In a new reincarnation Brian Balkwill makes realistic tarps!
Making Realistic Tarps
Initially when trying to make realistic tarps I tried using the PVA glue method, but found the result was too stiff and unworkable which was probably my fault, so I tried various methods until I hit upon one that worked well for me.
It produces a tough sheet of silicon treated tissue that is very hard to tear, takes paint really well, and can have creases imprinted and removed at will.
You will need the following materials:
A water based bathroom silicon sealer and 'Extra' strong pocket tissues, and an airbrush. Also a good half to three quarter inch flat paintbrush.
The pocket tissues used are generic Walmart or Asda in the UK, but they have about 3-4 ply and the edges are pressed together. They are also a good size for this work.
The first thing to do is iron the folds out of them, as I wanted the central area smooth -
Next squeeze about 3 inches of the bathroom sealer into a small sealable container and add warm water (ratio about 1:2). Seal the container and shake it for a few minutes until most of the sealant has liquidized and it's foamy...there will be some residue, don't worry!
Take a tissue and lay it a flat surface, for this I used paper card, and using short strokes with the flat brush, paint the solution onto the tissue, making sure each area is soaked through, before moving to the next...
When one side is done, turn the tissue around and do the other. Then, when both are wet, hold the tissue between your fingers and gently tease the major creases from it...similar to how you work a pizza base!
When done, take a hair dryer and dry both sides of the tissue.
Now peel the single coated outside ply from each side of the tissue and repeat the steps above for the uncoated side of each. When finished you will have two rubberised, textured sheets of fabric. At this point I roll them against a flat surface to further force the sealant into the fibres, and remove the creases. I then cut the patterned outside edge from each side, retaining the 6x6 in area in the middle. At this point you should have two sheets of treated tissue that are tear-proof, flexible, and will retain a fold or imprint, which can also be removed if it's not right!
I don't use primer as it makes the tarp too smooth when finished. Instead, take a tissue and spray both sides with your chosen colour. I use a 1:1 mix of XF-65 Field Grey and XF-26 Deep Green mixed 1:1 with IPA...don't use water, the alcohol ensures a dense paint coverage. Mix quite a bit of paint, the tissue is thirsty!
When dry, take the tissue in one hand and draw it gently between your thumb and first two fingers of the other to smooth out the final creases - expose any unsprayed areas, and fix them...
Preparing the tarp
For this article I am building a tarp for a pallet holding a 44 gallon drum, some scratched ammo boxes and some Fruil tracks.
These items have great scope for raised edges and depressions, which add realism to the finished item. Put the model onto the tarp and work out the area required, allowing for seams, folds and depressions, then add another 10% to be on the safe side. I want part of the items on the pallet to be in view, so I cut it accordingly...
At this point you can put in seams, repaired areas, or eyelets.
For seams, score a line with the back of a blade about 1.5mm from each edge, and glue it down with PVA. Then take each folded seam and fold it over itself again, and then glue down.
For patches, take a spare piece of sprayed tarp, cut the size and shape you want, and paint it a darker green (straight XF-26 Deep Green in this case) than the original, not forgetting the edges, or they will be white. Glue it to the tarp, and with the point of a straight scalpel blade, make the 'stitches' around the edge.
For eyelets, take small rings from an old PE fret and glue them at corners and points in between along the seams. Take a sharp pick or pin and punch out the tarp hole through the ring. You can now run 'ropes' etc., through these eyelets. I use rigging rope from the shipbuilders.
Once done with all the extras, seal both sides with a good coat of future. Rub down the length of each seam with a Q-tip to 'raise' it. It should now be looking quite tarp like!
Before fitting to the model you will need to create the normal folds that appear in a stored tarp by folding it into halves and quarters, and sharpen each crease between finger and thumb. Do this several times to really 'form' the creases, then flatten the tarp again to eliminate some of the sharpness to create a used effect.
Now lighten some of your 1:1 mix with some XF-60 Dark Yellow - Don't use white! Mix with water in the ratio of 1:9, and paint some the squares formed to show areas of more exposure.
Remember these exposed panels will be next to each other, not diagonally opposite.
With a thin wash of straight XF-60 in the same ratio as above, gently highlight each of the raised folds.
This is where using the sealant really comes into its own. You can now mould the tarp around the items as any times as you wish, and it will hold in place.
If you're not happy, smooth it back out with finger pressure, and do it again! When you are happy, start at one side of the model and glue the tarp down with super glue, ensuring folds, creases, depressions etc are formed as you go.
You can now 'rope' the tarp down, pulling quite hard to create the creases formed by the rope, and don't worry...the tarp is near indestructible! Now rub all raised areas with fingertip to reveal the detail.
Painting and weathering
First you need to decide your environment and then proceed accordingly. This project will be in Europe in autumn/winter so there will be dirt and water. First, highlights and shadows are put in...not many as the tarp is pretty realistic anyway.
Raised contours and fold edges are given a wash with XF-64 Red Brown.
The whole surface is then washed with a thin solution of Mig Dark earth. I then take pure water and 'paint' this wash downwards to make the pigment run into depressions and crevices....
Again...don't worry, you can use lots of water as the tarp really is waterproof.
Once this has dried, I add Woodland Scenics water to a couple of areas to show rainwater collection.
For a drier, dusty environment, the tarp was dry-brushed with MMP Sand (I found the Mig to be too 'sticky', and the surface rubbed back with a fingertip to force the powder into the small depressions in the tissue. Then I added small splotches of Mig pigments (European dust, Dark mud), and rubbed them back with the paintbrush...don't use a finger as it smears.
The method is quick...around an hour and a half, and produces a totally realistic, and waterproof, tarpaulin. Because the treated surface of the tissue is so robust, it's virtually un-tearable, and any weathering errors can be washed off and redone without soaking and destroying the tarp!