Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tutorial: Rust and Dust

Hello fellow painters and hobbyists!

This week I've finished off three Cryx Slayer Helljacks for Warmachine. I'm taking this opportunity to post a tutorial on the way I use MIG pigment powders to create rust and dust effects. If you follow this blog, you likely know that I use a heavy corrosion theme for my Cryx here's how it goes!

What you'll need. Well, besides your normal priming and painting acrylics, you'll need a selection of powdered pigments and some rubbing alcohol. I like to dedicate a multi-pot plastic pallet to my powder work. can get messy, and the pigments are hell to clean out of just about anything. So keep your work area clear and try not to touch your (dedicated powder) brushes to anything but the model.

First I'll go through the general steps to get these 'jacks from package to final. Then, I'll go through specific techniques (as best I can, anyway).

This project, as always, starts with parts cleaning, assembly and basing. These are plastic kits, so I based on metal to add some weight to the figs. As you'll see, there is some minor conversion work on these Slayers. I swapped in some other heads and added a little costume jewelry chain to individualize the figures.

Prime black.

A little airbrush work. Started with a dark grey/green and worked up to a light grey overspray.

OK. Preliminary mud and rust was added next. See the bottom half of this post to get details on the application.

Metal work next. The bronze was stained with a wash of turquoise. Steel was stained with P3 armor wash. both were highlighted up to their lightest shades at this point.

Next, all the 'jacks got a heavy coat of dust. Technique below.

Foam sponge, dipped in dark grey/green paint was then lightly applied over most of the grey-painted surfaces to give a pitted effect. This adds extra texture to the final paint scheme and subtly adds to the weathering.

Final details are painted. Silver scratches. The green glowing bits. The tusks on the left hand Slayer. Also, the hoses were painted with a greasy wash and when dry were highlighted with Vallejo light rubber. Base detail was the last phase, with static grass, some of the new Army Painter grass tufts, and the little metal and resin (head) bits were finished up.

OK, now to the pigment techniques. I put a little different-colored weathering powders into each pallet pot. On the left side of the pallet, from bottom to top, we have the shading and mud colors, which work up to a dusty brown. On the right side of the pallet, there are two rust tones and my dust powder. I put rubbing alcohol in the empty pots and usually mix the resulting "paints" in the middle of the dish.

When starting out, the first thing I apply is a ready-made rush wash from MIG. This product is quite thin, and actually does not do a good job of creating rust in one pass. However, what it is good at doing (for me, anyway), is preparing a preliminary block out of which areas on the model I intend to deeply rust. It discolors the base coat, and otherwise lays down the foundation of which way I'm going to go on each figure.

I add in a little standard rust pigment to the pre-made wash and do a second application. This strengthens the initial rust coloring, and helps me focus on those areas on the model I'm really going to distress.

I then start the process of building up mud on the figure. Put a little rubbing alcohol in the dish, and a little pigment (starting with darker colors first). Create a slurry. Off you go. Get it on the model.

I build up darker colors near the bottom of the model first, then move on to muddier and redder browns. Move your way up the model using lighter and lighter colors. I've changed my method a little bit over the last year, and now I like leaving some of the original base coat color visible on the major upper surfaces of the model.

OK, here's a close up of the dirt and rust colors applied.

Next up is dust. Now, using a heavy concentration of dust pigment will pretty much ruin your figure straight away. Try diluting your dust slurry significantly.

Start building up layers on the top surfaces of the model. It will be pretty runny...spread it around. As it starts to dry, you'll see where you've applied it too heavily. Take a brush charged with alcohol and wipe away at the pigment where it is too thick for your tastes. You don't want to let the drying pigment fix before you start rubbing it away.

Do dust all in one sitting, and let it dry so you know you're going to be happy with the final look. After a while, and a lot of back-and-forth, you'll arrive at a good balance of dust.

Next, it's time to go in and get your final rust effects finished off. With just a little bit of pigment and alcohol, I like to dot on this final layer. Go back and forth with the dots between a couple of rust/light brown colors. If it gets noticeably "spotty", take a brush with a little alcohol and blend.

After this, you go in and paint your final details normally. This will include hoses, metal scratches and so on. In the've got some pretty seriously distressed metal 'jacks (or whatever models you happen to be painting).

Slayer #1.

Slayer #2.

Slayer #3.

Well, I hope you found that useful. I really like layering powdered pigments on Cryx models. I think it makes them look nasty...which is just how they should be! Stupid Nightmare Empire.

'Til next time.


  1. Before I stopped painting, I was using pigments and a similar technique for rust. I don't use the same brand of pigments and I seem to mix mine with water, though I bought the product that was recommend by Vallejo... I often buy stuff but then don't get around to using it right away. Anyway here is what I did err do...

  2. Very nice minis, and good tutorial.

  3. Thank you! I've needed something like this - it's a huge help.

  4. Thanks for sharing your technique and taking the time for the step by step tutorial it's appreciated...

    Ps excellent job on the slayers.

  5. Great tutorial. I didn't realize just how much of the model was done with weathering powders.

    Good stuff.

  6. Hi,
    I think the paint job is just amazing. So good actually that i've based my pattern on your approach. However, theres one part that i cannot seem to get right... dusting...

    I use pigment fixer to set the rust pigments in and then, when i apply the "dust wash" (dust pigment + alcool), it just ruins the rust i've applied before.. its like it "unsets" the rust pigments.

    I know i'm doing something wrong but i can't put my finger on it. Any clue?

    1. Hi. I don't know what pigment fixer is, but I'd recommend not using it, and then seeing if this solves your problem. In addition, use your alcohol very sparingly. Good luck.

  7. Very, very cool. I'm going to employ some of your dust and weathering techniques on a scout trooper costume and blaster I'm building. Nothing near so precise as what you've done here but I need to get a believable "battle patina" and the traditional "stand three feet away and spray randomly with krylon" technique is a little too ham-fisted for my taste. Excellent tutorial.