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.


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.

Announcing the Cheryl Sparks Tribute Kit!

Now in development is the Cheryl Sparks Tribute Kit! This the next kit I will be releasing. A tribute to Cheryl Sparks, who, at 17, portrayed “Huey” (Drone #2) in SILENT RUNNING (1972). The kit will be released with Cheryl’s participation and blessing. Each kit will include an autographed photo. Cheryl’s likeness was sculpted by Gabriel Marquez. The kit is 1/8th scale, the same as my other robot kits. TimeSlip Creations will be doing the castings. Price and availability yet to be determined.

“Dotting the Eyes” to bring some life to the primered sculpt of Cheryl’s likeness by the incredible Gabriel Marquez.


The kit includes a carpet-textured base, Drone parts, an opened script, and a “Cheryl” nameplate in the SILENT RUNNING font. 

The Script will include a decal with tiny type and yellow highlighting.


Louie’s Leg!

Louies_LegA new project I’m very excited about is soon to become a new product from Bronson Canyon!

The pictures show the master forms that will be vacu-formed to create the LOUIE’S LEG kit! This life-sized prop replica will be the leg of Louie, one of the “Drone” robots from the movie SILENT RUNNING (my favorite film). Mark Dowman has researched promotional stills and framegrabs from the film, and cross-checked against some dimensions we were confident of, like an actual Drone headlight from the 70s (no longer available). Mark then drew the most accurate plans ever created, and I made the master parts from MDF.

In the film, the Space Freighter VALLEY FORGE unintentionally “shoots the rapids,” drifting through the rings of Saturn, putting the Drones in jeopardy. Louie the Drone gets his foot caught in a grating and, unable to get to safety, is knocked off the ship by a large ice crystal. Later, Bruce Dern’s character “Freeman Lowell” notices that the other two Drones, Huey and Dewey, have stopped their maintenance routines. A space-suited Lowell goes outside to check on them. He finds them sitting, staring at Louie’s leg. He pulls the leg out of the grating, warns the Drones not to get careless, and tells them to get back to work.

The full-sized leg as shown will stand approximately 12” tall, and be vacuformed styrene, just like the originals.
In the next couple of weeks, I should have the first test shots. I have a little tweaking to do with these parts before I can take them to the plastics shop. We’ll keep you posted!

Onward and Especially Upward!

Well, buckaroos, the negotiations begun at Monsterpalooza in April just did not pan out. I was enthused about the project, the person who was the subject of the kit was enthused, I had a sculptor and an illustrator warming up in the bullpen, but the person’s lawyer and manager made the licensing agreement something beyond my little company’s capabilities. Heck, I think Mattel or Kenner would be hard-pressed to live by the arrangement I was offered.

I do want to sincerely thank my friend George Stephenson for his support and sage counsel during the negotiations. Check out his incredible kits and busts at Black Heart Enterprises. George, I still owe you that steak dinner!

Which brings us to our first non-vaporware product, a licensed Strat-O-Blaster 5000 from the upcoming Bill Hughes movie MATT MERCURY AND THE PLOT OF THE GALACTIC MASTERMIND!   Facebook link for the Matt Mercury Movie.

The Strat-O-Blaster 5000 kits are castings made from one of the original screen-used hero props. Castings are by Acme Design, Inc.  Very little assembly required. Easily painted to look just like the original prop. More details soon, both about the blaster and the movie!


And this is only the beginning of the MATT MERCURY merchandising. Stay tuned, friends!