Grolar Epilogue: Progress and Dojo

In a few of my most recent articles, I talked about how I painted up the Kodiak/Grolar multikit that I won in the Iron Arena at the Capital City Bloodbath this year. This is actually my second Grolar, and if you put them side by side, I think you can get a clear picture of my progression as a painter over the past year and a half or so. I think the newer model showcases a few key aspects where my skill has increased.

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New Grolar (left) and old Grolar (right)

The most obvious difference here is the weathering. The first model was painted long before I started looking into weathering techniques, so when you look at them side by side, you can see that the newer one has a lot more character to it thanks to all the dirt and rust and battle damage. It took me a long time to really get into weathering (outside of character warjacks), but I think the results really do speak for themselves. Weathering adds character and can help your model really tell a story.

The second big difference, I think, is the whites. In the older model, I was probably still just painting the white in a straight white. Whereas in the newer model, I had actually highlighted the whites, starting with a mix of grey and a touch of P3 Frostbite to push the white into a slightly cooler area of the spectrum, and only going up to straight white on the edges and in the highest highlights. I feel that just looking at these two models side by side, this makes a huge difference, especially on the white piece around the neck area.

But the biggest difference of all has to be the metals. In the old one, I was probably just painting them with a silver or brass colour, washing it with nuln oil or some other black wash, and maybe drybrushing it a bit before calling it a day. It looks okay for a gaming piece, but to really take it to the next level, as on the second one, I had to learn to highlight metals. I would start with a darker silver or brass colour, then after applying a wash, I’d work my way up to either a bright silver or a bright brass. Simply look at the curved pieces on the hammer and the guns to see the difference; the newer model looks a lot more three dimensional, and the brass really “pops” in a way that the older model doesn’t.

In addition, the later model has more brass to it. This has been a theme with a lot of the models in this colour scheme. My early models were mostly purple, white and silver, but as I played with colours a little more, I found that the more brass I put on them, the better they looked. This was before I had an understanding of colour theory, of course, so when I first learned about the colour wheel and how to get good contrast, it totally made sense. Gold is directly across the colour wheel from purple, so of course, mixing purple and a warm gold on a model is going to give you both the complementary colours contrast, as well as some cool/warm contrast, and it’s going to look a lot more balanced and pleasing to the eye than a model that is all purple, white, and a cool silver.

Further, adding more gold can help show more details. For the pipes on top of the original model, I did them all in silver, while on the newer one, I did the pipes in silver but the elbow joints in brass. In addition to adding some visual interest and breaking up the big giant silver piece, it also makes it so that the detail is more easily apparent to the viewer at a distance or at a quick glance.

Overall, I would say that these two models represent progress on my hobby journey. The older once is not perfect, and by my new standards, it’s probably not even that great. However, I’m not ashamed of it or anything like that, because it represents how far I’ve come. That’s the thing with any hobby – no model is perfect, and you get better and better with every piece. It’s a journey, not a destination.

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With apologies to Cyanide and Happiness

Bonus! Grolar Dojo!

As an aside, I took the Grolar variant to a tournament a couple weeks ago, and he did very well. He personally killed two warlocks, which helped me clinch third place after a total brainfart in the second-last round cost me a game I had pretty much won (“I’m going to table my opponent except for his caster, get ahead on scenario, then walk into Butcher3’s threat range!”). Since it was a two-list event, I had a Vlad1 Rockets list in my bag, but didn’t bring it out because I forgot my tournament tray and didn’t really want to unpack 50 models every round. So, I just played the following list all four games:

Theme: Jaws of the Wolf

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– Behemoth
– Torch
– Grolar
– Juggernaut
– Marauder

Greylord Forge Seer x2 (free)
Eilish Garrity
Yuri the Axe (free)
Kayazy Eliminators x2
Battle Mechaniks (max)

This list has been something that I have been tweaking for a while, and I straight-up love it. Though it may take a while to learn all his tricks, Strakhov1 has quickly become my favourite caster, and I would argue that with all his movement shenanigans, he is one of the best jack-support casters in Khador right now (perhaps even better than Harkevich and Special K) because of his sheer ability to put warjacks where they need to be, and threaten to assassinate a caster from downtown. Like Sorscha1, even holding onto the feat in the back pocket can help you control the game by simply threatening to kill the enemy caster if he gets too close, with “too close” being defined as “anywhere within 20 inches of any of these warjacks.”

If we go back to the old page 5, and take away some of the puerile and unnecessarily-gendered language, we can see that Warmachine is a game of aggression. You have a better chance of securing victory by taking control of the game and going on the offensive than by sitting around and waiting for your opponent to come to you. With very mobile, deep-striking heavy warjacks that have the base stats to do a lot of damage when they get there, Strakhov can effectively take control of the game and send powerful pieces deep into the enemy’s line in a way that someone like Harkevich really can’t. Harkevich excels at a fair fight, but that’s something your opponent doesn’t always give you. Strakhov, with all his movement shenanigans, can do some interesting hit and run tactics, and he always has an assassination run in his back pocket.

In short, nothing in Warmachine kills things quite like a Khador jack once it gets there. And with the ability to take a model with a SPD of 4 inches and send it 19 inches up the table in non-linear fashion, no one gets a warjack there quite like Strakhov.

Painting my Grolar, Part 3

In a previous article, we got our Grolar almost completed, putting down all the paint and getting it ready for the final few steps — weathering, basing, and a coat of varnish to protect it from grubby gamer hands.

Weathering

In general, weathering techniques are a more recent addition to my hobby repertoire.  It was only this year that I really dove into weathering. Initially, I tried to justify not doing it by saying that my warjacks were fresh out of the factory, but once I got into it, I started to really like the results.

For this model, I used four main techniques.

  1. Painted on scratches
  2. Sponge Weathering
  3. Add texture with Typhus Corrosion
  4. Dry pigments

Painted on scratches

Painting on scratches is not very complicated, however it does require a fine brush and some brush control. But before I get into how to paint it, lets imagine a plate of armour that has taken a whack from a sword or a battleaxe or something like that and consider how it will interact with the light.

In my sketch here, we have a green plate of armour with a scratch halfway up and a light source coming from the top left. Due to the geometry of the scratch, the bottom part of the scratch is going to catch the light, while the top part of the scratch is going to be shadowed.

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Left, the plate of armour with the scratch, right, the plate of armour with the top and bottom of the highlight to illustrate.

So, once we understand this, painting a cool looking scratch is going to be fairly simple, as long as you have the brush control and the right brush and paint consistency. Simply paint a dark colour for the body of the scratch, and add a thin highlight on the bottom of the scratch in a lighter version of your base colour.

This technique may not be the most accurate on a micro scale; after all, most armour plates have relatively thin green paint and relatively thick silver metal to them, and these sort of scratches will probably dig deep into the metal, the juxtaposition of the bright highlight and the dark shadow will give your scratch a three dimensional look, which is exactly what we are going for here.

Also, when it comes to scratches, random scratches are nice, but you can get some extra realism by considering what areas are going to take a beating, and in what direction these scratches are likely to form. As one example, I used to work on construction sites, and I remember once staring at the back end of an excavator. The main body of an excavator can swivel 360 degrees on its tracks, and the back end sticks out fairly far to act as a counterweight to the bucket on the front. This particular excavator had a lot of horizontal scratches on the back, which, in context, totally makes sense. As the body of the excavator swivels around on its tracks and the operator is going to be more focused on the bucket than the back end, sooner or later, that back end is going to rub up against something and the body spins around, it’s going to leave horizontal scratches on the back of the excavator.

So in our fantasy world, if you have something like a warjack that is going to do a lot of punching, you can make the weathering look a little more realistic by adding some scratches extending back from the fists in the direction of the punch. This sort of thing can add a little more realism to your scratches, and make it so that your weathering tells a story, or at least more of a story than “here are some scratches and stuff I painted on this model.”

Sponge Weathering

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Sponge weathering is another simple technique, and it uses something that any wargamer has kicking around in droves — soft foam. You can get this in packaging for Privateer Press miniatures, or from pieces that you’ve plucked from those trays for your battlefoam bag. Simply break off a piece of your pluck foam, or cut off a piece of the foam that comes in the PP blister packs, and you’ve got your applicator.

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See the scratches on areas like the shoulder and the fist, as well as the sponge weathering  and Typhus Corrosion all over.

All you have to do with this technique is take the foam, add some paint, remove the excess with a paper towel, similar to what you do when dry-brushing, and start dabbing the model in areas that you want a weathered, chipping effect. This will apply your paint in random, natural patterns that look sort of like the chipping you might expect to see on a military vehicle that has been in service for a while. I like to start with a dark silver colour, such as GW’s Leadbelcher or P3’s Pig Iron, then follow up with a dark brown like P3 Umbral Umber. By doing two colours, not only do I get a bit of a rust effect, with some of the chips looking like they’ve been exposed to the elements longer than others, but it also just adds some visual interest and confusion to trick the eye into making it look a little more real.

Typhus Corrosion

Typhus Corrosion is one of Games Workshop’s technical paints, which is a few paints in their line that have been specially formulated to make some more advanced techniques rather easy. For example, they have Blood for the Blood God, which makes basic blood effects simple, or Nihilakh Oxide which is basically just that greenish patina that you see on old statues put in a tiny bottle.

citadeltechnical.jpgTyphus Corrosion comes in their standard tiny pot, and when you open it, you can see that it is a thin paint, with a consistency somewhat closer to a wash, but with a bunch of crud floating in it. This crud creates a gritty texture when it dries, which helps create some contrast and visual confusion, as well as not doing a terrible job of replicating mud and grime.

Duncan can probably explain this better than I can, but to apply this, you simply put in on the desired area with a beater brush that you don’t really care about. For warjacks, I like to add a lot to the legs and feet, to replicate both the mud that they may have walked through. From there, you can add as much or as little as you want, playing with dabs, stippling, and streaks, to get the desired effect. For warjacks, I think it gives a particularly nice result on the pistons and other machinery that articulates the legs, to replicate buildups of grease and oil and grime. Also, feel free to add some on top of the areas that you had hit with the sponge weathering for a cool effect as well.

Dry pigment

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Some subtle soot on the back of this warjack

We’re just about done here, but there is one more thing to consider. In this steampunk universe, warjacks are fueled by giant coal boilers, which is something that you really shouldn’t think about too hard, given the sheer impracticality of managing the logistics of delivering enough coal to the battlefield to keep even a single warjack going. However, if you’re burning the entire coal production of West Virginia every couple hours, that’s going to generate a lot of soot.

This is where our friend dry pigments come in. These are simply bottles of pigment dust, with no liquid or medium in them. They can be brushed onto the model to create various effects, and I’ve found them to be particularly useful for a few things — adding a bit of colour and visual interest to rocks and brickwork, or in this case, adding soot. They can be applied in a couple of ways, either by simply getting some on your brush and dusting the model with them, or, if you want to get a little more to stick, adding a little bit of water (or saliva) to the model and then brushing them on. Again, this is a product that is very new to me, but I’ve found that brushing the smokestacks, boiler, etc., with some very dark grey or black pigment can really help make it look like it’s coated in a fine layer of soot.

That said, because this is simply dust that you are applying to the model, you will need to fix the pigment somehow to make it stick. Some companies make pigment fixers, but for gaming pieces, I feel like the varnish that I use to protect them on the tabletop (Vallejo Matte Varnish, thinned and shot through an airbrush) is good enough to seal the pigment onto the model.

Anyways, from there, it’s just a matter of adding the glow effect onto the visor, doing some basing, and adding a coat of varnish, and the Grolar is done and ready for the gaming table.

Final thoughts on weathering

Since I’m still building my weathering skills, this is just a tiny sample of some basic weathering techniques. There are many chipping techniques, such as with hairspray or salt, that I’ve yet to try. In addition, you can do a lot with oil paints to create glazes and other visual interest. Oil paints are a completely different beast because they have a lot longer work time than acrylics, which opens up a lot of techniques, however that’s something that I haven’t really gotten into yet because of cleanup and ventilation concerns. Further, there are a wealth of specialized weathering products out there from companies like Vallejo and AK, including a few I just picked up last week (oh, the dangers of having a doctor’s office a couple blocks away from a hobby store…).

One thing I would recommend to all the gamers out there, though, is to check out some of the hobby stores and scale model builder communities if you really want to take your weathering to the next level. Hobby stores tend to have a lot more products for this sort of thing than the six or so GW technical paints that your FLGS might have on its shelf, and the sort of people who spend hours getting their Panzers looking like they’ve been going through Russian mud and snow (and the occasional chunk of shrapnel) have a lot of expertise you can borrow from.

Painting my Grolar, Part 2

With the easy part done, it was time to get started on the fun part — getting out the brushes and putting paint on the model.  In part one of this series, I had laid down the base colour scheme in purple and pink, using the airbrush to get some shadows and highlights on the various armour panels that make up this warjack. From there, the next step is to touch up a couple areas that I airbrushed and didn’t get quite right on the stripes, and then picking out the various other colours on the model.

White Trim

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Note the gradient on the shoulders and collar, from a cool grey to white.

Of course, with me, it’s never as simple as a paint by numbers. I had spent a fair bit of time with the airbrush trying to get the right shadows and highlights on the model, so if I had simply painted all these trim pieces in a flat, uniform white, it would look out of place next to the gradient of dark to light purple/pink on the main body. Another issue was that trying to paint white straight over purple with acrylic paints can be a little difficult, due to the purple underneath showing through.

Fortunately, both these issues can be solved the same way. To start painting my white, I undercoated with a grey, which due to having a bit better coverage, blocked out the underlying purple much better than had I tried to simply paint white over purple. Next, instead of painting the whole thing white, I built up the colour, using wet blending techniques to go from my grey up to white where the light is directly hitting it. I also added just a touch of P3’s Frostbite to my whites and greys, which is a very light, desaturated blue, just to make the white a little on the cool side because of colour theory.

Freehand

I also wanted to practice my freehand skills with this model, so I decided to try to paint a bear paw logo on the top of this warjack.

For a lot of people, this sort freehand can be a very intimidating technique. Especially when we are starting out, most of our hobbying consists of painting inside the lines — paint this panel red, that panel brass, that hose grey, etc., so it can be a big jump from simply following the detail on the model to creating your own detail.

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If you don’t have a wet palette, make one. Now.

However, simple shapes like this aren’t too hard once you’ve developed some brush control. I’ve found there to be three tricks to freehand: a reference image to look at while you work, the right brush, and the right consistency of paint. I could go on and on about brushes and paint consistency, but that could be a whole article in itself.  Suffice it to say you want a good brush, not too big and not too small, with a decent sized body and a nice tip. And for paint, you need it thin enough that it flows nicely off the brush and onto the model. And for the love of Bob Ross, our almighty god of painting, use a wet palette.

One little secret I will let you in on, however, is the use of acrylic inks to thin your paint as opposed to water. There are certain colours, such as white and yellow, which don’t have very good coverage over a dark basecoat, and thinning them down to the proper consistency reduced the coverage even further. You can counter this by using something like Holbien or FW artist ink as a thinning medium; these inks have a very thin consistency but a very high pigment density, so by mixing them with acrylic paints, you’re getting the consistency you want without sacrificing pigment density and coverage like you would be doing if you thinned with water.

Silver & Gold

Next up was metallics. As this is a cool steampunk robot, I have plenty of iron and brass to paint.  Vallejo’s Metal Colour Gunmetal Grey makes for a great base colour, covering like a dream, however as an airbrush paint, it can be a touch thin for brush painting, so I like to use P3’s silvers for some of the details where the VMC is just too thin to effectively pick out the details, like on the rivets.  For brass, again, I went to the P3 line and used Molten Bronze as my basecoat.

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Not cheating. Just make sure you know the difference between Nuln Oil and Nuln Oil Gloss when you’re shopping.

With the base coat on the whites and metallics all blocked in, it came time for a wash to add some definition. Which means it’s time to bust out our old friend, Nuln Oil. Now, Nuln Oil and some other GW washes (they call them shades) are, sometimes unfairly, referred to as “talent in a bottle.” I can see where they are coming from; a lot of the time, simply slathering a warrior model in Nuln Oil makes the paint job instantly adds the depth to a model that makes it get to the “hey, this isn’t bad” stage. And they are one of the few products that I will dip into GW’s range to pick up, because I don’t know exactly what it is, whether it is consistency, surface tension, or pigment density, but GW’s washes just work.

However, we don’t want to simply apply it using the “slather the entire model with a big brush” method. This is for a couple reasons. First, I spend a lot of time airbrushing this model, and I liked the vibrant highlights. I didn’t want to dull them down with a layer of Nuln Oil all over. Second, there are a lot of large, smooth surfaces on this model, and slathering them with an acrylic wash will undoubtedly create some unsightly “coffee stain” type marks, especially on the whites that I had worked on blending and would end up having to repaint if they got too much wash on them.

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After the wash, but before re-highlighting the metals.  Note that the washes had done the shadows, but ended up making the metallics a little too dark and dull.  Also check out the freehand bear paw logo.

So, I chose to be a little more targeted with my wash, applying the Nuln Oil to all the metallic parts, as well as into some of the recesses and around things like rivets and spikes, in order to get that shade without ruining the big flat areas of my model. Once that dried, I pulled out GW’s Druchii Violet, the purple version of Nuln Oil, and applied that to all the brass bits. This seems a little odd, but consider the colour wheel. Purple is directly across from gold on the colour wheel, so making those shadows on the brass have a purple tint does a few cool things, increasing your contrast and making the eventual highlights pop more.

The washes take care of the shadows, but with them done, we have to highlight the metals back up.  I used P3’s Pig Iron, Cold Steel, and Quick Silver on the metals, progressively highlighting up using layering, blending (as best as I could), and a bit of careful dry-brushing on areas like the punchy fists.  For the brass, I did something similar, highlighting up through Molten Bronze, Rhulic Gold, Solid gold, and a touch of something like silver or Vallejo’s Bright Brass as the very highest highlight. With these multiple layers of highlights, you can get a real nice true metallic metal (TMM) effect that is pleasing to the eye.

Final Highlights & Touchups

With the metals highlighted back up and the freehand done, we’ve only got a couple steps left. First, I took some very thin black paint and slipped it into some of the vents and perforations on the models, and places such as the top of the smokestacks; basically anywhere there was something that was supposed to be a slit or a whole on the model.

Finally, it was time for an edge highlight.  This is little trick to give the model volume and make it easier for the eye to recognize the shape.  It’s simply a very thin highlight, brighter than the surrounding area, along the upper edges of the model, which is the final step in really making this model pop at a distance of more than a foot or two away.

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Look at how much brighter the brass bits are with the highlights, and note the edge highlights all over.

Now we have a beautiful looking Grolar, that has only one problem — it’s too beautiful. This Grolar has seen some action in the trenches of Llael; it shouldn’t look like it’s fresh out of the factory and perfectly clean.  So stay tuned next time for some weathering and finishing touches!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…