Scale Effect of Paint
Posted By: C.S. Richardson <>
Date: Saturday, 7 October 2000, at 6:00 p.m.
It is widely accepted that paint colors should be lightened to appear more accurate. My understanding of the effect is that colors appear lighter and less distinct with distance between the object and the viewer and that, at great distance, all colors become a non-descript grey.
All recommendations for obtaining a proper scale effect that I have read (I only know what I read) involve the dilution of the appropriate color with white. Shouldn't the diluting color be a grey tone?
Not wishing to stir up hate and discontent, but surely someone has an opinion on this?
Posted By: Tom Hall <>
Date: Sunday, 8 October 2000, at 1:25 p.m.
In Response To: Scale effect of paint (C.S. Richardson)
And now for a contrary opinion:
It depends on the color.
Cool colors tend to recede. That is one reason we paint ceilings in cool whites. It pushes them upward a bit.
Warm colors tend to come toward the viewer. If you took hinomaru red and added 30% white to it, you'd have a pink. I don't think you'd want pink disks on your factory-fresh Japanese plane model, would you? We modelers should be so lucky as to be able to mix actual size reds and other colors.
Where you add white or mists of light gray, you are actually creating more weathering than scale effect. That's why it looks good.
Consider the viewing distance. If you are standing (or flying) 400 feet away from your subject, how much water vapor, dust and other natural filter intervenes between your eye and the subject? Not a heckofalot, unless you make models of planes as seen in clouds,
volcanic smoke, the smog of L.A., etc. You should be so lucky as to be able to mix actual size colors for most of your 1/48th scale model.
From what distance do you normally view your scale model? Four feet or 40 feet? Now multiply by 72, 48 or 32. What's the distance? It's probably not 1500 yards. If you are making a 1/700-scale ship and its planes, then you had very well better lighten many of the colors to compensate for the scale distance. If you are painting a metallic finish on a car model, hoooh boy! There you need scale effect to prevent the metal flakes from
being too noticeable at scale.
One thing distance does is to blend colors together. It also eliminates detail. This is a very complex subject, and it cannot be handled with simple recipes for adjustment.
Posted By: Greg Springer <>
Date: Saturday, 7 October 2000, at 9:56 p.m.
In Response To: Scale effect of paint (C.S. Richardson)
Hi C.S.
Your understanding of the concept is correct.
The addition of white to most common camouflage colors like grays and greens has the effect of graying them. The system which I follow was published in the "Official Monogram Painting Guide to German Aircraft 1935 - 1945" by Kenneth Merrick and Thomas Hitchcock. According to research by Mr. Pat Donahue the proportions of white to be added for scale effect are: 15% white added to the total volume of the base color for 1/32nd scale models, 25% for 1/48th scale and 30% for 1/72nd scale. This is a compromise solution as the moisture and dust content of the atmosphere on any given day varies widely. Primary colors cannot be treated this way. Adding white to red would give you a pink hinomaru! Primaries should be lightened by addition of lighter tones of the base color. I have found that adding white to Japanese topside dark greens tends to bring out blue tones so I added a bit of yellow as well to preserve the green tone. IHTH.
Posted By: The PLASTIC Surgeon
Date: Monday, 9 October 2000, at 12:00 p.m.
In Response To: Re: Scale effect of paint (Greg Springer)
This is a complex subject matter. The variables at play are as numerous as the stars in the sky. When you drive down the road and look at objects in the distance, as you approach them does their hue or shading change much the closer you get? I've tried looking at different colored objects [cars, structures, and military a/c parked outside.] It seems one has to stand pretty far away under normal conditions for the particles and impurities in the air to have a significant impact on there hue. I believe the best answer to this very complicated question is if it looks good to the modeler building it than it looks great.
Posted By: Jeff McGuire <>
Date: Saturday, 7 October 2000, at 8:11 p.m.
In Response To: Scale effect of paint (C.S. Richardson)
I agree with you completely. I have a Ju-88 Mistel kitbash project and when complete I oversprayed the whole thing with a mist of meduimish gray. I could not believe how it turned out. I'm not sure how gray would look on other colors but on the green/blk green it's perfect.
Return to Workbench Message Board