Abandoned storage tanks

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Making something look real or weathered, I don’t believe is that difficult, and as long as you have a few techniques under your belt then almost anything is possible.

I have picked up ideas from the internet and books on the subject and don’t profess to be the best or even good at it but I do have an eye for detail, in one of the books I have, the author, says, ” paint what you see, not what you think you see” at first I struggled with what he meant, but the more I do this sort of thing the more I understand, so now I use pictures as reference.

If I’m painting bricks I have pictures of bricks in all states of repair and if my model looks a lot like the picture then I have succeeded, if it’s dirt, grease or rust, again I take pictures of a similar situation.

This article is to show simple ways of creating an abandoned storage tank and would equally apply to other models or situations, I will talk you though some basic techniques you can do without an airbrush or special weathering powders and paints and still acheive a good effect.

A painter once told me that painting is all about illusion, and this applies to model painting and weathering techniques too.

Observation is everything, and I spend hours some days with my camera just taking pictures of brickwork, stonework and even concrete then armed with some basic knowledge of techniques, the internet and a good selection of paint colours I try to reproduce what I see.

Ok so let us begin, the subject is actually an old truck body from a Corgi Scania bulk grain carrier and was removed from the truck and set aside for this project, it already has damage to the plastic which we will use to our advantage.

I have removed one of the access ladders and glued the other one to the body and glued down the opening lids on top, then after a clean I have sprayed the whole thing black as a base coat.

It had also been glued to a small base which will become the concrete plinth it sits on and also helps hold the model while painting.

My main pallet of colours for this is dark brown and orange, although I do use another light brown and a bit of black and grey, you can see below the colours I used for this.

I start by building up the rusty colours using my limited pallet of colour and thin down as required to make the washes, where the tank lids over hang I have put a more solid colour, planning ahead is always good and have decided these tanks were originally cream with a black painted catwalk and black steelwork base frame as this helps decide how to weather the item, if the catwalk was galvanized metal there may still be signs of the plating left so more greys could be used here, now let dry overnight.

I want these to look abandoned years ago so I am going to make the cream paint look like it’s rusted and the paint peeling off, this can be done in small or large areas, firstly I apply a thick coat of latex paint mask where the large rust patches will be, both Humbrol and Revell make this and both work fine, this one is the Revell version and goes on white but dries clear so you can tell when it’s dry, usually a couple of hours will work.

Next I paint the tanks with two good coats of enamel paint, just a note here enamel is slower drying than other types of paint and is ideal for this, the trick is to remove the latex mask before the paint is fully dry.

Once the paint has gone tacky I remove the latex mask with tweezers, and pull away from the model hopefully in one piece.

This leaves a nice edge that looks like peeling paint, now let dry over night.

Now we need some texture to the large areas of rust as at the moment it still looks like brown paint, for this I grind down some brown artist chalk with a piece of sandpaper and mix with my brown paint, this can be done with enamels or water based acrylic paint, I then paint over the larger areas but rather than brushing it you will need to stipple it and get a far better effect.

Rust tend to be dark browns as it ages but new rust and rust staining tend to be more orange, so below you can see the orangey colour washes I use around the peeling edge and stains running down the tank body, one note here don’t let the wash run down, paint it down and soften with a dry brush if it looks to heavy again you can’t beat looking at the real thing and how rust stains and water run down buildings and metal.

Once dry I want to make the catwalk and the base look as though it had a covering of rust and the tanks need to look a bit dirtier, so for this I use dry brushing, that is load your brush with paint then wipe most of it back off on a kitchen towel then using an up and down brushing movement lightly go over the whole thing.

Its not finished yet as a bit more dry brushing to do, but as they say less is more, it’s far better to build it up with many coats than try to rush and over do it you can see how it is starting to tone down the colours too, giving an more aged appearance.

Next is the base, the grey I used was a mix of colours to try and replicate old concrete, there is more work to do but this will give you an idea, do bookmark our site as I update these articles regularly.


  1. Mike Richards says:

    That’s looking really good, how can you say your not good at this sort of thing?

    If I could get halfway to creating something like that, I would be happy.

    By the way I have some diecast restorations I would like you to do, shall I email you the details?


    • Peter says:

      Thanks for the comments Mike, I consider there are a lot of modellers out there far better than me and feel I am still learning in regard to weathering, as I do still refer to books and other media for some of the techniques so on that basis that;s why I say I have an eye for detail rather than good at what I do.

      Yes send the diecast details via Email :)

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