Scenic Art Film Techniques

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by BEN OWENS 

These are some techniques that I have used, and are widely used in the North American Film Industry.

Rain Age Scenic wash with raw umber and a bit of black (but mostly raw umber). Use a spritzer or a Hudson to apply wash. Wet down area first with water, then “chase” the wash with water from a spritzer of Hudson, getting rid of obvious drips. This technique is the most common technique for applying a scenic wash and can be used with other washes such as rust, moss, patinas and rock.

Block Age This is a technique to make a piece of newly painted set, look like paint has chipped off it. Find a couple of bits of scrap 1"x3" wood, use one as a pallette and dobb a bit of thick paint on it, evenly apply paint to the other piece of wood then lightly tap and drag the wood and make marks like chipped or worn paint. Use contrasting colours. This is a very effective optical illusion.

Dust Age This is a finishing age, to tone down and “tie in” the whole set (often the props too, unless they are rented or borrowed). This age can also be used on windowpanes and cars that have been whisky waxed. Make a wash with white, raw sienna, and a dash of raw umber, so it is very pale sand colour. Put the wash in a spray gun with the pressure quite low and the gun set so that only a small amount is sprayed when the trigger is fully pressed, then “dust the set” with a relatively even, light coat (less is more in this case).

Whisky Wax Clear liquid floor wax (Future wax in N. America) split with equal parts cheap whisky. Whisky wax is a barrier that can be painted over and removed with ammonia to return a car, for example, to its original condition. This can be used on any shiny, non-absorbent surface that won’t be affected by the chemicals.

Latex Rubber This can be tinted and used as a barrier on cars and other non-absorbent “returnables”. Latex however will not come off if baked on by the sun. Another use is to splash on and block age on before the final coat of paint and then rub back to remove latex mask to look like peeling and chipped paint.

Wallpaper Paste If you add tint to wallpaper paste (the ready-made stuff) this can also be used as a temporary paint for cars and non-absorbent surfaces.

Bees Wax The great thing about bees wax and tint is that you can re-activate it. This product is mostly used to add vignettes to corners, but is very versatile. It is great for dulling down and dirtying up metal. You can also add metallic pigments to it.

Matt Glaze Matt glaze with or without tint is a very effective way of making permanent finger prints. Matt glaze is also good for dulling surfaces and adding to washes. Be careful using on outside sets because some glazes cloud up when rained on.

Water Drip Age Use matt glaze and tint, roll a thin layer on, wait for one or two minutes for it to “set up” (but not too dry) then spritz a splash of water and gently dry up drips with a (clean) roller or rag. Shellac and FEV Shellac and FEV (French Enamel Varnish) will cloud up and bubble a bit when you spritz water on them before they are dry.

Asphaltum When you add asphaltum and paint thinner (I think white spirit works too) you make a very toxic but very effective “dirty age”. You can put this in a spritzer or apply with a roller. When you spritz water on before it is dry, or at the same time, it will bubble and congeal. Always wear a mask, goggles and gloves!

Hand Cleaner Age Paint removal hand cleaners which look like clear gel, that contain thinners, can be mixed with tint. Use rags to apply. Wear gloves and mask.

Fat Paint “Fat paint” is any paint to which you add body. The most common additive is ready mixed drywall plaster or fast set. You use fat paint to hide wood grain on flats, then lightly sand off the “nibblies” when dry, before painting top coats. You can also use fat paint when the surface has to look like it has been painted many times before. You can fatten up paint for crusty bits on rust or roll it for a cast iron finish.

Useful Tools Some handy tools for aging are chains, ball pin hammer, hatchet, pry bar, boots, cheese cloth, rags, sea sponge. Signage Paint pads are excellent for dragging straight even lines, even on rough surfaces. Vinyl signage it very commonly used, so it is a good idea to have a squeegee, scissors and tape measure in your kit. Learn how to apply it because it may well keep you from getting laid off.

PPE & Extras Steel toe shoes, respirator maks, Nitrile gloves, goggles, ear protection, washing up gloves, sun screen, sun hat, sun glasses, rain gear, steel toed wellies, hard hat, wooly hat, thermal underwear, warm work gloves.

Tool Kit Having a tool kit that has useful stuff in it may keep you employed longer!

Ben Owens ben_owens73@yahoo.ca