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…

 

Paintlog: Aiyana & Holt. Also a bit of colour theory…

Between the recent theme changes in Warmachine allowing mercenary models in theme forces, and magic weapons being an important consideration if you want to play competitively (screw you, Gremlin Swarms and Ghost Fleet!), there are a couple models which have rocketed up to the top of my painting list.  That’s right, I’ve got Lady Aiyana & Master Holt to paint.

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However, because of my rebellious tendencies, following a studio scheme is anathema to me, so I decided to do my own take on Aiyana & Holt.

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Starting with Aiyana, I decided that I wanted to give her a dark skin tone.  I’ve got plenty of caucasian models in my army and have had plenty of practice on light skin tones at this scale, so I wanted to do something a little different to both up the diversity of my army, and get some practice painting dark skin (my first attempt ended up looking more Drow than African-Khadoran).  However, I also like to have some sharp contrast between skin and hair colour, so I decided that a bright pink would make a nice hair colour for her, giving me both that contrast I was looking for and a sort of cyberpunk aesthetic which I’m a fan of.

Next, I had to do the rest of her without clashing.  Settling on a colour scheme was a challenge, but I figured that, to complete the cyberpunk look, some shiny black leather would be necessary, so I started there by working that into the boots, leggings, and the sides of her top.  From there, it was a matter of choosing colours that were different enough to distinguish the several different parts of her outfit and different material types (smooth leather, cloth, metallics, fur), while also not clashing with each other.  To accomplish this, I stayed in the cool end of the spectrum, going for blues, greens and purples, with just a bit of warm gold on some of the highlights to get that cold/warm contrast.  I used P3’s Coal Black for the base colour inside of the cape, which is just a great bluish, greenish, blackish colour in general and one of the few colours that I will accept Privateer Press’ terrible, terrible paint pot design and dip into P3s range to pick up.  The cloth hanging from her waist was based with Reaper’s Amethyst Purple, a nice light purple that I use a lot for highlights on my warjacks.  Throw in some blues and greens, and we’ve got a colour scheme going.

Then we have her companion and bodyguard, Master Holt.  Ironically, for someone who plays Khador, I haven’t had much experience painting reds (see: my irrational avoidance of studio schemes), so I decided to do him up as a redcoat.  The majority of the jacket ended up red, with some black in different areas to break it up and prevent the red from being too overwhelming.  The white trim was added to give some bright contrast and make the miniature pop even from across a table.  Finally, a pink scarf was added, to match Aiyana’s hair and help tie these two models together.

Overall, I was very satisfied with how these models turned out, however there are two parts that I wanted to highlight in particular:  The bases, and some of the colour theory I applied to my highlights and shadows.

Basing

On these models, one of the questions that I’ve been getting a lot was how I did the base, where I got it, and so on.

First off, these aren’t premade bases or base inserts, so anyone looking to just spend money to replicate this effect is out of luck.  While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that using a base insert is cheating, I find that I much prefer doing my own thing.  Custom basing is one of my favourite parts of this hobby, and just sticking a premade base on, I feel, takes away from that.

For Aiyana & Holt, I decided that I wanted to do an urban scene, but I also wanted to give them a little bit of height on their base so they stand out on a table.  As such, I decided to do a cross-section of a city street or alley, with them standing on a stone surface.

Each of these bases are three layers.  The first is simply the standard, round, 30mm, Privateer Press base that we are all familiar with.  On top of that, I used gel super glue to attach a piece of cork ripped from some dollar store cork board.  Cork is a useful basing material, which is good for creating cross-sections of earth, but one of the tricks to it is that it has these unnatural-looking perfectly flat surfaces. so you usually have to do some work to it.  However, since I was planning to build on top of this, it wasn’t a problem in this case.

Next, I had some tiny bricks that I had picked up somewhere; while I didn’t make them myself, I believe they were made from Hirst Arts molds and some sort of plaster.  These were simply broken up around the edges with some of my sculpting tools and glued in place with the same gel super glue as I used on the cork.

To add a little more texture onto the cork, I used a coarse pumice artist medium.  You can use sand and glue, which may be a bit cheaper of an option, but I’ve been moving to textured artist mediums for this sort of thing because I’m sick of cleaning sand out of my apartment, and because you can mix craft paint into those artist mediums to colour them as you apply them and skip a step in the process of painting your base.

Beyond that, it is mostly a matter of the usual base coat, wash, drybrush technique.  The stones were base coated in a stone grey colour, washed with a black wash, and then drybrushed up all the way to Reaper’s Misty Grey, which is very close to white.  Then, to add a little colour and visual interest to the piece, I brushed on some dry pigments from Vallejo and Secret Weapon.  These are a recent addition to my hobby arsenal, but I’ve found that they are particularly useful for adding a touch of colour to stone and brickwork.  Finally, I drybrushed it with a little more misty grey, just because some of the pigments took off the brightest highlights on the cracked and broken stone edges and I wanted to bring that back up.

To attach the models, I simply drilled into their feet and drilled a hole all the way down into the base and pinned them in place.  One important thing with these bases is that I specifically chose not to place the models in such a position that they would be parallel to or at a 90-degree angle to any of the bricks, and instead went for something in the 30 to 45 degree range.  When you are doing basing, you always want to add an element of randomness to it as nature is by definition pretty random.  Even in an urban setting, I felt that having the models perfectly aligned with the bricks would interfere with that randomness and end up looking unnatural.

Colour Theory

Finally, I wanted to draw some attention to some of the choices I made on these miniatures when it came to things like highlights, shadows, and colour theory.  As I’ve said before, painting miniatures is often a study of light and shadow and trying to replicate that on a small scale, and there are a number of things I did on these models that I may not have known to do when I was first starting out.

First, let’s take a look at the green on Aiyana’s dress.  Green is an interesting colour to work with because of how it plays with highlights.  When I first started painting, when I wanted to highlight, I would just lighten the colour I was working in by mixing in a little white.  While this worked for some colours, it really broke down when it came to green.  In order to properly highlight green, you’re going to want to use yellow instead of white.  This does a couple things.  First, as a fairly warm colour, the yellow will make your highlights warmer, which tricks the eye a little.  Warm colours tend to come forward, so a warm highlight and cool shadow will make the miniature pop.  Second, adding white to green, especially the sort of drab, military-style greens we tend to use, can really desaturate the highlight, which is not what you are going for.

To illustrate this point, compare the highlights on Aiyana’s dress above with this Assault Kommando I painted before I learned about how to properly highlight green with yellow.  You can see that the former just looks so much better on a miniature.

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Unplayable trash?  I don’t think so.

I had a similar issue with Holt’s red coat.  Red is another colour where just adding black and white to do shadows and highlights doesn’t quite work.  First, as a warm colour, red really benefits from a cool shadow, such as a blue or green across the colour wheel from it.  Second, when you mix red and white, you end up with pink, which isn’t what you want.  Instead, red should be highlighted towards orange, which also has the benefit of being an even warmer colour and “popping” just like how yellow makes green “pop.”

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Not bad, but for my money, Julie Newmar is the only true Catwoman

Then we get to black.  Black is a very interesting colour to paint because it is defined as the absence of light.  However, when you look carefully at pictures of black, you will see that unless you have some sort of exotic material such as a Vantablack or a miniature black hole, what our brain tells us is black is very rarely actually black.

This is a little tricky to explain, but if you spend enough time staring at shiny black objects, you will start to see what I mean.  What our brain may tell us is a glossy black, like Michelle Pfeiffer’s outfit in Batman Returns, is actually the interplay of both black and the light reflecting off of it.  In this case, if we look carefully, we can see that a lot of the pixels in this image of her allegedly-black outfit are actually white, as these bits catch the light and reflect it directly into our eye.  A glossy latex catsuit may be an extreme example, but the same principle is at play with just about every black object; unless we’re staring down a black hole from which no light can escape, what our brain tells us is black actually still has some light reflecting off it.

So, what does this mean for miniature painters?  It means that when we are painting something black, we need to take into account the properties of the material that we are attempting to replicate and how it will catch and reflect the light, and try to replicate that at scale.  Simply slapping on a bunch of black paint all over the area that we want to represent a black item or piece of clothing just won’t do.  To see what I mean, compare the black on Holt’s coat partway through painting below with the finished product above.

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Holt, before shading and highlights

In the before picture, the black sections of the coat don’t really look like anything but a miniature that someone slapped some flat black paint on.  However, by adding some highlights, in the above case, some desaturated blues (P3’s Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite) near the front of the coat, it made it possible for me to really sell the effect of a black coat by showing some of that light reflecting off of it.  The same goes for Aiyana’s thigh-high leather boots, however to make them look shiny like the Catwoman outfit, I made the highlights smaller, brighter, and sharper, making it look as though the light was really reflecting off those small points where it is being caught and reflected into the viewer’s eye.

Got all that?

mv5bnzezmti2njeynf5bml5banbnxkftztcwnta0ote4oa-_v1_ux214_cr00214317_al_The same goes for black skin.  While I can’t say that I have a lot of experience with or have quite cracked the code on painting African-American (African-Iosan?) skin, one of the things I’ve gleaned from looking over reference material is that dark skin tends to be relatively smooth and reflective compared to other skin tones.  I believe the scientific term for this phenomenon is “Black don’t crack.”

Because of this, if you look carefully at a picture of a dark-skinned person, you will see highlights and reflections that have a touch of blue to them.  You can see this in this picture of Idris Elba; the cheekbones, the nose, and the top forehead are caught in the light and emanating that reflection, which is something that we will want to take into account when we paint our tiny, dark-skinned faces.

So, this is where our old friend, P3 Frostbite comes into play, as the perfect colour to mix into these highlights to get that reflection.  It’s hard to see in some of my pictures, but that touch of frostbite really helps make the highlights on Aiyana’s skin look a little more realistic and gives a little more contrast.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m very satisfied with how these two turned out, and I felt that being able to try out some different colours was a nice palate cleanser from my usual painting.  Despite being one of PP’s older sculpts, they are both very nice models, with plenty of character to draw out.  I already brought Aiyana to the Ottawa Figure Show, and I’m sure they will be seeing their fair share of table time at upcoming events.

Paintlog — Mortar Crew, and a year of progress

Khador is a faction blessed with a lot of interesting infantry models, from our stealthy Kayazys and redneck Kossites to our heavily-armoured Iron Fangs and Man-O-War. Many of them exude the strength of the motherland, but there is perhaps none that typifies Khador more than the humble Winter Guard Mortar Crew.

The Winter Guard are Khador’s mass conscript infantry, going into battle with little more than basic armour and mass-produced cheap weapons.  They make up for thiswith their bravery and resilience; Kovnik Jozef Grigorivich can grant them the Tough special rule, and in their theme force, they are willing to sacrifice their very lives for Khador, taking bullets meant for warcasters.  The Mortar Crew, perhaps, typifies the Khadoran attitude towards problem-solving more than any other.  While our engineers haven’t quite perfected an accurate mobile light artillery piece that can reliably score hits, they’ve decided that that doesn’t matter so long as it can deliver a lot of high explosive into the general vicinity of the enemies of the motherland.  And, of course, they have the ubiquitous handaxe, which gives them a plan B against anyone who makes it behind the lines to their position.

With that in mind, I figured it was time to get started on my second Mortar Crew.  This unit consists of two models; the mortar itself, and a second crewman with a telescope who serves as a spotter.  They are the old metal models, so a file helps for cleaning mold lines.  Also, when assembling the mortar, I’ve found that it goes together a bit better if you make a small hill out of green stuff to place the mortar itself on, such that it is elevated slightly above the guy firing it.

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Note the lump of green stuff on the base under the mortar itself

From then on, it was a matter of painting it up in my usual Winter Guard theme.  Grey coats, brass armour, and purple shoulder pads, which various straps, buckles, pouches, and other bits painted in appropriate colours.  The mortar itself was mostly brass and silver, with enough of each that they would complement each other and balance out, and a bit of wood-grain on the frame.

Since this was my second mortar crew, I decided to do a little freehand on the shoulder pad to distinguish it.  For a symbol to distinguish them from their Winter Guard brethren, I borrowed the NATO symbol for a mortar crew., and for this second unit, I freehanded on a roman numeral II and a couple of random shapes that look vaguely like Khadoran runes.

Then, we get to the basing.  I’ve gone with an autumnal theme for most of my army, because I feel like it contrasts the purple of my warjacks, and is a little different than the green grass and trees you see all the time in wargaming.  The first step is applying some texture.  You can use glue and sand for this, but lately I’ve found that I much prefer to use artist mediums with pumice aggregate mixed in with craft paint.  I find it to be easier to sculpt a little to add some variation to the base, but more importantly, it’s a lot less messy and I’m not vacuuming sand out of my apartment for a week.

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Because I put a tree on the base, this means I always have concealment, right?

Give it a wash and drybrush, add a bit of turf and flock, and a couple tufts, and we’re just about done.  The catch is, in this case, I want to go a little further and add a tree to my base.  No problem!  I have some tree armatures from Woodland scenics that just need some cleaning up, priming, and a little paint to make the branch structure of the tree. From then on, it’s just a matter of gluing on some clump foliage, and then dabbing on some washes such as a sepia or an Athonian Camoshade to take the brightness down a bit.

That said, while I like these trees on my models, I realize that that I still have some ways to go on them.  I’m not sure clump foliage quite works at the 28mm-ish scale that games like Warmachine are played at, as it doesn’t quite give the impression of actual leaves. Further, the canopy of this tree ends up being way too thick, not letting even a crack of daylight through in between the leaves.  I will be experimenting more before I do any display-quality models with trees and leaves, but I do think this is fine for now for gaming pieces and to bang out some terrain so that the 40K players don’t make fun of us as much for having tables that look like crap.

My progress…

Even if it isn’t perfect, I still think this Mortar Crew shows a lot of progress.  Here, I’ve got it next to one that I painted over a year ago, while I was still getting into the hobby.  Since then, I’ve learned a lot about basing and highlighting, and have tried to push my tabletop standard higher and higher, and I think the difference between last year’s job, with not much highlighting aside from some dry-brushing and minimal edge-highlighting speaks for itself.  The newer piece just “pops” more, which is a testament to how much difference some highlights can make, even on tabletop pieces.

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Note the blue lens on the telescope, and the more interesting base work on the new one on the left.

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You can clearly see how the highlights on the body of the mortar on the left give it a little more volume and shape to it than the flat silver on the right; I probably simply gave it a wash and maybe a quick drybrush a year ago, and now, I’m starting with a very dark silver and highlighting up to something brighter.  On the telescopes as well, you can see the difference that the TMM makes.

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Much better highlighting on the brass armour plated and the cloak on the newer version…

On the table…

So, now that I have two Mortar Crews, I have to think of a list to go with them.  They are available in the Winter Guard Kommand theme force along with every other Winter Guard model, so playing in theme is an obvious choice.  As for a caster, plenty of possibilities spring to mind, but there is one in particular that stands out above all others.  It has been a long time, too long in fact, since I have fielded her, but one can only resist the siren’s call that is Kommander Sorscha for so long.

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Fun fact:  Khadoran wardrobe engineers have found that high heels dig into the surface of snow and ice, preventing soldiers from losing their footing.  Why they’ve only been issued to female soldiers, however, remains a mystery.

Like many Khador players, Kommander Sorscha or Sorscha1 was my first warcaster. She has a number of ways to freeze enemy models, and her Wind Rush spell, which grants her a free full advance, makes her beautifully mobile. Additionally, Fog of War can help push the DEF of your army up just enough to give them the help they need to get up the field.

Between Freezing Grip and her feat, both powerful effects that can freeze entire swaths of an enemy army, it’s no wonder that Sorscha1 gets the nickname “the ice queen.”  Of course, one of the side benefits of having your opponent frozen in a block of ice is that it drops their DEF down to 5, which means that a Mortar Crew, with its effective RAT of 1, can actually hit things! This makes it a great tool for following up on a bunch of frozen infantry, or perhaps getting those last few hit points in on an enemy caster during an assassination attempt.

So, what is in my list?

Theme: Winter Guard Kommand

Kommander Sorscha (Sorscha1)
– Victor

Kovnik Andrei Malakov
– Grolar
Kovnik Jozef Grigorovich
Winter Guard Artillery Kapitan

Winter Guard Mortar Crew x2
Winter Guard Infantry with Officer & Standard
Winter Guard Rifle Corps with 3 Rocketeers
Winter Guard Field Gun Crew

Basically, the point of this list is simple — I freeze stuff, and then stuff that normally can’t hit the broad side of a barn actually can.  Both Victor and the Mortar Crews suffer from the inaccurate special rule, which lowers their RAT to an utterly pathetic level.  Sorscha fixes that by freezing her enemies, bringing their DEF down to 5 so they can actually hit things.  With Victor, you can actually have the hilarious situation of watching your enemies get frozen in a block of ice and subsequently burn to death with an incendiary shot.  The Grolar, as well, is a warjack with a really good gun, but with a RAT of 4, it’s hard to actually hit things with it, a problem that Sorscha fixes.

Hmmmmmm… looks like I know what I’m playing on Tuesday…

Paintlog: Supreme Kommandant Irusk

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Three down, one to go…

As of late, I’ve had a couple somewhat arbitrary painting goals.  First has been to paint the models that I have on the shelf which are assembled but unpainted, in an effort to clear out that shelf of shame before I start buying assembling too many other models.  Second, I’d like to paint all the warcasters on the Active Duty Roster.  One of the models that resides at the intersection of those two is Supreme Kommandant Irusk, also known as Irusk2, also known as that guy with the annoying heavy pewter flag that always tips over and breaks.

As mentioned above, I had assembled Irusk2 previously as I had tried him out for a brief stint back in Mk.II.  I liked him, but found that I was getting assassinated a lot, so I ended up shelving him in favour of some other casters.  In the meantime, he had shown himself to be quite the powerhouse in Mk.III, as one of our top-tier infantry support casters and one of the few really capable of bring a lot of melee infantry across the table and into your opponent’s face.

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As any owner of this model will attest, there are two serious challenges with it, both of which relate to the flag.  First, the flag itself is made of pewter, which makes the model very top-heavy and easy to accidentally knock over.  Second, the model comes in multiple pieces, and there is a joint between the upper portion of the flag and the hand which is not very large and kind of tricky to glue. These two issues combine to make the natural state of the model something like as shown on the left.

As a result, this model is just begging to be pinned, which I did, spending a lot of time carefully drilling to try to get as long of a pin as I could in between the two sections.  One of the other things I did when I assembled him the first time was that I had filled the base with lead fishing weights and PP’s brown stuff, in an effort to make him a little less top-heavy.  This was a good idea, but I had to clean it up a little, filing it down to get the bottom surface flatter so the model is a little more stable.  Had I known about them then, I probably should have just used one of PP’s metal bases, but as they say in my French classes, c’est la vie.

Fast forward about a year, and as with the previous Spriggan project, there were a few things that I had to do clean him up and bring him up to my new standard, as my hobby skills have greatly improved since then.  There was some mold line removal and re-priming that had to be done, so I pulled out some files and got to work, fixing up the worst of the results from my careless assembly.33053_SupremeKommandantIrusk_WEB.jpg

As you can see on the studio picture, Irusk2 is a relatively ornate model, with all the decorations and accoutrements befitting someone whose title is Supreme Kommandant.  This can make him an intimidating model to paint, as you sit down and try to figure out which colour everything should go, in order to end up with a model that has balanced colour choices and sufficient contrast between distinct elements of the model.

One of the themes with my army so far has been that I’ve been using purple as a base army colour, and relatively higher ranking models have had more and more pink on them.  As a result, I knew that Irusk here was going to have a lot of pink, but that I was going to keep the purple going on the flag and base rim, which meant I needed to leave a little purple on the model in order to keep it balanced.  I did so by painting his chest plate and his trench coat purple, and making all the rest of the armour plates pink, while leaving his sash and some of the exposed fabric of his uniform a neutral grey.

This model used a lot of standard techniques, and to be honest, there are a few flaws so it is solidly tabletop standard, but if there is one aspect that I would like to focus on, it is the flag.  Often times, what one will do to get a tabletop standard model banged out is to just use the standard basecoat, wash, highlight method.  There is nothing wrong with it, and I continue to use washes on most of my models, however the trick is that there are some places where washes just don’t work.  Large, fairly flat surfaces like capes and flags don’t tend to take washes too well.  Instead of going where they need to go to darken the shadows, they tend to pool in unnatural places, so that instead of a nicely shaded model, you end up with a model that just looks flat and dirty.

So, how do we approach this?  Instead of basecoating and washing, we’re going to have to take this section of the model and manually paint in the shadows and highlights. Here, working with my usual Reaper Royal Purples Triad, I started by base coating with Imperial Purple.  Then, the next step is to look at the model and figure out where the light is going to be hitting the object.  On a wavy flag like this one, it’s going to be darker inside the folds and on areas where the flag has draped over, while the highlights go on the ridges and on the places where the fabric is on such an angle that the surface is facing upwards at the sun.

From there, you can use your shadow colour (in this case, Nightshade Purple) to blend the shadows.  There are a variety of techniques that you can use here, with two-brush blending being popular, but my usual technique at the moment is to take a brush, apply paint to the model in the center of where you want that second colour, then quickly rinse the brush, apply a little saliva, and drag the edge outward.  Do the same with your highlight colour, and don’t be afraid to mix colours on your wet palette and highlight up or down in multiple steps if it becomes too difficult to get a nice smooth blend all the way from your darkest shadow to your brightest hightlight.  These blending techniques do take some practice to get a smooth blend, so if you’re having trouble, picking up a unit of men and women with capes and keeping at it is a great way to learn.

For the white logo on the flag, I used similar techniques, starting with Reaper’s HD Concrete Grey as a base colour, and blending up through Misty Grey and into a pure white on just the highest highlights.  However, I ran into a bit of an issue here.  One of the side benefits of a wash is that it can also give a blacklining effect, whereby a bit of nuln oil in a crack between two bright colours can help break it up, which helps the eye distinguish where one colour ends and the next starts, and really helps make the miniature pop.  Since I didn’t do a wash, I have to put those blacklines in manually, with some dark paint (it doesn’t have to be black — just something darker than your base colour is good enough).  You’ll need to use thin paints and a decent brush to get it done right, of course.  Personally, I have a 10/0 rigger brush that I use for this sort of thing.  It’s nothing too fancy, just something I picked up at Michael’s, but I find that this very long, thin brush allows me to load it up with a fair bit of paint, and it has the right amount of flex to get deep into these sort of tiny recesses, so it’s a handy addition to my brush collection.

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And there you have it.  Normally, I like to do a lot of custom basing on my warcaster models, but in this case, the base that came with him was pretty good, and I didn’t really want to go taking things apart on such a tricky model, so I simply used the standard base and added a tuft and a little snow, to match the ice forming on the rocks on the sculpted base that was included.  I added a little extra weathering on the beat up metal piece with the Cygnar logo on the base, and that was pretty much it.

Overall, I’m happy with this model as a tabletop piece, but not 100% satisfied.  I wouldn’t say it’s my best work, and there are some flaws in certain areas, but nothing that would stand out from more than a foot away.  At tabletop distances, the pink highlights and white edging on the armour does tend to pop, which is always good..  If I were to paint it again, I might like to do something so that his medals stand out more at tabletop distances, but that’s kind of tricky given the brightness of the pink.

As for what list to put him in?  Well, Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and can run in any theme. His feat grants his army pathfinder for a turn, and the ability to ignore clouds and forest for the purposes of determining LOS, which means they can come out of nowhere. Additionally, enemy models suffer -3 SPD when they begin their activation within his 14″ control area.  He’s got a great list of support spells, with Artifice of Deviation, Battle Lust, Fire For Effect, and Solid Ground.  If I’m playing this season’s ADR, the other casters on the list are probably going to want to run in Legion of Steel (at least for now), so when it comes to theme, that leaves Winter Guard Kommand and Jaws of the Wolf if I don’t want to have two completely redundant lists.  As fun as it sounds to play him in Winter Guard Kommand and stack Bear’s Strength from Kovnik Joe and Battle Lust and apply axe to face, I’m going to try Jaws for my theorymachining.

Theme:  Jaws of the Wolf

Supreme Kommandant Irusk
– Behemoth

Greylord Forge Seer
– Destroyer
Widowmaker Marksman (free from theme)

Kayazy Assassins w/ Underboss
Kayazy Assassins w/ Underboss
Kayazy Eliminators
Kayazy Eliminators
Widowmaker Scouts

This list comes with a lot of stealth, because one thing more annoying than no-knockdown tough infantry with cover is no-knockdown tough infantry with cover and stealth.  If you can stack battle lust and backstab from the minifeat on the Kayazy Assassins, you’ll be throwing a lot of dice at your target.  With effective DEF 17 in melee, Eliminators tend to be a pain to remove, even moreso when they make a no-knockdown tough roll.

As for jacks, the combo of Behemoth in Irusk’s battlegroup and a Destroyer being marshalled by the Forge Seer is a good one.  Irusk can slap Fire For Effect on the Destroyer, giving it fully boosted magical attack rolls on the bombard, good for sniping out incorporeal models.  Behemoth only needs two focus to fire off two fully boosted shots, and since he gets one from power up, he can get the other from the Forge Seer. So, we’re talking three fully boosted bombard shots, one of which is magical, for the investment of just one focus per turn to upkeep Fire For Effect.  This leaves Irusk with plenty of focus remaining for his other support spells and camping.

That said, this list does have some glaring weaknesses.  First, there isn’t much to prevent Irusk2 from getting shot.  With so many stealth models, there isn’t much that can effectively screen him.  Second, sprays and mass eyeless sight could be a problem, so playing this list into Legion might be a bad idea.

Of course, I have a lot of painting to do before I can run a double Kayazy Assassin list, so…

(Note:  Apologies for not having more WIP photos; I wasn’t originally planning to do a paintlog on this model)

Simple Custom Warmachine Flag

In Steamroller, the standard tournament scenario packet for Warmachine, there are a number of scenario elements, including zones, objectives, and flags.  Usually players just use a round disk or extra base in the appropriate size, but creating your own custom objectives is a good way to add a little visual interest to the tabletop and make your battles look a little more cinematic.  Here, I’ll show you how to create a simple statue that can serve as a flag marker in SR2017, which uses only some simple techniques such as basecoating, dry-brushing, and washing.

For this, you will need:77303_w_1.jpg

  • A 40mm Base
  • A Male Paladin (77303) from Reaper
  • A Warmachine infantry model that would look good as a statue
  • Your usual modelling supplies (brushes, glue, pinning supplies, etc)
  • A few paints, including a dark purple, some dark brass colours, some greys, a dark wash, and GW’s Nihilakh Oxide

The first step is to assemble your model.  Take a sharp knife and separate the Male Paladin from the base that comes with the figure, and then throw the figure himself in your bits box.  We don’t need him; we’re using the base that he comes on as a plinth for the statue, which should fit perfectly onto a spare PP 40mm base.  Glue the plinth onto the statue, and then pin your model on top, trying to cover up the area which the Paladin was kneeling on.  Make sure you clean the mold lines well, because with the techniques we’re going to be using, any missed mold lines will stick out like a sore thumb.

From there, you can prime your model and start by base coating your model with a very dark purple.  I’ve used Reaper’s Nightshade Purple, which is just a hint away from black.  Rarely when painting miniatures do you want to go all the way to a straight black, and I feel that purple shadows tends to give some nice contrast with brass things.

IMG_1964.JPGNext up is a heavy drybrush with a dark brass colour.  I used P3’s Deathless Metal, which is one of the new paints in their Grymkin set.  This, along with their purple ink, were the new paints I was most looking forward to.  As a very dark brass metallic, it is a welcome addition to their line.  I suspect it will be very useful for true metallic metal techniques as it extends the range of their top-notch gold metallics into something much darker.  Now, if only they would replace their terrible, terrible paint pots with some nice dropper bottles…

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Finish up with a light drybrush of a slightly lighter brass colour, such as P3’s Molten Bronze, and we’ve got a great start for our bronze statue.  At the same time, feel free to start working on the plinth, base coating it grey, then giving it a dark wash and dry-brushing it back up to really show the shadows and highlights on the stone.

Now, on the statue, we could stop here, but I wanted to give it a more aged look.  One thing with these copper/brass statues is that over time, they tend to oxidize and form a green patina which you can see on all sorts of old statues.  Fortunately for us, there is an easy way to apply this effect.  Grab a pot of GW’s Nihilakh Oxide, which is one of their technical paints (a line specifically designed to make certain effects such as blood spatter, rust, etc. easy to create) and, well, I’ll let Duncan explain the next steps.

Finish off the stone, clean up the base edge, add a layer or two of varnish and maybe some vegetation around the edge, and we’re in business!  We’ve got a great little flag marker that can add a little more visual interest to your tabletop than a round disc or extra base.  And, in a pinch, you can just drop it on top of a large base to serve as an objective.

Since we’re using a lot of simple techniques such as washing and drybrushing, you can easily and quickly bang out some nice looking flags for your next Warmachine game!

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Black Dragon Spriggan Paintlog

So, in my efforts to bash out the backlog on my shelf of shame, I managed to finish off my Spriggan that had been sitting there since, well, since Spriggans were considered to be one of Khador’s best warjacks.

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For me, this model was a study in freehand and weathering.  I stuck to my usual purple and pink colour scheme with the autumnal colours in the basing.  To be honest, when I started, I didn’t think it would end up looking this good.

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I bought this model used, and had to strip some paint off, and of course, broke the spindly little arms off in the process and had to reconstruct them.  Then I primed it white and hit it with the purple base coat using an old Badger single-action airbrush.  My purple recipe is simply the Reaper Royal Purples triad of Nightshade (9022), Imperial (9023) and Amethyst (9014) purple, which with the right mixture of Vallejo airbrush thinner and flow improver, shoots through the brush pretty well.  Start with the darkest colour and work your way up, occasionally using a business card or a bit of silly putty for masking and to prevent overspray, and you’re in business.

Then it sat on the shelf for a year.

Of course, when I picked it back up, I noticed that there were a lot of issues with the model, as I had gotten a little better at painting in the meantime.  I had missed a lot of mold lines the first time around, and my first attempt at recreating the arms was not great.  There was some cleanup involved, but I didn’t want to have to respray the model, so I kept my cleaning to places where I was going to paint over anyways, or where I could easily conceal my scratching at it.

I also ripped off the arms to make it easier to paint and to redo the arms.  With a couple plasticard tubes, I managed to create a couple piston-looking things that could go over the brass rod underneath and which were a little beefier looking than the original arms that come in the box.

And then it was on to base coating.  I used mostly P3 and Vallejo Model Colour metallics to do the metal bits, and for the whites, I worked my up, with an undercoat of a medium gray, to Reaper’s Misty Grey (9090), which I find to be one of the most useful colours in my repertoire.  The pink on the lance and shield is also from Reaper; I used their HD Rosy Pink (29853) as an undercoat, Punk Rock Pink (09286) as a base, and Blush Pink (09262) for the highlight.  These are some very vibrant pinks, and have a home in many models in my army.

And then we have the freehand.img_1903.jpg

This is, in my opinion, the most impressive part of this model.  It catches the eye and, along with the weathering, is one component which goes beyond “here’s a model I painted” and really tells a story.  I’m not sure what to say about it; just having nice brushes, the right consistency of paint, and some reference material close by (in this case, a picture of the Black Dragons logo), and a single-colour freehand like this turns out to be less difficult than it looks.  I also freehanded the spiral on the lance, which wasn’t too hard, again, with the right brushes, right consistency, and a steady hand.

Washes add some depth to the model; I used Nuln Oil from GW for most of the wash, and added a little Druchii Violet for the brass bits.  It sounds funny, but I’ve found that a purple shade works really well on brass and gold because colour theory.  Being across the colour wheel from gold, purple shadows make the golden highlights really pop, or something like that.  I don’t know, I’ve never been to art school.  Highlight the metals back up, do a bit of edge highlighting, and we’re ready for weathering!

There were a few techniques I used for this weathering.  For the scratches, what I did was a line of dark colour in the scratch, with a line of highlight below, kind of like this Duncan video.  I also used the sponge technique, applying some dark silver like GW Leadbelcher or P3 Pig Iron using a leftover bit of some pluck foam.  Then I followed up with some P3 Umbral Umber overtop using the same technique.  Both GW’s Typhus Corrosion and Agrax Earthshade can create rust streaks, and Typhus Corrosion is also good for adding dirt and mud effects around the feet and legs of the jack and bottom of the shield, as well as sooty crud on the smokestacks.

When it comes to weathering, placement is key.  Remember how I mentioned earlier that last year’s me kind of slacked off on the mold lines?  Well, here is a nice way to cover that up without worrying about exactly matching the colour at that point on the smooth blend.  That scratch is supposed to be there; it’s weathering…

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Also, weathering tells a story.  I put a lot of weathering on the shield, for example, because it’s a shield.  Blocking blows is what it does, so it’s going to get beaten up.  Also, the lance is going to get scratched up as it penetrates the armour of a Cygnaran warjack, destroying its boiler and wrecking it.  A jack with a punchy fist is going to have scratches on the fist and on the forearm from punching.  Ideally, Khador jacks will have more damage on the front as they face down their foes rather than running away like cowards.  And so on.  I took a while to get into weathering because I like a “clean” look, but even a few scratches can really help the model go tell a story.

I have to admit though, it took a lot of courage to take this freehand that I spent a couple hours working on and which looks great and start randomly stippling crap on.  But in this case, once I got over the fear that I would ruin my wonderful freehand, I came up with something that is so much better and more visually interesting than it was before.  So, my one piece of advice would be to not fear the weathering.  Doing it well can really take things to the next level, and the worst that can happen is you end up repainting something, which in the grand scheme of things is no big deal.

And so, we get the final product.  It turned out a lot better than I anticipated when I started, and while there are some imperfections here and there, I’m very happy with it.  Now, to figure out who to take it with on the table.  Hmmmmmmm, perhaps Vlad1 for the anti-stealth in a rocket list, or maybe Kozlov once the Man-O-War theme comes out?