What Black Line?

Back at the end of last month I posted about my two recently finished Chinese tanks (pictured below).

After debating how to paint the camouflage pattern I finally settled on drawing in the borders of the different coloured patches with a Sharpie permanent marker and then painting over everything. Given the results, it seemed like a good idea.


Read on to find out why!

Back in March last year I painted some WW2 Italian coastal forces ships, with the larger vessels painted in two-tone grey camouflage. As with the Chinese tanks, the camouflage had been lined in with a Sharpie marker and then cross-hatched to show which would be the dark grey areas. At the moment I’m painting another Italian destroyer so I got one of last year’s ships out to remind myself how I’d painted the life rafts (orange and yellow) and that’s when I got a nasty surprise – the marker pen lines had leached through the dark grey paint and were visible as black lines!

Of the three ships painted and camouflaged at the same time last year, I found the following:

  1. On the white metal model of the corvette Driade the black lines were obvious and showing through the dark grey paint.
  2. On the resin model of the torpedo boat Lince some black lines were showing through, but not too many.
  3. On the Shapeways 3D print of the destroyer Turbine no black lines were visible at all (the picture of Turbine below was taken last year).

Bit of a mystery! All were primed with Humbrol enamel grey and then painted with Vallejo acrylics, although the dark grey camouflage was in Humbrol acrylic grey. The latter covers well, but is much thinner than Vallejo paint. The base model material may also have an effect as well – the 3D printed material is grainy and really needs a good covering of paint.

All of these models were sealed with a coat of Railmatch enamel matt varnish, so I’ve now gone over the dark grey camouflage on Driade and Lince with another coat of dark grey. I’ll probably re-varnish them at some point but want to wait and see if the lines come back (hopefully not). I’ll also keep my eye on Turbine in case lines appear on that model.

The destroyer I’m currently painting is a 3D print so I’m hoping it’ll be OK, but I’ve put two coats of dark grey on to be safe. The Chinese tanks also had two coats of Vallejo acrylics for the camouflage colours so I’m hoping that’ll be good enough for them!

So, if anyone’s thinking about using a Sharpie marker to draw in camouflage patches or anything else, it might be wise to try it out on a test model first and wait a couple of months (?) to see what happens!


    • You could just wait and see if I go quiet – a sure sign that things are going wrong! πŸ˜‰ Like all these things sometimes a long term test is required, so I’ll just see how the originals and the re-touched ships come along!

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  1. A cautionary tale John, have never used a sharpie, but have used a fineline pen for detail lines, but that was always after the paint had gone on the model

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  2. I’ve tried markers a few times. A sure win for tattoos, right?! Nope. The ink can be really hard to cover back over. I even tried an β€˜acrylic paint marker’, but ran into the same issue.

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  3. What an interesting conundrum. I’m not being funny but it might be worth contacting one of the paint manufacturers technical department to see if they can tell you about the possible reactions of other chemicals on their products. Failing that you might wish to put up the problem on a forum .eg. Airfix Tribute, TMP, etc. and see if the problem has cropped up with other, similar combo’s. If you get any hits or advice it would make an interesting follow-up article. Much luck.

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  4. Never would have guess that. Though I had silver sharpie bleed through black Sharpie on a KR Multicase cardboard box. Multiple layers haven’t helped. That’s some impressive ink apparently!

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  5. I’m sorry you had to learn that lesson the hard way, John! I wouldn’t have guessed that is a problem but then again, I’m a believer in paint your models with paint and nothing else. It’ll make you a better painter in the long run I figure. I’d be curious to hear if you can fix this issue or not and how you pull it off. I certainly will keep my fingers crossed that you can find a solution in the meantime!

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    • I agree with you, Jeff, but painting Italian warship camouflage is tricky unless you mark it out first (Italian ships had schemes specific to individual ships). I suppose I’ve learnt a lesson here though! πŸ™‚ I’ve painted another coat of dark grey on the affected areas and will probably just see how they go over the coming months!

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      • That does sound tricky indeed! I have learned to never underestimate the thought and care historical wargamers put into their minis πŸ™‚ I would think that an extra coat (or maybe one more will cover it up fully but only time will tell!

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  6. Huh. Pretty bizarre to hear about. I guess you need some sort of paint marker that uses Vallejo Paint! I’ll file that away and remember it when/if I think about using sharpies. Have you used those Micron Pens I always see people suggesting to use on minis?

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    • I’ll have a look for those Micron pens. πŸ™‚ Funnily enough I can paint lettering, lines etc. better than I can draw them so I really just need something for the occasional time that I need to rough out things to be painted.

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  7. Thanks John, as soon as I saw your idea I though, Oh great I’ll try that out on the new model plane! Thankfully you put and end to lazy boy trying another easy way out, maybe just maybe I’ll have to put the effort you guys put into it and not just rush it through!

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