Making a Prop Weathered and Old

What makes Star Wars IV (ANH) different from Star Wars I (TPM); or Star Trek TNG from Firefly; or Original Battlestar Galactica from new Battlestar Galactica?

What made the very FIRST Star Wars so cool, feel so real, become an instant classic compared to The Phantom Manace feel sad and FAKE.  Yes it was Jar-Jar!! Kill Jar-Jar.... No, wait! got off track. The thing that made the difference to me was the environment and especially the props. Dirty, dingy, real looking props.

Props that are not perfect, seem old, seem dirty, or look used just plain look better. It is easier to believe that a tool or a weapon has been with the characters through thick and thin when it looks used and dirty and dented and scratched. It is a further stretch of the imagination when a character says, "this is my trusty ray gun. my old grand-pappy gave it to me when i was 12," when the gun looks like he just picked it up from the local iPod store 5 minutes ago (a lot of Star Trek props look that way).

So this instructable is about making something look used and grungy to give it more depth.  Because let's face it... SPACE IS A DIRTY PLACE!

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Step 1: What You Need

Here are the things you need:

1. Your prop
2. Black, grey, brown, tan spray paint. Any combination, from 1 to all 4.
3. Rag
4. Paint thinner or paint remover
5. gun powder (optional)
6. Dirt, mud, tar, used motor oil (optional)

1. Dremmel or sandpaper
2. hammer or a large rock
3. Blowtorch or lighter or matches

Step 2: The Scary Part - Damage Your Prop

Now comes the hard part emotionally. You have to take your nice, new, shiney prop and damage it.

But DO NOT just randomly bash it around!! Got to think about it and strategize.  It is not very easy to undamage something.

Usually some backstory will make it easier to place the scars we are about to inflict.  Like a a blaster block that was too slow 2 years ago. Or when the lightsaber was kicked out of your hand while fighting on the roof. Or when you were baking under a triple sun of some awful planet.

Got a good backstory. OK. Start doing damage.

Step 3: Paint It

This is the easy part.

In my example I am just using black.

Get your prop and spray it with paint.

Quickly wipe the paint off with the rag. Do it lightly so a lot of the paint stays behind.  Spray again and try to get the paint into cracks and crevices and edges. Wipe off again quickly.

If it looks good, great. If it looks FAKE use the paint remover and start over.

Let it dry.

Mist the prop with other colors or black (as in spray from a distance so the coat is light and uneven). Splatter some other colors on.

Step 4: Admire Your Work

Now that is a item that has been with you on a hundred planets and have seen countless sunsets of alien suns.

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    10 Discussions


    Reply 3 years ago

    I poured it on parts (the emitter) and lit it. created burnt carbon residue.


    Reply 3 years ago

    That is what I was thinking but wanted to make sure.
    Would suggest adding that in as a note for the instructable as some might not think of that, especially since it was mentioned as things possibly needed then just sort of left hanging.
    Any issues with the carbon and or the scorch marks coming off and if so how did you seal them in?

    Thanks for your time.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is fantastic if the prop is metal to begin with, but I made mine out of plastic and now need to paint it to look like metal. Anyone know of any good tips for making props look like metal?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I can't say anything about the other movies/TV series (since I'm not that familiar with them,) but I think it kinda makes more sense that the props in the newer Star Wars films appear newer or cleaner because they likely are newer within the film. For instance, Anakin's lightsaber should be newer looking in episode 2 because he hasn't had it for that long or at the very least, not as old looking as it rightfully should in episode 4 when it's in Luke's posession.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    And...It sees to me that it would be part of Jedi training to upkeep and clean all of their weaponry/gadgets. The reason the lightsaber looks so dingy and dirty on episode IV, is because Obi Wan picked it up after his dual with Anakin and then stored it in a trunk for twenty years on Tatooine.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    And they say, we Sith, are the ones who deal in absolutes... hmmm.. "there is no try, only do... or not do...", "part of Jedi training" .... hmmmm sounds like absolutes... are there no sith near you? could have the emperor send some there, to help mark up your lightsaber... **all in fun... after all, Sith have a sense of humor too!**


    5 years ago

    Awesome!! Looks great. Nice job! ;)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I was on mine i was thinking of putting paint or ink on my fingers and touching the box or pressing the button(s).