Paint colors for X-Wing, Snow speeder & AT-AT

CaptCBoard

Well-Known Member
Who is right or who is wrong isn't the point. The point is I have my reliable information, acquired from the mouths of the people who did the work; and then there are others who like to quote publications that were written after the fact by people who did not do the work. I didn't do my research by books alone, I went to the original sources. My problem is, I talked with them years after the work was done and I have a feeling some information may have gotten re-arranged-- even I can't ignore what you guys have presented from the printed material. But, consider this-- the work shown as being done using black primer and then subsequently covered by a white gloss could have been done on the hero models, but the use of Krylon Platinum Gray primer could have been used on the pyro models. This actually makes sense as they could not have handled the pyro models the same way as the hero models as they were fairly fragile. When I talked with Dave Beasley and David Jones, they said nothing about the black-and-white process, they just chuckled over using Krylon as the base because since then they've both worked on projects where the requirements for a paint job was so much more intense.

As for models being painted white, it is true there have been models that were painted white. I do have to point out that all of the models mentioned in the prior post were either used in television exclusively (where the shadow values don't matter as they won't show up as well) or they were very large models. I should also say that while some were painted white, none of them remained that way-- they were heavily weathered to the point the white was toned down enough that it didn't flare. Yes, its true the noses of the Eagle Transporters were white and not weathered too much-- one for your side, though still used on TV. But the Star Trek models were heavily paneled in different shades, especially the ST:TMP version, which was covered exclusively in panels of pearlescent paint-- some white, most not. However, in that case, they were deliberately exposing for the paint itself, since they were so close to that model. And I should point out that since that film, any time the camera got close to an Enterprise model, it was a close-up section made just for the shot and the white value could be controlled in the exposure. I can only think of one show where the models were painted dead white-- 'V'. Again, these were used exclusively on TV. For that show, almost all the composites were daylight shots and having a bright, white ship helped. And since the ships had no surface detail beyond those very large black windows, white just did not matter.

To put the discussion of 'white or not' to rest, this should also be said... At the time ANH was made, film stocks performed in a certain way. A pure white object against blue screen (or black) was not conducive to getting the shots. Remember the talk about the blue 'polluting' the white, making it harder to pull the matte? Well, at this point, we should both note that the discussion is really about the end result. Yes, from the accounts in print, white probably was used for the ANH hero models, but at the same time it was toned way down by the final painting process-- so we are not discussing if white can be used or not, just if any models were actually 'white' when photographed and I think we both can agree nothing was pure white at that point.

Just to put this to rest, I'm going to contact David Jones and quiz him. If I'm wrong, I don't want to go on not knowing it. I can't dispute what it is print and I don't really want to. I just pass along what those who know have told me.

Scott
 

DARKSIDE72

Sr Member
Scott, it's been proved time and time again the info from the original cast and crew from ANH isn't always 100% reliable. I'd rather rely on a 77' interview with the crew as the film was still vivid in their heads. Dave Jones main job was a detailer/kitbasher for the models. McCune used the team for their individual strengths.

The idea of the pyro's being painted differently is interesting, as they wouldn't have paid too much attention to them, I didn't think about them.

Now pure white was not what I said, obviously the models were weathered really extensively, it's a part of their charm and needed for the camera as you mentioned. Lee and I have talked about this for years now, and the results he has demonstrated with black and white x-wing is striking. Lee post some pics with a good camera :p BTW use imageshack you can post thumbnails for full size.

The black prime ILM used looks like a flat or a satin finish. The escape pod seems satin.
 

CaptCBoard

Well-Known Member
I talked to Dave this morning and you're right-- the passage of time has effected what he could recall. But he did have some interesting things that he did recall.

First, I should say that I know he wasn't the painter, Joe Johnston took care of all that, but Dave did see how things were done. And he and others did have to fill in occasionally when a model needed touching up. But, the interesting thing he passed along was that the gloss white technique had been done as an experiment to see if they could get the decals to blend better. They wound up having to do a lot of extra work to take the white back down, which was a big pain in the ass. He also verified that this would not have worked on the pyro models as they were too delicate.

One thing he said about the color of the models is the optical department told them the models had to be on the gray side because as the film went through the process of being reprinted while doing the composites, that light colored objects would tend to go whiter and dark objects would go darker. He said they did camera tests using one model and had to adjust the paint to find the right values, which guided the painting of the rest of the models.

He's going to check with Dave Beasley next week to see if he can add any other info. They're both working on X-Men 3 right now. He also mentioned that Lucas is doing a completely new retrospective on the making of the first 3 films. He was interviewed for this a few weeks ago, along with a number of other guys who worked on the films. He said this program will include a tour of the Archive as well. He didn't know when it would be out or if it was going to be broadcast somewhere first.

Scott
 

Rogue Studios

Well-Known Member
Hey if you can find out the deal on why Red-2 appears to be painted and detailed much better than most. It's just weird in many promo shots it's always this model.

Lee
 

CaptCBoard

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by Rogue Studios@Jun 18 2005, 03:20 PM
White wheathered to look gray how does film stock know the difference?
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Rogue- Motion picture film, especially in 1976-77 (as opposed to more recently), had to be exposed under very specific conditions. The film we all use in still cameras is way different from motion picture film. Motion picture film is designed to make images that remain transparent, so they can be projected-- and the images have to go through several printing steps before we see them on the screen. This requires a much different dye-set than film used for making first-generation paper prints.

Back then, the process for an FX shot would have gone like this: Positive elements going through the optical printer would be generated from the camera negative. These would be used to generate positive and negative matte elements and bi-packed for the final run resulting in the 'composite negative'. The composite negative would then be added in with the original camera negative of the reel being assembled once the final edit had been locked and an 'interpositive' would be made, from which the final 'internegatives' would be generated for making release prints.

Each step in this process requires specialized films so that the number of times the picture was copied had as little effect on the quality of the image as possible. Because of the rather limited way grayscale is transferred from print to negative to print (and so on) lighter objects will 'get thinner', meaning whiter, and dark objects will 'get thicker', meaning darker. In the case of light colored spaceships against starfields (essentially a black sky) they have to lean the exposure during printing to the light side, so the stars don't disappear. This means the spaceship will get brighter-- but if it was a light gray to begin with, by the time they get to this step it will look 'white'. How white or how gray it winds up is determined by shooting exposure tests first, evaluating those tests and then taking that info and shooting the final shots.

So the film stock doesn't have to know anything. Its the guys shooting the film stock that have to know how to get the object they're shooting to look right. You can actually do a test to see what I'm talking about. Make a Xerox of a photo, then make a copy of the copy, then make a copy of that copy and so on. You'll see the whites get whiter and the darker stuff gets darker.

Scott
 

Tony

Well-Known Member
Wow Scott. I find all this information you are uncovering on the painting of those miniatures extremely fascinating. Hey it's straight from the mouths of the guys who were there. Better than nothing I say.

Back in the late 70's when the MPC X-Wing was first released, I was dying to find any kind of info on how to make my MPC X-wing paint-job look like what I remembered was on the screen.
Then I ran across a publication called Fantastic Spaceships of Fact and Fantasy and in it was a great couple of paragraphs on the painting and weathering of the models.
The article mentioned using a 'hard white enamel automotive primer that couldn't be scratched away', stuff about 'liquid frisket' which I had no idea what the heck that was at the time, 'dipping grease and grime colors into thinner and flowing them across the model with a brush' and finally 'using steel wool to rub down areas that needed further weathering or needed to be re-done'.
Those were the only hints given but those lines peaked my imagination.

For my T-65 (still in progress) I primed the whole thing with Plasticote gray Primer and preshaded the paneling with black primer. I then misted Plasticote white primer over everything else making sure the pre-shading showed.
r51.jpg

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r53.jpg


It's basically painted and weathered for the eye and not for the camera.
I went with my own version of paneling and weathering based on whatever references were out there on the real Red 5. I knew I wasn't going to get close to the real miniature paint-job so I didn't even worry about it.

BTW as I was taking photo's of this X-wing I finally got the gist of how the whites get 'blown' out and the darker areas get darker. I got a new understanding now of why the miniatures had to be darkened a bit for movie film.

Tony Agustin
 

bobbyfett

Active Member
This is an awesome thread. When I read threads like this with such good info from so many different people, I always get so inspired. I wish there was such in-depth info on the painting of all Star Wars ships.
 

Watson

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Tony,
I have to say that I am really impressed with your painting skills. I have no idea how long that took or the patience involved but I have to say that you are a damn good artist.

Greg
 

STEVE THE SWEDE

Sr Member
Lee, do you mind if I ask what you're using to weather your X-wings? When I painted and weathered MR's AT-AT for a friend of mine I used nothing else but black enamel paint deluted in "white spirit". It worked quite well and by the looks of the original AT-AT's it seemed to me that it was the medium used on the real ones too.

I really like the way you have weathered your X-wings, they look VERY true to the originals. Do you use the same thing? Deluted enamels and airbrush scoaring?

If you want to share your secret I'm all ear. :)

Steve.
 

Rogue Studios

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by STEVE THE SWEDE@Jul 17 2005, 10:23 AM
Lee, do you mind if I ask what you're using to weather your X-wings? When I painted and weathered MR's AT-AT for a friend of mine I used nothing else but black enamel paint deluted in "white spirit". It worked quite well and by the looks of the original AT-AT's it seemed to me that it was the medium used on the real ones too.

I really like the way you have weathered your X-wings, they look VERY true to the originals. Do you use the same thing? Deluted enamels and airbrush scoaring?

If you want to share your secret I'm all ear. :)

Steve.
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Hey Steve, I admire your work you do good work, your AT-AT work is extremely impressive. I can findout what they used on the originals(AT-AT's) if Pat can still remember or even knows. On the X-wing I usually mix up a diluted solution of various colors and that typically entails the use of acrylics. I use mostly colors like 'weathered black' as well as a brown mixture which is mostly diluted with window cleaner. It takes me more time to weather the model than any other part in the process.

Lee
 

STEVE THE SWEDE

Sr Member
Lee, thanks for the kind words.

It would be fantastic if you asked him what they used on the AT-AT's. To me it just looked like they applied some heavy wash and then streaked it down the side of the hull with a rag. Besides from some airbrushed effects that's exactly what I did on the latest one I painted.

Your technique sounds very interesting. Don't the acrylic paints dry to quickly when you use them as a "smudge wash"? I mean do you have the time to float them around? Since you're using window cleaner in your mixture my guess is that you're airbrushing it on, right? Don't the window cleaner disolve the base color if you use a brush or a rag?

Steve.
 

Rogue Studios

Well-Known Member
Mostly what I create is like a dirty water wash if that makes sense it's more thinner(window cleaner) than actual paint. I hand brush it on, I mist it with a sprayer and I tend to dab with a paper towel to prevent runs and drips. I only use airbrush once and it's also a wash to blend everything.

Lee
 

Krachenvogel

Well-Known Member
This is an interesting thread. I used Polly Scale Tac Light Grey for the base color on mine: http://www.starshipmodeler.org/gallery9/dg_xwing.htm I like it because it has sort of a "warm" tint to it; many of the vintage publicity photos of the X-wing (like on my very first lunchbox) had a bit of a sepia tint to them, which forever influenced my mental image of the ship.

I polished the base color a bit with steel wool before weathering, making the paint glossier (the opposite of the original technique, it seems). I find that oil-based washes work a little better for me on a smooth, slightly glossy finish than on a pebbly dead-flat basecoat. Using oil washes over a thoroughly dry acrylic base allows one to wipe off any excess with turpanol without damaging the paint beneath.
 

bobbyfett

Active Member
Well, after reading this thread and having an X-wing to do...I decided to try the white on black technique. It's definately a really great technique and looks awesome. I've used both the Camo Gray and (now) the WOB technique. I guess it's up to the modeler's opinion to decide which one they like best. To be honest, I like both. :p Anyway, here are some pics: http://www.starwarsmodels.com/XWingFM.html Please ignore Red 1, I did an awful job on it. But the Red 2 is newer and uses the WOB technique while the two Red 5s use the Camo Gray technique. Hope you like 'em.
 

CaptCBoard

Well-Known Member
Originally posted by PHArchivist@Nov 12 2005, 06:39 PM
Here's a question (primarily for Scott)...

How dark do you suppose the panel lines were on the original ANH studio models?
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Again, my research was only on the X-wings, but I would guess the panel lines would have been done the standard way as any model: pencil, technical pen or washes built up in the scribing, which would be more in the form of weathing than panel lines. You also have to remember that the weathering you see on film is much lighter than what is actually on the model, so in viewing the model in person the weathering would appear darker. This is due to the way light effects the more subtle tones-- some just disappear as the light overpowers the 'tint'. Weathering by its nature is designed to let the color underneath show through, so when you add strong light, it changes how the weathering looks on film. Keep in mind, your eye will compensate for a LOT of stuff that film can not. That's why they do lighting tests. I mention this in the context of panel lines since in one case a pencil line might work fine, but in others a darker line may be needed. The best thing is to just 'do what looks right'.

I should also add this bit-- there are many occasions where the shot demands something 'different' be done, so paint will be changed, added to or subtracted from, in order to get a certain look. I've been on shoots where this happened many times to the same model, so that what you see on film, from scene to scene, can be in reality quite different but looks 'right' in the end. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Discovery was a single, continuous tone of white for the most part, they let the natural shadows of that huge 55-foot long model do the job. But for a few shots where the camera was very close to the model, they went in and added panel lines with pencil and pen-- and those were on the side of the model that was in deep shadow. What your eye sees as 'acceptable' can often make no sense. If they had not added those lines, the model would have looked very flat and you would not have seen any of the panel detail, beyond the actual value of the panels themselves. Adding the lines the way they did gave the detail that was there an added punch-- but you would never have noticed it if it weren't for the ability to freeze frame the DVD for a nice long look.

Scott
 

PHArchivist

Master Member
Originally posted by CaptCBoard+Nov 13 2005, 04:55 AM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(CaptCBoard @ Nov 13 2005, 04:55 AM)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-PHArchivist
@Nov 12 2005, 06:39 PM
Here's a question (primarily for Scott)...

How dark do you suppose the panel lines were on the original ANH studio models?
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You also have to remember that the weathering you see on film is much lighter than what is actually on the model, so in viewing the model in person the weathering would appear darker. Scott
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[/b]

Scott, you're awesome. You should write a book on this stuff.

The selected quote hit home. I recently finished a studio-scale Viper with VERY heavy weathering. Up close it appears to be too much. But step back 5-10 feet (or photograph it), and it looks just about right...

On panel lines, at first I had not accentuated them, but the model looked "flat". So I darkened them with Testor's Euro Grey I. Again, up close the panel lines looked too dark, but from a relative and acceptable distance (or on film), they are perfect.

The panel lines of the X add notable character to the ship. But with so many home-built/painted models, folks seem to over do them. Finding what looks right to you (the builder) is the essence, and the art...

I have deduced that quite a bit of modeling talent stems from how good your eye is -- that is, how well you interpret what is seen on screen, and how well you recognize when your model reaches that point. Knowing the proper techniques, paint colors, and other objective information -- to me -- seems secodary to your "eye"...
 

PHArchivist

Master Member
Originally posted by PHArchivist@Nov 13 2005, 05:23 PM

I have deduced that quite a bit of modeling talent stems from how good your eye is -- that is, how well you interpret what is seen on screen, and how well you recognize when your model reaches that point.  Knowing the proper techniques, paint colors, and other objective information -- to me -- seems secodary to your "eye"...
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Now...

That being said, here is a mildly hypocritical question...

Scott, do you know what techniques McCune et. al. used for weathering the X's...?

Was it entirely air-brushing, was it washes, hand brushing, or (as common sense would dictate) a combination of techniques?
 
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