't tell you how much like using Tamiya acrylics for dials. It looks realistic right from the get go and is easy to use--just dobble a bit of paint into the center part the dial (maybe thinned with a bit of alcohol) and you're done.

OK, here is the finished interior. Click the pix for a bigger view.

I put some baremetal foil on the lower part of the dash, and painted with a small brush the dials and knobs and whatnot, black or forest green.

The seatbelt buckles came from a photoetch set from Model Car Garage. I used masking tape painted forest green for the "belts". I think I've seen this masking-tape seatbelt technique detailed elsewhere on the web, if I can find it I will post a link later, if not I will post how I did it.

The steering wheel is Testors 1247 Gloss Black covered with Alclad II chrome. I then painted the rim of the wheel with Tamiya semi gloss black X-18 The turn signal knob and lever was scratch built out of some styrene rod--I drilled a hole in the side of the column and glued the lever in there before painting. I am not sure the original car had this (it's a 63 ford) but it looked a bit bare without it so there you go.

I really wanted to use this week to experiment with "dy brushing". I read about this on airplane and train model sites--the idea is that you tap almost all the paint out a brush and then run it over the raised surfaces of your dashboard (or whatever) over and over and only the raised stuff retains the paint. Well, I have never been able to get good results with this. After a few botched attempts I gave up using a brush for the fine detail work on the speedometer part of the dash. To paint the "dial" on the main part of the dash I got some Tamiya flat white acrylic, put it on the end of a sharp toothpick, and let it dry until it was tacky. I then lightly brushed it over the raised surface between the 2 silver/amber gauges. It didn't come out perfectly but it was good enough. I guess this is sort of dry brushing in a way without the brush.

So I am working on a candy finish for the body for this (it's going to be curbside) so maybe next time I can get that done and talk about it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Photo Fun--Basics of Photographing Model Cars

The good.....

The bad....

The ugly.....

As you probably know, modeling can lead to many other interests. It certainly has for me. My latest cross-pollination is photography. That's the topic of this week's entry: photography as it pertains to this oddball hobby we have chosen.

There are about a zillion internet pages about photography. For my own edification as much as anyone elses' I will reiterate some of the most basic ideas for photographing models and other similar objects, as I understand them.

Without further ado....

First let's talk about a camera's lens. It seems strange to me that light can be "bent" but that's how a lens works. I can dunk a pencil straight down into clear water in the sink it seems to bend as I slowly shove it under the surface, so obviously bending light must be possible. A correctly made lens bends the light on one side to come to a point of convergence on the other side. The distance between the lens and this point of convergence is called the lens' "focal length".

For any PHD ("push here, dummy") camera, the camera senses its environment, adjusts the focal length with a little motor, and the aperature (equivalent to the iris in your eyeball) with another little motor, and the shutter speed with a third little motor (well, a spring, or something like this). If you're taking pictures of your cat, it's remarkable how good most of these "auto everything" pictures come out--most of them are in focus and the light and shadows look remarkably natural.

But if you take pictures of model cars against a white background, you will find in about 20 seconds that when leave your auto-everything camera in auto-everything mode the pictures of your models won't look "right".

The biggest issue for me was "depth of field"--I could muck around with lights or shoot outside at noon or whatever, but no matter what, I could not get the front of the model and back both in focus at the same time!

After some digging around and conversations with some serious photographers, I found that to solve this issue I needed to set a high "F-stop"--say 18 or 22, and then have the camera control the shutter speed for me. With my Nikon D40 that means putting the camera into "A" as opposed to "Auto" mode, then manually adjust the f stop to 18; in Auto-everything mode the camera was stuck at about F 5 or so, no matter what I did.

F stop is a ratio between the aperture size and focal length, and the high F stop forces the aperature of the camera's lens to be tiny, and thus the shutter has to open up a lot longer to let in the right amount of light....that means a tripod is necessary, because it's impossible to hold the camera completely steady while the shutter takes its sweet time opening and closing.

OK so this high-F stop setting combined with a good tripod seems to have solved the depth of field issue.

Then I had to get the "right type of light" on the subject. I had horrible issues with things being too dark, too yellow, scale motors casting shadows that looked like a headstone at sunset, and so on. Some better lighting was in order. I read a lot of suggestions about buying this or that el cheapo 300W grow light from the hydroponics store, and trying this or that setting on my camera, but for me none of them looked very good, so in the end I sprung for an expensive Nikon SB-800 uber-flash. It could be moved off the camera (which I found helped fix some of the "bad shadow" issues) and worked seamlessly with my Nikon D40 without a lot of mucking around.

(Did I mention that as much as I like my D40 the built in flash is NG for taking pictures of models? Yep. I can't fault Nikon for that--it works fine for taking pictures of my cat, which is probably what a lot of people use their D40's for. Just not my models.)

Third problem: could never get many close-up shots into focus--at all--no matter what. I don't know why, exactly, but the SB-800 off camera light seemed to have solved that problem as well. I think the camera was trying to find a focal length vs. aperature setting vs. shutter speed, and if the light was bad it couldn't bring enough into the camera, so the camera essentially said "the heck with it, I'm not taking this picture". I'd hit the button and nothing would happen! Good news is that I have not had this issue since I got the 800 uber flash.

OK, with the new flash, the tripod, and a tiny bit more knowledge of how to use my camera, the result is photos like the top one I show at the beginning of this post. Compare the focus and lighting of the top one (with the SB800 about a foot from the interior tub, a cheap diffusor on the flash, an Fstop of 18, and the camera in "A" mode) to the bottom two (which are "auto everything" and use the D40's built in flash). The bottom two have serious lighting and depth of field issues. Yes, it's a different camera angle, because on auto-everything mode my D40 Nikon patently refused to take the picture you see on top!

I know the top photo isn't the end-all, ready to go into the Smithsonian etc etc., but believe me, the pictures I take now are a heck of a lot better than what I was doing before. Now the biggest problem is that I can see every little dust speck and snot bit and booger on the subject I am photographing. Before my focus wasn't as good so I could get away with being a lot sloppier. I guess a lens brush, to brush off the dreck on the model before I photograph it, is next. It will also make me into a much more careful/anal retentive modeler, I figure, which may or may not be a good thing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Quick Carpeting Part II

Another week, another few hours in the basement trying to get rid of the stress of a stupid job and the rest of life's BS's. So here is the result of this week's effort--some more work on the "quickee carpet" technique I was messing with last time (see description below--last time's post).

The overall look of the carpet was too light so I took coats of Tamiya Green and combined it with about 1/2 alcohol and brushed it on. The quickee carpet takes paint just fine and you can see that now the carpet's several shades darker. I found that the extra paint seemed to make the carpet more "stiff" but it still looks pretty good.

Behind the rear seats I tried something new. I took some Testors liquid Glue, brushed it on the plastic directly, dropped a few fingers of softflock on (the link again: Soft Flock link here. Tapped it to knock of the stuff that didn't sitck. Then let it dry for about 10 minutes and painted right on it. The result (I was hoping for an even quicker quickee carpet) looks more to me like some sort of stone finish then carpet. Might be good for model trains, but not the best here. It might work for quickee carpet where you can barely see what's there--say, between the front and back seat of a 1/25 scale sedan. Anyway, it was worth trying. I give it a solid C+.

I did a few more things to the interior, which is still far from being done. For one, I tried to put some Bare Metal Foil over the left back seat and paint it black. I wanted to see if it changed the look of the seat any (more like Leather? Vinyl? I guess I didn't know what I was looking for--it was an experiment). Turns out you can barely see any difference at all, and it's not worth the trouble, probably.

Also I scratch built some window cranks just to see if I could do it. I read up on that technique on the "Italian Horses" site, which has a lot of good stuff. Link is here. I didn't spend as much time as I should of as the tops of the cranks aren't as round as they should be, but, this was more about practice then making it perfect at point. I did find that I need to be very careful about making the underside of the cranks completely flat or they won't look right when they're glued to the interior.

Also I tried to put some metal bus wire between the green and black sections of the interior. It didn't come out perfectly but I have a feeling with seats in there etc. it will look fine. There is also the requisite bare metal foil here and then which I still need to clean up a bit. Overall though it's been a fun week messing around with this interior.

Next time I'm going to work on the dash. I have tried (and failed many times) to do the dry brushing thing but let's see if I can get it together.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Carpeting on the Quick.....Softflock for the Impatient: Part I

It's raining like crazy here so I thought I would get a headstart on next week's installment. OK, if you've built many models you've probably fooled around with flocking or some sort of scale carpeting to make your interiors look better right?

I have, and to date I have been disappointed, usually, with the results. First of all, putting in the "carpet" isn't as easy as it looks. The white glue ends up somewhere I don't want it, so you end up (say) carpeting the dash or center console--oops. So next I tried masking it, but the masking took up some of the carpeting when I pulled it up.

The white glue also seems to take a long time to dry and for me seems a bit too thick.

So I tried to figure out a better way and in the process found a method that can lay down OK looking "carpet" in about 5 minutes with a dry time of about 12-24 hrs. I know our wonderful hobby is all about patience, but sometimes I don't want to wait days for something like scale carpet to dry--and I have waited a long time in the past for scale carpet to dry!!

Here are the tools you need:

--Some sort of primer. I like Duplicolor's but I have a feeling any will work. Dark primer will make the finished carpet darker; light primer will make it look lighter. For this one I was experimenting with using light flock over dark primer. I wouldn't advise this on your show model or whatever, since it makes coverage harder and some dark patches might show through. For yours I'd suggest using light primer for all but the darkest carpets (say, black or brown).

BTW, for this test I took the interior you see out on my porch and primed it there. Little droplets of water got on it (it's raining here--remember?) while I was spraying so I figured the interior paint was toast. But to my surprise it dried fine! Duplicolor sandable primer is amazing!!

--Brush on styrene glue. I used Testors, which I don't like much and don't often use on models, however, I had a bunch of it lying around that I bought before I discovered that Tamiya's similar product was about 1200% better.

--Softflock. You can find this here.

--Acrylic paint. I used Tamiya green.

--Isopropyl alcohol. Put it in something you can mix the paint with.

--(not shown) Dullcoat (I use Testors #1260) Qtips, toilet or tissue paper.

OK, I put glue around where I wanted the carpet to go. Be careful to not brush it where you don't want it, but if you do, we can fix it later.

Then dump some of the softflock in there. I am using ivory/white. I have a feeling white or near-white will work best. Spread it around, knock it around, whatever. Then after a half minute or so, knock out what didn't stick, throw more glue on any bald spots or things that didn't cover and repeat. Try any of that with white glue for softflock! Better yet don't. It will look crappy. Been there, tried it.

OK now here's the fun part. Mix some paint (just a bit--20 to 1 alcohol to paint? Don't know, maybe less.) into the alchohol and dump it in there. If you make the paint to alcohol ratio too close to 1:1, the carpet will start to get blotchy so don't use too much paint.

Anyway, once you dump the alcohol in there it should create a slurry of sorts. That's OK. In this pix I used more than I usually use because I wanted to see what happened. I usually just pour in enough to cover up the Softflock left in there after I have tapped out the leftovers the final time. Let it sit there for a minute or so, then get some tissue paper or toilet paper and sop it out again.

You are left with pretty decent looking carpet--not as fuzzy as the "real" way to do this, but decent looking, and probably good enough for those of us in a hurry, especially if your carpeting is under the roof of a sedan or something. You have control over the color, since the carpet will take on the hue of the slurry you dumped in. But best of all while it's still wet--and it will stay wet for awhile--you have good control of where the carpet goes and doesn't go. Here's where the real fun begins. So you've soaked out most of the slurry. If you see anything lumpy, press it into place with your finger. If you see some carpet where you don't want it, use a q tip or xacto blade to get rid of it, cut it into place, shove it back down to the floorboard, etc. You will find that while the whole carpet muck is moist it is extremely pliable, but once it's dry (you can speed that up by sopping up more of the liquid with toilet paper) it stays put.

OK here's my final pix for the post. This carpeting run still needs some more clean up but that's easy--you can soak a q tip in alcohol, use a brush, or whatever, to get the non-stuck flock off the interior. The general shape and fit of the carpet looks pretty good but still needs a bit of work, however even at this early stage I don't have any stuck to the sides or whatnot. After a few hours, make sure your clean up and fit is really how you want, then shoot the carpet with a thin coat of dullcoat to seal in any stray little bits.

I will let this dry and continue expanding on this idea next time.

Alclad II Experiments Part III--Results So Far

Here's a quick buildup of some of the parts I was experimenting with last week. Can't believe it's the weekend again already! So last time I messed around with different base coats (different colors and types of paint) to see what basecoats looked best. Then covered 'em with Alclad II chrome lacquer to see how it looked. Not being satisfied with that I got out some of my trusty Tamiya Acrylics--and I have to say now that I **love** Tamiya paints--to see what effect they had when applied over the whole shabang.

Reading up on this the consensus seems to be: don't bother putting clears or whatever over Alclad--if you're after home-grown chrome it just undoes whatever effect you're after. Not being sidelined by this sort of thing--ever--I went to work on it anyway. Note that I wanted to try Duplicolor lacquer clear over some of the Alclad but I was fresh out and didn't have time to go to Kragen to buy more so this didn't get done. Oh well.

Anyway, as you can see, the results of this week's model madness are quite colorful--probably too colorful. As I said last time (below) every part you see here, except for the stack which is right off
an old MPC kit, and the valve covers from a Revell Parts Pack, was basecoated with a different color, airbrushed with Alclad II chrome, and then finished with some sort of acrylic.

As a control, the transmission was Alclad II chrome over thick gloss black enamel. It came out looking chromey but I had some pock-mark issues. Not sure why. It's not too bad though.

The engine block was Tamiya Red over the Alclad II. No problems there. No eating, peeling, or running--it covered the Alclad II right up.

Tamiya clear yellow acrylic was used on oil pan, which had a silver enamel undercoat. The result is a decent looking, but not perfect, sort of "gold chrome" you might see on a show custom or low rider. I am not fully sure what I'd use this for, but, it's an interesting effect.

The heads came out in a way I didn't expect. First, the texture molded into the plastic came out looking too textured. I think it might make sense to sand down textured stuff before applying alclad, as you end up with too dramatic an've probably read that alclad shows up every little bump and ding in the surface and this is true--but IMO it seems to me to magnify it, not just show it. Anyway, after letting the alclad II dry for a few hours I brushed on some Tamiya clear gloss acrylic. I have never heard this was a good idea, but as usual I did it anyway. This had the effect of making the basecoat (in this case, gold Testors enamel) show through more, and I ended up with an interesting metallic looking gold;not at all what I expected. And it seemed the more I brushed on the more basecoat showed through. I am not sure if I was rubbing off the alclad or some oddball chemical reaction was taking place, but the end result looks to me like neither alclad nor enamel paint. The end result looks pretty darn cool. With some practice I think you could get this looking a lot like cast metal that had some gold thrown in.

For the timing cover and starter I did the same thing, and got the same result--that the enamel undercoat showed through, but not all the way. The starter turned an odd green (undercoat) under chrome (Alclad) under gold (Tamiya Clear Yellow acrylic). The end result was an cross section of green and yellow, with a decidely metallic look to it. Fascinating, a sort of poor man's color morphing paint scheme.

The carb and manifold we done with and acrylic basecoat. As I said below, this isn't for everyone. The alclad basically didn't stick to the carb (Gloss black Tamiya acrylic) so it still looks black, although it did retain some silver highlights. The manifold, though, was one of the great triumphs of this week's experimentation. I think I already mentioned this, but here it is again: a flat black Tamiya undercoat, alclad II, followed a few hours later with Tamiya acrylic gloss clear. The result looks like cast pewter or something. It's a great effect, and one I am going to start using more.

Since the last post I have been doing a lot of reading about Alclad II chrome. Everyone has tried something odd with it and it seems like endless fun.

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