The number one thing I'm always asked at both pick-up games and tournaments by the people I meet is "How do you paint your tanks?". Since I decided to finally start painting up my Hellhounds and Chimera conversions, I thought that I would do a quick how-to for everyone as I went through the steps.
Step 1: Undercoat the Model
For this step, I use Tamiya Neutral Gray spray paint, which should be available at any general hobby store. It's an enamel-based paint intended for aircraft models. So it goes on extremely smooth, with a very plastic looking sheen. This is important, because the techniques I use will accentuate any roughness in the primer application. Acrylic-Based primers tend to create a rougher surface.
Step 2: Apply the Base Color
Here I use an airbrush to apply the base color. Which for my desert-themed models is the old Bronzed Flesh that GW doesn't make anymore. There's still some in the stores though, so I've bought up 7-8 pots of the stuff. I figure that should be enough for the next 3000 points of models I need to paint. :)
This is easily the most time consuming part of the whole process. Since Bronzed Flesh goes on thinly and therefore requires multiple coats to cover the primer.
Step 3: Apply the Ground Color
Now I pull out the airbrush again and spray on some bronzed flesh with more red and orange added. This is to simulate the color of the dust that would collect on the lower parts of the tank over time. I also spray it on the tracks and into the surrounding surfaces a bit.
Note: If you bottle your custom colors like I do, you only need to mix them once! That's a huge time saver!
Step 4: Apply the Dip
Now for the fun part! This step will shade the recesses and crevices in the model, making the small details "pop" from the surface. This is done using minwax. In the past I've also used inks to do the same thing, but the floor wax goes on more evenly and discolors the raised surfaces less.
Librarium Online has a good article on dipping models here.
The wax itself should be thinned by about 10% with mineral spirits and applied to the model with a brush. You don't actually "dip" the model into a jar or anything. The brush application lets you put just as much shading on a particular portion of the model as you want. If you apply too much to an area, you can wipe off the brush and use it to lift the extra wax off of the model.
Once you're done, leave the model alone for 12-15 hours so the floor wax drys thoroughly. If you handle it too soon, you'll leave fingerprints on the model!
Step 5: Dull the Shine
Once the floor wax is dry, your model will be very shiny and reflective. To get rid of the shine, I spray the model with Testors Dullcote spray varnish. Do this in light coats that you build up slowly. If you spray on too much at once, you'll get the foggy look that you can see on front of the leftmost Chimera above. Whoops!
Step 6: Start Drybrushing
Once the shine is gone, it's time to start drybrushing. First I drybrush on the original base color starting from the top of the model down to the middle third of the track assembly. Then I drybrush 3 more layers using progressively lighter shades of Bronzed flesh. Each pass covers less of the model than the one before it, so that there's a nice graduation in tone and color from the top of the model to the bottom.
The tracks were then washed with Devlin Mud and drybrushed with Chainmail.
At this point the basic coloring is done. All that's left are the color accents on the weapons and the various small details that I'll paint in later. But for now, the models are tourney-legal and very presentable on the battlefield until I finish them off completely.