Monday, 30 November 2009

Show Some Balls!

Just thought I'd spread the word about a painting competition over at MASSIVE VOODOO, under the catchy name: Show Some Balls

In short, it's about painting a self-sculpted ball, no size restrictions and no other theme, than it being round, without other details sculpted into it. The deadline's the 10th of march 2010, and for every entry (max 2 per person though!), the guys behind the site will donate $1 to an ape-preserving project in South Africa. On top of that, there's some prizes announced - but this is more about the joy of our hobby and supporting a good cause. Check the links above for more details about the monkeys and the competition.

I'm going to sign up for this, and I already have a plan or two maturing in my head, and I do hope some of you reading this might join in on the fun! Best of luck to those who care to do so!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tutorial - Painting White

These past six months, I've been using white or light colours more and more on my miniatures, and it is generally very well recieved - which I think very much comes from it being a colour which holds very much beauty in it, and responds very well to its surroundings if painted well. It serves as an eyecatcher, yet seldom "drown" the model - on the contrary, it tends to enhance whatever other details you've painted, giving them the focus.
White is however, quite challenging to paint, which probably is the reason behind it being so popular but still so seldom used. It doesn't cover very well, it seldom flows the way we want, and if you're not careful, you'll use too much and your model's details will be washed out or disturbed, as mounds of dried white paint or tracks from brushstrokes all of a sudden covers the surface you so gently had removed mold lines from, or even taken so long time sculpting yourself.

In this tutorial, I'll try to share a few thoughts, tips and tricks I've learnt through trial and error, and also after my best abilities describe the different techniques I've used to achieve the results on some of my own favourite miniatures.
As I undercoat my miniatures with black spray, it wouldn't surprise me if some of the problems (and solutions to them) that I describe, will be different if not nonexistent for those undercoating white or grey. Also, I exclusively use paint from Games Workshop, so my observations are based upon my experiences with those paints. Likewise, any reference to names will use GW-names, but if you prefer other brands and/or don't have any experience with the GW paints, then this site should help you find the right colour from your preferred paint brand.

One of the first problems that many experience, is that Skull White is a rather thick paint, and easily clogs - or it turns that way rather quickly. So to make it flow better, dilute with water, but then it turns out to be very translucent, and this presents a problem when used over dark surfaces (Chaos Black for example), as you end up with grey spotted with white grains, instead of white. Problem leads to a new problem.
There are several ways to cope with this, and in my early painting days, I recall I simply used very much paint on my very wet brush, and just gave the surface a generous layer. This was before I started using a palette, dry as well as wet, so wet brush into the can of paint was the way to go. And after a fashion, it worked quite well - that was as long as the surface was flat and without details sculpted into it; bolts, small cracks etc, would easily drown under this layer of wet paint, so that was sort of a minus. Also, using so much paint took a long time to dry, and what's worse is that gravity's pull on the paint would easily make it run slooowly as it dried, thus create uneven parts if you didn't manage to leave the miniature to dry in a fashion, that held the painted surface horizontal. And finally this technique is not a viable option if the surface you intend to paint white holds nicely sculpted details you wish to keep visible, if the surface is curved in any way or if you want the white to be shaded.
So, I have found two other main techniques for making the white look white:
    First option is to place layer upon layer of diluted paint upon the surface, which will make for a white finish in the end, and if you give certain areas fewer layers than others, you'll be able to create areas of shade and light. It is a lengthy process, though, but worth it if you stick through to it in the end.
    The second option is to mix your Skull White with another colour, and work your way into brighter and brighter colours by adding more and more white to the mix for each layer you paint. Like the first option it is important to dilute your paint, or else the sheer number of layers will remove all the details.
It is of course possible to combine those two, as you'll see in one of the examples I've described below, and for both options - but especially the second - using a wet palette really helps!

The second option presents lots of possibilities which I thought I'd adress now, namely which colours to blend the white with. It has to be a colour with enough pigment to cover the black easily, but it shouldn't be too dark neither, 'cos then you'll need a lot of "unneeded" layers, compared to using an already light colour. For this purpose, I find the relatively new Foundation paints from GW to work perfectly. My two favourites are Astronomican Grey and Dheneb Stone, which respectively yields a cold and a warm tone of white. One can also make more complicated mixes, for instance by using Bestial Brown with more and more Bleached Bone added to the mix, and when it gets light enough you start adding Skull White, one can create a sort of creamy colour. I am also positive that one can use several of the other Foundations with good effect: Tallarn Flesh, Iyanden Darksun and Gretchin Green springs to mind as colours I'd like to experiment with in the future.

Now, what's the deal with all these different mixing colours? Why not just stick to Astronomican Grey, as it lies closest to Skull White, and thus should yield the "best" white? Well, that's mostly true, Astronomican Grey and Skull White makes a great white, but in some cases, pure white is not what you want. See, the mixing colour (eventually brightened up a bit with Skull White) not only serves as the "darkest shade" of the white, but it's also a major factor when it comes to how the white harmonizes with the other colours of the model. I'm thinking especially on the balance between warm and cold colours and what you want your white colour to do. So before you decide on how to paint your white, ask yourself the following question: What do I want my white to do? Do you want your white to be in contrast with the rest of the model? An eye-catcher or point of focus? Is white the main colour of the model? Or do you want the white to compliment the other colours, be more anonymous and in the background.

Let my try to illustrate what I mean with a couple of examples taken from my own models:
The white on my Marauder Horsemen is concentrated mainly on the horses, creating a cold sphere with a warm core in the form of the rider. The viewer's focus will then be on the rider, which after all is the "main character" of the model, while the horse serves more as an enhancing factor.
For that reason, I choose my Astronomican Grey as mixing colour, as it gives the white an extra icy edge. I started by covering the flesh of the undercoated horse with two thin layers of watered down Astronomican Grey, the last one with some Skull White taken into the mix for a slightly lighter colour. Then I actually continued to add thin layers of only diluted Skull White on top of every raised area. I repeated this step until I got a pure white as a highlight - the number of layers depend on how much white you mix in with your Astronomican Grey in the second stage.
Now for the hardest bit. At this point, the darkest areas of shade, will be too dark compared to the whitest of the white. If not, you're simply better at mixing colours than I am, heh. See, it's very easy to make a too light shade at the beginning, which makes your model look flat and without shadows in the end - after all, white only goes to a certain point in lightness, you can't highlight it further. So I usually make my Astronomican Grey+Skull White mix "too dark" on purpose, and then light it up.
I make a very thin glaze of Skull White and plenty of water, and then like a wash or ink, brushes it onto the model. Make the layers thin - you can always repeat them, but never redo them, so be careful in the beginning - and with a spare and dry brush, I gently remove the paint that gathers in any recess (the areas we want to look like shade).
While reading, it might seem a bit pointless - why paint something just to remove it again? Well, when you try it, you'll see that you won't be able to remove it all without adding aditional water, and a thin layer will stick, and like glazes should, just slightly affect the underlying colour.
It sure is a lengthy process, and you might have noticed that I combined the two main techniques for painting white I described earlier that I'm using, plus the extra bit with the white glaze on top. It wouldn't surprise me if there are other methods which yields as good results as this one, if not better, but this is one of my methods of painting white - and with a good record on, time flies!

Now, that was an example using cold white to create contrast, yet give focus to another part of the model. Let's see how a warm white can be used:

At the time of writing, I'm working on a unit of Bretonnian Pegasus Knights, and the first Pegasus I made was painted white. I didn't want it to be completely white - they're not meant to be peace doves! - so I found some images of birds of prey, specifically hawks, which are mostly white but with dark browns mixed in between. Brown being a rather warm colour, combined with a warm purple caparison, would create some conflict if I made my white colour cold. Especially the blending from white to dark brown and black at the tips of the primary feathers (biggest at the tip of the wings), would be difficult, if there was a temperature difference. Now this is a quite different scenario than the Marauder and his horse; here I want the white to blend in with the rest, and I try to keep a warm feel to the whole miniature.
So, for this minature, I used Dheneb Stone as my mixing colour - I actually mixed a tiny incy bit of Scorched Brown into it, to get a very soft hint of pink in it. Then I covered all fleshy areas with a watered down layer, then made a new mix with Skull White added, and kept on making new layers with more and more Skull White into the mix. So this time I stuck to the second technique of mine, rather exclusivly, until I gave a final highlight of pure white. I did use my white glazing technique in the end, as I once again had made a too dark shade. Also note that I've added some texture to the neck of the Pegasus, by leaving a shaded area running down the neck. On most horse models, it is sculpted into it (actually on the other set of heads for the Pegasus, there is..), but I mention it mostly to demonstrate how one can try to create the illusion of different muscles underneath the skin.
I did the wings in very much the same manner, barring the blending from whitest to Scorched Brown to Chaos Black at the very tips. Here I tried to use the white to draw focus towards the centre of the model, by painting the proximal part of the feathers lightest white, while the fading towards black was distal. Another difference I did was mix some Bleached Bone into the Skull White and Dheneb Stone mix, and use it a bit at random - I'm not sure why I did it, but it felt right to do - I don't know if it makes it look like more natural wings or what. But that's basically my method for painting a warmer white. But do yourself a favour, and use a wet palette, it'll enable you to going back and forth between different colour values almost effortlessly, and also keep your mixed tones of white wet and ready for use for a long time at a time, so you can keep the same colour all through the model.

Lastly in this tutorial, I thought I'd adress the issue of painting freehands using white, upon dark surfaces. There's an example of that on my Marauder Horseman's shoulderpad, where I've painted the Mark of Slaanesh, and at the local GW that in particullar has recieved some praise. It is however, not as hard as one might think, to achieve that. If you recall, I initially described how white usually turns grainy grey if watered down and painted upon a dark surface, and personally I prefer to use quite diluted paints when working on freehand designs; which presents a problem. Or it should have, if not for this simple solution:
simply mix your white with a high pigment colour like Astronomican Grey - you won't get a 100 % white, true, but you can add water to the mix without problems, and get a very light grey as a result. And a very light grey painted on top of black, says "white" in most people's brains, so it's quite hard to spot that you've been "cheating".

With that I'll end this tutorial, and I hope this collection of thoughts, tips and tricks can be of help!

Pegasus finished

I finished painting the first of the Pegasi yesterday morning, but the weather's been against me so it's been hard to get any decent pictures until now - light's still not optimal though. Hope you like it!
I think I'll brave the rather moist air, and undercoat the other two Pegasi and all the riders. I'm not sure if I should use the same colours for the other two, as I did on this Pegasus - will it be boring with three of the same kind, and should I rather experiment with other colours on the feathered wings and horseskin? I choose the light tan/redish brown mix with the white, 'cos I think that brown and purple works very good together, but the other two will have green and orange caparisions - respectively of course!
One of the three has to be upgraded to a Gallant (Champion), according to the rules, so I was thinking maybe different colours on the Pagasus would help mark him as different? It's either that, or edit his caparison with some green stuff.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bretonnian Pegasus Knights - WIP

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm painting up a unit of Pegasus Knights as a christmas gift to my younger brother. I'd hoped to have one done by now, but my first two paint schemes didn't look quite right, but now on the third take, I think I'm heading in the right direction!
I'm doing three of these, and each Knight will have one of the secondary colours as his - this is obviously the purple one, heh. I'm not happy with the freehand on the shield, think I'm going to remove it, and rather use one of those water transfers that came with the box. Also I think the shield needs a yellow rim, to make it stand out a bit more. I'd like to try some freehand scrollwork on the non-shield parts of the tabards, though, but I'm having trouble finding a pattern I like - if anyone got any pictures of nice patterns I could use for inspiration, that'd be most welcome!
I also need help deciding how to paint the mane and the tail; should I keep the feathers/hairs bright, maybe give them a highlight more, or should I have them fade to dark brown/black at the points?
Owh, and hope you like it!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wet palette, new brushes and progress!

I've finished assembling the christmas gift for my brother this year - those of you who have taken the time to read through my blog from start and up 'til now, might recall it starting out as a blog where I charted my progress painting up an Ancient Stegadon for my brother's birthday. It was well recieved, so I've decided to paint up some more miniatures for him for thsi year's christmas - although this will be models for his other army, namely Bretonnian Pegasus Knights.

I've always loved the models, and am thrilled to be painting them - I've been looking up pictures of hawks and other birds of prey for inspiration, and gave the first one some layers of base coat yesterday evening, down at the local GW (painting- & gaming nights every tuesday and friday). To keep up the progress today, I've not only bought myself some new brushes: size 0 and 1 of kolinsky sable; on top of that, I've decided to try out the wet palette, and see how it works. So far, it's been great! I made my own, following Jarhead's great tutorial over at MASSIVE VOODOO, and it looks something like this:
Quite simple, just a tupperware box with about 5 mm thick layer of wet paper tissues, covered by baking paper - won't go more into detail, head over to the tutorial linked above for that! I think I have made the slight mistake of not having a large enough piece of baking paper - at any rate I placed some of the paint too close to the edge, and some leaked into the tissues. Other than losing a little bit of paint, I can't say I've noticed any bad effects yet, but I'll probably change the tissues when I start on some completely different colours. For now, the colours I have in the palette are all going on the skin and feathers of the Pegasus, so no big worries there.

I'm really happy with how the palette works: my paint don't dry up at all, and by adding several colours to the palette at the same time, mixing and blending is so much easier! I highly recommend using one, it is no hocus pocus, but will (probably) help your painting, blending and finished products.

If you do give it a try, best of luck with it!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Tutorial - Assembling Dragon Ogres

After all the positive feedback I've gotten on my Dragon Ogres, I decided to make a tutorial of how I've made them. So, I've taken pictures from start to finish as I made one, and I hope this tutorial can be of inspiration, if nothing else, to other war-gaming enthusiasts!

First of all, a list of bits used:
O&G Black Orc torso + arms (right arm holding banner, left had a spiked club - removed)
DE Cold One Knight lizard except the heads (still wondering what I'll use them for..)
40k Kroot heads
WoC Marauder Horsemen chains, with skulls and other goodies
BoC Beast Herd horns (on this particular Dragon Ogre, I also used a sabre from same package for its Great Weapon.. On the picture below are some other weapon-options I was considering; just use your imagination when you make your own!)
Also, a fresh suply of Green Stuff is needed (I'm sure other modelling putties will work just as fine), along with glue and regular tools for cutting, filing, sculpting and drilling (remember the paper-clips!) - and don't forget the 40mm square base, for gaming purposes.

Step one - cleaning, filing, cutting and glueing:
File or cut away mold lines. I found the Cold One to be particularily tricky - sure it's a lovely sculpt, but I think the mold lines were placed unstrategically; hard to get at, and in a careless moment, it's easy to cut off some otherwise nice details...
In addition to the mold lines, parts of the saddle had to go, and also most of the Black Orc's armour.
After that it's just to glue the Cold One together, and place the torso on top.
I've also placed the Dragon Ogre to be on a temporary base, mostly to give me something to hold on to, while I add and sculpt the Green Stuff. A hole's been made in the neck region, and the Kroot head's pinned in place. Time to bring out the Green Stuff!

Stage two - Green Stuff:
Yellow+Blue=Green : Place a small ball on his lower stomach, and another ball at his chest. Then it's just a matter of taking one's time, and sculpt out m. rectus abdominis and a pair of mm. pectorales majores and his front is more or less done. I added some more at a later point for his neck and also built out the pauldrons a bit..
The tricky thing with Green Stuff is, as I'm sure most of us know, that it takes time to harden. And unless it has hardened, whatever you've sculpted is prone to being mashed to goo (or one big fingerprint). So, to avoid mistakes/accidents, I left the main part of the model for now, and proceeded to making those arms and the weapon.

For this Dragon Ogre, I decided to make something a bit more original than just using the Black Orcs' axes, as I had given my two other Dragon Ogres said axes. So, I started out with the banner pole, and tried to fit various blades to it - in the end I went for a Beastman sabre. I found a left hand that I thought would make a decent fit to the lower part of the pole, and got something looking like this (after pinning and glueing it together):
I've also added some chains from the Marauder Horsemen-kit, makes a nice "chainmail", heh. No, really, I think it helps to hide the true nature of the nearby saddle, and makes it look a bit more like armour plates. Also, they're nice accessories, and I wanted to include them in some way on one of my units. Be warned though, they're quite fragile and easily break off during sculpting if you're not careful. Then again, after the arms come on, the chains are very hard to get glued on correctly, so it is kind of a sacrifice to wait with them 'til after the sculpting.

With the first layer of Green Stuff hardened, the arms were glued/pinned in place, with a 3 mm gap to the torso. I've found the Black Orcs to have too short arms, so without lengthening, it looks all out of proportions. This gap is then filled with next batch of Green Stuff, making the Dragon Ogre's overarms mostly built out of putty and the pin as "skeleton".
The armour plates have been enlarged some places (other parts have been cut away to balance it), so that the arm looks like it fits underneath, and then the back gets a coat of greenstuff in the same manner as the front. Later I added a spine of scales running down the back, as it'd look kind of empty without it.

Stage three - gap filling, base switch, head details and horns:
When the putty of the former stage has dried, and the model's safe to touch again, I went over the model, weapon in particular, and filled in any gaps I found with Green Stuff. Then I glued the double pair of horns onto the head, and while it dried, I got my 40mm base (bits of barch already glued onto it) and drilled a hole in it where I wanted the front leg of the Dragon Ogre to go. Why the front leg? It's simply easiest to drill, to be honest I'm not sure if it's doable to drill the other leg, as the joint between foot and leg is sort of curved, while the front leg goes more in a straight line and on top of that looks slightly thicker.
The Dragon Ogre was then moved to its new base, and then the horns were expanded using Green Stuff, merging head and horns.

And that's basically it.
Do these steps three times, and voilà! Three fearsome beasts ready to wreck havoc upon any foe!
Hope this rather brief tutorial can be of help to some and give others inspiration.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Dragon Ogres - WIP (2)

First of all, sorry for the lack of updates and progress with my various projects. Short story is I've been busy: visitors, trip to Norway, concerts, schoolwork and work. As I've barely touched a brush, I'll have to "joker" this month of the Tale of Fantasy Painters, which means I use one out of two "free months", as in I don't paint anything. I'm slightly worried that I will have to pull out of the Tale, as I doubt I'll have less to do at the university in the coming months, and then there's my brother's christmas gift which will demand quite the bit of time. If I can get him to promise me he won't drop by this blog of mine to look, I'll make WIP shots as I go, but if not I'm afraid a lot of my painting results will go unpulished 'til after christmas... I'll do my best to convince him, 'cos feedback would be lovely!
Either way, I think I'll have to put my Space Hulk models on hold for the moment, and rather return to them as soon as the new year's in. Brother Claudio did place among the top 11 in Jawaballs' Painting Contest, which I am fairly happy with (picture number three from the top). Feel like I'm at the right track with my Terminators, was up against a lot of great minis!

Anyways, although I havn't gotten much done, I've at least finished the green stuff work on my first Dragon Ogre - the back is all done, added some more armour plates on his back, and I think I've solved the issue with his head being slightly too small, by adding that extra set of horns; you'll be the judges of that! Hope you like him - I certainly do, and I look forward to giving him some paint to wear!
Also found some nice trees near a hospital I frequently work at, which I could scavenge for barch-bits for my bases. I have yet to try adding dead or burned grass to them, but got a tip from one of the regular gamers down at the local GW, who said my bases and models would pop a lot more, if I painted the rims black instead of grey. I'll do some testing when I find the time!