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.