Polishing a turd: The PZL.23 Karas

So, I’ve been dipping my toe a little bit into other forms of hobbying as of late. Aside from a couple gundam kits that I’ve bashed out, I decided to try my hand at model airplane building, partly to try something new and partly because it’s what all the cool kids at the IPMS were doing. So, with the idea of doing a quick weekend project to practice before I start on an $80 kit, I pulled out a box off the shelf and…

IMG_0974.JPG

Oh, dear.

The kit

The PZL.23 Karas is one of the more esoteric aircraft of World War II. A Polish single-engined ground attack plane, it was roughly equivalent to the Fairey Battle or the Breda Ba.65 in that it was a very advanced aircraft for its day, but it was a little outdated by the time the war rolled around and had been outpaced by more modern aircraft. Still, in the hands of the Polish, it put up what resistance it could against the German war machine. Notably, it was a PZL.23B which made the first bombing raid of the war within German territory, and captured examples would go on to be used in small numbers by the Romanians as well as in second-line duties with the Bulgarians.

As the title alludes to, this kit is kind of a turd by modern standards. Looking at Scalemates, I can see that this was a 1980s rebox of a kit originally produced in 1964. There are only about twenty parts and they are made from a cheap, crappy plastic. It has raised panel lines, and there are a lot of areas where details are extremely lacking. The interior detail is nonexistent, with only three seats (and no locating tabs to know where to put them), and no dashboards, controls, etc. Rivet counters could probably find dozens of inaccuracies from the profile of the plane to the number of panel lines; I know I inadvertently found some when I was looking up paint schemes. Fortunately, I’m not a rivet counter, so I don’t care.

And, just to add insult to injury, the instructions were in Polish. Because of course they were.

IMG_1035.JPG

Okay, got it

My approach

I’ve picked up a lot of techniques for model aircraft by hanging around the local IPMS crew. However, while I knew I could do research and suss out the internet arguments of pre-shading versus black-basing and which one is the superior, more realistic technique that serious modellers use, part of me wanted to remain willfully ignorant of this for a couple reasons. First, this was just a practice piece for another project and the kit was so crappy that I knew this wasn’t going to be a masterpiece regardless. Second, I wanted to see what I could apply with my figure painting techniques to the art of scale aircraft building. I felt like instead of just copying what everyone else was doing and doing a bit worse of a job on it, I could go into it without any preconceived notions and see how it turns out.

So, this is in some ways an experimental piece – give a figure guy a model plane and see what happens. Worst case scenario, you’re only out the two bucks that this turd of a kit cost.

Assembly

While the kit may have not been the greatest, there were a couple things which were working in my favour. The main wing was moulded in two pieces – an upper and a lower piece which both ran the entire span of both wings. The upper mated to the fuselage, which had a cutout on the bottom for these parts to go together. This meant that alignment wouldn’t be too much of an issue; it would be hard for me to mess up the dihedral with how the kit was engineered. Additionally, this plane has no visible struts and the landing gear is fixed with a big, thick fairing, so there isn’t going to be any futzing around with spindly little landing gear legs and worrying about getting them at the correct angle, not to mention painting all the details inside the landing gear bays.

I managed to get it all together in one evening while consuming a copious amount of beer (though not so much that I would mess up the kit even worse than it was messed up coming out of the factoty or stab myself with an x-acto knife), though I left the propeller able to spin for now to make painting the cowling easier. It took a couple layers of apply and sanding milliput to fill seams and sculpt something a fairing between the horizontal stabilizer and the fuselage. Even after the second layer, it wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough for government work and I was getting antsy to start painting.

Priming

As mentioned, I’m a figure guy. So, that means I’m relatively ignorant of the eternal internet struggle between pre-shaders and black-basers, and firmly on the side of a good zenithal prime. So, I loaded up my Patriot 105 with some Stynylrez black and sprayed the entire model down, getting a nice coat on both the top and the bottom. From there, I cleaned out my airbrush and pulled out the Stynylrez white and fired from above and from the front. I focused on parts that are in direct sunlight and the leading edge of the wings, letting the primer fade into black on the underside and near the trailing edges of the wings and control surfaces.

IMG_0989.JPG

Primed with Stynylrez black…

This technique does two things. First, it helps me understand where the highlights and shadows should be on a model, which is critical in figure painting. An airbrush loaded with white primer coming in from above actually does a decent job of representing the sun’s rays landing on the model and illuminating the highlights while avoiding the shadows. Second, it preshades it for you, which can be useful in later steps. This can be done roughly with a black and a white rattle can as well, though I prefer the airbrush for the control and ease of use in my small apartment. Personally, I tend to push things a little more towards the white side than most people when I do a zenithal because I figure it’s easier to darken something later than lighten it.

IMG_0991.JPG

…and followed up with white from above

 

Paint time!

Okay, here’s where I can really polish this turd. I sprayed the underside with a more or less uniform layer of Vallejo Light Sea Grey then masked it off. To be honest, there isn’t that much interesting on the underside, just that light sea grey and some mottling, so I’ll focus the rest of this article on the upper surfaces. Anyways, according to my sources, the closest colour to what these things were actually painted in in Polish service is Vallejo Green Brown. So, I loaded my airbrush up with… a mixture of P3 Coal Black and Reaper MSP Pure Black?

Sure.

Fear not, there is a method to my madness. With an airbrush, it’s easiest to work from your darkest shadow to the highest highlight, as we did with our zenithal prime. And when it comes to painting green, you don’t want to shade it with just black and white. You want cool shadows and warm highlights, so you want to have it move towards the blue end of the spectrum in addition to getting darker in the shadows, and towards the yellow end of the spectrum in addition to getting lighter in the highlights. And Coal Black is this wonderful blue-green black colour that is darker and cooler than most greens and makes an excellent shadow colour, among many other uses.

So, I mixed up a mixture of mostly Coal Black with a bit of Pure Black to darken it up a little (because I’m all about exact mixtures), making sure to get it on the underside and in all the shadowed areas where there was more black than white primer.

Next, I washed out the airbrush and loaded it up with the Vallejo Green Brown which would be my base colour. Similar to when I did the white on the zenithal prime, I sprayed mainly from above and in the areas that wouldn’t be shadowed, painting most of the plane in this colour but leaving some shadowed areas. Finally, I added some yellow to the base colour and added some highlights. The highlights were focused in a few places — near the leading edges of the wings and stabilizers, along the top of the fuselage, and in an area on the side to emphasize the transition from the convex surface of the round fuselage to the concave transition into the upper cockpit area. I also sprayed some into the middle of the panels, particularly on the wings, in order to create a bit of modulation.

IMG_1006.JPG

Airbrushed the top; note the colours used in the background.

That was all well and good, but I kind of wanted to shade the panel lines as well. And, since I’m a figure guy, what do I immediately reach for when it’s time to shade something?

shades.jpg

Good old liquid talent…

That’s right, GW’s washes, or shades as they call them. But we aren’t going to brush them on because that would leave so much nasty coffee staining. We’re going to airbrush it.

I made myself a mixture of Athonian Camoshade, which is their olive drab sort of wash, and a bit of Nuln Oil to darken it (again, very scientific and exact proportions) in the cup of my Badger Krome and got to spraying. When spraying these washes, a very light touch on the trigger is very important – you want just enough that it will build up in the recesses and tint the surrounding area, but not spray enough over the model that it will start beading and coffee staining. If you aren’t confident in your trigger control, this may be a very good time to try out a trigger stop. I sprayed some of this in a random, mottled pattern to add a little bit of visual interest to the model. Then, I followed up by tracing some of the panel lines, which reinforced the modulation and shaded the panel lines, giving me what I thought was a nice effect.

IMG_1015.JPG

Addition of the shade

At some point, I decided that I should do something creative with the cockpit. Between the missing clear piece and the complete lack of any interior detail, this is where an elite scale modeller would either scratchbuild a bunch of tiny parts or spend a lot of money on aftermarket pieces to bling it out. I am not an elite scale modeller. I was missing a clear piece, and given the amount of detail on the average 1960s era Polish model kits, I knew if I painted over the cockpit, you wouldn’t be missing much.

So, my idea was to adapt a technique I used on figures for painting gemstones to do an opaque cockpit. I started by spraying the entire thing in a blue-black. From there, I used the edge of a business card as a mask and sprayed some lighter, more saturated blues into one of the lower corners of each pane of glass. I followed that up with an even lighter blue, so I had a transition from a dark blue at the top into a light blue at the bottom where the light would filter out of the cockpit.

IMG_1019.JPG

Cockpit airbrushed, will follow up with a brush

Details and Weathering

There were some details remaining to be picked out with the brush. First was adding some glints of light to the top area of the windows, opposite the lighter area, just to kick up the artistic glass effect. This was done with some sky blue and some P3 frostbite, and as the windows were flat, I made the glints corner-shaped.

From there, the engine, exhaust pipes, propellors, canopy framing, etc., were all done with a brush. And when it got time to apply markings, because I can’t do things the easy way, I decided that instead of using the decals in the kit, I would bust out my trusty Raphael 8404 and brush paint those on, doing such detailed consultation of reference material as funding the first result on google image search that looked cool and easy to paint and running with it. I used panel lines for reference where I could to make sure that my markings somewhat approximated the proper scale and made sure to keep a steady hand. Most importantly, I double checked before putting down the red on the checkerboard roundels, because there is nothing worse than finishing a Polish roundel only to find that you’ve accidentally rotated it 90 degrees and now it’s all wrong. Also, I didn’t go all the way to white in the checkerboard patterns — a light grey is more than sufficient to make things read as white in this context, and it’s not as chalky and hard to apply as a pure white.

For weathering, it was important to keep it subtle. I did a little bit of sponge chipping in two layers; the first layer being some of the base colour mixed with white, and the second layer being some sort of midtone metallic silver. In this case, when you’re doing chipping, you need to think where to place your chips. And this is more than just where to cover your mistakes. Chipping on a plane is going to be concentrated in a few areas. It’s going to be on leading edges, on the front and underside of the cowling, and on the areas where the pilots are likely to step on as they climb into the plane. Weathering should tell a story, and these are the areas that are going to get beaten up the most.

Finally, I threw on a little Typhus Corrosion to represent dirt on the wheels and the spats, some light dry pigments to represent dust on the tires and landing gear, and some black dry pigment around and leading back from the exhaust pipe to represent soot. And with that, I was ready to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour because I had turned this old kit into something that didn’t look half bad, at least not from a distance.

IMG_1026

IMG_1027

IMG_1028

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a detailed representation of a PZL 23A Karas, don’t buy this kit. In fact, I think at $2, I probably overpaid. There is a Heller version of this plane in 1/72nd scale that has been reboxed a few times which is less than 50 years old and not made behind the Iron Curtain, so I would assume it would have to be better than this thing.

However, while the detail is lacking in some areas and there are some obvious inaccuracies that I was too lazy to fix, overall, I’m not dissatisfied with how it turned out. It’s not a masterpiece, and it’s not meant to be. It’s a cheap, simple kit, painted up to look nice from about three feet away – which is the distance from which it will be looked at that 99% of the time when it’s not being torn apart by a nitpicky IPMS judge. So, I would say that my efforts to apply figure painting techniques to scale model aircraft were mostly successful. I’m now feeling more confident in tackling the 109B I have in my stash… that is, I was until I saw the photoetch.

Bonus Content: Owlbear!

As I wrapped this thing up at a build day, I also worked on a quick speedpaint on a project a little closer to my roots: a Reaper Bones Owlbear in 30mm scale, with plenty of inks, washes and dry brushing to get it to a decent tabletop standard quickly. An Owlbear is exactly what it sounds like, and for the benefit of your sanity, try not to think of show that may have came to be. I’m using it for my Necromunda gang to represent a Khimerix, becuase when someone says “horrific gene-spliced abomination with sharp claws and a nasty bite,” I think Owlbear.

I call him Owl Dirty Bastard, leader of the Hoot Tang Clan.

IMG_1030.JPG

IMG_1031.JPG

IMG_1032.JPG

Terrain time! Wooden crates and barrels

As someone who appreciates the aesthetic qualities of wargaming, I like 3D terrain, or as non-Warmachine players like to call it, terrain. So, in order to celebrate the completion of my huge Necromunda terrain project, I decided to do the logical thing and buy some more terrain. I saw a pack of barrels and crates from Micro Art Studios for the game Wolsung, and thought that they would be perfect for walls in Warmachine.

Of course, that means I had to paint them. A little while ago, I wrote an article on how to paint on woodgrain textures onto flat pieces of plastic. That’s all well and good, but sometimes the sculptor has done the work for you and sculpted in some texture. What do we do then?

IMG_1002.JPG

This. Do this.

The walls

I picked up the five pack, which came with five pieces for a bit under $40 CAD. Three are the pieces are long and wall-shaped, while two of the pieces are more square. They’re all pretty good sizes for a game of Warmachine, though you may want to make a bigger wall by lining up a wall shaped piece and a square piece. They come in a hard, heavy resin which seems to be pretty good quality, and there aren’t many mold lines to speak of. It may be a touch on the expensive side if you aren’t a total terrainiac, but in terms of detail and quality/sharpness of the cast, you get what you pay for.

Painting – letting the sculptor do the work

If you remember in my previous wood painting article, I talked a lot about sketching in the value first and using semi-transparent paints to add the colour after. This is the same thing, but since the woodgrain is already sculpted in, we can take advantage of that to make it super easy.

For this project, I started by priming it with white, then spraying it all over with P3’s Armor Wash, which is a lot closer to a true black than something like GW’s Nuln Oil. I sprayed on a heavy coat, because I wanted to get it in all the recesses and shadows. I suppose it also may have worked to just prime black, but I wanted to try it this way.

IMG_0984.JPG

Primed and washed

Next, I took out my trusty big makeup brush and some titanium white artist heavy body acrylic paint. There are a few different brands out there, but you can get this from art stores. It excels in this application for a couple reasons. First, titanium white is the whitest white you can get, so if you want coverage, it’s a good start. Second, unthinned straight out of the tube it has a pretty thick consistency, perhaps not quite as thick as Citadel’s dry paints, but pretty good for dry-brushing.

IMG_0985.JPG

Dry-brushed with titanium white

So, we’re going to dry-brush the heck out of it. Like Bob Ross cleaning his brush, you want to really go at it. In doing so, it’s good to go across the grain and allow the brush to catch on the ridges. When you’re done, you should have a pretty good value sketch in — dark recesses and shadows, and white highlights and ridges. And we did all that without using any details or special techniques, we just sloppily slapped some wash on and hit it with a giant dry-brush.

Adding colour

Now, before we want to go all out on applying our wood tone, let’s think for a moment about shadow and light and our good friend colour theory. We want to shade some brown pieces of wood, so what’s the perfect colour for that? Well, blue contrasts warm browns quite nicely and is a cool colour, so load up your airbrush with some Drakenhof Nightshade or your favourite blue wash and spray it into the shadows and the bottoms of the barrels; if you’ve mounted them on pill bottles, it’s easy to do sort of a reverse zentithal with your airbrush.

IMG_0986.JPG

Oooh, blue shadows… it looks cool and ghostly now

IMG_0990.JPG

Hit with the Inktense Wood

With that dry, it’s time for the main attraction. Get a brown ink and load it up into your airbrush and spray. I like to use Scale75’s Inktense Wood ink for this. Use your trigger to control the spray so you don’t overwhelm it, and just lay in the colour as light or as dark as you want until you’re happy. Don’t pull back all the way; spraying at a high pressure, just pulling it back a little bit will allow you to tint the barrels the exact shade you want. Let it dry for a while, as Scale75 is a little notorious for taking longer than other brands of miniature paint to dry.

 

Now, we have something pretty good, but it’s got a lot of shine to it. Don’t despair though, we can fix that with our good friend Agrax Earthshade. A quick spray of that will add a little more depth to the recesses and knock the shine right out.

IMG_0992.JPG

Sprayed with Agrax

This terrain also has a lot of burlap sacks leaning up against the barrels. We could spend a lot of time worrying about this, but I’ve got a solution here as well. Simply grab a stiff brush and do something in between a regular brush and a dry brush to apply a very light grey (I used Reaper #09090 Misty Grey) to all the ridges of the burlap but leaving the texture readily apparent. Follow that up by spraying with a brown wash overtop.

With that done, there’s just a few little details to pick out — metal barrel bands and ropes, and from there, it’s just a matter of varnishing it and it’s ready for the tabletop.

IMG_0995.JPG

Details and burlap sacks done

Conclusion

With this, we have some pretty nice terrain that didn’t take that much skill or effort to do. By letting the sculpt do most of the work and almost exclusively using inks, washes, and dry-brushing, the only kind of tricky part to this is maintaining trigger control on your airbrush with the thin inks and washes, but that’s something you should probably be learning anyways.

Ruin: The Overspray is the OSL

When I first started miniature painting, there were two techniques that seemed like elite level god tier things that are the difference between someone who is okay at miniature painting and a true master. One is non-metallic metal, and the other is Object Source Lighting, or OSL. I think it is telling that both of these are about doing tricky things with light, but I digress.

IMG_0967

Ruin, from Warmachine

OSL in particular sounds a over the top. Basically, it is painting the miniature such that if you have a glowing part of the model like a lightstaber or a glowing sword, you paint the glow of the light onto other areas of the model. For example, if you’re painting Darth Vader, in order to sell the glow of the lightsaber, you may want to place some red glow onto his cape where the light from the lightsaber is hitting and reflecting off his black cape.

 

Now, before we get too deep into it, let’s discuss some of the theory behind this to avoid some common mistakes. First, and let us just get out of the way first, this is the sort of technique where realism takes a back seat to artistic license. For something to really light up a model in the way we commonly do with OSL and bathe it in coloured light, it needs to be almost unrealistically bright. Which, I suppose isn’t a big deal when we’re talking about glowing swords and lightsabers, but it is something to keep in mind. We’re trying to sell an effect, not necessarily be super realistic here.

Secondly, we need to think about the ambient lighting as well. In bright sunlight, any light emanating from a glowing thing is going to be overwhelmed by the ambient light of the sun. However, if we’re on a moonless night, then the object in question is going to be the only source of light and we’re going to have strong OSL. Consider, for example, the below pictures of Aayla Secura and Darth Vader. Aayla is outside in daylight, so there is little to no OSL, while Darth Vader is in the dark and we can see the glow on his cape and hand.

lighsabers.jpg

We also need to think of the relative strength of the source of the light, the glow, and the rest of the model. When you’re doing OSL, the brightest spot should always be the source of the light. For coloured light, this could almost go to white. Next should be the glow, then finally, the rest of the model not basked in the glow of your glowing object. This means that you need to make sure you have somewhere to go in your colour scheme. OSL works really well on dark colour schemes like Darth Vader; for white models like Retribution warjacks, it can be tricky to get the glow brighter than the rest of the model because you’re trying to make something that is brighter than white. Which is hard.

Finally, light tends to emit from objects in a straight line. It can diffuse a little around corners, but when you’re placing your glow effect, you need to be careful that the places that are shadowed from the light emanating from your glowing object are in shadow.

Now, if only we had some sort of device that can shoot paint out from a point and in a straight line…

krome.jpg

Oh. Right.

Ruin and Airbrush OSL

Getting back to this model for a little bit, Ruin is the product of a bunch of Khador experimentation with ancient Orgoth relics, so it is a warjack powered by a mixture of coal and the souls of the dead. While the default sculpt is pretty cool, I decided I wanted to kick mine up a notch by adding a glowing patch of swirling souls to the right shoulder, as well as a some poor Cygnar long gunner on the base and a wisp representing his soul being sucked out of his body and into the shield.

IMG_0971.JPG

Pictured: dead swan

With the model painted and weathered in largely the same scheme as my Grolar and the rest of my army, and after dropping it off my desk and having to pin it back together, it was time to hit it with the OSL. As this is a robit chock-full of evil magic, I wanted to put in a lot of glow effects. The sculpt had a number of runes carved into it, which I wanted to make glowing, as well as the shield, soul, shoulder, and visor.

IMG_0968For the soul and the shoulder, I did paint them beforehand, trying out GW’s new ghost technical paint, the Hexwraith Flame, over a near-white base. It kind of worked, though you do need to highlight this to get the proper effect, either with layering or dry brushing. However, for the runes, all I did was drop some white paint into the rune as an undercoat.

From there, we’re going to mix up a glaze in our glow colour and drop it into an airbrush, thinning it enough to increase the transparency. The only challenge here is trigger control; you may want to practice on something else first, but you want to be able to pull back just enough to barely tint the target. Once you start seeing the colour starting to change, you can simply stay on target until it you get the effect you want. Finally, it is worth experimenting with both inks and paints until you get the colour and consistency that works for you.

IMG_0969For things like the runes and the visor, simply point and shoot. The paint hitting the . Since we’ve undercoated the source of the light with white, we will naturally get the effect we want — brightest at the source of the light, and duller in the areas of the glow.

When it comes to larger objects like the wisp of souls, what we can do is use the fact that an airbrush shoots paint in a straight line emanating from a point to our advantage. Simply fire at such an angle as though the paint is coming out roughly from the light source and hitting the model. This will lay the glow in where it would naturally fall.

And that’s about it. You may need to go back and reinforce some of the light sources with a little white, or play around with some washes overtop, but a few simple airbrush tricks can get you a passable OSL in no time at all that makes you look to the untrained eye like an elite god-tier painter.

IMG_0972.JPG

IMG_0970.JPG

IMG_0970.JPG

Sector Mechanicus: My 10 step method for awesome looking industrial terrain

As part of my foray into Necromunda, I ended up eventually breaking down and getting the core Necromunda: Underhive box. While I parted with the Goliath sprues, due to a mispack that I had to go through GW customer service to resolve, I ended up with twice the terrain as usual, in addition to the massive pile that I bought because when I get into something, I go all in.

Of course, this meant that I needed to find a way to get all that terrain painted. Now, because it is terrain, that means that I could relax and just do something tabletop quality. Unfortunately, because I’m kind of anal-retentive about my miniatures, my definition of tabletop quality is a little different from most people’s, which can be both a blessing and a curse. After a little trial and error, I think I’ve hit on a pretty good method to banging out masses of pretty good looking terrain for the Sector Mechanicus/Zone Mortalis stuff that is commonly used for Necromunda.

So, I’m going to do my own version of a Warhammer TV Duncan Rhodes video. But, since I’m not as photogenic as our lord and saviour of two thin coats; I’m going to do it in my own style: an incredibly wordy article, and also forgetting to take pictures of all my steps.

Also, just as a warning, this method does involve heavy airbrush use. An all-purpose airbrush like the Patriot 105 is a great tool for this sort of work, especially when you’re trying to bang out a lot of terrain in a short time. If you don’t have an airbrush, you could probably adapt some of these techniques, but it may be a better idea to go look up one of the Duncan tip of the day videos. Just don’t think you need to stick to the Games Workshop family of products. Even in this guide, I mention a lot of specific products, but aside from a couple which are so good you probably should be using them anyways (Vallejo Metal Color for airbrushing metallics, for example), feel free to substitute paints from your favourite paint brand.

The Method

1. Clip it off the sprues and assemble it. Duh. The Zone Mortalis stuff is mostly one piece bulkheads that just need some feet glued on, so it’s easiest to just assemble it all up front. For the big complex Sector Mechanicus terrain pieces, it’s probably best to work in sub-assemblies where you have to but leave it unassembled for now where you can, but it’s not hard to figure out the best way to do something like this.

2. Prime it in Stynylrez black through the airbrush. You could use a rattle can of black primer if you want to, or airbrush a different black primer if for some strange reason your primer of choice isn’t Stynylrez. However, airbrushing primer is much easier than using a rattle can, and it can be done inside in all kinds of weather.

3. Airbrush it with a base coat of Vallejo Metal Color Steel or a similar dark silver colour. Someone asked me recently what the best acrylic silver paints were for airbrushing, and Vallejo Metal Color (Not Vallejo Model Air) is a great answer. It has nice fine pigments, sprays like a dream, and covers in one coat. Right now, it’s the only metallic paint that goes through my airbrush.

4. Pick out brass bits. One thing I like to do is incorporate some visual interest in big metal things by having a mixture of grey metals and brass. It’s why I like painting steampunk stuff so much; I get to throw in a lot of brass bits to add some contrast to my metals and machinery. I generally use P3 Molten Bronze for this, but you can use whatever brass paint you like.

IMG_0920.JPG

VMC Steel (airbrushed) and P3 Molten Bronze (brush painted)

5. First dry-brush. Get a nice, big, soft makeup brush and a bright silver and go to town. It doesn’t really matter too much if you get the silver on the brass bits; it can actually make for a nice effect as the highest highlight on brass should be silver anyways. Feel free to be heavy on the dry brushing here as we will be taking it down a notch in a later step, and those errant, chalky dry-brush marks that are why real hardcore srs bsns painters use more advanced techniques and leave dry-brushing to noobs (note: my tongue planted firmly in my cheek as I write this sentence) actually make for a decent representation of scratches and scrapes and other sources of visual interest. Don’t be afraid to really beat the devil out of it and take out your frustrations on this terrain.

IMG_0949.JPG

My weapon of choice

IMG_0923.JPG

Before (bottom) and after (top) the first dry brush. See the difference; it’s looking pretty good already.

6. Pick out non-metallic details. Things like wires, hoses, etc., which are non-metallic. We’re doing this after the first dry-brush because we don’t want to spend a lot of time picking these out only to hit them with our violent, heavy dry-brushing in step 5 and ruin out work. Do them in nice, vibrant colours; it’s better to err on the side of more vibrant, because we’re going to knock it back in the next step.

img_0934.jpg

Some non-metallic details such as the tanks and hoses picked out.

7. Wash time! Drop some Nuln Oil into your airbrush and spray. Using the airbrush to apply these GW shades is fun; you can build up the shade and let it get everywhere, and if you don’t go too heavy on the trigger, you don’t end up with the coffee staining issue you normally get when you try to apply the shade with a brush. For more visual interest, follow up with some Drakenhof Nightshade in some random areas to get a nice subtle worn mottled look between blue-grey and brown-grey, and/or something like Agrax Earthshade for brown patches.

IMG_0935.JPG

Post-wash, note how the washes really dulled it down.

8. Second dry-brush. With the same makeup brush, do a subtle, controlled dry-brush just to pick out some of the edges but without going all over and messing up your non-metallic detail. Focus on the upper portions of your bulkheads and supports and the like, so it looks like they are getting more direct sunlight.

IMG_0937.JPG

The effect is difficult to capture in photos, but the second dry brush can really help bring back some of the highlights which faded a little in the wash.

9. Add finishing touches. There are a few things you can do here to take it up to the next level. If your terrain piece is sticking out of the ground like the support pieces for the walkways, you can add some crud to the bottom where dirt, debris, and standing water during floods might congregate. I like to use Typhus Corrosion for this part, which is basically GW’s technical paint that consists of brown with bits of crud floating in it. Basically, apply it to the areas close to the ground with a big wet brush and feather it up and out. This will give the impression that the areas close to the ground have gotten dirty through years of flooding and add a little bit of dynamism and visual interest. If you want, you can also add a little green corrosion to your copper and brass bits with a touch of Nihilakh Oxide. If there are any lights on your terrain piece, you can get a cool, simple OSL effect by painting the light source white and then spraying some artist acrylic inks in the colour of your choice overtop, allowing the overspray to represent the reflected light. You will look like an awesome painter who takes the time to do super advanced and crazy difficult techniques like OSL on your terrain; just keep the fact that it was actually super easy between us.

IMG_0938.JPG

Some quick glow effects with white paint, an airbrush, and some artist inks.

10. Varnish. You’re going to be handing these terrain pieces a lot and you’re probably not going to take as good care of them as you do your army, so give it a coat of satin varnish, which is a nice happy medium between a bright shiny gloss and those super dull matte varnishes that makes you wonder why you even bothered using metallic paint in the first place. Again, I like to use my airbrush for this because it makes varnishing much easier than either trying to brush it on or use a rattle can.

The Results

From there, you can start assembling your terrain. I found it’s good to assemble it in modules; this way, you can build your table in multiple ways, but you aren’t taking an hour to quickly lego together some rickety terrain pieces every time you want to play. When you do this, it’s good to think about how pieces might logically go together. Furnaces and the like may have big smokestacks, which should be the tallest things on the table. Pipes shouldn’t go to nowhere, especially when they’re being placed vertically as supports for flooring. Terrain should have enough supports that it looks stable, which has the advantage of actually being stable and not collapsing onto your nicely painted miniatures. It also may be a good idea to make some concessions towards the practicalities of playing the game when you do this — where you place your ladders, how you can get nice cover, and how you can make your terrain such that it can be interacted with and is meaningful enough that it matters in-game, but not so unbalanced that whoever has this terrain piece on his side of the table basically gets a free win.

Finally, once you get it together, you may need to touch up a few areas with paint. Places where you got some glue where you didn’t mean to could use a little love. Further, with OSL and weathering, you may need to add a little bit more for it to make sense. For example, if you have a clean pipe coming out of a dirty tank, you may need to add some grime to the pipe to make it look more consistent. Or you may need to dry brush on a little more OSL if you end up with a glowing bit that is facing another surface.

IMG_0948.JPG

This is my terrain setup; it has a few major pieces, but can be arranged and rearranged in a number of ways. The two stories of the section with the large white tank is not glued on, so I can take it off and place it on the gaming surface to have two single story terrain pieces. Also, the large chimney on top of the white tank is removable, and the pipes can be arranged in any number of ways. I think I’m going to get a battlemat to go with it; I was thinking the Cryx Necrotite F.A.T. Mat would be a good choice as it would go with both Necromunda and Warmachine, and could be set up with forests and more natural terrain and not look too shabby either. I’ve also got some fully painted Zone Mortalis terrain; the sort that comes in the Necromunda: Underhive box painted with the same technique to go with it.

As you can see, this painting technique works quite nicely. You end up with some good looking terrain, but because the washes have dulled and blended some of the colours together, it has enough contrast that it still looks good, but not so much that it overpowers the miniatures, who should be the focus of the game.

This isn’t the only technique I used though; on some of the larger pieces, I also did some chipping using the hairspray technique. That would be its own article though. If you want to do this, I would suggest to do the chipped sections first and mask them off while you work on the rest of the terrain piece and be careful about your colour choice; orange and brown rust doesn’t contrast red paint very much.

Conclusions

When you’re painting large things, effective use of an airbrush can be key to getting it done fast and good. This technique here is a nice way to get some awesome looking terrain, but for your projects, you can feel free to adapt it any way you want. Picking out brass bits and other details is really the only time-consuming part of this project. I kind of went overboard on some of the details for mine, but if you just want to get it done up to tabletop standard, paring back on the amount of details you put into the brass and the non-metallic bits you picked out can be a real time-saver.

Good looking terrain is an aspect of miniature gaming that is often undervalued. As we naturally want to focus on getting our armies painted, terrain often lags behind in both painting quality and actually getting it finished. However, there is nothing more satisfying in the hobby than seeing two nicely painted armies duking it out on an attractive table.

IMG_0950.JPG

Bust a move with Amy Johnson

Lately, as I’ve been experimenting with larger scale pieces, I’ve been painting some busts. My Mary Read 1/12 scale bust from Scale75 was an absolute joy to paint and really came together nicely in the end, and I’ve got a lot more in my stash to start up at any time.

Busts offer some interesting advantages over full figures. They allow the modeller to focus on the most interesting and characterful parts of the model such as the face and upper torso, while not requiring them to spend a lot of time on boring parts like boots and pants. Further, a bust is to a much larger scale than a full figure of equivalent size (and, presumably, price), which allows the painter to incorporate more accurate details, especially on things like the face and the eyes. Finally, they really push the painter to get things right, especially with the skin tones. At this scale, you can’t just get away with slapping on some Citadel shades and call it a day; you need to know what you’re doing.

The model

Amy_Johnson_portraitAmy Johnson, born in 1903, was a pioneering British aviatrix from the golden age of flight. In the 1930s, she set many aviation records, including becoming the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. Sadly, her flying career was cut short during World War II. While serving with the Air Transport Auxiliary, her Airspeed Oxford went down in the Thames Estuary. There is some controversy as to the exact circumstances of her death, but that’s too much for me to get into; suffice it to say, it was a sad day for the aviation world when we lost her.

The bust itself is a 1/10 scale resin kit from Bad Squiddo Games, sculpted by Przemysław Szymczyka. Bad Squiddo is an interesting one-woman company out of Nottingham, founded by Annie Norman with the explicit goal of increasing female representation in tabletop wargaming. I ended up purchasing this bust several months ago with the goal of completing it for the local club’s “Anything British” themed contest. She didn’t quite win, however she did manage to pull a silver at the Sword and Brush competition in Toronto this past weekend, which I was quite overjoyed to receive.

IMG_0815.JPG

Assembly

IMG_0371.JPG

Head piece – note damage to rims of goggles

This kit comes in two resin pieces, with the head and neck separate from the rest of the body, so assembly was nice and simple. I chose to keep them separate for most of the painting process, as there were some areas around the neck where it would have been tricky to get a brush in there, especially as the fur would probably require some dry brushing. I mounted the head on a paper clip taped to the side of a pill bottle, and matching hole was drilled into the neck of the body (which itself was also temporarily mounted to a pill bottle) so that when I finished the head I could just snip the paper clip and drop it in.

The one other piece of assembly I had to do before painting was to repair the rims of the goggles. The detail in that area was fairly small, hard and brittle, and I suspect that it was damaged in transit as the two pieces bumped up against each other in the package. Since I didn’t feel like asking for a replacement, I simply sliced the remainder of the rims off and resculpted them with aluminum putty and milliput.

Edit: Annie confirmed after I wrote this article that there are plans to strengthen the goggles to prevent this problem from happening.

Preparing to paint

Before I put brush to model, I had a couple decisions to make. I chose to paint the jacket and the cap as leather, but decided that I wanted them to be slightly different shades as they are not necessarily part of a matching outfit. For the fur, I had a few options but I decided to do a neutral to cool grey in order to contrast all the warm tones in the leather.

However, as figure painting is often the art of placing shadows and highlights, the most important decision was light placement. I wanted to really play with directional light and play with light and shadow on this project, so I chose to have her painted as though she was lit from her top front right quarter. With the angle of the head relative to the body, I felt this would make for a good choice, as it would imply that she is turning her head towards the light.

So, while I primed the head white to make a better undertone for the skin tones, I chose to use the zenithal priming technique on the body. This is where you initially prime in black, then spray white overtop from the direction of the light. By using your airbrush to represent a light source, the incoming white spray will approximate incoming rays of light. As such, the lighter paint will fall onto areas where the light should hit the model, which does two things. First, it naturally preshades the model, and second, it helps the painter understand which areas of the model should be lit and which areas should be shadowed.

The face

This was my first attempt at painting flesh with my airbrush; normally, I brush paint my skin tones, but I figured this would be a good time to start airbrushing. So, I began by laying down a base coat of blue. I started with blue for a few reasons, the first of which is that skin is a semi-transparent sack of meat and bone, and if you look closely, there is actually a lot of blue underneath the skin in certain areas.

The second reason why I started with blue has to do with colour theory. As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to play with lighting and shadow with this piece. As such, I knew that blue would be the perfect shadow colour to contrast the highlights. First, it’s more or less across the colour wheel from a lot of my skin tones, so it’s going to generate some sharp contrast. Second, we also have the warm/cool contrast between the warm pinks and reds in some of the skin tones and the blue in the shadows. When you have warm colours in the highlights and cool colours in the shadows, it makes the highlights “pop” a little more.

woman_in_yellow_sweater.jpg

Why do I start with blue? Well, it worked for her…

One of my favourite examples to illustrate this principle is actually a canvas painting. Prudence Heward’s “Girl in Yellow Sweater” on display at the National Gallery of Canada is an excellent display of light and shadow. If you look carefully at it, you can see a lot of interesting colour choices the artist utilized to create the shadows and give it a three-dimensional appearance. The blues in the skin tones, the purples and greens on the yellow sweater… if you want to get better at painting figures, you would be well-served by studying this and other paintings made by artists who are clearly good enough to have their work on display in a national gallery.

IMG_0422_head.JPG

Amy, after airbrushing the first layer of skin tone

Anyways, with the blue down, I followed up with a lighter skin tone. Similar to the zenithal priming technique used on the body, I used my airbrush as a light source, focusing my fire on the areas under direct light. The end result was an interesting transition from a base flesh tone into the blue shadows.

With the airbrushing done, it was now time to do some brush painting. There were two main things that I felt I needed to do with the skin tone — bring up the highlights a little more, and make the transition between the blue and the skin tone a little better. For the highlights, I applied some very fair flesh tone on the areas where the light would hit it, blending out the edges to make a smooth transition. For this technique, a wet palette is mandatory. Also, some additives can help — I like to use my airbrush flow improver to extend the dry time of my paint and make it easier to feather the edges of the paint out or mix them together on the model.

IMG_0461.JPG

Highlights and glazes applied. Note the highlights on the right side of her forehead, as well as the hints of Khardic Flesh adding life to the model

In order to smooth out the transition from the blue into the skin tone, I mixed up a glaze out of P3 Khardic Flesh (a very pink skin tone) and some Vallejo Glaze Medium (though you can just use any acrylic matte artist medium from an art store as well). This medium is essentially paint without pigment, so mixing paint and medium will reduce the opacity of the paint as there is less pigment and more medium, while not breaking it down or changing some of the properties like viscosity and surface tension too much like if you thinned with too much water. As the glaze is basically just more transparent paint, it will tint the underlying layers. Glazes also can help smooth out transitions, so they are useful for either making the model have less of that airbrushed look, or smoothing out blends that aren’t quite perfect.

In this case, with a glaze of a very pinkish flesh tone, not only does it add a transition that was kind of missing before, it also adds a little more life to the model which was previously lacking some of that rosy glow. As before, I blended out the edges both into the highlight and into the shadows, ensuring a smooth transition from the blue shadows, to the pinkish midtones, to the lighter highlights.

IMG_0822.JPG

Some paints I used for the flesh. Soft Blue from Reaper was my undertone. The one on the right was my glaze colour. I also added a bit of white to the Fair Skin for the highest highlights.

Glazes are also useful for doing makeup or adding in shadows. In this case, I wanted to give her a little blue eyeshadow, so I mixed up a glaze out of some desaturated blue and some medium. Because the glaze is more transparent, a glaze applied over skin tones will be more of a subtle effect that doesn’t resemble Mimi from the Drew Carey show.

1550437150-the-drew-carey-show-mimi

No. Just… no.

The eyes have it…

Oh boy. The eyes were easily the most difficult part of this project. I had to repaint them a couple times because I just couldn’t get them lined up right; this is a larger scale than I’m used to.

Anyways, on small scales, I like to start from the eyes and work out, but in this case, the model was big enough that I could just paint the eyes directly. So, I started with a light grey, with just a hint of flesh tone mixed in to paint the whites of the eyes. It’s important here to not just paint them white; if you look closely, the whites of people’s eyes aren’t actually white, and if you do do them in white, they end up popping and the model looks surprised.

blue_eye.jpg

Reference material, courtesy of the first result on a google image search for “blue eye”

With the whites done, I did some research to see what colour Amy’s eyes actually were, and thanks some paintings I found online, the answer was blue. However, because this is figure painting, the answer is never quite as simple as “just paint them in a uniform blue colour.”

If we look closely at a blue eye, we see some interesting things going on. While we obviously can’t show every little striation in the muscle of the iris at this scale, we can see some patterns here. First, the iris is darker near the outer edge and lighter closer to the pupil. Second, the way the light filters through the cornea, the bottom tends to appear a little lighter, similar to the sort of effect you get with things like gems on fantasy models. So, in painting my iris, I wanted to make sure to incorporate that highlight and that dark area around the outer edge of the iris.

eyes.jpg

Note: I did touch up the eyeliner after; there was a little too much on the bottom.

Similarly, while I painted the pupils in black, if you really want to make the eyes come alive, you need to add that little tiny dot of near-white in the pupil to represent the reflection. That little point of light is really important; it’s what really makes the eye come alive at these scales.

Leather, fur and goggles

For the leather, my initial idea was to start by airbrushing on the shadows and highlights; basically redoing the zenithal priming technique but with browns and a hint of light blue in the areas where the light would be reflecting off of it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t working out, though it did leave me with not a bad base colour. As I was looking at it, what I realized I had to do was to get the texture first, then glaze in the shadows and highlights.

With plenty of leftover pluck foam kicking around, it wasn’t hard to find an applicator. Using the spongy material, I dabbed on various shades of brown, working up from a dark Walnut Brown into some midtone and lighter browns, and occasionally adding a stroke or two with a liner brush to represent creases in the leather.

With that done, I had a nice texture, but I had lost the shadows and highlights from the airbrushing. Here is where our old friend blending comes in again. By making a blue-black glaze out of some glaze medium and a tiny amount of Scale75 black and blue inks, I can come back in and reinforce the shadows in the wrinkles and near the bottom of the model, while still maintaining some of the texture.

IMG_0824.JPG

A sample of paints used for the leather; inks to make the glaze in the shadows are on the right.

For the fur, I am not ashamed to say that I used Citadel shades and dry brushing to get the effect. Citadel shades are sometimes considered to be “talent in a bottle,” and some people turn their nose up at dry brushing as a technique for newbies, but it still can be a useful technique if used properly and in the right place.

IMG_0669.JPG

Note the texture in the leather and the fur

However, what I started with was some wet blending — placing light paint on the highlights and dark paint in the shadows, and mixing them together on the model while the paint is still wet. Opposite to how I did the leather, in this case, I did the lighting first, then added the texture later with controlled washes with Citadel shades (both Nuln Oil and Drakenhof Nightshade) and dry-brushing light grey and white onto the raised areas of the fur.

Finally, er get to the goggles, I knew I had to do something to represent the reflection. To do so, I painted the lenses of the goggles in a very dark blue, and added a diagonal line of a sky blue colour. This represents a point on the goggles where the reflection of the light source off the curved surface might catch the viewer’s eye. I did blend out the edges to get a smooth transition from dark to light, however one of the keys to painting reflective surfaces is sharp highlights, so I went from a very dark blue to a very light blue over a very small distance. I continued that technique on to the rims, using true metallic metal techniques whereby I had dark metallic paints over most of the area, and bright silver where the light is hitting it and reflecting off.

Mounting

IMG_0665.JPG

Hehehe… I have wood for busts…

For this project, I ended up making a plinth out of a cherry wood block that I had sourced from a fellow IPMS member. A hole was drilled in the top, and after applying some cherry stain and three coats of polyurethane varnish, I had a nice looking piece of wood to mount her on. With her head angled to her right, I intentionally positioned her on an angle such that the front of the plinth was facing somewhere between the angle of her head and the angle of her body.

 

To make the sign, I simply made up a quick little text box in Microsoft Word and printed it on plain paper. To get an aged look, I shot a few different warm off-white colours of paints and inks through my airbrush at it in a random, mottled pattern, with the paints thinned such that they are very transparent and shooting just enough to tint the white of the paper, while not appreciably affecting the black printer ink. I then used some thinned white glue to attach the paper to the wood, and laid one more coat of varnish on to protect it and give it that gloss look.

IMG_0825.JPG

Conclusion

This was an interesting project for a lot of reasons. First, I don’t normally do a lot of historical figures, tending to lean more to the fantasy side, but something about Amy Johnson and her story really grabbed me.

I feel like while this bust may be less flashy than a lot of fantasy figures, it posed an interesting challenge. Because there aren’t a lot of the sort of fancy accoutrements which are present in a lot of fantasy worlds, and because her hair is concealed by her flying cap, the painter is challenged to do what they can with textures and shadows to make a somewhat mundane bust look interesting.

I think it’s fair to say that I rose to those challenges, and that this bust does represent progression on my hobby journey. Between the techniques that I used to create the leather texture, the glistening light on the goggles and the eyeballs, and the use of directional lighting, I really pushed myself on this model. Not to mention the work that went into the plinth, as woodworking is far outside the realm of my usual hobby work.

This was a fun project, and will go in a place of pride on my shelf, which, at the end of the day, is really all one can ask for in any modelling and painting endeavour.

Paintlog: Dana Murphy and fun with airbrushing inks

I’ve been falling behind on updating this blog, partly because I have a couple articles half-written that I haven’t had the motivation to actually finish. While those are still on the back burner, I figured it would be a good idea to update some of my readers with information on a recent project I did which involved some interesting techniques to accomplish something that most people consider to be very difficult.

Yes, I’m talking about painting yellow.

IMG_0309.JPG

Dana Murphy (72mm), Reaper #01407

Yellow is a colour that a lot of people struggle with, including myself. Until this project, my preferred method for painting yellow was “pick another colour scheme.” This is for a couple reasons; the main one being that yellow tends to be a very transparent colour with weaker pigments. As a result, you don’t get very good coverage, especially if you’ve punished yourself by trying to paint it straight over black primer or some other dark colour. And in trying to get good coverage, it is very easy to end up laying it on too thick and ending up with a patchy, horrible looking mess.

But what if we were to take advantage of that transparency? There is a trick that a lot of miniature painters use called zenithal shading, which is where you prime the mini black, then hit it from above and in the direction of the light source with a rattle can or airbrush to effectively preshade your model by making it lighter where the light is hitting it. Matt DiPietro of Contrast Miniatures has taken this one step further and developed a process he calls “sketch style” where one follows that up with transparent glazes to colour the model, and end up with good results quickly. By taking advantage of the natural transparency of paint, you can use the preshading you did in your initial steps and basically paint by numbers, automatically getting your highlights and shadows depending on whether you’re painting over black, white, or a shade of grey.

IMG_2727.JPG

Colours used – I used Reaper paints and FW & Holbien inks, but you could use your brand of choice for most of these. Citadel Casandora Yellow is on the far right.

Of course, shadows aren’t always as simple as adding a bit of black or a bit of white because of colour theory. So, knowing a bit about colour theory and being inspired by a couple things I’ve seen online, I decided that I wanted purple shadows, and the yellow to progress from purple into orange, yellow, and maybe a touch of white in the highest highlight.

step12.png

(1) primed mini, (2) first coat of purple

So, with the figure primed in my white primer of choice (I believe I used GW Corax White, with Reaper for touchups) (1), the first step in my journey on painting yellow was to load up my airbrush with a dark purple and began spraying from below (2). At this stage, it was more important to get it everywhere in the shadows than to be clean with it because I was going to cover up most of it anyways with more layers of paint.

step3.png

Step (3), front and back.

Following that, I grabbed a lighter colour of purple and went for my second coat. This time, however, I used a zenithal technique, focusing on spraying from above and leaving the dark purple in the deepest shadows (3). I also focused my fire on the front of the model, because when it comes to composition for a single figure, it’s good to have the main light source coming from the front. You can see this in the difference between the front and back. After that, I repeated the process with white, being a little more controlled with my spray and leaving some of both shades of purple present in the shadows but covering up the purple on the upward-facing surfaces, and again, focusing my fire on the front, where most of the light is going to be hitting her (4).

 

step4.png

Step (4) – note how the shadows are more readily visible from above

By now you are probably thinking that this article was going to be about painting yellow. Well, no fear, here is where we finally break out the yellow. I’ve got a couple different shades of yellow FW acrylic artist inks, one of which is a very bright lemony yellow, while the other is a little more golden. These inks, as I discussed in a previous article, are basically acrylic paints with a high pigment density and very thin consistency. As a result, they can actually go through an airbrush on a low pressure setting quite nicely; practically drop and shoot with a minimum of clogging.

This is also where the natural transparency of yellows is an advantage. A thin coat of yellow won’t do much to change the colour of those purple shadows, however if we spray it on over white, we’re going to get a nice bright yellow. So, with my shadows established in purple, I wanted to work up to my highlights, so I took my darker yellow and sprayed it over pretty much the entire model, ensuring to at least cover up all the white. After letting that dry, I followed up with some of my brighter yellow from above, and finally, added a bit of white to the bright yellow to get the highest highlight (4).

step 4.png

After the first attempt at yellow (4)

Here, I ran into a bit of a problem. The highlights and shadows were looking good, but the transitions weren’t that great. Going from purple to yellow is a very stark transition, and I felt it needed something in between. So, I reached for Citadel’s Casandora Yellow shade, which despite its name is actually an orangey wash. After putting a few drops in my airbrush, I fired it into the shadows and all over the mini, getting basically all over and allowing the wash to sink into the shadows and anywhere where I needed either the depth of the wash or  that midtone transition colour (5).

IMG_2723.JPG

(5) After the Casandora Yellow, it’s now a bit too orange. Just like a certain world leader…

dana1.JPG

No problem, I can just fix it up by re-highlighting the yellow (6)

The Casandora Yellow did a great job of bringing the yellows and purples together, but it unfortunately made the entire model a little more orange than I wanted and kind of killed the highlights wherever it went. Which was no problem — all I had to do was load up some more yellow inks and re-highlight by spraying from above with the airbrush, and then mixing in a little white to the lightest yellow for the highest highlight (6). The end result was a very nice, rich yellow which really sold the illusion of light and shadow at that scale.

From there, the yellows were done and it was time to put away the airbrush and pull out the brushes, because with that done, I was happy to brush paint the rest of the model. Of course, in doing so, I was careful not to get paint on the areas I wanted to keep yellow, as it would be hard to colour match such a complicated base coat. Also, areas such as the cream-coloured bits on her uniform had highlights and shadows blended in to match the lighting and shadows on the yellow — after all, it would look strange to have this perfectly shaded yellow next to a strap or a belt with no shading at all.

IMG_0301.JPG

“Once you’re done with the yellow, just pull out a brush and do the rest. No big deal, right?”

Another little detail where I really like how it turned out was the tricorder looking thing on her left thigh. Here, I think the edge highlight on the top corner really helps sell the shape to the viewer, and I had some fun with the colours on the screens. The little heart monitor screen is actually painted on with white and then glazed with green, to give an old-school monochrome CRT monitor vibe, and I like how the contrast between the edge highlight and the transition on the blue square worked out.

IMG_0303.JPG

See: Tricorder

Finally, as soon as I attached her to the base I noticed that the composition seemed off. I had glued metal rods into her feet to attach her to a handle while I was painting her, and the last step in theory would have been to clip those rods down to size, drill corresponding holes in the base, add a little super glue and drop her in. But when I drilled the holes, I centered them longitudinally, faining to take into account the fact that she was leaning off to one side. So once I got her in there, the whole piece looked off-balance. And with a contest deadline looming, I really didn’t have the time or the desire to fill those holes, re-prime, re-paint, and try again. So, as a last minute fix, I grabbed a tiny switch from an electronics project, clipped off the legs, and glued it to the base near her left foot. After hitting it with some primer, I quickly painted some blue gunmetal NMM highlights and a big red button, colours which were already used on the figure in small doses, but would stand out enough to balance out the imbalance created by having her leaning to one side. I think it worked, and definitely helped save the model composition-wise.

IMG_0299.JPG

My little mistake in positioning her on the base is most apparent at this angle. Without the little button, she’s way too far to one side because I centered her feet without taking into account her pose. Also, see the shadows here.

Conclusion

This was a fun project for a lot of reasons. First, it allowed me the opportunity to play with my brand new Badger Krome, which I picked up in the recent Badger 54th Birthday promotion. Second, I was able to use the airbrush to, in a short time, easily accomplish an effect that would be very difficult trying to do with a brush. Third, it just turned out really well, and I’m very happy with the end result. I feel as though I learned a lot in the process, especially as I’ve been shying away from yellow because I haven’t had much success with it before. Also, I took her to the IPMS Montreal (Réal Côté) show last weekend, where she won first place in the fantasy figures category, so that was a nice result as well. I think it’s always a good sign when one of the pieces you are most proud of is your most recent piece, and I think as I look back on my hobby journey, this will be one that represents a big step forward.

tanda.png

Also, insert gratuitous T&A here

 

IMG_2727.JPG

Painting my Grolar, Part 1

November has been a busy hobby month for me.  I started off the month with a lot of stuff on my hobby table, and have been trying to finish it off and give myself a bit of breathing room on my desk for me to scatter dozens upon dozens of little bottles of acrylic paint.

33093_Grolar_WEB.jpg

The studio scheme.  Note: I don’t believe in studio schemes.

One of the things I’ve managed to finish was the Grolar/Kodiak multikit from Privateer Press, which I decided to magnetize to make it possible to use it as both variants in my games (even though the Grolar just looks way cooler).

As shown in the previous article, I managed to get him assembled, magnetized, and the gaps filled around the beginning of the month.  While the position of the legs was pretty much set, and without major conversions it would be difficult to do a repose, the given position is at least a dynamic one, with one foot in front of the other, unlike a number of PP’s older warjack kits.  The arms, on the other hand, had ball joints at both the shoulders and elbows, so there was some room for posability there, though one had to be careful with the Grolar that the back of the hammer wasn’t whacking himself in the shoulder.  I decided to pose him such that the left arm was slightly back and the right arm slightly forward, as though he were striding across the battlefield, and I did have to make the point of contact for the Grolar’s hammer slightly off-center to give it some clearance between the back of the hammer and the front of his shoulder.

Airbrush time!

Anyways, with the model all assembled, it was airbrush time!  Lately I’ve been experimenting with airbrush priming to good results.  I like to use an old single-action airbrush to prime, using the same logic for the airbrush that I use for my regular brushes — don’t use a nice brush for anything that isn’t paint, such as primer, varnish, etc. So I put together my airbrush setup, loaded my Badger 350 with white Stynylrez primer, and got to work.  At this point, the model was still in multiple sub-assemblies to make painting easier. I had pulled off all the magnetized bits, and I hadn’t glued the hips to the torso assembly yet.

IMG_2185.JPG

As an aside, Stynylrez has been my favourite primer lately.  At $10 for a 60 mL (2 oz) bottle, the price is right (compared to $4-5 for a 1/2 oz bottle of something like Vallejo or Reaper), and it’s thin enough out of the bottle to just drop in the airbrush and shoot with no thinners necessary.  It seems to stick well to all materials, and I have yet to have any problems with it not sticking to and chipping easily from metal figures like I have had with Vallejo’s primer. And, I’m lucky enough to have a hobby shop that carries it nearby.

Anyways, once I had a bunch of white primed doodads that vaguely resembled robot parts, it was time to start putting colour on the model.  I knew I wanted to do a pink striped pattern, partly because I thought it would look cool and partly because this is my second one of these and I wanted to be able to easily distinguish the two on the gaming table. So, I pulled out my good, dual-action airbrush and got to work. With a bit of thinning and the right additives (Vallejo Airbrush Thinner and Airbrush Flow Improver), Reaper MSP paints can be easily shot through an airbrush to good effect.

Anyways, I started with the pink, simply because pink is one of those colours like yellow which is far easier to lay over white than over a dark colour, and by doing the pink first, it would reduce the amount of masking I would have to do and worrying about overspray. I started out with 09268 Punk Rock Pink as a base coat on the areas that I wanted to do the stripes on, then worked up into 09262 Blush Pink and finally 09281 Brains Pink for the highest highlights.

IMG_2187.JPG

The moment of truth

After waiting for the pink to dry, I used Tamiya masking tape, which is available in a variety of widths from about 2mm upwards, and is perfect for doing things like hazard stripes at this scale.  After masking off the stripes, it was time to pull out the airbrush again and break out the purple.  I used my usual purple recipe, Reaper’s triad of Nightshade (9022), Imperial (9023) and Amethyst (9024) purple and got to work.  First, I loaded the brush with Nightshade Purple, the darkest shade, and covered the entire model, making sure not to miss any spots.

IMG_2189.JPG

With the Nightshade Purple laid down, I assembled the hip joint and stuck the model to the base. By having it more or less fully assembled, I could more easily see which angle the light source was coming from on pieces such as the arms and place my highlights appropriately. I then moved onto Imperial Purple, getting probably most of the upper surfaces, and then going to Amethyst Purple for the highest highlights.  In the picture, you can see that the highlights were placed with consideration of both what areas of the model will be hit by the sun, and also how to create some contrast between light and dark on the sharp edges on the torso.

The moment of truth came when I pulled up the tape.  There was a little bit of bleeding and whatnot (which was probably mostly my fault), particularly on the left shoulder where there were a lot of rivets interfering with getting the tape down nicely, but nothing I couldn’t touch up with a brush.

So, with that done, it was time to put away the airbrush and bust out my brushes and wet palette, because I still had a lot of traditional painting to do…