I set out to see if weathering powders are worth it. The answer is a definite YES if you're looking to add that extra bit of realism to your models. They're fairly easy to work with and you get results that you can't get with any other medium.
A few weeks ago, I posted the question "Are weathering powders worth it?" At that point, I managed to get a hold of two tanks and a few weathering powders to try. I'd planned on just posting a before and after pic and some notes after my experiment, but as I went along, I collected so much that it would make an unwieldy single post. So I'm breaking this into two parts. First, what I've learned, and second, the results.
Both of my friend's "test" tanks
I had no experience with powders before trying this. I figured I would pick up a handful of powders that seemed like they would work and just sort of see what happened. Since I have no tanks (that I'm willing to sacrifice) I contacted a couple friends of mine who play Imperial Guard to see if they would "loan" me a tank or two.
I contacted misterjustin from Secret Weapon Miniatures and had a good long talk with him. I ended picking up a few colors I thought would be useful. Instead of picking up one of each color, I ended up sticking to "browns" and picked a number of shades for variety.
In the end, I had: Exhaust Black, Metallic Iron, Rust Orange, Rust Red, Rust Brown, Clay Brown, Terracotta Earth and Dark Earth.
Two of my friends each loaned me a tank for my experiment. I actually lucked out with the tanks, both were basecoated and one was light colored and the other dark colored.
Then it was time to experiment.
What I learned:
1. This is absolutely tons of fun to do.
I can't remember when I've had this much fun "weathering" a model. It's quick and easy to apply the powders. You see it come to life in your hands. Nothing like instant gratification to keep you motivated.
2. It's not cheap.
Like all things in the hobby, pigments can get expensive. To do it well, you really do need about 3 shades of each color you want to use (for variety). I know it seems like overkill, but the variety is what really helps bring your model alive.
3. Powders or pigments create an environment.
With just a little bit of powder, your tank comes to life and it looks like it's been in an actual environment fighting. It's an effect you can't create (that I know of) with anything else.
4. It's messy.
You'll end up with a bit of mess when you're done. You need to have an area to work in with certain brushes set aside for just powders. I ended up working over a piece of paper to catch the powder that falls off the model. I also grabbed a handful of older brushes and cut the tips off to create "stipple" brushes I could apply the powders with.
5. It's not an exact science.
There are no hard and fast rules for applying powders when it comes to colors and such. But, you do need to have a plan before you start. You need to know what the dust would be like where your army is fighting, where the exhaust comes out your tank, what areas would be prone to rusting, etc. before starting.
6. Powders will not replace all other kinds of weathering.
These are just one more trick in getting a model to come alive. Powders don't replace paint or washes and the things they can do when it comes to weathering a model. It's the combination of these different techniques that really does the trick.
Can you get a good looking model without powders, sure, but take that same model and use powders on it and you'll be absolutely amazed at the difference.
Here are the results of my work.