The Leopard 1 A5 is a popular export version; there were many painting schemes available. I had at first intended to keep it the standard Olive Green mono-color camouflage, but I changed my mind after applying the initial primer coat.
I decided to go for the standard NATO Tri-Color Camouflage. The Bundeswehr and most other NATO Armies adopted this camouflage during this Cold War and it has since seen widespread use throughout the world. For the Leopard 1 tanks, the paint scheme is applied in the factory by an automated painting machine. This machine ensures all Leopards have the same exact camouflage!
MENG includes the layout for the camouflage and suggestions on which paint colors to use using the Vallejo brand. Other than the pages above, they also include both a top-down perspective and a view of the right side of the tank on the page prior.
For modelers this is a challenge since we have to either mask out each individual color or otherwise find a way to create fine lines across a 3D model. This mask must go over various curves and shapes and angles!
After the application of Vallejo NATO Green, I drew the general shapes of the black part of the camouflage using a pencil, then filled them in with an airbrush equipped with a .2mm size needle. The paint I used was Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black. The results came out below:
Honestly it came out much better than I’d expected. Granted, there were a few minor cases of overspray on certain points (one being most-obvious is the front right flap). I didn’t really feel the urge or need to go back over to fix the issue so I just carried on with the next color.
I used the same method mentioned above to apply Tamiya XF-68 NATO Brown.
The finished tri-color camouflage looked great! At this point, it was time to seal in the base colors using some Clear Coat!
This is where I made my first mistake.
RIGHT AFTER applying the finished coat of NATO brown I went to clean out my airbrush before applying the clear coat. This would ensure enough time for the paint to fully dry and cure on the model. While cleaning, I spilled my Airbrush cleaner on the tank- causing significant panic and paint damage on the engine deck, the top of the turret, and the front left of the hull. After the panic subsided, I sanded off the damaged portions (pictured above) and re-applied a coat of Tamiya XF-67 NATO Green. I didn’t want to use the Vallejo Primer color as to save paint, and this would provide a side-side comparison of Vallejo’s NATO Green and Tamiya’s NATO Green.
Thus, New Rules were created:
- NO BOTTLES OF CLEANER ON THE PAINTSPACE.
- ALL PAINT, PAINT THINNER, AND CLEANER BOTTLES MUST BE RE-CAPPED AFTER EVEN THE BRIEFEST OF USAGE.
While I waited for the fixed areas to dry (so I could apply another layer of clear coat) I added the transparent parts and the final few bits of photo etch. Upon retrospect I should have left the headlights out since they fogged up after the first clear coat that came on afterwards.
Furthermore, I began to paint up the packs and tarps I’d be placing in the turret basket. I cannot find any 1985 Bundeswehr-centered packs or any reference photos for crew gear in turret baskets so I went with “Well, if the Americans used it and they’re NATO, the Bundeswehr could!”
So I got myself a pack of Tamiya’s Modern US Military Equipment to stuff the turret baskets with.
Here I tested the general layout of where I wanted each of the packs to be attached to the tank. In the end, I decided against having the packs on the sides of the turret since they really didn’t have a realistic attaching point.
Despite not being true Bundeswehr, to me, they look very good.
Decals are waterslide decals. Pretty standard stuff… or so I thought.
This was where I made my second major mistake. I use Micro Set and Micro Sol to apply decals to give a good hold and help the decal look like it’s painted on. I first applied the Bundeswehr Kreuz on the right side of the turret and put on some micro sol. About four seconds later I realize it’s too low. I try to push it upwards with tweezers. So the top right of the Kreuz (Where the white border meets the black) gets a little frayed.
The other side came out perfectly… however, the misplaced and damaged decal needed to be fixed in some way.
That’s when I got the perfect idea to fix it.
The Bundeswehr take pride in how well they are able to camouflage their tanks using camo netting and natural foliage, so how about trying to model this on my tank? This would be the first time I’d ever attempted to create camo netting, so after some research I decided upon the bandage method.
Went to my local Wallgreens and picked up a simple Bandage roll, cut out a fair size and then let it soak in black tea for about four and a half hours.
While I waited I painted a few small details on the tank, such as the MG 3. This was carefully painted using Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black as a base, Tamiya X-10 Gunmetal, and Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black (for the buttstock). It was then drybrushed with Testors Enamel Flat Steel for highlights.
I also painted the equipment on the sides of the tank using Vallejo Wood, Tamiya Gunmetal, and Testors Flat Steel. The viewing periscopes are Vallejo Transparent Red and the gunner’s sight was painted both Vallejo Transparent Green and Transparent Blue.
After the bandage finished soaking I sprayed a coat of Extra Hold Hairspray, then sprinkled on some Thyme leaves. Upon Retrospect, basil would probably look better. Nonetheless, I put on about three more coats of hairspray and a few coats of Vallejo NATO Green Primer before trying to apply them to the model.
Even after so many coats of hairspray, the thyme still fell off without any difficulty. Also, the bandages weren’t dark enough after a soak in black tea, so I made my own dye.
To get this shade of camo netting I simply took the ones I had already and dipped them into a dye with Vallejo pigments (European Earth, Carbon Black, and Light Sienna).
Here’s what she looks like with the camo netting on. It turned out much better than I’d expected!
To keep the netting on I decanted some clear coat and dry-brushed the camo netting flush with the vehicle’s curves and angles. This would hold whatever thyme was left, and kept the netting attached to the tank.
So a few mistakes were made during the painting process, but thankfully they were quickly remedied. The painting process of a tank is truly the most-fun part of modeling in my opinion. The creativity that the modeler possesses is absolutely put to the test during this stage, and the true identity of the vehicle is created. Patience is also key to making it all blend well together and ensuring that mistakes are taken care of in the best way possible.
Painting all the tools and all of the major components of a model truly makes it come to life. I’m glad I decided at the last moment to switch to the NATO Tricolor rather than keeping it standard Olive Green monocolor. This was a good test of patience for me and showed me how steady my hands were at painting the finer details.
As of this writing, the mirrors have effectively broken off and I’m just going to keep them off for now. Maybe I’ll super glue them on in a pushed-down position upon finishing.
I’ll likely be using the same paint scheme on an upcoming new build, coming soon for your viewing pleasure, since I have all the paints required for it.
Thanks for reading and tuning in to WWM! Next, I will be showcasing the weathering process and finishing touches of the model. I will try to post a slideshow or video of the completed model on the same day.
More content, “On The Way!” Chris out.