Weathering Models: 6 Realistic Effects for Your Scale Models

You've finished painting your completed model kit. Now it's time to take it to the next level with some weathering effects.

Some of effects, such as mud and dust, are more appropriate for land vehicles, like tanks, rather than ocean vessels, like ships. But nevertheless, these 6 realistic effects will dramatically take your pristine model to a more interesting level that will capture the imagination of anyone who sees it.

The 6 Effects Are:

1. Salt Weathering

2. Chipped Paint

3. Mud

4. Dust 

5. Highlights

6. Rust Streaks 

Effect #1: Salt Weathering

This effect is great for all types of models, from boats to tanks. It adds color modulation to your model to give it a realistic, rugged look. This works great to give variation to a monochrome color. The best examples of salt weathering occurs in dessert areas and coastal areas. 


  1. Gently mist water on your model.

  2. Sprinkle sea salt all over it. You want a salt that has different size grains, not very fine salt. A gourmet seal salt works best.

  3. Wait for it to dry.

  4. Spray a very thin coat of a light color paint, like white, all over the area where you want the effect. Make sure you thin out the paint to a 70/30 to 80/20 thinner to paint ratio. And keep the psi low. You can also opt to use a dark color, like black if you want the effect to be light in contrast. 

  5. Wait for the paint to dry.

  6. Wash off the Salt.

Now you're left with a great looking salt weathering effect that adds a great color modulation to your model. 

Effect #2: Chipped Paint

This effect is one that is a staple to weathered models and is a familiar sight to all of us in real life. If you are not making a model of a hot rod and want to give the impression of something that is a work horse, then this effect is a must.


  1. Choose your acrylic color. Whether you want the chip to look like bare metal or rusted metal is up to you.

  2. Take a small, piece of uneven, torn off sponge with a pair of tweezers and dab it into the paint very lightly. Make sure to dab off any extra paint globs onto a piece of paper towel before applying.

  3. Apply the effect where you want it on your model. Around edges of doors and moving parts is a great place to start.

  4. Let dry

The sponge is great because it offers a much more random application than if you were to do it with a paintbrush. Randomness is key.

Effect #3: Mud

Apply this effect last, as in real life, mud is going to be on top of all the other effects. Also, remove the wheels and propellers off of your model to get the mud in behind those parts for an amazingly realistic touch. This effect could be used for boats, but I think rust and salt effects are more appropriate for those models.


  1. Take some dirt from your garden or lawn. You can sift it to break it up into smaller pieces if you are meticulous about the scale of the pieces of dirt.

  2. Put a glob of some white PVA glue into a plastic jar lid or something like that and mix in some paint with it. XF-52 Tamiya Flat Earth paint is a great choice. The proportion of paint to glue is no big deal, just mix what looks good to you.

  3. Mix in the dirt with the paint/glue mixture in the jar lid.

  4. Apply the new mixture haphazardly underneath fenders and wherever you want the mud. Don't be too planned when applying it. The glue will dry clear.

Tip: modulate the color by making a lighter color mixture and applying it to give it a more diverse/realistic look.

Effect #4: Dust Effect

This effect is great for cars, planes, and tanks. It should be used in a subtle way, and really makes a great impact in crevices and creases. You can make your own using chalk pastels, or buy pre-made stuff like AK Interactive pigment. 


  1. For chalk pastels, take a scalpel and scrape some chalk dust into a jar or jar lid. You can use a couple of different contrasting colors and keep them separate, mixing them to taste.  

  2. Take a thin paint brush and brush it around creases.

  3. Use a flat brush to fade out the dust if needed.
Tip: If you use the pre-made pigment, make sure you tap off the brush before you apply it to the model. That stuff applies very efficiently, so you don't want a lot of extra particles on the brush. Also, don't be heavy handed with it. Fortunately, the AK Interactive pigment wipes off very easily if you make a mistake.  

    Effect #5: Highlights 

    Using a technique called an oil paint wash, you can bring out details in your model to transform it from a flat, dull work in progress, to a life like masterpiece that pops with realism.


    1. Put a glob of Van Dyke brown oil paint on your palette.

    2. Dip your thin brush into a thinner like turpentine.

    3. Put dots of turpentine next to your glob of paint.

    4. Mix some paint into the dots of turpentine with your brush.

    5. Now go ahead and lightly brush the very thin solution around bolts and edges of metal to give them a more 3D appearance.

    This effect is a favorite among many modelers and is great for creating shadow effects and oil stains and grime. This effect is a must use to make your models as realistic as possible.

    Effect #6: Rust Streaks 

    This effect is perfect for ships, where rust streaks down the sides of the hull from the anchor and vent holes.
    1. Once your model is finished and painted, protect it with 2 or 3 coats of gloss varnish.
    2. Let it dry for 24-48 hours to cure.
    3. For this example we will use 3 oil paints: Abteilung Dark Rust color, Winsor and Newton Raw Umber, and Winsor and Newton Cadmium Yellow Deep Hue.
    4. Put a glob of each color onto your palette. Oil paints take longer to dry than acrylic, which makes it much easier to work with.
    5. Using a thin paintbrush, mix the colors to your liking.
    6. Apply the paint to the vent holes on the hull of the ship and around anchor. Make sure your brush down, not up; because, you know, gravity. Just get it started, don't paint the full streaks down; that will come later.
    7. Let it dry for about 30 minutes.
    8. Take a q-tip and dip it into a thinner, like turpentine.
    9. Now apply it to the partially dried pain, dragging down.

    Tip: Remember, less is more: You can always add more streaking later. Also, this process is pretty forgiving. You can use the thinner to thin out the thickness of the streaks and to correct any sloppy applications.

    Video for Effects #1-5


    Video for Effect #6 


    Weathering your models will bring your modeling skills to the next level. Strive to keep improving your art because it will add so much value to everyone who sees it.

    I hope this blog post helped you out and gave you some creative ideas. I want to thank the makers of these videos that I used for my research. These teachers have amazing content and I would highly recommend subscribing to their YouTube Channels.

    I also want to thank you for reading this blog and I hope you sign up to my email list to get more content from me.



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