These are a few of my favourite paints…

One of the questions I see from time to time is which brand of miniature paint is the best between the half-dozen or so big brands in the paint business. A lot of people have their own opinions, and people will throw around names like Vallejo, Citadel, P3, and Warcolours. Ask that question in a painting group on facebook, and it’s like throwing a steak in front of a bunch of hungry dogs. Everyone is going to volunteer their favourite brand, and they’re all correct, for themselves.

Here’s the thing: while some people find the slight differences in formulation to matter, and others may have brand loyalty or enough OCD that they can’t stand the sight of two different brands of paint on their paint rack, for most of us, it doesn’t really matter. All the big brands out there that I’ve tried are pretty good, pretty similar, and aside from Citadel which is always a little more expensive for a little smaller pot, are more or less the same value. Just pick up something that is not too hard to get your hands on, and which you don’t hate the delivery method. That is, something that doesn’t come in horrible pots. For my money, Reaper MSP fits that bill nicely, but your mileage may vary.

That said, I feel like one should always experiment, and that there are some brands out there that have a few gems that are worth picking up, even if it’s not your usual brand and will look out of place on your rack due to having a slightly different shaped bottle than your Vallejos.

Vallejo Metal Color

Image result for vallejo metal colorSpeaking of Vallejo, their metal colour paints are hands down better than any acrylic paint on the market. Formulated for airbrush use, they can also be brushed on as well. With finely ground pigments so they go through the airbrush, they are basically drop and shoot and also give a very nice, smooth finish. With the brush, they have great coverage with a very thin coat. The only problem is they have something like 16 different shades of silver and one gold and copper. This is kind of disappointing for anyone who paints fantasy subjects, as we need different shades of gold to do true metallic metals or to just represent different shades of gold, brass and bronze. Further, unless you’re the sort of hardcore scale model aircraft builder who can tell the difference between aluminum, titanium and duraluminum (and knows which one is correct for the inside of the landing gear doors on a late-war Me 109G-6), you probably don’t need to pick up the whole line. The Gunmetal Grey is one of the darkest colours in the range and is a good starting point for a lot of true metallic metal techniques, so pick that up as well as a midtone and bright silver and that will probably be good enough.

P3 – Metals and paints

Image result for p3 frostbiteUnfortunately, there are two small issues with Vallejo Metal Color which prevent me from using them all the time. Since it doesn’t come in many shades of gold and is a little thin for some applications, I like to have a second metal paint as a backup. For this, I go for P3. They have a decent range of metallic paints, and their Molten Bronze and Rhulic gold are excellent rich golds.

But that’s not all; there are a few really nice colours in the P3 line that regularly make it into my repertoire. Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite are my go-to paints for highlighting black, and Coal Black is a greenish bluish blackish colour that has a lot of applications and is a very useful addition to your collection.

The one problem, of course, is their paint pots. I would love it if PP would do a CID on their paint pots, because pots are unpaintable trash and dropper bottles are OP.

Citadel Shades & Technical Paints

When I started this article, what did you expect? These shades are so popular among miniature painters that they’re regularly referred to as “talent in a bottle.” While I wouldn’t quite go as far as saying they are idiot-proof or a suitable replacement for talent, they are an amazingly useful product. It’s hard to describe, but whether it’s the pigment density or the surface tension, they just go on right. Nuln Oil is my most used, though a lot of people like Agrax Earthshade. Also, it may sound strange, but Druchii Violet is the perfect shade for brass and gold bits.

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Citadel also makes a line of technical paints, some of which which are very useful for specific effects. I wouldn’t necessarily go for their texture paints as that seems like the most expensive way to base your models and could be easily replaced with various textured artist mediums, but the others are good for specific uses. Typhus Corrosion is good for a quick addition of general grime, and Nihilakh Oxide is good for doing a corroded copper verdigris effect. Finally, Blood for the Blood God is a great way to make realistic blood, but be warned – it is very red, which is suitable for fresh blood, but not so great for dried blood. As a result, it’s better on something like the dagger of an assassin who just ganked a dude than an orc or skeleton who is too stupid to wash his blade after stabbing people.

Badger Stynylrez Primer

Image result for badger stynylrezIf you’re airbrushing your primer, this is your go-to. It’s just drop and shoot, can be brushed on as well, and comes in many different colours. Be warned, however, that some people have reported issues with primer freezing in transit, and while Badger is taking care of it with their usual excellent customer service, it is something to be aware of. So if you live in Canada like I do and don’t have a local supplier, it’s probably a good idea to stock up in summer.

Reaper Brush-On Primer

Sometimes you need to brush on primer or do a little touchup, and for this, I trust Reaper’s Brush-On Primer. Since Reaper started out with metal figures, their primer is presumably formulated to work well on metal. I’ve never had a problem with this primer on metal, unlike certain others (Vallejo, I’m looking in your direction…). And while I’m on the subject of Reaper, their Punk Rock Pink is just a wonderful colour, and has found it’s way into my army because the only thing better than kicking someone’s face in is kicking someone’s face in while wearing pink.

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Conclusion

When it comes to miniature paints, there isn’t really a “best brand.” Some people may find a best brand for themselves, but even for those people, there are probably a few paints that are good enough that they are worth going out of brand for. There is really no harm in experimenting. And while you’re at it, don’t just limit yourself to hobby paints, sometimes the art store has some good products as well.

Three thoughts on judging

As mentioned in previous articles, I had made it to a few model shows over the past several months. At these shows, people bring their models and place them on display on the table next to other models in the same category to be ogled at by mere mortals and judged by volunteers for awards. Categories vary across all different types of models, from fantasy figures to historical aircraft and everything in between, and can be either fairly general such as “Historical Figures” or as specific as “1/72 Single-prop Inline-engined WWII Axis aircraft.” Judges then decide on first, second and third place in each category. There are some variants to the rules such as whether one person is allowed to sweep the category, scoring first, second and third. And of course, there are pages upon pages of rules.

Generally, judges are instructed to be fair and focus on objective criteria like fit and finish, alignment, etc., rather than whether the model has the proper number of rivets on the glacis plate for the late war model. Also, scope of work is a secondary factor to technical competence, so someone who went above and beyond in converting, scratchbuilding, and doing a complicated paint job will only really help them if they did a really good job of it. Finally, judges are also generally told to ignore bases and the like, except for dioramas, which is fair – people who build armour want to build armour and be judged on the quality of their builds, not on their base.

Anyways, I’ve got three thoughts on judging in the context of the IPMS 1-2-3 system.

  1. Judging will always be a little arbitrary

judy.jpgSo, I’ve taken mostly the same models to a couple shows (my theory being they’re good for a season or until they no longer represent my current skill level) and have noticed something interesting. In one show, Nancy Steelpunch was my highest placing model, while in another, she was beaten out by Laril Silverhand.

I’m not complaining here, but I think this is an example of the limits to how finely we can objectively judge a model. There is always going to be a little bit of subjectivity in the judging process. Different judges will spot different things that they like and dislike about a model. Some may be more lenient on certain flaws and harsher on others. Finally, some (probably most) people may just have an unconscious bias towards certain subjects or colour choices, and a first impression can go a long way. On the two teams I ended up judging with, there wasn’t always agreement right away. That doesn’t take away from the accomplishment of anyone who is skilled and lucky enough to come away with an award, but it means that people shouldn’t get bent out of shape if they don’t do as well as they expected.

  1. How well you do depends on who else shows up

At HeritageCon, the busts section was extremely competitive. There were something like 20 busts on the table, and all but a couple were really good and likely in contention for at least the top three. In part because of the intense competition, and in part because I have no idea how to paint feathers, I didn’t place. Contrast that to Torcan, where there were only a couple busts on the table and my (slightly fixed up) Mary Read edged them out to take home first place.

Now, there are pros and cons to competitive judging systems like the IPMS 1st, 2nd, 3rd, versus the open judging where you are judged against a set criteria and receive whatever award corresponds to the level of skill on display. However, one of the properties of the 1-2-3 judging system is that it isn’t an objective standard that you can measure yourself by because you end up in direct competition with your fellow modellers and painters. As such, the exact same models may get you either showered with medals or going home empty-handed based on who shows up. And that’s without even getting into the possibility of different models being placed in different categories.

Again, this isn’t to say that people who won a sparsely-entered category didn’t deserve it. However, this is the sort of hobby where while there is some competition and it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling to be recognized, at the end of the day, we do it for ourselves. If you’re happy with what you made, there is no shame in coming home empty-handed because someone like Sergo Calvo Rubio or Kirill Kanaev decided to show up.

  1. Volunteer to be a judge

Often at these shows, they are looking for people to judge. I know there is the stereotype of a model show judge as a nit-picking rivet counter, so it can be a little awkward at times – especially when you have to judge models that are better than anything you can do. While judges sometimes do have to go down to tiny details and flaws in order to separate the first, second and third from each other and from the rest, it’s not quite that bad and judging can actually be quite enjoyable.

First, spending an hour or two staring at models in detail together is a great way to meet new people. Doing some judging can help break up a long day, as there is only so much to do at these shows once you’ve looked at all the models seven times and lightened your wallet at the vendor tables. Also, since we learn a lot in this hobby by making mistakes, being a judge gives you the opportunity to learn from mistakes without making them yourself. Finally, you might get a free lunch or something out of the deal, so bonus.

Just make sure you know how many rivets are on the glacis plate of a late-war model.

May 2018 – Model Show Update

One of the advantages Ottawa has over Winnipeg is the fact that there are other major cities within less than an eight hour drive. As you’re not completely surrounded by hundreds of miles of wheat and canola, you can actually do day trips to other cities and attend events put on by other clubs. The month of May was a busy one with a number of clubs within not too long of a drive putting on model shows. In addition to the first local Gunpla group’s first contest (which I won first place in with my Zaku), I managed to make it to two model shows, the IPMS Montreal’s gala and Torcan, put on by Peel Scale Modellers.

IMG_0314.JPGMontreal was a fairly small show, with probably somewhere a little under entries. I did well with my figures and Gundam; they didn’t allow sweeps but I won first and second in fantasy figures, and was the only entry in busts so I won by default. There were only two Gundam entries; mine won first, but the second-place was a nicely assembled Real Grade Zaku of some sort reaching out to pick someone up from a busted up concrete shell of the corner of a building.

The really nice thing about the Montreal show, however, were the two presentations they put on by local modellers. Laurie Norman did a presentation on figure painting, including fantasy creatures like dragons. I think a lot of people managed to get a lot out of it, because painting figures is one thing that a lot of scale modellers feel intimidated by, and a lot of armour builders struggle with. Her session also reminded me that I’ve never actually done a dragon, and maybe I should try something like that sometime (hello, Reaper Bones…). Xiao Yang, who is an excellent naval modeller and won best in show at CapCon last year, did one on rigging ships which was very informative. I know I took away an important lesson from it, which is “don’t build anything that requires rigging.”

Highlights

At Montreal, there was the usual smattering and some interesting subjects, including a Saturn V that had me clenching my buttocks as it swayed back and forth on the table as people walked by. The highlights for me, however, were the dioramas. That, and a big CN semi tractor-trailer. Automotive isn’t usually my thing, and less so big industrial vehicles, but this was impressive in the finish, the scale, and the detail that went into the sleeper cab underneath a removable roof.

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Note the roof on the base next to the truck; it is removable

As mentioned, there were a number of dioramas with a number of focuses, including aircraft, armour, and civilian vehicles. They were all great, but here’s a couple standouts.

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Torcan

Torcan was a larger show, with almost 500 models on the tables. Again, these were spread out over all categories and had a nice mix of aircraft, armour, ships, etc., with a strong space and sci-fi section. I had a really good day at the awards ceremony, probably my best to date, sweeping the Fantasy Figures category, winning first place in Busts, Humour, and one of the Gundam categories, snagging third with my old Victor in the other mecha, and winning the Best Overall Figure with my Dana Murphy. So, overall, one sweep, as well as three other firsts and a third, and a Best Of award – quite the haul. The rest of the Ottawa crew also did well at the awards table, snagging about thirty awards across all the categories including one other sweep.

For some video coverage, check out this link.

Again, there were a lot of great models and dioramas on display. I didn’t get a lot of photos, but I managed to get pictures of a few that caught my eye, including the following.

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This egg tank was one of my favourites in the show because of the weathering. I just loved the use of that purple; it adds so much dynamism to the colour and really makes this piece stand out. The one criticism I have of it, though, is that it’s a shame that the builder didn’t carry some of the weathering over onto the decals. Seeing beautifully weathered pieces with pristine markings is one of my little pet peeves, but apart from that, this was a great example of taking an egg kit and running with it, and using interesting colours to create fascinating colour variation.

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This Lanchester armoured car was a unique subject, and in my opinion, it was a great use of colour modulation to highlight it. I know there is a debate over how much colour modulation to use, particularly among historical modellers, but as someone who started out in tabletop gaming, I’m a fan of it and I think this is an example of an appropriate application of the technique for a historical subject that really helps make it pop.

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Without getting too political, this diorama, titled “Happiness” was not only well done, but I felt that the portrayal of the triumph over Nazism and the end of the war is a refreshing alternative to a lot of what we see on the tables, and sadly poignant in 2018. But I like the hope that this diorama shows, as the nightmare of Nazism and war is finally over for this town and for the people in this scene.

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The Throne of Sprues was a humourous touch, as were the wedding cake columns on this base, but the weathering on these gundams were top-notch.

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Finally, someone brought a collection of Roman miniatures in what looked like 15 or 20mm scale. They were nicely done, and represent a scale that is just a little too small for me, so I have to give a shout out to my fellow wargamer for bringing these in.

I didn’t get a picture of everything that caught my eye, such as the 1/2 scale BB8 from Star Wars complete with lights and sound, or the historical crusader figure that I would assume really gave me a run for my money in the best figure award, but there are some photos and videos kicking around on facebook and the broader interent that one can probably find with a little looking.

Conclusion

If you have the opportunity to go to one of these model shows, do it. You will see a lot of fascinating models, and learn a lot just by looking at how people did their stuff. Better yet, bring some of your stuff. Even if it doesn’t win, you can get some valuable feedback and meet some new and interesting people, which is more important than any piece of hardware you might bring home.

Not that bringing home some hardware isn’t nice…

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