Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tutorial: Dunkelgelb Colour Modulation for 15mm

In this tutorial I will demonstrate how I airbrush dunkelgelb (German WW2 Europe tan colour) on German tanks and vehicles for Flames of War. In this tutorial I am using Vallejo Model Air colours roughly corresponding to the new Vallejo AFV Dunkelgelb Colour Modulation paint set. In this tutorial I am painting a 15mm Panther G plastic model from Plastic Soldier Company. In the second part of the tutorial I will show how I painted the camouflage pattern onto this Panther and the finished model.

Why Colour Modulation
For 15mm models, colour modulation may seem a bit excessive and unnecessary. In many ways, a vehicle that has been drybrushed well may look more realistic overall. I like to add colour modulation to many of the vehicles I paint for a few reasons. I really enjoy the challenge of trying to get smooth transitions in small areas with the airbrush. I think that models painted with colour modulation look quite striking when they are finished and I think that colour modulation adds some depth and interest to the finished model. The colour modulation shown here has high contrast as contrast is needed for such small models. It will be toned down by weathering and washing.
This image from Model Brush nicely shows the differences between different hobby lighting styles. I used colour modulation on the big panels and panel lighting to accentuate some details.
Vallejo AFV Dunkelgelb
Vallejo make a set (link is above) for painting dunkelgelb. My local hobby store didn't have it in stock. I also already had half of the colours so I just bought the remaining ones in regular size. I couldn't find the base dunkelgelb colour in the vallejo line so I tried the new 604 RAL 7028 acrylic surface primer, which worked well with the colour set. I ommitted colour 027 Light Brown as it was close in colour to 028 Sand yellow and I thought it would be nice to have one less step if I could manage it.

-Airbrush, compressor, other airbrush accessories (cleaners, etc)
-Vallejo Model Air (VMA from now on) paints 025 Dunkelgelb/Dark Yellow, 028 Sand yellow, 075 Sand (Ivory)
-Vallejo 604 RAL 7028 acrylic surface primer (RAL 7028 is the code for the German dunkelgelb factory colour I believe)
-Vallejo Model Colour 819 Iraqui Sand (optional)
-masking tape (I use 3M blue painters tape and Tamiya tape)
-gloss varnish (I have some Testors stuff I airbrush)
A comparison of some of the colours I have that I could and have used for Dunkelgelb (and shading and highlights).
A note on colours-I decided to experiment with the Vallejo AFV Dunkelgelb colours as I prefer spraying Model Air paints to Tamiya paints as I find they give a nicer finish and they use the same thinner and can mix with my other paints. I have used Tamiya XF-60 Dark Yellow mixed with white before and it also gives a very nice result. I just dislike the other properties of the paint (smell, mixing, thinner, surface finish) and was looking for a combination I would not have to mix so I could easily redo sections and not have to mix all the time.

Step 1-Prepare the model
I prefer painting models in sections when I am airbrushing them. I assemble the parts and then sticky tack them to small wooden blocks. I assembled the hull, tracks, turret, and schurzen separately. This way requires less masking than painting the model whole.

Step 2-Prime with 604 Surface Primer RAL 7028
I used the airbrush to lightly spray the entire model with the dark yellow surface primer. You could probably use the Battlefront, Army Painter, or Plastic Soldier Company sprays for this depending on their colour. The vallejo primer worked really well. Sprayed nicely. Gave really good coverage. No clogging. Nice greenish tint to the colour. Quite dark.

Step 3-Mask and VMA Dark Yellow
I masked a few hard edges using masking tape. You could just do panel lighting like in the graphic at the top. A bit of tape can help to make a dramatic contrast on a sharp edge. With such a small area you get the greatest contrast by having adjacent panels lit differently, even though it is not realistic. I taped just a few spots to save on time. You could also make a small mask out of card or plasticard to block off areas like the front of the hull. I sprayed VMA Dark Yellow over about 3/4 of the areas that were to become lighter, leaving the primer in the darkest areas. Here I am spraying the front of the hull, going lighter towards the front. Be careful not to overdo a step. It can be hard to see the contrast when you are spraying the paint.

Step 4-VMA Sand Yellow
I really like this colour as a mid tone. I prefer a sandy dunkelgelb to a yellow one. The Sand Yellow helps to bring the model lighter and towards a less saturated yellow. This colour creates a sharper contrast. Try to lightly blend the edge of this colour. You should aim for about 50% of each panel covered by the Sand Yellow, with a soft transition to the previous colour.

Step 5-VMA Sand
This is our final airbrushed highlight. Use this colour to draw attention to the lightest 20% or so of a panel. Be careful not to cover too much of the previous work.

Hull finished
Step 6-Line highlight with Vallejo Model Colour Iraqui Sand
I didn't show this in the pictures as I did this after painting camouflage on my model. Add a little edge highlight on some prominent areas using either Iraqui Sand or VMA Sand and a fine brush. Aim for highlighting the tops of panels and small details. This can make the edges of parts really "pop".

To spray the tracks I basically zenithal highlighted them. I sprayed the base colours and did a little highlighting as I went along without focusing too much. Just highlighting the road wheels a little.

You can see we end up with a lot of contrast on each panel and a fairly smooth transition. It looks a bit over the top but will look more subtle after weathering and things.
How to paint each panel?
I do this differently on each model. This time, I tried to contrast adjacent panels and to minimize the amount of masking and steps I had to do. I ended up doing 3 steps due to having to mask areas (hence why I wanted out of the bottle colours). The image below shows how I did the lights for each panel. It is important to consider this before painting. Arrows show the direction the light is going. The red dots show details I highlighted freehand to accentuate a few small panels and details.

What next?
Well, for this model I need to add camouflage, a wash, weathering, and decals. In my next posts I will include some tutorials on how I do the camouflage, oil wash, and chips. For now, here is a picture of the almost complete model (still needs a matte varnish and possibly some more weathering and detail work). You can see the highlighting is still visible but is much more subtle with the camouflage and wash and weathering.

Thanks for visiting. If there is any part of this model you would like me to feature a future tutorial on please write me a note in the comments and I will try to add it. Stop by soon and I will have some pictures of the finished model and some more tutorials.

Update: Here is a Panzer IV J painted in the same style.

The green lines show where I planned to mask the model and the red lines show the direction the lighter areas go.

You can see a few other models where I have used colour modulation here:
Panzer IV J
Panther (disc camouflage)

Tutorials for painting German camouflage:


  1. This is a wonderful article. I am going to point others to it when I describe modulation. Really great work.

  2. Thanks John. Hopefully it can inspire someone to give it a try.

  3. Very nice. Very well contrasted, good final result. Will be impressive on the tabletop.

  4. Thanks PLX. I was aiming to make it striking on the tabletop. The contrast in the colour modulation is enough that you can notice from a distance, which is nice. Sometimes everything looks the same on the tabletop. I like colour modulation for the contrast.

    I'm impressed by your 6mm colour modulation. Inspires me to try some tiny tanks.

  5. Hi Cameron, great stuff. I'm very much enjoying reading several of your Panzer painting posts. I found your blog and these posts whilst searching for info on which Vallejo colours to use for German three colour late-war paint schemes. Thanks for sharing, regards, Sebastian.


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