Mini Painting rust without special effect paints or typhus corrosion

I wrote this in response to people wanting a bit more detail on my rust painting process as used on my sea mine miniature. I’ve added as much detail as I can below, none of this technique requires specific paints and the same result can be achieved regardless of which brand you prefer.

What you need…

  • Bicarb soda
  • Water
  • Super glue (cyanoacrylate)
  • Piece of torn sponge
  • Acrylic Paints
    • Black
    • Dark Brown
    • Minimum 2 variations of deep reds/warm browns
    • 1 or more bright intense orange
    • A pastel green, Verdigris or mix your own very pale greenish blue.

The below images show examples of the colours that will get this result but you can use anything similar.

Reference pictures

Find a really good picture of something that is as rusty as you want your model to be. You will want to refer to this throughout the process to work out how much corrosion and paint is right for your specific project.

Adding texture

Texture is the key to this rust technique and not a step to skip. You have to choose what level of rust you want for your model, and apply your texture accordingly. Texture can be subtle, added in just a few corners and really rusty spots, or it can be total and cover the entire piece. Both look good in different situations. For the sea mine above, I added various areas of texture using bicarb soda and superglue but you can use any fine grit modelling powders or even plaster that you might have. I don’t recommend sand as the grains are too large for this.

It’s pretty well known that bicarb soda sets rock hard when added to super glue.

Here I use that in small controlled amounts to build up a rougher texture to create the basis of my rust. Just apply small sections of super glue where you want corrosion to appear worse (I tend to do this near joins and corners) and sprinkle on the bicarb. Be careful not to overdo it as it really does set instantly and the only way to remove it is sanding. Blow or dust away any excess bicarb, and check that all superglue has set before letting any paint brushes touch it.

In sections where you want slightly less corrosion you can grind up the bicarb into a finer grit first (I use my kitchen mortar and pestle for that).

Once you have added the amount of texture you want and you’re happy with the overall grittiness, we can move onto painting.


  1. Applying black and the darkest brown paint, cover the entire area you want to appear rusty.
  2. Leopard spot the darker reds and red browns in a haphazard fashion. Just go crazy, use a fat brush and put big nasty splodges over most of the black and brown (but not all)
  3. Now do the same with your lighter orange, covering about 60% of the surface in random patches. At this stage it won’t look like much (see below)
  4. We need to break up the larger splotches in order to make the rust look more natural. To do this I use a sponge and lightly dab between the different colours. This part takes a while and requires you to just keep eyeballing it until it looks right. You want to ensure that the pattern looks random and the specs are small. See in the images below how the texture becomes more developed and the splotches appear more random and natural.
    • Don’t be afraid to keep going, you can always balance out too much orange by splotching the darkest brown back on again and the depth just gets better
    • When adding the darker colours on top of the orange, make sure you don’t have too much paint on the sponge and you only touch it lightly. Large splotches of dark brown will look wrong at this point
  5. For the verdigris areas I like to really thin down the paint so its basically a wash and dab these in the bottom of really corroded spots. I then wipe these with my finger to ensure only the deepest recesses show the paint.

Optional finishing steps

There are a few things you can do to further weather your rust

  • Add pigment powders to the highest parts to make the rust look extra dusty/dry
  • Add oil washes to the recesses or near mechanical parts to make it look like it leaks oil
  • Add black washes to the recesses to ensure the highest oranges stand out

I strongly recommend a mat varnish to hold this all together and to make it even more convincing. Gloss and satin just don’t look quite right for rust.

That’s all I have for you, I hope this helps and you enjoy rusting things on the cheap! Please message me if you have any questions or follow my Instagram or Facebook (links below) if you feel like it.

Massive 3d printed dragon head painted by melbourne mini painter