Review: AK Interactive Learning Series 13: "Weathering Pencils"

by David

Disclaimer: I received the book as a free review copy by the publisher. This will not predetermine the review, which will be a fair summary and assessment of the book's strengths and weaknesses as I perceive them.

Hey all,

Summer's here and David's back with a quick review of the most recent addition to AK Interactive's Learning Series book. As all other parts of this popular series, volume 13 focuses on one specific topic or technique in scale modeling, figure painting and diorama-construction, in this case: the use of watercolor pencils. Pencils have been used for ages in scale-modeling, often as a cheap source for pigments and for easy applied metal effects. In recent years, a number of modeling companies, including AK Interactive, have brought their own lines of pencils with water-soluble lead on the market that are specifically aimed at model-builders. With this book, editors Rubén González and George Mefsut present a handy guide on how to use them to achieve different goals and effects.

The book's ToC

The contents of this small book are distributed on 91 pages that are structured in three chapters. After a single-paragraph introduction to the goals of the book by AK boss Fernando Vallejo, the first chapter presents some background information. First, it presents a lengthy summary of what pencils are, how they are manufactured and how types of pencils differ in shape, their pigments and the "hardness" of their leads. The chapter then continues by briefly summarizing some practical considerations on how to handle and "work" with pencils, both in general and especially in modeling.

Some information on pencil production, ...
... general thoughts about using pencils in the hobby, ...
... and two questions answered (to some extent).

Chapter 2 is titled "Specific Applications of Pencils" and presents advice on how to achieve a range of "special effects" with water-soluble pencils. The chapter covers thirteen individual topics, including staples of modeling, painting and diorama-building such as metallic effects, rust, oil, moss and dust, but also more exotic issues such as stenciling or replicating the "washable white" that was often used as winter camouflage on WWII vehicles. Each application is covered on at least one double-page and combines general thoughts on the different "special effects" and some practical advice on how to achieve them with pencils.

The book combines excellent inspirational pics...

The third and final chapter nicely brings the previous topics together, covering on 32 pages the practical application of the ideas and instructions outlined in Chapter 2 in ten brief step-by-step weathering tutorials. While their titles imply very specific effects, such as "Rust on a Wagon", "Application of Winter Camouflage", or "Dirt and Chipping Effects on Sci-fi Vehicles", each of the brief sub-chapters actually covers a variety of effects, systematically combining and practically illustrating the use of the techniques and ideas covered in Chapter 2. In addition, the chapter addresses almost all aspects of model-building, including railways, planes, armored vehicles and diorama accessoires. The final step-by-step even shows how pencils can benefit figure-painters, showing how they can simplify the painting of eyes on a large-scale bust.

... with tips on their application...
... on a wide range of topics and potential uses of pencils.

I have to say that I am a fan of AK's Learning Series. They are well-done and informative, focused on a particular topic - which means that you get information exactly on the one topic that you are interested in. With less than 10 Euros suggested retail price, they are extremely affordable to boot. In addition, the books' compact format makes them very convenient to use as a handy reference or tutorial material right there on your painting desk. This particular volume of the series is no exception: it describes a variety of concrete applications and is a great source of inspiration on what can be achieved with these tools. By driving home their simplicity and variety of application, the book also succeeds in getting (at least this) reader excited actually to test the pencils.


With so much light to praise, there is also some shadow. I think Chapter 1 is way too long and does not present much information that will be relevant for modelers/painters interested in using pencils in their projects. While the description of how pencils are made is quite interesting, the treatment is very long (covering almost 1/10 of the whole book!). Moreover, even where Chapter 1 does talk about the general foundational principles of using pencils in modeling (pp. 16-17) and on which colors would be most useful to buy (p. 20), I did find that information too general to be particularly helpful.

Covering a range of subjects, including airplanes...
... and figures.

However, this does not detract from the fact that I think that this is an excellent little book, which provides a wealth of useful, practical information on the use of water-soluble pencils in our hobby. As always, however, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the value of a painting guide has to be proven in the actual application of the material covered in its pages. So, I got myself some weathering pencils - which I haven't used yet - and will do a little test-run guided and inspired by the book. Naturally, I will reflect on my results here in the MV jungle - so, stay tuned!

Thanks for reading. Feel free to check out my review of the volume on vegetation of AK's Learning Series. And, as always, feel free to drop me a line or two in the comments. Talk to you soon.

Best, D.


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