Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taco Tutorials: lets modulate a T-72M1 TURMS

So its finally here; the first in a series of tutorials to give you a sense of how I paint things. I suspect there will be two or three more of these, depending on feedback and how I decide to split things up.

The first chapter in this saga will deal with the base scheme of the vehicle, with subsequent entries focusing on detailing, shading and weathering.

A snippet of history and art theory

I have been painting for around 20 years, which is just over two thirds of my life. I began, as so many do, with 40k. My mom responded to my brattish demands and purchased me an old 2nd ed Tyranid Lictor (perhaps she was actually getting me back for being such a little asshole). I thus spent considerable time in my formative period enmeshed in the gaudy bright color show that was classical grimdark. In this, realism was eschewed and brilliant, polished reds, yellows and greens the norm.

This trend continued until an unfortunate encounter with GW's legal department well and truly turned me off the company and I detached from war games all together for a while. Some time in the late naughties, however, I once again began to feel the hankering. This time it was towards historical that I was drawn,  specifically ww2 through to the modern period.

My first attempts at this genre were admittedly pretty miserable. The skillset I had built in 40k was completely unsuited to real world subject matter and I spent some time unlearning previous habits. Gone were brilliant contrasting, straight line highlights, clunky metal chipping and all the other miscellany I had adopted, a new approach was required.

The first major milestone was the adoption of airbrushing. I cannot stress this enough: if you wish to paint real world vehicles, you need an airbrush. There is simply no substitute and I have yet to see any hand-brush or spray can technique that truly approaches the effect. I began with an Iwata Custom Micron B, which given my amateurism was like equipping a Russian conscript with an ICBM.

 After much trial and error , however, I began to pick up the necessary skills, to such an extent that today I am competent with it enough to modulate and replicate camouflage schemes with reasonable fidelity. I also learned how important a good compressor is. I picked up an Iwata deluxe job a few years ago and have never looked back (apart from a bizarre incident where it started vomiting large amounts of mysterious brown paint and required me to literally hold it over a toilet like a drunkard while it emptied its reservoir).

Originally I had simply painted one-tone vehicles with a single flat coat. Green was green, sand was sand and there was little more needed doing. But this became unsatisfying after a while. Perusing forums like Armorama and the brilliant work of Alex Clark showed me that much more was possible and that a monocolor scheme didn't have to be boring. Thus it was I entered the world of modulation.

In my mind, modulation is not so much about replicating the absolute accuracy of a real world vehicle. Rather, it takes the 'spirit' of the thing and adds considerable characters, making an end result that is much more pleasing to the eye in its various subtitles that combine with subsequent detailing and weathering techniques. While modelers like Mig Jiminez tend to use modulation to highlight towards upward light sources, I am less adherent to this view. Instead, I tend to utilize it to highlight individual panels centrally, regardless of their physical position. The basic idea is to create a darker zone towards the periphery of an individual panel, and gradually lighten it as it approaches the center. Absolutely realistic? Hell no. Aesthetically pleasing? I would argue yes.

It should be noted at this point that I am incredibly lazy when it comes to painting and will never spend the adequate amount of time or effort to make something look truly showcase. I remain truly in awe of people like Mig and Clark, both in their remarkable skill and their willingness to spend hundreds of hours on a single subject. For the former I simply lack the capacity, while in the latter I am far too distractable to spend more than 8 or 10 hours on a single subject.

TURMS and Tools

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The subject of today's experiment is a T-72M1 TURMS. This is a modified T-72M1 in Syrian service that integrates the TURMs fire control system produced in Italy. Theoretically this conversion was aimed at making Syrian AFVs more competitive with their Israeli counterparts. In reality, however, these vehicles have only seen use in the Syrian Civil War, a context in which such expensive upgrades are likely of little use. The kit itself is a combination of the classic Revell T-72 and a ModelTrans conversion turret.

For this chapter I've also chosen to utilize my workhorse airbrush, a Badger SOTAR 20/20. While not quite as precise as the Iwata, it is more ergonomic for big jobs, and is easier to clean. The AK to Iwata's Armalite. Paints wise I'm using a hodge podge picked out from the bucket. With a base of Vallejo Israeli armor, moving up to Italery US army Sand and finishing with AK interactive New Iraqi Army Sand.

Stage 1

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At this point I load the badger up with a 75/25 mix of Israeli Sand and Italeri thinner. The airbrush is switched to a comfortable 25 PSI. I then proceed to begin painting what I can identify as the individual 'panels' of the kit, with greater buildup towards the center. This is simply on top, as the T-72 has a fairly demarcated surface. On the turret, however, this becomes more up to the individual artist. I try to emphasize raised surfaces, while leaving the gullies darkened. At this stage the scheme is fairly rough, which is of no concern, as later layers will create a smoother finish.

Stage 2
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Now we jump forward somewhat jarringly. Here we employ the desert yellow mixed and sprayed in a similar fashion to above, although in this case we concentrate more on the centers and begin to leave the darkened patches darkened. Again, this is applied over the entire vehicle.

Stage 3

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Now comes the Iraqi Sand, similarly diluted. As you can see, the subtly delineations are beginning to emerge that show the vehicle to be  monotone while retaining 'depth.' Again, apply to all surfaces and angles as you see fit.

Stage 4

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The final modulation stage where we employ highlighting. For this I add around 30% italeri white to my Iraqi sand and spray only on the sky-ward facing surfaces. For this I recommend applying sparingly and only at the very center of the panels.

Stage 5 (bonus stage) 

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My inner armor nerd wanted to add a bit more life to this particular kit, so I decided to paint three of the wheels on this sucker in a replacement green scheme. For this I used a base of Italeri flat olive drab and highlighted it once with a bit of white added to the mix.

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The TURMs is now prepped and ready for detailing. With four layers of sand it retains the look of a desert fighting vehicle while still retaining a layer of depth that draws the eye.  


  1. Nice to see you doing tutorials, your work has always been an inspiration since I stumbled upon your blog :)
    Right now the tank doesn´t look very spectacular, we need the weathering tutorial soon! :D

  2. Thank you for this tutorial, I have been wonsering for so long how you chaps painted your vehicles. I too cannot wait for the weathering tutorial!

  3. So far it sounds pretty straight forward and nothing too fancy. Looking forward to further steps.

  4. Excellent stuff! Very useful and interesting and I'm looking forward to more :)


  5. Fantastic tutorial, keep them coming.