Painting Cygnar – because someone has to play the bad guys

Lately, I have been dabbling in what might be considered heresy. I’ve been painting up a Cygnar army for Warmachine. Don’t worry, fellow Khadorans, I’m not betraying the motherland. It’s just that I’ve been introducing new players to the game lately, and someone has to play the bad guys. As such, I now have to paint up a Cygnar army so I can do that.

Starting out

To begin my army, I decided to combine the Mk.III Cygnar battlebox with the Cygnar half of the Company of Iron box, then supplement that with whatever I either had in my stash or could pick up to build up this force. This also pushed me in the direction of Storm Divison, which, while it isn’t the most competitive theme force, is probably good for playing intro games. Plus, I do like Maddox, the Cygnar battlebox caster, and she works well with Stormdudes.

Of course, the downside to this was that most of the models in these starter products are the rather mediocre PVC models in the starter kit. These are notoriously difficult to work with due to the difficulty of cleaning up mold lines; quite frankly, I might actually prefer metal models to this crummy plastic. On the other hand, Gwen Keller, the one resin Cygnar model in the box, was quite crisply detailed and only required the slightest amount of cleanup.

So, after much cleanup, I was able to get started with the battlebox contents, a unit of Stormblades and Storm Gunners, Gwen Keller, and a few accoutrements such as a Squire and Gorman di Wulfe, borrowed from my existing collection of mercenaries who work for Khador. The goal here is not to make the most powerful or complicated list; it’s to make a list that is decent and which is good to use as an opposing force to introduce new players to the game or in journeyman league scenarios.

Deciding on a colour scheme

It’s not every day that you start a whole new army, so when you do, it’s a good idea to put a lot of thought into your colour scheme. You want something that will look good on the table and won’t be too hard to paint. Of course, you could always just go with the studio scheme, but I like to be a little more creative.

I had a few ideas. First, I was thinking of doing a Cygnar Red Army, but as I looked at pictures I saw online, I got less and less interested in that scheme. I just didn’t feel like red Cygnar looked good in any of the pictures that I saw, plus the idea of a #southKhador army has been done already. Next, I considered a few bright colours such as yellow, orange, and white, but I realized that with all the electro-stuff on Cygnar models, it would make sense to go with a darker scheme as the OSL would have more contrast and look better against a dark background.

Now, I had a few choices for dark colours. Purple was out because that was the scheme for my Khador army, and blue was the studio scheme which I wanted to avoid. I considered a dark green, but I had done enough of that with some of my recent gundam projects and thought it might not provide enough contrast with the terrain on most tables. So, I eventually decided on a blue-black with light grey and yellow as secondary colours, figuring that would be different enough from the studio scheme to satisfy my rebellious tendencies.

The project

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Battlebox contents, cleaned and hit with a zenithal prime

After fighting through some of the mediocre plastics that is classic Privateer Press from before their resin started getting good, I started with a zenithal prime of white stynylrez over black. The plan was to airbrush the main colour, then pick out all the rest of the details by brush. For my main colour, I worked up from black, to Reaper’s Blue Liner, to P3 Gravedigger Denim, then P3 Frostbite. Readers of this blog will recognize this colour recipe from previous projects where I experimented with highlighting black. However, in this case, I went a little heavier on the blues than before, making it more of a desaturated blue than a black.

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Airbrushed and ready for brush painting

From there, I added some grey, yellow, and silver and brass metallics, using a lot of familiar recipes. White with purple shading and yellow ink overtop for the yellow, various Reaper greys for the grey, and my usual true metallic metal techniques for the metals.

Since most of these models are Cygnar stormdudes and since the whole reason for this colour scheme was to accentute the glow effects, it was time for OSL. Here, I would start out by undercoating the source of the light in white, then spraying on the glow with my airbrush and some sky blue. Add some touchups to make the source pop a little more, and you have a perfectly serviceable tabletop quality OSL.

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Glowy Stormdudes

Basing

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Some sandbags on the base to go with the trench warfare scheme

Basing is an important part of tying the whole thing together. A coherent basing scheme can really make your army look good. Since this is Cygnar, I decided to go with a trench warfare scheme. As such, there is basically no vegetation because the no-man’s-land has been chewed up by repeated artillery barrages that not much is growing. I also went with a little lighter dirt colour than I used on my Khador, as that looks more like some of the pictures of trench warfare that I’ve seen. It wasn’t that hard; just a simple matter of adding textured mediums mixed with craft paints for texture, and washing and dry-brushing to taste. Some simple green stuff sandbags and bits of barbed wire completed the theme, and some models have bits of debris that reflect their story – Maddox has Menoth bits on her base, while Gwen Keller has a pig’s head and a butcher knife on her base – and I did try to make the base a little lighter towards the front center of the models, just to focus the eye on the front of the model.

Also, I wanted to make the arc marks visible, but not too powerful that they draw the eye away from the model, which can be one of the most annoying things about painting Warmachine. As such, I went with a black base rim, with a sky blue hash line and grey lines next to it. This isn’t too bright, but it is still visible.

Acosta

Savio Monteiro Acosta is a bit of a unique model in this theme force. Technically, he’s not a Cygnar model, but he counts as such in this theme force. His lore is something about him being a roaming duelist and not an actual member of the Cygnaran military. As such, I wanted to do something different.

First, I figured it would be good to do a headswap. Stormblades fall into the category of people who are wearing such heavy armour that their gender is obscured if they’re wearing a helmet, so I figured I could get away with making a female version with just a simple headswap. So, I reached into my collection of Statuesque Miniatures heads and found one that would work and boom, it’s Sophia Maria Acosta now. I also wanted to give her darker skin, just because that’s a skin tone I haven’t painted as much.

Second, I figured it would be good to do a different colour scheme than the rest of my stormdudes. Instead of the usual blue-black, I decided to go with a camo green, with a burgundy cape and yellow highlights. The actual painting wasn’t too much different than the rest. I started with a coal black and worked up to green and added a bit of yellow in the highest highlights. Then, I masked off the green and did the cape, working from coal black up to P3 Sanguine Base, Sanguine Highlight, and the final shade Sanguine Highlight with a bit of Menoth White Highlight mixed in. I followed up with a bit of brushwork blending overtop to reinforce the shadows and highlights, and added a freehand pattern at the bottom of the cape just to add something to it.

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Since this was partially done for a painting competition, I decided to change up my strategy for varnish and adopt one that Vince Venturella has been advocating. I would save the metallics for the end, and before applying them, I would hit them with a coat of matte varnish. Then, I would paint my metallics and not varnish them.

This seems like heresy; the idea of playing with an unvarnished miniature, especially an unvarnished metal miniature. My gut reaction was that it would get chipped. However, the simple fact of the matter is that it is your primer, not your varnish, which is truly important for chipping resistance, and varnish ruins the finish on metallics. You can kind of save it by going back over the metallics with a gloss varnish, but it’s still not quite as good as leaving it au naturel. Vince claims that metallic paint is resistant enough to handling, so I’m hoping to test this and prove him right for myself.

Next Steps

So far, I’ve finished painting the battlebox, the Cygnar half of the Company of Iron box, a squire and a unit attachment for the Stormblades. This is enough to take me up to about 35 point games, including theme forces, and really introduce the fundamentals to new players. I have a few models assembled and with quick airbrush base coats applied to expand my force with, including a Stormblade Captain, a Journeyman Warcaster, a few support models, Brickhouse, and the Mk.II battlebox. I also have a few models yet to assemble, and am eyeing a box of Stormlances on the shelf of my FLGS. That should take me up to 75 points and beyond, and I’m thinking if I go for a second list, I might look at Kraye with a combined arms force in Sons of the Tempest.

Now, it’s just too bad Storm Division isn’t on the current Active Duty Roster…

00 Gundam Part 3: Final Details

In my last two articles, I painted and weathered the bulk of my SD gundam using the hairspray technique, oil streaks, and some other effects. That took care of about 90& of the model, but there were a few details that had yet to be done, namely the eyes, the gun, and the sword. These details I saved for the end for a couple reasons. First, I wanted to do a different finish on these, so I didn’t want the varnish that I would apply to the bulk of the model to ruin it. Second, I wasn’t planning on using the same weathering techniques on the glass and shiny metal surfaces as I wanted to do on the painted surfaces, so I didn’t need to do it up front to keep consistent weathering across the model.

The Eyes Have It

For the eyes, I wanted to achieve a reflective glass look. So to start, I basecoated with Reaper blue liner. I knew to create the illusion of reflection, I would need to keep most of it dark, but then sharply transition from near-black to near-white.

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Hello!

Of course, I had to decide where to put the highlight. If you will remember from last time, I chose to put the primary light source in the right front quadrant, coming from above. The shape of the eyes was a key factor. If you were to look at them by themselves, you would see that they have a convex shape in the horizontal plane, but are straight up and down in the vertical plane. Basically, they could have been cut out from a vertical cylinder.

Fortunately, when it comes to reflections off a cylinder, we have an easy source of reference material. If you stare long enough at the handle of a hobby knife or the body of your airbrush, you will see that light reflecting off a cylinder tends to form lines of light and dark parallel to the cylinder axis.

What this means for this model is that the eyes are basically cut from a vertical cylinder, so the highlights would be most accurately represented by mostly-vertical lines. I did take a little bit of artistic license and angled the line slightly, to both represent the fact that the light is coming from above rather than from directly from eye level, and to add a little visual interest.

Anyways, now that we know where to place the highlight, it’s time to lay it down. So, I worked up from that base coat Blue Liner through some bright, midtone blues, into sky blue, and finally white, making sure to do a steep a transition as possible while still keeping it smooth. The key to getting a reflection that really pops is for the majority of the reflective surface to be dark, and then for it to quickly transition into the highest hightlight.

With the main highlight done on the right eye, I added a second and third highlight to the left eye, with the third highlight being much less intense than the first. Finally, I added a few highlights here and there around the edges of the eye to represent glints of light on the edges.

With that all done, I glazed over it with Badger Miniataire Ghost Tint Plasma Fluid, a blue glaze which viewers of Vince Venturella’s youtube channel will no doubt be familiar with. In addition to adding a little blue tone to it, this glaze helps smooth out the transitions a little. Finally, I finished it off with some gloss varnish just to give it a nice, shiny finish.

True Metallic Metal

For the gunmetal parts on the sword and the gun, I decided to do a true metallic metal technique. True metallic metal, or TMM, is more than just painting the entire thing in a shiny silver. In fact, it is closer to non-metallic metal, where you use flat paints to paint in reflections and glints, only you’re using metallic paints so you can take advantage of both the painted in highlights and the natural shininess of metallic paints.

As with non-metallic metal, there are some rules as to how you need to place the highlights and shadows. while they aren’t hard and fast and they are open to some artistic interpretation, understanding the source of the light and the shape of the model, and breaking it down into simple, familiar shapes (flat panels, spheres, cylinders and cones) is how you know where to place the highlights. In a way, light on a reflective surface tends to “move” and “collect” in certain places, depending on the shape.

So, similar to the eyes, I wanted to start with a dark colour. In this case, I basecoated all these areas by brush-painting on some Vallejo Metal Color Gunmetal Grey. While this is an airbrush paint, it brush paints quite nicely, flowing smoothly off the brush and delivering a smooth coat.

Next, I went into the highlights, using Vallejo Metal Color Silver to paint in the highlights on the edges and in places where the light would collect. Fortunately, the VMC Silver is a smooth enough paint that it is possible to blend it out and feather the edges into the underlying gunmetal grey.

With the highlights laid in, it was time to reinforce the shadows, and here is where the artist acrylic inks come in handy. I added some black into the deepest shadow, and worked into Payne’s Grey and Indigo, the latter two colours having a bluish tone which would add a subtle blue to the midtones.

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Back view. Note the metallic highlights on the edges of the blades on the shoulder pads.

Finally, it’s time to break out the secret weapon I’ve been playing with lately. Molotow Liquid Chrome is a pump-action paint pen filled with an alcohol-based acrylic paint that is brighter and shinier than any traditional water based acrylic I’ve come across yet. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the marker itself, so I usually pump some out into a well palette and paint it on with a brush, using 99% isopropyl alcohol as a thinner and to clean my brush. With this super-bright chrome, I can really make the highest highlights pop.

Unfortunately, the one issue with this is that any varnish that I’ve used, even a gloss varnish, will kill the brightness of the chrome. Which is why this was done last – I didn’t want the varnish on the rest of the model to get onto the metallics and kill the shine.

Glowing Sword

Finally, we get to the sword. I wanted to do a glowing sword with a fire glow, as that would contrast both the base green and the blue of the eyes. Thinking about how the glow might work if these fighting robits were real, I figured that the heat source would be the metal thing running up the center of the blade. As such, the area closest to the center would be hottest, and it would cool off as we get out towards the edge of the blade. So, this means that it needs to be brightest right up against the center part and fade out as it gets closer to the edges.

As such, the plan is to base coat the sword in yellow and fade out through orange into red when we get closer to the edge. Unfortunately, yellow is a notoriously difficult colour to paint; yellow pigment is generally weak so getting good coverage is difficult. As such, in order to get a vibrant, bright yellow, you want to undercoat with white so you’re not trying to cover up any dark colours.

Unfortunately, painting white straight over dark colours isn’t that easy either. So, in order to paint the white that I needed to lay down so I could paint the yellow, I started with a medium-light grey. With the grey having more powerful pigments than white, it would cover the underlying colour and give a smooth undercoat that I could build my white on top of — which itself is an undercoat for the yellow. I also thinned my yellow with acrylic artist inks and a touch of flow improver, as these inks are so thin and so pigment-intense that you can use them as a thinning medium and still maintain the pigment density of the paint as you thin it down to the desired consistency.

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So, after laying down some grey, then white, then yellow, I took my detail airbrush, loaded it with orange, and worked from the outside of the blade in, creating a smooth transition between the orange and the yellow in the center of the blade. Then, I followed up with some red, again, starting from the edge and using the airbrush to get a smooth transition into the orange, leaving myself with a smooth gradient from yellow to red as we move towards the edge.

Finally, an edge highlight applied with the brush running along the edges of the blade reinforces the shape of the blade and makes it not look like an orange blob from a distance.

With the blade done,it was time to add some glow to really sell the effect of a glowing blade, so I masked off the blade and sprayed some orange in the areas where the glow from the blade would hit the surrounding parts, similar to my green glow on Ruin. While this did kill the underlying metallics, I was able to mostly save the finish with some gloss varnish overtop of the places where the flat orange knocked the shine off the metallics.

Conclusion

This concludes this build. It was a fun little project for a number of reasons. First, it wasn’t that complex of a model, so there weren’t too many frustrations on the assembly. However, in terms of the number of techniques on this thing, I went all out, experimenting with multiple techniques and trying out new products. The simple model was a great testbed for some fun paint techniques, and is a great example of the freedom that is inherent to the hobby of gunpla.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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Gunpla is Funpla

As part of my recent efforts to branch out in my hobby time and cleanse my palate a little from masses and masses of Warmchine models, I’ve been trying a few different things lately. As part of this, I picked up a Gundam model a little while ago and visited the local Gunpla club for a meeting or two. As they had a contest coming up, I figured I would put it together and see what I can do as someone who is completely new to the world of Gunpla and doesn’t know an RX-78-2 Gundam from an RB-79 Ball.

But first, a little primer on some terminology, because I had no idea what these Gumdan things were either when I picked up my kit.

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I believe the technical term is “robit”

Gundam is a media franchise that started with a TV show called Mobile Suit Gundam in Japan in 1979, and since then has spawned countless spinoffs, not just on TV but also movies, comics and video games. In the Gundam universe, wars are fought with Mobile Suits, which are sixty foot tall mechanical combat vehicles that resemble giant robots. These mobile suits are piloted, can fight on land or in space, and often have both melee and ranged weapons. The protagonists refer to their mobile suits as Gundams, while the antagonists call their mobile suits something different, just like how all Panzers are tanks but not all tanks are Panzers.

Gunpla is short for Gundam plastic modelling, which is the hobby of making models of things from the Gundam universe. This isn’t just limited to gundams, but can include other mobile suits and vehicles such as tanks and spaceships.

These model kits are also categorized in a system of scales and grades. High Grade is the most common and is your basic 1/144 scale model. Master Grade comes in 1/100 scale, and has more details and points of articulation than the High Grade. Additionally, the Master Grade models typically come with an internal frame construction that the panels are laid over, allowing for better posability. Real Grade kits are in 1/144 scale like the High Grade, but their construction and level of detail more resembles the Master Grade. Perfect Grade is the top of the line, and at 1/60 scale, can be pretty large and come with a commensurately large price tag. Finally, there are also Super Deformed kits that are basically mobile suits in a chibi anime style with stubby limbs and giant heads.

My Zaku

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My first gunpla model

So, with that out of the way, lets get down to the not-Gundam Gundam that I built. The kit I got was a High Grade Zaku I MS-05 from Kycilia’s Forces. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what any of that meant but thanks to a little help from the local Gunpla club, I settled on it for a few reasons. First, I wanted to challenge myself with freehand, so I wanted something with a big shield to give me lots of room for intricate designs. On the shelf at the hobby shop, there were only a couple that really met this category, and I felt that I could do more with the rounded curves of the Zaku rather than the straight lines of the regular Gundams.

There isn’t much to say about the assembly of these particular models, other than that these Gundam kits do have a lot of pieces, but they go together brilliantly. They are made of hard plastic and come on sprues like model airplanes, only they are manufactured to such tolerances that you could probably just cut them off the sprue, sand off the nub from where you cut it, snap them together and be fine in most places. If you do use glue, however, it is probably a good idea to be careful which parts you’re applying it to as these models are engineered with many points of articulation and you don’t want to inadvertently glue a knee or elbow joint into an undesirable pose.

Fortunately, I only did this once, and since my plan was to glue most of these points of articulation into place instead of making it poseable (because I didn’t want to put a bunch of effort into painting cool highlights and glow effects only to repose the model and end up with the shadows on top and the highlights facing the ground), I was able to work around it by selecting a pose where it works. Apart from that, it’s a testament to the good engineering on the kit that assembly was sort of ho-hum, with only a tiny amount of annoying sanding and gap filling to do to get it right.

When it came time to decide what colour to paint it, I took some inspiration from Soviet tanks from WW2. A camo green with some red markings makes for a good theme as it takes advantage of complementary colours to get some nice contrast. I also took a little inspiration from the box art, deciding to break up the green with some black panels as well.

Finally, for the shield, I was initially thinking of carrying the Soviet theme forward and doing a star or some random Cyrillic-looking letters, but then I saw a picture of Kycilia in the instructions and figured why not? It would definitely be a lot more intricate than any freehand I’ve done before, but I knew that would make it a nice challenge, and if I nailed it, it would look amazing.

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Primed with black, then shot from above with white to preshade

When was planning this paint job, I also took a lot of inspiration from Angel Giraldez’ book on painting Infinity miniatures and how he gets his extreme highlights. As such, I wanted to really crank up the contrast and the shadows/highlights to emphasize the shape of the model and its interaction with the light, and the many curved surfaces on the Zaku would give me the opportunity to do so. I started with a zenithal prime by disassembling the model, priming all the parts with black Stynylrez, then reassembling it into a pose vaguely similar to what I would be going for. To complete the zenithal effect, I shot it from above and from the direction of the light with white Stynylrez. This does two things. First, just by shooting white from the direction of the light, it gives me a little pre-shading which could be useful later on, particularly if you choose to use a lot of translucent paints. Second, the white will naturally collect in areas that are going to be hit by direct sunlight, so by taking a few pictures of the model primed in this manner, I have a reference that I can use if later on I start having difficulty deciding where to place my shadows and highlights.

With the prime done, I sprayed some red first, let it dry overnight, and then masked off some stripes with Tamiya tape. After that, I disassembled it again and got a nice base coat of P3 Coal Black, which is a dark blue-green. I chose Coal Black as my base colour because not only was it dark, but because the hint of blue makes it a cooler colour, and by using it as my base, I can not only go from dark to light from the shadows in the highlights, but also from cool to warm. This adds a little more contrast, and is one of the reasons why when you’re highlighting green, it’s often a good idea to add a bit of yellow rather than just mixing in straight white.

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After applying the green. Note the contrast between light and dark

With a base coat laid down in my shadow colour, it was time to reassemble the model (again) and start highlighting. I used Reaper’s Olive Greens triad, working up through the triad and finally adding a dash of Menoth White Highlight (an off-white colour that has a bit of yellow to it) to the Pale Olive to make the highest highlight. Since we’re working up from our shadow colour to our highlight, I focused my fire with the airbrush on the areas where the white was present in the zenithal priming stage to get those highlights in the right place.

From there, I took out the brush and hand-painted in all the silver mechanical bits and the areas that I wanted to paint black. I suppose I could have used an airbrush for the black, but that was much more masking than I wanted to do, so I just made sure to use thin paints and get a smooth coat, which wasn’t too hard because black naturally has better coverage than, say, yellow or red.

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The left leg, before and after applying highlights to the black

With the base coat of black laid in, it was time to break out the airbrush once more and start highlighting the black. This time, I used Blue Liner from Reaper and Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite from P3 for my highlights. Blue Liner is a very dark, almost black colour, while Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite are desaturated blues that I often reach for when I have to highlight black. Again, I would just work up with the airbrush, applying the various blues from dark to light in the areas I want to highlight. Some areas I had to use tape or silly putty to mask off the green, but others I was able to use brush control, disassembling parts, and a business card or piece of paper to protect the already painted green from overspray. I also made sure to keep some of the black on all the pieces so that the finished product will still read as black to the eye in spite of the blue highlights.

 

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Colours used

Next, I did up my freehand drawing of Kycilia on the shield. This was the most ambitious freehand I’ve done, and it was accomplished by starting with basic shapes and adding in detail. Initially, I started by just getting the vague shape of her shoulders and head, and gradually added more detail and more colour until I was working on emulating the fine lines in the art. This is also where thin paints, good brushes and a wet palette come in handy; particularly on the skin, I had to use multiple thin coats to get good coverage as thick paint would have ended up looking patchy and not giving me the brush control I need.

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Freehand in progress. Also note the additional highlights on the black between the third and fourth picture

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It wasn’t easy to work up the courage to mess up my nice work, but the end result is worth it.

When I was satisfied with her, all that was left was panel lining, edge highlighting, and weathering. Again, use thin paints, dab away the excess, and use a brush with a fine tip when you’re trying to do fine detail work like edge highlighting and panel lines. Also, when it comes to edge highlighting, I like to focus the brightest edge highlights on the upper surfaces of the model because those edges are going to be catching more light and I’m not crazy about the old GW style where they would put extreme highlights on all the edges, including the bottom. For weathering, I used mostly the same techniques that I used on my Grolar of painting on scratches and sponging on some Pig Iron and Umbral Umber, and then following up in some areas with GW Typhus Corrosion to represent grit and grime. I focused a lot of the heavy weathering on the shield because taking hits is kind of what shields are for, but I was careful not to overweather it and ruin all the freehand that I had done. While it takes some courage to apply weathering over freehand painting, doing so really makes it look better and avoids the weird look where you have places that should be weathered absolutely clean because you are too afraid to ruin your nice freehand.

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Base detail — before and after applying texture and paint

The base was made out of a chunk of air-drying clay, with some bark chips embedded in it to represent rocks and textured artist medium spread over it to represent dirt. While I mixed some artist acrylic brown into the textured medium to get the base colour, I tried out something a little different in airbrushing a lighter tan colour over some areas of the base facing the light source. This was to highlight and draw the eye to the front of the model, and not have a harsh transition between a model with extreme highlights and a base that looks flat. With the dirt basecoated brown and tan and the rocks basecoated in a dark grey, from there it’s just a matter of washes, dry pigments, and lots and lots of drybrushing to get the highlights and the subtle colour variation on the rocks and dirt.

 

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That’s hot

Finally, the last thing to do was the axe and the glow effects. The blade of the axe was basecoated white with the airbrush, before going at it with reds, oranges, and yellow to get the glow effect. While I masked off a couple areas for part of this project, I wasn’t super worried about overspray because it can be used as part of the object source lighting. While I painted the axe separately, I also sprayed some reds and oranges and yellows on the hand that is holding the axe, the glowing areas of the jetpack about to activate and launch the mech forward for an assault, and the area around the mono-eye to get a nice glow effect. After that, all I had to do was touch up the mono-eye and I was done.

Conclusions

I would say that this Zaku turned out well. The freehand painting was ambitious and isn’t quite perfect, but it represents me pushing myself to do more complex freehand designs than I had ever done before and not totally screwing it up. In that respect, I would say that it is a success nonetheless.

I think my favourite part about Gundam models is that since they are based on a cartoon, you can go a lot of different ways with it on the finish. You can paint them in a very realistic style with plenty of weathering and battle damage, or exaggerate the light and shadow like on a wargaming piece. You can go for a candy coat of the sort you see with automotive scale models, or play around with things like metallic or colour shift paints. Or, since they come on pre-coloured sprues, you could even just sand off the nubs, snap it together, hit it with a panel line marker, and call it a day. All are perfectly legitimate and all are correct, and since it’s based on a cartoon, no one can really tell you that you did it wrong. And as someone who doesn’t want to bother researching the number of rivets on the glacis plate of a late-war model, that’s the kind of modeling I like.

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The finished product, and… oh crap, I just noticed the flaw.

Paintlog: Obavnik Kommander Zerkova

Ah, Kommander Aleksandra Zerkova. A master of the dark arts, this blonde bombshell ruthlessly eliminates anyone who gets in her way, and looks good doing it with her tight leather outfits. Known in gamer circles as Zerkova2, the epic version comes with two Reaver Guards to protect her, and goes well on the tabletop with anything that can sling spells.

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Available from Privateer Press and your friendly local game store

I got the idea to paint her a while ago, as a possible counter to the ubiquitous Cryx Ghost Fleet/Dark Host pairing. However, in the process, I kind of fell in love with the model and had a lot of fun painting her up. Though I didn’t get a lot of photos, I felt that she did deserve a paintlog because I tried out some new and interesting stuff on her.

First off, one of the distinctive aspects to Zerkova2 in the studio artwork is the shiny leather. This was something that I haven’t really done yet, so I was excited to try it out.

Black can be a funny colour to paint sometimes, because what our eye reads as black isn’t usually not actually black. While we are taught in science class that black is black because it absorbs instead of reflects light, unless it’s some sort of crazy vantablack or the event horizon of a black hole, that’s not quite true. Black still reflects some light, and our eyes have been trained to read light reflected a certain way as black of varying shapes and textures. Our challenge, then, is understanding how light interacts with a black surface and replicate it at scale.

MatrixTrinity.jpgSo, let’s take a look at something black and shiny, such as Carrie-Anne Moss’ outfit from the Matrix movies. If we take a picture of it and look closely, we can see that the light reflecting off of some areas of her chest and arms is almost white. So, in order to replicate this and get that nice shiny effect, we are going to need to make sure our model has some sharp highlights.

Anyways, we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves here.

One of the first decisions I made on these models was the base. I decided I wanted to give them a little bit of an elevated base to give them a little more presence as I feel character models deserve it. So, I dug into the Reaper Bones collection at a local game store and found #77304, Male Thundernight, a big guy with a hammer standing at the top of a flight of stairs. It was a simple matter of slicing him off and doing a little sculpting on the top to fix up the area of the cut, and then inserting a piece of a paper clip through the plastic base, a layer of cork, the stairs, and into Zerkova’s foot.

For my colour scheme, I knew I had to keep the shiny black leather, and that I also wanted to have some light colours on some of the ending and details, mostly so that the shape of the model and all the fine details pop even from a distance. As such, decided to base coat all the black in Reaper’s Grey Liner, which is a paint that is very close to, but not quite black, and then do most of the details and edging in Amethyst Purple, which is a light purple that I use a lot for highlights on my purple army. And, of course, where you have purple, you have to have to have brass to go with it.

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Note the scar

One of the first things I painted was the face. For this, I used my usual strategy of starting with some very light grey for the eyes, placing the eyeball, and then working out, all the way from blue, to a darker skin tone, to the highest highlight at the tip of the nose. I added a scar on her right cheek from messing around with Orgoth stuff that she probably isn’t supposed to, and painted her tiny bit of hair sticking out from under her hat blonde.

Anyways, now we can return to the shiny leather jacket. As you will remember, I base coated it in Reaper’s Grey Liner. I didn’t use black, because I wanted to leave myself somewhere to go when it comes to shading it — after all, it’s hard to shade something with a darker colour when you’ve already used the darkest colour possible as your base. For my highlight colour, I decided to go with some desaturated blues, just to make the light on the cool side which I felt would go with the model better. I used P3’s Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite, which are two colors that I’ve found to be perfect for this sort of thing, though you can use whatever equivalent brand and colour you have available. The highlights were placed carefully with my brush, in such a manner that they would represent the point at where the light is hitting the jacket and reflecting off, as well as accentuating some of the… ahem… curves of the model.

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Green Orgoth glow is clearly there, but not overpowering

For the metals, I used my usual true metallic metal techniques, which worked out well and which I will write about at some point. The fur was a bit of a challenge; initially I wanted to dry brush it, but I found that there just wasn’t enough texture. So, after hitting it with some of GW’s Drakenhof Nightshate, I decided to work back up and highlight the fur with plenty of tiny grey and white dots in an almost pointillism-like technique, careful to put more white dots in the places where the light is hitting the model.  I added a couple subtle green glow effects on the badge on her chest and on her sword. I didn’t want to overpower the model with the OSL, especially because I was happy with how the face was and because I wanted to keep the focus of the light on the shiny leather, so I tried to keep it subtle, with only a little bit of green on the left side of her face and the fur near the badge.

With all that done, it was just a matter of painting up the base (lots of drybrushing and some dry pigments), sealing it, and showing it off.

Oh, and painting those two other jerks who come with her.

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