If you want your Mandalorian to look like it belongs in the Star Wars universe, you’ll want to add some weathering. Star Wars is a dirty, lived-in galaxy. Weathering will make your Mandalorian armor look more authentic and professional. And clean Mandos, can look like Mandos who don’t get much bounty work. So once you’ve finished painting your armor, I recommend you add some weathering or distressing.
Weathering is basically the effect of the environment on an object over time. It can be caused by exposure to the elements such as the weather, physical damage from battle, or from normal daily use over the years.
There are soo many ways you can weather or distress your armor. Pick the methods you’re most comfortable with. The nice thing about weathering is that pretty much any mistake or problem you have with your armor, you can call “battle damage” or distressing.
Before you actually start weathering, decide how distressed you want your Mando to look. Do you want a heavily used and abused kit like Boba Fett wears, a less distressed kit like Jango’s, or a shiny new kit like Djarin’s new Beskar? If you’re not sure, start with light weathering, you can always add more if you change your mind.
Think about the environment that your Mando lives in. Some people like to create a backstory for their Mandolorian. Is he a mechanic or pilot who usually works in a spaceport fixing ships and gets oil stains on his clothing? Or maybe he works on a desert planet where sand has built up in the crevices of his armor? Or maybe he’s a swamp planet Mando, with heavy mud caked on to his boots and clothing?
Build up slowly, and if you’re not sure if you’ll like a weathering technique, practice on a piece of scrap plastic or scrap fabric first. Weathered paint, paint peeling, or erosion is random and uneven. Try to avoid creating “leopard spots” when using paint masking techniques. It might be helpful to look at real-world examples of weathering. Walk around your house or neighborhood, and when you see a weathered, distressed, or damaged object you like, take a photo for future reference. The color patterns might even give you ideas of color combinations for your kit concept design. This gallery shows real-life examples of weathering in my area.
Remember weathering should be consistent from the armor parts to the soft parts. Try not to have really beat-up chest armor with a clean, new-looking flak vest. It looks out of place. Another tip for weathering is to wear your costume (the armor or just the soft parts) while you do cleaning chores around your home. Clean your car/garage or do some gardening while wearing your flight suit. This should get you some realistic dirty weathering. Lastly, think about some of your past clothes that have been ruined by stains or damage. Where was it on the fabric? How did it look?
List of Weathering Techniques
These are some of the most common methods of Mandalorian weathering for beginners. They are easy weathering tricks to make your hard or soft parts look aged. You can choose whatever weathering process you like best. And do as little or as much as you want.
Weathering Hard Parts (armor, helmets, blasters, etc)
Dirt or Black Wash
A dirt wash or black wash is basically just watered-down paint. Mix craft acrylic paint with water, you can try a diluted mixture of 50/50 or less. If you’re not sure you’ll like this effect or it’s your first time doing a black wash, use more water than paint. Apply your “wash” to the surface with a sponge, foam brush, or rag letting it run into crevices and corners. Wait a minute or two or longer, then pat it dry. Pat, don’t wipe to avoid obvious paint streaks. The wash can be a mixture of natural colors like greys or browns, or you can layer different color washes on top of a black wash. If you have white armor, like the white Prototype Boba or a “Snow-Mando”, you may want to do a grey-wash instead and dry brush. Another weathering option is to try a coffee wash for natural brown color. Use whatever you have at home, you don’t need to buy special weathering products. This weathering technique is also great if you want to tone down a bright color or reduce the shine of glossy spray paint.
Dry brushing gives you more control than dirt washes, allowing you to place weathering exactly where you want it. With a dry brush grab a bit of paint and wipe almost all the paint off the brush onto a paper towel. Now brush your armor lightly with the brush. For “Snow-Mandos” I like doing a grey-wash and a dry-brush of burnt umber brown paint. This leaves a more natural effect. You can use the dry brush technique to highlight the edges with silver paint or fill in crevices with a dirty grime paint color.
Silver Sharpie or Rub n Buff
With a metallic paint pen, sharpie, or Rub n Buff, apply to highlight edges, corners, or raised areas, or to give the effect of silver metal showing from underneath. Rub n Buff can be wiped on with fingers, a brush, or a sponge. The Rub n Buff silver leaf color gives a nice convincing metallic sheen.
Masking Paint Layers
Apply art masking fluid (or toothpaste as an alternative) to your armor plate. Use a Q-tip to apply the paste so that it looks uneven and not like a round blob. Spray paint on top, wipe off when the paint is dry, revealing the lower layer. You can rub it off with your fingers, sponge, rag, or dish pot scrubber to add micro scratches. You may need to use water to clean away any excess toothpaste.
Spray Paint Mist
From a distance very lightly spray so that the paint overspray lightly “mists” or “dusts” the item. This is effective for leaving a very light “dirt” or “sand” coating similar to an air-brush spray. A rattle can spray mist is also great when you want to make your paint color look less intense or bright. Great for armor or fabric, especially Mandalorian capes.
Use black or brown shoe polish to create stains or dirty areas. Again great for armor, fabric, or leather. Shoe polish is also handy when you need to darken leather or the cut edges.
Using a sponge or cotton ball, rub graphite powder onto the armor to create a dirty, slightly metallic effect. Graphite also gives a convincing blaster dust or carbon scoring effect. If you don’t have Artists Graphite Powder, you can use graphite pencils at home. Just use coarse sandpaper to make your own powder. Graphite will give a natural shine when buffed. (Graphite pencils come in different grades with 9B being the softest and darkest and with less filler than standard H-pencils.) Note that graphite is very messy, apply over a sink or outside. Charcoal or colored chalk or pastel are other options for a natural dirty look.
Spray paint on top of large grain salt. You made need to use a clear coat (or hairspray) to get the salt grains to stay in place on curved surfaces. Once dry, rub the salt off for a nice distressed, paint erosion effect. This method will also give your armor some texture. You might want to try using different sizes of grains.
Using a crumpled up plastic bag or ball of painting tape, press onto the wet paint. Then lift removing some of the wet paint. This creates a nice flaking, peeling paint, or distressed random paint effect.
Sand down edges to make armor look worn down. Or use a metal file, screwdriver, rock, or any other tool to create dents, scrapes, or other physical damage marks.
Weathering Soft Parts (flight suit, flak vest, capes, boots, leather, etc)
- Use sandpaper, a metal file, or a cheese grater to rough up fabric or leather items
- Fray the fabric edges by making random irregular cuts and then pulling the threads, then soften with sandpaper
- Use a bleach wash, in a spray bottle, mix a 10 to 1 water to bleach ratio, and mist fabrics from a distance to lighten them or make them look sun-faded.
- Use coffee, tea, or kitchen cooking oil to create stains or discolorations. Or try cinnamon for a rusty look.
- To weather dark clothing try rubbing on chalk or pastels. For the dust on the fabric to stay permanently you can apply a spray fixative or clear coat. Or just reapply if you wash your soft parts.
- Add rips and tears by cutting fabric and using sandpaper to soften the edges
- Use old makeup like eyeshadow powder to stain clothing seams or small areas
- Use fire. With a lighter create burn marks or blaster holes. You can add burns and rips to Mandalorian capes. Just try not to overdo it or make them too large.
- Physical distressing, attack your clothing item with a rock, hammer, or your car.
And in the video below you can see the weathering process on a Boba Fett cape.
Did I miss any other great weathering techniques? Let us know in the comments below.
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