Funny Things


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hop Idol: The Blagger's Guide to Painting

And now here is nonother than Von bringing you a nice painting tutorial and creating editing headaches abound for yours truly.

The Blagger's Guide To Painting

I'm not a man given to writing hobby tutorials. See, my hobby is in essence utilitarian; a practice concerned primarily with getting models built, painted and on the board, looking suitably colourful and personal but not by any stretch of the imagination being works of art. I don't tend to read tutorials because they're either overly simplistic exercises in particular techniques or overly technical pieces on how to use an airbrush to perfectly highlight red in seventeen layers, and I'm not married to the idea of buying an airbrush. What I always look for is the tutorial that's pitched somewhere in between, toward the ordinary geezer who just wants something that looks decent and doesn't take forever to do. As the erotic roleplayers on my WoW server always say, don't wait for things to come to you – bring your things to them. With that in mind, here's some advice on blagging it like a good 'un.

Boring technical stuff

For starters: prime with gesso. Gesso is amazing. Yes, you have to brush it on, and yes, that looks like it takes time; but if you're anything like me, you have to touch up your spray prime jobs with a paintbrush anyway, and then that has to dry before you can start. The gesso can be slapped on before bed and ready to paint over in the morning; it'll shrink to fit the surface of the miniature and it has a lovely toothy surface that takes paint very very well. I use Bob Ross' brand, largely because one big tube of that's cheaper than two little pots of anyone else's for the same amount of marvellous priming goop.

Also, prime grey. Black is great for metals and very forgiving but it eats light and obscures detail and flattens anything that isn't painstaking layered up. White is great for washes and brightness but distorts some colours and doesn't like metal and it's really obvious when you've missed a spot. Both require too much layering and basecoating for some things, and priming some areas black and some areas white is fussy and needlessly complicated.
Grey gesso is neither one thing nor the other. It's dark enough for metals to look good over, light enough not to deaden everything else, and it's dead easy to prep in a manner that suits any colour you like. Witness:

Oh, What-a-mess!



This stains the whole surface, picks out the details, and allows for corners to be cut later in the process. Basically, I looked for the fiddliest details on the model – those filigree bits on the armour – decided what colour I wanted them, and then stained the model so that they'd end up that colour and everything else would be painted over it, subtly tying the rest of the scheme together. For Kaya and Laris, I started with Citadel Scorched Brown and a drop of Vallejo Glaze Medium. That stuff is a godsend, by the way; I don't know where I'd be without it. Turns any paint into a perfect slap-on-over-grey stuff – well, I don't like to mess with inks and metallics too much, they're chemically weird.

 

Choose your own adventure
 
There are two ways to progress from here and which one I pick depends on how busy the model is, how crowded with little details.
For crowded models, I look for the 'insides' of the model – the recesses, the baseline, the things that you can't paint without having to reach past something. Do those first. Never come back to them. DO. THOSE. FIRST. Having to reach past something you've already painted in order to paint something else leads to mistakes and mistakes need correcting and that's frustrating and inefficient. 'Insides' are often quite fiddly – the flat surfaces on filigreed panels, for instance – and so you need to do them first while you're fresh. Trying to do them when you're tired and cross and just want the model to be DONE for gawd's sakes is a bad idea.



Kaya is quite fiddly, so I did all her armour plating at the start. For Laris, I opted for the other route; doing the messiest bit first. This technique emerged when I was still priming black and needed to do huge areas of plain metalwork while picking out the details for later stages. Before I did anything else, I'd drybrush the whole model with some metallic or other. I don't necessarily recommend that, but if you're going to drybrush or overbrush or wet blend or anything mucky like that, do that first – again, you don't want to be messing about with sloppy paint and quick brushwork when you've already meticulously done the armour plates right next to where your paint's going.






My general rule with techniques like wet blending (apply quite heavy highlight or shade to one small area at a time, then use a clean slightly damp brush to flick the edges of that highlight, smoothing it over the paint that's already there) is that if you have to convince yourself that the last stage has made a difference, you're done. With Laris, I achieved what I wanted to in four stages, blending dark and light greys up and down Stage four looks pretty much like stage three? Done.

A bit of what you fancy does you good

I'm not sure where these titles are coming from any more.
This is the stage where I add another colour to the scheme. Three colours is generally considered the Bare Minimum for painted-only tournaments in the UK, so I like to go the extra mile and add a fourth, just to put myself above those “prime black, dob one shoulderpad red, metal guns, done” bunko-artists and pretend I've made some sort of effort. For my Circle, I use red (I'm not sure about Laris' neckerchief thing, but there wasn't really anywhere else to use it...).




At this stage, the flat colours get a quick wash in an appropriate ink to give them some depth.
What happens next depends, again, on how I'm feeling. If there are large areas of the model still to be done – like Kaya's skin, hair and cloak – I'll do those next. If the model's ready for fine details and tidying up any really obvious errors – like Laris' ears not being painted, whoops – I'll do those instead. If I'm feeling a bit narky and want to do something messy that I don't have to concentrate on, I'll start doing bases.



With Laris, I did the teeth and tongue now, since I had the red paint out anyway, and since I wanted to do the teeth and the studs on his armour while my hands weren't too shaky. With Kaya, I was in a slightly more peevish mood (all that purple), so I did her cloak (nice, smooth and simple, just thinned-down black that practically highlighted itself, so I didn't bother doing anything else to it) and then started on her base.

Base over apex

I like a base that harmonises with the model above and the usual board below it to an extent. For the Circle that means dark browns and greens, to tie in with both the base glaze on the model and the murky muddy darkness of my swampy home terrain. The important thing about this stage is not to be careful. Your models represent soldiers, warriors born and true; they are engaged in battle and they are going to get mud on themselves at some point, so I flick the base colours casually upward to stain shoes, trailing cloaks and dragging knuckles. Is this an excuse for my sloppy basing or a careful piece of simulationism? You decide, blaggers.




Fiddly bits

While I'm waiting for the base colours of the base to dry, I go back in to finish off any fine details. Usually, slopping Charadon Granite about settles me down a bit and I can mess about with faces and hair mixes and stuff. Again, I do skin and hair and edge highlights on weapons in as many layers as it takes for me to stop noticing the difference after I've done one; for Kaya, that was three. Base, highlight, wash, done. Sometimes I'll be brave and do another highlight just to bring cheekbones and things back out.



Of course, sometimes the paintbrush will slip while painting bold ginger hair and you'll have to go back and either lightly scrape off the layers or paint over them. Kaya's face was so delicate that I figured a scrape would be better than repriming; as a result, my Kaya now has something of a skin condition. I put it down to living in the woods, miles away from the nearest moisturiser, which I suspect Morvahna probably hogs anyway. She looks the type.

Back to basing

Once the fiddly bits are out of the way, it's time to add stuff to the base. This might seem like fuss and effort, but look at it this way. A boring base with only one thing done to it makes the miniature look flat and tired and, more crucially to our purposes, makes it obvious that you weren't really trying. Blagging isn't just about phoning it in – it's about hiding the extent to which you've phoned it in. You have your PVA glue out anyway, so go nuts and put a couple of different bits on there. Even Blood Bowl teams can have flock and static grass...
I did go a bit mad with the Circle bases, sticking some mixture of expanded polystyrene rocks, broom bristles, green flock and static grass on there, in some formation that looks vaguely like it could happen in an actual bog. Warbeasts, character solos, and anything on a big base will be getting this treatment. Ordinary grunts have to make do with mossy flock and grassy hummocks and a murky watery green stuff around them.



There you have it. My models are not going to win Best Painted any time soon, but they're done, and they're done fast – I painted Kaya in a couple of hours, in between stages on my Pureblood, and Laris took a little bit longer as his blends had to dry for a bit. For me, a model has three chances to impress; on its own, amongst its unit, or amongst its army. Kaya and Laris have unusual choices (red hair, white fur, scenic bases) that make them stand out among the army and they're different enough from each other that they stand out among the battlegroup (the 'unit' equivalent here). Pick 'em up and look at 'em on their own and they're not all that, but two out of three will do very nicely for me – especially when I can look down at the end of the day and think “ready to play”, and not “well, this unit should be ready by Christmas.”
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