So one of the things I always looked forward to when I first got an airbrush was finally being able to try out this technique that made really great, natural looking rust spots on models. I had tried a couple other ways of getting a rust spot look with sponges and just freehand painting before I got my airbrush set-up, but none of them looked quite right to me. Here’s a good example of what a rust spot looks like in real life:
There’s a lot of texture and variation, irregular edges, and it forms in a weak spot in the paint. I just couldn’t get the freehand to have the same rough edges with any sort of success. So I kept things pretty clean as far as painting the machines go. I’m the type of painter who relies most heavily on my brush to get the job done. It’s comfortable, and I’ve been painting that way long before I ever knew that hobby miniatures were a thing. Airbrushing is still pretty new, and I definitely still have a long way to go before I’m as good or as comfortable with that as I am with a brush in my hand, but with it I can achieve an effect that I just fail at otherwise.
A quick run-down of the hairspray weathering technique is as follows… Paint or spray a base of a rust color, preferably with some kind of automotive primer as it bonds really well (I just went with regular paint and then was gentle later). Add some variation and some different textures to the rust color by sponging different oranges, reds, and browns on top. Spray two coats of hairspray over the whole thing, letting each dry fully in between. I sped up the drying time with a hairdryer on a cool setting. Then airbrush the color that you actually want over top, including all the shadows and highlights, but making sure the layers are pretty thin without being transparent. It basically ends up looking like there’s no rust color at all at this point.
Next, take some clean water and a small scrubby brush (I used a small brushed dental pick), and gently wet and scrub away the top layer until the rust color is exposed. The water dissolves the hair spray underneath and lets the top layer get brushed away. When I was happy with the number and shape of my rust spots, I sealed the miniature at this this step with Dullcote matte varnish. The final little step is to take a brush and do a very dark line under the top side of the rust spot, and a light line on the bottom side of the spot to make it look like the edges of the spot are casting shadows and catching highlights. Here’s how the Cryx Reaper turned out in the end.
I think getting these Cryx warjacks ‘dirtied’ up a bit really helps sell the idea that these are dark, scary murder machines of the “Nightmare Empire.” I couldn’t resist throwing some blood spatter on there too. It’s pretty likely that I’ll continue to use this weathering technique to add some variation to these types of models in the future, and once I get a better handle on it, I’d love to do more of a photo tutorial. For now though, I’m learning to love the character that getting a bit dirty and out of control can give things!