Want to improve your battle damage look? Sponges are the way to go but the type of sponge you use makes a big difference.
I’ve long used sponges for weathering the buildings around my model train layouts. In 1:76th scale, a small bathroom sponge can work wonders and in my experience gives very credible finishing.
I’d also thought about using it for my war gaming miniatures and their vehicles, adding mud splatter and rust effects to armour, but the sponge would have been too big and any detail it might have rendered would just be lost.
That was until I read an old post on fromthewarp.blogspot.com on using different types of sponge for battle damage. I’d not considered that different types of the squeezy cleaning aids have different outcomes on the painting yet the results were obvious.
I spoke to Ron and he kindly consented to let me reproduce his article on the different varieties here.
The basic premise is that while I’d just used one type of sponge, the usual bathroom/kitchen variety, there are others and these behave and produce very different textures when applying paint.
All three were loaded up with paint and the excess wiped off and then tried.
Ron’s findings on each are as follows:
The household sponge
“This guy has been my workhorse to date. Tear off a little piece, load it up with paint, get rid of the excess and go to work.
It’s good for getting a wide variety of texture. One drawback is the scale. It tends to be a bit larger than the damage would be on the model.
Sometimes it can be tough to control this guy too in that even the smallest piece of sponge still covers more area than you want on the model and you have to go behind and do some cleanup work.
I had to do some cleanup on the Deathwing model [seen below]. Not much, but it can be a pain if you’ve blended the underlying surface already.”
This concurs with my findings although Ron, being a far better painter than me, is able to improve the results with his clean up.
The makeup applicator
“My new favourite toy. This guy is small and the scale of the damage is more appropriate for infantry models.
The small applicator head is perfect for getting in there and putting the damage right where you want it with little to no clean up work. The drawback to this guy is that the paint dries fast in the applicator and you need to work quick. Cover a small area and then rinse out your tool so the paint doesn’t dry inside and kill the texture”.
“I gave it a go with the makeup applicator on some of the armour plates on this guy. More than anything else, I was trying to get a feel for using it. I really like the scale of the damage as it’s much smaller than its two counterparts.
I think with a little work, I’ll be able to control my application and get just the results I want and achieve a nice scale effect on the model too. It may come down to a combination of the two tools, the makeup applicator for finer surface damage and the sponge in a few key areas for the heavy chipping and damage.”
On the basis of these results, I also tried aging a a building that I’m working on, seen below, using a mascara sponge and concur with these comments. Drying time is indeed fast but the results are superb, giving discrete but delicately blended colouring. The degree of detail possible is very much down to the applicator used. I used the ones with a small tip and handle that allow precise application, but they are also available in more traditional hand held formats that can be just dabbed around large areas.
The Sea Sponge
“This one was a bit of a disappointment for me. The texture was all wrong for my liking and I couldn’t get a piece small enough to do what I wanted despite cutting it into little chunks.
At best, I might use this for weathering vehicles, but I’d be more inclined to grab my household sponge first. This guy is going in the trash at this point and I’m out the dollar I spent on him.”
As with the original article on fromthewarp.blogspot.com, make up applicator sponges are the way to go and are another accessory I need to find a home for on my workbench. (I’m not sure my wife would appreciate it if I put the ones I’ve used into her makeup case 🙂
What sponges. or other makeup accessories, have you used for model painting? I’d love to read about your successes and failures in a comment below.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.