Part 1: Tools of the Trade

Bristle Brushes

As well as a handful of ordinary brushes I use three specialist brushes:

The Rigger

This brush has long bristles, also known as an Artists Lining Brush.  I use it for applying (and then removing) washes from a model.  I have two, both what I would call “model painting quality” brushes: one from the MIG Jimenez Ammo range (the yellow handle) and one I bought from my local art supplier (the brown-ish handle).  The one with the red handle is marketed by Slaters and is one I use for applying styrene solvents to plastic sheet and section.

The Filbert

The Filbert has flat-ish bristles which have been cut into a rounded end.  This is the brush I use to apply pigment or weathering powders.  The idea is that this brush is NEVER used for wet paint, it is used to collect and apply very small quantity of powders to the model being weathered.  Once used the powders can either be “worked out” on a piece of card or it can be dipped into white spirit and then dried with a piece of blue roll.  The “not for use with wet paint” rule means that I never put it into a proper pot of paint with a “carrier” that can dry into a hard surface, this can and does over time degrade the bristles; it is, however, acceptable to dip it into white spirit to clean it up after use as there is nothing in white spirit that can cause it to set.  Again, I have two, one from MIG Jimenez with the yellow handle and the red one I purchased from my local artist’s supplies shot.

Sawtooth Brush

I describe the Sawtooth brush as “doing what it says on the tin”.  It is a flat brush and as you can see from the picture has a “sawtooth” cut out.  I use this brush to produce streaking effects in washes on, for example, a mineral wagon.


Choice of and details of different types of airbrush is the subject of a separate worksheet.  For preference I use a dual-action Iwata brush, either an Iwata Neo or an Iwata ??????.  I drive it with a compressor fitted with a regulator valve (to allow me to select the pressure) and a moisture trap – well, you wouldn’t want to be spraying blotchy paint would you?

Paints and Pigments

As a general rule it is better to have just a few weathering paints and pigments to choose from, if you have too many then you are likely to sit there agonizing over which ones to use for a particular job!


Washes can be either acrylic (water) or enamel (oil) based.  My personal preference for weathering jobs is to use enamel washes as they can be reworked once applied (see notes in the projects worksheets about this).

For a choice of wash colours for weathering rolling stock I use a dark matt wash to represent dirt on stock and a dark gloss wash where I want to represent oil (such as on an axle box or a grill). 

I also keep a pot of “sand” or “dust” wash handy for doing mortar lines on buildings, but that is the subject of a different demonstration…

I am lucky enough to work part time in a model shop that sells paints and materials from the Ammo by MIG Jimenez range so most of my pigments and washes are mostly from that range. 


Acrylic paints are water based and generally dry very quickly, brushes can be cleaned with water but if you want to thin the paint you MUST use the thinner that goes with the chemistry of the paint system you are using; each paint brand has its own unique chemistry.

Enamels are oil based and generally dry much slower, the paint must be thinned and brushes must be cleaned in an enamel thinner and just as with acrylics every paint range has its associated thinner.  What they don’t tell you is that the basic chemistry is the same for EVERY enamel paint range and so it is possible to quite safely use a “generic alternative” in the form of White Spirit – at a significantly lower cost than the proprietary thinners (I can buy a 2-litre bottle of white spirit from a trade outlet for roughly the same cost as a 125ml bottle of Humbrol enamel thinner)

An important thing to remember is that under no circumstances should enamel and acrylic paint systems be mixed, at least as far as mixing up colours or “borrowing” thinners to thin paint or clean brushes is concerned.  However, you CAN apply a layer of a different paint system on top of an existing cured paint layer.

The advantage of the “slow dry” of an enamel wash is that it can be left to dry for 20 minutes and then by careful use of thinner on a brush “reactivated” and adjusted to create different effects.  More of this in the descriptions of the projects!

My current go-to colours for washes are Tracks Wash for my current dark matt wash, Fresh Engine Oil is my glossy wash and Rainmarks Effects is my current lighter sandy wash.

My go-to colours for airbrush “dirt” paints are Railmatch enamel range 402 – Frame Dirt and 403 – Roof Dirt

Ancillary Equipment for Paints and Washes

Something important for all types of paint and washes: they need a proper stirring before they are used.  This is because if left for a while the three main elements of the paint will separate and the paint won’t work properly.  The components of a paint or a wash are the pigment (the colour), the carrier which is actually a sort of varnish which sets to form the skin we see when we look at the painted surface and “matting agents” which give the paint its gloss, satin of matt finish.

Up to now my weapon of choice for this job has been an electric Badger paint stirrer (derived from a cocktail whizzer) backed up by an Expo manual paint stirrer.  However, in the last week or so I have come across a video on Twitter showing an electric nail varnish “shaker” being used.  With a lot of experience of decorating (and specifically getting custom colours mixed up) this device is very similar to the way my local paint supplier mixes up the custom paint colours I use for house renovations.

Powders or Pigments

A lot of people have lots of bottles with “pigment for every occasion” – me included.  The reality is that less is more here, for efficient weathering you really only need three or four colours for a really effective weathering job.  In my opinion at least, if you use too many different pigments you are in danger of spoiling the effect of your weathering job by making the weathering the feature, not the model – if that makes sense…

I use a Dark Mud powder, a Track Rust colour (that’s tank track, not rail track), a Rubble Dust (or other beige/grey) colour and a Black Smoke colour (a colour tending towards a very dark smoky grey).


A quick bullet list of other things I “keep handy” when weathering:

  • Absorbent paper towel
    • I favour “blue roll” which is the closest you can get to lint free cloth
  • A collection of small containers to put working thinner and so on in
    • I favour the glass jars which contain Gu desserts (and the contents too!)
  • Good quality cotton buds
    • The denser the better – i.e. the expensive ones
  • Cocktail sticks
  • A decent plastic table cloth
  • Nitrile gloves can be useful if you have skin problems

The final tool of the trade


You need a stack of pictures of the real thing so that you can see how the real thing looks after a few weeks “in service”.

In the days of yore there were a always pictorial books to look at.  These days there are a heap of really good sources out there on the Internet, starting with Paul Bartlett’s Zenfolio collection at but there are also lots of groups on Facebook as well; two I subscribe to are “Everything pre-1968 Southern” and it’s orphaned child “Everything Southern”.  And then, of course, there is Google; there are a whole heap of resources out there just waiting to be searched for.