Iraqi T55 a finishing guide

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I saw an article by Marcus Nicholls in Tamiya Modelling Magazine International some years ago of his T55 in Iraqi camouflage. The way it was painted and weathered was truly stunning. There and then I wanted to emulate the techniques used. However I was just coming back to this wonderful hobby of ours after many years in the wilderness and did not have the skills or the equipment to attempt it. Now I have the equipment, although nowhere near the skills required, I thought it was time to give it a go.

The Build

The kit is Tamiya’s fantastic T55. As this was to be an exercise in painting and weathering, the build was straight out of the box. Anyway, that’s my excuse for not making any efforts to add fuel lines or P.E. sets, and I’m sticking to it! The only things changed were the removal of the mud guard and lowering of the suspension. Other than that the build was completely straight forward.

The Camouflage

Base colour is a mix of Tamiya XF-59 Desert Yellow and XF-2 White with probably a touch more white than yellow. The green is actually Tamiya XF-65 Field Grey done freehand using an Aztec A470 airbrush with the grey general use nozzle. I tend to thin my paint about 50-50 paint to thinner using Tamiya’s X-20A acrylic thinner. I usually spray at 20-25 psi. Luckily I had kept plenty of the original colour as there was much overspray to correct. I just took it slowly and, over a few sessions and many changes back and forth of colours, got it done. I have just recently purchased an Iwata HPCH and boy do I wish I had it for this job.

Post Shading

Using Tamiya XF-10 Brown thinned very heavily, to almost a wash like consistency, the recesses, bolts, catches etc. were shaded and some vertical streaks added using the airbrush at around 15 psi. This is a difficult procedure but if the paint is thin enough then the build up of colour can be controlled. I would advise experimenting on an old kit. The exhaust outlet and aux fuel drums were painted with this mix as well, which took blooming ages as the paint was so thin!

This technique meant I could dispense with using a wash. Also, as I was painting on the markings, there was no need for a gloss coat which meant I could keep the nice matt finish the Tamiya paint gives. Some filters were made using Windsor and Newton raw umber and burnt sienna which made a very slight difference to the finish, almost imperceptible, but better too little than too much!


Vallejo Model Colour paints were used for the chipping. Desert Yellow lightened with White to match original Tamiya colour and Field Grey. These were applied with a red sable 4/0 brush and thinned with a little bit of water. I will be investing in some acrylic retardant, which increases the drying time of the paint, for my next chipping project. Once again I used a few sessions to do this step as it can’t be rushed. Plus I have the attention span of a six month old Labrador!


The mantlet cover is painted a mix of Vallejo Russian Uniform Green and a little bit of Tamiya X21 flat base for a super matt finish. The ammo boxes are Tamiya XF-61 Dark Green with same colour as mantlet for the straps. The muzzle suppressor was masked and sprayed white, then the small white stripe masked and sprayed Tamiya X-8 Lemon Yellow. As this is a gloss colour Vallejo matt varnish was then sprayed over it. The DshK gun is painted black enamel and then rubbed with graphite from an HB pencil. The tow cables were painted Tamiya XF-10 Brown and rubbed with the same graphite. The tracks were painted black then the contact points with the road wheels were masked and that same brown was painted on again. I think using a colour like this can help to bring a model together, or maybe I’m just a lazy sod!


The excellent Mig Productions pigments were used on this project. Before this a light misting of Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan was spayed on the lower parts of the model to represent dust. A 50-50 mix of Europe Dust and Beach Sand was then made into a paste with Humbrol enamel thinners and applied to the lower hull, running gear, tow cables and tracks. Some of this slurry was picked up with a number 8 brush and the airbrush used to splatter it onto the front of the hull. You must be careful when doing this as it is easy to get too much onto the model. Once again practice on an old model.

Once dry the pigments were removed from the high points on the tracks, running gear and tow cables. I would not use the enamel thinners on the kit tracks again as it seemed to somehow attack the vinyl. The track high points were dry brushed with Humbrol enamel 11 Silver. The track contact points of the road wheels were rubbed with Black Smoke pigment to represent the rubber.

Now I applied the rust pigments. I used Standard Rust, Light Rust, Old Rust and a touch of Black Smoke. This was mixed in different ratios to create many different shades. I applied the mixes by wetting the part with enamel thinner and dabbing on randomly. I admit that I got a bit carried away with the aux’ fuel tanks but I just really liked the effect. As I said at the beginning, this project is all about practising technique. The markings were hand painted with Vallejo White.


I must thank Marcus Nicholls for supplying the inspiration and technical explanations to allow me to attempt this homage to his true work of art. They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, although I don’t know if pale imitations count!
I would also like to thank all the staff and members of Armorama for a wonderful site which encourages people of all abilities to get better and better.

Now, do I start my Dragon Tiger 1 late w/zimmerit next or my Finemolds X-Wing?!
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About the Author

About Jim (iwatajim)


Nice work Jim, I'm a recent convert to T55s so I'll be bookmarking this for future reference.
FEB 08, 2009 - 10:51 PM
very nice work jim i also remember marcus nichols T55 in tmmi, i think that it was in the special edition No 99/100 he also shows this model T55 in his excellant DVD "realistic armor finishing techniques" but i really do like your rendition of the T55. well done and hopefully we will see some more of your work soon............... neil..
FEB 09, 2009 - 06:36 AM
Very good work Jim and a great ref for anyone wanting to weather a vehicle.
FEB 09, 2009 - 06:39 AM
Nice work Jim, really impressive weathering. I also saw that article by Marcus Nicolls it was great. I've seen much inspiring work by him over the years and it was his work that go me back into the hobby about 4 years ago. Anyway having seen your's i may have to try a T55 sometime it's a cool looking build of an interesting AFV. Cheers Paul oh and by the way..Do the X-wing, it's a fab kit!
FEB 09, 2009 - 08:58 AM
Hi there. Pat, thanks for the encouragement to submit this feature. I really do appreciate it. Neil, cheers for kind words mate, I will be hopefully be showing some more work in the future. It was a great article by Marcus in TMMI. Darren, thank you for your request in the first place. It is my first attempt at anything like this and you and Pat gave me the confidence to give it a go. Paul, thanks for comments. X- wing was my choice and it is a great kit. Check out the photos in my gallery. Cheers, Jim.
FEB 09, 2009 - 09:43 AM
Super paint job, great patience! Thought you might like this photo I took down in Kent last summer. It does suggest your tanks are a little rusty . . . but otherwise the camo is similar, I think.
FEB 09, 2009 - 09:46 AM
Hey Jim. Nice T-55. Don't forget that even a great model builder like Marcus started off as a "newbie". Continue building and you'll keep refining your techniques. Just give it time and a few kits.
FEB 09, 2009 - 09:30 PM
Thanks Matthew and Matthew for your support. That is a very interesting photo. Maybe the owners of this tank had seen Marcus Nicholls article as well! (;
FEB 10, 2009 - 11:14 PM