Weathering, right or wrong?

weatheringrightorwrongSo, these last weeks it seems that weathering and certain types of finishes have become the subject of discontent and hefty debate with various people from different places.

Well, more than usual at least…

Some didn’t care and moved on. Others not so much, becoming very vocal and World War III at the brink of happening. I stood by the side, heard out many friends, who had the same ideas as what I’m about to write, and unwillingly I didn’t post too much about it… yet.

Because in my opinion, neither pro nor contra are right, nor wrong. As with all things, every story has different angles. There isn’t no black nor no white, but many, many greys… Battleship greys, sky greys, German greys, even Olive Drabs, and Navy Blues, and -enter whatever color-.

And honestly, the whole weathering craze is starting to become rather annoying. Look, I love weathering as much as the next guy, and I’d rather snap a single pic of a dirty, weathered, graffiti filled Mig-21 than a few dozen photos of a superbly museum clean P-47D, and replicating the former to scale is a lot more fun if you’re up to it.

But to say that every aircraft is riddled with dirty panel lines, pre-shaded in a certain kind of way, weathered all over and has a permanent dirt stain near the exhaust, who everyone should replicate, because everything else is boring, is a bit too extreme for me.

To prove my point, I took the liberty of using a few pictures from one of NATO’s own flickr accounts, which shows just about every type of paint job, with different amounts of weathering, and they’re all aircraft used during the same exercise, at the same base.



‘Completely unrealistic weathering’ on two Greek F-16’s which would never be found on any aircraft. But then again, “Greek ones don’t count because they probably make them dirty on purpose along the panel lines by pre-shading them”.

We continue…


An Italian Panavia Tornado, based at Trapani air base. Note how the unrealistic aircraft sports about a dozen different greys. Take special note of the darker grey on the tail, and the lighter tone at the front. Oh my, even on the spine alone we can find about a dozen different tones of said color.


And then we have these two other Italian Tornado’s, taking off from the same airbase, not even a full week later than the first picture was taken, during the same exercise. These aircraft are painted in one monotone grey, with only a little amount of weathering on the vertical stabiliser. The closest drop tank sports a marginally lighter grey, while the further drop tank sports the same color as its aircraft. Other than these things, the aircraft are virtually ‘clean’…


And then we have this AMX Embrear from the very same air force, very same base, same time span, same exercise… I mean, even in direct sunlight the thing looks cleaner than your average car… The only thing I can find are some streaks underneath the leading wing slats, which would be hidden most of the time…


And then we have this, a Macchi MB 339. An aircraft from the seventies, based on a design from the fifties! I mean sure it was repainted, and once you get reeeeeeeally close you can start to see some veeeeery light variations in tones underneath the paint, but look how clean this thing is, even though it’s ‘pretty old’. I mean, what were they even thinking making this aircraft so unrealistically clean? They must have missed the latest weathering magazine, there is no other explanation!


I really love this one, This Canadian Air Force C-130 has panel line shading on the lower aft part, streaks on the flaps, the cleanest vertical stabiliser you’ll ever see with a rudder in a different grey, and multiple greys on the front with all types of streaks and weathering. Yes, all these aircraft were used during the same exercise.


“Oh now you’re cheating!! AWACS and tankers don’t count!”
Well yeah maybe, but golly look at how clean and monotone this German based NATO aircraft is! Even more so, the only reason why all (except for one) ‘panel lines’ are visible on this picture, is because of the shadows created by the sunlight. Suddenly panel lines are ‘raised’, and ‘not an actual thing’. With just eight photos we can see all different types of things, all based at the same place, all from first world country air forces.


“but those are all modern aircraft, older aircraft would always be dirty because ‘war’, and back then everything was less cared for”

Well guess what, in World War 2 you can go from one end of the spectrum to the other too with a little bit of search work.

Don’t believe me?

Ray_Wagner_Collection_Image_(15721617294) Ray_Wagner_Collection_Image_(16343131452)

Above we have two F6F’s, and you have to do your damn best to find any type of weathering on the aircraft, which isn’t uncommon for Navy types of those years or even decades, as their paint prevented the metal body from corroding in the humid theaters they operated in, and paint chips would be dealt with as much as possible.


And here we have two other F6F’s, also from the US Navy, taken before and after the previous pictures, but still in the same ‘operational time span’, with both sporting different types of weathering. The first has exhaust stains, tonal differences, different tones on its insignias, and a virtually clean engine cover. (Also note how there is a gap between the front and aft cockpit windows).


The second is a test bed aircraft with a XAAM-N-2 Sparrow missile. Prototypes and test bed aircraft are usually considered to be completely clean, but here we have tonal differences all over, a massive black exhaust stain, dirty tires while on tarmac, and even a panel swapped out underneath the cockpit in a metal color, something you’d rarely see on a naval aircraft.

Pružanski_aeradrom_I-16_№3_3 Pružanski_aeradrom_I-16_№3_2

A little hop across the arctic, and we are in Russia. We have two Polikarpov I-16 wreckages, but look at how different they are in terms of weathering, with the first being quite clean and having barely any type of weathering aside from damaged parts, while the second (which can be seen in the background of the first picture) sports larger and smaller chipped paint areas on various places along the aircraft’s body, as well as the wheel well covers sporting some tonal differences.


We go east and check out two aircraft from the Empire of Japan, a captured A6M flown in 1944, sporting many tones of paints. Note how the Japanese meatball on the side is roughly painted (although that could have been the work of the US forces). There’s no denying though that this aircraft is pretty heavily weathered, but not even to the point of the paint chipping from the aircraft as we’re used to see with many Japanese Imperial Navy Zeroes. Yes, not all Japanese Zeroes were weathered beyond belief, check some of those white airframes they had. Most of them are spotless!


The second one here is a Japanese army Ki-43 Hayabusa, ready for a final kamikaze run. While the Japanese wouldn’t probably be prone to send out their best machines for such missions and send something they could miss, this one is almost as clean as they possibly come.

Azeville_Airfield_-363d_FG_P-51_B3-M,_serial_number_42-106772 RAF_Bottisham_-_361st_Fighter_Group_-_P-51B_Mustangs_at_Bottisham


Last but not least, we go to the US Air Force with their P-51’s based in the UK. Here we have all degrees of the spectrum, from the first aircraft being dirty all over and the ID code sporting both chipped numbers and clean letters and different panel hues. The second aircraft with clean panels has nearly no different tones on its panels, but does sport a massive exhaust stain. And the final aircraft sports nothing but some little scratches of paint on the wheel well cover and the exhaust panel sporting a different tone.

And guess what, I will use that ‘it was wartime’ point against you. You think your ‘Valliya’ German grey number 4 is the only correct hue and the ‘Revunze’ German sky grey is completely incorrect? We’re at war here! You think paints in the thirthies-forties where always the same hue, and crucial pigments were widely available? All five years round? From all the different factories they came? I’m sure they stopped the production line of the Corsair as soon as they ran out of the right tone of interior green, or Navy Blue…

If you haven’t realised it yet, industrial standards for consistent paint colors between different factories weren’t even widely adopted until the second half of the 20th century, in other words, after the Second World War. And even still, in modern peacetime the colors of cockpits still aren’t consistently the same, despite the usage of modern paints and aircraft being from the same factory

Even so, weathering comes in many forms, from panel line preshading, to paint chipping, to tonal differences, to even even ultra clean aircraft with ‘non-existing panel-lines’, which might not be as interesting, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. You can weather your aircraft, tank or car from one end of the spectrum to the other, while staying pretty ‘realistic’. Some modellers just aren’t on that level yet to replicate a fully rusted or weathered machine, or MAYBE, they just don’t have that interest of building them like that.

Now truly, I don’t wish to point out individuals at all, as we’re all in this hobby together, and I get what some people are trying to achieve with their posts. As in pushing others out of the general comfort zone of doing the same type of thing over and over. But the whole ‘I’m right and you are wrong’ thing really has to stop. Especially when talking about ‘weathering’ or even paint tones. Because in the end, you are ruining other people’s day and, if you haven’t realised it, whatever side you are on, smearing it over everyone’s face like a shit-throwing baboon makes you look like… well it actually makes you exactly that.


Proving a point is one thing. Forcing your ‘superior ideas’ is another. Just accept the fact that not everyone has to agree with you, and that some will be more vocal about it than others. Wether your problem is ‘my imperfect scale produced for sissy girls’, subjects I build that you deem not interesting, even the amount or type of weathering one uses, just for the love of god, do it respectfully or move along guys, as the ends don’t always justify the means! If ‘artistic freedom’ is a lame excuse, than the ‘constructive feedback’ comment is just as ridiculous.

In the end, I respect everyone’s decisions, but we’re talking about insignificant plastic models of machines based on mostly a single, if any, 70 year old picture that we’re building purely and only for the joy of creation! There is absolutely no need to unrespectfully smear opinions, comments or builds from individuals all over the web with a little finger saying, “lol, yes you’re saying I’m wrong but listen and look at this you witty idiot”.

Because that’s the moment when I stop caring about your opinion…

NATO photos are property of Allied Joint Force Command 
Brunssum on flickr, shared with Attribution-NonCommercial
-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) or Attribution-
ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) licenses. 

'World War II photos' provided by Wikimedia. 
Pictures are part of the Public Domain, or from country 
of origin and other countries and areas where the 
copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or 
less, or have no known copyright restriction.

9 thoughts on “Weathering, right or wrong?

  1. Ee Keik Lye says:

    I fully agreed with you….some like their food spicy and some dont….its a very individual .. always believe that as long as its pleasing to the eye and you are happy .. .its good enough

    1. Ninetalis says:

      Thanks for your feedback Keik! 🙂 As it is with everything, it’s all about taste, and we should just be able to have our opinion without having to fear a repercussion for having one and how we decide to use our hobby.


  2. Paul van Helden says:

    There is no bad wheathering. It’s all about personal taste. I love to see both, aw at the clean and baffeled by the work that has gone into the dirty.

  3. Tom says:

    For the first time, someone who actually speaks sense on a subject so full of different opinions. To misquote Shakespeare, “There is no such thing as wrong, only thinking makes it so”.

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