Armour Painting – Russian Tank Destroyer SU-85

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SU-85, Samokhodnaya Ustanovka – self-propelled carriage with “85” for the bore of the vehicle’s armament, the 85 mm D-5T gun, production started in mid-1943 as the answer for the new German Tiger tanks with armor too thick to be penetrated by the 76.2 mm guns used in the T-34 and KV tanks at a safe range. SU85, with 85 mm gun was effective against Panther and Tiger tanks at long range with more advantages as the vehicle was small, highly mobile and well armored.

The Kit

Tamiya’s SU-85 is a vintage kit released more than 35 years ago but what a lovely kit! First of all, there is some new stuff added to this oldie: Weathering Master Set (Red earth, Sand and Sooth) as well as the “Russian army tank crew at rest”, 7 figures set. The kit is well detailed, very smartly engineered as usual for Tamiya and almost literally, you don’t need a glue as many parts come together like a ‘snap on’ kit. Even being older than I am, its worth the money for sure!

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Simplicity is perfection, two large parts are the model is almost complete. Not sure about the plastic colour though.

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Dark green base and initial airbrush shading, subtle but perfect as a guide for oils later

Painting

There is no much point writing about the construction itself, well you actually don’t need the kit instructions either, its that easy. We’ll start this one with the painting and weathering process. I must mention that the kit is molded in dark green plastic, not a very desirable thing as we want to actually see the painting process for easier and better paint coverage so when you have the plastic of a same colour as the paint you have to spray on, make sure you have a good lighting to avoid leaving any spots of bare plastic. We will start with two light coats of Model Master 1710E – Dark Green followed with a very diluted mixture of Dark green and 2053 Sand for shading large exposed areas and panels, and a very diluted mixture of Dark Green and Military Brown FS30117 for shading edges and recessed areas. There is one rule for shading mixture: if you can see the colour change on a first spray, mixture is not thin enough. Do not overdo as the basic idea is to make a sort of a guide for later shading with oils.

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Decals applied

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Paint chipping and dry brushing are the great things to emphasise the details when we have overall painted and boring model.

Leave the model aside for 24h to dry properly before the next step. In a meantime we will paint the tracks with Tamiya Black X1 and an hour later with Flat Base cote so we can proceed with the weathering techniques on the tracks while the model is drying. After the Flat Base cote is dry we can apply overall wash with Burnt Umber artist oil thinned to consistency of honey. Using larger flat brush start applying Burnt Umber in thin coats by moving the brush along the tracks in long strokes and the same goes for the other side. As soon as we are done with oils, its time for the pigments, this time I am using MiG Pigments but the dry pastel chalk powder will do the job just as well. By using a large and soft brush start applying the pigment powder on the tracks randomly, using a few shades from almost black then brown, red-brown to a light brown at the end. With stabbing motions of the brush lightly mix the pigment with the oil paint beneath until you are satisfied with the results. Once this oil/pigment mix is dry, there is no need for a clear cote, but it’s always welcome. With our model dry, one gloss coat before the decals and one flat cote after is all we need before we carry on with paint chipping. Fine pointed and usually smallest brush you can find is the best for creating a chipped paint effect. As we would like to expose the iron body of the tank, the best paint to be used is very dark grey, almost black. Start by ‘drawing’ small blotches and chips around the edges and areas that are most likely to loose the paint due to heavy handling, walking and grabbing so we would concentrate on the crew hatches, engine hatches, front and rear bumpers…

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Localised wash looks messy but nothing that a soft moist brush want take care of. At this stage you don’t have to be so careful

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By working slowly on one section at the time, you will be surprised what can be achieved with artist oils

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After the first round of oil shading a soft drybrush is done with white oil just to emphasise the details that were lost under initial shading.

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Second round of more subtle shading and further darkening of the lower sections

Sometimes, I also outline chipped areas with lighter shades than the body paint is to create more three-dimensional look while other shades like white or light brown can create very interesting effects as well. As my paint chipping is done with enamel paints, I will seal the whole thing with another acrylic flat cote and we can start with overall wash. I usually do overall wash first and ‘localized’ wash later but this time I want to wash panel lines and recessed areas first as that way I will have more freedom and choices for shading after especially as we are going to make this one to look very used, dirty and greasy. Highly diluted mix of Raw and Burnt Siena is just perfect for our dark green base and as we are doing a wash on matt surface some of it will run around but that’s just the thing we want. Leave the wash to dry for some 45 minutes, moisten the brush with enamel thinner and remove/blend the wash excess to get subtle colour variations around the recessed areas and do not worry if something doesn’t look just right as overall oil wash is next and a chance to fix anything that went messy. Large flat brush and 1:1 Burnt Umber to thinner ratio is what we need for overall wash. Again, most important thing is to keep working with the brush as long as it takes and until you can’t see the brush strokes anymore. As soon as the model is covered with oil we can start with shading techniques wit the goal to create used, greasy, dusty, faded and muddy look.

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Wheels are heavily oiled and later dusted with pigments

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Almost done here. Some more heave smudging and weathering still to come.

Start by working with darker shades first by applying small dots of undiluted Burnt Umber around the panel lines and areas where the dirt would usually accumulate and then, with gentle stubbing brush motion blend Burnt Umber to the oil base mix of overall wash. Continue repeating the process by going from darker to lighter shade and eventually finish with blending white oil to the most exposed surfaces that are most likely to fade and look lighter. Burnt Umber mixed with black is used around exhausts and engine compartment to simulate oil leaks, smoke and oil stains. Same treatment goes for the wheels and under carriage with addition of black as those areas are dirtiest and darkest. Now we have a beaten up and very used look but to finish it off, we need to add some dust and dried mud and what’s better for the job than pigments. Again, you can simply rub dry pastel chalk on the fine sanding paper to get pastel dust or you can use some of ready made pigments like MIG’s or Vallejo’s. Heavily treated areas are under carriage, wheels and lower body sections where the mud and dried earth will be most pronounced on the real model and just a small ‘dusting’ with lighter and brown-red shades on upper sections to give a nice layer of dust and more realistic look to our model.

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Treatment with pigments results in beautiful dust, rust and dried dirt effect

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Gentle light brown drybrush will bring back to life all the details. Our model is vibrant now even though its dark green overall

Now all we have to do is to mount the tracks on but before that, I will rub the tracks with black ‘soft B’ pencil to simulate the steel showing up trough the mud on the tracks and we are pretty much done here. Tamiya reminded us once more what the real modeling fun is like with this ‘oldie but goodie’ SU-85, and although I didn’t used weathering master set from the kit, it is certainly very welcomed addition that will find its purpose on some other project in the future. I would also recommend this kit to youngsters as it’s just perfect as the very first model one could ask for. Thank you Tamiya!

Model, Text and photos by:
Aleksandar Pocuc

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