Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tutorial: Painting Winter Whitewash Camouflage

Over the last few months I have had lots of people comment on the models I have posted in winter white wash camouflage. My method for painting it is not unique but I thought I would post it here in a step-by-step tutorial. The technique I have used if often referred to as the “hairspray method”. The only change I have made is how I use the airbrush to add a bit of panel highlighting to the hairspray method. 

First off, here are a few examples of models I have painted with winter whitewash camouflage. In this tutorial I have Battlefront King Tigers, Panthers, and T-34s for Flames of War as examples. Click on the links below each picture to see more.
King Tiger

Panther As


-Vallejo Model Air (VMA) White (or any other acrylic white paint you can airbrush)
-Airbrush and compressor
-Gloss varnish (either airbrush or spray can)
-q-tips or foam (or something similar)
-paints for your basecoat (ex. green for Russian tanks, dunkelgelb colours and camouflage for German tanks)
-hairspray (something cheap, I used a random cheap bottle my wife said I could use)

Step 1: Basecoat your tank and add decals
The first thing you need to do is to paint the base colours for your tank. Prepare and prime the model as you would normally. In my opinion, simple patterns are good as complexity can be lost under the winter whitewash. Colour modulation is hard to see under whitewash (although I did it with the King Tiger). For the Panthers in this tutorial I simply painted the dunkelgelb with Vallejo Surface Primer dunkelgelb colour and added some soft edged camouflage with VMA Olive Green (I think!) and VMA Burnt Umber. I also add my decals at this stage so they are partially covered by the white wash. Don’t bother painting the tracks or any other details unless you want them to be partially covered by the whitewash as well (I paint tools and things afterwards, even though historically they may be white too, I think it looks neater with the tools painted afterwards).

Step 2: Gloss varnish
Cover the entire model with a nice coat of gloss varnish. I usually airbrush an acrylic gloss varnish. Testors Gloss laquer varnish would work fine too. Let it dry thoroughly. You really want a nice, strong protective coat.

Step 3: Hairspray!
In a well ventilated area (outside works well), cover the model in a liberal coat of hairspray. Don’t touch the model, as it will be sticky. Spray them on cardboard or something. Preferably you want the model mounted on a block or an old paint bottle to paint it. Let it dry until it is no longer tacky.

Step 4: Whitewash
The next step is the trickiest. You want to apply a fairly thin layer of white so that it can be removed easily. The airbrush works well for this as you get control and can apply a fine layer. Airbrush Vallejo Model Air White (or any other white, I have only done this with acrylic paint) over the areas you want covered in white wash. To create a bit of a panel highlighting effect, try to apply the paint thicker in the middle of panels as you would if you were highlighting the tank. I like to apply the white thin enough that you can see the paint and patterns underneath.
Notice the panel shading. The white is more concentrated in the middle of panels to add some visual interest to the model.

Step 5: Remove areas of white
To create the effect of a worn winter white wash, you need to now remove some of the white paint. Use a piece of foam or q-tip or paintbrush with water on it to gently scrub away the paint. I like to focus on high wear areas where paint would naturally be removed like the edges of panels, around hatches, etc. You can experiment with the amount of paint you remove to get different effects. Remember to remove the white wash where your decals are to create an effect similar to that on WW2 vehicles where the crews painted around the numbers and national markings.

King Tiger using the same method but with ambush camouflage underneath.

Step 6: Gloss varnish
Once you are happy with the whitewash you need to protect it with another coat of varnish.

Step 7: Paint the rest of the details
At this point your vehicle will look quite messy. Carefully paint the tracks, tools, crew, and other details so that your opponent knows you painted this whitewash on purpose and with care! Add weathering and other details as you would for any other vehicle. I like to add streaks of dirt and rust using oil paints as it looks quite striking over the whitewash. I'll do another tutorial for painting streaks with oil paints soon.

I really like the winter camouflage effect and I think that this method provides some quick and effective results. A whole company in winter camouflage looks great on the tabletop. I hope this tutorial was helpful. If you try this out then please post a link or picture of your work as I would love to see it! Thanks for visiting.

You can see some of my other WW2 painting tutorials below:


  1. Thanks for the tutorial Cam, you make it look so easy.

  2. Thanks for the article! I was looking for something like this :)

  3. Thanks guys!

    Dave-It is pretty easy and fairly quick.

    Ivan-I'd love to see some pictures if you use this technique!

  4. Genius. Do you think this would work with GW white spray as well?

    1. It should still work. Just make sure to do a really thin layer of the white and protect the layer underneath with gloss varnish.


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