Terrain: Mud Brick House by Renedra, Part Two

This article was published originally in Wargames, Soldiers, and Strategy Magazine # 94 and can be purchased from the WSS website.  In part one, we took Renedra’s Mud Brick House from grey plastic sprues to fully primed and ready to paint. Today in part 2, we’ll finish two kits using every trick in the modeling book. To appeal to modelers of all skill levels this post includes instructions for both brush painting and airbrushing.    Let’s get our houses onto the North African and Middle Eastern battlefields!

Breaking up that solid black surface with a lighter colour is a kind of pre-shading which serves a dual purpose. First, it clearly shows which areas should be highlighted and which should be left in shadow. Second, even after multiple layers of paint a ‘shadow’ will remain in the dark areas. Pre-shading is a trick used by plastic scale modellers on military vehicles but it’s equally useful on terrain. You can use an airbrush to spray a 50/50 white paint and thinner mix, but a quick spritz from a rattle can or applying a 50% thinned wash of white paint with a large brush will accomplish the same thing.

Next up, a good base layer of a warm brown like Raw Sienna applied to building and ground alike followed by a warm yellow, in this case French Vanilla. Again, airbrush or paintbrush doesn’t make too much difference as long as you allow a little of the previous coat to show through. You’ll end up with a deep finish with layers of variation. The awning got a light coat of Tamiya XF-21 Sky which is a good base layer when doing canvas.

After both building and groundwork received a gentle drybrush of a warm off-white things started to come together. The groundwork I’d laid and the subtle texture on the Renedra buildings show how plastic models are often still superior to the now ubiquitous MDF lasercut offerings all over the market. It takes a lot of work to get MDF to look as textured as the Renedra buildings do straight out of the box.

Squinting at small buildings after (what you hope) are multiple layers of building up subtle variations can be careful work. It’s about this point in a project where I stop and ask myself a question like, “Whose idea was it anyway to assemble and paint two very involved buildings at the same time?!?” After a brief silence with no response I figured it was high time for a quick coffee break. I returned several hours (and a bike ride) later with renewed energy and got back to it.

Multiple layers of cheap craft paints, airbrushing, and drybrushing leaves a dusty finish littered with thousands of stray paint particles. Applying any sort of wash, particularly an acrylic one, over such a dusty and absorbent surface is a recipe for disaster. The wash will irrevocably stain the area where applied instead of flowing around details to highlight them. What you need is a semi-gloss or satin clear coat to lock down the colours underneath and provide a slick surface over which to apply a wash to the details. Again, by brush or by airbrush it matters not as long as you lay down a solid clear coat. I used Vallejo Satin Varnish applied by brush on one building and several light airbrushed coats of Future Floor Finish on the other.

If you haven’t tried Future (it’s available worldwide but might have a different name in your neck of the woods) you’re missing out. A liter bottle of the clear-gloss acrylic resin will cost less than seven bucks and last you for years. Future works beautifully right out of the bottle as an airbrushed topcoat that can handle the roughest of treatments, even oil paint washes cut with spirit thinners. It can also do nifty things like provide a perfect setting area and protectant coat when brushed under and over a decal. Clear plastic parts like windshields and aircraft canopies look crystal clear when dipped in Future and allowed to drip dry. Parts dipped in this way are far more resistant to the clouding or frosting that sometimes occurs when a clear part is exposed to superglue fumes.

While the top coats of Vallejo Satin Varnish and Future were drying I got to work on the fun stuff. Ristul’s Extraordinary Market (Edit May/2018: Now defunct?) makes great scatter terrain. I had fun painting their characterful Food Supplies set. It fit in perfectly with the more well-to-do of the buildings as I had it in mind to be the abode of a wealthier merchant. With the coloured paints out I also finished the rest of the details on the buildings. 

Most people would have (sensibly) stopped about three steps ago and called it a wrap; however, as a wargamer I’m a magpie when it comes to new products, unguents, and potions. This seemed the opportune time to risk all my previous work by applying a couple of as yet untried washes from the Vallejo Model Wash collection. Both the acrylic Desert Dust and Brown washes went on beautifully over the smooth sealant coat with an added drop of Liquitex Flow Aid to improve the flow. The washes are forgiving because it’s not until the second or third layer of the wash that you really start to see the effect. Almost idiot proof really. Almost. I covered the base of the walls with the washes to good effect while Brown Wash around key details – like the door lintel and exposed wood – made the details pop. If you overdo it (as I did a touch) or just want to blend in overdone areas, Tamiya XF-57 Buff, applied by brush or airbrush diluted 50/50 with 99% rubbing alcohol (a cheap version of Tamiya’s brand name thinner) subtly tied everything back together again. A quick spritz of Testor’s Dullcote from a spray can locked everything down and provided a uniform and durable flat finish.

Last stop, the flock shop. With a few tufts, sand, and scrub bush the two buildings are ready for action.

With both Perry Miniatures DAK and the Renedra houses painted the dice gods are sure to favour me in the next game! Right?

Do you have any terrain projects on the go or kits that you’ve enjoyed building and painting? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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