Thursday, March 8

Review: MXPression Airbrush Masks – 1/35 Hetzer

MXPression have already brought us a string of products that are great for not only modellers who need airbrush help but also the Painting figures with Acrylics DVD and innovative products like Panzer putty – they now make the late war German armour modeller very happy with these three masks to suit your Hetzer in an ambush scheme – we take a look at the 1/35 masks and apply them to a donor Hetzer kit to see how the products shape up…
MXPression Hetzer masks in 1/35
  • MX35001 1/35 Hetzer Skoda Ambush pattern, BMW Ambush pattern & Hetzer Late Scheme.
Available scales - 1/48,1/35 & 1/16 (on request).

We first heard of MXPression from a few very nice calendars and this even better DVD on airbrushing camouflages with acrylics in our review – Now that video was pretty informative and showed us a lot of useful things – we were always put off from making some of these camouflages by the extensive times it takes to mask the tanks in these intricate patterns –  wouldn’t it be handy to have these ready-made to suit your particular vehicle already ? Well to remedy this MXPression sent us some of their own new masks to make it so – Great! Seeing there are more than a few of these on the market we thought that more than a cursory review was needed – this is the Hetzer we came out with…. read on to see how it got there..

Now before we go off on the fun stuff I thought I would give you a run down on the three masks we have- what they consist of and how to get the best out of them.

The masks themselves - just low(ish) tack precision cut vinyl.
The three masks all have a few things in common – the ones we are looking at are all 1/35th scale and of course are all for the Hetzer tank destroyer. They are all in a secure little  zip lock bag and contain the two sheets of “just right” tack plastic masking sheets which are 15.5cm H and 9.5cm wide, included is the coloured sketch which serves as a key and on the back instructions in English and German.
The instructions are easy to follow and logical. The front pattern of the vehicle and the back are pointing the same way and the key next to it left you in no doubt as to which part is which.

As you can see the order is the base colour brown, then the green, then the dark yellow - lightest to darkest in turn.

The stickers themselves – they did the job easy enough. They were low tack and did not separate from the model while in use – Use them before the vehicle has all of its protrusions - aerials and hatch handles added and you will ensure a smooth stick down. They remove without tearing the paints off – even the “softest” of paints which I tested on the kit

MX35001 1/35 Hetzer Skoda Ambush pattern.
This is the scheme I used on the test tank as it had all three colours and I was using the Skoda tank from the little known “Bilek” kit – which is the same as the early Italeri and the Tamiya kit if I am not mistaken.
A view of the SKODA applied camouflage
This camouflage in real life is shown with the dotted spots or strokes added which are there to represent spots of light teeming through trees which the tanks were usually placed in a forest to ambush -  hence the name of the scheme. You can see thought the match is pretty good to the sheet we have here - the scheme matches pretty well with the mask.

Compare this to the picture above and they look pretty spot on alike in the solid pattern.
This - like all of the sheets could do with a colour call out - they could also do with the schemes to have each colour with a little letter on them like I have done – it sped up the application a lot and stopped me using the wrong masks on the wrong colour mask. Also missing from here is a mask for the wheels which were painted the colours of the camo – but usually all one colour each. I simply masked mine with a 19mm circle - so no big deal – and probably easier so scratch that last comment – I like what I am using better!

There are however added to this scheme several circles to add for the circular modification to this camo and also just for extra disk shapes should you need to make your own masks.

MX35001 1/35 Hetzer BMW Ambush pattern.
This scheme was used by the BMW factories in Plzen and Prague right until the end of the war and again could be dappled with dots but most of the examples I have seen have a solid colour.(though this is another fable – as I bet half of them were dappled with spots) This scheme used bigger colour patches than the Skoda factory and often again fully just one-coloured wheels.
Again these camouflages are dead on in the same patterns - only the dots need to be applied (they are supplied in this set)
In this set there are again instructions and the key on the front denoting where everything is. Included with this set is a set of large and small disks just like the Skoda set – but this one includes the little light/dark holes you need to quickly do your spotted camouflage. These sets are all about ease of use and these will be really popular for this – their ease of use with modellers coming out the winner for a change.

MX35001 1/35 Hetzer Late Scheme.
This scheme was an even darker scheme than the first two. It looks to me like these are meant to use the dark red primer instead of the chocolate brown. Paint was running out by this time and there is almost no Dunkelgelb on this variation. Indeed this looks to be even a lighter shade like RAL 9003 "Weiss" to my eye. The truth is no one can be sure 100%
Not many good pictures of the "late" scheme are available - this is one I found
Again there is a good positional match here - i am impressed with the research
Included in the again two sheets of masks are some extra sheets of patterns to make your own shapes and again the fenders and mg shield is looked after just like the other two mask sets. There are also some fake vision ports which were applied to some vehicles -  this set looks very interesting to me – debate rages on the forums and amongst the experts as to what these schemes were and the colours concerned but I suppose no one alive probably will know with any certainty about the real paints used.

Well this all seems good in theory – looking at a set and noticing things – but do they work? Let’s have a look on a (nearly) completed model!!

I used an old kit and the “softest” paints I could in the stash – not naming or shaming I used Vallejo acrylics which have separated with using a mask with me before so I thought I would test these masks to the limit with these not – so durable shades.
PhotobucketFirst of all I used the Red primer form Vallejo in a tube and then gave the model two shades of the AK Interactive “Worn Effects” Acrylic fluid – which I would later (after this review) make some scratched and worn effects with in this build. I made the wheels the dark rubber colour so i could mask and spray the wheels with an easy to apply mask of  19mm
After securing the undercoat the first colour of brown went down on the kit - this was a slightly more chocolate than the undercoat - but this isn't an exercise in colour accuracy - it is to see how the masks perform so ill not dither with any more colour accuracy matters - that will be up to you.

The first masks went down on the brown .
I applied the colour markings with a simple B (brown) & G(green) so that i didn't stuff up the placement of the masks - not everyone will need this but it sped up the application for me a fair bit. I found with the key supplied it was just about the right size for me to simply place in front of the model and then take it away and- having the tweezers at the ready with the masking bit the brown went down pretty fast.
Now I was worried I had placed a few in slightly wrong places - well that worry was not needed as I pretty much found all of the right spots first off - once the masks were all in position I sprayed the green on the model (thus saving the brown camo underneath the new colour.) 
The green camo stickers went down on top of the slightly lightened at the top - colour modulated Hetzer. This was a handy way to pre weather this tank with these maskings that otherwise would have taken ages to devise- draw and cut out. The green colour maskings went down even faster than the brown as you have a reference point as to where to put them in relation to the first stickers.
Next was the yellow coat which just sees you spraying the while model all over in the one colour - I modulated the light on mine a little too much in the photo here but just went all over it with a thin layer after it dried-  really this is getting too easy!
The moment of truth had arrived though! This is the kit with all of the fenders removed and masked - painted the three colours and ready to peel off... Fingers crossed - this is the moment of truth!!
Well I hadn't needed to worry really - yes I did have to be careful with the soft Vallejo paints i used but they stayed on through out all of the mask removal process. I was very revealed to have this model to a state where I could add whatever I wanted in the way of weathering in such a quick process. It took me just two days to complete the construction process, mask and paint this Hetzer. The masks performed flawlessly and gave me no trouble. they made me look like a much better modeller than what I am.

Tim for the removal of the masks- the making or breaking of this product - It caused me no problems i am pleased to report..
Well I gave this mask set every obstacle it could face - "soft" paint - and old kit that wouldn't probably most people's choice, and an impatient modeller and yes it knocked it out of the park. This is the  way i will be painting my Hetzers and Panthers in the future - I can see this range expanding into other tank makes quite easily. The only things i did to make my build faster was to mask of my wheels myself (a cinch) and to letter the masking stickers to make them easy to differentiate from each other. Applying this was good fun actually as modelling goes!
The finished article and a small pile of masks.

This is what i came up with - pre weathering and the next steps in construction- 

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
All I can say about this is that they are brilliant little sets - properly used they will mask and not destroy even the “softest” paint I could use with them. As the version I built shows even without weathering in the gaudiest of finishes it will weather and detail up to be as good as anything on a competition table or in a magazine

Thanks to MXPression for the masks for review