Monday, May 28

Build Guide Pt III: Panther Ausf.A Late in 35th scale from Meng Models

Andy has finished building his Meng Models 35th scale Panther A German Medium Tank with this, the fourth in the series of stories about this kit. Today he shows how he painted & weathered this big cat into something unusual & very convincing...

Build Guide Pt III: Panther Ausf.A Late
Manufacturer – Meng Models
Product Number – Tyrannosaurus Series TS-035
Scale: 1/35th
Price -  HKD 206.00/ GBP 20.06/ EUR 22.15/ USD 26.41 from Hobbyeasy
In-Box Review: Panther Ausf.A Late in 35th scale from Meng Models

Today: Build Guide Pt III: Panther Ausf.A Late in 35th scale from Meng Models

Russians and their captured Panthers, designated “T-V” - the closest Panther is the one replicated in this model.
It's been a while since we last looked at Meng's new Panther Ausf.A in the build review, and it's high time we splash some paint on and get the big cat finished. The first step, after cleaning the model with isopropyl, was to give it all a unifying primer coat. In this case, I went with a rust coloured primer, although it could just as easily have been black or dark grey. The exact colour doesn't really matter, but in general, I prefer to work from a dark coloured base as it allows me to easily vary the intensity of the following paint coats. 
For the main painting, I'm using the new Real Color range from AK Interactive. I've used these paints a couple of times before, and they're starting to become a favourite for me. They're lacquer based although they will mix very well with similar paints from Tamiya and Gunze, making them very versatile. They're also very resilient, and I could have easily used these straight onto the plastic without the need for a primer. For the hull I used RC060 Dunkelgelb, giving it a pretty much solid overall coat. Sometimes I'll use the dark primer base to add shading, but in this case, I'll be adding shade and highlight layers over the main colour. 
For that shading and highlighting, I added darker and lighter brown tones to the Dunkelgelb, in this case, RC002 Cream White and RC016 Ochre, and sprayed these mixes over the hull to better define the various panels and surface features. The bulk of this was done freehand, although where I needed a hard edge I used a piece of card as a temporary mask. 
There are many variations of tonal highlighting or colour modulation, some more subtle and some more extreme. I generally don't adhere to one method, instead going with what feels right for the subject at hand. Something like a cast hull Sherman, with very curved surfaces, would need a different approach to a subject with a very angular surface, like the Panther we have here. In this case I used the lighter and darker tones to emphasise the angles on the hull. Where adjacent panels met I used a darker tone on one edge and a lighter tone on the other. The effect can look a little exaggerated at this stage, but it will get toned down later on. 
With the base coats and main shading done, I switched to regular AK acrylics to highlight the smaller details such as the bolt heads and grab handles. A darker buff tone was also used to add deeper shading around some of the raised details, and to sharpen up areas where over-spray from the previous shade/highlight step had left too soft an effect. The buff was thinned slightly, painted around the details, then blended with a clean damp brush. 
The engine deck received quite a bit of work, since it's such a noticeable area on the model. You can see how the brush painted shading with the buff tone has left a more irregular and natural finish than you'd get from an airbrush. This helps to alleviate the slightly unnatural CGI look that sometimes results from purely sprayed modulation. 
Most of the included marking options in the kit feature Panthers in variation of the regular German tricolour camo, but you do get one option for something a little different, namely a captured Russian tank with a re-painted turret. I always gravitate towards any option that will give me a more unique looking model, especially if I can paint a big red star (or white in this case) on the side, so this was always going to be the scheme I'd go for. The painting guide lists the turret colour as being Olivegrun, but in reality the Russians would have painted it with 4BO, and again I used the Real Color shade for this. 
As with the hull, I mixed lighter and darker shades of the base colour and added some shading and highlighting. The AK Real Color paints spray beautifully and leave a great finish, although for me they're a little too matt so I added a couple of drops of Tamiya X-22 gloss clear (there's an equivalent clear gloss in the AK range too) into the paint mixes. That left a nice satin finish and will be a better base for the oil washes and weathering to follow. 
Again, I used card as a quick mask when I needed to spray a hard edge. You could achieve the same thing with masking tape, but I like to keep these stages quick and fluid, and using tape slows the process down too much for me. Any over-spray can easily be cleaned up with brushed acrylics, as was done on the hull. 
The turrets of the captured Russian Panthers wore hastily applied numbers and stars, and these are supplied on the decal sheet. In my case, I decided to paint the markings free-hand, as the originals were far from perfect, with the decals, if anything, being too neat. I also added a few paint dribbles here and there to bring a little personality to the build. 
Switching back to the hull, I started on the detail painting. There's not a lot to do, mainly just the onboard tools. The handles for these were finished in a light wood tone with a darker brown streaked on to represent the grain. The metal parts were base coated in a dark grey followed by a rub with graphite powder to leave a metallic sheen. 
During the build, I'd added some chipping and wear to the zimmerit coating, and these areas needed to be painted in an appropriate shade. My understanding is that the raw zimmerit was a grey tone, so a light grey was first used to paint the damaged areas. I assume that in places the zimmerit would chip right down to the metal, so I also added some areas of red primer. How accurate this is I have no idea, but it looked reasonable to me. 
Before starting on the main weathering, I gave the whole hull a ochre coloured filter mixed from Abteilung oils. This helped unify the modulation effects and the grey and red on the chipped zimmerit. Once the filter was applied, the hull was set aside for a couple of days to fully dry. 
Since the turret would have been brush painted on the real tank, probably by the crew themselves, I added a messy outline on the upper hull where the turret would have been positioned while it was being painted. Some random splashes and a couple of rings from the paint bucket finished the look. 
The area under a turret always gets filthy on a tank, and to reproduce this I scrubbed various pigments onto the upper hull, together with some circular scuffs to show where the turret would rotate. Most of this is hidden when the turret is fitted, but small areas will still show, and add another level of detail. 
The exhaust pipes were given various rusty washes mixed from acrylics and pigments, and finished off with some black staining around the tips. 
I didn't want to weather the turret too much, as this would have been relatively freshly painted in contrast to the original paint on the hull. At the same time though, I didn't want it to stand out too much, so I settled for adding a dusty wash from oil paint around the hatches and other details. 
The wheels had been painted along with the hull, after which the tyres were brush painted with AK Rubber Tires. I started the weathering on them by mixing up a thick wash from AK Earth Effects and Abteilung pigments. This was liberally painted over the wheels. 
Once dry, the wash left a nice muddy finish, but was still a little monotone at this stage. The teeth on the sprockets were painted with AK True Metal Iron, then lightly buffed with a soft cloth to leave a polished appearance. 
Over the initial mud layer, various darker tones were added using a combination of different earth and mud washes and pigments. The darkest areas were mainly concentrated around the hubs and the bolt heads. 
The same mud mixtures were used to weather the lower hull and suspension. In this case though, the washes were splattered over the model by flicking the brush bristles against a toothpick. This left a more textured finish  and better represented mud flung up from the tracks. 
That finished off the main weathering, leaving just the tracks to deal with. These had been a real slog to put together during the build, but I was hoping that the painting and weathering would be easier, which for the most part it was, albeit with a few issues to contend with. To begin with they were primed then base coated with AK Dark Tracks. 
Fitting the tracks wasn't too bad, although the paint had stiffened up the articulated links which made it harder to feed the runs around the sprockets. I also ended up removing a link from each run, as the original 87 per side left too much sag. Ironically, and somewhat annoyingly, the working suspension and tracks actually made it harder, rather than easier, to get the running gear to sit consistently level. If I built one of these again I think I'd glue the axles in place rather than leave them to articulate. 
To weather the tracks, I brushed dry pigments over them, then fixed these in place with a mix of pigment fixer and white spirits. When the pigments had dried, I rubbed graphite powder over the raised areas of the tracks. 
Unfortunately, the pigment and thinner mix had a slightly detrimental effect on the tracks, making them stiffen up even more and, in a couple of areas, causing the delicate holes for the track pins to split, resulting in the pins falling out and the tracks coming apart. In the end I didn't bother to replace the pins, hiding the affected areas with the schurzen plates, and gluing the affected track links together. 
A couple of final additions were made to give the model a little more life. A folded tarp, made from epoxy putty was added to the turret, and one of the buckets that come with the kit was painted up with some green paint spills from where the crew had painted the turret. 

A quick note on painting 
All the airbrushing on this kit was done with Meng's Yun Mo airbrush. While it was by no means the most taxing paint scheme to test it with, the brush performed flawlessly throughout. It's a very adaptable brush, coming with both a 0.2 and 0.3 nozzle and needle, although I did all the painting here with just the 0.2. For a more detailed analysis of the Yun Mo, check out Gary's earlier review. 
So that wraps up the Panther build. It was definitely a mixed bag to work on, mainly down the hassle involved with cleaning up and assembling the tracks. However, the rest of the kit went together to the usual high standards we've come to expect from Meng, and there's no doubt the final result looks the part. Of course, Meng doesn't have the market to themselves, as we seem to be flooded with Panthers at the moment. This is definitely a contender for your hard earned money though, especially if you're not looking for an interior. You may want to budget for an after-market track set, and stick with the non-working suspension that comes as standard with the kit. 

A walk around of the completed kit...

Overall an excellent kit, slightly let down by unnecessarily time-consuming tracks. 

In-Box Review: Panther Ausf.A Late in 35th scale from Meng Models
Andy Moore

You can track down your own panther from Meng’s Distributors. Thanks to them for sending this kit to us to build & review…
Thanks to AK Interactive for sending Andy the weathering equipment for his build...
Lastly thanks to Abteilung 502 for sending the oils and weathering products for this build.