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Book Review
Color Modulation Techniques
Black Star # 3 - Color Modulation Techniques; Zenithal Light
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by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]

Originally published on:


The Spanish publisher, Xtreme Modelling made a very astute move last year by deciding to produce a series of modeling manuals focussing on a variety of techniques at little more than the cost of a magazine. This, the 3rd in the series, covers a recently highlighted technique, Color Modulation.


Black Star # 3 - Color Modulation Techniques; Zenithal Light. The booklet contains 46 pages, is published in A5 Format and is written by Javier Soler. The book covers examples of the technique applied to the three main vehicle scales: 1/35th, 1/48th and 1/72nd. The booklet has a total of five secions which cover the following projects:

1/35 - Panzer Grey - Sd.Kfz. 221
1/48 - Tritonal Camouflage - Panther
1/48 - Olive Drab- M8
1/72 -Panzer Grey - Kubelwagen
Zenithal Light on 2D

In Detail

Before I begin the Review, perhaps a word of explanation is desirable about Zenithal Light. This simply means light originating (and falling on the subject) from one source. In the case of the models described in this book, directly from above.

The book begins with an excellent subject to demonstrate the various techniques discussed and demonstrated in the book - Bronco Model's excellent Sd.Kfz 221 in 1/35th scale. As this is by far the largest section in the book, I'll be discussing this in some depth.

The second project, and perhaps more recognizable to those who have a basic understanding of Color Modulation, covers the painting of Tritonal Camouflage on a 1/48th scale Panther. Although CM can be applied to ANY finish, in my opinion, this is where it really 'shines' with the more complex types of camouflage.

The next vehicle in the spotlight is, once again, in 1/48th scale, this time using the finish over Olive Drab (OD) on one of Tamiya's M8s.

The last subject and the penultimate section, covers one of the tiniest vehicles - a 1/72nd scale Kubelwagen. This was perhaps chosen to show just how versatile these techniques can be - it's often seen on large vehicles, and perhaps rarely imagined on a braille-scale Kubelwagen...

The book finishes with a summary, over 4 pages, of the techniques that Soler has demonstrated in the previous sections. Using a simple cut-out of a Tiger I, he shows the layers of shades which are gradually added to make achieve the intended effect.

Case Study: Sd.Kfz 221 in 1/35th scale

This chapter - the largest and most detailed in the booklet consists of 12 parts. These are:

i) Base Coat and Highlights with Airbrush
ii) Filters
iii) Pin Wash
iv) Weld Seams
v) Highlights with Oil Paint
vi) Fading with Oil Paints
vii) Chipping
viii) Weathering
ix) Final Oils
x) Splashes
xi) Oil & Grease Stains
xii) Graphite

A series of addendums are also present covering additional areas such as exhausts and tools. A complete list of the shades used is also included which, even if the modeler doesn't use that particular brand, it should be simple enough to use an alternative. What is particularly useful in each section, is the brief explanation as to why this area is important and what the objectives are. Soler also has a keen sense of the need NOT to make assumptions, whereas many more experienced modelers will know exactly what a Filter consists of many will NOT. Herein lies the enormous strength of this book - it's going to cross frontiers and be used by all levels of experience. Master to Beginner alike. Once again, he references to a specific brand, in this case, the pre-mixed Mig Production Filters. The Pin Wash receieves a similar treatment - again step-by-step with no assumptions made. By section V, the process begins of what we know as Color Modulation. The use of Oils to highlight and to Fade is clearly explained. Stage VII covers chipping (in this case, in a very restrained and more realistic manner). The penultimate part of CM is dealt with in Stage VIII (Weathering) again a gradual build-up of the desired effect is demonstrated along with useful pointers on the use of weathering powders. Stage IX - Final Oils, covers the necessary 'blending-in' and increased variety of shades within the technique. The last sections add those little touches which bring a model to life: Oil and Grease Stains along with the use of graphite to give a metallic 'tinge' to the vehicle. Detail painting and their weathering is covered in the last sections along wth some pointers towards interior painting (almost a set of skills in its own right).

In Conclusion

There are many articles, books and guides available on painting AFVs. However, this seems, in my opinion, to have made a significant breakthrough. Color Modulation IS in fact a relatively new technique and one which deserves far more attention rather than simply being dismissed (as some have) as little more that an amalgam of existing techniques. It is a radically different way in seeing the form that color takes on a vehicle. This is essentially what the author communicates in this book.

So, let's take a little step backwards. Many of the questions that are raised, here, on our Forums are precisely those which are answered in THIS book. How do you apply pigments? What's a Pin Wash? What are the Stages in Weathering? It's a relatively small book - compared to some of the increasingly large ones we're becoming used to, yet I've rarely seen so much information concentrated in such a relatively small space.

Another question which begs asking is precisely WHO is the book aimed at? The inclusion of CM and expressions such as Zenithal Light may well indicate that it's for the hugely experienced modeler. That, in other cases would be true - if the author assumed an extensive knowledge base. He doesn't. Soler has the ability to include (or even re-examine) established techniques and talk the reader through them. This allows for a broad spectrum of modelers to take a considerable amount from the book whether by simply refining existing skills or developing new ones.

Graphically, the book is incredibly clean and crisp. Photos are large enough to see the detail the author need to present. The text could however do with some better proof-reading as there are a few grammatical and typographical errors. Nothing of any consequence and has no effect on the information presented.

Reflecting the reality of the times we live in, price also becomes a factor. With the content. application and all round usefulness of this book, 7 €uros comes close to being bargain of the year. As we say in Spain - Una ganga!
Highs: The price, considering what the booklet contains is frankly remarkable. presentation of New (and extablished) techniques is superb.
Lows: Very few apparent. Some of the proof-reading could have been better. Otherwise little to comment on.
Verdict: This series is getting better and better with each new volume...
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: Black Star # 3
  Suggested Retail: €7.00
  Related Link: Item on Publisher's Website
  PUBLISHED: Feb 14, 2010

Our Thanks to Xtreme Modelling!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Nice review, thanks Jim. I have this book in the mail to me and I didn't know if I could get anything out of it but for $10 I figured why not. It does sound like it will be of use though. I'm glad I read your review. One word for customers in the US - see if you can buy the book from a domestic bookseller. I didn't find out until my order shipped, but Xtreme Modeling only ships to the US by "zone rate" which turned out to be surface mail, taking "30-40 days"!
FEB 14, 2010 - 11:07 AM
Thanks for the review. Looks like really interesting booklet. I ordered it from LINK 10 days ago, order status is still pending, no replies to emails. I would suggest to use some other shop.
JUL 11, 2010 - 06:59 PM
Hm, couldn't edit my post. Anyway, just received items from xtrememodelling.com, so they just don't read emails and don't update order status, but send items just fine EDIT: And Color Modulation Techniques: Zenithal Light which I got is in Spanish. So I guess it's up to readers of this forum to decide from which shop to order
JUL 11, 2010 - 08:14 PM

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