As promised, I'm writing up a weathering tutorial. I may format it for a webpage with photographs later on, but I'm writing it primarily as a text document. Like I said, I'm new here and I don't want to step on anyone's toes, but I consider myself fairly decent at weathering (see my Arden 'Lucky' Fisk thread for samples) and want to help out the community.
This is a work in progress. If there are other sections you want me to cover, tell me so. If anything's unclear, let me know and I'll elaborate.
If we all work together, this should be pretty comprehensive!
Guide to Additive Weathering on multiple surfaces for costumes from the Star Wars Universe
Written by Abby Perry, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Modified: Monday, January 7, 2008
This document Copyright 2008 Abby Perry (CuteLucca).
This guide may not be altered, but my be freely distributed across the internet.
I can see it now. You've got a costume. Maybe you've built it yourself after months of hard labor. Maybe you've spent
a year searching for all the parts and spending way too much money for them. Maybe you bought the costume fully
assembled and ready to go. However you came by it, you have a beautiful costume... but it's TOO beautiful. It's fresh
out of the factory. How will your bounty hunter get any respect if he still has that 'new car smell'? In a rough
galaxy, who has the time to polish their plastoids?
So you've got your pristine costume, and you're ready to dive in and scuff it up a bit. BUT WAIT! Stop and think for
a minute, and even better, observe the world around you. A lot of people, when weathering, think randomness is the key
to success, but it's not! In fact, for realistic weathering, the secret is 10% randomness and 90% careful placement.
In this guide, I'll be telling you how to weather most common costume materials, including plastics which you want to
end up looking like metals, plastics you want to end up looking like organics, fabrics, and leathers. Before each
section, I'll have a paragraph or two explaining what realistic weathering for each surface should look like, and where
certain techniques should be applied.
You may also be asking, 'what is additive weathering?' Additive weathering is done by adding layers to the project,
subtractive is done my taking layers away. There are other folks out there with more experience in subtractive
weathering than I have, so I'm leaving those tutorials up to them.
Have fun making a mess!
1.1 Plastic formed armor you want to end up looking like painted metal
1.2 In the beginning
1.3 General weathering
1.4 Fine detail
2.1 Plastic formed armor or objects you want to end up looking like organic items
3.2 Mild color based weathering
3.3 Heavy color based weathering
3.4 Mild cut based weathering
3.5 Heavy cut based weathering
4.2 Light colored leathers
4.3 Dark colored leathers
5.1 Extra touches
5.2 Blood splatters/stains
5.3 Major structural damage
Plastic formed armor you want to end up looking like painted metal
Metal weathers in many ways, depending on how it's treated. Paint can scuff up and chip off. Armor that's been in
many battles will have blaster marks, dents, and deep scratches. If it's been out in the rain a lot, it will have
water spots and minor rust. It will, of course, be generally filthy.
You want to think about your armor not as individual pieces but as a whole. Take a minute and put on your armor, or
lay it out in the right configuration. When someone is attacking you, what areas will they be aiming for? What areas
of your armor would most likely get whacked and hit during battle, or when crawling through an air duct, or when
sprinting through a jungle? Someone fighting you will generally aim for the head and torso, so you'll want to
concentrate much of your battle damage on your chest armor, shoulders, and helmet. General wear, from rubbing up
against a hard surface repeatedly, will be concentrated on the high points of your armor, at the angles, and where two
plates may be rubbing together. If your character is dirty, most surface dirt gets kicked up by the feet, so the lower
parts--shins, knees, feet--will be considerably more filthy than the upper parts. Long ground in dirt, rust and
stains, meanwhile, will be concentrated in the divots, valleys, and corners.
Think about your character. Does he mostly fight in the desert? On rainy worlds? in the city? In the woods? If he
fights in the rain, he'd have very little surface dirt, but a lot of water spots and calcium or rust in the crevices
where water can pool and sit for a while. In the desert, he'll have a LOT of surface dust, but relatively little rust.
Does your character wear his armor all the time or only when fighting? If he wears it all the time, even when doing
simple starship maintenance or eating, he may have oil or food splatters. What style of fighting does he use? A close
combat fighter would have a larger number of scrapes and dents, while a distance fighter would have more blaster
One thing you never, ever want to do is the 'leopard spot' effect... just randomly dabbing on spots of dirt and
scraping away spots of paint in a polka-dot 'random' pattern. I see this way too much, and it just looks
What you'll need:
A dremel with an engraving head or a file
dark brown oil-based wood stain
flat black, flat brown, flat tan spray paints
silver brush-on model paint
paint wash (just spray some of your spray paint in a cup and add water to a 1:4 ratio)
a very fine point paint brush
a larger, stiff bristled paint brush
An area you can move around in and make a mess!
----(1.2) In the beginning:
Before you even do your initial painting, it's time to bring out the dremel and cut away some 3-D battle damage. Think
about what I said above as far as cut locations. Edges of plates, high points, areas that would get a lot of impacts,
would get more damage than other spots. Leading edges are especially prone, such as the bottom part of shin plates and
the edge closest to the knuckles on hand plates, since those are driven right into damaging situations.
To create a sword cut, you're going to want a fairly long slice. Usually, it pays to work slow with a dremel, but not
here. In one long, quick, fluid movement, drag your dremel across one of your armor plates. Practice on a spare piece
of plastic, if you want, but if you take it too slow, it starts to look too deliberate and fake. If the cut isn't deep
enough on the first pass, go over the same line again-- just slow and hard enough to take off another layer. Repeat
Think up some stories to your battle damage. Not only is it fun, it also helps you place a realistic scrape that's not
so random. Go ahead and put in some substantial cuts on the edge of a shoulder, where an enemy landed a lucky blow
before you gutted him. Maybe an assassin crept up and tried to put a knife through your belly, but you dodged just in
time, so what would have been fatal was instead a glancing blow.
Some damage may not be from battle, but may be from tools slipping or fall damage. While your dremel is running, bring
it down to softly touch the surface of your armor and let it skip across the surface as it pleases. This is fun to do
with other power tools, as well. WITH SAFETY GLASSES ON, try tossing your armor at a running table saw or band saw, or
nudge it up against a drill press or belt sander.
Blaster impacts are mostly achieved through painting, but a special touch is a divot right where the bolt hit. Again
with the dremel, take out a irregular circle a millimeter or two deep (dont cut all the way through the armor,
obviously, unless it was a REALLY bad impact) dont smooth it out inside the crater, just leave it rough.
Don't overdo the 3-D damage. It's a nice touch, but it can be overdone and then you get into the realm of fakeness
again. Just think about your character. If you're a Mando Merc, you should be on the winning side of most of your
With fine grit sandpaper-- 150 or so-- take off any burrs lifted by your dremel. Then go ahead and paint your armor in
your desired color scheme. (This is where I differ from subtractive weathering. Subtractive uses multiple layers of paint with release agents so you get *real* paint chips. This would be great if your character has armor that's been repainted multiple times, but again, I have no experience with this technique as all my characters have armor that's been painted only once.)
----(1.3) General weathering:
Now for the REALLY fun part. Make sure the paint has dried completely, overnight if need be. You're going to be doing a lot of wiping with paper towels, so you don't want towel fibers sticking to your paint job.
You're going to start with a light mist of flat spray paint. Choose the color based on your character's environment. Desert characters would go with brown and tan, city and jungle would go with brown and black. Just imagine the type of dust that's sitting around in your character's environment, and choose the appropriate color. Lay all your armor out on a flat surface, preferably in the arrangement it's worn in. Stand well back-- a good 4 or 5 feet-- then spray a short burst in the air over the armor so the paint particles drift onto the surface via our good friend gravity. If you spray too close, it will start LOOKING like spray paint, and BAM there goes the illusion. Pay attention to areas which would have a lot of mud splatter, like shins, feet, and legs, and spray toward them from the bottom, so you get a good receding spray as the eye travels up the leg. Again, don't overkill with this-- if it looks like you're not quite dirty enough, you probably ARE, and should stop right there.
Let this general spray dry. It should be dry almost instantly, actually, as most of the paint will have dried in the air on it's way down to settle on the armor! This is great, because it means you can wipe some of it away to make 'clean spots', again, these would be located in areas that would get a lot of wear against a soft surface, such as the back and back of shoulders (sitting in a padded seat) and the chest (from crossing the arms against the chest.)
Another great technique for surface dust is to grind up the appropriate color of chalk, and just blow it over the surface, then seal it on with a spray sealant.
Next we're going to add some deep grime in the crevices. Pay special attention to 90 degree angles between pieces, and whatever sword cuts you've chosen to be the old ones from the beginning of your career as a soldier. Crack open your can of wood stain. I prefer 'aged oak' color for almost everything, but something lighter would be suitable for a very light colored set of armor. With your fine point paint brush, paint in a basic, thick line of stain in one of your crevices. IMMEDIATELY, use a paper towel to lightly wipe some of the stain away. This will give the dirt a nice, fading edge, since real dirt usually doesn't end abruptly. If you've now got a bit of wet stain on your towel, dab it on the armor here and there. Towel or sponge dabs make some great random-looking dirt spots. One thing you definitely NEED to avoid here is brushstrokes. Brushstrokes are VERY VERY bad for weathering-- they're another thing that will destroy your illusion. Do this crevice trick only a few inches at a time, as the stain will set up very quickly.
You can use stain on the edges of your blaster impacts as well, as a discolored layer. Metal, when you heat it up, tends to change color, apart from the black carbon scoring. In a nice even ring around your blaster impacts, go ahead and smudge on some stain to replicate this heating of the metal.
Clean off your little brush (we'll be using it again later) and let the stain dry completely.
----(1.4) Fine detail:
Now we're moving on to water damage. Take the wash you mixed from 1 part flat black spraypaint and 4 parts water. Dip your stiff bristled brush in, let most of the wash drip back into the cup, then start flicking the brush around over the surface. You're not looking for a fine mist here, rather you're looking for distinct droplets. Let them fall where they will, again, not too much, but enough to add accent. Add extra drips on the shoulders, upper chest, and top of the helmet, where water would be able to accumulate. Put a lot less on the legs, since they move enough to knock most water off. If you want, it's always a nice touch to do these drips with another color as well, to look like a 'mystery' chemical spray. Good colors for this are a rust red, white, a copper patina green, or an oxide yellow. Once you have your drips how you want them, just go away for a few hours and let all the water evaporate. You'll end up with some gorgeous 'water spots'... like you get on dishes you leave to dry in the dishwasher.
You may want to check your wash mix before you do your full set of armor, by letting one or two drips dry off to make sure you get the right water spot effect. Add more paint or water until you're pleased with the result, then go to town.
Next we're going to put some black grime in crevices to vary the grime from the wood stain. Basically, use the same exact paper towel and brush technique you used for the stain, but with flat black paint instead. You can either use Testor's model paint or just spray some of your flat black spraypaint in a cup. When adding this black in sword cuts, it helps to carefully paint right in the crack, then lightly brush the surface with the towel. You're aiming to leave most of the paint in the cut, but to pull off the excess from the main surface. You'll leave a smudge of paint behind which will add to the effect, but you'll want to pull in the direction of gravity. Basically, almost always pull towards the feet. It's okay to pull to the left or right for variety, but it always looks a little odd to pull towards the head, and have residue that defies gravity.
For your blaster marks, it's time to add on your carbon scoring. In the Star Wars universe, blaster carbon fades out from the impact crater in irregular 'rays' like a child's drawing of the sun. The center of the impact has no carbon, and the rays are thick and faded. It's best to do this with an airbrush if you have access to one, but if you don't drybrushing it in provides satisfactory results. (To drybrush, dip your brush in paint, wipe 90% of the paint off, then lightly run the brush over the surface. This will give a very soft, subtle mark. Go over the area multiple times until the desired darkness is achieved.)
For the water damage, black grime, and carbon scoring, you're ALWAYS going to want to work in flat paint. Don't use gloss if it's all you have-- make a special trip to get flat paint. Dirt, carbon, and water droplet sediment aren't glossy. You're using good permanent paint, too, (you'd better be!) so you won't need to ruin the flat effect with a gloss or semi-gloss sealer.
Weathering is always more effective when it is a flat effect laid over a gloss/semi gloss surface... it's rich for the eyes.
Finally we're onto the chipped paint. Again, I do this additive, so I'll be painting my chips directly onto the surface. It gives me far more control to do it this way, so I stick with it. Just make sure you're using a paint that dries flush with the surface-- some silver paints have a texture. I recommend Testor's brand silver.
Get your little detail brush ready. You're going to want to put silver on all your corners, since they get a lot of wear. Vary the size and thickness of how you're painting these corners, so they don't look too uniform. This is a great time to do drybrushing. Wherever there's an edge that runs above the surrounding metal, you may also want to run some silver along it as well for accent.
More substantial chips are done just with very careful observation of the world around you. I wish there was an easy trick to tell you, but it's just observing how paint chips off in real life and replicating the look of it on your armor. I do have a link to some amazingly beautiful photographs of real metal in various stages of damage, for reference:
Some of your armor scratches may be 'fresh' from battle, so they'd be bright silver since grime hasn't had a chance to build up in them yet.
Your blaster impacts, if they're fresh, will also be silver in their centers-- right in the craters you dremeled out hours ago.
If you have any questions or suggestions, my email address is available at the top of this document. Let me know!
TO BE CONTINUED