How to Pin Wash Models
Updated: Jul 8
If you have wondered how every rivet on a tank or panel line on a plane has depth, chances are a pin wash has been applied. A pin wash is short for “pinpoint wash”. Unlike a general broad area wash, pin washes are meant to be targeted in their application. It’s not a difficult technique, but it does take time. And like everything in this hobby, it requires a bit of trial and error and hands on experience to truly master.
Where do I get one?
It seems nearly every major hobby paint manufacturer has their own line of specially formulated washes. These are certainly convenient, but they are not modeling necessities. Full disclosure: I tend to use Tamiya’s enamel-based Panel Line Accent range. The fact is, anyone can make their own pin wash. All that’s needed is paint and their respective thinners!
One simple trick is to take an old bottle cap, add a drop of your desired paint color, usually a shadow relative to the base model color, and add 5 drops of thinner. Adjust this mixture by adding an extra drop of paint or thinner as needed. Just remember, the wash should be thin! Say that again: the wash should be thin!
So pick up a bottle or make your own. I’ll leave that to you. But now, now it’s go time!
1) Prepare the surface by applying a clear gloss coat to the model. This coat will protect the underlying paint job and decals. A gloss coat should be used because it will cure as a smooth surface. Flat coats cure rough. Remember to use a dissimilar clear coat from the type of pin wash you will be using.
Editor's note: Test on scrap! Some thinners may contain extra additives that can react with gloss coats in unexpected ways!
2) Take a broad flat brush or cotton bud and apply a light base of thinners to the section of the model you will be working on. This will help with the capillary action of the pin wash.
3) With a fine point brush, apply the pin wash to each rivet or panel line. Work deliberately and rely on the capillary action to carry the wash into the recesses of the model.
Editor's note: Tamiya's washes include a cap with a built-in brush.
4) Allow the pin wash to set-up for a few minutes. To save yourself some effort in the next step, don't let it dry completely.
5) Use cotton buds moistened with thinner, to remove any excess wash. I recently discovered Tamiya's Craft Cotton Swabs and they are great for this task. These swabs do not fray or leave fibers on the model like standard consumer cotton buds do. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
6) That’s about it! Remember, less is more here! You can always go back and add more pin wash.
Over the past few years, I have been learning that models with beautiful finishes are often the result of combining many techniques and paint layers. They are compositions. A pin wash on its own won't make the perfect model, but it is a great tool for bringing out details and adding extra depth to your subject. Given the technique's simplicity, and overall impact, I hope you give it a try!
Thanks for reading,
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org or on IG @igluemodels