Initial thoughts: GSW Colorshift and Scale75 Metallics

As part of my hoarding of paints and tools, I’ve been trying out some new products lately, and figured I would share some thoughts on them. One caveat before I get into the reviews — I will include photos, but because of the nature of metallics and especially color shift paints, it’s going to be difficult to capture the effect on film.

Green Stuff World Colorshift

These paints are a little unusual. I’ve gotten all three sets, because every time I would see a new set at a show, I would jump at it, only for it to collect dust because I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Where I kept getting hung up was on shading and highlighting. When I do my metallics, I don’t like to just paint something silver and call it done. It has to be shaded and highlighted, just like the rest of the model. Shade and highlight colours are dictated by colour theory, which brings up an obvious issue. If I’m painting with paints that change colour depending on the viewing angle, just what colour am I supposed to use to shade and highlight something that is green some of the time and purple others?

Anyways, I had somehow manage to mangle the assembly of a Bandai HG ball gundam (no small feat, given how idiot-proof Bandai kits are), so I figured I woudl clean it up as best I could and use it as a testbed.

The instructions say that you are supposed to apply them over a gloss black primer for the best effect, which seemed a little odd to me. After all, the point of primer is to adhere to the model and provide a surface for the paint to adhere to, and a smooth, shiny surface is by nature going to have less tooth than a matte surface.

However, I did spot some gloss black Stynylrez at a hobby shop, so I figured I would give it a go. I’m not sure if it was the product or something I was doing wrong, but I found this to be a little tricky, with the application being nowhere near as idiot-proof as the regular matte Stynylrez. I eventually found priming with regular black Stynylrez then going over it with the gloss to be a better approach than trying to spray the gloss straight onto the model.

The first issue I had, which is immediately obvious as soon as you take the paints out of the box, is that the colour(s) of paint in the bottle has little to no relationship with the colour of a surface painted with colorshift paints. So, you will have to paint the lids of the bottles with the corresponding paint if you have any hope of knowing what colour is which, which is something that I do to all my paints anyways.

The biggest issue, however, has to do with coverage and consistency. Coverage is pretty poor, and isn’t helped by the fact that the instructions dictate that it is to be applied over black primer. Further, it has to be applied in very thin coats, otherwise the medium ends up drying in a sort of thick, milky consistency. Doing all this over a gloss black primer can be extremely difficult with a brush, and even with an airbrush it is very easy to flood the surface and ruin the finish. As for touching up mistakes, forget about it.

I will give them this though, they go through the airbrush pretty nicely.

With the airbrush, the shading and highlighting issue actually turned out to be not much of a problem. Since they need so many coats to build up coverage and are applied over a black primer, simply varying the number of coats between your highlights and your shadows will help give it a shaded effect. Go for full coverage on the first couple coats, and from there, you can transition into just doing a zenithal for your last coat or two.

So, it’s tricky to apply, but how does it look? Well, to be honest, I’m kind of underwhelmed. First, the colour shift effect isn’t as pronounced as I was expecting it to be. Second, there is a bit of an issue with the finish. The pigments are fairly large, so on a close examination, it looks less like smooth, machined metal and more like something that was covered in glitter.

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In spite of all that, I do think it can still have its uses. I think it would look good on something like a Convergence of Cyriss army, and at gaming table distances, large, sparkly pigments are less of an issue.

Scale75 Metallics

When it comes to metallic paints, I find myself agreeing largely with Vince Venturella, who is better than me at both painting and creating content. I like true metallic metals; there is just something about the shine that pops when you’re looking at the miniature in real life. The problem is that most metallic paints designed for miniature painters are basically trash.

The one exception to this rule is Vallejo Metal Color. Not Vallejo Model Air, not Vallejo Game Color, but Vallejo Metal Color. The stuff that comes in the bigger bottles with the black and silver labels. This stuff blows your GW Leadbelcher and your P3 Quick Silver out of the water. However, there is one problem. Since it is designed to cater to the scale model crowd, specifically aircraft modelers, the range isn’t well suited to what we do. Out of their 16 or so colours, they have about five different colours of aluminum but only one copper and one gold — and the gold isn’t even very good, having a weird green tone to it that might be useful if you’re painting the golden scepter of some evil lich lord who just radiates corruption and necrotic energy, but isn’t great otherwise.

So, after hearing a lot of people talk up the Scale75 metallics and seeing them being used on twitch streams, and seeing a local game store get a rack of Scale75, I decided to take the plunge and try it.

Now, before I get into the product, there are a couple things that I would like to address. First, there is the question of availability. It’s still difficult and expensive to get Scale75 in Canada; only a very small number of stores in Canada carry it, and ordering from the Scale75USA website means you get to deal with the joys of currency conversion and customs. Even if you are lucky enough as I am to have a local store that carries it, it is still a little pricey. At the one local store that carries it and which has good prices on most of their products, I’m paying $6.50 a bottle. This is definitely above average for miniature paint, and for me, there is a bit of a psychological leap between being able to get a bottle of paint for a fiver and not.

Second, I feel like Scale75 is one of those brands that there is a lot of hype out on the internet for. They’ve successfully positioned themselves in the market as the serious paint for serious painters. The paint itself might be that good for all I know; I haven’t seriously tried out their non-metallic paints yet. However, I tend to be naturally suspicious of things that look like fads, so there is something that rubs me the wrong way about these paints. I’m not going to run out and get rid of all my paints to go all in on a new brand just because it’s the new hotness, and I’m content with my current paint collection for now, so unless it turns out to be legitimately that good, I’m happy to stick to my assortment of mostly Reaper, with a few P3s, Vallejos, and Citadels for flavour. After all, if Reaper paints are good enough for Kirill, I suppose they’re good enough for me.

Anyways, Scale75 has about ten or twelve different metallic paints, in various shades of silver, gold and copper. The gold and brass colours are my main focus because they fill in a gap that all my other paints have left.

The first thing you will notice when you compare Scale75 to its competitors is the the pigment size. If you look close enough at most metallic paints, you can see that the tiny glitter-like flakes in them, which is simply the nature of metallic pigments. As a result, it’s impossible to get the very smooth finish that you might see on machined metal. Scale75 metallic paints seem to have pigment ground much finer than most of their competitors, which contributes to a better finish than most.

With their finely ground pigments, they also airbrush well. I had no problems with my Xtreme Patriot with the 0.35 mm nozzle. You can airbrush them almost straight from the pot, however a drop or two of flow improver can go a long way.

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The top part of these… things… were airbrushed with Scale75 gold metallics

Playing with the hairy sticks, I was immediately struck by how much smoother they are than most of the metallic paints I’m used to. Consistency is a bit thinner, but not Vallejo Metal Color thin. Coverage is decent, though Duncan’s advice of two thin coats probably applies here as with most metallic paints. You can highlight with them and get decent blends, though I’ve get to do a big, display-level TMM project that has large metallic areas with them.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that they behave in a way which is fairly similar to normal acrylic paint. This doesn’t sound like much, but as anyone who has dealt with metallics can tell you, it’s a big compliment.

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Stabby guy with some brass bits done in Scale75

I think I still prefer the Vallejo Metal Color just because of the sheer coverage and workability of the VMCs, however the VMC has a very thin consistency, closer to an ink than most miniature paints, which can take a little bit of practice to get used to if you’re coming from something like Leadbelcher. This also isn’t always welcome when you’re utilizing techniques that prefer a thick paint like drybrushing. The Scale75 is a little closer in consistency to traditional metallic miniature paints, however it blows them out of the water. I do also have the Badger Metalsmith paints to compare them to, but that is more of a paint system than a paint and I’m too lazy to play alchemist every time I want to lay down some gold paint.

In short, these Scale75 metallics are a great addition to your hobby arsenal. Out of all the gold paints I’ve tried, they’re the best on the market, though they kind of win by default as most gold paints are pretty mediocre. If I was to give someone advice on what metallic paints to start out with, I would probably tell them to buy VMC for the silver metallics and supplement that with Scale75 for the golds.

The most important question

In this review, you will note that I may have left out one of the most important questions as it pertains to any miniature paint: how does it taste?

For the Color Shift paints, since they are best applied with an airbrush in multiple thin coats, and you probably aren’t going to be blending them, it shouldn’t really come up very often. As for the Scale75 metallics, they don’t taste bad right away, but if you keep working with them, licking your brush as you go, you will notice a bad taste in your mouth. However, they are so much better than other gold colours that you might as well grab a beer and wash it down.

The final verdict is that I would probably give the GSW Colorshift paints a C, and the Scale75 paints an A. The GSW Colorshift paints just don’t quite live up to my expectations, though they can still be useful, while the Scale75 metallics are my new favourite gold paints though they haven’t dethroned Vallejo Metal Color for my silvers.

Bustin’ a Move with Nancy and Sorscha

To paraphrase the esteemed Sir Mix-A-Lot, I like big busts and I cannot lie. When it comes to painting figures, I think the 1/12 bust is my favourite scale. 1/12 is a big enough scale to incorporate some really nice details and textures, especially on the skin and eyes. However, being a bust, that means I can get the large scale which enables a lot of detail work without having as large or expensive of a model as if it were a full figure. Plus, painting pants and boots can be kind of boring, and a bust focuses on only the interesting parts.

Starting out

I had mentioned them on this blog before, but had done two busts recently: the Sorscha bust from Privateer Press, and Nancy Steelpunch from Scale75. Both were high quality resin pieces, and cleanup was pretty minimal, with a little bit of work required on Sorscha and not much at all on Nancy. Both were assembled and then zenithal primed with Stynylrez white over black, going heavy on the white as is my usual approach.

Next, I laid in some airbrushed base coats on the skin. I started with blue, as that is my deepest shadow and it is generally easier to work from shadow to highlight with the airbrush. From there, I went into skin tones, working up from my deepest shade of Reaper MSP Soft Blue to my highest highlight of a very fair skin tone. The goal here isn’t to get everything perfect, rather, it’s just a quick way to lay in a nice base and get about 80% there, from where I can manually paint and glaze additional layers overtop.

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Skin airbrushed over a zenithal highlight

Sorscha

Here is where the process started to diverge. Nancy had a lot of skin showing, so I figured I was finished with the airbrush on her for the time being. Sorscha, however, was mostly pink armour. So, masking off her face with a bit of silly putty, I worked up from a shadow colour of Reaper MSP Nightshade Purple mixed with Punk Rock Pink, up to neat Punk Rock Pink, then Blush Pink and finally some Braaaaiins Pink for the highest highlight.

Next was some texturing techniques that I picked up in a class I had taken with Aaron Lovejoy a little while ago. I went over the airbrushed base coat with a bunch of stippling, using the base coats to guide me as to where I should stipple what colour. Once it was all stippled and I had the texture laid in, it was time for some airbrush glazing – mix up some very thin paints in your airbrush, and just barely pull the trigger back, depositing a thin glaze over your stippled texture. It will blend all your stippling back together, but so long as you aren’t too heavy and start laying down opaque coats, you will still have some texture from the stippling showing through. I started with some Nightshade Purple shot up from below to reinforce the shadows, then came from above with my pink highlight colours. I may have been a little heavier than intended on the highlight colours as the more pastel pinks have a lot of white in them contributing to more opacity than I anticipated, but the end result was good enough for me and I wasn’t about to spend another few hours re-stippling everything just because things ended up being a little more subtle than intended.

For the white trim, I used a similar but slightly different process. I started with a basecoat of Reaper’s Stormy Grey, then covered it with a wet blend from Stormy Grey up to Misty Grey. From there, I stippled in the texture and brushed on the glazes instead of using an airbrush because there is no way I’m going to do that much masking. I also added texture to the leather straps in a similar manner, adding some fine details then using glazes and washes to blend them all together with the rest of the leather.

The hair was base coated in a deep walnut brown, and highlighted with a series of desaturated blues. However, I also added in a touch of a light, desaturated purple in the highlights. This helps blend the hair into all the pink, and also represents a bit of reflection of light from her pink armour off her hair. For the hat, I did it in two phases. First, to get the general highlights and shadows, I basecoated and wet-blended the grey, ignoring the fur texture and using your wet-blending to roughly highlight and shade it as though it were simple, flat cloth. From there, I used washes and dry-brushing to highlight the actual fur, with a little bit of manual edge highlighting of individual tufts of fur applied afterwards just to kick it up a notch. For my shade colour, I wanted to stick to a cool grey, so I went with primarily GW’s Drakenhof Nightshade, however I also added the slightest hint of various coloured GW washes to give a little colour variation to it because grey is boring.

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Hair — note the blue reflections and the hints of purple in the highest highlights.

I was debating weathering her armour, but at the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. First, I thought it looked nice clean and was a little afraid that weathering would ruin it. Second, I was also concerned that with all the work I did to add texture, painting on a bunch of chipping and scratches on the armour would add just so much contrast that it would just completely overshadow and wipe out the more subtle texturing effects. Finally, I decided to rationalize it by figuring that Sorscha probably isn’t going to be wearing that much makeup to war, and dirty, heavily chipped armour would clash with lipstick and eyeshadow. As such, I figured that I would go with a “parade clean” scheme, where Sorscha is trying to look her best to show off her pride in the Khadoran military (and, perhaps make Vlad feel a few pangs of regret over dumping her and marrying the Empress).

This take on Sorscha doesn’t have a whole lot of colour variation, interesting freehand, or the like, but I think she stands out for two reasons. First, with the pink being such a bright, intense colour and the way I took a little artistic license with the lighting to draw the viewer into the face, it can suck an observer in from several feet away. Second, once you come in closer, you start seeing some of the texture variation across the model. Even without weathering, there are just so many textures on this simple bust – skin, hair/fur, cloth, leather, painted metal, and shiny metal – that there is a lot going on even without the addition of any sort of freehand or the like.

At the end of the day though, Sorscha is my favourite character from the Iron Kingdoms universe, and I think I did her justice here, even if she didn’t place at the last competition I brought her to.

Nancy

As for Nancy, my colour choice was already set. I painted a miniature of her last year, with red and black clothes in a vaguely Harley Quinn inspired theme and blue hair. I tweaked a couple little things from the miniature version because it wasn’t quite working at 1/12, most notably, I changed the necklace from a silver to a gold metal to incorporate a bit better colour balance.

The two challenging things on Nancy were the tattoos and the true metallic metals on the fist. For the tattoos, I wanted to tell a story. The idea was that Nancy here is a steampunk mechanic who lost her hands in an industrial accident thanks to Victorian-era workplace health and safety regulations. Of course, as any steampunk mechanic worth her salt would do, she simply invented a pair of giant mechano-hands.

In order to literally spell it out for the viewer, I decided to tattoo the phrase “What doesn’t kill you…” on her chest. In this case, the phrase is taken quite literally as what doesn’t kill you actually does make you stronger when you replace your hands with giant mechanical fists. I also added tattoos of gears and other mechanical bits on the side of her head to represent her chosen career path, as well as some random tattoos here and there just to balance it all out.

There are a couple tricks to tattoos. First, black tattoo ink often has a bit of blue to it for some reason, so it’s a good idea to use a blue-black like Payne’s Grey inks or Reaper’s Blue Liner paint. Second, unless a tattoo has been just applied, it needs to be blended into the skin as it fades a little as it heals. To do this, I made a glaze in one of my flesh tones and simply applied it over the areas with the tattoo, knocking back the contrast between it and the skin.

Beyond that, it is simply an exercise in fine freehand, so get yourself a good brush in your steady hand, and use thin paints with plenty of flow improver so they flow smoothly and consistently off your brush. I’m not sure I’ve quite mastered it, but I think the tattoos here at least look somewhat realistic.

For the hands, I decided to go with true metallic metals because I appreciate the shine. For the uninitiated, there is a technique called non-metallic metal (NMM) where you paint in highlights, shadows, glints of light and reflections using matte paints in order to portray metal. That is often used on box art and competition pieces because it looks really good in photos. True metallic metals is the use of metallic paints, but instead of just painting the whole thing in the same tone of silver or gold, you apply some of those non-metallic metal techniques of shading and highlights. This way, you get both the intense shadows and highlight of NMM, and a bit of shine from your metallic paints, which, although it is trickier to photograph well, I think helps add some pop to the real life model.

The tricky thing with TMM is that metallic paints are a bastard to blend. Vallejo Metal Color is workable, but even it isn’t as nice as blending with regular paints. As for gold paints, there isn’t much on the market for gold acrylic paints that don’t suck. Not to mention that you can’t use your expensive sable brushes here as metallic paints chew up natural hair brushes very quickly. I used P3 golds, which I find to be decent have a fairly tone on, but the gold paint still leaves a lot to be desired (In fairness, so do just about all of their competitors).

The other challenge was simply deciding where to put the highlights and shadows. With all the big flat surfaces, it was tricky figuring out exactly where to put the glints of light. I’m not sure I completely nailed it – there are a couple places on the fist where I think adding another highlight or adjusting the brightness here and there might help kick the metals up a notch. That said, I am loath to rework a model once I’ve called it finished and put it on a plinth because I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of trying to fix up all my old models and having nothing ever be truly finished. I may touch it up before the next big show, but it’s good enough for now.

One additional thing — late in the game, something about the colour balance seemed off. I conferred with some of my associates and they recommended that I repaint the poofy shoulder things yellow. I decided to take their advice into account, and promptly ignored it in favour of doing something else. Instead of repainting those poofy arm things, I chose to redo her necklace, swapping the silver metallic for gold, thus balancing out some of the colours on her body and bringing in a bit more of a “callback” on her body to the extensive brass bits on her mechano-fist. This definitely helped, fixing some of the colour balance issues that made it look a little off.

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The finished version above looks so much better with the gold necklace instead of silver

Conclusions

I’ve said it before, but painting busts poses a lot more interesting challenges than 30mm miniatures. The shortcuts you use on small miniatures like washes just don’t work at that scale. On the flip side, the relatively large size means you can incorporate more details than you can on a miniature. I’m sure Nancy and Sorscha won’t be my last busts; in fact, I have one on my bench right now…

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Nancy Does NMM

As I mentioned in my last post, my Nancy Steelpunch miniature from Scale75 did well at HeritageCon this year, pulling in a silver in the Fantasy Figures category. In addition to being a cool sculpt with the punkish undercut, goggles, and steampunk robotic arms that she is named for, Nancy represents an important milestone on my hobby journey. She was the first model that I had done using a non-metallic metal (NMM) technique, which was on my list of hobby resolutions for this year.

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Nancy

 

What is NMM?

Now, while figure painters may know what I’m talking about, I can already hear the scale modellers who read this blog scratching their head, so let’s take a step back hear and talk about shiny things. Take a look at this picture of a hatchet I found online. When our eyes look at it, without even thinking about it, our brain detects the pattern and registers it as a somewhat shiny steel colour. We instinctively know that the surface of this axe head is a more or less uniform, somewhat reflective grey metal. However, if I open up Microsoft Paint and use the eyedropper tool, we can see that the colours that make up the shininess are a little more complex. If I wanted to draw a picture of this axe head, instead of just taking out a silver crayon and running it over the entire shape, I would have to play a little with shadow and highlight colours to represent how the light hits and reflects off of the wavy surface of the axe. As you can see, particularly in the third and fourth colour I’ve picked out, the actual colours that make up this image are not uniform and run the spectrum from almost white to almost black.

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The strip on the bottom represents the colour of the pixels at the location at the end of the red line

Another thing you can do is simply take a hobby knife, ideally one with a scalpel blade, hold it under your work lamp, and turn it around in your hand while looking carefully at it. Look at what you see, not what you think you see. Your brain will tell you that the blade is a uniform piece of metal. But depending on how the blade catches the light, you might see a particular part of the blade appear as bright white or almost black or any shade in between, depending on if that particular piece of the blade is reflecting the light into your eye or not. If it helps, take a picture with your phone and look at that, looking carefully at the glints of light bouncing off the blade.

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Now, getting back to miniature painting, one of the keys to painting at this scale is that light doesn’t interact with objects quite the same way at these small scales. It’s why so much of miniature painting involves painting in highlights and shadow colours in order to convey how the light would interact with an object at scale. It’s also why just slapping a coat of metallic paints onto the blade of a sword just doesn’t look right.

Non-metallic metal is one way (but not the only way) to address this issue when it comes to models with a lot of metallic pieces. Non-metallic metals allow the painter to take full control of the interaction between light and the object and make it look more appropriate at scale. To do this, instead of relying on shiny paints, you paint the metal piece with flat colours, painting on all the glints and shadows. It’s called non-metallic metal because you are using non-metallic paints to achieve a metal effect, and it is similar to the techniques a 2D artist might use if he were tasked with drawing something shiny.

Sharp Highlights

Just saying “oh yeah, just paint on the glints and reflections” sounds like one of those things that is easier said than done, but if you understand lighting well, you can get a grasp on it. Even moreso than regular miniature painting, non-metallic metals are an exercise in lighting and contrasts. In order to be successful, you need to figure out where you want to place the light and apply some really sharp contrasts. Looking back at our scalpel blade, we can see that it is mostly a fairly dull, dark grey, with some near-white highlights where the light catches it. The green circle represents an area which is reflecting the light towards the viewer, while the red circle represents edges that are just catching a glint of light. By painting on this highlight and these edge highlights, we can convey the reflectiveness of the surface even by using flat paints. Further, the edge highlights also help the viewer pick up on the shape of the blade at a glance, which is good for making details pop.

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See how the circled areas look almost white due to the highlight.

Steel and Brass

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Not mine, just something cool I found CMON

One of the other interesting things about non-metallic metal is that you can easily paint metals in any colour using this technique. If you want to paint up, say, a figure of Iron Man from the Marvel universe, you can just use the various shades of red you have kicking around instead of trying to find red metallic paints.

This is something that is useful in the world of steampunk fantasy. One of the things I really like about Steampunk settings is that there is a lot of brass present on machinery and metal parts. This means that when you are choosing a colour scheme, you can add some contrast to your metallics by “alternating” between silver and brass colours. You can do steel parts with brass trim, brass parts with silver trim, brass rivets on steel plates, and so on. This allows you to really make details pop, and is something that I chose to take advantage of for Nancy’s mechano-fists. The steampunk mechanical arms are a key distinctive element on this model, and they are filled with plenty of little mechanical details that I wanted to be apparent even at a glance.

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Ultra close up of the mechano-fists

The Process

I was a little intimidated when it came to actually doing the NMM, so it was one of the last things that I had done on this model. When it came to choosing colour, as I mentioned above, I knew I wanted to have both brass and steel to pick out the mechanical bits. But for the steel, I decided to go for something with a bit more blue in it than traditional grey metal. This, I felt, would do two things. First, the blue steel would go well with some of the blue in her clothing and the hints of blue in the highlights on the black parts of her clothes. Second, the blue and brass would give me some nice contrast on the fists themselves on a cool/warm dimension.

So, to start off, I laid down some base colours. For the steel, I used a couple coats of Reaper’s Blue Liner, which is a dark blue that is very near black. Reaper’s Liner paints are formulated for blacklining, a technique where you paint thin lines in the cracks on models to separate distinct parts, and tend to have a little more flow to them than regular paints. However, I have found them to be good not only for priming Bones figures, but also as base coats for things that I want to paint near-black. I use their Grey Liner a lot for painting black, for example, as it is close enough to black to read as intended, but not quite black so it allows me to go into the shadows with a darker colour such as pure black.

Anyways, starting with a base coat of that Blue Liner, I next worked up to Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite from P3, two colours which are somewhat desaturated blues, with the denim being a midtone and the frostbite being almost white. I applied the Gravedigger Denim to areas where I wanted it to be lighter, then followed up with some very sharp highlights with the frostbite — mostly just thin lines where the metal is catching a glint of light. Finally, I edge highlighted the figure with frostbite as well, to represent the areas where the light is catching an edge.

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Progress on the mechano-hands

For the brass, I did something similar. I did an initial base coat in brown, but didn’t like that so I went back to the drawing board and mixed some Tanned Leather from Reaper with some grey liner to get a dark, desaturated colour that still has some of the yellow-orange that I want to it. From there, I highlighted up to straight Tanned Leather, then Blond Hair (Reaper), and then a Menoth White Highlight (P3) for the highest highlight. As always, these are just the colours I used; you can use whatever you have on hand and mix on your wet palette (you are using a wet palette, right?) to get a similar effect.

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Colours used — Blue steel on left, Brass on right

Final thoughts

Non-metallic metal can be an intimidating sounding technique. However, once I got down to it, it actually seemed to be a little easier than I thought it would be. The main lessons I took away from it were:

  1. Understand where the light is coming from
  2. Go all the way from very dark to very light
  3. Use sharp highlights to convey glints of light

It’s also easier when you have something to go off of, so taking a close look at miniatures that have been painted with this technique or even just art of the figure that you are trying to paint can help you understand it better before taking the plunge. Even if you don’t plan on using NMM as a common technique in your repertoire, doing a few pieces in NMM can help you understand how light interacts with reflective surfaces like metals, and in turn help you with painting metallics in general.

As for me, I’ve got the Nancy Steelpunch 1/12 scale bust as well, so that’s going to be an interesting project…

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Paintlog: Mary Read

So, this was something that I had been working on for a while and I’ve alluded to in previous posts, but I think it’s time to do a paintlog of my Mary Read bust from Scale75. This was my first bust, and my first crack at something in 1/12 scale, though I did do a Reaper figure in an intermediate scale as practice for levelling up from 30mm to 1/12, and I’d say it turned out pretty good, in spite of me breaking my hand partway through and having to paint one-handed.

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Anyways, just to get it out of the way first, there was a bit of controversy with this kit. This was one of the busts from their Naughty Gears kickstarter campaign, and I got it (among a few others) as part of this campaign. Scale75 had initially shown a very different model in their concept art, however shortly after the campaign closed and they took everyone’s money, they informed backers that the original Mary Read was no longer available due to a copyright issue, and that they were going to be offering a completely different model in her stead. After getting a bit of flak from their backers, Scale75 relented and created a new sculpt of Mary Read, changing her just enough to avoid any sort of copyright issue.

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Original (left) and actual product (right). That hair, yo…

I have to admit, I was initially a little disappointed with the new sculpt when Scale75 first showed the photos of it. The original had some pretty awesome elements that I was looking forward to painting, particularly the hair, which really sold me on upping my pledge level and getting this model. However, the new sculpt had grown on me, particularly once I started getting some flesh tones down, and looking at the finished product, I have to say that it may be a little cheescakey with the amount of exposed skin, but I really like her sculpt. Her expression exudes the right amount of confidence and badassery appropriate for a pirate captain, particularly one who can pull off that corset.

This kit comes in about six or so pieces and is made out of a grey resin. Some of the pieces are small and fragile, such as the two dreadlocks hanging down by her face or, as I was to learn the hard way, the feet of the parrot. This kit includes two options for her right arm; one holding a gun and one holding a piece of fruit. The parrot on the right shoulder is optional, and one could with just a little bit of filling leave off the two deadlocks hanging down next to her face or the gun at her waist if you so desire.

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For someone who is used to assembling mid-quality miniatures from companies like PP, this one went together like a dream. Mold lines ranged from tiny to nonexistent, and there weren’t any alignment issues to speak of. There were some tiny bubbles in the resin, but they were easily covered by even a thin layer of primer. I did a tiny bit of sanding and filling, but the precision of the fit probably means that except for maybe where the arm fits to the body, you could get away with just gluing it together and getting straight on to priming. The model is also fairly well-engineered, in that the seam between the right arm and the body is somewhat concealed by the bandages on her right arm. As someone who doesn’t like assembly and fixing up gaps and seams and just wants to get on with the painting, I was really happy with how nicely she went together.

Once the kit was (mostly) put together, I primed it with the airbrush with white Stynylrez. In case I haven’t mentioned it, Stynylrez is a great primer for plastic and resin miniatures, and since it’s made by Badger of airbrush fame, you can basically just drop in in your airbrush and shoot. Once that had fully cured, I pulled out the airbrush once more to paint the corset. This corset was something that I thought I might have trouble placing the highlights and shadows on, and it was something I didn’t think I got quite right on Yephima, my practice model, so I figured by doing it with the airbrush, I could use the zenithal method of spraying from the angle that the light is coming from and that would be a lot easier than trying to place my highlights manually and blending them in.

So, out came the airbrush, and with a little bit of help from a colour chart and a quick stop at my friendly local game store to get the one colour I was missing, I figured out the exact colours to use. I started with Coal Black as the deepest shadow colour, which is one of the really good colours in P3’s range. It’s a blackish, bluish, greenish colour which works really nicely as a shadow colour either straight or mixed with your base colour. Or just for anything where you don’t want to go to straight black because of colour theory.

Once I laid down the Coal Black into all the shadows, I moved on to Sanguine Base, covering up most of the Coal Black but letting it show through in the deepest recesses. Then onto Sanguine Highlight, and finally mixing in a little Menoth White Highlight, a warm, cream-coloured off-white, to get the highest highlight without making it look too pinkish, as it would have if I went for straight white as my highlight colour to mix in.

P3 paints thin down quite nicely for use in an airbrush, but they do need to be transferred into dropper bottles because their paint pots are quite possibly the worst in the business and dropper bottles are so much more convenient for airbrush work.

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Dear Privateer Press: Forget the game rules, please do a CID on your horrible, horrible paint pots so I don’t have to transfer your paint into dropper bottles. Also, while you’re at it, make my Assault Kommandos great again.

As for the skin tone, my chronic inability to follow a studio scheme is well-documented, so when I saw something in their “Steampunk in Miniature” painting guide about how steampunk models should traditionally have pale skin, I immediately know what to do. In true George Costanza fashion, I chose to do the opposite.

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Initial painting of skin, and my wet palette at work as I mixed the colours to paint her.

This skin tone involved a lot of colours and a lot of wet blending. First, I base coated it with Reaper’s Soft Blue, which I find to be a good base coat for skin because of a bunch of reasons that have to do with colour theory, shadows, and the nature of the translucent sacks of meat that we walk around in every day. Next up was Idrian Flesh from P3, which I love for medium-dark skin tones, and which I applied in a couple coats, covering up almost all of the blue, but letting it show through in the deepest shadows. Also on my palette, I can see some Tanned Skin and Fair Skin from Reaper, as well as Khardic Flesh and Ryn Flesh from P3, all of which went into my highlights in various amounts as I mixed them on a palette and applied them in ever-increasing highlights. This isn’t the end of my painting flesh; I would touch it up in a few areas as the project progressed, as well as applying a glaze of Idrian Flesh and Vallejo Glaze Medium to bring it all together and smooth out my blends.

If you want more information about my process for painting skin, see my presentation to a local IPMS group.

For the lips, I went with a dark makeup of Red Shadow from Reaper, which just a little bit of a sharp highlight on the lower lip to convey volume and reflection. For the eyes, I went in with Walnut Brown from Reaper for the liner and pupil, and Misty Grey with a hint of a flesh tone for the whites. Generally when painting whites (or painting figures in general) you don’t want to go all the way to a straight white. This is because the whites of the eyes aren’t actually white, and if you paint them like that, your figure will look surprised and googly-eyed, and a messed up eyeball is going to be the first thing that a viewer is going to notice. The eyes on this figure are probably a little whiter than would be realistic (I used a very light grey, with just a touch of flesh tone in it) but that is a deliberate choice that I made. With her darker skin, I wanted to put a little extra contrast in the eyes just to make them look a more intense, as well as draw the eye of the viewer upwards away from the chest and balance out some of the light trim on the corset. Whether a competition judge would agree with that decision remains to be seen, but it’s one that I’m happy with.

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Next up was the hair. I base coated it in Walnut Brown from Reaper, which is a very near-black brown. I don’t remember the exact combination of washes and glazes and whatnot that went into it, but one of the keys to painting dark hair is the highlights. Hair is naturally oily, and those oils are reflective, so some very sharp highlights are necessary to convey the shape of the hair and the light reflecting off of it. When it comes to dark hair, I like to use desaturated blues as my highlight colour, in this case going all the way up to P3’s Frostbite, which is a very light, faded blue which is one of my personal go-to colours in P3’s line. I also did some washes and glazes to blend it all together; when it comes to hair, a black wash can help in the shadows, and a nice glaze can help pull all your highlights back together.

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Hair, before and after highlights. Also, see a before and after of the glaze on the stocks of the guns and the leather sash.

Also in the above pictures, you can see some of the work on the corset. While there was some detail sculpted onto the corset of the figure, it was pretty fine and hard to make out, so I ended up more or less freehand painting the patterns on, using the box art as reference. Of course, I also kept with the studio colour scheme for this filigree, as gold and purple go together quite nicely. For work like this, the secret is simple — a good brush with a fine tip and some nice, thin paints which flow smoothly off the brush with the lightest touch. Either a 00 or a 10/0 liner will work for something like this, and if you haven’t built up the brush control necessary to pull this off yet, you will with some practice.

The leather sash was something that I also went back and forth a little on, eventually deciding to go with Reaper’s Oiled Leather as a base colour. I painted on a couple scratches, and then used a couple of dark washes and glazes with a hint of blue in the shadows to give it that worn, beaten look. Finally, I used the technique I wrote about last week for painting woodgrains on the stocks of the pistols; the glossy nature of the Scale75 glazes work perfectly to represent a fine, varnished wooden stock.

After finishing painting the rest of the bits, using my true metallic metal techniques on the metals and plenty of blending and edge highlighting on the rest, it came to time to put the parrot on. And here is where I ran into a bit of a problem. When I started this project, I figured I would paint the parrot and the head separately, otherwise it would be impossible to get in there with the brush. Unfortuantely, here is where a little problem came in. I had fractured my hand falling down some stairs partway through this project, which meant that while I could continue to hold the figure with the cast and paint her with my good hand, painting the parrot and gluing it on was out of the question until the cast came off and I got a bit of dexterity back.

Normally that wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but remember how I said that some of these parts were fragile? Well, at some point while this project was off on the side of my workbench, both the legs had broken off the parrot and disappeared.

So, I had some sculpting to do. After cleaning off the nubs where the legs broke off, I took my pin vise and some brass rod and drilled and pinned the bird to the shoulder, with the brass rod representing where the legs would go. From there, I took some epoxy putty (I believe it was Brown Stuff from Green Stuff World) and sculpted the legs and feet around the brass rod. A bit of primer and some paint, and it was good as new, or at least good enough that most people probably won’t notice.

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There, good as new

From there, it was just a matter of some blacklining in the cracks, a few touch ups here and there, popping her off the pill bottle and onto the display base, and making up a little display sign for her out of a primed piece of a miniature blister pack. After priming and base coating the piece in black with my airbrush, I drew out my design with a pen and paper a few times until I was comfortable with it, and then brought out the brushes and did it for real. A drop of super glue, and Mary Read was complete.

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Conclusion

Busts are fun. Because of the nature of the piece, you get to focus your painting on areas like the head, face, etc., where you have the most interesting parts of the miniature, and not have to worry about painting boring stuff like pants. While busts are traditionally cut off at the arms and purists may decry the choice of including a little more than on a traditional bust, I think Scale75 made the right call in including either one or both arms on these models; just having one arm holding an object like a gun or a blacksmith’s hammer can really add some character to the figure that wouldn’t necessarily be present otherwise.

This was an important milestone on my hobby journey. First, the result is something that I am quite proud of, and I’m looking forward to putting her on the table for some competitions and get some feedback on her. Second, this was my first bust and my first project in this scale, so it was nice to know that I can do something in a scale way bigger than 30mm and work on a project where I have enough surface area to really explore all the highlights, shadows, and freehand details. Finally, I feel that this project represents a true evolution from an army painter who rocks an above-average army while losing at Warmachine to a true display quality painter. She may not be perfect, especially when she is put next to the work of some Crystal Brush winning professional painter, but she represents a huge step on my journey as a painter. And, really, that’s what it’s all about — your personal journey as a hobbyist.

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.

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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.

 

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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…

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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…