I’m thoroughly enjoying Michael Rinaldi’s book, TankArt 3 and have been eager to try the techniques for myself, especially the hairspray paint chipping. This technique has been around for a few years but I’ve just begun my practice pieces and the results so far are promising (below).

Hairspray paint chipping practice

First attempt.

For this practice exercise I simply used a rattle can oxide red primer as the undercoat and let it dry thoroughly. On top of this I sprayed two light coats of hairspray (TRESemme’ Ultra fine mist) and let each dry to the touch. You could also use a hair dryer on low heat to speed the drying time if you’re impatient. Just don’t get the dryer too close to the plastic and be certain to keep the heat moving about to prevent melting anything.

Once the hairspray coats are dry (they only take a few minutes each), you can spray your top coat. I used another spray can enamel (the camo green) simply because I didn’t want to fuss with  setting up and cleaning my airbrush to do three seconds worth of spraying. Although in time, I will have to practice with the airbrush.

It’s recommended you let the top coat dry for about twenty minutes or so before chipping it with a stiff bristle brush and water. Since I used enamel for both paint layers, I wondered if the water would work. It did, and quite nicely too. Although I suspect that letting an enamel coat dry thoroughly would not work.

With this technique the hairspray prevents the two paint layers from bonding and as the hairspray dissolves via the water and scrubbing action, the top coat of paint will chip away in a realistic manner, revealing the undercoat. I achieved passible results right away but more practice is in order.

Feeling enthused from the success of my initial effort, I tried a two color top coat, separating the colors with an additional coats of hairspray. I also had reasonable success although I’m not happy with the orange color. This was another spray can enamel and it is far too thick for proper scale effects on a finished model. Because of the additional thickness, I also tried chipping the orange with a scrubbing pad instead of a stiff brush to see what would happen. I got too aggressive with the abrasive pad and put numerous scratches in the surface, which is not acceptable. In fact, you’ll notice some scratches in the first photo where I scrubbed too hard with the stiff paint brush and the metal ferrule scratched the plastic. This could be a result of using enamel paints, not enough hairspray or simply being too aggressive with the tools.

Two color coat paint chipping test.

Second attempt. A partial success.

Close-up of second test

Close up of the two coat test. The overly thick orange paint and scratches won’t do.

It was a good session and taught me a lot. The technique is easy to use but one does need to exercise restraint with the effect. The things that can go wrong include too much or too little hairspray and poor painting techniques. Using the wrong solvent or type of paint will also produce a mess. My experiment with mineral spirits cut through all the paint layers down to the bare plastic. Not what I wanted to see and this is why I practice such things.

The technique holds a lot of promise for our purposes and if this were an actual project I would work from photos of weathering patterns on a prototype car. Even then I would practice beforehand with the materials and tools I planned to use to build confidence.

Now I have an incentive to get something off the bench and ready to weather. But I still have practice to do with the airbrush and actual model paints before that happens. Patience will be a virtue that pays dividends here.