Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Kaladrax the Undead Dragon Painting Project Part One: Putty Preparation

This blog post is a bit scatter brained because I get insomnia during the winter. Please enjoy my sleepless ramblings. I haven't bothered correcting the colouring on all the photos until I reach the stage until paint it involved, because it really doesn't matter until then. 

Fellow goon SpaceInvader was a lucky git and got in on the first Reaper Bones kickstarter. One of his mega models was Kaladrax, the undead. Since he doesn't have an airbrush, and I love painting things I never have to look at again once they are finished, I am painting up the huge beast. I think it's going to end up as a centre piece for DnD games.

When the kickstarter was running, they only had a sketch up for the model.

A very cool looking model. You can see in the bottom right they have included a little sorceress model which should give you an idea of the scale they planned. Something went a bit wrong in the translation and the model ended up being scaled differently as it headed into production. It ended up being... huge.

So far preparation has taken 6 weeks. And I don't mean 6 weeks of occasional attention, I mean I've wracked up well over a solid 24 hours of work on this thing just getting it to the stage where it can be primed. More than that, by quite a way. I don't want to give an actual number because it sounds unbelievable and more like I'm an idiot who doesn't know how to use a file, rather than this model is massive and required a lot of work. 

I started my work with the base, and I'll start the articles with it to. Here it is being massive next to my lovely hand. 

Although looking at it now the perspective doesn't show it off very well. It's either smaller or my hand is huge too. The face is the focal point of the piece but here's some other angles and details.

Honestly? The base is a pretty terrible sculpt. I had to do ALOT of work on it to make it presentable before I even started painting it. There are some really nice details on it: the broken bits of architecture and the statue head are cool individual pieces. But it is all linked by really mushy rocks and just... lumps. It doesn't really work as a coherent piece and feel very much like an after thought to the big ass dragon. Like someone said 'woops, gotta put this on something!'.

First up though was filling all the bubble holes and removing lots of mold lines. It wasn't too bad considering the size of the piece but did take over a week working on it each night to get it to a point I was happy with.

Here we are ready to start. I ended up switching to milliput grey-yellow because my above milliputs were old and dried out, and too hard to work with. Despite being a lower 'quality' I really like the yellow-grey milliput and find it easy to get everything done with. I haven't come across anything I can't do with it that I was doing with the superfine white so far, and it is much cheaper. I used milliput instead of greenstuff because I found it much, much easier to handle when filling and remolding, to remove excess, and once it was set I could carve and file it into shapes that were too fiddly to do while it was curing.

I actually doing know what I would want to use greenstuff for over milliput these days, but I'm sure I'll find better uses for it one day. For now when it comes to filling and fixing pieces I wouldn't touch anything but a milliput type putty. I do have the squadron putty up there too but for some reason it is in a toluene solvent. I have not found any use for it that is worth having toluene evaporating around me. Do not recommend thus far.

Now lots of the model surfaces had tiny pits where bubbles had burst at the top as it cured in the mold. Although it's a ruined base, I couldn't leave them as part of the damage. They very obviously looked like tiny holes in a miniature so I set about mixing up some putty and using my patented smoosh technique to fill everything.

I ALWAYS mix up far more milliput than I end up using. By quite a way.

For filling in holes I cut off a tiny sliver of putty and then roll it into a string. If you get a little box or block and roll the putty under it - back and forth - you will end up with a completely uniform cylinder. I've used a ruler and table in the following picture. Much better than doing it with your hands, it you ever need it. Notice my workspace has a piece of baking paper over it. Makes using any form of putty super easy. It doesnt stick - you can just peel it off it if gets squished down - and its a clean surface that your putty wont be picking up lots of crap from.

 Apparently the sun was exploding while I took these pictures. Photoshop doesn't have an auto correct for that.
I've just realised going through my pictures that I don't have any more on base preparation, just the dragon body. So let's switch across! Here's a quick view of all the parts, if you are curious:

When it came to the body of Kaladrax I felt far more like it was 'Collection of mold lines' and I was supposed to remove the bits of dragon in the way rather than the other way around. I do not know how you get FOUR MOLD LINES going down a 2 foot tail but I definitely know how you get rid of it now.

I sold my soul. That's how. Also I inhaled lots of plastic dust. I'm probably going to die before this gets finished. If you scanned my lungs all you would get it an image of them screaming. Screaming out dust.

But I'm supposed to be talking about filling things right now!

When I have the piece of putty on the tip of my scalpel I just use it to push it into the gap I'm filling. Kaladrax's body has a very visible seam running around one section where it has been glued together from two halves in the factory. It doesn't look like much but from experience I know it will annoy me when I'm trying to paint that area. I've seen some people who have pulled the model in to so that they can remove the flesh from between the ribs and make a completely skeletal dragon.

I just pat it in using the scalpel blade. With this material you should be extra careful not to nick the model - it's very easy to cut through. But scalpel blades are very flexible so you can smoosh away to your hearts content. 

When my heart is content with my amount of scalpel blade smooshing I move onto my tiny clay shapers. I use the conical ones for the most part, and apply pressure while rolling the shaper against the model. I do this against both edges so the putty ends up smoothing in and not making another ridge. I dip the shaper into water, dab most of it off, and repeat. Milliput is water soluble and this helps create an even finer blend at the edges.

 I have these:

They are adorable and very good. Size 0 is perfect for anything I've come across in mini's. I have some size 5's as well for when I splat stuff around on terrain pieces. For some reason the small ones are called colour shapers and the large ones clay shapers. Regardless of it you do any actual sculpting or not I recommend picking some of these up if you see them at a decent price. Very useful doing model preparation.

Finally I finish a section by taking a very slightly damp dry brush and just pushing it into the milliput and drawing it across in all direction. I don't do it hard enough to take out chunks of the putty, just as a final smoothing.  It's very quick to do but I find it really makes a difference in the final product. Once it's primed you can't tell where it's all been filled.

I do it in sections at a time so I don't risk the putty drying too much to mush about. If I end up with putting somewhere I don't want - accidentally filling in some detail for example - I just take a stiffer brush (like one of the new citadel drybrushes) and push the putty out by poking it bristles first. It comes out very easily and softly. Even if you leave some to cure by accident it's very easy to sand off.

There was a lot to do like this on the central body section. It took a few days and now Kaladrax looks like he has some kindof disease, but doesn't have any holes in his body. I guess that's a fair trade off.

In part two I will show you the completely filled body piece and explain how I fixed all the damage on the tail. Then I will explain how to get rid of the mold lines on the Bones material.

I did a lot of filling first because I knew I could file away the putty afterwards if it was in the way. That and I got rid of some very fiddly mold lines by completely smoothing them over with putty instead of wearing them down.

I made a little video of the whole process, thus invalidating the long time I spent writing this post!