Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Skarre, Queen of the Broken Coast

Now this was a remarkable model to paint. Beautiful pose. Great detail. I think I'm in love! Seriously, this was one of the most fun models to paint out of all my Privateer collection. After rushing through all the other Cryx stuff, it was nice to hit the fully painted mark on Cryx with this model. Definitely worth spending the last 2 weeks working on her.

There were a number of things that went well, and a number that went poorly. First the good stuff. The skin worked out great. I used purple to shade the skin, bringing it fairly dark underneath where the light wouldn't hit directly, but not completely to purple. I feel it gives a rather warm feel to it. The detail on the face worked out pretty well too. I spent a lot of time trying to get the details to a level I was happy with. I'm still no expert, but it was a marked improvement over previous projects.

The base worked out great. Two key things here. First, it was pre-sculpted, and had lots of detail. After doing probably 5 or 6 washes and 3 or so highlights, I was pretty happy with the level of variation. Creating two different wood styles worked out better than I expected as well. It really helps the whole thing pop without being overpowering. Second, I used beach sand to fill in around the base. I didn't even paint it. Just superglued it down and it looks good. Gotta love natural beach sand.

Highlighting overall worked quite well. I used a combination of washes and highlights on some places, and multiple layers of two-brush-blending on others. The coat in particular was a good learning experience. I tried to get a bit more hue variation, and then do some decent blending while not changing contrast too quickly on the blends.

Ok, now a couple bad things. First, not attaching the sculpted base to a normal plastic base beforehand was a mistake. I ended up rubbing the paint too much and having to do some touch ups afterwards. I had debated it initially, but just decided to deal with it later. I'm starting to consider the merits of completely assembling the solid parts of a base before priming.

Second, and much worse, the model fell. At least twice. It cause some paint chipping. Mostly this happened because I hadn't attached it to a proper base, and just used a pin which I stuck to an old spray can. Being the clever monkey I am, I forgot to properly glue the pin in, so it fell off and landed on the edge of my porcelain palette. Fortunately it missed the wet paint, but unfortunately it chipped the paint in multiple places. I really hate doing cleanup work like that.

Well, enough of that. Again, this model was awesome, and I'm glad I spent so much time on it. Now that Cryx is done, it's time to obsess on a Legion paint scheme!

Monday, January 26, 2009

From the Desk: eSkarre progress

So this is what has been eating all my painting time recently. This majestic model whispered in my ear the need to spend more time on it. I have to admit, it has been a delight to paint. Truly a great sculpt. The photo here is pretty lame since I just snapped a quick shot on my desk without going to the lightbox. It's mostly done at this point except for some minor cleanup and then the remaining basing work. I'll share more notes once I get it finished.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

From the Desk: Color and Shape and Time

Things are a bit slow for me right now. Work is busy, had my birthday, and other random things have been slowing down my updates. Plus, I've been working on eSkarre, and this model is magnificent. It's worth putting tons of time into, which is what I'm doing. Probably another week of work at my current pace.

So, in place of a normal update, the following are some photos I took recently at an Orchid show, and down at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Part of my paint goal this year is to get better with identifying and choosing colors. Taking photos of different subjects is part of that goal. So, without further delay, here's some photos with some personal commentary.

The stippling effect on the petals here is remarkable. I've been intrigued by stipple patterns in nature as opposed to smooth color transitions as seems to be the norm for many things.
The colored veins of the petals here are remarkable. It inspires me to use this sort of pattern for my Legion models. Here though, the edges of the veins are pretty fuzzy and not clearly defined as one might think.
The bark and moss was particularly interesting to me here on this mounted orchid. The mount point of the orchid has a lot of color variation. Oranges and greens are both present, and create an interesting effect between them.
These stalks are a good example of a striated surface, another natural pattern I've been fascinated with. I think the key here is that the striation have a lot of color variation in a very narrow space.
Now this was just alien. How does this happen in nature? The pattern has a fairly crisp edge to it, creating stark contrast. The effect makes the petals look painted and unnatural.
More curiously mounted orchid color. Here there's an interplay between green and white, which creates less interest to my eye.
The weathering on this hydrant is pretty interesting. I can understand why it weathers so heavily on the base and the top, but the other random weathering places are curious. The color interplay is interesting as well. The is a combination of smooth and stalk transitions from the yellow paint to the oxidization.
This has two intriguing surfaces to me. First the bolts: They have clearly been exposed to the elements for quite some time, and the oxidization has completely obscured any metal. The color of the oxidization ranges from dark brown to a fairly bright orange. There's even a hint of yellow present.
The wood on the other hand has a reverse effect from the exposure. Instead of layers building up, layers are being stripped away. As the paint is worn off, it reveals the surface pattern of the wood, showing the grain of the wood as well as nicks in the form of paint being left behind in the lower (protected) surfaces
More weathering, as above. Something interesting here though is the layer of oxidization and deposit on top of the graffiti. The graffiti paint becomes like that of a tattoo where it seems to be below the surface.
I don't know what it was. Don't ask. Some sort of former-plant matter. It was hard to the touch. I loved the effect of the sun on the surface of both it and the sand. The complex and minute shadow effects reveal the true pattern and shape of the material more than the color variation of the surface.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

From the Desk.... sorta...

I got a question recently about my photo setup, so I figured I'd do a quick post. I would have done this sooner, but eSkarre got started the other night and the model is just so majestic that it instantly sucked up 2 entire evenings... and I only did the base and skin/face/eyes so far! Ahem, anyway...

I've gone through a number of iterations to get to this point. It's important to note that I read many articles on this, and yet my photos could still be better. I'll cover my own plans for improvement later.

First of all, I don't use a fancy camera. It's a fairly simple Kodak camera, not designed for high end work. It has the necessary features though (timer, macro mode, disable flash, auto-white balance). I always use the timer and a mini-tripod when taking pictures to eliminate blur.

Next, I have a lightbox. My first lightbox was a cardboard box where the sides had been cut out and replaced with white tissue paper. This worked fine, but my father (who is 1000x the photographer I am) found a collapsible lightbox for me which I like much better. It also came with a background to use which has worked out really well.

Lighting is the real challenge when taking pictures I've found. The camera doesn't need to be expensive, the background material only takes a little tweaking, and photo software can be found for free online. But lighting can take a long time to refine. I use 3 lights, as pictured here. The real key is getting the right balance of light intensity between the left and the right.

As you can see from the picture, my photo setup is pretty easy to teardown. When we get visitors, my setup has to get torn down so that our visitors have a place to sleep, but the bed does make a really good place to do this. It probably takes about 10 minutes to set up and 5 to tear down.

Well, that's all there really is to it. I also use Google's Picasa for photo "editing", although I rarely do more than just crop images and sometimes a minor contrast tweak. My biggest opportunity for improvement is to replace all the bulbs of my lamps with sunlight spectrum bulbs to improve the color balance. I've also heard a tip to use a piece of white foamcore on one side of the lightbox to improve light fill, but I haven't tried that yet. In any case, happy painting and picture taking!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Hooray! I actually have a second painted Cryx warjack. And this one was a delight to paint. There is definitely a certain advantage to only painting models that I'm interested in painting. Then I'm not dragging my way through models that I'm only painting so that I can field them. I won't, of course, debate the competitiveness of such a model selection strategy.

I used the same scheme as I did for Deneghra on this one. Only fitting as the story on Nightmare is it's the jack that rescued her when she was cut in half by her sister, Haley. So I kept the same NMM scheme with rusted iron, dark green plates, and clean steel blades. Also the lava base reinforces that unity with Deneghra. I've been quite happy with the relatively uniform look of my Cryx force, and even though they aren't painted to as high of quality as I could do, I really enjoy the look of the force together.

One of the most fun parts of this model were all the glowing runes. They are sculpted as raised runes on the surface of the armor plates (and a couple of skulls). In order to really bring them out, I started with Iosan Green covering the raised portion and a small bit on the surrounding surface. Then I used Necrotite Green on the raised rune itself. Then to really step up the glow, I used some Cygnus Yellow in select spots to enhance the brightness of the runes. Typically I used it where rune lines cross, or on any dots, but also on a few rune ends. For the very top central runes I used a little pure white on the points where the lines cross to really enhance the glow. I'm really pleased how these turned out.

The NMM effect on this model is not so great, but I decided to limit the amount of time I spent on all the Cryx models. It's an interesting exercise to aim for the balance of speed and quality and see what turns out. I honestly do not regret doing this either.

Well, on to one last Cryx model!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

From the painting desk: Weekend Binging and Dremel Trials

This has been a ridiculously good Saturday for me. To the right, you'll see my progress on the Cryx Nightmare. I only just started it late last night, so I'm pretty stoked to be this far along on it. It's mostly down to details (runes, rib bones, chains, etc). It's a very fun model to paint. I've always been fond of the look of the Cryx Helljacks though, and Nightmare here tops the list.

In addition to this progress, today has seen a pile of other progress and fun. I got eSkarre primed, all my remaining Legion models trimmed and cleaned, did some minor conversion work on Thagrosh and the Deathstalker to position their arms a bit better and did some generic cleaning up of my painting desk.

Today was also movie day with my wife; we saw Bolt in 3D which was immensely fun. I also watched Babylon AD (not terribly interesting), and probably half a dozen episodes of the A Team on Netflix streaming (I love it when a plan comes together).

I got a little bit of a test run with the Dremel today when working on Thagrosh. I have to say, the Dremel is pretty sweet. Just some quick notes on my experience so far:
  • Getting the drill bit aligned is very important so that it doesn't have a warble to it.
  • The recommendation of sticking the bit into wax first seems unnecessary as my bit never got hot.
  • Letting the Dremel do most of the work and not pushing very hard is very smart.
  • Starting a very minor pilot spot for the Dremel helps in making the drilling process much smoother.
  • The Dremel makes for a much straighter and cleaner hole than using the pin vise.
  • I'm going to need to find a way to enclose my drilling efforts to prevent metal dust from spreading around. It's not a huge problem, but with more drilling will cause more shavings and dust, and although my new super mini vac is awesome, I'd like to prevent any waste being thrown around if I can.
  • The Dremel is WAY easier and safer than I was expecting, and I'm sure my hand will be thankful for it doing the work.
On the Legion front, I'm still kicking around what I plan to do with them for sure. I'm focused on finishing Cryx and Trolls before starting Legion, so I still have time, but it's starting to weigh on my mind more to make a decision. I really did enjoy the color scheme for the Nyss mercs I painted, so I'm likely to stick with that for the troopers. However for the beasts, I'm still undecided. I'm definitely going with a rocky/snowy basing scheme though. Ok, that wraps up this edition of "From the Painting Desk". It's nice to be back in full swing of painting again. Just enough time to squeeze in some more work on Nightmare before I turn into a pumpkin and fall asleep. Happy painting out there!

Friday, January 09, 2009

How To: Building a Game Board

If you're like me, playing is an important part of the hobby. And in order to play, you really need a good playing surface. I've posted pics of battles in the past, many (like the one to the right) from my own home on the game board I built. Recently the need to build a game board for Lance came up, so I figured I'd use the opportunity to write up what I did to inspire ideas for others.

There are some key guiding principles at work in the design of my own board. First, I wanted a 4'x4' playing surface, which is the standard for Warmachine and Hordes. Second, I wanted it to have a balance between form and function, providing a moderate level of battlefield setting without being inflexible. Third, it needs to be storable so that when I'm not playing, my wife isn't threatening to throw it out. As cool as the classic foam battle boards are that I often see tutorials for, they didn't meet my criteria. Hence, this project was born.

Materials: The following are the specific materials I used for my board.
  • (4) 2' x 2' wood (or MDF) panels, 3/8" thick - I was able to find pre-cut 2' x 2' panels at my local "Big Giant Hardware Store". MDF panels are nice as they usually are smooth and free of warps, but are more expensive. I used 3/8" because that provided the best rigidity to weight ratio.
  • 2 strips of heavy duty cloth - This cloth is used to create the "hinges" for the boards so it should be decently heavy duty. I got mine from my wife's scrap fabric drawer, but a local fabric shop is likely to have scraps that they will give away.
  • Felt (of an appropriate color) - For my original game board I found this great stuff that was basically static grass paper. I've never seen it since though as the model train store I got it from closed. Felt however works great and any fabric store should have a variety of colors. I recommend get more than the 4' x 4' square so you have some slack to work with.
  • 2 Part Epoxy Glue - This stuff is available at most hardware stores and comes in a double-syringe type of applicator.
  • White Glue - For this project, I used Tacky Glue which I got at a local craft store. It's a little more concentrated than the normal white glue like Elmer's.
Step 1: Lay out 2 boards next to each other. Make sure to line them up carefully. Ideally you want to make sure you get any bowing in the wood to match up. Apply some epoxy along 1" or so of the edge of both boards next to each other. Then press down a piece of fabric to the epoxy to join the boards. This will create the hinge. Do this with the other 2 boards as well. Give the epoxy a few minutes to initially set before moving on. Ideally you can give it an entire day sitting out flat before moving on so that the epoxy sets really well.

The reason for using fabric to form the hinge is that it's very low profile and doesn't require woodworking techniques to inset the hinge. A normal hinge would stick up in the middle of the table creating an uneven surface.

Optional step: Here I drew a deployment line. This line is drawn with a permanent marker 10" from the end of the board. The line just faintly shows through the felt. This 10" line is specific for Warmachine/Hordes of course, but the same practice could be applied as appropriate for other games. The reason for drawing the line on the wood under the felt is so that during the game it isn't an obvious reference point when trying to estimate distances.

Step 2: Cut and glue down the felt. I just used normal scissors, laid out the felt, and cut it to fit. Then I used the Tacky Glue to glue it down to the wood. Note that I've glued it on the same side the fabric hinge is on. This will obscure the hinge as a side effect. However the primary reason for this is that when the board is folded up, it keeps the felt safely protected between the boards instead of exposed.

Done! Let it all dry. When you are ready to play you just put the pairs of boards next to each other. An optional step would be to put a third hinge on the back so that the 2 pairs then fold up against each other as well. I have opted not to do this just to make it a little easier to move around and on the rare occasion when only 1 board is needed.

When you're done playing, you just fold both boards up and store them away. The whole thing only measure about 1.5" thick, so it slides easily out of sight behind/between/under something. And there you have it! Hopefully this inspires others and if you come up with enhancements to this idea please leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cephalyx Drudges

Now this is my kind of squad. Notice the subtle majesty! Hands replaced with saws, swords and drills! Tubes that go from faces to crotches! The stink of being somewhere between alive and dead! That's right... these are the Cephalyx Drudge Mind Slaves. This rounds out my third Cryx unit.

I spent more time than I expected on these, despite them not really being too much above tabletop quality. The blending breaks down in a few places where I used washes and it pooled too much. I mostly followed the NQ #14 guide to painting them just to understand what they were doing with all that mixing of different colors. It was interesting. The flesh really does have a lot of interesting tone to it.

I experimented with one of the new GW washes (Devlan Mud) on this one. You can't really see where I used it anymore, but I was fairly impressed with it.

One thing I'm still not sure about is using metalics. I'd been experimenting with NMM techniques on some of my Cryx models, but not all of them. The Cephalyx and the Revenants all use real metalics, whereas everything else uses NMM techniques. It creates a little inconsistency in the overall army, but I'm not losing sleep over it.

Anyway, here's some pics in groups of 3...
And a group shot of everyone including the Slaver...
Unfortunately I just set my photo setup back up and didn't get the lighting right (again), but it's close enough.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Random Stuff #951

So, today's post is really just a dumping ground for a bunch of thoughts and events.

I played another 1000 point game on Friday with Lance. Harbinger and eFeora against Zaal and Xerxis. It was a righteous brawl. No detailed report here, but the highlight for me was that the combo of eFeora and the Harbinger was awesome. Some pics...

For Christmas, my folks got me a mini 2-speed dremel which I am very much looking forward to trying out next week once I have a little more spare time. My in-laws are headed out tomorrow, and I have to go back to work tomorrow as well, so my normal routine will resume which I have mixed feelings about.

It's fairly cold here in the bay lately, so I may have to shift into assembly mode for a while as the cold weather sometimes plays havoc with primers and sealers. Ironic since I've actually got the Cephalyx Drudges almost done now (just a last bit of highlighting, cleanup and basing) and they'll be ready to seal. I'm thinking I'll finish up my remaining Cryx models before tacking anything else.