Saturday 28 December 2013

WIP Necron Scarabs

This post should probably be titled 'ready for paint' rather than work in progress, as they are not yet undercoated, but I had great fun putting these guys on some rubble bases with the sounds of scampering claws and images of swarms of these guys overwhelming flesh and iron alike in my mind as I prized super glued fingers apart.

I added a base or two on top of the scarabs included in the Necron Megaforce using green stuff and some Instant Mold to make a more usable sized unit, and kept things minimal though the addition of a dead Space Marine from the Badlands basing kit by GW (woefully overpriced rubbish, too bad to even review) adds a focal point amongst the rocks and gravel. For now it's off to the model shop for some more paint!

On a side note I have been bitten by the 'clip and glue' assembly bug so the paint brushes are down for the time being. I always try to seize any opportunity to work on something I'm excited by in the hobby rather than save it for a rainy day (usually when the moment has already passed), and as we speak a Blood Angels Predator and the 'Barge' model from the Necron Megaforce are currently in bits on the work bench. I am hoping to carry this through into the New Year and tidy up the unassembled pile in the cupboard!

Have a great New Year everyone, thanks for following along with my first full year of blogging!

Sunday 15 December 2013

Winter Painting Project

Well it's safe to say I'm suffering a little Yuletide burnout after the three month Know No Fear diorama, and have spent the last week or two playing Day of Defeat non-stop in my spare time instead of painting my newly finished Mephiston model. I wasn't happy with my initial results when I did pick up the brush and decided to change my painting direction from single, or small numbers of miniatures, toward something that's been simmering in the background for many months.

Allied models from the "Day of Defeat" computer game. Inspiring poses!

One goal I have never achieved in my war-gaming history is to finish an army. Same paint scheme, same basing, similar paint style for all the models. I have always been side-tracked due to apparent time constraints (read: distractions), rules changes affecting model selection, or more recently the allies rules for Warhammer 40,000 tricking me into starting many small armies rather than finishing one coherent group. Earlier in the year I picked up the "Necron Megaforce" after seeing the great work being done as part of the Tale of Painters Megaforce painting challenge. These guys started their challenge early in 2013 and have nearly run out of models to paint!

I started testing out paint schemes back in July, and the final test model for this idea you can see on the left. Smooth blends, bright colours that work well on the gaming table, and easy to reproduce without too many fancy techniques. Unfortunately it took more than three hours, not lending itself well to army wide use without the need for months of distraction free painting time (not my forte). So I went the complete opposite, which you can see in the middle. Two tone, simple paint scheme and less than half the time of its predecessor. When viewed from the front it was sufficient, but became quite bland when viewed from behind (the position I will be looking at when using them!).

This is where the third model you can see above comes in. Simplifying the greens but expanding the base grey palette using some new Citadel Technical Paints (reviewed at Tale of Painters no less!) bring the model alive and make it just as pleasing to view from behind as the front. The weathering also means I can be a less concerned about the smooth transitions on the first few coats of paint, and can hide any problem areas that would otherwise be a hassle. I have about six of these guys half finished, and have begun work on a larger model, to which this paint scheme lends itself just as well as the small figures.

Necron "Megaforce" (plus a few extras).

Ultimately this project is about discipline, eliminating distractions, and maintaining consistency across a number of units, all skills I need to develop. As I am aiming to have the army looking good as a whole I will be less focused on perfecting individual models, something which has stalled my progress and enthusiasm in the past. The additional benefit of having never fielded Necrons will also benefit my gaming skills as I develop new tactics and learn the inner workings of an army I have been decimated by in the past. There's also nothing cooler than an army of Terminator like robots!

There's plenty of painting to do before the first game, so wish me luck!

Sunday 1 December 2013

Lord Of Death #2

This guy has been waiting patiently in the corner for some legs for two weeks now, and I finally made the executive decision to scrap the half finished sculpted green stuff legs for some finecast replacements from a unused (since 6th Edition launched) Chaplain. These add the desired height, come with some bonus skulls, and the model isn't actually as top heavy as I thought once a penny was glued to the base.

I also re-modelled and magnetised the wings and jump pack for easy storage, and found a nice power sword from the bits box to go with the chaos plasma pistol arm. Next up will be the icon on the left shoulder pad to go with the skull on the right and a soon to be sculpted skull for the chest. I spent about an hour pushing the strands of hair around today, and I am happy with how it came out, some bits look really realistic while others look a  bit too braided and out of place. It should all come together nicely once painted, especially the rough looking wing/jump pack green stuff area.

Sunday 24 November 2013

(Festive) Helmets of Heresy

The title of this post was originally "Christmas at Heaven's Teeth", but I managed to turn our annual Christmas card craft session into a Horus Heresy related post, such was the volume of excess linoleum I purchased for the original task. After a few failed attempts (where I forgot that lino-cuts are reversed when you print them!) all was well and the table was overflowing with holly, bells and bauble related printed cards.

With my significant other distracted with the serious business of writing the actual cards (I am now behind roughly 25-2), I took the time to make a few stencils of 31st Millennium Space Marine helmets, images which I have been collecting for years and storing away for future reference. While a full army of these guys could take me 1-2 years, it was amazing to be able to get these ideas down on paper in a matter of hours!

Naturally the only paint available was seasonal green and red, and the thought of brown (the two mixed) was not so palatable. So I embraced the festive spirit and proceeded with some not-so-grim-dark prints. With the help of a scanner and a free photoshop program called GIMP, I was able to create a custom banner to celebrate the festive season. I'm sure the (previously displayed) servo skulls are enjoying some delicious egg nogg during their well earned holiday, and I hope you do as well.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Sculpting Clay "Mini-Review"

While progress continues slowly on my Mephiston model (green stuff takes a while to set, and I have learnt the hard way not to attempt too much at once due to clumsy-finger-syndrome), I am looking at other ways to sculpt from 'scratch'. A recent dinner outing yielded an amusing statement where a restaurant owner was proud of it's "scratch kitchen" (where every menu item was made on premises), and I hope to soon be the proud owner of a "scratch model", where instead of kit-bashing or converting, the whole model is made from putty.

Fimo is an old favourite of mine, having been used by an old family friend to make amazingly coloured toys and decorations which I remember vividly from my childhood. Unfortunately I haven't had the same luck in reproducing intricate details and have instead used it for basing material and other failed experiments. It is quite resistant to precise sculpting, but is less brittle once baked, making it ideal for toys models requiring a little more resistance to clumsy handling.

Sculpey (I have no idea what III refers to) is another product easily available at many hobby and craft stores, and as a competitor to Fimo I never really knew the difference until I tried it myself. It is a lot 'softer', and retains details very precisely to the point where a small slip of the hand can cause big headaches to re-sculpt. It also bakes firmer and more brittle, requiring a firm armature to retain strength.

This massive lump of clay was a recent discovery of mine, and out of stock at my local craft store for as long as I can remember. A side trip to pick up Christmas craft supplies led to a rather expensive addition to the day's shopping trip. While the other two are designed for 'casual' sculpting (art classes and the like, though many of my favourite sculpters still swear by Fimo or Sculpey), Super Sculpey is ideal for both detail work and strength once baked. This particular product retails nearly four times the others at packet face value, but the amount of putty supplied (which unlike some two part modelling clay I have encountered) will not set or change state until baked. This is also a double bonus as I tend to waste a lot of green stuff when mixing together too much!

Top-Bottom: Fimo, Super Sculpey, Sculpey

So, on to the comparison test. As you can see from the photo above, Fimo (top) tends to hold a its original shape, in this case no matter how I worked the wing design into it the form sprung back to the "squished ball" shape. Pushing in to one edge caused the other half to swell, then the two halves evened when pressure was released. Contrast this with the Sculpey (bottom), whose shape retained all strokes of the tool, even those that were not desirable! Pushing more firmly just yielded deeper recesses, and unlike the Fimo I could push through all the way to the table if I wasn't careful. The Super Sculpey lived up to its name, providing great levels of detail while not melting away from the tool and requiring re-sculpting of other less deep details.

After baking (the Fimo taking longer than the other two), application of a file and drill showed the difference in the three clays. Whilst the Fimo (top) retained nearly all detail after aggressive filing, and required firm drilling force, the Sculpey (bottom) crumbled away as the drill bit broke through the piece, and filling quickly removed the details. The Super Sculpey (centre) provided a good balance between the two, and was able to be filed easily without crumbling as the drill bit was worked through the piece.

To give a better understanding of the comparative brittle nature of the Sculpey (bottom), here we can see the Fimo (top) bending rather than breaking, and after the two wings tips have touched the form bends back to nearly flat again. The Sculpey (bottom) crumbled easily, small flecks of baked clay just visible where the two halves separated. Once again the 'winner' is Super Sculpey (centre) which resisted mild force and broke neatly in two at the narrowest point. I would assume from this test that larger sections could be easily re-glued should the need arise.

So where does this leave us? My own brief testing of these products finds the Super Sculpey to be ideal for the scale model or war gaming enthusiast, but personal preference may dictate that finer detail (Sculpey) or more robust final product (Fimo) is desirable, so each to their own. Do these products spell the end of "Green Stuff"and similar two-part products? No, for two reasons. Firstly it is nearly impossible to convert or make add-on parts for existing plastic models using baking clay as the model would melt (believe me, I've tried it!). Secondly, due to the nature of these clays an armature is required to give the basic form and provide strength for the final model. How will I be going about making these? With wire and two part modelling putty (which hopefully doesn't pose any dangerous-chemical related problems being baked under the clay, but no need to sniff the oven eh?).

What I am mainly hoping to gain from the use of Super Sculpey is time. Whereas Green Stuff requires a lot of pre-planning and preparation of one or more small projects (or parts of) to be attempted before it 'cures', baking clay can be worked on over a number of evenings before being set hard in the oven. I have thrown a lot of near-finished models in the scrap heap because I have forgotten to add a detail here or there (sometimes even the wrong number of fingers!), all of which can be easily rechecked or re-worked with un-baked Super Sculpey without wasting time or modelling clay in the process. Here's hoping anyway!

Monday 11 November 2013

Photography Space MkII

After a brief chat with Darren of Metal Miniatures and Strategies Games & Hobbies fame, I have made a few adjustments to my very simple photography setup. I had mentioned to him I was getting better photos from my mobile device than from my point and click camera, and he asked about lighting sources and camera set up, to which I had to admit "sunshine" and "hold it steady" were my solutions!

My previous set up, also using the kitchen lamp as a light source.

My photography makeover started with a "daylight bulb" and new desk lamp, both of which were acquired rather inexpensively from a hardware store. The biggest confusion was the new (to me) option of LED lamps rather than filament or cathode tube/fluorescent bulb. At nearly twice the price and in confusingly rated white balance (being either to yellow or too blue) I stuck with the bulb which actually said "daylight" on the packet!


Secondary to this was the addition of a diffusing screen (baking paper) across the bulb, and mildly reflective surfaces to partially illuminate the sides and underneath of the model. Both of these additions are to reduce the sharpness of shadows, especially as the camera angle and light source are at quite different angles. The second brilliant tip from Darren was eliminating shake by using a tripod, or by propping the camera and setting a delay for the shot, rather than relying on the 'anti-shake' function. Simple but effective!

So far so good? I am still testing some camera settings, light angles and different backgrounds but so far the results are promising, and with winter setting in the addition of a great painting lamp is brilliant (Also still in the testing phase is my Necron paint scheme, but more on that later). This week's post has been a very basic update regarding my photography setup, and if I have left you wanting more then I highly recommend you check out the following links:

Bell of Lost Souls: Tips for miniature photography

Massive Vodoo: How do I take good photos of my miniatures (with an SLR)?

Saturday 2 November 2013

Lord Of Death #1

I spent this afternoon cutting up and re-pinning a Chaos Space Marine test model from my recently completed diorama. With the addition of some pegasus wings he is soon to become my Mephiston model for my Blood Angels force. With the appearance of Lascannon wielding Centurions in my opponent's army, my stand in Librarian model has been having a rough time getting across the board alive. Hopefully this new model will bring some luck in the cover save rolling department!

Saturday 26 October 2013


After a wonderful sunny day spent shuffling my feet through all the colourful leaves of autumn to the model shop, I was rewarded with a couple of quite humbling medals in a local painting competition. Not only did my diorama place first in its own category, it also took the honour of customer favourite (aided by a completely unsolicited visit from my grandmother in law no less). I also placed first in the science fiction large model category with my Leman Russ. Both models faced stiff competition from modellers with greater technical ability, bolder eye catching colour schemes, more intricate detailing and smoother blending, but I feel I acheived consistency across all areas and managed to convey my ideas without spending every waking moment painting. A deadline certainly gets things done!

I was also fortunate enough to touch base with a fellow Vancouver blogger, Kelly of Sable and Spray fame. His highly detailed 2012 diorama entry depicting a Space Marine Terminator being stalked by Genestealer really inspired my to try my hand at weathering, and he had some great tips of his own to share using various brush and spray on sealers to change the way washes and inks flow across models, as well as a few disaster tales involving detergent and foaming paint! Not that any of these problems showed on his eye wateringly beautiful Sisters of Battle models, which took first place in the science fiction squad category. Congratulations!

It's nearly one year since I started this blog, and I can't quite believe how much I've accomplished. A big thank you to Strategies Games & Hobbies for fostering the painting community here in Vancouver, and for hosting many games of 40k which would have no hope of fitting on the dinning room table at home. I am just starting on assembly of my Necrons so as to take a break from painting, and I hope this will be the first army I actually ''finish" using the one paint and basing scheme. Here's to not getting side-tracked!

Friday 18 October 2013

Know No Fear Diorama (Completed)

"Guilliman pushes Thiel aside and propels himself towards the Word Bearers. His armoured feet bite into the hullskin as he gains traction. He seems vast, like a titan. Not an engine of Mars. A titan of Myth." 

"His head is bare. Impossible. His flesh is bleached with cold. His mouth opens in a silent scream as he smashes into them. ...Guilliman twists and punches his head off. Clean off. Head and helm as one, tumbling away like a ball, trailing beads of blood."

- Know No Fear, Dan Abnett (2012)

This was a really fun project bringing a "zero gravity" concept to life, taken from the cover of Dan Abnett's Know No Fear Horus Heresy novel. The model was a winning entry at Strategies Games Hobbies in Vancouver for their 2013 Painting Competition in the diorama category. It also took home customer favourite model, and was a great confidence booster for many future painting projects. I was experimenting with glazes at the time, and really enjoyed shading with different mixes of primary glazes to darken the model, rather than adding black or grey to existing layered colours.

You can vote for this model over at Cool Mini or Not.

You can see all posts relating to this project by clicking on the "Know No Fear"tag, or on this link.

Saturday 12 October 2013

The Avenging Son (Know No Fear Diorama #11)

This week I have been diving into Dan Abnett's latest novel (and follow up to Know No FearThe Unremembered Empire, which details Roboute Guilliman's actions in the years after the battle of Calth. In it he is cut off from the Emperor by the warp and seeks to build his own Imperial domain in the eastern fringes. It is fitting then that I can share with you my near finished model of Roboute for my diorama.

(click for a larger picture)

Using the same palette as the injured Ultramarine, I extended the highlighted areas by including more gray and white before glazing back down to the base colour. Continuing through the glazes I added a little red, green and then brown/black washes all the way to black in the shadows. As he will be positioned on the base of the ship's hull I added more reflective highlights than the models floating in space.

The gold was painted entirely with browns and cream colours before being glazed with yellow, then re-highlighted along the edges. I have taken to mixing a lot of differing colours then tinting them with glazes so a list of exact colours used wouldn't be very descriptive. I drew a lot of my inspiration for this style from James Wappel, though I am still very new to glazes.

I am quite happy with how he turned out, though often I was kicking myself for not adding extra detail during the construction phase, leaving large areas which required smooth colour transition. I am on the fence regarding freehand details, and as with the other models I will see how the whole scene looks before adding any small details.

Apologies for the blurry photo! I spent an evening on his face, which ended up having a little bit too much contrast for my liking, but the teeth and eye details were worth the extra time spent cross eyed with my tongue poking out. The hair is actually a noticeably different colour than in the photos. I have left the diorama base to the end and I'm sure I will be seeing everything in gray scale by the time I'm done!

You can see construction of this model here.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Book Review: How to Build Dioramas

After a road trip and hobby-free long weekend spent in Portland, Oregon, I came away with a few new paints and models (zero sales tax!) and a used book or two from a dark corner of the very large Powell's Books. Of particular note was a title by Sheperd Paine titled How to Build Dioramas: Aircraft, Armour, Ship and Figure Models.

With my Know No Fear Diorama in full swing I was keen to learn diorama modelling techniques from the perspective of a military modeller, and a quick flick through revealed many gems, both from a design, preparation and execution perspective. The inner sleeve detailed some of the author's exploits from over 40 years ago, and this edition was reprinted in 2000, but I found over 90% of the subject material was applicable to any diorama whether it be historical, fantasy or science fiction.

Starting with the basics, from setting a "scene that tells a story" to "the skills you'll need", Paine goes to great lengths to ensure you get the best from every scene you create, from positioning of the models, as above, to directing the viewer's eyes by facing the models in the same direction or toward points of interest. There are numerous example dioramas throughout the book, each taken from a historical perspective or reference, through planning, models placement to final painting and finishing touches, providing great re-readability and examples of techniques not necessarily covered in more general chapters.

Given weathering has been a particular interest of mine lately, I found an entire chapter devoted to this topic to be first on my 'must read' list once I arrived home. From washes, dry-brushing, masking and air brush techniques to specific methods for aircraft, tanks and ships, I now have near endless ideas for future projects, for both diorama creation and general modelling. Working primarily with oils, Pain also devotes a few paragraphs to acrylics noting "applying a series of carefully controlled glazes" to be the best method, rather than blending, when shading. Another tie in with some of my recent experiments!

I won't share too much of the book with you, but above you can see another of the author's highlighted points showing a great tip for all painters. You may already be doing this sub-consciously, but it's nice to remember the distance most viewers will be looking at your model (arm's length) and the distance most critics will be looking (up close!). It has been certainly beneficial to take a step back and look at the whole model on my panting desk, rather than fuss over the particular details of a weapon or logo. It goes without saying that there are many more of these great tips in every chapter.

Toward the end of the book there is an interesting chapter on the use of shadow boxes, which force both perspective and light source upon the viewer. Having never contemplated the use of a shadow box myself, I was even more enthralled by the use of mirrors to create a ghostly effect seen above in a Shakespearean diorama. It certainly elevates the diorama from tabletop or display cabinet fancy to a quite presentable art installation hanging on a wall or set into a shelf. Neat stuff.

Overall this is a great addition to my growing library, and a great way to introduce some fresh techniques and perspective to my usually single source reference material. After a refreshing mini break from the hobby, it's back to the 31st Millennium next week for some updates to my Know No Fear Diorama. Thanks for dropping by!

Friday 27 September 2013

'tis but a flesh wound! (Know No Fear Diorama #10)

This week I switched teams and tackled painting Ultramarines for the first time. The new Citadel Paint range confused me somewhat as the old 'Ultramarines Blue' is not the new 'Macragge Blue' and so on. In the end I mixed up a base coat using a 'Mordian Blue' with a little 'Fenrisian Grey' mixed in, highlighted up with 'Russ Grey'and 'Ulthuan Grey' before shading down with the usual glazes from Citadel and Vallejo.

As always, you can click for a larger version. I cropped a couple of photos but the extreme zoom showed a multitude of sins! I expect (am hoping) the viewer won't peer too closely at individual models in a diorama. The red worked very well against the blue, feeling more vibrant as compared to the Word Bearer model, despite the same colours being used. In future I may try to alter the mix on contrasting colours, but that's a little beyond the scope of this particular project.

Around the back we can see a little more highlighting to represent reflections of the ship's hull catching the armour and especially the blood. I again shaded using glazes and washes all the way to black, though I kept the 'gold' more on the brown side for personal taste.

At an angle we can really see the blood shooting out of the chest, which once painted up is quite gruesome! The original model from the artwork (pictured below) had a lot brighter and sharper highlights, but I don't think I could pull it off without looking extremely washed out or looking very pastel (and the Word Bearers would end up pink to match!)

Saturday 21 September 2013

Don't lose your head! (Know No Fear Diorama #9)

Things have been rolling along nicely with the painting of my Know No Fear diorama, with both Word Bearers now finished bar some small details and possible freehand work. I attempted a little of this on the shoulder of the Word Bearer below and wasn't too happy with it so I wiped it clean and applied a quick glaze to even the colour for the photos, hence the patchiness of the right shoulder.

My camera has a hard time evening the colours between photographs, and I am not a photoshop wizz, so the base reds a closer to the next photo in depth, somehow the shot above came out a little too saturated. I have attempted to make a distinction between the blood and armour colours by highlighting the armour with grays, and the blood with orange, and then glazing the blood to give it a reflective surface.

I have again used glazes to slowly darken the shadows, from red to maroon, browns and blacks, even using black paint on the darkest areas. I probably should have done the (yet to be started) freehand prior to glazing as it may be difficult to match the transitions. My plan is to assemble the full scene before adding details where there are too many flat areas.

Finally, I have a shot which almost matches the cover art in angle, and with a little imagination you can almost picture Roboute Guilliman's fist passing through the space formerly occupied by the conjoined torso and head of the Word Bearer. This week's challenge is matching the light/dark contrast on the Ultramarines using blue, a colour I am not very experienced with. Wish me luck!

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Bearer of the Word (Know No Fear Diorama #8)

This week I finally thrashed out the final colours for the Word Bearers in my Know No Fear Diorama. After a couple of false starts with metallics, I stuck with the flat colours to simulate the harsh lighting, rather than relying on the metallics to catch the light at the right angle. I want to be able to peer in and around the finished model without the reflections changing. I have a real problem with the phrase "non metallic metal" but I guess this is what I am doing, especially on the boltgun. Enough babble, here are the pics:

As a reference, here is the same model with silvery metallic edging along the boltgun. Not only does it pick up the less-than-smooth edging of the weapon, the 'intensity' of reflections changes as you move your head. A little bit of visualisation required this week, but I hope I am explaining it well enough!

I have had a great time using my new glazes to make the colours and transitions from light to dark appear 'even', transitioning to dark washes on the edges and a little blue glaze to keep things 'cold' and spacey! Instead of using orange to highlight the red I stuck with gray, working from a very pink basecoat then glazing down to red. As another visual aid, here is the basecoat before glazing on the next Word Bearer:

I'm starting to really enjoy this project now there's some colour involved! See you next time.