Jr Hunter
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,
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
2.2 Wood
2.3 Horn/bone
2.4 Stone

3.1 Cloth
3.2 Mild color based weathering
3.3 Heavy color based weathering
3.4 Mild cut based weathering
3.5 Heavy cut based weathering

4.1 Leather
4.2 Light colored leathers
4.3 Dark colored leathers
4.4 Boots

5.1 Extra touches
5.2 Blood splatters/stains
5.3 Major structural damage

Section 1.1:
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
paper towels
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
until satisfied.

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
fights anyway!

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.

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!

Last edited by a moderator:


Jr Hunter
Yep! (But I haven't written it yet)

2.1 Plastic formed armor or objects you want to end up looking like organic items
2.2 Wood
2.3 Horn/bone
2.4 Stone

3.1 Cloth
3.2 Mild color based weathering
3.3 Heavy color based weathering
3.4 Mild cut based weathering
3.5 Heavy cut based weathering

4.1 Leather
4.2 Light colored leathers
4.3 Dark colored leathers
4.4 Boots

5.1 Extra touches
5.2 Blood splatters/stains
5.3 Major structural damage
Last edited by a moderator:


Thank you for all your work on this! This is the most amazing in-depth tutorial/FAQ I've ever seen. I'm definitely going to apply these methods on my armor! (And helmet! :) )


Active Hunter
this is really good and in depth...if you dont mind can i add something,...i find that to make good blaster damage on thick sintra armour you need to things.......a VERY good rebreather mask...industrial grade if affordable...and a soldering iron

if you want it to look likle a blaster bolt hit the armour....dug in a little then was repelled...slowly push the soldfering iron into the position you want it in...think of the angle of the armour before hand so you can see if the bolt would bounce off straight or would leave at an angle (which would leave a tail) for a circle of damage then slowly push the soldering iron into the position gently…then turn and twist the iron until it leave a crater affect to the sintra/plastic…then allow to try and move on to your next bit of damage
To make a tail that looks like the bolt his then dragged across the armour repeat the last part…only make it more shallow and slowly drag the iron away from the crater and make the tail more and more shallow….for a blaster rifle damage id say about 3 inches is perfect for a tail…but it depends how deep you want the original crater.

ALWAYS ENSURE THAT YOU WEAR A REBREATHER MASK WHILE BURNING PLASTIC…ID ONCE DID IT UN MASKED AND MY CHEST HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME!!! BURNING PLASTIC IS DANGEROUS TO AN UNMASKED PERSON….IT IS DETRIMENTAL TO YOUR HEALTHi'll be posting up a tutorial on the mercs soon with pictures of the process once i can find my camera's USB cable...i'll post it in here as well if you want :)


Jr Hunter
Excellent tutorial...very well organized! This will come in really handy when it comes time to paint my armour! (y)

I have one question though. Which method of "dust" weathering do most people prefer? The spray can at a distance or brushing on powdered chalk and then sealing? Or perhaps airbrushing?

I've never used an airbrush before and have mainly used rattle cans in an automotive setting. I've never done anything as precise or intricate as armour with them before so I'm curious how the rattle can method looks.


Jr Hunter
I have no experience working with automotive airbrushes (only the small ones) But I don't see why they wouldn't do the same job as a rattle can. Whatever you use, they key is to stand well back and let gravity pull the paint onto the surface rather than spraying the paint directly on.

I'm not sure whether *most* people prefer chalk dust or rattle cans. I've done both. Chalk dust provides a much finer dust-- you can't even see the particles, and it's great for muting out your whole finish so it appears bleached by the sun, or if your character lives in an area with a lot of very fine dust.

I personally prefer rattle cans because it's easier and cleaner, but there's no rule that limits you to one or the other. In fact, a very awesome finish might be achieved by using rattle cans and then chalk on top.

I'll be sure to add this info to the tutorial tonight, as well as Setra's advice, with credit to him, of course.

And thanks for the sticky!


Well-Known Hunter
Personally, I am fond of the chalk method. You have extremely good control over how much chalk to use, and you can also really get it brushed in well for a carbon look on lighter colors. The trick is to really brush it in hard, or you end up with dark wisps all over your armor. Just like CL said, it also breaks up a shiny varnish finish if like me you tend to value protecting your paint/weathering job. I put a couple layers of varnish down, then brush over some chalk dust to mute it out, then seal.

Works like a champ!


Jr Hunter
Thanks especially for the metal damage reference link. I think sometimes we don't pay very good attention to the weathering we see around us every day when planning how our gear should wear. I work in a school, and the kids' lockers were one of the best places for me to learn about how metal items used everyday wear, especially since the locker bays all used to be painted a different color. The hulls of big tanker ships are another great place to look. I look forward to the rest of this tutorial sticky.


Sr Hunter
Wow! You sure you don't want to come to Arisia and speak on the weathering panel?

Is this up on your web site? If so we can point folks at it in the handout.


Jr Hunter
Not yet, Brian. I figured I'd finish writing it, have it proofed by the folks here and on the NEG boards, then I'd distribute it.

I'd love to speak at the weathering panel, but I won't be able to make Arisia this year. :facepalm Too little money in the bank at the moment. I'll be sure to set a little fun money aside for next year, though!


Jr Hunter
Got some more done tonight...


Section 2.1:
Plastic formed armor or objects you want to end up looking like organic items

There isn't much use for organic items in the Star Wars universe. What was once done best with wood or horn is, in that

galaxy far, far away, completely eclipsed by metals and plastics. For a mercenary or bounty hunter, however, some kills

may be remembered with keepsakes, which may take the form of teeth, bones, horns, or carved idols which may have belonged

to the deceased.

If you're a custom, consider adding some of these little details to your costume. They're interesting to look at,

completely unique, and can tell a great story.

----(2.2) Wood:

What you'll need:
Your costume item, preferably actually made from wood.
Wood stain of your preferred color. (not the spray kind!)
Wood stain of a darker shade of your preferred color. (not the spray kind!)
Sandpaper, 80, 150, 300 grit.
A semi-gloss polyurethane wood sealer.
A rag.

Wood is something that's very hard to replicate. It has a richness and depth of color and detail that's very difficult to

fake. On the bright side, wood is very easy to work with, so my best advice is to stop by the craft or hardware store,

pick up a little block of pine, and carve your object out yourself. Wood carving, though slow, is relaxing, and almost

meditative. A note: never carve from Balsa. Even though it's super easy to work with, it's also incredibly fragile. if

you accidentally sit on or lean against your object, you'll probably crush it. Therefore, pine is the softest wood I can

recommend, though if you have the patience to go for something harder, like oak, you'll be rewarded with a finer, more

tightly-packed and often more beautiful grain.

If you either carved out your own object or managed to find something made of wood to your liking, you'll need to age it.

In the SW universe, wooden objects are obsolete for all but sentimental or ceremonial purposes--with the notable exception

of gun stocks. Therefore, they likely will have little to no damage from battle contact. If the object has been handled

constantly (either in the hands or worn against the skin) it will have become smooth, glossy and dark from skin oils

penetrating the grain of the wood. Perhaps you had to pry the object from its previous owner's cold, dead hands... maybe

there are some blood stains on it. (Check out section 5.2 for blood stains)

The first thing you'll need to do are get rid of hard edges. Run your hands over the object. Does anything feel sharp to

you? You can bet that even after only a few years of handling, those edges will be gone. Take your 80 grit paper and

take them all down until those edges are no longer sharp. When you think you've got them all, rub the whole piece with

150, and make sure. We're not worrying about little splinters at the moment; we just want to obliterate all those bright,

crisp corners that make a wooden object look unhandled.

Once you're satisfied, take out that lovely 300 grit paper and rub everywhere. Soften the thing down until you can't feel

a single splinter. After, use a wet rag and wipe all the dust off. Let the object dry.

Now you get to choose what KIND of wood you've got. Pine? Cherry? Ebony? Your wood stain should match your desired

color. You should have carved/found your object in a light-colored wood, so you can always go darker, because you can't

go lighter!

This step is just following the application instructions on your stain. Put on some gloves, grab an old sock, and rub the

stain all over the surface of your object. If it builds up in the crevices, that's OK, we want it to. If your object

still isn't dark enough, let your first layer dry, give it a quick sand and wipe, then put on another coat. Continue

until satisfied.

If the object has been repeatedly handled, you'll want to darken up the high spots where oils from the hands would have

deposited. Take your darker shade of stain and wipe it softly over these high spots. You want to avoid a distinct edge

where the second shade begins, so be sure to smooth and smudge it out with your rag. This actually isn't terribly

difficult, but you want to be sure you don't go TOO dark. Usually, only one coat will provide the illusion we're looking


If you are going to add blood stains, this is when you want to do it, before we seal the object.

To seal, spray or brush on your polyurethane. How easy is that!

----(2.3) Horn/bone:

No, no, I'm not going to require you to go out and find actual horns or bones... unless, of course, you can. Why settle

for the fake version when you've got access to the real thing?

I'm going to assume, though, that you've got an item made either of plastic or of wood.
What you'll need:
An off-white or cream colored spray paint.
A light yellowish stain, such as Minwax 'English oak.' (not the spray kind!)
Flat brown acrylic brush paint.
Flat white acrylic brush paint.
Semi-gloss sealer.
Fine point paint brush.

Start out with your dremel. Carve in some pockmarks here and there, just little shallow circular divots, very similar to

air bubble imperfections on a resin cast. Don't overdo it; you're better off hiding most of them near depressions on the

surface of your item, as bones and horn are more porous near their centers.

Clean the item, then spray on your off-white spray paint. Do a couple of coats, so you have a good, uniform layer. Take

a rag and your yellowish stain and rub it over the surface. You're trying to get a bit of buildup in the crevices, and NO

buildup on the high points. Work in one small area at a time, as the stain will set up quickly. Next, grab your brown

paint and your brush and, in the very deepest corners, paint in some brown. Rub off the excess with a rag or paper towel.

Be sure to avoid the appearance of brushstrokes!

You're going to want to drybrush on your white next. The more bleached out your item is, the more white you'll want.

Drybrush by dipping your brush in paint, wiping most of it back off on a towel, and gently running the brush across the

surface in long strokes. Don't do the white as a big, solid area--just keep drybrushing until you can barely see any of

the offwhite base anymore. If you just brush on solid white you may A. get brushstroke patterns on your surface that will

destroy your illusion and B. a great big solid white expanse doesn't look very realistic.

If you are going to add blood stains, this is when you want to do it.

Finish with a coat of sealer. If you're working on teeth, you may want to use a high-gloss just on the tooth enamel areas

(everything but the root.) Unpolished bone, meanwhile, like skulls, can be satisfactorily finished with either flat or



Jr Hunter
Section 3.1:

PUT DOWN THOSE SCISSORS! Never use scissors! Seriously, just step away from them and take a deep breath. Like our hard parts, we want our soft costume parts to be weathered accurately. I strongly recommend doing your soft parts after you've completed your hard parts... as your hard parts will strongly influence how your soft parts are weathered!

You'll want to keep a few things in mind while weathering fabric. Unlike metals and plastics, fabric will tend to soak up most liquids, which results in a different type of stain. Fabric will also bleach out if it gets a lot of sun or if it is very old and beat up. If your character wears the same clothes all of the time, there will be sweat stains in the armpits, and a bad case of ring around the collar. Oils and dirt from the fingertips will easily deposit in places frequently touched, such as pockets, fasteners, or hemlines.

Once you've done your fabric weathering, be warned-- you probably won't ever be able to wash your garment again without ruining all your hard work, so wear washable undergarments to absorb your sweat and body odors. Febreeze is also your friend.

----(3.2) Mild color based weathering:

What you'll need:
Wax-based shoe polish tins in a variety of colors. I use tan, brown, cordovan, and black.
A large stiff-bristled shoe polishing brush.
A rag.
Fabric detergent.
Powdered chalk.
A spray bottle that will spritz out a fine mist, such as a perfume or body spray bottle.

In mild color weathering, we'll be adding the subtle all-over effects which greatly increase an item's age and interest, including sun bleaching, road dust, sweat stains, crumpling, and mild surface dirt.

I would recommend starting with sweat stains. You don't need to go crazy with these-- unlike a lot of weathering, this actually CAN start to look gross if you go too nuts, and I imagine you don't want your character to look like he has a glandular problem. Take your rag and whatever color of shoe polish most closely matches your fabric. For light shades, you'll pull out the tan; for darker shades, go for brown. You'll want to rub your rag into the polish, then in small, light circles, rub the rag along the armpits and neckline of your costume. You're aiming for a slight yellowish discoloration. Again, less is more.

For general surface dirt, bring out your stiff bristled shoe polish brush, shoe polish of a variety of colors, and a rag. As convoluted as it sounds, you need to use the rag to pick up a quantity of shoe polish, then use the rag to rub the polish into the bristles of the brush (You don't want to just stick the brush into the polish tin because you'll get lumps and chunks, which will end up on your fabric as big ugly smears. These ugly smears are great in moderation, of course, but they can start looking fake if you get too many of them gathered in one place.) then lightly-- LIGHTLY! drag the brush along your item. This will deposit a very soft bit of discoloration on the high points of the item, which looks especially nice if you do it a bit thicker around fasteners, hemlines, pockets, and anywhere else which would be touched repeatedly or contact dirty surfaces. If your character wears armor, the armor would also be likely to deposit grime onto the fabric, so go ahead and lay it on a bit more thick near where your armor meets the fabric. When you're dragging your brush, you'll also want to be sure not to drag in the same direction the whole time. I personally work in big circles. Get creative, and use a few different colors to do this surface dirt. Don't brush them on in clearly defined areas, though-- instead, for example, go over the whole surface with brown, do some especially dirty areas right on top of the brown with your cordovan, then pull out the black for the very edges, right on top of the cordovan.

Don't ever end this surface dirt with an abrupt edge. Always brush it out to a soft, subtle finish.

Sun bleaching is one of my very favorite effects. It always looks so professional, like you thought of everything! One word of warning-- always test how bleach will affect your fabric. Sometimes it bleaches it so much it turns white, and that's nearly impossible to fix. After you've tested straight bleach on your fabric, you're ready to make your bleach mix. You're aiming for a shade noticeably lighter; say 20%. You'll just have to eyeball it, unfortunately. If straight bleach gets you 20% lighter after it's completely dry, you don't have to mix at all; otherwise, keep adding water to your bleach until you've hit that 20% mark. Pour your mix into the perfume bottle, and start spritzing your fabric from about a foot away. Always aim with the direction of sunlight; so, for a vest, you'll spritz from the shoulders down. Go lightly, you do not want to overkill this step, it's almost impossible to fix, aside from redying the entire garment and starting again.

You may also consider spritzing a bit of bleach on the knees and elbows to give the impression of thinning, fading fabric.

We're on the next to last stage of mild weathering, what I like to call the 'wash n' crumple.' In your bathtub, turn on some warm water, pour a few drips of detergent onto your garment, get the garment wet, then use your hands to scrub the garment against itself. You're not actually trying to clean it; you're just trying to soften up any hard edges to your weathering and break down some of your stains so they're absorbed into the weave of the fabric. Once you're satisfied with your softened weathering, rinse the garment completely and let it air dry. (do NOT throw it into the dryer!) If you'd like a nice crumpled effect, ball the garment up or twist it up while still wet, then open it up and stretch it out to air dry. Whatever wrinkles you see while the garment is wet should still be there, though a bit softer, once the fabric dries. This adds a pleasing three-dimensional effect to your item, and makes it appear as if the item has spent some time in the damp.

For road dust, bring out some crushed chalk. You'll want to stick with either grey (for city, space, or volcanic characters) tan (desert) or brown (temperate, underground) Lay out your fabric and blow the dust over the items, focusing on the legs and shoulders, where travel dust would settle. You can use a clean rag to wipe the fabric and grind some dust into the weave, or you can lock the dust in with a spray fixative. Either way, make sure you give the item a good shake before you wear it, or else you risk sending out puffs of dust when you walk.