Texturing with a Dremel

UPDATED 03/11/07

scales scales
Ok. On this page I will attempt to show how I add detail back in on styrene kits after cleaning up the joints.
This will also work on resin kits, but it is geared more towards styrene.

First thing I will talk about is the dremel itself, and the bits that I use.

For the scales I added in in the pictures above, I used the bit you see here. It's got a nice point on it and does a decent job.
Below you can see the set of bits that I use for fine details.
There are a variety of shapes and sizes, and the effects I am going for really dictate which one I use.
On the tail shown above, I had already used 2 other bits to get to that stage before switching to the one discussed here.
I used both the ball shaped one, and the cone shaped one to clean up the seam itself. And restore the contours of the ribbing on the tail at the seam.
It's one of those things that is a personal preference. There is no right or wrong bit to use in any given case.
Just whatever you think will work for the job at hand.
Above is a before picture of one of the arms for the same model.
Note the smoothness where the seam is in the before picture.
That is what we want to address. It doesn't look right. And will only continue to not look right as you paint it.
There are no places for a wash to seep into, there are no high points for drybrushing to highlight. It will just look smooth, flat, boring, and unnatural.

There are several reasons for the smoothness and soft detail.
First of all, most styrene kits have soft detail on the edges. The reason being too deep a detail will keep the part from ejecting from the mold properly. So they have to be kind of smooth on the edges, just from a production standpoint.
Second, after it is glued, then you have to smooth the seam or it will show.
Either by overfilling slightly with glue, then scrapping it down after it has dried.
Or by filling with putty after it is assembled then sanding it to blend.
Both methods smooth down farther the already soft detail.
Add in several coats of primer used to check your progress as you eliminate the seams, and what little texture is left is almost filled in completely. If there is any left at all.

Here is what it looks like afterwards.
I take the dremel and follow the patern that is already there.
This can be tricky sometimes as there might be large areas that are smooth, and you have no idea where to go.
First, work the edges of the smooth area. Recarve the lines that you can see. Follow them to their logical ends.
After you have done this all around the smooth area then you should be able to find some logical areas to connect things.
Also, tilt the piece and watch how the light cast shadows. Sometimes even if it is smooth, you can still see shadows of where detail used to be. Follow them and bring that detail back out.
You want to follow what you can of the original texture, as your work won't be out of place then.
As you work on the piece you will start to get a feel for what the orignal sculptor was doing. So if you do get into a totally blank area, you should be able to free hand your way through it rather convincingly.
When you think you are done. Take a quick break. The hold the piece away from yourself a little bit.
Look it over.
Bet you find some more places that still need some work.
I know I always do.

You will probably notice that the carved grooves aren't exactly smooth. And that there are still some little chunks of plastic in there. I clean that up with an old toothbrush. The soft plastic bristles won't hurt the plastic, but they will get in there and clean things out for you.
After some primer and some paint the roughness will also smooth out and blend with the existing texture..
This brings me to another tip

Widen out your work.
In the pic above, the seam wasn't that big.
But I worked my way out into the texture that was still there.
But going a little lighter on detail that still remains, it help blend your new work with the existing texture on the subject.
It adds in some of the tool marks of the dremel, without overpowering what is already there.

This brings me to something I almost forgot to cover.
Speed and pressure.
Remember the faster you run your dremel, the faster it will cut through the paint/plastic.
But, the less control you have. The bit will want to wander and cut where you don't want it too.
Also, the faster you run it, the more chance you have of digging too deep and going all the way through the plastic.
You also don't want to press too hard. Let the tool do the work.
Sometimes you have to give it a little bit more of a press to keep it where you want it instead of it going somewhere else.
You don't want to just gouge into it though.
Find a nice balance of speed and pressure. One that cuts in fast enough that you aren't going over the same lines forever. But one that you can easily control and guide.
Take frequent breaks.
It gets heavy after a while, and your hand will cramp. Neither will help your work.
Even if you are in a zone and getting close to done. Set it down. Otherwise you run the risk of losing control and doing something you don't want to.
Especially since these little bits are spinning at a high rate of speed. You don't want to slip and nick yourself with them.
They can do lots of damage to human flesh!

The dremel is a great tool.
But it doesn't work on everything.

scales Try getting a dremel down into that area under the chin on this kit.
It isn't going to happen.
Sure, you can get some of the seam with it, but not down where it counts.
For areas like that, you have to be extra carefull during assembly and seam clean-up That way you won't need to try and get something in there to carve details back in.

That is also where these little babies come in handy.
Small files.
In assorted sizes.
A lot more work than a dremel. But invaluable in those hard to reach areas.
Or those place where you just need a little something taken off.
Where a dremel is overkill and could actually do more harm than good.