Camo madness

First of all I have to say thanks (or scream obscenities) to my coworker Iiro, a bank of Soviet stuff knowledge and the benevolent dictator of Presaleztan. As I had been pondering about my early camo pattern thoughts out loud at the office in the lines of "I should check how those Green Men invading Ukraine are camouflaged so I could make this look like their equipment". He suggested a digicamo and in all its insanity it sounded interesting enough for my brain to get locked into the idea.

Before I started anything mad I glued the doors into their places, so the cabin interior was just about sealed now. The doors fit in perfectly, like mushroom clouds in the horizon, thanks to my previous and well-planned dry-fitting method with multiple chekups.

A pixel at a time

I decided to utilize my both Tamiya masking tape rolls (10mm and 18mm) and cut off some squares with the aid of my cutting mat. Because the 18mm tape and the 10mm grid didn't always align perfectly I just cut 2mm off every other end of the squares (that is, the external ends of the bigger pixels were cut along the gridlines and the near ends so that I ended up with a ~4mm strip between them). Out of these 4mm bands I then cut some smaller pixels to provide more variety to the whole show.

It looked pretty weird at this kind of an early stage but thought that I'd try a few more pieces. And if that didn't work, it wasn't going to be a catastrophe.

Session 1

After about half an hour I had achieved this. I also noticed that the wheel centers had to be pixelated too, but I just didn't get to do more than the spare wheel yet. At this point I was a bit amused by the whole idea. This was slow, slow work.

I kept on building up my pixel mask slowly, piece by piece. While playing with the tape it occurred to me that maybe it'd been better to start masking off the parts that were not going to be green instead of saving the greenery. So keeping that in mind, you shouldn't consider the mid-results in the photos below as anything definite. It was going to take quite a few more tape pieces so there was plenty of space to maneuver still, especially the rear end was completely "open" as in I didn't have a proper plan for it. The rocket launcher, on the other hand, was clear as day to me. I blame that on the shape of the truck, they just didn't inspire me with camo ideas.

Session 2

In the early next evening I spent about an hour cutting and placing more tape pixels. At some point I decided that I was done. Of course I wished that I didn't need to fix any of the painting but I was still mentally prepared for that, being something of a pessimist with my experiments.

Checking the results

I airbrushed the truck and the launcher separately with a sandy colour (VMA 71122 desert tan 686). The shade wasn't maybe the most authentic representative of what Ivan uses but I have never been hysterically anal about those details. My only concern was the possibility of the result being too "loud".

Peeling off the tape pieces took a ridiculous amount of time. The result was pretty neat, I liked it. I had earlier envisioned a three-tone pattern but maybe that wasn't going to be needed after all. I'd have to think a bit about this.

As my first and totally random attempt at making a digicamo this felt succesful. The general look would be a bit calmer after I had airbrushed a gentle layer of "dirt" (just like in the IS-2 project) to filter and bring some more dirtiness. Just like the name suggests.

I changed my mind after all

Hah! I decided, after all, to utilize a third colour in the camo, a dark brown. To help me in choosing the approach I for reference pictures and the example in this photo felt like the smartest way to do it in this project. I wouldn't be adding a third large pixelset but some individuals and/or miniclusters here and there.

Just like before, I sliced masking tape into strips and squares to create shapes for the larger pixels and then I put them into certain key points. As usual I went with the gut feeling and tried to make the whole look more random (which is an issue with the human mind, pure randomness is so difficult). For the doors I cut off some stuff off from the center of a square cut out of a 18mm-tape. That was something I thought to be quick and an easy way to add those simple pixels into somewhat narrow places.

I was slightly concerned that I was going with a bit too few pixels, but on the other hand, it'd be easier to do more than to remove excess ones. Just like it'd be easier to undo a few instead of three dozen bad ideas. Still I trusted in the future good results and that I wouldn't have to be undoing anything later on. Just like the Americans love to say: no guts, no glory.

As my third camouflage colour I chose the darkest of the three browns I was looking at (VMA 71040 burnt umber) and then I airbrushed that carefully but with decent coverage. There wasn't much to paint so this phase was completed pleasantly quickly. After an unusually short paint-drying break I tore the masks off and took some photos, this time remembering the rear side as well. I was still pleased with how it looked like and I had even avoided any happy accidents.


Working on the basics: the Russian Green

A very multistaged basecoating phase

Following the priming piece by piece approach I also painted them green, applying the same method. So far I had been following the idea of the kit's painting instructions. My pretty obvious choice for the colour was the Russian Green (VMA 71017 russian green) that I used on the Stalin 2 tank a bit earlier.

The framework and the engine

The Ural's truck with the cabin ate an eye-watering amount of paint, especially the bottom that would be mostly hidden from sight in the end. I started working on the engine compartment, the nose and worked my way through to the halfway point.

On impulse I dug out a bottle of a bit more vivid green (VMA 71093 field green) just to add a tiny bit of variety and airbrushed that into the engine compartment and the insides of the cabin. After that I airbrushed the engine grey, based on some googling (VMA 71050 light grey). At this point I realized, chiefly thanks to the photos, that the engine room was actually missing a load of stuff and was pretty empty. That didn't make me go all "well, I'll scratchbuild them while I'm at it, then!"

Based on some strange internal process I decided that the engine should be grey when viewed from below. While doing that I also sprayed the gearbox and most of the driveshaft parts with grey just to make them look distinct.


The friends of the cabin, or better known as the doors, front grille, roof, hood and the spare wheel rack (and the hub) took two painting sessions a piece as they'd be seen from both sides in the worst case scenario. This took quite a bit of time, because I didn't dare to paint the flipsides while the paint was still wet or not totally dry at least. In hindsight taking a couple of tactical sick leave days would've helped the progress quite a bit :p

(No, I don't do that for real)

The M-21 Field Rocket System

To the back of the truck I had built a platform-like thing + mudflaps, on which the launcher would be installed. Again I painted the top and bottom sides on separate sessions just in case. I also left the decoration of the rear lamps for a much later stage, of course.

The launcher itself got painted and started looking decent. Thanks to the shadowing (and my own tiredness) I had to touch up the tipside one extra time.

Before I took the photo above I had already gone and painted some details of the panoramic telescope and the controls with flat black. Yep, it really started looking like the real thing.

Cabin detailage

Thanks to the approach I had chosen I detailed and weathered the cabin's interior at this exact point in history. By the time I got to the next phase I really couldn't do much about it anymore, or at least as easily. I painted the cushions of the benches with simple brown (VMA 71041 tank brown) and their trimmings with a different, lighter, shade of brown (VMA 71038 camo medium brown).

Then I went through the faces of the dials with black (VMA 71057 black) and later poked at them with the tip of a paintbrush just barely loaded with white (VMA 71001 white) for the markings - as if any of this could be seen ever again through the roofs and doors. While I was playing with the black paint I also painted the engine's radiator so that you could maybe see a hint of it through the front grille.

After I was done with the blackness I iterated my way through the pedals, sticks and the steering wheel with grey black (VMA 71056 Grey Black, nowadays also known as Panzer Dark Grey)


A multiphase priming process

for thing in things:

As I've mumbled many a time, I had decided to take care of the painting and final assembly a bit more complicatedly than usual. The hulk of the Ural was already weird enough with its structure (to someone like me who's very used to the sleek and clear lines of Panzers), so I decided that I'd save my few remaining poor hairs if I painted all the main subassemblies separately and only set them together when they weren't overshadowing each other while painting. Some guru could've painted everything perfectly on a fully assembled BM-21 but I'm just a nonsense-class amateur who does this for fun, so I chose this route.

Of course I had to do all this in many sessions to achieve the cleanest results. I started by setting the smallest bits on masking tape strips so that they wouldn't fly around under the air pressure coming from the airbrush and so that I wouldn't have to fight with my fingers being on the way, either. On the first session I painted one side completely and the next evening I flipped the bits around for the remaining sides.

The spare wheel rack I painted 90% on the first go and then just fixed what had remained obscured. This bit was a very simple thing to paint and I guess I could've glued it onto the chassis but somehow I had the idea of it ending up being on the way or something being blocked annoyingly. So out of convenience I did it separately.

The bulkies of parts 

The truck itself was just insane. Especially with the power transfer system that was blocked by the frame and, well, absolutely everything on the bottom. They were casting shadows over each other and were generally difficult to reach. I couldn't leave them untouched so I spent a huge amount of time in preparation and going over things with the airbrush multiple times just in case.

In the end the truck took two very long priming sessions, of which the first one was the more complicated one by a long shot. I started with the engine compartment, of course, and the nose area in general. When I had painted my fingers into a corner, also known as the rear axles, I left the model to dry overnight. Then I finished (and did some touching up) the rest the next evening.

The carriage

What remained was pretty simply painted. Luckily I realized at this point that I'd actually want to paint the core of the spare wheel as well, so I quickly detached and cleaned the halves and took them onto the painting station. Again I took care of the priming process in two stages, especially as the tubes ate paint like a starving wild beast. I also had to leave some parts clean to avoid those annoying "wet paint got stuck here" effects.




To begin the assembly I glued the cabin into the framework. It settled in pretty decently. I chose to leave the front grille off still so that I could paint the engine compartment somehow nicely. The best result would've been achieved by painting these separately as well but that would've led to the glue-paint mess and I really didn't want any of that if I could avoid it.

While the cabin's gluing was curing I assembled the exhaust pipes and then glued these rather complicated setups into the framework. Those holes I had to drill ages ago were very well positioned and of the perfect diameter so I didn't get any more grey hairs while installing.

Then I proceeded to the spare wheel rack. The instructions told to use a bunch of PE stiprs to hold the wheel in place. That didn't appeal to me as I wanted to keep the wheel off for a good while still. So I used a couple so that I could slip the wheel in and out without a fight. The rack itself was neat.

A tactical choice

I decided to build the next few main subassemblies separately again instead of blindly following the instructions. Again I'd first assemble them, then prime them and basecoat them all separately. Only then would I put them in their places and attack the truck with some sort of a camo. I was thinking of checking how the Ukraine-invading Green Men looked like. Or I'd just paint some kind of sand-coloured bands to break the form a bit.

Following these guidelines I had just made pu I left the wheel rack on its own and continued on the next piece. Not that I could tell you what the function of this one was, but I can tell that it had boxes on it. This'd be located just behind the wheel rack, below the rocket tubes in the transport mode.

After the mysterious box setup I finally got to start working on the final missing main component: the M-21 Field Rocket System. I had been waiting for this for a long time, a long time, as this was going to be the crown of the whole model.

The base of the launcher, the system that controls the traversing and elevation of the launch tubes was fascinating. It had plenty of space to adjust the position for the pieces, but as you can see in the first photo below, the elbow joint locked the launcher's vertical angle when it was glued together. I was boring and left the elevation at its lowest setting, so it would look ok in the transport mode as well as in a firing position.

Some plumbage

With my experiences so far I was somewhat scared of how long I'd spend working on the 40-tube launcher. Cleverly the launcher started being formed with three 8-tube rows, with each tube getting a rocket's tail end glued in. Of course I could've left some of them open for a partial load, but I went with a full loadout so that it wouldn't run out of rockets that quickly. A fully armed and operational vehicle, just the way I've always liked them.

Then, on top of the triplet built earlier I built another almost identical 8-tube row, the only difference were the missing top attachment points. After that, to hold the packet together from the sides I built two 4-tube rows (or columns in this case?). I was honestly surprised by the sheer weight of this tube setup as it was actually a bit on the heavy side.

As soon as the glue had cured I attached the launcher's tubes onto the elevator mechanism and then added the last missing decorative and supporting pieces around the tube pack. During the next evening I built the last missing parts, which included the traversal and elevation controls and the PG-1M panoramic telescope that's used to aim the thing. Now I was a bit disappointed that there was no K-1 collimator for those who are into dioramas... That piece could've pushed me over the edge.

That was it, I think. Next I could start priming this monstrosity for real.