Monday, 30 May 2016

Tutorials I

I'm a sucker for tutorials. Especially step by step painting ones or sculpting videos. Even when I'm not up for painting at the time, I find them really relaxing to watch or read through. I spend quite a bit of time scouring the information superhighway looking for ones I haven't read before. Here's the latest bundle I've found.

Some of these are in other languages but you can use the google translate option. If it doesn't have a dedicated "Tutorial" section but I've still included it on the list it means they still do WIP and guide posts. Flick through!

Necron Scythe

I've ~ kindof ~ completed a model. Less completed, more painted to a point where I could say "It's finished" and then hide it in a box.

To help me enjoy painting more and paint more consistently I've been going into models and writing down specific things I want to achieve. I plan the paint scheme ahead of time and what technique I want to use/practice.

In this instance I was looking to brush up on my air brushing skills. It's been a long time since I've done it and I've got some really nice models I need to use it for. (I have a couple of Imperial Knights waiting, for example. Not models you want to use a brush on)

As mentioned in a previous post, I have a problem with patience, blockages and cleaning. Of the airbrush, I mean.

When painting this I made myself slow down a bit and clean out the airbrush whenever the flow started to change or it felt/sounded different. Theres a characteristic sound to paint that's flowing neatly and a distinct change when it's interfered with. Even though I was taking it apart and cleaning it out fairly frequently at the beginning, doing it properly meant I wasn't letting huge problems build up that required dedicated fixing. After a while, as I got used to using the kit again, the problems became less frequent and overall things sped up and became more fun.

I still had problems with the surface my paint was leaving behind. A problem on two fronts: paint wasn't sticking to my primer properly and wiping off the moment it brushed again something. I had to touch up all the edges and corners with thicker and thicker paint using a brush before I could take my finished photos. Second problem: graininess.

I dont know if you can tell in these photos but the base coat colour (A 2:1 mix of dark angels green and chaos black, thinned about 1:1 paint to vallejo airbrush thinner) was leaving behind a minutely speckled surface. The kind that needs stripping and redoing to fix properly. It happens because paint is drying en route to the model. Forms tiny dry spheres before meeting the surface and getting sealed into place.

As mentioned in my previous airbrushing post, this can be down to many factors. There's no real formula to stopping it happening because you can change each of these things in different ways to come up with a unique solution.

I changed a lot while I was working and ended up in the general situation of keeping the 1:1 paint to thinner ratio, a PSI ~ 12-20, and working a few inches from the surface. Keeping on top of the state of the tip/cap and stopping before blockages helped prevent paint drying or blobbing as well.

Moving on to the green elements and the glows the smoothness of the paint improved greatly. In fact, it was originally much better than you can see in the pictures above. I was trying to build up really thin layers while putting down the green blends and had a few incidents of pooling paint and creating tide lines/spider legs but nothing I couldn't fix.

I reached a point where I was really happy how those parts had come out, not least of all because I had found with very careful manipulation I could use my Iwata Neo to paint lines as thin as the dividing sections on the hull of the scythe.

To make it really pop I wanted to use a yellow glaze. Oh I thought the yellow glaze would look great!

Fuck the yellow glaze.

I used a brush to paint the games workshop glaze over the sections. It was fine while I doing it. I looked back half an hour later to see if everything had set to find that it had resolvated the lower layer of paints and then dried in all the edges, like I'd put a thick wash on too soon.

Partially my fault - I need to add more matt medium to the mixture when I'm using super thin layers because they keep lifting if I use a brush on them. Or just continue airbrushing over it. I'm flipping the bird at the glaze though. I put on a thin, careful layer. It ended up slipping about like a wash and ruining the smooth surface.

Overall though, good practice piece. Fixed a lot of problems. Sadly I just found the model unpleasant to paint on top of being ham handed about it. It will go into a foam case until I did it out and strip it in a couple of years, hopeful that I'll enjoy it this time.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Reviving and Repotting

I have lots of citadel paints from various generations. I even have some of their tall flip top pots from one of their first lines! I went to buy some more boxes to store my growing collection of paints in when it occured to me that some were old and probably, sadly, dead. I also decided that I hated the type of pots citadel paints come in - both for storage purposes and the fact they seem designed to dry paints out faster. Poor seals and large surface area on the paint inside is rubbish, and the new line of paints all separate quickly.

I bought a set of 17ml dropper bottles and tiny ball bearings to go in them. A number of beloved paints had to go in the bin; scaly green, hawk turquoise, boltgun metal. Luckily, more of them just needed a bit of TLC (aka some diluted matt medium and a vigorous stir) to revive them for pouring into dropper bottles and using once again. Envy me, for I have tentacle pink within my grasp!

I chose dropped bottles for two reasons. To make it easier to right down, copy and keep track of paint mix recipes, and because I've had much better luck with the shelf life of any paint that came in a dropper bottle. Oh, and topping up an airbrush is easier with a dropper - you dont need to pick up and dirty a brush.

And they take up far less space in my paint storage boxes than the original pots do. I can stack them four to a compartment whereas before I could only fit three in.

Here's how I did it - hopefully you'll try it to because I found it really helpful and much easier than I thought it would be!

What you need:

Paints in terrible flip top pots
Stirring sticks
Dropper bottles (Bottle, dropper insert, lid)
Painting medium (Mine is a 50% matt medium, 10% flow, 40 distilled water mix)
Label maker you bought 8 years ago from costco on a whim and are delighted to finally use

 Step One:

Check the state of your paint. If its a solid lump that you can't penetrate with your stirring stick, dig an incredibly small grave and build a scale coffin for it. If its chunky or grainy there is still hope.

This paint was separated and a little drier than it started but otherwise was in good condition. Pull the lid off. I do this with my teeth and it goes about as well as you can expect. My mouth tastes weird.

Step Two:

Stick your advanced stirring apparatus in there and mix the hell out of it. If your paint was drier or chunkier this will take longer. Add small amounts of your paint medium to bring it back up to scratch. It's better to add small amounts at a time and top up as you stir than to add a huge splurge in one go.

Before and after a good stir
Step Three:

Scrape the paint off the stick into the bottle then pour the contents from your paint pot into your new one. If it's a little think or chunky add some paint medium and whisk it up a bit again.

If too much pours in and the top gets blocked just tap the bottom on the table and the paint will fall through.

 Sometimes I pinch the bottle when I see a big splodge is going to fall in and block it off - when you release the pinch it sucks the paint in quickly.

Step Four:

Now the super fun step. Scrape as much paint as you can out of the pot and into the dropper bottle. Don't try and get all of it because it's not physically possible.

You can mix in some paint medium to dilute what's stuck to the sides but I try to do this as little as possible. I want to control how much I dilute my paint when I use it, not be constricted by how thin it is in the bottle.

This pic shows the point at which I generally stop. It amounts to a few drops of paint, even though it looks more.

Step Five:

Assemble your bottle! Throw in agitators if you want to, attach the dropper, screw on the lid and then use that label maker you never thought you'd find a purpose for!

To remix paints I started off using a paint brush but this was too time consuming - I had to keep cleaning it and lost a lot of paint on the actual handle of the brush that I then couldnt scoop off very well into the bottles. Switching to lolly pop sticks that I have lying around for scenery building was much better.

Chose ones that can fit inside the width of your dropped bottle and scrapping any excess paint off from the manic stirring becomes far easier. I'm never going to get every drop of paint across but the tiny bit of waste is worth the easier usage and not risking them drying up into hard coloured rocks like so many of my citadel paints have done.

I do a couple at a time when I take a break from other stuff. I have a LOT of these paints and I'm still getting them done quickly.

Word of warning: do a test pot first. I was very paranoid that my bottles wouldnt fit together quite right and they'd leak. I did one and left it lying on its side for a while just to make sure it wasnt going to pour out of a badly fitting lid. All of them have turned out perfectly but better safe than sorry!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Airbrush Practice

Sometimes when I airbrush I end up with the lovely smooth finish and blends the equipment is known for. Sometimes I end up with a stippled surface, tide lines, spider legs, chipping and portals to hell on my miniatures.

I never write down or pay enough attention to what I'm doing differently. Now I want to paint a bit more seriously and sell things on a more regular basis to keep my afloat while I finish uni, I want to streamline and improve my use of the airbrush.

There's many ways to tailor the output of your airbrush which is why you can use it to achieve so many different effects and styles of painting. And screw it up in infinitely more ways. Well, really you can do anything with a brush that you can do with an airbrush. The difference is in speed and ability required. But, if you're making hundreds of mistakes and constantly trying to fix or cover things you cancel out any time gained. I know this well.

In true turbonerd fashion I sat down and wrote out what I wanted to achieve with my airbrush and what my current problems were and find solutions for both sets. Kinda looks like a pro and cons list to owning an airbrush.

Aims/Pros to airbrush use:

Paint quickly.
Easy blends.
Sweet blends.
Sweet blends on large surfaces.
Paint a go faster stripe on dog before anyone can stop me.
Good opacity with fewer coats.
More economical paint usage.
I like the smell of vallejo air colours.
I probably shouldnt be sniffing them.
But the smell does not dissaude me.
Smells good, trust me.

The main selling point of the airbrush to the new user is its speed - it lays down colour, and more opaque layers of colour. Faster than brushwork will with the same thickness of paint. Obviously if you load a brush with unthinned paint and slop it on it will cover faster than an airbrush with much more thinned paint. But consistency the same across both, the airbrush is much faster.

Airbrush also lays down a more even, opaque coat for the same amount of paint compared to with a brush. I have never bothered looking into why - something about how it lays down the paint compared to pulling a brush across the surface.

Highlighting with airbrushing is also much easier. With a brush you have to apply them individually and think carefully about where they'd hit. With an airbrush you can aim where your light is coming from, spray paint, and see where it hits and misses. With careful angling it's not going to hit the places that light would not hit if it was coming from the same location as your airbrush is placed.

Blending is easier because you can simply build up translucent coats of colour, with more layers going away from the point at which your colours join. It's how I paint my screamers. I put down a solid basecoat across the whole thing with one colours, then make up thinned and translucent mixes of the paints I want to go over it. Then I spray one or two coats over where I want the colours to join, then progressively more layers moving away from it and towards the area I want to be opaque in the colour I'm using. Sometimes I will instead lay down two opaque coats that meet together and then take a translucent mix of one of the colours and make a smooth join. Depends how big the area is, how lazy I'm feeling and what phase the moon is in.

Now, these only apply if you are airbrushing correctly. Which I frequently am not.

The model I am currently practicing on - a necron boomerang - now has a grainy surface from where I put down the basecoat colour like a chump.

Along with getting grainy surfaces I frequently end up with paint spidering out - where too much (often very thin) paint hits the same surface area and ends up being blown outwards in a bunch of different directions. Tide lines are common, something that happens with brush work as well.

The latter two - spidering and tide rings are my own laziness and incompetence. I have a habit of leaving my airbrush when it clogs or the paint flow changes due to drying inside the end piece. I just up my pressure or move the brush closer etc. Eventually the blocks clear and WHOOSH suddenly I have very high paint flow very close to my model. I struggle to mix and prepare paint that doesnt dry at all on the inside and cause problems.

For ages when I first started airbrushing I would spend so much time disassembling the brush, cleaning it, and wasting paint by havng to do so in the middle of painting that it became a very frustrating experience. It carried over - even now when I only have to clean out and clean up once in the middle of painting during a session over multiple hours I get really annoyed and either stop or try to blast through it.

That is simply fixed by relaxing when it happens, and sorting it out the moment it happens. I'm gonna read up some more on mixing paints and preventing drying.

The first problem is the most difficult one I have. Not achieving a smooth surface with an airbrush is down to the paint being to dry when it hits the surface, or layering too quickly or solvents evaporating weirdly. There's numerous reasons it can happen and multiple factors that can cause each to happen, or combine to cause it.

Air pressure, distance from surface, type of paint, type of thinner, thinner: paint ratio, drying time, humidity, temperature, and more things I probably haven't come across.

Its a butt.

I've done some reading around to see what seasoned airbrush users have to say about how they get smooth coats and thus far the common factors seem to be:

As low PSI as possible.
A proper airbrush thinner because the solvents evaporate at a different rate than water or water mixes.
Letting it dry properly in between layers.
Being around 8cm from the surface sprayed.
60-70% humidity.
Clean, smooth needle tip.

The basic goal is not letting any of the paint start drying before it hits the surface. You want it to hit the surface, level and then dry. This is still super fast when done properly. But if even some of your paint it drying on the way to the surface you have tiny, tiny spheres of dry material laying down and then being covered by water layers and sealed in place. Hence grainy surface.

I'm going to do a bunch of test spraying and write down how I actually do each run through and what it looks like. Sometimes I have to take long breaks between painting and when I come back I completely forgot what point I got to. Its very frustrating having to do trial and error testing with the same piece of equipment every time I start again.

I can't control temperature or humidity of my working area but I have enough other factors to fiddle with that it wont matter.

Time to go paint stuff badly, I guess.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Dark Souls Project I

Unless you've been living under a rock you saw the Dark Souls miniatures kickstarter. Supposedly theres a game to be played there as well but all I saw was hundreds of beautiful miniatures made for a game series I love. I have... A LOT of these miniatures. I may have procured a ridiculous amount of the box sets, expansions and stand alone boss models through the kickstarter.

Its probably going to be a couple of years before I get my hands on these but I'm already preparing things. I want to reproduce the models in game looks as accurately as possible. I'm working on two steps to start with: collecting hi res glossy jpegs of all the in game models, and cataloging a bunch of awesome tutorials that pertain to painting the variety of materials of the monster collection.

Here's a list of what I'll be painting:


Dancer of the Boreal Valley
Ornstein and Smough
The Pursuer
Sir Alonne
Smelter Demon
Sif, Great Grey Wolf
Gaping Dragon
Black Dragon Kalameet
Guardian Dragon
Four Kings
Asylum Demon
Old Iron King
Last Giant
Manus, Father of the Abyss
Executioner's Chariot

Mini Bosses:

Frost Knight
Winged Knight

Hulking Hollow
Crossbow Hollow
Armoured Hollow
Fire Bomb Hollow
Silver Knight Archer
Silver Knight Swordsman
Silver Knight Lancer
Alonne Sword Knight
Alonne Knight Captains
Alonne Bow Knights
Ironclad Soldiers
Crystal Lizard
Plough Scarecrow
Shears Scarecrow
Demonic Foliage
Stone Guardian
Stone Knight
Mushroom Parent & Child
Player Characters:

Armour Sets:

Black Iron 
Black Knight
Gold Hemmed Black
Set of Favor

Armourer Dennis
Fencer Sharon
Kirk, Knight of Thorns
Maldron the Assassin
Maneater Mildred
Marvellous Chester
Melinda the Butcher
Oliver the Collector
Paladin Leeroy
Xanthous King Jeramiah

Eygon of Carim
Horace the Hushed
Lucatiel Mirrah
Ruined Aflis
Seigward of Catarina
Sellsword Luet
Sirris of the Sunless Realm
Sword Master Saber
Witch Beatrice
I have a lot of things to learn before this stuff turns up! 

With the Invader and Summons models, I'm caught between painting them as they appear in game (the red/black and white/grey appearances respectively) or painting them as they appear in their own worlds. 

Time to collect hundreds of pictures and tutorials. 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Photography Failures

For the first time ever, Ive painted some models that I really like and am actively proud of. And I'd love to show you them!

Unfortunately, unless you come to me and I furtively extend my palms towards you, tiny models balanced upon them, you wont get to see them. I am REALLY bad at photographing my miniatures accurately.

I think I'm almost there. I've spent the last few days flapping about with backgrounds, light tents, lights, flashes and a pair of white shorts - and I may have finally taken some accurate photos.

They look good on my screen - no idea what they'll look like on anyone elses.

"Surely this is good news?" I hear you ask. "Doesn't this render your opening statements pointless? You've worked it out!"

Yeah, guess who didnt write down any of the camera settings they used to get the decent photos out of the huge batch they took. I am clever.