My copy of Island of Blood just came in the mail a few days ago and it got me a little nostalgic about the first Warhammer box set I bought (4th edition). It brought up a lot of memories about my start in the hobby. It also made me think about kids just now picking up the hobby. Sufficed to say, the new "Read this First" book that comes with IoB left a lot to be desired. I put myself in the shoes of a new player and could see myself being quite unprepared for assembling and painting all of those shiny new minis in the box. Luckily, in real life when I found myself in a similar predicament in 1992 I had my Dad's decades of model railroad experience to fall back on, but I'm sure most people are not so lucky. So the following article from Chaosgerbils' Lair seemed like it fit in well with what's been running through my head this week. It's a solid list of the essential tools you'll need that don't come in your IoB box and some good recommendations of specific products and how to use them as well (although Lauby and I prefer Duplicolor sandable primer to Gerbil's suggestion of Krylon [not really primer- a very very common mistake], but we'll get to that down the road- the most in-depth article on primer you've ever seen is coming soon). But anyway, read on for more hobby info than you can shake a stick at ~Dethtron
Everyone can improve their painting and modeling skills. I’ll start with the basics for a solid foundation.
A moderate investment in hobby supplies will pay off. Unless you are some kind of hobby genius, your work can only be as good as your tools. Old frayed brushes and cheap dried up paints will give you poor results.
Basic tools: Brushes, model paint, black spray primer, glues, razor blades or a hobby knife, clippers, and basing materials.
Optional tools: Files, pin vises, razor saws, sculpting tools, magnets, palettes, and paint additives.
Each of these will be covered in more detail below. (By the way, GW stands for Games Workshop)
Junk brushes: You probably have a selection of old frayed brushes kicking around that you can use for drybrushing. If not, this is where the cheap nylon brushes can come in handy. Sometimes you can get a large bag of crappy brushes for about $5 at craft stores like Michaels, these are great for drybrushing and terrain projects.
Viscosity: Keep your paints wet, you want them close to the same viscosity they had when you bought them. This usually means occasionally mixing in water (or blending medium). Do this a little at a time so you don’t water down your paints too much. Sometimes I use cheap paints for bases and terrain. I will often let them dry out a little as they are too thin.
What to buy: Every painter will need a supply of Black, Grey, and White. I’d suggest you also grab some neutral tones and browns, after all most miniatures are supposed to be on a battlefield and not on a parade ground. Browns will let you detail things like pouches and belts, and will come in handy for basing. Bleached bone is a very useful color, for skulls, horns, bone, teeth, wrappings, purity seals… and if you find yourself over-using it then you can diversify with colors like Kommando Khaki and Dheneb stone. For browns, go for scorched brown, bestial brown, and then a lighter brown of your choice. Now here is the tricky part when buying paint: how much do you really need? Frankly, the more the better. Usually you will want a base color, a highlight, and a shadow. You can save money and mix your own or you can save time and buy some paint.
If you are low on cash, many game stores have a selection of paints on hand you can use, although you will still need to buy your own brushes. This can be a good resource if you want to add some extra detail to a character but don’t wan to buy colors you only need a little of.
Washes: Grab yourself the whole box of these if you have the scrilla, they are a huge time saver and can also turn average blending into good blending when used properly. You can slather the whole model with a wash or use them strategically. Washes can take a model that is base-coated and turn it into a shaded model ready for the table top.
Foundation paints: I’m not a fan of stocking up on all of these but they definitely have their uses. They are thick and a little chalky looking, but they cover up black with one coat. They truly are a foundation for later colors, but not necessary for every color. If painting something with decent surface area blue, red, or yellow, I would go ahead and get some.
Storage: Find some sort of case for your paints, the wider and shallower the better. You’ll want to keep track of these things. To make selecting colors fast, I paint a dab of the paint on the top of the lid. For black, varnish, washes, and inks, I’ll usually paint on a letter or word to make it clear.
Spray Brands: Now you can go ahead and get the $15 GW spray primer, and it is a good product but kind of a rip-off. I recommend the $4 cans of Krylon brand flat black. Many spray paints are thick and will obscure detail but Krylon is just thin enough to work for a quarter of the price.
Spray Technique: When spraying it is advisable to shake the can for about a minute before spraying, using both vertical and circular motions. Keep your spray strokes even and do multiple thin coats if possible. Spray outside or in a ventilated garage that you can leave once everything is sprayed. Put down some cardboard or a tarp to protect the ground. Once you have everything sprayed you might not be done. If you tilt a few models over you may see major areas that have not been covered, due to the angle of the spray. You can tip the models over or spray again, or if want the more time consuming route you can manually paint black in the parts the spray missed.
Plastic glue: If you don’t know it already, GW plastic glue + plastic parts makes for easy modeling. It dries as an incredibly strong bond, and gives you some working time while things are tacky. For plastic on plastic this is all you will ever need. If there is paint or glue on the plastic surface this will need to be scraped or cut off first.
Superglue: Plastic glue won’t work on metal, resin, or other materials, and doesn’t work as well on some of the cheaper plastics used by other miniature companies. This is where super glue (cyanoacrylate) comes in. Now if both surfaces are perfectly flat and clean, super glue by itself works like a charm. Follow the instructions and just put a little dab on one side. Super glue accelerants are out there to quicken set times but I don’t recommend them as I have heard that it makes the bond more brittle.
Superglue brands: Time to rate the glues! (these are in order).
1) Gorilla brand super glue (it has rubberized molecules in it for durability, and it’s goopier and stronger than normal superglue. The nozzle is a bit wide so you sometimes get more than you need ,but this stuff sets up quick and )
2) Loctite (Cheap, adheres well, dries strong)
3) Zap-a-gap (About as good as Loctite)
4) Krazy glue (If you get this brand try the kind with a brush in it, like nail polish)
5) Generic super glue (gets points for being cheap)
6) GW super glue (overpriced at about $8 a unit)
Gap filling and quick-setting superglue: In most modeling parts will not be perfectly, and clamping parts together with your fingers or a tool can be difficult or tedious. Sometimes you have to fill a large gap, or sometimes you need to play around with positioning. This is where glue tricks come in! Putting Tacky Glue on one side and superglue on the other makes gluing a lot easier. The bond is not 100% as strong as possible but it holds up well, and usually holds up better than superglue alone since it fills gaps and provides structure. Be careful not to get one kind of glue on the other kind of glue’s nozzle or you can get clogs. (Clogs can usually be cleaned with a paperclip or needle.) Tacky Glue is a brand of glue, it is similar to Elmer’s white glue but thicker and stickier when still wet. It is great for basing and terrain projects as well as gap filling, and cheap. You can also use mixed Green stuff (or Grey stuff) with small amounts of super glue, this can be tricky to work with but it fills any gap perfectly and if done right dries very strong. Make sure both sides of the join have some glue reach them as the epoxy putty may not be strong enough to hold all on its own, but since it conforms to shapes it makes tricky joins easier. Sometimes I will cover the bond with a small amount of superglue if I fell it is too weak otherwise. Super glue gels do not usually have much durability in my experience, and they also are not as economical.
White Glue: Tacky glue and Elmer’s glue were already mentioned… these are types of PVA glue, and all you need for most basing. Any time you want to cover a surface with flock, basic white glue is the way to go. I don’t water mine down as it is less runny and holds a bit better. The GW white glue is a joke, it is expensive and watery.
Hot glue: It’s bad for small model assembly, helpful for quick terrain assembly, and fun for crazy effects. Hot glue is dispensed from a “gun” that costs about 5 bucks. It can singe you so don’t get it on your skin or fragile surfaces. It dries translucent so if you are careful you can do some great slime effects, but it can be hard to work with. Hot glue often leaves little glue threads which have to be cleaned up.
Other glues: There are also many other adhesives out there, from two-part epoxy glue to industrial goop. I have tried many and haven’t found anything that beats the super glue and tacky glue / green stuff combination for filling gaps. I know the GW studio uses Liquid Nails for a lot of their terrain building, that is some strong stuff but only good for large projects.
Apoxie sculpt: Apoxie is a company that makes two-part modeling clay, in many different flavors. This is better suited for large projects like terrain and the basic shapes of large creatures. It comes in various sizes, I usually go for the 4 pound deal. I had the natural color before, which is ugly to look at but works like a charm. Last time I bought some I went for the black color, which sticks horribly to the hands when mixing (so use disposable gloves)
Air-dry foam clay: Most air dry clay sucks and will break on you, and is messy. I recently discovered air-dry foam clay, which can be had for about $5 at Lakeshore learning center and perhaps other places. It is very lightweight and won’t hold detail too well, but cheap as hell and not messy at all. Save it for terrain projects or basing, or adding gribbly tentacles to everything.
Safety Disclaimer: I used to be more risky and stupid with razor blades and cut my fingers from time to time. If this happens, rinse out the wound with water and then apply direct pressure with a paper towel or bathroom tissue. Disinfect the wound with Neosporin, or hand sanitizer / rubbing alcohol if you like the sting. Then get a band-aid and be more careful next time! Cut away from your fingers, not towards them. Don’t let kids use razors or other sharp tools.
Plastic clippers: The GW is expensive but worth it. It cuts clean on one side, and makes removing bits from sprues faster. You can use it to cut up models but it will mess up one side of the cut, so razor blades are usually better. Be careful not to use these on metal other than pewter or lead as it will degrade the blade, you can get a cheap wire cutter that will do a better job on tougher metals.
Pin vise: A pin vise is a simple tool that holds a drill bit. I use a cheap one that can hold multiple thicknesses of bits. They are great for drilling out gun barrels or adding bullet holes. To drill out a barrel, first make sure the barrel edge is flat and without mold lines. Prepare the hole by making a small nick with a blade in the exact center of the gun. Next, slowly rotate the drill bit against the nick, then stop and make sure you are on track. If you are off center then adjust, and you can try going in slowly from a slight angle, then stopping to check again. Once you have a hole centered that fits the diameter of the bit, then you can go in further. I usually start and stop the drilling from two to five times to make sure I am on track. It can take some practice before you get it down, but you can always practice on scraps of sprue to get warmed up. If you make a mistake, gentle razor blade cuts can even out the hole, and for a major mistake there is always green stuff.
Razor saw: Unless you are working on a conversion with large resin or metal models you will never need this.
Metal tools: Some of these are designed for cleaning teeth, some for clay, but it is good to have a variety of shapes on hand. Keep these tools slightly wet or thinly coated in oil / vaseline so they don’t stick. These are better for hard edges and inorganic shapes.
Improvised tools: Grab a few round point toothpicks (free from many restaurants), a needle, and anything else firm with a useful shape. You can also find stuff with an interesting texture and make a negative impression of that texture by gently pressing it into the clay.
You can choose to recess the magnets, drilling or carving a hole in the model and then putting the magnets in. This way is classy but more time consuming, and if the magnets are too small they may not hold up heavy pewter bits. When using bigger magnets and not recessing, sometimes I will use putty to make the magnet look more like a natural part of the model.