Friday, October 7

Andy gets to painting the big cat... Meng's Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank (Pt.IV)

Andrew Moore has already shown us his 35th scale Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank kit from MENG models in an insightful In-box review & construction Pt II & Pt.III – See today in his “Big Cat Diaries,” as he paint this kit before dirtying it all up…

Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank (Part IV)
Manufacturer - Meng
Kit Number - TS-027
Scale - 1/35th
Product Link at Meng Models.
Price - £50, ¥6,560, US$65, €57 from Hobbylink Japan

Big Cat Diary Pt. 4
Last time out we finished off the build of Meng's big cat. Now in part 4 it's time to get some colour on. Before starting though, I gave the whole model a wipe down with isopropyl alcohol to de-grease the plastic, and remove any dust that'd accumulated through the build. I usually do this step using a brush rather than q-tips or a cloth, as the later two can often leave as much lint and fibres on the kit as they remove.
With everything clean and ready for paint, the model was broken down into it's sub-assemblies and the smaller parts mounted on to tooth picks to make handling easier while painting. The glazed areas had already been masked off during construction, and now any other areas that needed to be kept paint free where covered.
For the paint work on this model I'm going to be trying the new range of paints from Meng. These are manufactured in partnership with AK Interactive, and come in box sets themed to specific vehicles. In this case I've got the German Modern Vehicles set (MC-802) which contains paints for the regular German NATO camo together with colours for German vehicles operating in Afghanistan. I'll be using the Meng thinner with these paints, together with a primer form AK.
First up then is a good coat of primer. This was my first time using AK primers and paints, and like any product used for the first time there's a bit of a learning curve while you get used to them. The first thing I found with both the primer and the paints was that the pigment had settled into a thick paste in the bottom of the bottles. I needed to remove the dropper top and stir up the contents with a paint brush handle and, while the top was off, I added a stainless steel ball bearing to help mix the paint (getting half the paint on your fingers is very much an option at this point).
With the paint thoroughly mixed I began coating the model. I found the best way to apply the primer was in very light misted coats, slowly building up a full coverage. The primer was mixed about 50/50 with the Meng thinner, and sprayed very nicely though the airbrush. The resulting finish was a little more matt than I usually prefer, but left a nice smooth finish all the same. The primer coat was left for a couple of days to fully cure. Although acrylics become touch dry quite fast, they can still be delicate for quite a while, and the longer you leave them before any further painting or weathering, the harder and more resilient they'll become.
Time for some colour, and the first to go down was an over-all coat of the Meng NATO green. This paint (and the others too) also had a ball bearing added to the bottle to mix the paint up better. Despite this, I found these colours to be quite thin and lacking in colour density and, as such, they needed quite a few layers before the green started to cover the black primer. If I'd known this in advance I'd have gone with a lighter primer colour, but in the end I managed to get a good even coating. To my eyes, the colour seems like a good match for the green shade used by the German Army.
I lightened the NATO green slightly and sprayed some random highlights, concentrating mainly on the upper surfaces. A lot of this with get covered by the other camo colours, but it adds a little bit of variation to the finish.
The camo patterns on German vehicles don't have a hard edge as such but they do have a very tightly sprayed demarcation line. At this scale it would be perfectly reasonable to spray the camo with hard masking, or use silly putty/blu-tack to get a very slight feathered edge. In my case I decided to free-hand the camo to save time, which resulted in a slightly softer edge than is strictly accurate but given the weathering that would subsequently be applied, I felt it was a reasonable compromise.
The NATO brown, like the green, was quite thin, and needed multiple coats to build up the colour. Having to do this further compromised the tightness of the demarcation line, so realistically masking the camo would have been the better option with these paints. Again the colour seemed to be a pretty good match, if anything being on the light side which is no bad thing, as it will compensate for any darkening from the subsequent washes and filters.
If you're going to free-hand a camo finish, the easiest method is to first mark out the edges of the camo keeping the airbrush as close to the surface as you can. The paint will need thinning and the air pressure will need to be kept quite low. With the Meng paints I added half as much thinner as paint (so, five drops of thinner to 10 of paint), and set the compressor to around 15 psi. Once you've marked out the edges you can simply fill in the centre of the camo.
With the camo applied, the colours seem to match up well to the real paint shades.The black could maybe be a little lighter, but that can be achieved quite easily by adding a little white to the paint. The paints sprayed well and I had no problems with the paint drying on the needle tip, which is always a potential issue with acrylic paints. The lack of colour density does mean it takes slightly longer to build up a good coverage, and you need to be careful about applying the paint too thickly when trying to build up the colour, as it would be easy to swamp some of the finer details.
After a light gloss coat, the decals were added. Unusually for an AFV there are quite a few, including a full set of stencil data for the engine deck, and a very nice map display for the Commander's data screen. As the decals are printed by Cartograf, you know there'll be no problems, and that was very much the case. They settled down easily with no silvering or carrier film showing.
The Leopard was looking very nice at this point, but a little on the clean side. Time to dirty things up a bit then. To start the ball rolling I applied a pin wash around the details with (appropriately enough) AK's wash for NATO vehicles. This wash looks very dark in the bottle, but dries to a more subtle shade, and really helps to define the details without making them too stark.
To tone down the finish a little, a brown filter was added. This wasn't applied evenly over the whole model. Some areas received a heavier coat than others, which helped give a little variation across the surface.
The black camo was still a bit too dark at this point, so I mixed the dark NATO wash with a mid-grey wash intended for weathering ships. This was applied just over the black areas and really helped give a more faded look to the camo.
As this is a newish vehicle, very little in the way of paint chipping was done, although I did add some paint wear on the machine gun rail, to show that it'd had a little use.
There's a moulded cable for the gunfire simulator included in the kit. I decided not to use this to avoid having to clean up the seam line on the part, and replaced it with a length of fuse wire instead.
One little detail that's not supplied with the kit (understandably, as it's tiny) is the aerial mounted on the rear view camera at the back of the hull. I made the aerial from some steel wire with brass tube used for the base. The tip of the aerial was made by adding a small drop of PVA and leaving it to dry. I'll now take bets on how long this will remain in place before I manage to knock it off and loose it!
Well, anyone who said “about 5 seconds” wins the right to look smug for the rest of the article. At least I didn't loose it, so this will be re-attached at the end of the build.
Okay, that's the basic painting taken care of. Coming up in part 5 things all get rather dirty...

Andy Moore

Thanks to Meng Models for sending this kit to make and to The Leopard Workshop that Andy has used on this kit.