Painting Armour a Color Perspective by Geez

Painting Guide by Geez

Geez has prepared a tutorial graphic to illustrate the theory of colour available here. You need a paint program such as Photoshop or Paintshop Pro.

More to come. Enjoy. Part 1

    While it takes years to produce a trained artist, this how-to-do-it guide should help the average guy quickly learn how to alter existing texture skins, or make new ones, in the PanzerElite computer game editor.  The editor can be downloaded from  Wings at the following link PE Object Editor. Transfer copies of all the files on the game's CD into the game's directory that the game created on your computer's hard drive when you first loaded the game into your computer.  Then download the editor (see web address above) into that directory - the editor should automatically merge with the directory when you unzip the downloaded file.
    Because there are so many hardware/software combinations, it is difficult to establish a true color reference to insure accuracy of the camouflage colors.  This guide was prepared in Adobe Photoshop 5.5 with the monitor set to true color and the Photoshop software set to CYMK colors.  You will probably find that you must adjust your color settings - the Sherman skins that are part of this tutorial should create a tank that has an overall OLIVE appearance (mid-way between a green olive and a brown olive).  This is historically accurate, for the American and British armies of 50-odd years ago had a very different look than they do today.  The color that Europeans call khaki is called olive drab by Americans (to an American, khaki is a dusty beige color).  The olive drab paints used by the U.S. Army in WW2 were browner than the current olive drab.  Additionally, cadmium (used as a stabilizer to prevent fading) was monopolized by the steel industry (to make armor plate).  Consequently, the camouflage of many American tanks faded quickly and became even more brownish.  Dust and mud shifted the appearance of many vehicles even more towards an overall brownish look.
    Refer to the attached color bitmap (look at it in whatever painting software that you have).  In the upper left corner you will find a plan view of a Sherman upper hull.  Note that the horizontal surfaces are the lightest in value (value: what shade of light, medium, or dark gray a color is in a black and white photograph) because the most sunlight hits the horizontal surfaces.  Color (called hue or chroma) is reflected sunlight.  The angled deck plates towards the rear are a slightly darker value, because they are hit by slightly less sunlight.  Pan down and find the bitmap skin for the sides of the Sherman (it has a dirty white star).  This side surface is a bit darker still, because the sides are hit by even less sunlight.  We recognize the shape of objects by the way light falls on them, creating light, medium, and dark values of whatever color the object is.  This is the first lesson: the light, medium, and dark values must accurately simulate the fall of sunlight on the object, or else the final tank just won't look right.  This is extremely important and is comparable to building the foundation for a house - if the foundation is not right, then nothing else will be right.
    The next lesson: colors vary in brilliance or vividness.  This is called saturation - highly saturated colors are very vivid, while low saturated colors are very dull.  Example using the color red - bright fire engine red is highly saturated, while a dull brick red is low in saturation.
    Third lesson: because the atmosphere is not 100% transparent, distance will alter a color.  The more distant an object, the more atmosphere there is between your eye and the object - thus, the more the distant object's color will be altered.  Distance will lighten the value of a color (shade of gray in a B & W photo) and will lower the saturation of a color (brick red versus fire engine red).
    Fading and dust will also lighten the value and lower the saturation of a color.  For these reasons you cannot paint your tank's skins by exactly matching a color chip - the color chip would be accurate ONLY if you had a real, full size vehicle to paint.  Confirm this for yourself by looking at photos from WW2 - while the B & W photo will not show you the actual color, it will show you the value of the color and your color chip's value will be darker than the photograph.  If you look at the Sherman bitmaps by picking GRAYSCALE in your paint software, you will see that the gray values are lighter than your color chip references. This lighter, duller appearance is the goal that you must learn to work towards as you experiment and teach yourself how to paint skins.  (1:35 scale kit modellers take note - this applies to your scale models also).
1)  Your paint software will have some kind of library of colors - go into it and find a color that most closely matches your color chip or whatever kind of reference that you are using.  Select it to start painting your first skin - which should be the SIDE surfaces (the ones with the dirty star in the tutorial).

2)  Your software will have some way to alter and adjust color - it will probably say something about hue (color) and saturation (vividness).  Experiment.  You want to lighten the value a bit (move towards a lighter gray in B & W photo) and lower the saturation a bit (move from fire engine red towards brick red).  This will simulate distance.

2A)  If you want to also simulate fading and dust, repeat step 2.  The result should be both lighter and duller.  Pick whatever seems to be GRAYSCALE - this will convert the color to a shade of gray, just like in the old B & W photos.  Eyeball your shade of gray and compare it to photos.  Keep repeating step 2 until you like the match - remember that you are trying to produce a color for the SIDE of your tank. You will use this color as your baseline for the rest of your tank - all other versions of this color will be based on this choice.  Keep adjusting the value and saturation until you like the result.  Get out of grayscale and hue/saturation.  Pick a SIDE skin to paint. (see note)

NOTE:  The next 3 steps will involve applying colors to simulate the light, medium, and dark  colors that will simulate the TOP surfaces, SLOPING surfaces, and SIDE surfaces of your tank.  Each will be a slightly different color.  Try and find top, sloping, and side skins that are close to each other.  This will make eyeballing much easier.

3)  Your software will have a list of ways to physically apply the color - usually a selection of pen tips, pencil tips, paint brush tips, etc.  It will also let you select the size of the tip - large brush, medium brush, small brush, etc.  Start with the most precise tip (pen or pencil) and the smallest size.  Carefully apply your color choice all around the edge of one SIDE skin.  Once you have outlined the entire skin, then switch to progressively larger sizes to fill in the area inside your outline.  If there are details inside the skin (hatches, fittings, etc.) carefully outline around them, but don't fill them in - just fill in the broad surface of whatever hull plate that the skin simulates
4)  Using the procedure in step 1, develop a slightly lighter and duller version of your baseline color.  Using the procedure in step 3, apply this to one SLOPING skin.  Consult the tutorial if confused - it has a light, medium, and dark version of olive drab that simulates the top surfaces, sloping surfaces, and side surfaces.  Step 2 created the dark SIDE color.  This step creates the medium SLOPING color.
5)  Using the procedure in step 1, develop a slightly lighter and duller version of your medium SLOPING color.  This step creates the light TOP color.  Using procedure in step 3, apply color to one TOP skin.  Eyeball the results.  Does it look right to you?  Use GRAYSCALE and photos, if necessary.  If it doesn't seem to show 3 distinct values of your color, keep adjusting until it does.
6)  Once you are happy with the basic light-medium-dark relationship, fill in the rest of the hull plates, using the appropriate color.  Your software will have some way of matching a color by touching it with some sort of color matching tool (usually an eyedropper).  This makes it easy to do the rest of the hull plates with colors that will describe its shape just like sunlight does.  Save your work.
7)  Repeat the above procedures on the turret and suspension.  Remember, at this stage, you only want to paint each skin with a basic light-medium-dark color that describes the object's shape.


Cammo and Weathering  Part 2 by Geez


    This is part 2 of the "How To Paint Your Own Tanks" series that is dedicated to the Panzer Elite computer game.  It is essential that you have read and understand the first part.  If you haven't, go read it now - otherwise you will be totally confused.  This part begins where the first part ended and assumes that you have learned to paint a base light-medium-dark coat of cammo paint on your bitmap tank skins.  This part will teach you how to apply additional colors to your base coat that will simulate weathering (dust, mud, stains, etc.), camouflage, and simple shading.  The attached tutorial bitmap skins are from the Panzer Elite texture library for American vehicles in Normandy, and concentrate on painting a 75mm armed Sherman (all other vehicle skins have been roughly painted out to avoid confusion).  Note that these bitmaps can be installed in your game by using the object editor that can be downloaded from the Panzer Elite website.
    Using your painting software, open the attached tutorial and examine the skins.  In the upper left hand corner is a more-or-less finished upper M4 hull.  To the right, is an M4A3 upper hull that has had the light and medium base colors applied in a rough manner - this makes eyeballing the light-medium-dark color relationships easier (see part 1).  Below, and to the right, are the suspension components - they have been painted to resemble a heavy coat of dust.  Note that the rubber components (tires, track blocks) are NOT black.  They are a variety of dusty gray colors that reflects the principles outlined in part 1.  This is lesson 1: do not use black as a color to paint large areas of your skins.  If you use black as a general painting color, the results will look like a cartoon, not a real object.  Only use black for emphasizing deep, dark shadows - and then, use it very sparingly.  Note the darkest shadows inside the wheels and sprockets are black, but that most of the illusion of shadow is acheived with dark greens and browns - this is the correct way to simulate dark shadows.  Use dark browns, greens, grays, or violets (more on this later), not black.
    Pan directly down from the wheels to the unfinished rear deck plate (the one with the tools attached).  Notice the pattern of light grayish-tan that speckles the lower part of the rear plate. This is lesson 2: application of colored texture to your base color - in this case, the base color is the darkest SIDE color (see part 1).  This technique is applicable to any skin, anywhere, anytime - the technique is the same, you simply adjust the colors to fit the situation.  In this situation, the texture is being used to simulate a heavy coat of dust that works its way up the plate from below.  This technique, using colors that more closely resemble the base color, can also be used to shade around the base of a detail.  Examine the raised rim that protects the turret base on the completed upper hull in the upper left hand corner - while different colors were used, the technique of APPLYING the colors was the same as you see on the rear deck plate being discussed.

    Notice the logic behind the application of the texture on the rear deck plate - the concentration is the most dense at the bottom of the plate, which is closest to the source of the dust (the road below the plate).  As you work up from the source of the dust, the concentration begins to thin out in a random pattern.  This random appearance is important - only the hand of man does things in a regular pattern (Mother Nature does things in an irregular pattern).  Using the pen or pencil applicator, adjusted to its tiniest setting (as discussed in part 1), slowly apply the new color over your base color.  Then eyeball the results - you will probably have to go back and forth several times in each color before you get a truly pandom-appearing pattern.

    Now pan to the left and examine the soft and fuzzy-looking dust pattern on the rear deck plate to the left (the one with the stowage rack).  You will now convert the clearly-defined pattern on the right deck plate to look like the soft, fuzzy pattern on the left deck plate.  Somewhere in your painting software, there will be a tool called "blur" or "fuzz" or something like that.  This tool acts just like your finger when you use your finger to shade a pencil drawing - it will not eliminate the paint, but it will blend it into the surrounding color.  Use a slightly larger size setting when using your blur tool and move it back and forth, up and down across the dust color on the left deck plate.  The more you move the tool around, the more the dust blurs and blends.  If you accidently blur something that you want to leave crisp and precise - don't panic.  Wait until you are done blurring, then convert back to your most precise pen tool.  Then use the color matching tool that you touch to a color (all discussed in part 1) and touch up the blurred area that should be precise.

1) You can use a variation of this method to apply camouflage colors over your base color coat.  Apply the new color in either a broad wavy band (most Allied cammo) or in irregular blobs and squiggles (most Axis cammo).  Then use the blur tool sparingly along the edge of the Allied band (to simulate spray-painting) or use the blur tool extensively on the Axis blobs and squiggles (to simulate spray-painted mottle).  Your cammo colors MUST match the same light-medium-dark relationship of your base color.  If you want to simulate black paint used as cammo, use dark and medium grays.
NOTE:  Most painting software also has a airbrush mode, to simulate spraying on paint.  The coarse raster size of these bitmaps makes this airbrush mode extremely difficult to control, even for professionals.  It is NOT recommended for novices.  Learn to walk before you try to run.
2) Then apply dust, mud, whatever.  Blur the weathering. 

3) Then apply your shading - the colors that are around the base of the detail will be your guidelines for selecting lighter or darker shading colors.  Then blur the edges of the shading.  Remember that you will have to frequently adjust the size setting of whatever tool that you are using.  It is perfectly normal to go back and touch up here and there, so don't get excited if you mess up one thing while doing another.