Sunday, January 30, 2011

From the Desk: The Forest for the Trees

Another weekend comes to a close, but I got some good work done. Among the various projects I hit was finishing up these little trees. I got the inspiration when I found some moss balls in Michael's. I'm a big fan of using felt templates for terrain elements because they provide clear delineations of where that terrain element begins and ends. However they don't provide very much ambiance. So I wanted to create some simple trees that could be put on the templates to spice them up a bit. Here you can see the final product in action, currently being occupied by a few Striders. What follows is a quick description of how I constructed these trees.

First I made these trunks. I sort of did several steps at once, so let me summaries. I cut out small circles of matte board, put a small nail through the center, then used some caulk and stuck it to a small tube. The tubes were just some simple hard plastic pieces of tubing that I cut to length. Sticking out the top is a wood screw which is intended to hold the moss ball. Once all these dried I was able to move on to the next step...

To simulate the bark, I grabbed some bandage tape from the first aid kit and just wrapped it around the tube.

Next I added the moss balls to it. Pictured here are the moss balls that inspired the whole thing. They are roughly 2" in diameter and are light but relatively solid.

After that I glued some garden sand to the base and was all set to paint. The base was relatively straight forward; just base with a dark brown and drybrush a tan on top of that. For the bark, I drybrushed a medium brown onto the bandage. This gave a somewhat decent looking bark effect for the trunk of the tree. After all of the paint dried I put some random flocking onto the base and called it done.

And there it is! A completed tree! Another simple piece of terrain to upscale my battlefields.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

RtC: Slow and Steady... is Boring!

Weekends are great. I don't really get a big block of time to work on stuff, but I get plenty of small slots to get stuff done. Today is a good example of that. In addition to the work in this post, I also got some work done assembling Annyssa Ryvaal, and some work on my upcoming SPQR series. More on that later.

First of all, I wanted to start getting the main body together. One of the challenging pieces to line up is arms that have these sorts of indentation sockets. I read a tip once of using a drop of paint to line up holes, which is what I'm (sort of) doing here. Unfortunately I ended up with a bit too much paint, but it will still serve my purposes. While that dried, I moved on to other parts.

Putting together the torso looked easy enough, but of course I chose to make it more difficult. The tail was the real reason. I wanted to pin the tail but quickly discovered that the bottom half of the torso has quite thin metal in the slot designed for the tail. So I opted to use a technique I've used before where I run a single pin through the middle of the torso to hold everything together. This photo is the before shot, with the pin obviously too long. The process is simple enough though. Drill the holes, put green stuff at the joins, put a bead of glue on the pin, and jam the whole thing together. The glue dries quickly enough to hold everything in place while I then proceed to smooth out all the green stuff. In this case, I went ahead and added on the tail as well.

Next was the head, which I kept simpler. Again, I ran a bead of green stuff around the edge (after scoring the surfaces to improve the join) and smashed it all together. Because part of this join included his mohawk, I added some extra green stuff and did some very basic sculpting to make the join look relatively seamless. The big problem I ran into here was the gaps around the neck. Rather than knead up more green stuff, I decided to let this part harden a bit first before I decide to tackle those spots and smooth things out.

Lasty, I went ahead and assembled the leg and arms. These were straight forward pinning and placement (with the aid of paint drop marks). There's some putty work to do to make those joins look a little nicer, but at this point I'm running out of time and need to get some sleep. I also finished the last of the assembly work for Annyssa Ryvaal at the same time which was a nice bonus.

The next step will be to start building a base, put on the remaining two pieces, and do the putty work to clean up joins. Taking my time to pay attention to all the assembly details is taking additional time, but I definitely feel it will be worth it in the end.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

RtC: Progress is Progress

Some nights I get a lot done. Others... well, it's a struggle to get anything done. If I know that I'm going to have a tight evening for time, I tend to focus on things where a small amount of time can still net progress that feels good. This evening was one such evening. I opted to get some assembly work done on the War Hog. I had about an hour so I reviewed the pieces to assemble and strategized on where to start. This model will require a fair amount of putty work, I determined which pieces were key to get done first so that putty could dry before moving on to other parts. The big key part here was the lower body. I scored these two parts and put them together with putty. I needed to do a slight bit of cleanup for the rope that runs around the waist due to a break where the join was. Easy enough though.

Next I worked on putting the smokestacks and aggression dial on to the upper body. While not strictly a key part to get done, these were easy to put together with just a bit of putty work.

Lastly I assembled the left arm, putting the hand onto the forearm. Although the join surfaces are pretty substantial, I opted to pin these together. I tend to be a little extra crazy about pinning even though it takes some extra time. I've rarely felt like pinning was wasted effort however, and with my dremel in hand, the work is pretty quick.

Well that's all for tonight. As I mentioned, progress is progress. This model has a target date of May so I feel a slow-and-steady attitude will serve me well.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From the Desk: "Go To" Colors

Everyone has them. There's those 4 or 5 paints that see more activity than anything else. They are your "go to" colors. The ones you fall back to for whatever reason. In the myriad of discussions I have with folks about painting, this topic came up the other day and it was suggested I post about it, so here it goes.

Whether it's personal affinity for a color, or familiarity with how a specific paint performs, painters will find their own specific paints that they like. These colors may change over time, but a painter will tend to favor specific colors for stretches at a time. Let's look at a couple reasons and examples.

Utility - Some paints just present a lot of utility to them. They have flexibility to them that enables multiple tasks to be done, or simplifies specific tasks. The GW wash Badab Black is an excellent example of utility. It's really useful for black-lining around surfaces, or shading metals. P3 Menoth White Highlight on the other hand is really handy for lightening up a color for highlighting purposes. Paints chosen for utility tend to cause specific effects, whether that be through they way they flow or the color tone they introduce, as with the two above examples.

Performance - Some paints just perform better, specifically in coverage and consistency. GW metalics for example perform very well over pretty much every other brand of metals in this area. P3 Khador Red Base is another good example for it's good coverage despite being a red tone, which typically has challenges with coverage. Paints chosen for performance tend to stay as favorites until a better performing paint is found to replace it. These paints are also less likely to have a specific impact to the painting style directly.

Affinity - This has to do with what colors someone likes, and it obviously much more varied than the above reasons. Different people just like different colors. There's certainly some psychology to play into that, but I'll skip such discussion here. Needless to say, paints chosen for affinity do not themselves directly affect the painting style, but allow the painter to express their own artistic style.

Whatever the reasons, it's good to know when you favor particular colors and why you favor them. It's a good exercise from time to time to set aside a go-to paint and try out something new. Doing so can be frustrating, but will ultimately make one a better painter.

Ok, now that the theory is aside, let's talk about my own go-to colors to give you some concrete perspective. I've included some pictures of my own models for reference.

P3 Sanguine Base
Sanguine Base has become a favorite color for me for a couple reasons. Firstly, the rich red color gives a feeling of warmth, but provides more than just a typical red color. Second, I like how well it covers and blends. It's a tone that works well for shading both blues and greens. Here on this Raek is an example of using the Sanguine Base to shade the light blue flesh given a sense of warm flesh on the undersides.

P3 Coal Black
Coal Black has long been a favorite for me. I once read a tip from of not using black to shade with because it appears less natural. I experimented with using Coal Black instead and fell in love with the results. It provides a deep cool blue tone to shadows which has become a staple effect for me. I've found that VMC Dark Sea Blue is also a good substitute for P3 Coal Black. The two aren't exactly the same, but close enough that the dropper bottle format from VMC provides an added level of convenience well worth the tonal shift. Here on Kraye's horse, I used Coal Black to shade to create a cooler contrast with the base.

P3 Bloodstone & RPP Blood Black
Ok, I'm cheating a bit on this one by lumping two together. Both of these are rich brown colors. Bloodstone in particular is a complex color. Blood Black has a rough equivalent to P3 Umbral Umber which I had used previously before I found the RPP color. Although they are ideal colors for working leathers (as exampled on this Death Marshall), I find that they are useful in a number of areas, including both subtle and deep shadings of greens.

P3 Cryx Bane Base
Cryx Bane Base is more of a utility color than an affinity for me. I use this color for everything from gray cloths to rocks to flat steel plates. It has a rich greenish gray color to it which I've found that works well with a number of schemes. Here on this Vassal I used it in the deeper shading of the robes to provide a little harmony with the yellow and red colors. I have to say that I'm really fond of how well this particular paint blends, particularly using the 2BB method.

Using them together...
It's not uncommon for me to use more than one of those colors on a single area. On this Ravagore's chitin for example, I used Coal Black, Sanguine Base, and Blood Red in washes and 2BB to bring out the surface characteristics of it more. The colors are not applied uniformly though so as to create plenty of character to the chitin.

So what does knowing this do for me? Well predominantly my go-to colors are dark shades. I tend to work my way down from lighter colors and shade down more than highlight up from dark colors. Knowing this helps me to plan my colors and process better. I will often start with a base coat that is somewhere around 75% brightness of my overall look and work from there, although sometimes I'll even work from a white primer base and only shade down, working special highlights in as needed. In any case, knowing what your go-to colors are and how this affects your style can help to better develop your use of color.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Finishing up a unit is a nice feeling. I can honestly say that it's not very often that I finish a unit and really feel like I hit a home run on quality, and this one is no different. However getting these Raptors finished up was a major accomplishment for me. Five large based models is a fair portion of painting to get done, and I'm really looking forward to playing them more often now.

I'm going to skip the normal summary and just highlight that the photos and the speed painting were the downsides, but some of the speed painting on the black armor pieces was the upside. It's pretty late and I'm sorely in need of sleep.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

RtC [Road to Competition]: And So It Begins...

Once again, KublaCon is on my radar for the main painting competition to enter this year. This year I've decided to paint a War Hog for my entry so I figured I would chronicle the entire effort on this blog. Everything from initial planning through the final event. The series is going to span several months (since KublaCon is Memorial Day Weekend) so I'm going to tag these posts with the RoC label for easy reference.

Why did I choose the War Hog? It's certainly new and cool, but I chose it for other reasons than that. First of all, it has both "organic" and "machine" components to it which will challenge my abilities. This is also a good opportunity to display different techniques on the same model which can help win the judges' attention. Second, it's a good sort of model to draw attention to the PP line of models, which I enjoy trying to do. Third is that it's a larger model, and I wanted to focus on a larger model as my single entry rather than a smaller one. With my selection solidified, it's time to start the ball rolling. The next step is to go ahead and unbox the model and start looking over the parts.

Here are the various pieces for the War Hog, freshly unboxed. There are 14 total which could be a little intimidating. I went ahead and spent tonight prepping the pieces by trimming and washing them. I spent about 45 minutes on this step since making sure to catch as many ragged places to trim during this phase saves plenty of headache later. Since this is a serious competition piece, I decided to take the extra step of washing all the pieces with warm soapy water and scrubbing them with an old toothbrush. This helps get rid of any residue. Overall the pieces were in remarkably good condition and relatively little trimming was necessary. The biggest work was on the edges of the axe blades where a lot of filing was necessary.

My next step will be to begin assembly once all the pieces have dried. Here is pictured the assembly instructions from the back of the box. Due to the large number of pieces, I'll need to do it in sections so I'll need to spend a little time strategizing how I want to do that assembly. That's enough for tonight though, as I have other projects I want to get some work done on at the same time. For example I want to get Saeryn assembled so I can prime her tomorrow, and the Raptors are down to just final touch ups.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From the Desk: Being Sick Is Sometimes Good

Being sick sucks. But sometimes there are hidden benefits. The last two days I stayed home from work and managed to get some terrain making and painting in. To the right here is a picture of the simple hills I made, along with a Khador monolith. The monolith is really going to be a gift for a friend. I got the inspiration from this blog post. I'm not great at terrain making, and generally don't have the patience for it. However I wanted to get more terrain together for my own area. Part of my inspiration to do this was the Warmachine Battlefield Generator which creates a random terrain layout. I've become quite fond of this tool, but quickly discovered that I don't have all the terrain pieces needed to properly support following the random layouts it generates. Hence, I'm on a simple terrain making kick. I'm also sick of only having felt templates all the time.

I also got a serious amount of painting time in on my Raptors. Units are always a little soul crushing for me, but 5 large based infantry at once is a bit more so. I'm just going for tabletop standards on these guys since anything higher would probably drive me insane. Overall though, it's going pretty smoothly. Last night (after taking these photos) I finished up painting the armor edges which was a major hurdle. Now I can focus on details. The armor edging is always tedious and exhausting to do, so having that part already done really lifts my spirits.

In the realm of trying to meet my 1-1-1-1 unpainted goal, I did a quick tally of unpainted models and found I have the following counts:
* 4 Caster (2 Legion)
* 1 Jack
* 3 Units (2 Legion)
* 3 Solos (1 Legion)
Now there's some fudging in there. Two of those units are rolling in their UA's rather than counting the UA as a separate model, and one of those solos is actually the 3-pack of Spell Martyrs. But the principle is sound. I'm really quite focused on slimming this down. I've recently been very interested in the Farrow but I'm trying to keep focused on painting down my backlog before I start a small Farrow army.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Battle Report: Double Impact

Last night I played an alternative battle format that my fellow gamers and I have been working on for a couple weeks now. The format is called "Double Impact". I'll post the detailed rules for the format in a few days once we've cleaned up the language, but the basic concept is sort of a tag-team format, where each army has 2 warcasters, with one warcaster off the table at any given time.

The Armies:
Me: Thagrosh, Vayl, Carnivean, Scythean, Typhon, Shredder, Forsaken, Striders w/ UA
Lance: Mohsar, Kromac, 2 Feral Warpwolves, Woldwyrd, 6 Bloodtrackers, Nuala, 5 Wolf Riders, Lord of the Feast, Feralgeist

The Throwdown:
Vayl and Mohsar were deployed first which really set the tone for the game. The battle quickly turned into an attrition game, pinging at each other and trying to wear things down. Vayl used Chiller on the Striders in order to reduce key targets' DEF to make it easier to lay some attacks out from the heavies. An early strike got a Carnivean spray hit on Mohsar, and Typhon was a rockstar at laying out sprays on Bloodtrackers and Wolf Riders.

The Endgame:
The triggering effect was Typhon getting into position to drop 3 sprays on Mohsar. On the last spray, Mohsar took the damage and croaked, putting Kromac on the board. At that point my turn was done, but Kromac was within the strike range of Vayl. He rolled up, jumped into melee with her, and then proceeded to go to town. However, due to a cruel twist of dice fate combined with Vayl having Tenacity on her to put her at DEF 16, Kromac missed with a lot of attacks. He landed enough to take Vayl out at which point Thagrosh landed on the table. This put an interesting twist since Kromac could then continue to land blows (and easier too since Thagrosh is only DEF 14). However Thagrosh is an effective ARM 18 and was able to absorb the remaining hits pretty easily. At this point it was a quick matter of the Scythean headbutting Kromac to the ground and the Thagrosh went to town like a master sushi chef.

* I still love my heavy beasts. Legion heavy beasts are just a ton of fun to play.
* I definitely need more practice with Vayl. She seems great, but has a number of features that I need to remember, and learn how to sequence her abilities. Honestly though I find her to be pretty interesting.
* Mohsar's feat has an old school Severius-style crushing feel to it. Not being able to reave fury is a huge pain, especially for a beast heavy list.

Reflections on the Format:
The format seems pretty fun. We're continuing to make tweaks to try and get it refined. There were a number of rules questions that came up while trying it, but most of them were easily resolved. I definitely like the tag team idea and this gives enough tweak to the format to introduce something new without throwing everything sideways like Frankenstein or Casterjackapalooza do.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Vayl, Disciple of Everblight

First finished model of the year! I told myself that I wanted to get to a point of having a 1-1-1-1 unpainted system for my Legion army, so this gets me closer. This puts me at 2-0-2-1, so not terribly far off from reaching that. Unfortunately this photo is rather grainy, and I'm not sure why. For this model though, I was issued a challenge by a friend to not use my "crutch" paints for some part of it. So I left out the colors I typically use for Legion flesh: Underbelly Blue, Trollblood Base, and Sanguine Base. It created an interesting color challenge for me to reproduce something close to those colors. It turned out to be easier than I thought. I used combinations of flesh tones and strong blues which worked well, and then added deep red tones to do the shading with.

What worked well:
* Despite the graininess of the photos, I feel like the blending of the cloak worked out quite well. I went with a more yellowish tone that previous Legion models and I like this shade better.
* The basing worked out well. Due to her wide robe I needed to put something wider, which meant adding some elevation. This base is simple but effective.

What could have been better:
* The blending on the flesh isn't so great unfortunately.
* The armor is ok, but I feel like it could have been done a little better. I really struggled with how to improve it but just couldn't fine a solution that I liked.
* I'm going to say that the feathers could have been better, however I really am pretty satisfied with how these turned out. I have yet to find a solution for small feather like this that I like. Only the Shepherd seems to have turned out to my complete satisfaction.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

From the Desk: Vayl, Photos, and Prepping for 2011

In order to produce more consistent photos (angle, lighting, distance, etc) I put together this little mounting system. The idea is that it will reliably hold my standard model mounts (empty spray cans) and the old broken tripod of my camera so that I get consistent results. This will be very helpful For putting together step-by-step photos without having to drag the models into my normal photo box (which is not meant for models still attached to paint cans). So how good is this little set up? Let's take a look at my very first attempt at such photos, using my current in-progress model: Vayl.

My before picture isn't really much of a before. I'd nearly finished her at the point I had this set up ready for testing. So the before and after is of her skin. At the time of writing this, I've finished painting her, but need to construct a base for her. The robe is a little annoying in that it flows out well over the edges of a small base. I typically try to create more interesting and raised bases for warlocks, but Vayl is definitely going to require something extra unfortunately. If it wasn't for the basing needs, I'd have her wrapped up tonight most likely. But the need for gray stuff to dry and whatnot will mean she needs to wait until tomorrow.

Here's the after picture. This is the point at which I've determined what additional steps I need to make sure I take when doing these sorts of photos. First, my removing the camera from the mount caused the mount angle to shift a little, which causes some differences in the camera angle. Second, cropping separately causes some inconsistencies between the pictures. Third, I didn't mark the alignment of the model, so it's not facing exactly the same as the first photo. These are relatively easy to fix as a matter of process though by just doing some simple markings as I do the first photo.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010 Wrap Up, and 2011 Resolutions

[Disclaimer: This post contains fluffy, introspective nonsense... Just like last year's did.]

Once again, I find myself at the beginning of a new year, and it's time to look back at the previous year.

Last year's goals:
1) Focus on a KublaCon painting entry that I am really proud of - Check! Last year was awesome for KublaCon for me. I'm still pretty psyched about how well I did. More than just that, I got a lot of useful feedback that helped me improve my painting.
2) Close out my unpainted Malifaux backlog - Uhh.... not check. I've still got several left, and I'm not making much progress on them.
3) Refine my own "style" of painting - Uhh... sort of check. I've been trying to do this, but in all honesty I haven't been doing a good job of it. It's hard for me to really elaborate more except to say that I'm more keenly aware of where my weaknesses are in my painting style.

Models painting last year:
This year turned out to be pretty similar to last year. All things considered I find that to be a feat unto itself given that I have a child now, along with a job that has become more demanding. The total comes to 69 models, 3 over last year. This year had a number of beasts as I was really working hard on my Legion army.
Legion: 27
Mercs: 18
Protectorate: 3
Circle: 2
Cygnar: 7
Khador: 1
Minions: 1
Malifaux: 5
Other: 5

Goals for next year:
1) Enter the KublaCon painting competition at the masterclass level. I promised myself if I got a gold in the open level, I'd move up to the masterclass level the next year. Last year's entries were good, but I need to step up my quality even further. Amazingly I am already thinking about what I'm going to enter.
2) Close out my unplayed factions. I'm really only playing Legion now, and I'm thinking about starting a minion "army" just for fun. But I really want to get done with the remaining models for the other 3 factions I don't play actively. It's only 12 models actually, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal.
3) Do a series of posts on "speed painting". This is a project I've started working on already (in terms of research and planning), but I want to make sure it takes shape. Look for this to start happening in the next couple weeks.

Well the evening hours are burning up, and there's models on my desk to paint. It's time to put the keyboard aside, pick up the brush, and paint like I have a pair. Happy new year everyone!