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White Tiger

n by Janne Nilsson
n English translation by Anders Isaksson


I'm sure you've heard this one before! The German Tiger tank was developed during the World War II and is today considered legendary. This is due to the reputation of being virtually invincible, built at the time by the allied forces that had to combat it. This was of course far from true, but what is true is that the Tiger's thick armor and powerful gun put the tank in a class of it's own.


I got the idea to build a Tamiya Tiger straight from the box, at least almost. I still felt for improving the engine air vents with fine photoetched mesh. This addition is almost elementary when modelling tanks and it does improve the appearance of the finished model. If you feel that you want to make improvements to the kit you should start with these. 

Adding some personal gear is hardly worth mentioning in this instance, since this time it was only a matter of adding a few water bottles, gas mask containers and helmets. A few pieces of equipment is enough to convey the image of a vehicle that is in daily use.

I also wanted to try a new technique for painting winter camouflage. It is a totally different technique compared to the one used on my S-tank featured some time ago on this site . 

Even though the base was meant to be a simple affair I believe that even a simple base can make a model all the more complete since it adds so much realism. The base also transforms the model to something more than just a toy.

Hull Assembly

Construction begun with detaching all chassis parts that were to be joined to the tub-shaped lower part of the hull. The assembly of this area takes time and admittedly is a bit boring when building tanks with all these wheels. From experience I know that you can not see very much of the inner wheels when side skirts and tracks are in position on the model, so I did not spend too much time on the two inner rows. I know there are more pedantic modellers which wouldn't agree with this way of thinking, but my philosophy is: if you can not see it there is no reason to model it.

Parts that required a lot of work were the suspension arms for the wheels. If you want to display the vehicle on uneven ground (which does improve realism), some of the arms will need a little adjustment. This is done by cutting away the small tab on the inside of the arm and attaching the arm in a desired position. Just make sure that not to overdo the effect - subtle differences in positioning are just enough. 

The drive sprockets and return rollers present no problems at all. A useful tip is to leave the arm for the return roller unglued until you are ready to install the tracks. This makes it possible later to adjust the return roller to achieve a correct sag of the tracks; especially helpful when using the tracks provided in the kit, since they are of a fixed length. I also left all wheels unglued to make painting easier. 

The protective shields for the exhaust pipes were also left unattached until painting was finished. The shields received some bents and dents as well as thinned down upper edges. I used a sharp knife and sandpaper to cause the "damage". The dents were done by cutting small pieces from each shield at appropriate positions followed by sanding to eliminate any sharp cuts and make the surface even.

I added spare track links to the front armour plate of my model, even though I couldn't find any confirmation in my references that they were any  Tigers of this model carrying the spare tracks just there. I simply thought that this addition made the model look better. Initially the spare tracks were left off the model to make painting easier.

I continued with the hull according to the instructions. No problems were encountered except for the joint to the rear plate which needed a little filler. Care is needed when fitting the engine hatch to make sure it is positioned in the center of the engine opening. Also, use glue very sparingly at this point as it can cause the edges of the hatch to melt together with the rest of the hull, destroying the illusion of a separate hatch.

Photoetched engine grills designed for Tamiya's kit were attached using super glue. To improve the bond I have first applied some light sanding to the contacting surfaces. 

All tools and other external equipment were also glued in place at this stage. The wood handles received a slight grain by sanding along the handles with sand paper of the coarse variety. Be gentle when doing this or you can easily break the tiny parts. Also be sure to remove any mold seams, especially on the towing cables, as they certainly will be noticeable if left unimproved.

The mudguards on the front, rear and along the sides were thinned using the same technique as with the exhaust pipes. I also cut apart the joints between the side mudguards to improve a somewhat dull appearance of these parts. The antenna was made from a suitable piece of piano wire. 

During the construction, the only assembly problems were caused by the hoses running between the engine and the sand filters. These parts are molded in a rubber-like material and I found them difficult to work with. The solution was to leave the the U-shaped part of the engine hatch unglued and then make the hose parts fit. Each hose was carefully trimmed in small lengths until a perfect fit was achieved. Finally, the hoses were attached in place with superglue.

The Turret

The turret was constructed according to the instructions. If you decide to have extra track links on the sides, the holes for these should be drilled out before the two turret halves are joint together. Otherwise you have to drill them out afterwards (like me) at a difficult angle and with bad precision. One of the holes turned out so bad that I had to fill it with putty and try again. A useful tip is to make the holes slightly larger than required, which makes it easier to attach the links at a correct angle. While this means that you will have to do some filling afterwards it is much better than ending up with the links off center. 

The brackets for the tracks at the rear edge of the turret are best attached after the links are in place as it is then easier to get them straight.

The gun barrel consists of two halves with a seam running along its entire length. Start by carefully gluing the two halves together, making sure to get as good fit as possible. Then apply liquid glue along the seam and press together while the glue is drying. Sometimes it is enough to carefully carve along the seam with a knife blade to make it disappear. In this case I had to use filler repeated times followed with sanding. The rule is to always sand around instead of along the barrel to prevent it becoming flat along the seams.

I decided to wait with attaching the personal gear and left all the items separate until later.

Mounting The Tracks

The tracks are of the new type featured in Tamiya's recent  kits. The advantage of these is that they can be glued using ordinary plastic glue which results in a stronger bond compared to the old vinyl tracks. Another advantage is that the new tracks are easier to paint: a common occurrence with the vinyl track was that the paint did not stick to them very well and used to flake off during handling. Even the detail level of  the kit tracks was satisfying and I thought there was no need to buy replacements. As with the wheels I left the tracks separate to make painting easier.



As usual I started with carefully cleaning up the model by giving it a bath in lukewarm water with soap. It was then primed with gray primer (Beckers System Grå Grund in Sweden). After it had dried for 48 hours it was time for the paint.


I started by mixing Tamiya XF-15 Flesh and XF-1 Flat Black to obtain a warm black and gray shade. The mix was applied with an airbrush to all corners and crevices where shadows occur. This covers almost all of the chassis, below the tool box and the mantle on the turret, below the mudguards and the inner side of the wheels.

By adding more Flesh and XF-2 Matt White to the mix I obtained a dirty gray shade. This mix was applied on top of the previous shade on the chassis. I sprayed this coat carefully, making sure that the previous shade remained visible underneath, in varying degrees of coverage depending on how deep the particular shadow should be.  The rule is: the less light that falls on the surface, the more shadow should be applied.

Winter camouflage

The last stage was applying the white color. As is commonly known, German winter camouflage consisted of a mix of chalk and water, was applied on top of the original camouflage, and was simply washed off when the snow season was over. Because of it's water-soluble ingredients, it weathered very heavily.

For the camouflage coat I used Tamiya Flat White mixed with a little Flat Black and Flesh. Tiny amounts other colors were added to achieve a off-white shade. The mix was airbrushed on the model and I took care to let the previously darker shades show through. To achieve a dirty look on the lower part of the hull I applied very little white on this area. 

At this stage things went wrong:  I used too high pressure on my compressor, which resulted in a very dull and coarse finish. I tried correct this by applying two thin layers of Johnsson Klear floor polish thinned with Ajax window cleaner. This was only partly helpful but I decided to finish the project anyway. You can not always achieve perfect results.

Washes and dry-brushing

After the model had been left to dry thoroughly I continued with washes and dry-brushing. I started by applying a wash of raw umber oil color thinned with white spirits. This was a bit difficult due to the coarse surface of the model, which made the wash to stick to the surface instead of flowing. (you can always learn more these mishaps, however - I later learned to use this effect to simulate worn paint). The procedure was improved by adding pure White Spirit to the surface to be washed, increasing the flow. 

I repeated the process with a wash of ivory black oil color mixed with white spirits. This wash was concentrated to the areas around the tools and other sharp edges.

For dry-brushing I mixed a dark yellow shade using Humbrol 24 Matt Yellow and 62 Leather. The yellow tone was selected to simulate the original dark yellow of the factory camouflage showing through. The entire model was dry-brushed three times, each time using a lighter shade of yellow. 


It would have been much easier to apply the decals if the surface of the model had been smoother. The coarse surface would surely make the decals silver. To minimize this problem I trimmed away the clear film around the decals as much as I could. I also used heavy loads of Micro Sol and Micro Set decal setting solutions.

Painting Details

The details were painted next. The wires and other metal parts were painted with Humbrol 33 Matt Black, followed by dry-brushing with a mix of Humbrol 21 Gloss Black and 11 Silver. The machine gun recieved the same treatment. 

Wooden details were painted Humbrol 63 Sand. When this was dry I applied Burnt Sienna oil color that was later wiped off with a stiff flat brush, leaving only thin lines of oil color to simulate wood. The support for the jack and the gun cleaner got basically the same treatment. 

The upholstery on the inside of the turret hatch was painted Humbrol Red Brown. It received a dark wash and was dry-brushed with Humbrol 187 Sand

The decal with the kill markings on the barrel was a bit gloss so it was toned down with a mix of Humbrol Sand and matt varnish. Two layers of this mix were required. The gun barrel itself was blackened with a mix of Humbrol Matt Black and Flesh. Three different shades of this mix were applied. The exhaust pipes, their protective plates and smoke dischargers were all treated in the same way. 

The rubber on the wheels was simulated with a mix of Humbrol Matt Black and Flesh. A little gloss varnish was applied to simulate traces of wet snow.


The tracks were first painted Tamiya Matt Black. I then lightly airbrushed a rust colored mix by adding a little Tamiya XF-7 Red and XF-9 Hull Red. As with the earlier pre-shading it is important to let the black shade show through. The tracks were then dry-brushed with a lighter rust color using Humbrol 113 Rust, sometimes lightened with a little Humbrol Matt Yellow.

Commander Figure

The figure in my model is not the one included with the kit, since I did not like the latter's pose very much. Instead I used a figure from Tamiya's German Tank Crew At Rest. By combining different arms, torsos and heads I ended up with a figure that was satisfying. The figure received a little filler before it was ready for painting.

For priming I used Humbrol Leather thinned with white spirits. Two thin layers were applied. 

The skin areas were then painted with Humbrol 61 Flesh mixed with 20% Matt White. When this was dry I covered the painted skin areas with Burnt Sienna artist's oil in a thin but covering layer. Most of the still-wet oil color was removed using a rag, cotton swab and finally a soft flat brush. This way the oil color stays in the crevices with soft transitions to the lighter areas. The more detailed the sculpting of the face is, the better this method works. The Tamiya figures are not the best in this respect but in this case it didn't matter very much.

The German tank uniform was black. To achieve a little variation I painted the commander's cap and jacket in two different shades. Both shades were achieved by mixing Humbrol Matt Black and Flesh. I only altered the proportions for the different garments. After this I applied a wash of Ivory Black oil color. I finally dry-brushed with Humbrol 187 Sand.

The leather details were painted next. The gloves and gun holster were painted Humbrol Red Brown mixed with a little Matt Black. The belt was painted Humbrol 98 Chocolate Brown. The leather details were then dry-brushed with Burnt Sienna oil color and was left to dry before washed with black oil color and finally dry-brushed with Humbrol Sand. The belt buckle was painted in the same way as the metal parts of the tools. Rank insignia  and other decorations were painted with Humbrol 28 Camouflage Gray using a fine brush.

Extra Details

The extra details came mainly from Tamiya. The vartious parts were temporarily mounted on toothpicks for painting and finished separately in the required colors. Each item then received a dark wash followed by dry-brushing with lighter shades.

Always Make the Base!

The frame is an ordinary picture frame I bought in a shop. The groundwork was modelled using pieces of styrofoam attached with white glue. I made sure to cut out the recessions for the tracks of  the Tiger. It is important to make it sit correct in the snow since it is highly unlikely that a 50-ton vehicle would travel on top of the snow. 

The next step is to cover the styrofoam with pieces of gauze covered in plaster of Paris. This serves to seal the groundwork profile as well as to achieve smooth transitions. To make the surface of the gauze a little smoother I simply smeared in more filler with my index finger. When it was dry, the surface was sanded smooth with 400 grit sandpaper.  

I then applied Celluclay mixed with a generous amount of white glue in and on the edges of the tracks to simulate areas where the snow piled up. While this was still wet I pressed the Tiger in the Celluclay where it remained until everything was dry. I made sure the model would not stick to the base by moving it a little every now and then.

Painting the Base

The base was primed with the previously mentioned gray primer. I started with pre-shading with a dark grey mix. It was primarily applied in the tracks from the Tiger where the snow would be darker and a bit dirty. For the lighter shadows I used a lighter mix of Tamiya colors, letting the original layer show through. Finally I airbrushed Tamiya Flat White over the entire base, again letting the darker base colors show through. The white had to be applied three times to make it cover.

The Snow

I used Microballoons for the snow. This material can be found in the shop for radio controlled models and is perfectly suited for simulating snow. 

To attach the balloons I applied Humbrol's matt varnish. As it turned out, the idea was not very good since it made the white turn yellow. The solution was to apply a thin layer of white glue slightly diluted with water. While it was still wet I sprinkled the balloons on top and let it dry before moving on to the next section. Snow was also applied to the Tiger, mainly on the tracks and wheels but also other strategic places - using the same technique.

The Tiger was glued to the base using white glue and an attached plaque was designed with my computer and printer. The font called Deutsch Gothic is very suitable for this kind of subject.

Final Word

I can only say that I am not entirely satisfied with this project. The funny thing is that I can not point out any special detail that causes my dissatisfaction. The reason could be color shades I used, but this should be because my initial mental picture of the finished model is different from the result. Oh well, there will be more tanks projects in the future...


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