Salt Weathering Title

Salt Weathering

For automotive, aviation and military modelling

Over the last few years, I have seen various models weathered using the "Salt Method". This is used on a model for when you want a worn, scratched or chipped paint effect with either bare metal or another paint colour showing through. I had tried this method out a couple of times in the past without any success, until recently where I decided to have another go on a 1/35th scale M2A2 Bradley IFV. The plan for the model was to have it at the end of "Desert Storm" prior to returning to the USA with the NATO camouflage colours showing through the chipped and worn desert paint scheme.

Click on each image to view the larger version

This process for weathering a model using salt is very simple and needs minimal equipment to do it. The main item you need is a pump spray bottle for misting the water onto the modelling subject. But the must have a very fine mist when you spray it because you only need a fine covering on the model. The ideal bottles are old perfume bottle with screw tops or ones like in the photo that women get various products in. Always give them a good wash out before using them.
For the salt, you can use any type of salt for the process, in this demonstration I used normal table salt, but you can use cooking and sea salt from a salt mill. The one thing I say to do, is to crush the salt up a bit more as even the table salt can still be a little square in shape as I found out on my Bradley model.
Salt Weathering Image
For this demonstration, I had use a left over armour panel from the Bradley kit that was not needed in the build instead of using a complete model. This method an be used on individual parts during assembly or a completed model during painting.
Depending on what effect you are planning to have on the model, you first paint it with the required colour. This can be a metal finish, an old camouflage scheme, a previous paint colour or even rust.
Take your modelling subject and after working out where you want to have the weathered areas, give these parts a light mist of water. I tend to use distilled water as there will be no other impurities in it unlike tap water.
Salt Weathering Image
Do not over spray the water at this point and do small areas at a time. You might get some beading of the water just like in this photo, this can be overcome by putting a very tiny drop of washing up liquid in the water to break up the surface tension. I have a small bottle in my workshop and just dip a cocktail stick in it then dip it in the spray bottle and stir it slowly. You do not want bubbles coming out when you spray the water.
In this exercise, I did not paint or prime the models panel. The colour you can see here is the plastic colour.
Salt Weathering Image
Now take you crushed salt and carefully sprinkle a few granules in the areas that you want to weather. Do not use large amounts, just do it in small pinches then look at where it has fallen. If you think you need some more salt on it, then sprinkle a little more until you get the require area covered.
For general chips in the paint, spread out the salt more and in a lighter scattering. If creating a worn or rusted effect, lay the salt in patches. Just play around with the salt adding and removing it until you are happy. If it goes wrong, wipe it off and start all over again.
Salt Weathering Image
After you have added the salt and you are happy with how it is lying on the model, just leave it to dry. Sometimes there might no be enough water on the model and the salt will stay dry, so give the model another very light spray just to dampen any dry salt remaining. But do not soak it, you need the crystals to be semi-transparent in colour.
If you are letting it dry naturally, leave the model and parts to dry over night. But the drying process can be hurried up by using a hairdryer on a low setting keeping it a safe distance from the model. This will avoid the salt being blown away and the model or paint being damaged from the heat of the hairdryer.
Salt Weathering Image
When the model and parts have dried, the salt will look like this and gone back to its original colour. At this stage you will get an idea of the areas of the model where the first colour will show through the final colour. You can remove some of the salt now if you think there is too much on the model. Just gently pick it off with a cocktail stick and brush the remnants away with a soft paint brush.
Salt Weathering Image

When painting the top colour, do it in light coats and turn the air pressure down on the airbrush to start with. Once there are a couple of coats of paint down on the model to seal the salt, do a couple of heavier coats and turn the air pressure up if required. Here, I have only used white primer to paint the panel to allow a contrast between the plastic colour and top colour.
The final finish does not have to be a single colour, you can use as many colours that is needed for the model. For example, a camouflage on on military vehicles and aircraft, or different colour body panels on automotive models, the choice is yours.

Salt Weathering Image
After leaving the paint to dry, preferably overnight, slowly start to rub off the salt lightly with a cotton button bud or your finger. Do not press too hard whilst doing this or you may rub off paint in areas that you did not want to. This can be seen at the top of the panel in the photo where I rubbed too hard.
Stubborn areas of salt can be picked off with a cocktail stick if required until they are removed. You do not need to remove all of the salt from the model. Some can be left under the paint to look like corrosion underneath, especially on armour and automotive models. When you are happy and have removed all the salt that you want to, just gently brush any loose bits with a soft brush.
And there you have it, a chipped, worn or rusted effect on your model.
Salt Weathering Image
This is how the Bradley looked after this process was done to it. Evidence of salt remaining under the paint can be seen on the panels. As these would have been painted quickly prior to deployment to the Gulf, the vehicles might have not been cleaned properly so corrosion or dried mud will have been painted over. Hence this effect with the salt still under the paint. If there are any areas that you think too much of the under colour is showing through, just go over it with the airbrush to cover it as I have done on the top corner on this panel.
Salt Weathering Image
Here is the finished model after additional weathering using oil paints, powders and model paints. Areas of chipped paint can be seen around the top of the Bradley's hull and turret. These would be caused by the crew walking over the hull when storing equipment or gaining access to various hatches.
I hope this has been some help to you and that you will try it out for yourself. It is down to your own taste or requirements on how much weathering you do to your models. So happy and productive modelling to all.
Salt Weathering Image


© Copyright Michael Lomax
All images © Copyright H M Lomax
Page created 22/01/2012