My Robot Friend – Painting the Robots

My Robot Friend – Painting the Robots

Painting the Robots

The robots were painted in bright colours to emphasise the toy-like nature of their designs and the happy mood this family-friendly short film promotes. Even though each robot was designed and built differently, they still needed to look different and distinct from one another in terms of their colour, use, and age.

As a family-friendly and child orientated film, basic primary and secondary colours were used to paint the robots such as red, blue, yellow, green, orange, and white.

Robot Claw Progression

Painting was a three step process as each piece needed to be primed with a base-coat of white emulsion, then painted their respective colour, and finally weathered to look real like metal and used.

White Undercoat Painting

Painting in itself took a couple of weeks to complete due to the amount of paint required to cover the total surface area of the robots and the inconsistency of the weather. Naturally, painting had to be done outside to keep the house clean and paint free, but also because like the solvent glue, this paint was an emulsion-based paint which meant it needed to be used in a well vented area. A respirator was worn at all times as a precaution.

White Undercoat Painting (2)

“Russian Red” paint was a lovely and vibrant red paint used for one of the robots and unlike the white emulsion, only needed one layer for it to give full coverage.

Once all robot parts had been painted their respective colour, stencils were made and applied to provide additional detail. These stencils were made from paper and masking tape and painted over with spray paint.

Paper stencils and masking tape applied to robot parts.

It is through painting the robots that I was able to include Easter Eggs into my film. The serial number on the military robot is my university i-number (i7627961) and the white robot showcases “B2”which is my production group I have remained in since second year. The stencil for the serial number was made from a magnetic scorecard given to me as a promotional item from Amazon’s Top Gear the Grand Tour.

Top Gear's The Grand Tour Number Magnet - with 762796 punched into the digits.

Finally, when all robots had their respective colours and their designs stencilled on, the final stage of painted could be completed – the weathering process.

All props, sets, and costumes in film go through a process of artificial weathering where artists will try replicating dirt, rust, and age through paint and other techniques. This is most notable in Star Wars where we are lead to believe it is a lived-in universe. If things aren’t weathered or given a hint of age, everything looks new and fake and thus removing from the believable fiction it resides.

It was a great technique to learn and experience but also a very upsetting one – for these robots have been beautifully painted and look incredibly smart, and now have to be ‘dirtied up” to make believable. It is hard to go wrong with this technique, as you’re trying to make it look believable on screen, so things may look too dirty in real life, but may not come across on screen. It’s a real balancing act to get the right proportion of dirt to where it would be most used if it were real on the robots and all to make look right on film.

The technique learnt is a combination of dry brushing and wet wiping. Dry brushing is where the minutest amount of metallic silver paint is applied to a very dry brush and vigorously bashed back and forth on any hard edge of the prop in question. This gives a scratched-away metal look.

Dry brushing technique and example.

Wet wiping is done after the dry brushing, and is a technique were you spritz water over the prop, put some black acrylic in the centre, and using a brush soaked in water spear the black acrylic all over. Then quickly wipe off the paint with a cloth and whatever remains on the prop gives a much dirtied look.

Dry brushed and wet wiped B2

B2 went from three layers of crystal clean white to dirty and almost grey after it was weathered using these techniques.

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