Monday, December 10, 2012

Tutorial: Airbrushing graffiti in 40k

Today I experimented with airbrushing graffiti onto one of my shipping containers. I used a series of stencils I made to quickly do this. In this tutorial I will show some pictures of how to quickly achieve this effect. To see how to build the shipping containers check out my tutorial on building shipping containers.

I have been wanting to add graffiti for a while. Doing it at a small scale is pretty challenging. I found a video on youTube showing how to do this on train cars and decided to try it a little differently on 40k models. This tutorial by Scale Model Medic is much better done than my attempt. I would definitely recommend checking it out. How I did mine can be seen below.

-Airbrush (I use a Badger Renegade Krome)
-compressor or other air source
-masking tape
-plastic card or cardboard
-sharp exacto knife
-paint (I used Vallejo Model Air Black, White, and Light Sea Blue and Vallejo Game Colour Pink something)
Build the stencils
To begin you need to decide what you want to write in your graffiti and how big you want it to be. In this example the letters are a little over 1" (3 cm) high. Short words are easier. Draw your letters onto a piece of plastic card using a sharpie. I would recommend making the letters separate as it is a bit easier. Look at pictures of graffiti on google for inspiration about fonts and things. Carefully cut the letters out using an exacto knife.
Next, trace your letters onto another piece of plastic card. Then draw a rough shape where you want the dark areas around the letters to be. Cut this out.
Paint the graffiti
The next step is to paint the graffiti onto our model. Place the outside template onto the piece (the second one we made). Tape it into place roughly using some masking tape (painters tape helps to prevent the paint coming off around it). Airbrush black (or any other colour) over this whole area. Hold it down a little to try and keep a sharp edge on the outer edges.
Now, place your other template over the black area where you want your letters to be. Try to leave some black showing around the letters. Airbrush the whole area white. Be careful to hold it down and try to spray only from above, so you don't get too much paint outside the lines. Now take your first colour and lightly airbrush it along one of the edges. I did Vallejo Model Air Light Sky Blue here.
Now airbrush another colour along the other edge, leaving some white showing in the middle if you would like.
Airbrush or hand paint some areas in the middle of closed letters. I used a little stencil cut from plastic card.
You now have this. 
The edges are a little blurry, so I cleaned them up by hand painting some black onto the black areas. This doesn't look fantastic, as the airbrushed black and brushed on black looks a little different. Alternatively, you could use the cutouts from making the stencil to mask the letters and numbers. This is a bit tricky though. I also added a few little dots and sparkles in different places using white and a brush. Done!
Hopefully some of you are able to use this on some future projects. This is a great way to add some colour and character to terrain. You could use it to make some crazy tanks. Just don't go and spray it on public property! Here are a couple of pictures of the finished product. You could also add weathering and things over top as normal.

Thanks for visiting. I will post a basic tutorial on how to paint the entire shipping container in the next few days.

Other shipping container links


  1. Heh, now we just need graffiti repping the various factions. West Side Space Elves 4 Life!

  2. Hahaha. Yeah. I thought about that. I am a bit limited in the size of the stencils. Was thinking about doing "Chaos" next. Maybe "Orks". Any other suggestions?

  3. I really like the way this turned out so I read up on your tutorial. Great idea and execution


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