Traditional Texture Painting: 3A Ghost Hunter Bertie MK3
By Neil Blevins
Mar 31st 2013

Here's a quick tutorial on Traditional Texture Painting.

Artist Ashley Wood has a toy company (3A), and as I'm sure you all know, I love his World War Robot series. As well as just buying the premade toys, there's a whole culture of artists who take these toys and customize them by giving them custom paint schemes, adding or removing parts, etc. I've dabbled in this, changing colors, adding weathering, etc, but decided it's finally time to paint one from scratch. The robots sold by 3A come in different color schemes (called colorways), there's Iron Panda, Gravedigger, EMGY, a whole ton of them. So I decided to take a WWRp Daywatch MK3 Bertie and repainting him in the Ghost Hunter colorway, a colorway that doesn't exist on this particular robot.

There are so many different ways to go about painting these robots, the steps I present below are the method I decided to use, it is by no way the only or best way to do this sort of thing. But I figured sharing my experiences would be helpful to sort out in my own mind the process, and maybe there's some tips here other people can use. I missed the whole era of traditional model making in visual effects films, it was already digital by the time I entered the job market, so maybe this is my way to hearken back a bit to the way things used to be made.


Equipment: Hair Dryer, Camera, Photoshop

Step 1: Get Robot: Bought a WWRp (1/12th scale) Daywatch MK3 Bertie Mode A on ebay.

Step 2: Photos: Took photos of robot to make concept art.

Step 3: Reference And Concept Art: First off I collected some reference. Here's two pictures of the 1/6th scale and 1/12th scale Ghost Hunter Square MK2...

But even more than these toys, I was inspired by photos of the Life Sized Ghost Hunter Square MK1...

Please excuse me that I don't know who took these pictures, if you know who, let me know please so I can give proper credit.

The Life Sized square just has some super cool weathering, he's a little whiter in spots than the MK2 squares, and I like the more muted colors of the green legs. So I use all of these pictures as inspiration, and then I digitally painted on top of the Daywatch MK3 Bertie photos in Photoshop. It's good to make some concept art so you're not experimenting on your actual toy, it's so much faster and so easy to make changes digitally. Even if you're a novice at digital painting, painting something simple showing the basic color scheme can really help you when it comes time to paint the figure in real life.

Here's my first stab, not sure which of the two designs to go for...

Here's my final design, I picked Version 2 with the single eye and made some more modifications...

Step 4: Disassemble: removed any part that can be removed for easier painting. Sadly, the backpack and ammo can on the back of the Bertie can't be removed. Used a hairdryer to heat the vinyl parts to make it easier to take him apart.


Equipment: Artist Tape, Saran Wrap, Tweezers, Fine Sand Paper, Exacto Blade, Gloves, Tamiya Base Layer Spray Paint, Paint Brushes of various sizes, Easy Off Oven Cleaner, Tamiya Laquer Thinner, Scrub brushes, Q-Tip, Paper Towel

Step 5: Primer: I'm told it's best to add a primer before painting. In the case of this toy though, he's already been painted, so I didn't bother with the primer. This is probably a horrible mistake. :)

Step 6: Masking: Masked out areas that I didn't want to paint, I used Artist Tape, which isn't as sticky as normal tape (so it won't pull up the paint you put it on), and cut it with an exacto blade. Some larger areas I covered with Saran Wrap, just so I didn't have to use up a lot of tape for big areas I wanted masked.

Step 7: Paint Base Layer: For smooth paint application, I used spray paint, the Tamiya TS Spray Paint Series, which is a specially formulated synthetic lacquer. Used two colors, green (TS-78, Field Gray 2) and offwhite (TS-7 Racing White). Wore gloves to avoid getting my hands all painted.

Sprayed parts with the paint can about a foot away from the actual toy (distance is very important, too close and the paint goes on uneven with lots of drips). I did 1.5 coats, basically 1 coat and then touchups in a few spots that need it.

WARNING: Make sure to use these paints in a well ventilated area, they are pretty toxic. I just sprayed them outdoors, but other people make special spray hoods and such.

Next came the white paint, which was a bit more of an adventure than I originally wanted.

I waited a week (although the paint should be dry after 24 hours) and then I removed the masking with tweezers. Then remasked for the white paint.

I used some sand paper to carefully sand off the dark black logos on the daywatch. If this had been a DIY robot, I wouldn't need to do this step, since it won't have any graphics on it.

Disaster! The Racing White looked horrible! Not only is it way too shiny, but it's also not opaque enough, so I can see the sanded areas of the plastic through the paint!

Had to find a good way to remove the paint and start over.

Step 8: Strip Paint: There's a lot of ways to strip paint, the first method I tried was using Oven Cleaner. Works ok, but requires a lot of hard scrubbing. So next I tried Tamiya Laquer Thinner.

Worked great, you apply it with a Q-tip, rub it, and then the paint comes right off with a paper towel. Note, highly toxic stuff, I did this part outdoors so I'd have plenty of ventilation.

Stripped the paint off the head, body still in progress.

Step 7 Part 2: Used new white paint, TS-27, Matte White. The new paint was much better, more opaque and less shiny.

Then painted the gun with Matte Black (TS-6).

Did small touchups to the base layer with a paintbrush, areas that weren't perfectly masked, and had a little bit of the wrong color paint bleed through. I figured any small imperfections in the paint are ok, because it'll be weathered anyways, so imperfections will get covered over with the dirt layers.

Here's the final base layer paint job...


Equipment: Photoshop, Artist Tape, Saran Wrap, Tweezers, Exacto Blade, Paint Brushes of various sizes, Tamiya Masking Sticker Sheet (Plain Type 5 PCS), Microscale Industries Micro Mask Liquid Masking Medium, Microscale Industries Micro Sol Setting Solution,Tamiya TS-6 Matte Black, Tamiya Laquer Thinner, Q-Tip, Paper Towel, Lazertran Waterslide Decal Paper For Laser Printers, Tamiya Semi Gloss Clear TS-79

Step 9: Decals: For the decals, I'm going to use 3 different methods, depending on the decal. First up is the main black ghost around the eye. Since the shape of the head involves a lot of curves, I decide to not use a standard decal, but instead cut out a shape and then spray paint it.

Step 9a: Mask and Spray: First I photograph a Ghost Hunter Square from the front...

I then bring this into Photoshop and extract the ghost shape (you can also just trace it using standard photoshop brushes to paint the shape). I then print out the shape to the proper size on regular paper...

I then use this to cut a Tamiya Masking Sticker Sheet (Plain Type 5 PCS) into two pieces, one for the lower portion, one for the upper portion. Think of this as really good Artist Tape for fine details...

I then apply these two masks to the face of my Bertie...

Then I use some Microscale Industries Micro Mask Liquid Masking Medium...

with a brush to mask a few extra areas, include some large wear around the edges of the ghost symbol...

Then I sprayed it with Tamiya TS-6 Matte Black...

After pulling the masking off, I used a little Tamiya Laquer Thinner to remove some black paint that had spilled underneath the masking. And then used a little black paint to do a few touchups. Here's the result...

Step 9b: Waterslide Decals: For the black logos, I will be using the Waterslide Decal Technique. Here's a great YouTube video of someone using this technique:

I grab the logos again from photos of the square, turn them black and white, and then print them on Lazertran Waterslide Decal Paper For Laser Printers (Similar paper also exists for Inkjets, check out the Testors brand).

Here's the basic steps...
  1. Print decal
  2. Trim decal with exacto
  3. Place decal with tweezers into water, 10 sec
  4. Place on paper towel to remove excess water, make sure to keep it flat, 10 sec
  5. Apply clear coat to bot (I'm using Microscale Industries Micro Sol Setting Solution)
  6. Slide decal from paper background
  7. Place decal on bot
  8. Smooth out decal
  9. Clear coat on top

You can see a bit of an edge on these decals, but they should be covered up with grunge and dirt, so hopefully they won't be as evident.

Step 9c: White Waterslide Decals: For my last decals, I need white. The problem is, most printers don't print white! They only leave ink off the white paper to give you the color white. So I decided for these decals to get them printed professionally by someone with a special type of printer called an ALPS printer, which can print white on clear waterslide decal paper (they're not cheap, price can be anywhere from $10-30 per sheet). I found this page...

...which had a lot of links, and I ended up using this service to get them printed...

...very nice guy, highly recommended if you want to print in white.

Here's the decals...

And here they are applied...

Step 10: Seal 1: Sealed the bot with 2 coats of Tamiya Semi Gloss Clear TS-79. Would have picked Matte, but that paint has been discontinued. But the final coat after the weathering will be a matte clear coat, so the final matte coat should get rid of any gloss this first seal layer has.

WARNING: After each of the two seal steps, make sure to carefully exercise the fingers back and forth a few times as the sealant dries. This is to keep them from sticking, so they don't stop working when they're completely dry.


Equipment: Paint Brushes of various sizes, Brown / Black / Red Acrylic Paint, Sparkly Acrylic Grey Metallic Paint, Q-Tip, Paper Towel, Synthetic Sponges, Acrylic Paint Remover, Scrub Brush, Popsicle Stick, Golden Additives Acrylic Flow Release, Testors Dullcote Clear Flat Lacquer Overcoat

Step 11: Wash Layer 1: Step 1 of weathering is a basic wash, mostly in the joint areas. I just took some brown acrylic paint, diluted it with water, and brushed it on the surface. Then I removed the parts I don't want with some paper towel, or Q-tips if the area is small or hard to get to.

Step 12: Stipple Layer: Next comes the stipple layer, or small dots.

Since I don't have a airbrush, I decided to first try a simpler technique, I loaded paint onto a scrub brush, then used a Popsicle stick to rub along the brush. The bristles of the brush then sprayed the paint onto the bot.

It worked ok, but I was getting too many long lines instead of the tiny dots I wanted. It may have been the thickness of the paint, as other times I'd tried this technique with acrylic or inks it worked a lot better. Probably wouldn't recommend this technique in the future, although I may try diluting the paint sometime and see if that works better.

So the next technique I tried to get Stipples was a sponge technique.

The key to getting tiny dots with the sponge (instead of big blotches) is to get the right color paint on your palette, then rip off a tiny bit of sponge, then dip the sponge in the paint, then dab the sponge on the palette until almost all the paint is gone. Then dab it onto the robot.

Synthetic Artist Sponge.

Here's some examples. I started with a reddish brown paint, followed by dark brown paint. More than 1 rust color creates a lot of visual depth, make sure to never use only one color.

While its good to get some stipples everywhere, make sure to concentrate them around edges, this simulates how real rust tends to form.

Any stipples you don't like, clean off with the Q-tip and the Acrylic Paint Remover. So in general, sponge on too much, then remove what you don't want.

The next 3 steps I kinda do all at the same time, moving back and forth between them to get the desired effect.

Step 13: Sponge Layer: Similar to the stipple layer, except I add thicker wet paint to the sponge so I get big splotches instead of small dots.

Step 14: Hand Painted Layer: I use a small brush and paint details like black around panel lines and edges, and drips coming down the bot

Step 15: Wash Layer 2: Similar to Wash Layer 1, to further enhance the dirty parts.

As well as diluting the paint with water, I also tried diluting the paint with Golden Additives Acrylic Flow Release. But be super careful, the flow release is meant to be mixed with water. Only use a small amount of flow release with a bit of paint and a lot of water, if you use too much flow release your figure may remain sticky for a long time (weeks) before drying.

If you add too much flow release, you can remove it by rinsing your robot in water and rubbing it softly with a lint free cloth to remove the extra stickiness. Then wait a day, see if it's still sticky, and if it is, repeat the water the cloth rubbing, wait another day, keep repeating till the figure is no longer sticky. But be careful, you can also remove paint if you rub too hard.

So in general, I'd either recommend using the flow release very sparingly, or don't use it at all and only thin out your paint with water.

For the bags, I stole 5 bags from a Marine JEA Bertie MK3, and then used an acrylic wash and stipples to dirty them up a bit more.

For the shotgun, I got some sparkly Acrylic grey metallic paint, and then use the sponge to stipple the edges of the gun, simulating paint wearing off the gun revealing the metal undercoat. Then adding some very minor brown acrylic paint with a sponge to simulate dirt.

Step 16: Seal 2 For the final touch, I seal the acrylic paint using Testors Dullcote Clear Flat Lacquer Overcoat, Because this is a matte varnish, it removes all the shine from the original Seal which was semi gloss. The matte surface makes it look less plasticy and more realistic.

Notice the difference in shininess between the gun with a dullcoat and another gun I was painting that hasn't received the dullcoat yet...

And that's it, here's the final result...

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