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Monday, January 10, 2011

Painting Rust Effects

I have been asked several times now on how I paint rust onto my models. I thought it would be a better idea to not only show and explain how I do it, but what has inspired me on my travels across the great land known as Internet.
To start with, I originally used very little rust effects in my painting. I then got my hands on a great paint called Smoke. I used this on everything I could get my hands on, and still do to this day! But the one thing it did for me was to make me want to try and “dirty” my models.

Oh, it’s fine to have something dirty. But try explaining why you are carting something rusty or covered in mud, into the house to your wife! It doesn’t go over so great. But painting it on will work, it’s just so damn hard to make it look realistic!

Dirty and rusty have been a source of curiosity to me for years, and thanks to the internet, you can find all kinds of examples of it. I kick myself now, because I don’t have a documented list of all the fantastic examples of how to create the rust effect that I have come across over the years. One of the best sources I have gotten my hands on though is the following book: Forge World’s “Model MasterClass” Volume 1. Let me tell you, I will be buying book two when it comes out! This book is fantastic!!

My personal technique for rust is simple. Chainmail, followed by some of the new washes, and then apply rust. I have heard people trying all kinds of variances for this, but my simple method saves time and effort and comes out looking good.

a) Basecoat metallic areas in Chainmail. I have moved to chainmail from Boltgun simply because of the washes. It really dulls the metallics, whereas in the past before washes Boltgun metal was dull enough to hit the mark for me.

b) Apply the washes. I love Devlan mud. I will always use it above any other choices. You can add Badab Black if you want to darken it and add an extra layer of complexity, but it’s not necessary.

c) Let it DRY!! Do not paint while the wash is wet. Go watch TV, or go to the bathroom or something. Just let it dry!

d) Check to make sure the wash is dry. If it’s not dry, repeat step C.

e) Now for the rust. This is where I have three different methods. Firstly, you can create a mixture using white spirits like my book suggests. This isn’t a bad way to go, but beware, you are adding in oil paints etc to your painting style, and some people may be uncomfortable with that. This technique I combined three separate weathering powders, some burnt umber oil paint and white spirits. Once dry it is quite dark, looks great, and I finish it off with 2:1 (water to fiery orange) anywhere I want to change the color. I will add here that I think it needs to be applied in a patchy manner along full surfaces, or around bolts or other protrusions. Let it dry, and reapply anywhere you want the orange to ‘pop’ a bit more.

Second technique is using water and weathering powders. Load your brush and apply it to the powders you have on your painting palette. Go dark powders, followed by lighter orange powders once the dark is dry. Random dab the rusts in places to create a greater sense of visual. Remember that rust changes color depending on its age. Finish it off with the fiery orange technique.

The third technique is simple. Vermin brown paint, or parasite brown (any brown paint that has an orange element to it) mixed with water. Usually 2:1 mix of water to paint. Follow this up with the fiery orange from previous techniques.

A final technique that I have tried on some test models is the following: Begin by base coating all of the metal areas with Boltgun Metal. Then stipple it with Macharius Solar Orange to give it a rusty look. A wash of Devlan Mud and Badab Black was then applied to add shading.
I have also begun using a technique known as painting Verdegris. This is the application of weathering to bronze/copper.

I have found a couple of different ways to do this. Both are simple. The first and easiest is the application of Ice blue (heavily watered down) along areas that would allow water to sit in place. The second has been hawk turquoise, but I have had less success using this color. I have also seen some people add some green to either mixture. However you do yours, remember to water down your paints. Its easier to add successive layers of watered down paints then it is to remove a thick coat of paint.
I am not the only person that paints rust in the world, thankfully. Many others have techniques that work wonders for them. I have decided to include many other recipes and various techniques for you to try. There is always one that speaks loudest to us, and I won’t pretend to assume that my methods are the best or only ones.


Screaming 3agle (http://striking3agle.blogspot.com/) has several excellent weathering techniques on his website. I wish I had the skills with an airbrush that he has. Some of his results are truly awesome!

Here is a sample of my favorite weathering technique from his website.

What we need:

Boltgun Metal. It is important to use this paint. Mithrill Silver is too bright. Metalics by Vallejo are very bad for this kind of paint job, glazes run-off it and it is very hard to stain it.

1) Vallejo Air Rust
2) Vallejo Air Cam. Medium Brown
3) Tamiya xf-1 Flat Black
4) MiG Pigments Dust(light brown)
5) Blood Red
6) Wet pallet

Apply Vallejo Air Rust on wet pallet and mix it with water (relation 1:5) and apply about 3 thin layers on spear (remember that previous layer must by dry).

Step III
Do the same thing with Vallejo Air Cam. Medium Brown, if you still have Rust on pallet, don't afraid to mix it with Brown. Apply 3 thin layers on spear.

Step IV
Apply Tamiya Black on pallet and mix it with Vallejo Brown (1:1). Paint shadows on spear , about 1-2 layers (XF-1 has strong pigment, so be careful). If you don't have MiG pigment (or home made powdered dry pastels), move to Step VII.

Step V
Pigment time: Mix a little (like on picture) part of pigment with blood red and water (1:5) and apply 1 thin layer on random spear parts.

Step VI
If you want to have really rusty weapons, repeat Step V (several times if you paint nurgle army).

Step VI
Try a very simple thing for the end, dry brush the spear with Boltgun Metal. But remember, not aggressive hitting miniature by your brush or not shuffle. Just gently, quick moves with your brush (the bigger one, I used Army Painter Drybrush Brush).


Another great Website is this one by Tinweasel. Here he uses actual metal to make “go figure” realistic looking rust!!

Call me crazy (or suddenly inspired) but the essential heart of this "natural" weathering technique is the Rust Mixture itself. This was a recipe I learned many, many, many years ago in chemistry class - it does involve some harmful chemicals, an ongoing chemical reaction, and possible adverse affects to skin, clothing, and any oxidixable metal. Consider yourself warned! The Mixture is as follows:

• 1 part liquid bleach

• 3 parts household strength white vinegar

• 1 suitably-sized clean chunk of extra-fine (#0000) grade steel wool

I used a standard empty Vallejo dropper paint bottle with the steel wool placed inside prior to pouring the mixture of the two chemicals in. While not an intense chemical reaction, it does produce a somewhat significant amount of gas as a by-product over time. I found out the hard way about leaving the screw-top off the dropper bottle until the reaction subsided completely (roughly 2-3 days, perhaps more) as when I first opened it, I was spattered with overflowing Rust Mixture. Being made up of actual oxidized metal, the Rust Mixture has a tendency to settle - prior to using it as a paint make sure the bottle is well-shaken. Another word of warning - although I couldn't swear to it, I believe the vinegar/bleach/oxidized metal caused a slight chemical burn on my thumb during an accidental overflow. While I am by no means a chemistry major, I believe the bleach and vinegar as potential caustic agents would cease to be a problem once all their bonding reactions were completed on the steel wool. Likewise, given that vinegar is a mild acid and (I believe) bleach is a mild base, things should eventually subside once all chemical reactions between them and the steel wool have taken their course (again roughly 2-3 days, perhaps more.) While I can't say this is the ideal mixture for painting, as it takes some getting used to, I can safely say it's likely the most authentic rust mixture I've seen used on any miniature figures thus far, given that it is genuine rust in a bottle!
Causes Chlorine Gas


There are many ways in which to create rust effects in miniature.
You can ink, paint, dry brush, use weathering powders etc, etc. At this point I would like to add about the use of corrosives and chemicals to achieve rust effects: stay away from them! Dangerous and pointless; and not even half as much fun or satisfaction as doing it the old fashioned way.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get painting…
Source material:
it’s always good to have some source material if you are trying to re-create something that exists in real life, be it lizard skin, camo or fabric. The internet is a good place for this these days. However, if you’re not up with the new fangled “electro-inter-web” then you can go to a place called the library and look in book.

Know your corrosion
Rust is scientifically called oxidation, which occurs when oxygen comes into prolonged contact with certain metals. Over time, the oxygen combines with the metal at an atomic level, forming a new compound called an oxide and weakening the bonds of the metal itself. If the base metal is iron or steel, the resulting rust is properly called iron oxide and is normally orange in color. Rusted aluminum would be called aluminum oxide, copper forms copper oxide which is greenish, and so on.

The main catalyst for the rusting process is dehydrogenating oxide, but we know it better as water. Water molecules can easily penetrate the microscopic pits and cracks in any exposed metal. The hydrogen atoms present in water can combine with other elements to form acids, which will eventually cause more metal to be exposed. If sodium is present, as is the case with saltwater, corrosion will likely occur more quickly.

So, if you’re painting pirates and things in sea water add more rust.
List of colors

Listed below, in the order in which you will need to paint them, is the list of colors you’ll need to paint rust onto different metals. I will be showing you the iron oxide paint scheme in this tutorial; however the same technique is applied for all the types of metal.
Iron Oxide:

-Dark metallic paint. (Dry brush)

-Chestnut ink. (Ink wash)

-Bright silver paint. (Dry brush)

-Terracotta paint. (Watered down paint wash)

-And a mid shade of orange. (Watered down paint wash)

Aluminum Oxide:

-Dark metallic paint. (Dry brush)

-Mid metallic paint. (Dry brush)

-Black ink. (Ink wash)

-Bright silver paint. (Dry brush)

-White paint. (Watered down paint wash)

Copper Oxide:

-Dark brass metallic paint. (Dry brush)

-Mid gold metallic paint. (Dry brush)

-Green ink. (Ink wash)

-Turquoise paint. (Watered down paint wash)

-Light green paint. (Watered down paint wash)

This is a simple technique and, as stated before, just follow these same steps for each type of metal,

replacing the change of color as appropriate.

Working from a black undercoat you can either dry brush or simply paint on your base color. In this

case a dark metallic.

Once you have enough coverage allow to dry.

Slap on some neat ink. No water just plain ink straight from the pot.

Apply it to areas where rust would likely start and grow, such as areas where joins are and around bolt

heads and hinges.

These areas hold water more than the flat surfaces and are more prone to rust.

Once completely dry we then add a second dry brush of bright silver paint. This is to just tease back

the edges we may have lost while inking.

Now we add terracotta as a base for our rust. Add two parts water to one part paint and apply again to

the areas where the rust will be most prolific. You can stipple this colour onto flat surfaces to simulate

light rust that hasn’t taken hold yet.

The last step is to water down some mid-orange paint, again two parts paint to one part water.

Paint this over the terracotta, allowing some of the original colour to remain visible at the edges.

Allow to dry and bingo! You’re done!

Paul Batchelor.

 www.ehow.com/how_6547190_paint-rust-effects.html#ixzz1AgbwtjxU   Debbie Tolle

1) Apply a coat of primer designed for all surfaces and allow it dry. Drying times vary for different brands of primer, which is why you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

2) Paint a base coat of white acrylic latex paint on the object receiving the rust effect. Sprinkle clean sand over the random areas on the object while the paint is still wet, and allow it to dry for a minimum of 12 hours. Applying sand will give the object the look of oxidation or rough areas where rust forms. This step is optional, and is not absolutely necessary if you do not want the rough texture.

3) Pick the object up and turn it over to allow excess sand to fall off of it before applying the next coat of paint.

4) Apply dark brown paint to the object by stippling it on the surface. Stippling means to dip the brush into the paint and dab the paint on instead of brushing it on. Do not completely cover the object with the brown paint. You want to be able to see the base coat of paint and sand through the brown in random areas on the object.

5) Wash out the paintbrush and stipple the terracotta color paint on the exposed areas of the object that were not covered with the brown paint. Allow the object to dry overnight.

6) Use the water bottle to spray water on the entire object. Use the stipple technique to apply the gray paint over the entire surface of the object, and allow it to dry. The object will most likely need to dry overnight because of the water. The gray paint fades out the brown and terracotta paint, which gives the effect of rust beginning to form through the original metal.

7) Spray the surface of the object with water and splatter the orange paint on random areas across the object. The orange paint should be splattered on areas where rust would naturally form. Hold a paint stick in one hand, and tap the edge of the 1/4-inch paintbrush on the edge of the paint stick. The bristles should be overhanging the edge of the paint stick. This technique will give you control over where the splatters land. Natural rust formation usually occurs along the edges, and on ridges that might collect water.

8) Use the rag to dab the orange paint after you splatter it. Dabbing the paint will flatten the splatters and make them appear like the formation of rust.

9) Allow the newly faux finished object to completely dry before placing it outside. Wait for 24 hours, or at least overnight.


Painting dark bronze

Another great tutorial.

If you have any ideas on painting rust or verdigris on models that I haven't covered here, or simply a different take on an idea, please let me know so I can add it to the tutorial.
I hope that you can get some use from this,


  1. OMGOSH!

    Thank you so MUCH for this amount of knowledge!
    Seriously, a great article and compilation of methods!

    And even better, I found in your post, the tin-weasel technique! I've read about it some days ago, but forgot to save the link! thank you so much! All these techniques will be handy when painting my Nurgle miniatures! ;D

  2. this is great, I wish I has this when I did my Nurgle daemons.

  3. something I just happen to look up to see if I could be even more lazy and just see what Vallejo has and I saw this rust and oil set of pigments on their site

  4. No worries guys! I am glad people are interested in this collection of ideas! Hope they help.

  5. thanks for the info! interested what "smoke" is? the brand? want to read more about it. thanks again!

  6. Hi Adunn118, "Smoke" is a Vallejo "Model Color" paint. It is number 939 in the series. Hope this helps!

  7. FYI: Bleach + Vinegar = Chlorine Gas, AKA: deadly toxic poison and nerve agent. Do not do this EVER, and please remove that one from the list before someone kills themselves with it.

    This isn't a joke, I'm being deadly serious, please.

  8. The Chlorine gas created by the vinegar and bleach is minimal, so it's not as dangerous as, say dumping two gallon bottles of bleach and ammonia together, but it is still a very good idea to not use this inside or around kids or pets as either one is likely to want see what's going on in the container. Also a good idea to add one of the liquids last and not stick around yourself. Leave it set and come back in a couple hours or so to check it (it is supposed to be rust after all and that takes quite awhile to form naturally). The amounts of each chemical you use should be relatively small, especially when painting miniatures so the reaction shouldn't take very long to complete and the gas to dissipate once the reaction has finished. =-) Just use caution and you should be fine. Remember it is using bleach and some people are more sensitive to cleaning chemicals than others.

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