Weekly Update: It's all about the Stegadon

This was a busy week with a trip out of state. The house is a disaster and should be cleaned, but the studio is always a disaster and hanging out in there keeps the real work at bay. Lots of work was done on the Steg model today. The highlights are coming along nicely and I'm trying out some hatching techniques that I think have been mostly successful. By hatching, I mean the fine highlighted lines that run across places like the jaw, back legs, etc. It's often used to describe a shape when you're drawing or painting on a flat surface. I've seen other folks use it on models as well and liked the results. There's plenty of detail work left to do - all the horns and spikes need highlights, metals need painting, and the howdah is in progress. Check out the little duffer:

7th edition Stegadon WIP 2
7th edition Stegadon WIP - detail of head 2
7th edition Stegadon WIP - detail of head
7th edition Stegadon WIP

Tip of the Week: Buy the Best Brushes

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” - Confusious

Primed White modelLots of time observing, thinking, and painting makes a great painter, but starting with the right tools for the job is also necessary to produce quality work. Let's face it - applying color to a miniature isn't easy. It takes patience, concentration, a good hand, the right mix of paint, and on and on and on. Anything that gives you an edge is worth having and the right type of brush will help.

Many mini painters will ask, "Why have all my brushes started to curl and fall apart, and what can I do to fix them, and why don't they hold paint well, and why do I hate my dad and that girl I like won't talk to me?" Here's an answer to the parts related to brushes: You're likely using a brush made with nylon or some other less-than-desirable material. The hairs that make the brush are also probably squished and poorly glued into the ferrule.

A good brush for miniatures will be made of Kolinsky sable. I have found a few companies that I like better than others, but wholeheartedly recommend any of the following: Da Vinci Maestro, Winsor & Newton Series 7, and Escoda. With proper care, these brushes will last for years.

"But Midloo, those are expensive and I still hate my dad." To address the former part of the comment: It's true - a quality brush will cost you more than the junk GW or your local dive sells, but the price is more than worth it. Let's do some quick math: A nylon brush will set you back between 50 cents and 5 dollars. With luck, it will retain it's shape and last you slightly more than a handful of painting sessions. If purchasing online, one of the recommended Kolinsky brushes will cost between $10 and $25 dollars and will last hundreds of painting sessions. It will remain springy and in perfect shape time and again. It will hold a more appropriate amount of paint and allow you to more easily achieve the effects you're after. It will even get that girl to talk to you.... well, a painter should be a dreamer. It's tough to overcome that initial cost, but believe me - you'll be much happier every time you paint.

A good brush will remove one of the obstacles to finishing great miniatures. Do yourself a favor if you haven't already and take the plunge. If you're upset with the purchase, feel free to blame your dad.

Questions? Comments? Brush horror stories? Let us know!

You Have to See This: Wet Palette

Paint Palette

A good friend on the Wisconsin Warhammer Fantasy Battles site put up a great tutorial on how to make a wet palette. I haven't tried this out myself, but I've seen the results of his work with it and they're mighty fine. Take a look and let him know if you have success with it.

Click here for a nice wet palette.

Wait that's not it... that's Karin Viard in her prime. Try this instead: Wet Palette

mmm hmm

Weekly Update: Going East - to West VA

I'm in West Virginia today, but through the magical properties of Blogger, this post was created in advance to give everyone a weekly update.

That weekly update is: My wife will hurt me if I don't finish packing the car and get out of here. And I'm making good progress on the Stegadon - pictures soon. Also found a Forgeworld Mammoth that I couldn't pass up, so expect some pics from that work in progress in the near future as well.

Have a great weekend, all!

Tip of the Week: Be the Jack Sprat of Painting

Jack Sprat Illustration
“Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean…”

When you’re painting, be like Jack, my fellow mini fans: Keep your paint lean.

If there’s one immediate thing that every painter should do as they strive to paint better minis, it’s thin their paint. Great globs of paint pulled right from the tube, eyedropper, or pot are not suitable to apply to your models. It’s simple: Thicker paint goes on more thickly and covers up or smooths over the precious tiny details of your miniature. Thick paint also doesn’t allow you to easily create effective layering and blending techniques.

Piles of pigment
Piles of pigment - not to be freebased
Let’s take a quick look at what paint is actually made of to better understand why thinning is always a good idea. Anyone remember Chemistry class? (Yeah I don’t either) Paint is a mixture. It’s made of two different things: Pigment and an emulsifier. Pigment is a very intensely colored and fine-grain powder. An emulsifier is what that pigment is suspended in so that it becomes more liquid. In the case of acrylic paints, the emulsifier is an acrylic polymer that can be thinned with – you guessed it – water. Oil paint can be suspended in a variety of substances that are able to be thinned with oil based solvents like turpentine, mineral spirits, or even brake fluid if you’ve a spare car but no $5 bottle of any other solvent. When you thin your acrylic paint with water, you’re adding one more material to the mixture and forcing a smaller amount of pigment and emulsifier to exist in the same space.

Did that make sense? Still with me? If not, don’t worry. The bottom line is simple- Thinning your paint is ultimately going to give you more control over how your paint goes onto the model. It’s a process that takes practice as varying the amount of water you use will allow you to achieve different effects. Different colors will also react differently to being thinned. Here are some general rules I like to follow:

- A wash of paint is about 15% paint and 85% water
- A standard application of paint is about 30% paint to 70% water – around the consistency of whole milk

Painting Diagram

Just playing around with thinning your paint is going to help make you a better painter. Make sure you are using a clean glass of water. It’s even nice to have a few cups of water out at a time: One completely clean and clear cup of water for mixing with the paint, one for cleaning brushes, and one for cleaning brushes with metallic paint so that it’s reflecting flakes don’t get into your other colors.

Controlling thinned paint creates some new challenges and can be frustrating, but here are a few tips to keep you from throwing that ForgeWorld Bloodthirster against the wall, boxing up the bits, and sending them all to my home address in anger (though I will happily retain them).

- Use a plastic water color palette or the like to hold your paint and water mixtures. I’m poor and eat a lot of spaghetti and use the lids from pasta sauce jars.

- You’ll often find it easiest to pull water directly from your clean cup and into a bit of paint. After you’ve used the brush to mix the water into the paint, immediately wipe your brush on a paper towel to clean all the excess paint off. Then put your brush back into the new mixture you’ve created and only take out a small amount. When you touch the brush to your model, the paint should go on thinly and not go on like big raindrops. Be patient and continuously dip your brush back into your thinned paint to pick up a small amount at a time.

- If you’re putting your paint on as described above, then each stroke should dry quickly, but don’t paint another layer on top of a previous one without allowing it to dry. Use a hairdryer on low if you have to.

- Another brush that is dry should be kept close by. Don't use this for putting paint onto the model. If too big a drop of watery paint forms on the model, you can suck up the excess with the trusty dry brush always at your side.

So there’s the tip of the week: thin every stroke of paint that touches your model with some amount of water! Please leave me a comment to let me know if this was useful to you or not. Any questions? Send those as well!

Tutorial: Glazing = Good

So you've got a base coat or an initial wash or two on your model. You've started building up the highlights and it's looking pretty good. If you've gone this far, your model is more than tabletop worthy and is probably already impressing the local gang. Want to take it a step further and try a new technique? Then glazing may be for you.

Glazing over a model is just that - you're creating a thin and slightly tinted film of paint that will inform the colors underneath. Think of it like placing one color of stained glass over another.

Glazing is a boon when used sparingly, but watch out. Too much glazing will drain your piece of it's immediacy and impact. It's just like Xanax - sure it will get you on the plane, but take too many and you're not going to be very interesting company when you get where you're going. Too much glaze can also create a glassy effect that will rob the model of the light it's trying to reflect. I often follow a glaze with another round of slight highlights to add a bit more punch to the surface of a model. The acrylic medium you would use to create a glaze comes in many different forms with varying viscosity, sheen, etc. I prefer a fluid medium for minis. So we're all on the same page, here are links to some of the products that I like to use: Medium

To illustrate some basic glazing techniques, let's take a look at some work-in-progress shots of the Stegadon currently on the bench. The first two pictures show the model after receiving a few green and blue washes to develop a starting tone and some built up highlights to the belly. This guy is looking pretty good, but what if you would like the transition of color between the highlights to be a bit more smooth? Simple - time to mix up a glaze!

The process of making a good glaze depends on the color and how much you'd like to knock the undercoat back, but in general, a mixture of about one-third paint, one-third medium, and one-third water will be a good starting point. Unless you are going for a specific effect, glazes should go on thinly. Make sure your brush isn't overloaded and sagging with paint - using an appropriate amount will take some practice. The nice thing about glazes is that they are very forgiving. If they go on too thick, you've enough open time to work any large deposits out with your brush. One application should usually alter the color only slightly.

Let's focus back in on that Stegadon's belly. Here are shots of the model after receiving his first glaze. I mixed up a very light yellow and brushed it on over the majority of the underside. Take a look at the images after the jump and you should be able to see a distinct difference between the model after this first glaze and the previous stage with highlights only. The glaze evens out all the pronounced highlights and makes them gel together.

The glaze was starting to work, but I felt that it could benefit from one more light application. The images to the left show the result of this second pass. There's now a unified, but not entirely even and boring coat of paint. This is starting to achieve that beautiful sort of surface that comes from glazing.

Though as mentioned above, if you compare these shots of the model after a second glaze to those of the first two images with only the highlights, you can see that some of the immediacy and impact of the bold strokes of paint in the original highlights has been knocked back by the glaze. This is why I often like to finish with another layer of highlighting as shown below.

With this final step, the model comes full circle in a way. Hopefully you can see what glazing adds to the final piece. The foundation we laid down through all that painting created a rich surface on which our final highlights can ride. What if you find your final highlights are again too stark? You guessed it - glaze it back again and rework your way to the highlights!

Ultimately, glazing is one more trick in your painting bag and I hope it's one you can use. Please let me know what you got out of this article. Was it useful? Anything confusing? Could anything be better? Thanks for taking the time to make it to the bottom :)

You Have to See This: Tiny Souls

Howdy Gang - This is the first post in a new weekly segment. It's purpose is to get you to other great corners of the internet that I have found inform or expand my interest in the hobby or art in general.

To kick things off, I want to direct your attention to one of my favorite painters - Zordana. Her site is called Tiny Souls and it is not to be missed. She recently redesigned it's format and you can find a link to her archives in the siderbar of the new site. There's a bunch of great material and beautiful images of her work.

Check her out: Tiny Souls

Weekly Update: Stegadons, Orcs, and Blog Revamps - oh my!

This was a productive week. I took some time to work on the blog - that involved some HTML and Javascript lessons. Awesome... I should be at about the skill level of a 13 year old MySpace addict now. My humiliation is the blog's gain! *AHEM* check the slick favicon *ahem* *cough*

Warhammer Fantasy Savage Orc Command

Here are the beginnings of some Savage Orc Command models for Warhammer Fantasy. I wasn't a big fan of the more recent O&G designs, but these guys aren't bad. At least they're wearing an animal... Wish I could pull this look off around work. These were actually begun with the leftover paint in the tray from the big fella below.

Warhammery Fantasy

I'm not a big fan of this model and initially bought the new kit for some of the other plastic parts on the sprue, but after taking a closer look, I decided on a master plan that has now been set in motion.... Mwu ha ha ha ha. This is a shot of my converted Stegadon after the first couple of washes. Extensive putty work was done to add length to the legs so that this fine gentleman will be rearing up off his base. The head and neck was also heavily altered so that the face is turned outward in a more dramatic pose. I'm going to incorporate pieces of both the old and new howdah to finish this guy. Big plans... stay tuned!

Here are some more shots of the work in progress:

detail of head of StegadonDetail of hide of Stegadon

You can see how keeping your paints thin in the first few initial washes really helps start building a nice tonality to the piece. The recessed areas take in more paint and become shadowed; this needs to be carefully controlled while applying though or there will be a mess!

Converted 6th edition Stegadon Engine of the Gods

My previous edition Stegadon is readied for some serious painting as well. I liked the look of some of the new kit's parts on him, so here's a converted Engine of the Gods Design.

Tutorial: Mordor Troll

My goal in writing this is to give you an idea of my working and thought processes as a project like the Mordor Troll comes together.

As always, the model was primed white. I like both Krylon and Games Workshop spray primer, but I like the price of the former much better and used it on this project. This excellent website is a great visual reference for anything from the films and I used it again here: Lord of the Rings Image Library

Painting on the troll began with a series of controlled dark brown washes on the flesh areas. By controlled, I mean that large pools of color in places where they didn’t belong were removed with a separate dry brush that’s readied at the side of my painting area for that purpose. Thin your paint considerably – I go about 20% pigment to water, but it’s a very touchy-feely process depending on the color and will come better with experience. Getting the hang of doing clean work with thinned paint isn’t easy, but it will pay dividends once you start to master it. Think about these initial layers as your first chance to describe the model. Brush strokes should match the movement of the area being painted. For instance, paint laterally across a bulging stomach or beefy thigh; don’t just slop on a wash without thinking about how the paint is being applied and settling onto your model. The troll's back was washed an additional time to deepen the crevasses and complete the initial coloring.

black and white detail of Mordor Troll leg

I like starting from white and washing on the first few base coats because it immediately gives the model some life and quality to the paint coverage. Now that there was a rich brown base, I started building up the highlights on the skin. My paint is always thinned to about the consistency of whole milk, but not to the point of the beginning washes. The model is nicely sculpted and it's fairly clear where areas of light and shadow should go. Generally all but the most recessed areas were painted with a slightly lighter shade than the wash. Increasingly smaller surface areas were painted with increasingly lighter shades - almost like a topographical map. Where the transition wasn't smooth, I mixed up a glaze of about 30% gel medium, 40% water, and 30% paint. This was brushed on thinly and smoothly to help even out and blend the highlights together. Then, if needed, more highlights were brought back on top of this glaze. You can see the product of this in the skin tones of the face and arms of the troll. Again, let the paint help describe the shape of the model when you apply it - almost like a wire frame model. For example, the paint was applied laterally around the legs like a mummy would be wrapped. This helps define the shape of the object being painted. Take a look at the picture above left. I thought this was easier to see in black and white.

Next up was the armor. I used metallic paints, but still applied them in a non-metallic fashion in order to heighten the effect of the highlights. All the armor areas were first base coated with a bright orange. Yes - it looks terrible at first, but helps to eventually give the appearance of well-worn metal when thin metallic layers are painted over it. This was coated with GW Chainmail mixed with a small amount of black. The small pieces of the armor that I felt would receive the most wear were left orange. Paying attention to where the light would strike the figure, I highlighted up to a mix of about 1:1 Mithril silver and white. Areas that needed a bit more shadow were glazed with a mix of dark brown and black.

Details of the model were then painted. These include the fabric of the troll's tattered blue rags, gloves, and leather belts and buckles. All were done with an awareness of how light would spill across the model. The parts that would be most exposed to light were slowly brought up to a lighter shade.

I worked on the base separately. It was built up with modeling clay and covered with sand and small pebbles. A rider of Rohan was lightly converted and placed where he could be easily crushed by the pitiless metal troll. This was all primed white. Take a look at my previous basing tutorial here for some more ideas. Birch seed pods were broken apart and used for the leaf clutter. There's some great information here. Now's the time to find them outdoors - so hit those local parks! The troll was pinned into both points where his feet touch the base and a small bit of heavy duty epoxy was used to make sure he wasn't going anywhere.

I hope this gives you some insight into the model. Some pictures will be coming soon!

Weekly Update: My favorite part of Mordor

Fully painted Mordor Troll from the Games Workshop Lord of the Rings range

Giant trolls. They're tough to beat if you're looking for big and ugly. While their rules in War of the Ring make them a bit soft, the fellow below will soon pretty-up a table for as long as he lasts.

The Mordor Troll is a great model and a blast to paint. This project was begun and finished in about one week of heavy painting. The more recent plastic troll kits give you plenty of options, but none beat the more detailed sculpt of this metal giant. It's just unfortunate that he was one of the severe casualties of the recent GW price increase. If you can find one of these guys for less than the ludicrous amount those citrus suckers are asking, pick one up! I didn't take great work-in-progress pics for this effort, but a tutorial post will be coming soon.