By Vince Pedulla
First published by
Published here by with permission.
During WWII, armored vehicle crews used many expedient measures to camouflage their mounts, from the mud smeared on DAK armored cars, to brush and sticks being piled on tanks to hide them from the air. The idea was simply to blend in with nature, and become less of a target. During the winter snows, crews from Russia to Western Europe would often use a lime-based whitewash to make their vehicles blend with the snowy terrain. This method had the advantage of being temporary, as the white coat would eventually wear off during the spring rains, or could be removed with a brush and a little elbow grease. When I was given the opportunity to create this effect, I considered a few different methods. To create a winter whitewash in the past, I typically used white paint as a base, and would drybrush the original base color of the vehicle on top of that. This effect worked OK for a relatively new and unworn camo job, but in this assignment the client wanted a well-worn scheme, suggesting a late winter-early spring look. The arrival of MMP's acrylic powders spurred the idea of recreating the exact method used by crews in WWII to whitewash their tanks.

The subject in this case is Tamiya's M-20 armored car. I won't spend much time discussing assembly other than to say it's a nice model. I did add components of Aber's PE set, Verlinden's update, and VP's chained tires, along with some resin crew gear. Once assembled, I painted with Tamiya acrylic paints, washed with oils, and drybrushed with Humbrols, my usual method. I didn't spend too much time with weathering, as this would be done post-whitewash. After adding the decals, I sealed the model with Testor's flat clear lacquer shot through an airbrush, not from the can, to prepare for the next step. I had also painted an old Sherman hull to use as a test bed for the three solutions I was going to experiment with.

I used MMP's White powder (no. 002) and mixed it with water, isopropyl alcohol, and Turpenoid thinner. I mixed the powder in small plastic cups (old Crystal Light mix cups, I believe) with the liquid, trying to get a bold wash that would stand out on the olive drab. The wash I ended up with was actually fairly thick, and covered the green almost completely. In hindsight, it might have been TOO thick, more on that later. I used an old pointed brush, a number 1, I think, to apply the whitewash on the Sherman hull.

The tools I used, including a mixing pallette for small amounts of wash.
The three mixtures, alcohol, water, and thinner My test hull, painted the same as the model and divided into sections.
In section 2, I used alcohol as a solution. In section 1, I applied the water/powder mix. In section 3, the power was mixed with thinner.
Section 4 was kept as a control area, to compare the original color with the washed areas. In the final overlay, as you can see, the wash was rather lumpy and thick looking, but that was OK.
All four washes after drying for about half an hour.

I left the hull to dry for about half an hour, then gently used a dry white cotton rag (t-shirt) to wipe away the excess powder. Of the three applications, the alcohol mix seemed to best tolerate wiping and handling, leaving behind enough wash for the effect I was seeking. The water mix was next best, but the thinner solution had no staying power at all, wiping away easily and evenly, basically powdering back to its original form. This makes sense, as the MMP powders use an acrylic binder that would not be activated by mineral spirits. This could be used to advantage, however, if you wanted a weak effect.
In step two, I used a rag dampened with the matching liquid to wipe away more of the wash, trying to get a worn look. Again, the alcohol solution had the best result, with water a close second. Although not pictured, the thinner pretty much wiped off completely when a wet rag was used. In the end, I decided to go with the alcohol as a liquid base.
After wiping with a damp rag, both effects were diminished more
I mixed up a little more powder/alcohol wash and went to work on the M20. I was not too careful applying it, but tried to avoid the stars and bumper codes. I put myself in the mindset of a soldier quickly applying the whitewash in a desperate bid to stay hidden from German gun sights! I did not bother applying it to the wheels, and accumulated mud would be covering these areas anyway. Again, the finish is kind of thick and lumpy, but most of that will be wiped away in the next step
One major advantage to using alcohol is that it dries very quickly, allowing work to progress right away. After allowing the whitewash to dry, I again used a cotton t-shirt to begin wiping off the wash. I could not remove the wash effectively in some of the smaller nooks and crannies on the M20, so I also used several different sized flat brushes to wipe away the white color. You can see what the first pass looked like, and I was a bit surprised with the amount of white left on the surface, and it was still badly fading the olive drab.
In the next step, I used a dampened rag and brushes to remove more of the wash, but began getting to a level where I was not removing the white anymore, especially from the flat surfaces. I believe that because I was using alcohol to dampen the rag and brushes, the powder was beginning to bind to the surface, which is what is it supposed to do! I decided to try using Turpenoid thinner as a dampening agent, and this worked a little better, allowing me to take more of the white wash away. I was trying to leave the wash in the recessed areas, while removing it from the upper and vertical flat surfaces, which is what would occur in nature.

After getting to a level I was relatively happy with, I mixed a less dense wash and began painting on some small surface imperfections, like drips, water stains, and accenting the recesses a bit more. When applied, the weak wash was almost clear and I could barely see the white finish, but as it quickly dried, the white stood out quite boldly. This is when I realized just how strong these pigments are, and how deceptive they can be when still wet! I would apply a nearly clear area of wash, only to watch it dry and leave a strong trail of color. I retrospect, I probably could have used a much thinner base wash to begin with, and this is probably the root cause of my trouble in removing the whitewash to an acceptable level. I was left with a vehicle sporting a faded and worn winter whitewash, but still was not completely happy with the effect.
On a whim, I picked up the Sherman test hull and sprayed it with the Testor's flat lacquer to see what would happen. Bingo! The lacquer seemed to either cut through the wash or diminish it to a slight extent, leaving the whitewash strong in recesses and faded on other surfaces, exactly what I was looking for! I did later apply the powder dry and in a very thin white wash to some of the flat areas to fade the green a bit, just to look more like a camo job being reduced by the effects of rain and natural waer and tear. I also carefully applied a few areas of dry MMP Armor Green (no. 16) powder along with Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber oil washes to some of the recesses to add a bit more depth and some surface variations.
The versatile MMP powders enabled me to recreate one of the methods used by tank crews to whitewash their mounts, providing a very effective solution to the task. The pigments are quite strong and bold, so don't underestimate them, and apply carefully. It would be possible to mix the white with grey, green, or dark yellow powders to slightly tint it. If you choose to use alcohol over an acrylic base coat, I strongly advise you to use an enamel or lacquer type flat coat to cover the base paint. Alcohol will craze your base color, especially if you use acrylic paints, like I do. Of course, there is no reason you could not create a "fresh" whitewash scheme, or one not quite as worn as the coverage I created. The possibilites are limitless!

In the final steps, I added the crew gear and did a little light weathering with washes and colored pencils. The last step, of course, was the application of mud to the tires and lower chassis. How did I do this? Tune in next month for…Using MMP powders to create deep accumulated mud!

Final pictures of the completed M20, with gear stowed, ready to roll onto Germany's plains in the early Spring of 1945. The gear is Verlinden and Tamiya. Yes, the driver's/RTO hatches are missing, they were left off for shipping.