Weathering a Scale Model

Architectural Model

Recently I watched our model makers take perfectly crafted buildings and purposely mess them up. My curiosity was piqued. Why painstakingly create a line drawing on the computer, laser cut it, precisely assemble and finish the parts into an architectural model, only to “dirty’ up its perfection?

It turns out that a certain segment of architectural models – historical models – are given what is called weathering effects. Why? The intent is to represent the impact of the elements on an object, in order to project the sense of time, and place, that a historical model must provide.

The artistic application of weathering techniques attempts to simulate – not duplicate – the natural ageing and wear process on the buildings, vehicles, roads, and other inanimate objects represented on a particular historical model. Things like dirt, grime, sun fading, paint wear, spills, stains and rusting, must all be scaled down to size using well honed modeling techniques.

In addition to developing specific methods for applying weathering effects, a model maker must do the historic research necessary to match the ageing process with the time period the model is attempting to capture. For instance, a train run on burning wood will leave markings that differ quite significantly from a coal powered machine.

Model makers can enhance their expertise at weathering models by studying the world around them – noting the textures, colors and formations of real life wear and tear . Once you pay attention you may notice that everything is subject to weathering – grass isn’t green, asphalt isn’t black, houses are different shades depending on sun exposure and vehicles have signs of use soon after they are purchased.

Our perception of the world is that it is much more brightly colored and distinct than it actually is in reality. Weathering techniques take a fully painted and detailed model and use filters, washes, dusting, and  other techniques to give the desired muted effect that more closely mimics real life. Signs of wear  like scratches, faded paint, rust and stains further enhance the effect.

It’s a fascinating process watching a model maker take a flawlessly constructed architectural model and add blemishes to it. In a historical model, it is this artistic application of ageing techniques that ties the display together and gives it life, and the feeling that it’s accurately captured a moment in time.