Salt for weathering and rust

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So I came across this tutorial on how to use table salt to create a neat weathering technique for rust. Since I had a Square robot custom project from the World War Robot series on my work bench, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try it out. joemichaels70 also posted this video of Adam Savage (of Myth Busters fame) using different techniques to age and weather a prop box.


Items you'll need

  • Salt
  • Tinfoil
  • Silver spray paint
  • Main color spray paint
  • Copper, light brown, dark brown, black, and orange paint
  • Old paint brushes
  • Water

Base coat of silver

While the original tutorial called for a base coat of rust brown, he was doing an entire vehicle. Since this is a small figure, I decided the silver would be better and then I'd paint some of the rust spots on individually. I used Krylon Fusion silver. Then I gave it plenty of time to dry, an entire year. Seriously, for the Whip your WIPs event during Custom Celebration 7 I was able to paint it silver and that was as far as I got.

A long, long time ago...


I mixed the light brown with the copper and painted mainly in the areas the spray paint had gooped up or where it looked natural. Having pictures of what the rusted Square robots look like also served as a guide. But mostly I was using it to cover flaws.

Salt weathering02.jpg

After it dried, I went back and dry brushed most, but not all, of the rust areas with the orange. Really light dry brushing. I focused on the outer edges of the rust spots.

Salt weathering03.jpg

Adding salt to the wound

I put down some tinfoil and rolled up all the edges. This is going to be your salt catcher. I took the paint brush, dabbed it in the water and then painted it on a few spots.

Salt weathering04.jpg

Then I dropped a pinch of salt. What didn't fall to the tinfoil stayed in place right on the rust spots.

Salt weathering05.jpg

In a couple of areas I had to go over the tiny piles of salt with a little water to get it to stick where I wanted it.

Salt weathering06.jpg

When I was done I had a semi-salty robot. I let that dry over night.

Salt weathering07.jpg

Main color spray painting

Now that I had the rust spots all ready to go, it was time for the main color. For this project it was a Krylon Fusion tan. I did really light passes on each side. I didn't know how the spray paint would react with the salt and was really careful. It was all for naught.

Scraping it all away

After two days of painting, I let it dry in the house for another two days. Then I started in the back just gently trying to rub the salt off. It wasn't budging. I tried flicking it with a nail. It didn't budge. I tried scraping it with a nail and pulled off 3 layers of paint right down to the original bright green plastic. This was not going according to plan.

Salt weathering08.jpg

A little water

I tried running the figure under a little warm water in the sink. That did the trick for some of the spots, but I still had to pick at the rest. It worked great in some spots, not so great in others.

Plan B

Since this figure was going to be severely weathered any way, I went over the spots with a little dark brown. I tried to hide any green and to make the rust spot shapes look a little more natural. It was obvious in some spots I needed to go back over it with the tan again, but it was getting there.

Salt weathering09.jpg


Adam's weathering technique was pretty simple. Keep things wet. Make muddy, ugly colors, and then wipe them away leaving dirty corners and crevices. I mixed the browns and smeared them on and then wiped them off. I did this for about 15 minutes and then added some black into the mix and did the same thing with that color. Then I did a little bit of just black for leaked oil or hydraulic fluid. Then I did just a little bit of the light brown. a little water, a little paint, and wipe. Finally a little touch-up tan to make things look right.

Salt weathering10.jpg


I sanded a couple of stickers to rough them up a bit and then did a tan and light brown mix to paint and wipe away for weathering on them too.

Salt weathering11.jpg

Hindsight 20/20

I now know how to do this better. First, I'd still start with the silver spray paint but I would then do an additional thin coat of brown using a Tamiya or Model Masters spray. Second, just a little bit of salt will do. I let it it pile up a little to much for this effect to work right. Third, and this one is probably the most important, the salt technique looks like it will work great on vehicle projects where you have space to show large areas of rust. You can really see the roughed up surface and the edges of the flaked paint. But on a figure like this, you only get to see hints of it. All in all, success. I ended up with exactly what I was looking for even if it didn't go exactly as planned.

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