These are a few of my favourite paints…

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

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

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

Vallejo Metal Color

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

P3 – Metals and paints

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

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

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

Citadel Shades & Technical Paints

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

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

Badger Stynylrez Primer

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

Reaper Brush-On Primer

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

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Conclusion

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

Paintlog: Dana Murphy and fun with airbrushing inks

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

Yes, I’m talking about painting yellow.

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Dana Murphy (72mm), Reaper #01407

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Step (3), front and back.

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

 

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

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

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

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After the first attempt at yellow (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See: Tricorder

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Also, insert gratuitous T&A here

 

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“I painted that one-handed…”

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I recently suffered a fracture to my hand, which knocked me out of gaming and typing for about a month. The only silver lining was that as the pill bottles I use as miniature holders fit in my cast rather nicely, so I could still make some hobby progress. Assembly and major conversions were out of the question, but I was able to put a large dent in my shelf of shame.

Laril Silverhand

IMG_2480.JPGI mentioned in a previous post that I had started on Laril Silverhand (03803) from Reaper. Well, I managed to finish her up. I didn’t quite go for the full-on dark moonlit night as I originally planned, but I do think the OSL on the sword does a good job of conveying the scene and the heat of the sword as it was just pulled out of the furnace. Reaper minis tend to be a touch smaller than what I’m used to from Privateer Press, but not too much; Laril here was perhaps 10% smaller than the equivalent PP mini.

Anyways, for this OSL, what I did was I started by basecoating the sword with Vallejo Metal Color Gunmetal Grey. This is the darkest silver paint I own, and the VMC metals are nice and smooth. For the sword itself, I applied layers of red and bright orange, blending them out so they smoothly transition from bright, hot orange to warm red to cold steel. On top of that, I did a yellow edge highlight along the edges of the blade to convey its shape. For the glow, I started by figuring out where the glow of the sword would hit her apron, anvil, arm, etc. Then, I applied the highlights as glazes, starting with red and working up to brighter oranges and yellows as we get closer to the sword.

Man-O-Wars

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Drakhuns with dismounted versions

With the Khador Man-O-War CID in full swing, I decided it was time to start putting a dent in to the large collection of assembled, primed, airbrushed Man-O-War models that were in my collection. Man-O-Wars are basically elite soldiers from the Khadoran army stuffed into steam-powered armoured suits which make them extremely tough and also occasionally malfunction and scald them to death. I decided to bang out two Drakhuns (cavalry models, mounted on the world’s unluckiest horses) and a Kovnik (officer with a flag).  The Drakhuns are dragoon solos for Warmachine, so each model comes with two versions — one mounted version, and one dismounted version which can continue the fight after being shot off his or her horse. So with two Drakhuns and one Kovnik, that’s five models total.

 

Now, these models are very detailed, including certain –ahem- anatomically correct bits on the horses. So they were a bit of a time consuming project, especially for someone like me whose style often involves a lot of contrast, a lot of picking out details, and a lot of heavy edge highlighting. To distinguish the two Drakhuns on the tabletop, I did a couple things. First, I painted one horse grey and the other brown. Second, I did a head swap for one of them. Instead of the standard helmet, I pinned the head from Alexia, Mistress of the Witchfire on there, which I had acquired from the PP bits store. I chose this head for two reasons. First, she’s got a cool angry expression on her face. Second, the motherland requires both its sons and daughters to carry on the struggle against the forces of Cygnar and Cryx, so I like to represent a bit more gender diversity in my army than is normally in the PP Khador line. With Man-O-War, since they are covered up by such big, bulky armoured suits, a simple head swap is all that is necessary to convert one into a Woman-O-War.

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Man-O-War Kovnik

For the Kovnik, I didn’t want to do a purple flag because it’s my second one and I want to be able to distinguish them on the tabletop. So, I went for pink, but I chose a bit different shade of pink for the cloth flag than I did for the armour, just to convey that they are made of different materials.

 

The other thing with these Man-O-War models is that some of the older sculpts are metal, and the newer ones are plastic. Which normally wouldn’t be a problem, except for the reality of scale creep in PP’s sculpts. The old metal Man-O-War miniatures are just a little smaller than the newer plastic ones, so to make them look a little more consistent on the tabletop, I elevated them slightly, using a layer of cork between the feet and the base. It doesn’t totally fix the scale issue, but it at least makes the models a consistent, uniform height which works out well at a glance.

Sofya Skirova

IMG_2501.JPGKapitan Sofya Skirova is a badass. Let’s just get that out of the way first. As an officer in the Black Dragons, the most elite pikemen in all of Khador, she has to be. On the tabletop, she has a lot of special rules which mean that she just does not die and can tough out a lot of attacks and get back into the fight.

She was one of Privateer Press’ December releases as part of their new plan of giving every faction a little something around Christmas. I’ve been waiting for her to come out ever since they spoiled some of the character art in No Quarter, however I think it may have been a bit of a missed opportunity there; when I first saw her art, I was hoping that she would be either the daughter or the wife of Lord Kozlov, our new battlebox caster, but that’s something that I can just headcanon.

In order to convey this badassery, I decided to do something special for her base. First, it goes without saying that she needs to tower over lesser models on the tabletop, so she needs a little height on the base. This was easily accomplished with a lump of air drying clay, as well as my usual use of acrylic artist medium for texture.

Now, height is good, but to add a little badassery, I decided to turn it up a notch and throw on some debris — a couple shields from her fallen comrades that I had traded for, as well as some Menoth bits including a warjack head that someone threw in with a sale (protip: never say no to free bits). These were, of course, weathered up a bit to indicate the origin of said bits, and really help convey the message that Sofya is one tough cookie.

Iron Fangs

IMG_2491.JPGWhile I’m at it, I also banged out the Iron Fang Pikemen that I had previously assembled. Aside from the hell that is assembling, converting, and magnetizing a whole unit of metal pikemen, I decided to do a little bit of an experiment on these guys. Normally, I wouldn’t use my airbrush for models this small, but I figured that perhaps I could save some time and get good results by airbrushing the purple on, including the shadows and highlights, then going back and brush painting the chainmail with some nice, smooth VMC metals. The other thing I did was use very targeted washes. As I’ve gotten better and better at painting, I’ve been less and less reliant on slathering a mini in Nuln Oil. That is not to say that washes such as Nuln Oil are not useful, but there are a lot of times where you want to be more targeted with them than just an all-over wash. Here, I pretty much just washed the metals and fur and for the rest, just kept the airbrushed or blended highlights au naturel. Overall, this gave good results, and given the amount of time I’ve saved, I am definitely going to be doing a lot more airbrushing on smaller miniatures.

Still on the bench…

IMG_2509.JPGI have a couple projects still on my workbench. First off is Karchev the Terrible, or Special K as I call her. You will note my use of the feminine in this case; a friend had commented on my habit on doing gender-bending conversions in my army and, well, one thing led to another and next thing I knew, I was grabbing a jeweler’s saw and a Statuesque Miniatures head. She’s a woman in a machine, an old warrior kept alive by life support systems, magic, and the giant steam-powered warjack that she was bolted into because reasons. I’ve got all the base coats laid down, and the shading done on the base and legs, so I’m probably pretty close to done, all things considered.

IMG_2506.JPGFinally, my take on Scale75’s 1/12 scale Mary Read bust is almost done, after a little mishap with the parrot that ended up with me needing to break out the sculpting tools. I still need to highlight the metals, do a bit of work on the parrot, and do some miscellaneous touchups, hightlights, and shadows here and there, but she is getting close to done. This was a really fun project, so much that I spent more money than I care to admit on Scale75’s latest kickstarter. I’m hoping to be able to make it out to HeritageCon in Hamilton in a few weeks, and if so, I’m going to definitely enter her into the figures category and see how I do. That is, as long as I can get her done by then.

Conclusion

In spite of my busted up hand, it’s actually been a productive month in terms of my hobby progress, and I’ve happily finished a few things that have been on my shelf of shame for way too long. Something about not being able to go out gaming or do much of anything is one way to ensure you will get a lot of hours at the workbench, though I still wouldn’t recommend breaking your hand as a motivational technique.

Paintlog: Jumping Scale

For the past several months, as I’ve been building my painting skills and getting more and more into pure display painting rather than simply painting stuff up for the tabletop, I’ve been thinking of jumping up to a larger scale. Most of the figures I’ve painted in the past have been about 30mm figures for games like Warmachine. It’s not a bad scale per se, but it feels like there are a lot of details that are lost at 30mm, and a lot of shortcuts you can end up taking as a result. For example, it can be prohibitive to do anything other than just a dot to represent the iris and pupil of an eye, whereas in a bigger scale, you can actually represent these different parts of the eye and how the ambient light reflects off the pupil.

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Yephima, next to one of my first miniatures, a 28mm scale wizard in Winnipeg Blue Bombers colours

I’ve had a bunch of the 1/12 scale Naughty Gears busts from Scale75 sitting in my stash, but these are a little expensive for a first stab at a larger scale. Fortunately, I found something in my stash of 28mm scale Reaper Bones which could suffice. Yephima, Female Cloud Giant (#77162) is a 28mm scale miniature, however she represents what looks to be a 20 foot tall giant. So, in a “world’s tallest hobbit” type situation, she actually appears to be a normal sized human in what looks to be perhaps a bit bigger than 75mm scale.

And as a bonus, she’s only about $7 on the Reaper website, so if I screw her up, it’s no big deal.

Anyways, the first thing you need to know about painting Reaper Bones is that they are made up of a weird material. Bones were designed with D&D and other role-playing games in mind, so they were designed with a material that is very durable and low-cost so your DM can afford a whole stash of them and so they don’t get damaged from being handled by clumsy, cheeto-fingered gamers.

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This material has some unique properties. First off, it is rather soft, so when you are cleaning mold lines, you will need a very sharp knife. You also may need to straighten out some bent bits using hot water to make it pliable, then cold water to shock it into shape.

The most important aspect of this material, however, is how it interacts with paint. So long as it is clean (and you should always wash your miniatures with soap and water before painting), Bones material is designed to take acrylic paint straight out of the box. However, the material is also somewhat hydrophobic, which means that water will bead up on the surface. This is a problem because “thin your paints” is one of the first things you learn when painting miniatures. If you try to thin your paints with water, you’re going to have a bad time.

Fortunately, there is a solution. A first coat of undiluted paint will act as a primer and stick to the surface of the miniature, and from there, you can paint over it using paints that are thinned to your heart’s content. This article on the Reaper forums is required reading before jumping into Bones, and will save you a lot of frustration as you start.

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My skin colour palette. One of these colours is not like the other…

So, with a coat of white paint to cover up all the bare material, I dragged her out to the aviation museum to get a start at the local IPMS build day. When I paint skin, I like to start in the shadows and work my way up, so I took out my nice, #2 Raphael 8404 and my wet palette and got to work, basecoating all the skin with Reaper Soft Blue. From there, I worked up into my base flesh tone of P3 Khardic Flesh (93057), and into P3 Ryn Flesh (93059) and Reaper Fair Skin (09047) for the highlights. If you’re painting along at home, you don’t have to use these exact colours, but the principle remains the same. Start with blue, because your deepest shadows and certain areas of the skin are going to have a blue tone to them, then figure out your light source and work your way up through to your highest highlight, using blending and feathering techniques to get smooth transitions, and taking advantage of the slightly translucent nature of hobby acrylic paints as you go. And remember, Airbrush Flow Improver is your friend.

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Upon finishing up the first crack at the flesh and taking a look at her in some more natural light in the museum’s cafeteria, I realized that she was looking way too pale for my tastes. In some areas, her skin looked almost lifeless. Fortunately, I had an idea to fix it. I figured if I whipped up a glaze in a more pinkish skin tone, I could breathe a little life into the skin and also maybe smooth out some of my blends. However, I knew I also wanted to practice some freehand tattoos on her, which meant that perhaps it would be best to wait until the end.

One of the tricks with tattoos is that when they are very fresh, they have a bit of a harsh look to them, however once the skin heals from getting stabbed with a needle thousands and thousands of times, the tattoo fades into the skin a bit. If I were to simply paint the tattoos onto her using pure black, they would end up with that harsh, unhealed look. So, the trick here is to not go for a pure black; try a sort of greyish blue-black instead to avoid going too harsh. Also, by saving the glaze that I was going to do anyways to get the skin tone right until after I painted the tattoos on, that would give it a bit of a skin coloured filter to them and make the tattoos look like she’s had them for a little while.

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Before and after the glaze

Speaking of the tattoos, I ended up wanting a lot of practice a lot of different designs, so she ended up being fairly heavily tattooed. After the glaze, though, I thought she could use a little more something on the legs, so I painted on a fishnet pattern on the right leg, below the little band around her upper leg. For this, I used my secret weapon; a 10/0 liner brush and did a simple criss-cross pattern over her leg.

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Hand-painted fishnets

I also knew that for this project, I wanted to do red hair and green eyes. My goal was for her hair to look vibrant, so I went for a shade of hair that while it may not be realistic, is still appropriate for a fantasy figure, starting with brown, adding a dark wash, and working up to a bright red with a touch of off-white mixed in in places.

From there, it is a lot of my usual techniques to finish off the clothes and the mace such as blending in some highlights and using desaturated blues to highlight the black. Finally, I saved some of the highlights on the metals for the end, knowing that there is no point in working to get the metallics perfect on a display quality model only to ruin them with dullcote. I used my usual TMM brass strategy of working up through various golds to Vallejo Bright Brass at the highest highlight, and went over the silver bits as well.

Oh, and the base? I managed to source that from a little-known hobby company, and it came free with a bottle of orange juice.

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Final thoughts

This model was in the weird place of starting out as just a practice model, but as I painted it, I kind of fell in love with the sculpt and the details, and I began really putting a little more effort into it. As such, there are perhaps a few imperfections from the initial stages when I figured “oh, this is just a practice piece; I don’t care if the mold lines are perfect” which may have showed through until the end. However, I think she turned out pretty well overall. I’m pleased with the skin tone; for a first attempt at this scale, it seems to be pretty solid. The hair could perhaps use some work, as this is the first time I’ve tried to do hair at this scale and also possibly the first time I’ve gone for the fantasy redhead look. However, I’m more or less pleased with the tattoos, and feel that they, and the fishnets, add some nice character to this model.

For any miniature painter who is starting to feel as though things are getting a touch rote, I would strongly recommend picking something up in a different scale and trying it out. Taking on new challenges is one of the enjoyable parts of the hobby, and painting up Yephima here really helped rekindle some of that for me.

yephima.JPG

The finished product

I buy stuff — Naughty Gears, MiniCrate, and Reaper

Like any good miniature painter, I buy more miniatures than I can possibly paint, and the backlog just keeps growing.  Over the past few weeks, my mailbox has been abuzz with activity, as orders from Scale75, Reaper, and Privateer Press have arrived and made their way into my ever-growing paint queue.

Scale75

scale75_brigitteDespite my ambivalence about the gaming and hobby industry’s move towards kickstarter, as soon as I saw the Naughty Gears models from Scale75, I knew I had to get in on it.  These are 1/12 busts of steampunk women, with some decidedly I’ve been wanting to move up from 30-ish mm scale to something bigger, and despite my best efforts, I eventually relented and went in on the Sexy level, selecting Mary Read, Helga Blitzhammer, Jessica Thunderhawk, and of course, Nancy Steelpunch, as well as a couple addons and other goodies.

Right off the bat, these models have some great character design to them.  Despite being decidedly pinup in nature when it comes to things like body proportions and the amount of skin showing (hey, Helga’s a blacksmith! It’s hot near her forge!), most of these models also exude a certain confidence and, dare I say, badassery in their sculpts.  A couple are a little much for me when it comes to the amount of skin showing, but as I am a sucker for both pinups and steampunk, I have to give these a ten out of ten for character design.

busts

There are a couple that I’m looking forward to painting in particular.  Nancy Steelpunch is just an amazing model that ticks all the right boxes for me.  Extraneous steampunk goggles, robotic arms, and a punkish undercut all combine to create what is sure to be a joy to paint and display.  Helga, as well, is a model where I think there is a lot one can do there.  You can add some soot and sweat stains on her shirt to make it look like she’s been working hard, and with some orange lighting in front of her to make it look like she is standing in font of a forge, basked in its orange glow, there’s a lot that one can do with the model.

IMG_2164When we get to the quality of the models, it’s just great all around.  They are all just some amazingly detailed models.  The straight lines are laser straight, the detail is crisp and bountiful, and the mold lines are practically nonexistant.  I did a dry fit, and the pieces just go together perfectly.  While they may be a little on the pricy side, the quality and the awesome character design easily justifies the cost.

My level on the kickstarter came with some additional goodies, the best being their book “Steampunk in Miniature” which has detailed instructions on how to paint these models up.  Aside from some not-so-great translations in the introduction section, the book is chock-full of great content to take you from the primer to the finishing touches.  Big pictures and detailed instructions will definitely help me transition to this much larger scale than I am used to, and one feature of the book that I really liked was that it catered to multiple different paint styles — airbrush users versus regular brush, and instructions for both non-metallic and true metallic metals.

Unfortunately, while the quality of the models was great, there were a couple of disappointments associated with the Scale75 kickstarter process that served to remind me why I’m not a huge fan of kickstarter, especially for established companies looking to expand their product line rather than startups.

 

First, there was the Mary Read debacle. For those of you who aren’t aware, shortly after the kickstarter ended, Scale75 ran into a copyright issue and could no longer produce the Mary Read figure they had advertised. They initially offered up Amelia Steam as a replacement, however their customers weren’t thrilled as Mary Read was one of the best and likely most popular sculpts.  Eventually, to mollify the people who went in for Mary Read, Scale75 offered up an alternate sculpt which was copyright-compliant. While it was nice to get a Mary Read, all the changes they had to make to avoid copyright issues really made it a completely different model.  The awesome hair of the original Mary Read was covered up by a bandanna, which meant that while the new sculpt wasn’t bad, what we actually got was a pale shadow of what could have been.

 

helga

Helga — note the difference in facial expression between her art and the model

Second, I was a little disappointed with the sculpt on Helga Blitzhammer.  I was sold on her based on the concept art, but when they sculpted her, the facial expression changed.  It went from the cold, stern expression to a big smile.  This changes the whole tone of the piece, going from a serious blacksmith at work to more of a smiling, cheesecakey model.  While I can’t complain too much because I believe the render was available before the kickstarter ended, it was a little frustrating to see the model not match the concept art which initially sold me on her.

That said, overall, these are still some great models and I’m looking forward to painting them and trying out a new scale.

Minicrate

I also received my first shipment from MiniCrate, Privateer Press’ new miniature subscription program.  For those who are not aware, the concept behind MiniCrate is that you sign up for a monthly subscription and each month you are sent an exclusive, limited-run miniature from PP.  Once they are all sent out, the tooling will be destroyed.  So far, all of the miniatures in MiniCrate that have been revealed are alternate sculpts of existing models in their inventory.

mc_wolf_in_sheep_squareIncluded in this box were both their Di Wulfe in Sheep’s Clothing (aka: Sexy Gorman) and the Swamp Siren.  The Sexy Gorman is a one piece metal model, representing a female version of their Gorman di Wulfe model, while the Swamp Siren comes in two pieces:  A resin piece making up the bulk of the model and a metal left arm.

Now, the sculpts on these are, and always will be, polarizing.  A lot of the MiniCrate models have gone the pinup route, so if you don’t like painting pinups for whatever reason, then you probably won’t like these.  Further, with the Sexy Gorman’s entire sculpt based around a pun, people are either going to love her or hate her and her sheep onesie.

Initially, I was in the camp that wasn’t sold on the Sexy Gorman model, and subscribed to get the Swamp Siren.  I thought the sheep onesie was just silly.  But, the more I look at it, the more the model has grown on me. Yes, it’s kind of silly, but in a fun, whimsical way.  And as someone who likes doing these sort of conversions to my models, I love the Privateer Press gender-bent alternate sculpts.  I’ve already got her cleaned and mounted on a pill bottle for painting, and have some plinths on order for her…

mc_swamp_horror_squareAs for the Swamp Siren, I absolutely love the design.  The fact that they could take their Swamp Horror and turn it into a pinup model, while keeping the feel and the distinctive elements of the original, is nothing short of amazing. They managed to incorporate all the tentacles, spikes, and chitinous plating of the original into a sculpt that is the right mix of horrible, Cthulhu-esque abomination and attractive lady. She’s an awesome sculpt, and one that is definitely going to be closer to the top than the bottom of my painting queue.

IMG_2167.JPGUnfortunately, the Swamp Siren suffers from some quality control issues.  While the model itself is made of good material and has some nice detail, and is generally similar in crispness, detail, quality of sculpt, etc., to Eilish Garritty from No Quarter Prime, my models had some severe problems.  Looking at the model, it’s clear that the two halves of the mold were misaligned pretty badly, leaving me with a massive mold line running all the way up one side of her body, up and down the right arm, over the neck and head, and back down the other side. Although some mold lines are expected and normally I wouldn’t complain about cleaning it up, the misalignment was such that I wouldn’t be able to get the head and neck to look as intended.

I did compare my Swamp Siren to one of my locals, and his seemed to be quite nice, with only some minor mold lines on the tentacles that are easy enough to clean up.  I suspect I just happened to get a bad mold, or perhaps something went wrong with the tooling partway through the run and some models that weren’t up to snuff slipped through QC.  Fortunately, Privateer Press’ customer service is great, a lot better than their quality control at times, and I got a replacement free of charge.  The replacement does still have some mold lines to trim and a little work to be done, but is far better than the initial model.

While I still think the MiniCrate service is a wonderful idea and I like these models, my one piece oadvice here would be to take a close look at the model as soon as you get it, as given the limited nature of the release, it may be difficult to get a replacement if you don’t notice the issues right away because you put it on the shelf without looking and didn’t get around to it for a year.  Especially if they destroy the tooling in a sufficiently spectacular way, as promised.

Reaper

It’s no secret that I like Reaper paints.  Unfortunately, I live in a city that doesn’t have any stores which carry Reaper paints.  Further, the city I live in gets cold during the winter, so I’m a little paranoid about ordering paints which could potentially freeze in transit.

As a result, noticing that I was running low on some of my bread and butter army colours, I put in a couple orders from Reaper recently.  So, aside from the paints, there were a couple figures that I wanted.  With The Old Witch of Khador sitting on my shelf and Old Witch 2 now sitting on the shelf at my FLGS, I figured now would be a good time to stock up on crows for conversions, so after ordering about a dozen of their Murder of Crows…

moleman

ivanetta.jpgAnyways, I also picked up Ivanetta Kozlov, which is a pretty nice miniature that I figured would be a nice palate cleanser from painting up oodles and oodles of Privateer Press products.  She’s a solid miniature; this isn’t the cheap Bones plastic, it’s old-school metal, and the basing bits included make it a whole scene in a little package.  Mold lines do exist, but your standard cleanup protocol will apply. Plus, while the miniature definitely falls on the fantasy side of the fence, there is a bit of a historical nod towards some of the Soviet female snipers such as Lyudmila Pavlichenko who served in WWII, so that’s a nice touch.

And, of course, with Reaper’s October promotions, I got some bonus minis, including their 25th anniversary Lysette (who is also a nice metal mini), a few paints, and a little goody bag with some Halloween candy which I promptly ate.  All in all, it was a nice little haul.

So, looks like I’ve got a busy winter approaching…