Painting the Drones!

I’m often asked just what colors the Drone kits should be.

Obviously, they’re:

  • Light Blue (Dewey)
  • Pale Orange (Huey)
  • Light Green (Louie)

But the colors are more complex than that. They’re muddy, muted colors, dull, dusty and dingy in appearance. I’ve painted a great many Drone kits over the years, and I’ve learned a few things. I’ve especially learned (the hard way) what doesn’t work.

I attended a presentation by Jason Eaton at WonderFest called “Painting the Millennium Falcon.” Jason shared the basics of mixing that magical warm pale grey paint that ILM used on their STAR WARS models, and then said that he’s been in the LucasFilm archives, and no two of their Falcon models are exactly the same color. He finished up the presentation by saying that a person should ultimately paint their model the way they see it, as the model will be on their shelf, in their home, and theirs to enjoy. He added that if you’re building/painting a model for a client, you should paint it the way they see it.

Paint it the way you see it, or paint it the way your customer sees it. Mic drop.

I’m providing my favorite frame-grab reference pictures, courtesy of Mark Dowman.

Here are the Drones on the cargo deck, one of the only images where all three are shown in good lighting. You can see their colors, and the reddish color of the body pans, feet and ankles.

Here’s a close-up of Dewey. You can see the  blue shade, the yellow programming card, the turquoise and yellow wires, and the red forearm.

Another Dewey closeup, showing the grille and light details.

A well-lit shot of Huey’s orange color.

Louie is the Drone we see the least of in the film. This image shows his body coloring very well.

Even in the “shooting the rapids” sequence, there is a pretty good frame or two of Louie’s color.

Louie did not have the red shins of the other two Drones. Here’s an image of his forest-green shins. It’s a good reference for the reddish foot color, too.

I’ve been custom-mixing acrylic airbrush paints for my last few Drone builds. I’m not aware of any close paint matches available in spray cans, but you may find something that works for you. What works for me is to mix a paint that matches these photos fairly well, and then APPLY IT OVER A GREY PRIMER (like Tamiya). Applying the paint over white will make the colors way too bright and neon. Don’t be afraid to add grey (or black and white) to your paint to dull and muddy the color. I like to view these reference pictures on my iPad as I work.

I’m not a great painter, but I am learning. Combining “pre-shading” and “oil-washing” will help add a battered, used look to your Drone kits. I prime my Drones with Tamiya gray primer and then airbrush-outline most of the panels with Golden transparent black. Wherever I want a lighter shade, I wipe off the acrylic with thinner.

Pre-shading.

When I airbrush my thinned Drone colors over the pre-shading, it works pretty well. I give the Drone bodies an appropriate-colored oil wash to pop the detail a bit more. I found some great YouTube videos on both pre-shading and oil washes.

Paint applied over pre-shading, with an oil wash around the panel details.

I built these kits for a diorama and an article about it I wrote for the “Robots” issue of Amazing Figure Modeler. I’ll be posting about the article soon.

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