Bonnie Dundee

Bonnie Dundee

Thursday, 18 December 2014

50 Shades of Gray

I am taking a complete diversion for this post, to illustrate how we can tie ourselves in knots. Now this post is not about that kind of tying up, but I have recently gotten into a bit of a problem over a shade of grey. (Or given the context that should be gray). I have for some time had a couple of unfinished US outline projects that have needed some attention in order to get them completed. The main stumbling block was getting LED's small enough to use as ditch-lights - a mandatory requirement for modern diesels. I have now sourced suitable products and found a whole range of other possible uses for them - more on this later. I got to the point of spraying the shells and thats when I hit trouble.

The last time I did engines like these I had used a spray can of primer, oversprayed with a gloss varnish to produce a colour close to the Kansas City Southern gray livery. Between that time and now the formula of the primer has changed significantly and it now produces a shade that is far too dark and no-where near close to desired colour. So my search begins.

I must now have more aerosols than Halfords of various shades of gray (I'm using the US spelling as it is appropriate for the livery that I'm trying to produce.) I have Humbrol colours (oh no - that should be colors!), I have Tamiya, Vallejo and Revell. All have been studied, checked, tried and tested. I have the Federal colour code, the RGB settings and scrutinised the colour charts and I cannot get a perfect match. Now the problem is that I am aiming for a moving target. As any search of the web will show, photographs of KCS power in action will produce a variety of shades of gray. Not that the railroad necessarily varies their paint scheme, it is just that grey (jeez!) seems highly susceptible to showing up differently according to the lighting at the time. I have photographs showing a very light shade all the way through to what might be called battleship grey.

I didn't realise it before but I have developed a whole process for describing these variations in my colour options. Too pale, too dark, too green, too brown, I even have a note saying too grey! Now I have gotten to the point where I think it is more important to be consistent than to be absolutely fixed on any one shade. After all the prototype varies according to the daylight available.  Just to show how vulnerable we are to situation, the photo below was taken with a sky blue background and on pure white base. I decided that  my best option was to select a specific suitable colour and that is what I will use for future projects, giving consistency over absolute fidelity.

KCS SD40-3 number 662 in rather dirty gray livery

This example has shown how a simple choice can cause problems and how by using a methodical approach the problem can be solved. I don't need to match to other peoples colours, or to a particular colour sample of paint chip. I don't even have to match to RTR products. Rather I have to produce something that when applied to the model will be representative of what people recognise as a particular livery. It will operate in my setting along with other similar liveried engines. Whether its KCS Gray, or the shade of teak on a Gresley coach the best choice is the one that looks and feels right.

Now, about that Caledonian blue!

1 comment:

  1. Hi John,
    I've enjoyed reading your blog and love the photo's, superb! Keep up the good work on your latest project.
    All the best,


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