Sunday, 11 December 2011

So you want to start painting miniatures, Part 2

When I first started painting I used the Humbrol enamels that are used for the plastic model aircraft kits. Whilst for the beginner these are ok, they can be a little too thick and you will lose the finer detailing on your model. They also limit what you can do with detailing effects. The enamel paints are notorious for shortening the life span of your brushes, as they have to be cleaned with white spirits.

Tamiya paints are acrylic, although they do smell as though they are spirit-based, personally I’ve never done too well with Tamiya paints, and again, I find them too thick for miniature painting. Also if you try to thin them down it can be hard to judge the right amount of thinner to use. To be honest I personally have had great success with Citadel Colours. These paints are acrylic and water-based, also and more importantly they are non-toxic. The paints are easy on the brushes and clean up easily. Because they are water-based it makes them easy to thin down and this makes them perfect for washes, although Citadel do produce specially designed inks for just this job. You will also need to buy undercoat. Citadels Colour starter kits provide a good range of colours and also supply some plastic miniatures to get you going.

Once you have your paints you’re ready to find yourself a miniature to apply the pigment to.

Finding the right piece.

Now you have your tools and your paints, you need to find a miniature. If you are new to the gaming fraternity, then the best place to find your models is the shop where you buy your games and dice. Again Games Workshop stores have a wide selection so as you buy your paints, browse the miniatures as well. Choosing a suitable piece can be quite difficult as you will be trying to find one that you like the look of plus finding one that has an interesting characteristic. If you are preparing to paint your first model don’t pick one with heavy surface detail. A highly detailed model may look good but if you’re new to the craft then you will find it quite daunting. This also goes the other way round, even if you are new to miniature painting, don’t get a model that’s too plain as there will be no challenge and you will not enjoy your time. The first miniature I painted was a fighter figure wearing a cloak; a helmet that comes over the eyes and it held a scimitar in its right hand that rested in the left. It also had a shield bearing a Celtic knot design. Ok so you have your tools, and now you have your model, you are ready to start painting.

For me painting a model is like colouring in a picture. I also find it very relaxing. Painting can be time consuming, but if you have the right motivation towards it, it is time well spent.

The first thing you need to do is find the right location. The ideal spot is in the kitchen, preferably when it’s not in use by other members of your household. Although sitting in the kitchen may get you roped into chores like tea making and washing-up. There are several good reasons for using the kitchen one is the fact that most people have a large table in the kitchen, (be sure to cover the table before you start work.) another is that kitchens tend to have large windows. A big window is great for painting as it allows lots of natural light to paint by. Lighting is an important factor to consider when painting. A figure painted under artificial light may not have the same lustre when displayed in natural light. So you have a good work area and now it’s time to set up. Put the pots of paint on the table then spread them out a bit so that you can clearly see each colour. You will also need some water. I tend to use three containers of water. One is for the light colours; another is for the dark colours and a third for the metallic colours. Yoghurt pots are perfect rinse pots.

The first thing you need to do after set up is clean the model.  Once you are happy that the piece is clean leave it to air dry for about an hour. When you return to your work you will need to remove any flashing and mould lines. Using needle files and you craft knife carefully scrape away any parts that don’t belong on the model. When using the knife always work away from your body, NEVER towards you, firstly this can result in a severe injury, secondly you may get a very interesting colour scheme. Now that you have removed all the flash and lines it’s time to undercoat your figure. I find that the best method for undercoating is a spray can. Different people hold different opinions on undercoat. Some say that a light or white undercoat is best, others tend to go for black. I like grey, I tend to buy the grey acrylic spray primer from a local car repair shop, it’s cheaper than GWs sprays and the cans are larger.

In order to apply the undercoat you need to be in a well-ventilated area. A spray box can be easily constructed. Place the model on a separate piece of card so that you can turn it as you spray. Hold the can about 20-30 centimetres from the model, then spray in quick short bursts. When you have completed the undercoat leave the model to dry, again for about an hour.

Now your undercoat is dry you are ready to start painting proper. You will need to attach the piece to something so that you can move it around without touching the painted areas of the figure. An empty paint pot with a large lump of blu-tac type stuff on it is ideal.

Start with a base coat picking out the larger surface areas. Your base coat should be a darker shade of the colour you want to end up with, so if you want a light blue cloak for instance, then the cloaks base coat should be a dark blue. Once you have applied the base coat to the model you can start on the smaller areas, such as boots, gloves and the like.

After you have completed the base coats you can move onto the more technical stuff like washing and drybrushing. For the wash, you need to use either ink a a wash. If you do not have ink or ink or a wash then you will have to thin down some of the paint. A wash should be darker than the base coat you used initially. To apply the wash you will need to use a large brush; a size 2 should suffice. First place a drop of ink onto a white surface, then dip your brush into some fresh clean water and drip the water into the ink. This will thin the ink out a little more and make it run easier. Before you apply the first wash, work some of the ink out by painting it onto the plate. Then apply the ink to the recessed areas of your model. You should see that the ink runs into all the grooves and folds on the figure. You can apply 2-3 washes, lightening the shade as you progress.

After you have applied the washes you will, again, need to allow the figure to dry. Make sure that the ink is completely dry before you proceed to the next stage.

Now that you have completed the wash you need to apply a drybrush to the surface of the model. Drybrushing is a simple but effective method of highlighting the detail on the model. A drybrush starts with a shade that is a little lighter than the last colour you used before you washed the model. You need to lighten the shade with each application. To apply a drybrush take a small sample of the previous colour then add a tiny amount of white to the colour. Add the same quantity of white for dry each brush application. To perform the drybrush you need to use an old brush. This is where those nylon brushes come into play. Pick up some paint on the brush then using a piece of kitchen towel or tissue wipe off the paint on the brush. You may have to do this two or three times to achieve the right effect. When you have wiped the paint off the brush paint over the model, being quite firm and rapid with your movements. You will begin to see that the paint that is left in the brush is adhering to the surface of the model, picking out the raised areas as you go. If you want to achieve a good effect for a sword or armour or an axe-head, paint the area with a dark metallic colour. Citadel Paints BoltGun is perfect for this. When the base coat is dry, run over it with a drybrush of the lighter ChainMail. Repeat this with a lighter metallic colour i.e. silver. You will see that you have created a convincing area of light and dark patches on the piece. With time and patience you will create some incredible effects with your paints, and you will soon want to move on to larger models.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

So you want to start painting miniatures! Part one.

Before I get started on this please be aware that I DO NOT consider myself to be some all knowledgeable painting guru, I don’t actually think I’m that good. However I have over the years been asked to paint models for friends and they have been pleased with the results. Plus some of my models have received a few “wow” moments when they’ve been placed on a table. The best painted model I own is my metal Nightbringer, it wasn’t painted by me but by a professional artist and will always have a special place in my collection, I plan to retire it soon and when I do it will take pride of place on my display shelf.

Also the views and opinions that you are about to read are mine and I paint to my own methods, if after reading this you find it useful then great, I hope you have many happy hours painting.

My first little gem of advice is start small, there’s literally hundreds of superb models available from many quality production companies, I’m not here to promote a particular company but since this blog is predominantly 40k and GW I’m going to assume that those are the models you want to paint. My second snippet of sage wisdom is to visit the GW website and check out their painting and modelling articles, but obviously not before you’ve read this, after all that’s why you’re here.

So where to start? First and foremost are the all important brushes, in this modern age the are so many different options for bristle type from natural sable right through to nylon. Personally I prefer sable, the bristles hold the paint well and they are supple enough to shape around that one piece of detail that you want to pick out with a different colour later. Although a good stiff nylon brush can be useful for applying paint to eyes and writing, but I have a cheat for that!

When buying a brush there’s a couple of things to look out for, firstly examine the bristles for defects, the lower the cost the more important this is, are the bristles coming together to a good point? are any bent or sticking out? or even kinked? all of these will present problems when using them. If the bristles aren’t making a crisp sharp point, make them do it! there are two ways of doing this, the first is to stand in the shop and shout at the bristles until they form themselves into a well defined point, now although this is highly amusing to those around you, it doesn’t work! So what you need is some water, a good art shop will have a beaker of water available on the counter for the purpose of this method of pointing a brush.

Firstly dip the brush into the water, then using the hand opposite hand to the one you’re holding place the tip of the brush in the largest crease in your hand and close your hand. draw the brush out slowly, twisting it as you do, all being well the bristles will form a nice neat and crisp point, if they have then try “painting” one of your fingernails to see how well the bristles hold the point. If the point is still good keep the the brush and pay for it. this method is also useful for maintaining your brushes when you finish with it after a painting session.

What about sizes? most brushes have a number stamped on the handle somewhere, the higher the number, the larger the brush. The largest brush I use for an average infantry model is 2, the smallest is 00000 or five O, i have a couple that are smaller but they have a specific use. as a good start go for at least two of each ranging from 2 down to about three 0s. cheap brushes do have a use but I’ll go into that a bit later. For now a little tip, good brushes have a small plastic sleeve that protects the bristles when you’re not using the brush, if it doesn’t then a small piece of drinking straw cut to the right length will do the job.

Caring for your brushes is probably the most important part of the painting hobby, ideally they should be stored flat with the sleeve in place, or stood up in a jar bristles up. I know that’s a bit obvious, but I have seen some chaps store their brushes really badly.

another very useful bit of kit are plastic cutters for removing the model components from the sprue, the sprue is the frame that the part are attached to, using clippers will help you avoid damaging or breaking the parts as you remove them.

Next are some needle files, files are used to remove flashing, excess plastic left over from the moulding and mould lines, the files only need to be a couple of inches long and four or five millimetres thick.

A sharp modelling knife is useful I like the surgical scalpel style blades.

I have a model, I’ve removed all the bits from the sprue and prepped them, now what do I do?

First off, I never said to remove any parts from the sprue yet, before you do anything with the parts you need to wash them. Sometimes the release agent that is used to aid in the removal of the sprue from the mould can stay on the plastic and this can prevent the paint binding to the plastic, so give it a wash in warm, no too soapy, water. This will remove any unwanted release agent.

Now you can set about prepping a model for painting, the first stage is applying the undercoat, Undercoat is slightly rough and it gives the basecoat a good base to bind to. the next few stages are really down to personal preference, but I’ll go with how I like to proceed.

I spray the components whilst they’re still on the sprue, when that’s dry I apply the basecoat. at this stage it’s not too much hassle touching up areas you’ve missed, either because of attachment points or they’ve simply been overlooked. Once the basecoat is on, build the model in stages, clean off the paint from the points you’re going to apply the glue, don’t worry you can retouch the areas when the glue has set.

Which glue to use? There’s really only to choices for glue, plastic is best joined with good old fashioned polystyrene cement, I recommend the precision type that has a needle type applicator, but brush applied is just as good, DON’T use the stuff that comes in a tube that you have to squeeze unless you have a very steady hand and lightning reflexes.

For metal and resin such as Citadel finecast and Forgeworld models you’ll need a slightly thicker than usual superglue, the gel type is ideal. WARNING superglue is very quick setting and seems to glue skin much quicker than models, so be very careful when using the stuff.

Whichever glue you use you’ll need to hold to parts together for a few minutes so that the glue can form a bond.

So now you have put the model together, it’s undercoated and basecoated, now what?

Pick out the detail, apply shading and highlights and you’re done.

As for paints. there are several to choose from, the best ones are Vallejo or Citadel, avoid humbrol enamels, water based paints are the way to go as they are much easier to work with and thin down.

As you develop your technique you may want to invest in separate sets of brushes that you use for light, dark and metallic colours, also try to use at least two separate pots of water for washing your brushes, one for ordinary colours and another for metallics, kitchen towel is also useful for drying your brushes.

In part 2 I’ll do my best to explain how some very simple techniques can further enhance your skills.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Yes I play Warhammer and AD&D, yes I'm a geek, but are we really that different?

So there I was sitting on a bus travelling home from Hythe reading the latest issue of White Dwarf. It was one article in particular the held my attention. It was a focus on one of the in house painters, and how he got into painting miniatures and his techniques. This got me thinking ashow-waterbout what it was that drew me into the hobby all those years ago. Initially it was white dwarf, to be more precise it was Issue 75. I’d already been gaming on and off for a few years and I had just been introduced to a game called The Call of Cthulhu, horror role playing in the 1920’s Issue 75 had a Cthulhuesque picture of the cover and some articles about the game, including a mini adventure. Yes, believe it or not but back then the anaemic short one was indeed a more wider based magazine. The issue also had a couple of painting articles. I soon discovered that a local toy store stocked Citadel Miniatures, so I bought a model and some Humbrol Enamels, Citadel didn’t start producing paints until a couple of years later. Armed with a brush and a very limited pallette I set about painting my very first model. By todays standards it was rubbish, I didn’t know about drybrushing, washing or any of the other methods that I teach the lads at the shop, and because I was using enamels I also needed thinners which meant that I now had to consider where I was painting and I needed to be wary of spillages and naked flames and fumes, It’s so much nicer these days. I still have that first model and I think I may dig it out, strip it and give it a fresh painting using more up to date brushes, paints and methods, actually I have a number of models that could be revisited with 21st century knowledge.
pic380258_mdAs for 40k what drew me in to that was the release of the first edition of a game called Space Hulk. Set in a dark and distant future, the same one as 40k to be precise, Space Marines Terminators board derelict interstellar craft to carry out mission that range from equipment recovery to cleansing the wreckage of an alien menace known only as Genestealers. Borrowing heavily from the Alien franchise the game was for two players and was very enjoyable, My mates, at the time, and I would play for hours, we once played over a whole weekend starting with the first mission though to the very last one that was published in a copy of WD, this event included all the mission from the two expansion sets as well. Fortunately one of the lads worked in a pizza parlour and arrived late on the Saturday weighed down with various pizzas and cheesy garlic bread. In fact Matts free pizzas became the mainstay of a number of gaming evenings. I then picked up a copy of Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader, and a small Space Marine army. I played for a couple of years, expanding on the army and painting the models until slowly but surely time took it’s toll and friends moved on or moved away and I sold my books and models being certain that I no longer had the need for them. I continued to buy the odd copy of White Dwarf for a while after but, for me the golden age of White Dwarf was over as it had became a purely in-house magazine that no longer carried features on other gaming systems and had even stopped advertising other gaming companies such as TSR and West End Games. I also thought that gaming had gone the way of the dodo due to the release of consoles like Playstation and the Sega Megadrive. Now the games that I used to pay 10p to play were available to play at a moments whim for free and no one was interested in using paper, pencils, funny shaped dice diceand a little imagination. So I packed away my dice and rule books and set about looking for a new hobby. However gaming has always been one of my favourite things to do with my free time, yes I bought a console and I like the RPG games that are available, but none of them compare to the enjoyment of sitting at a table with some good mates discussing the drawbacks of full plate armour. Eventually I managed to persuade a few friends that shared a love of all things daft to give AD&D a shot and soon my rule books were dusted of and my dice were hitting the table again. Then I became friends with Sue and she had just started stocking GW products and I mentioned that I used to play 40k and might be interested in collecting a small army. Sue suggested that she would like to offer a gaming session to the lads that were buying the models and asked if I still new anyone who had experience at running a gaming group, surprisingly I did, me! I offered to supervise the sessions but the only problem was that as I hadn’t played in a while I’d need a rulebook and maybe some models, the rest is history, here we are five years on and much has changed, 40k 6th edition looms on the gaming horizon, Space Hulk returned with vastly superior models and I have three armies for 40k all in excess of 300 points and, more than 20 years after my first foray into the rather odd world of tabletop gaming I finally have a Warhammer Fantasy Battles army and rulebook.
05c71016684404235c73a3ff1e1b4858Over the last 30+ years of gaming I have seen many changes and attitudes to the gaming society, from religious zealots who promised me an eternity  of red hot pitch forks in places that I can’t mention here to people who think that gaming is just.. well.. weird. Despite all the setbacks I think there is still a large community of bearded men who get together a couple of evenings a month to moan about their girlfriends, or lack there of, whilst fiddling with their dice and trying desperately to get a really low AC and as high a THAC0 as they possibly can. For myself there is only one gaming related question that needs to be answered, what is the damage for a polearm with a night watchman on the end?
Until I think of some more drivel to put on here, hopefully with a title, may all you die roll well.