We have seen two parts of the build of this Panda Hobby T-15 Armata from Andy so far. He has reviewed what is in the box, and then a build guide of the contents now today gives way to Pt II – the painting and weathering of this massive vehicle. See how his processes are layered and how this machine turns out when finished...
Build Guide; T-15 Armata Object 149
Manufacturer – Panda Hobby
Kit Number - #PH-35017
Price - ¥4,500 • $38 • £30 • €36 from Hobbylink Japan
PT I: In-boxed.
Pt II: Build Guide
Part III: Painting and weathering...
Back in part 2 we had some fun and games trying to wrestle Panda's new T-15 Armata into a half decent model. I won't dwell on the issues that the kit had, as they were well documented during the build; let's just say it was an interesting experience, but the end result was definitely a case of the sum being greater than the (slightly warped) parts. Now it's time to get some paint and weathering on and see if the finished model is worth all the frustrations during assembly.
First up I had to decide how I wanted to finish the model. From the box you only have one choice, that being the parade scheme of dark green with orange and black St. George stripes. Of course that's the only scheme this vehicle has worn so far, so you can't blame Panda for not including an alternative.
However Panda's decals for the stripes were not well printed and, on top of that, I wanted to do something a bit more creative and visually interesting, so chose to go with a hypothetical operational camo scheme. The fact that this would allow me to add some weathering may also have been a motivating factor, as I do like to dirty my AFV's up a bit.
After mounting the hull to a mini tripod, which made a convenient handle while painting and a stand when the model was set aside to dry, the first job was to deal with the area behind the wheels. Most of this area would be obscured by the large side skirts, but enough would be visible that it needed painting and weathering before the wheels, tracks and skirts were fitted. It had a base coat of Russian Green, after which I coated the hull sides and running gear with acrylic resin, then stippled on a mix of earth coloured pigments.
Once dry, the resin holds the pigments firmly in place, and you could use this as a base for further washes and weathering. In this case though, I left it at this, as very little of this will be seen on the final build. One thing to note on the photo below is the long bracket that hangs down from the side of the upper hull. I trimmed a few mm's from the front section of this bracket (circled in red) to make it easier to slide the drive sprocket and tracks into place. The bracket is later covered by the side skirts, so the alteration won't be seen.
With the hull sides painted and weathered, I needed to get the tracks painted next. At this stage they only needed a basic paint job, as further weathering could be added once they were installed on the hull. They were primed with a mix of AMMO black and rust primers, which also served as the main base colour, and were then given a light dry brush with dark silver. The drive sprockets, which had been glued to the tracks during assembly were sprayed with the green used on the hull, and also had some dry brushing on the teeth.
The road wheels were painted in the same green, with a dark grey used for the tyres then they, along with the tracks, were fitted to the hull. You can also see that the area around the engine exhaust was given a quick coat of black, as this area is partially visible behind the skirts and add-on armour, and the black worked as a suitable shadow tone.
Now I could fit the armoured side skirts, and you can see just how little of the lower hull is visible once they're in place. It was worth weathering up the area behind them though, just for my own piece of mind. When fitting the skirts, there are three little brackets that attach them to the rear hull. The instructions recommend fitting those brackets to the hull before adding the skirts, but I found it much easier to fit the skirts first, then insert the brackets afterwards.
Time to prime next, and I went with a black primer from AMMO, as I usually prefer to work up from a dark base. In this case I didn't completely coat the surface, and instead used the primer to add some pre-shading to the model. The whole thing had a light dusting with the primer, then the panels lines and details got a heavier application. The tracks had been masked off with kitchen foil beforehand.
There are various Russian greens in the AMMO range but I went with A.Mig-083 Zashchitniy Zeleno, which is a good match for the green used in the camo scheme I'll be applying here. I thinned the paint with Gunze Leveling, which is a lacquer thinner but works very well with AMMO paints, allowing you to thin them quite heavily and get a really smooth finish.
I added a few drops of AMMO 934 Russian Highlight to the base green, and sprayed some highlights. I didn't follow any real lighting direction for this, as I think that can lead to an overly artificial look. I just mottled the lighter colour on across the whole hull and turret, breaking up the larger flat areas, and helping define some of the details. Although I'm going with a camo finish for this build, this type of subtle overall modulation works very well for single colour schemes, especially on large models like this, as it provides a lot more visual interest that a simple flat colour.
The Russian Army has various camo patterns and colours in use, but the most common one is a pale sand and black camo over green, and that's the one I'll be applying here. I used some photos of T-90's and other Russian tanks as reference, but working out a pattern for the different shades wasn't easy due to the huge size of the model. In the end I just tried to spread the sand and black patched out evenly, using similar shapes to those on the photos. I used beads of Silly Putty to outline the pattern, then covered the surrounding areas with more putty.
For the pale sand tone I used AMMO 057 Yellow Grey, which is the recommended colour for this camo scheme. The result was a little too grey compared to most photos, but a lot of that was due to the underlying green base colour, and it'll get some filters and washes that will richen the colour.
The last colour to add was the black, which was sprayed with Tamiya NATO black, lightened very slightly with a small drop of buff. At this point I was a little unsure if I'd made a mistake in going for a camo finish, as the whole thing looked a bit off to me. Well, it was too late now. I was just hoping that after a few filters and some weathering, it would all gel together a bit better.
One of the details that I'd been mulling over the best way to paint since the start of the build were the turret mounted sights. The real things have a very distinct gold reflective coating on the optics and, as the kit parts are moulded solid, I'd need to replicate this with paint.
I considered using metal foil to replicate the lenses, but I didn't think I'd be able to get a clean result as some of the optics are tiny. I decided to go with a simpler solution and sprayed the lenses with Alclad Pale Gold, followed by a coat of Tamiya Clear Orange. After that I just masked off the lenses with small blobs of Silly Putty and sprayed the camo colours.
The results weren't perfect, but once in place they didn't look too bad, and add a bit of visual interest to the turret.
I scrounged some Russian unit numbers from a spare decal sheet to liven up the hull a bit. Rather annoyingly some of the decals silvered slightly, and one number split despite the decals not being that old, and having copious amounts of Micro Sol added. Fortunately most of the silvering was lessened by the subsequent weathering, and the cracked decal was repaired by over-painting with white.
To bring a little more tone to the pale sand areas, and add some more general shading, I airbrushed on a brown enamel wash (AMMO US Vehicles Wash). I thinned the wash down quite a bit and built up the shading gradually.
The next step was to add some streaking to the sides of the hull and turret with Rainmarks Streaking Effects. The same wash was also thinned down and splattered over the lower sides of the skirts by flicking the paint from the bristles of a stiff paintbrush.
To get some dry mud build-up on the lower sides I used one of the new AMMO Splashes and Mud washes (A.Mig-1751 Dry Steppe in this case), using an airbrush to blow the thick wash over the surface. I used a piece of card to screen the tracks, as I'd be weathering them separately later.
Before it was fully dry, I streaked some of the mud splatters down the sides of the skirts with a flat brush dampened with enamel thinners.
For the tracks and wheels I used the same mud wash, mixed with a darker wash and some pigments. The whole lot was combined, thinned slightly, then coated over the running gear. Once that was dry, the dark wash was applied on it's own around the hubs and bolts on the wheels to show grease and oil.
To finish the weathering, I scrubbed some dry pigments over the upper hull, then lightly over-sprayed the area with Pigment fixer. Applying the fixer with an airbrush lessens the stains that can sometimes occur when it's applied with a paintbrush.
That was the build essentially done, but I wanted to add a couple of elements to personalise the build a little. First was a few items of stowage, sculpted from epoxy putty, to go in the rear basket, and secondly, to add a splash of colour, I fabricated a flag from lead foil, painted it in Russian colours, and draped it over the bar armour on the rear door.
And, with those additions in place, I could finally call the build finished, and I'm fairly happy with how it's turned out. It's certainly not in parade condition, but that's just personal taste and you could just as easily finish it in the pristine box scheme, although the dodgy decals are still off-putting. For anyone who read the build review, you'll know that the kit wasn't a straight forward building experience but, for the most part, they're not major flaws, just small niggles, although I think Panda still need to address some quality control issues, and ensure their instructions actually match the kit parts. However, once you get past that and onto the painting, things go a lot more smoothly.
Here it is, ready to hit the battlefield...
At the end of the day, it's the final result that matters, and not so much the effort it took to get there. From it's size alone it will dominate any display, and make a great addition to a modern armour collection. If you're looking to build a T-15 then, as of now, this is your only option, but if you're prepared to put a little effort in you'll be rewarded with a great looking (and very large) model.
Thanks to the people at Panda Hobby for sending this model to Andy to review and build
Also thanks to The peeps from AMMO for sending the paint and weathering supplies to us to garnish this beast.