Thursday, 13 October 2011

Basic Ultramarine Paint Job - I Feel Unclean (and Lazy)

*pre-amble ends*
For anyone wondering, this is an old post I did elsewhere earlier in the year. I'm reposting it here because a) I was quite pleased with it and b) as reference for a friend who is getting back into painting 40k minis again.
*pre-amble ends*

I put this together at the weekend to satisfy two basic urges. The first was to show that painting miniatures is not complicated and most of the effects achieved are done via easy to implement nifty little shortcuts as a few folk I know on forums were saying "I tried painting miniatures years ago and it is too hard." The second urge was to see if I could implement these techniques in painting something I've never painted before, an Ultramarine.

I'll restate that. I have never painted an Ultramarine before.

However, what follows isn't anything big or clever or revolutionary. I imagine most of you will already know most of this, so there will be no revelations beyond th cut. But, you're morbidly curious, so read on.

All I've done is use basic techniques and a degree of common sense to paint this figure. I didn't follow any guides and I didn't use any advanced technqiues like wet blending, or refracted light painting or anything like that. I didn't even mix any paints to create a particular colour. So this is all straight out of the bottle (or can) stuff. Furthermore I used GW paints only for this, none of my Reaper Master series or Vajello paints except in two cases. Just what you kind find over the counter in GW.

I will say that the first rule about keeping things simple is to make sure you have all the tools you need. The moment you don't have a tool is the moment you have to work round the absence of that tool, which adds complexity. We don't want complexity, we want to keep it simple.

So here are the tools I used.

Citadel Detail Brush
Citadel Fine Detail Brush
Citadel Small Drybrush
Citadel Xacto blade
Citadel tiny drill thing
Small modelling file (I have a selection of model files, but I just used a basic flat sided file)
Pair of tweezers ( used to occasionally remove a bit of hair or fibre or dust from the model)
Citadel thin Superglue
Pot of water
Cheap plastic palette

Citadel Chaos Black spray paint (obviously I did not use the entire can)
Citadel Chaos Black
Citadel Skull White
Cote De Arms Regal Blue (this used to be the citadel regal blue, but they changed providers.)
Citadel Ultramarine Blue
Citadel Bubonic Brown
Citadel Scorched Brown
Citadel Boltgun Metal
Citadel Mithril Silver
Citadel Suburst Yellow
Citadel Blood Red
Reaper Master Series New Gold (I don't have any citadel golds)

Citadel Devlan Mud Wash
Citadel Asurmen Blue Wash
Citadel Baddab Black Wash
Citadel Thrakka Green Wash

And this is what we're painting.

On the left we have the assembled and unpainted figure. He's a space marine from citadels 1990s dark era of plastics when they weren't terribly good. Assembled figures present some challenges in painting, but there are advantages as well, but I've cover those later. What I've done here is clean almost all the mould lines off and any excess plastic using my Xacto blade and file. Mould lines make a miniature look like a model, rather than the representation of a large thing that happens to be very small. It is worth taking some time in prepping a figure, as even a good paint job can be ruined by mould lines. You'll notice in the left picture I missed the mould line at the end of the barrel.

However, on the right you'll see that not only have I undercoated the model black with spray paint, the mould line is gone and I've drilled the end of the barrel so there is somewhere a bolt can come out of. I got into drilling my gun barrels late on, but it is a simple thing to do and really adds to a figure. I've used black spray paint because a) I thought it would be an easier base to paint from than white and b) I like to save my grey spray paint for my Deathwing. Furthermore, black does have its advantages for the later steps.

Black spray paint dries very quickly and gives a nice even coat that isn't too thick, perfect for not losing the detail on a crappy plastic mould like this one. Spray painting means you have to direct the paint onto the model from a few angles, otherwise you'll have whole areas that are shielded from the paint by the rest of the model. Even once that is done, you'll have to touch up a few areas with black paint, but that doesn't take long.

Next step is to paint the areas that are not going to be much lighter colours white and also the backpack detail boltgun metal as well as the metal areas of the Bolter.. During the painting of these relatively small areas mistakes will happen to all but the steadiest of hands. In the event of an accident, wait for the paint to dry (which doesn't take long) and then paint over the offending area with black. This keeps all your lines neat with minimal effort.

This also brings me to the most important rule of miniature painting.


Not so much that they turn into washes, but just a little so they flow more smoothly. Most paint out of the pot (even brand new paints) are slightly too viscous to flow smoothly onto the model and will obscure detail. So a little bit of water (mixed with your paint in a pallete) really helps with this and makes painting detail areas so much easier, as the paint can be drawn more smoothly from the brush. It also means your paint goes further as well and as acrylics aren't cheap, you're saving cash.

I quickly move on to applying the regal blue (a nice dark blue) to all the areas of the model which are black (except the mouth area). I've had this pot of paint since I first started painting miniatures as a teenager and it is still going strong. Not bad for a 20year old pot of paint. At some point in the past 10 years, citadel switched suppliers to a new brand of pet which has a poor retardant mix and doesn't last nearly as long as the old style stuff. The old style paints are made by Cote D'Arms and you can still buy them online in various places.

One thing you'll note, I hope, is that I missed the leg joints at the black stage and have painted them boltgun metal here. Any mistakes made can be covered up with black and painted over with the blue. Also, it was clear at this stage that a further coat of blue paint would be needed, as there well still quite a bit of black showing. The same is true for the white bits as well.

The pose of the model made applying the blue to all areas somewhat fiddly, but anywhere the blue didn't reach would be intensely shadowed anyway and as those areas are black, we've instantly got some nice shading.

After a second coat of the white I move onto the next stage and applying the detail colours to my model. My mistake here was that I didn't put a second coat of white onto the bolter casing and that has made the red slightly grubby. Schoolboy error on my part. I also painted the gem in the middle of the aquila blood red.

As you can see the second coat of regal blue is on and I've also painted scorched brown onto the chest and bolter aquilas. Brown is the perfect base colour for gold and different browns will result in a different gold effect, but scorched brown is a good all rounder. The chest eagle was a little fiddly and I used my fine detail brush for this, but the thinned paint was just drawn carefully across the wings into the areas I could see. The areas I can't won't be seen by anyone else and they'll be black anyway, neatly creating some intense shadows.

The shoulder detail I've painted with an initial coat of bubonic brown, a nice intense dark yellow colour which is perfect as a base onto which brighter yellows can be painted. Bright yellows straight onto white tend to look really pale, so a basecoat which compliments the lighter colour works well. In the past I've tried to do this using orange and it just doesn't work. Bubonic brown or a similar colour is the way forward!

I also painted boltgun metal into the respirator mouth piece of the armour at this point. I should've done this at the black stage as it would've been easier to correct any mistakes. Model painting is greatly simplified by painting the right things in the right order!

And now we're starting to get a more ultramarine look.

I did the eyes at this stage first. My Blood Red has become very viscous in the jar so that absolutely has to be thinned before application to the eyes or it will just make a mess. In the event of a mistake (which with eyes it happens often enough), the red is light enough to easily be correct by some regal blue.

Then onto the mid tone for the blue, which I did using ultramarine blue. The trick here is paint ALMOST all of the area painted previously with the regal blue, but leave a small border at the edges of armour plates and avoid painting into recesses. This especially true for hard to reach areas or anywhere that is clearly shaded from your lightsource (usually directly above) and you want to avoid painting too much or at all in those areas, or you'll ruin the shadow effect. This is another reason as to why we don't worry too much about the hard to reach areas behind the gun, because they won't be getting much light anyway, so they'll be dark. Plus most of the chest area is taken up by the aquila, so we don't need to do any blue there at all.

For small areas I used my fine detail brush, using a tiny amount of paint on the tip. For detail work, too much paint on brush = mess. For precision, use the tip of the brush and a small amount of (thinned) paint and you shouldn't go too far wrong.

By simply not painting the ultramarine blue into the recesses and into the edges of the plates we create a simple but effective shadow, which gives the model detail.

I also put another coat of Bubonic Brown onto the shoulder armour detail and another coat of Blood Red onto the bolter.

And now for my favourite part of model painting, the washes! I do love washes.

I evenly washed all of the blue armour with citadel Asurmen Blue wash. This darkens the armour and blurs the border between the Regal blue shadow and the Ultramarine mid tone. A simple but effective technique.

I washed the metal parts of the bolter, the backpack and the armour with baddab black wash. The was settles into the recesses nicely and gives those metal areas some definition. I washed the bolter casing with Thrakka Green, because green contrasts sharply with red and creates a nice shade. I also washed the red gem on the chest with green as well.

And now we move onto the highlighting.

A basic highlight is done by using the same paint as you used for your mid tone, in this case ultramarine blue, and painting over  a small part of the area you've just washed. It is the same principle as not painting over the regal blue so we leave a shadow, but in this case we paint only a fraction of the shaded ultramarine, usually just the edge of the armour plate. This creates a sharp contrast between the edge of the armour and the shadow, while also creating an area of definition between the edge and the rest of the armour that we didn't have in the earlier stages.

Providing you keep your paint thinned and take your time at this stage, you shouldn't make too many mistakes. Any mistakes you do make, most likely to be too thick a highlight, can be corrected with a bit of blue wash.

For the shoulder pads and the thrusters either side of the backpack, I painted a roughly circular area with ultramarine blue, which was roughly in line with where light was hitting those parts of the model most. The chest area hidden by the arms and the gun I didn't highlight at all, as it simply wouldn't be getting any light.

And we're almost done.

All I've done here is applying a few coats of sunburst yellow to the edge of the shoulder plates, just to brighten the yellow. I've also painted the bolter and chest aquilas gold, covering pretty much all the brown and then used devlan mud wash (a dark brown wash) over the gold once it has dried to give the wings some definition. For the aquila on the gun, I've washed around the eagle so as to darken the red further and really make the eagle stand out. I've also applied a few coats of blood red to the edges of the gun casing to give the bolter more defintion.

I then drybrushed the bolter and backpack metal areas with mithril silver, just to bring out the edges of the metal. Drybrushing involves getting a goodly amount of paint onto your brush, then using a j-cloth (or kitchen towl) to remove most of the paint. However, because you're not using water to clean the brush, a small amount of paint remains on the brush. You the brush the areas of the model you want to be drybrushed and the paint should (if you do it right) only adhere to the raised areas of what you're painting. I also applied a little blob of mithril silver to each of the bolts on the bolter casing.

Because the other side of the bolter was fiddly to paint, I didn't worry about highlighting that with red too much, just the parts I could easily reach, as I concurred the rest would be in shade and therefore darker anyway. Finally I painted the chest gem red as well, but only the uppermost area getting the most light, so there was a little bit of contrast with the rest of the gem. Not really necessary, but I felt like it.

And finally, I finished with a little bit of dry brushing using white onto the top of the shoulder plates, backpack and helmet, just to sharpen the details a little. I don't usually dry brush miniatures this way anymore, because the highlight it creates is quite dusty and I use other techniques which create a smoother finish. However, as we're doing things simply, I've used the simplest technique I know of.

The extreme close-up of the macro photo makes the figure look messier than it looks in the hand or on the table top, where it looks like a perfectly fine battle ready figure.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Solonavi Themed Miniatures

These guys are nearly finished. I just need to tweak a few details and highlight the bases and I'm done. I don't often paint fantasy miniatures, so these were a nice break from Sci-Fi and GW minis in general. Size wise these are a little bit smaller than a space marine, but crammed full of detail. The posing of the figures, in particular the middle one, is pleasing. These are also the first Reaper Miniatures I've painted and all in all, its been an enjoyable experience.

As mentioned in my earlier post, the inspiration for the colour scheme comes from the Wizkids game, Mage Knight Pyramid, and the four Solonavi Seeker heroes. Their colour scheme is predominantly purple with facemasks to match.
As I said, they're crammed full of detail. I've guessed that the two bottles at her side hold poisons of some description.

I kept the skin deliberately pale as it seemed to suit her. Just a wash of ogryn flesh and then repaint with a very pale skin tone. The armour for all three was done via the tried and trusted approach of boltgun metal (actually Reaper Master Series Blackened Steel, but they're pretty much identical), wash black, drybrush Mithril Silver, line highlight with mithril silver where appropriate and then a wash of Asurmen Blue into the recesses. I've also tried to drybrush and highlight with a zenith approach.

A special note for the hair, as I'm really pleased how this came out and was decidedly simple to do. Paint hair Bubonic Brown as a base, then wash with Gryphonne Sepia making sure the darker shade gets into all the recesses. The next step was kinda accidental, but I drybrushed a highlight of a pale skin tone, thinking it was white. This worked so much better, as the creamy skin tone (and anything like Kommando Khaki or Bleached Bone would do) blended nicely over the washed Bubonic and the final drybrush highlight of Sunburst Yellow. I think white would have flattened the final  yellow highlight and also turned it a weird lemon colour, whereas the yellow worked with the cream perfectly, giving me a rich natural looking highlight.
This character (Seeker Elydia) isn't as dynamically posed, but I love the variety in his outfit as it gave me the opportunity to take some different approaches. The tabbard I did as black, using black, then the Reaper Master Series Dark Elf Skin tried to bring out the highlights.
The Solonavi are crystalline creatures and they gift the four heroes with crystalline weapons. On the original figures, these weapons are clear plastic. This spearhead mostly clearly shows my attempt to recreat this effect, with mixed results. It looks ok, it just doesn't look crystalline. A lot of line highlighting went into this, followed by some careful washing with Leviathan Purple. I might apply the effect to any Space Marine power weapons I do in the future.
Seeker Mock doesn't lend himself so well to being photographed, but he's a nice pose all the same. I need to do something to make his sword crosspiece and hilt more interesting but I haven't worked out what yet. Originally I was going to do the entirity of the weapons as the crystal effect, but it was just too much, so I scaled it back to the blades.
You might recall from my earlier post that I was having difficulty getting the purple colour right for the cloth, it was just too dark. I went back and redid the cloth with a mix of Scab Red and Reaper Imperial Purple (about 50/50) and then wet blended Reaper Nightshade Purple (which is a lovely dark colour) into the recesses. The Scab Red added a bit of warmth to the base purple, which was otherwise too cold. And then built up the highlight by mixing in more Amythest Purple to my scab+imperial mix and did a final highlight with the Amythest before washing the whole thing down with GW Baal Red, just to bring a bit more warmth in. I'm very happy with the end result.

I Don't Like Black Reach

I've got my three Solonavi themed figures nearly complete and hopefully will get those up later this week with a few explanations as to how I did various bits. I plowed through them in about 5hrs at "paint club" on Sunday.

While I was painting for paint to dry, I started tinkering around with my Black Reach Terminator Assault Squad, on which I'll hopefully start doing a step by step guide in the next week or so once I'm back from Scotland. However, I wanted to say now just how much I dislike them and hadn't realised until last night why I'd not touched them in weeks.

Yes, I want an assault squad to mix in with my more detailed Deathwing figures so that I have some more conventional figures to accompany my growing legion of character models. The Black Reach squad is ideal for this purpose as they are pretty bland, although I've had to do some custom ornamentation to ensure consistency with my established theme. The blandness of the squad I don't mind, but does the plastic and assembly really have to be so awful?

I know there isn't a lot to assemble, but the Torsos simply do not glue into place properly. Every last single one of them I've had to trim, adjust and variously fiddle with in order to get it to fit properly. Something which isn't a problem with the regular Terminator kits.

Specifically the bits highlighted in red here. Yes they click together just fine when the model is dry but the moment you apply glue, the hydraulic pressure of the liquid works against you. It is very annoying.

I've little experience with the rest of the Black Reach set, but if the Terminators are any indication of quality, I'd certainly warn anyone against buying it as a "starter set" for someone new to 40k, as the quality is not representative of the rest of the brand. I'm certainly not convinced the set represents VFM of any sort and I am very glad not to have purchase it in its entirity. £5 for the Terminator assault squad seems about right to me.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

SD Gundam Finished

 So this little fellah is finished. Complete he stands about 4.5inches high, so slightly taller than a Space Marine dreadnought but, with decidedly more articulation.
Once I'd painted all the bits, he was easy enough to snap together. Almost all the pieces came off the sprues very cleanly and very little tidying up was required. Games Workshop could learn a thing or two from Bandai here about how to provide a quality model kit on sprues. Given these kits retail for about £5 online and not exactly shy on detail, I am feeling a little aggreived about the cost of GW's plastic dreadnoughts. They are fantastic kits, but I'm not entirely sure why they should cost £15 more than this comparable amount of high quality plastic.
Although I tried to keep things simple, I did do a bit of shading, but steered clear of doing line highlights. The gold was a bit of a problem and I had to repaint the airbrushed stuff because it had come out looking slightly different. Even then, after a few repaints, the gold still looks a little grubby in places and I might revisit it again if I find it bugs me.

Most of the black areas are actually Reaper Master series Dark Elf Skin Shadow, with Chaos Black painted into the edges for a little bit of depth. Just painting it black would've looked really flat and odd.
The red bits were a base of Mechrite Red, washed with Devlan Mud to pick out the detail in the recesses and then painted with the lovely Reaper Master Series Ruby Red, which is metallic. It gives the red bits the sparkle they need without recourse to detailed line highlights and whatnot.
The green detailing was done with Reaper Master Series Emerald Green, another metallic paint, with a wash of Thrakka Green and then repaint with the metallic green.

All in all, this has been a fun kit to build and paint. Assembling without glue is a little weird and not all the pieces snap together as cleanly as I would like. I'm not sure why that is and it may be that some trimming of pieces is required to get a cleaner fit. Certainly something I'll keep in mind for the future.

And the future actually has me nervous. See, I've got myself another kit for Christmas as I was inspired by playing Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3. For whatever reason, I found myself drawn to the styling of the main mecha from the series Gundam 00, the titular Gundam 00 Raiser.

So on a whim, I bought myself the Master Grade kit.
I have this ominous feeling I may have bitten off more than I can chew.....