Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Programming Note

This week I'm going to redecorate the blog. Unfortunately Blogger's preview tool, which is supposed to test changes before they go live, doesn't work for me. There's undoubtedly a solution, but just in case I don't find it, please forgive the odd layouts that pop up while I figure things out.

Update: Nope. Didn't find it. Put on your goggles. It's gonna get ugly.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Arrer Boyz Conversions

In one corner of my shelf of shame, there used to be several sprues of Ork Arrer Boyz from a Warhammer Fantasy Battles boxed set. They were older models, with less detail than Games Workshop's current work and they were fixed in a fairly limited number of positions. On their own, they were actually kind of ugly, but they were a great start for 40K conversions.

Before I could build them up, I had to cut them down. I started with the quiver, a huge lump of plastic molded to the backside of every model. They didn't really fit in a science fiction army (or at least they didn't fit in my science fiction army). But they were so large that a little care was necessary to remove them safely without damaging the models or my fingers.

I started by grinding off most of the plastic with a benchtop belt sander. You could probably do the same thing with a Dremel and a grinding bit, but it would take steadier hands than mine. Instead of holding one the tool in one hand and the model in the other, I could hold the model with both hands while the belt sander held itself steady. That made it much easier to deal with the models' odd angles. Once most of the quiver was gone, I switched to a hobby knife to clean up the details.

with enough time and care, the new surface could be nearly perfect. But I'd rather cover up a few errors with bitz from the Ork sprues. Here are a few examples from my previous unit of Slugga Boyz.

Once that's done, it was just a matter of trimming off the arms (or hands) with a hobby knife and replacing them with 40K accessories. Thank you, Games Workshop, for including a full set of Slugga and Shoota arms in every box of Ork boyz! But if you don't have the correct arms laying around, you can always trade for more or find extras on ebay.

Unlike normal 40K Ork models, the Arrer Boyz all lean pretty heavily to one side or the other. that leads to some pretty dynamic poses, especially if you mix and match the existing arms and the new ones. Here are a few of my favorite conversions from this unit of Shoota Boyz:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Very Messy Orks, Pt. 03

The first mob of Slugga Boyz is done! 30 models down, 120 to go.

This was my first try applying and weathering waterslide transfers. You can see them here, on the rokkit launchers and power klaw.

I have mixed feelings about these models. The decals blend in very well with the finished model but the weathering feels overdone. There are so many scratches and rust spots, that they overwhelm the detail. In the future, I'd like to be a little more discerning.

I also should rinse and reload my brush a little more often, especially when drybrushing. There's a point where the paint is nearly dry. It still sticks to the model, but it comes off the brush in ragged clumps. On a two dimensional surface, like a canvas or board, the result looks a lot like sandpaper. On a model, it clogs up the detail, instead of bringing out the edges.

Although they're not perfect, these models work well enough that I don't think I'll go back and fix them. The errors aren't glaring, and I still have more than 100 models to perfect my approach.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Very Messy Orks, Pt. 02

Last week I finished 14 more messy Orks, raising my total to 26. That's a full unit, minus the Nob and the three special weapons (guess what I'm doing week?). There's something very satisfying about setting out all of your finished work on a project and saying "I did this!" Even if there's still a long way to go, looking at what you've finished is great motivation to keep going.

Painting these is so much fun! They're relaxed, loose and very forgiving. If I want to worry over the details, I can. But they look very respectable even with a laid-back, painterly (aka "showing my brush strokes") approach. And, with very little extra effort, every one is an individual.

In this group, I took a few steps to speed up the process.The brown, yellow and red areas now only get one level of highlighting before I apply a wash. The skin still gets two-level highlights though. The face and hands are more important than anything else. I spent a little extra time on the metals, adding a second, rust-colored wash and drybrushing in some bright silver highlights. But these still went much faster than the first batch. I'm now at about 45 minutes per model.

Next up: a Nob and three Rokkit Launchas.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Right Tools: Technical Pens

I'm a very "painterly" illustrator. When I use a brush, I like to make lots of short, quick, overlapping strokes. Each one stands out, giving the finished product a distinct texture.

To many people this texture is a good thing. It makes the work look creative, spontaneous and artistic. But it also means I can't paint a straight line to save my life. It's nearly impossible freehand, and brush bristles are too floppy to use a straightedge or template. Plus, because brushed lines get wider or narrower as you apply or release pressure, the line weight is nearly uncontrollable. That's just on a flat, 2-dimensional surface. It's even tougher on the curved body of a model.

Fortunately, there are tools to make the task easier. Disposable technical pens are among my favorites.

The same things that make disposable technical pens useful to architects, illustrators and draftsmen make them useful for miniature painters too:
  • Uniform line weight - No matter how hard you press the line never gets wider or narrower (within reason. It is possible to destroy the tip if you press hard enough). Pens come in several different thicknesses, usually expressed as a fraction of an inch or a fraction of a millimeter (it varies by the brand). The pens in the picture above are .01 and .03 inches wide. My favorite two widths for miniature painting are .01 and .005 inches.
  • Edge-friendly - Because ink only flows out of the very tips of these pens, you can press them up against the edge of a ruler (or any other hard edge, like the edge of an armor plate or the ridge that runs around a Space Marine's shoulder pad) without worrying that the ink will bleed onto the wrong surface.
  • Waterproof - Not all pens are waterproof, but many of them are. Just look for the appropriate label.
  • Fade-resistant - The ink should last just as long as the paint you apply with a brush. Most technical pens are archival, but be sure to look for the label.
  • Archival - The ink won't react and discolor other paints. You can also paint over the ink without it bleeding through If you've ever had a graphite pencil sketch ruin a light-colored painting, you know how important this can be. Again, look for pens that are labeled "archival".
So far, I've found at 5 great uses for technical pens. An experienced or creative painter can probably find many more.
  • A .005 inch pen is great for tiny lettering lettering and freehand line work.
  • The same pen is also useful for sketching out freehand details before you start.
  • With a flexible plastic template you can trace perfect circles, squares or triangles directly onto your model. Or you can use the edge of that template to trace straight lines.
  • A .005 or .01 inch pen also woks well for tracing the edges of armor plates or any other raised or recessed detail.
  • A quick touch with the tip of a .005 inch pen draws a beautiful pupil in the tiny eyes of a model. If a simple touch doesn't deposit enough ink, try touching the model and twisting the tip back and forth a few degrees.
For $20-30, you can also buy refillable metal-tipped technical pens. They require a good deal of maintenance, cleaning and proper storage to work properly. And until you get used to them they may be much less reliable than their disposable counterparts. Their metal tips may also damage acrylic paint, especially if it isn't fully cured. I'd recommend starting with the disposable variety, and upgrading once you've had some practice.

On the plus side, you can load refillable pens with any color of ink. Disposable pens are more like Model T's. You can have any color you want, as long as it's black.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Very Messy Orks

Space Wolves are fun, but painting power armor makes me anxious. It wants to be perfect, with crisp edges and even highlights. And I am not naturally a crisp or even painter. So, once the first squad of Grey Hunters was finished, I looked for something different.

Orks are a much better fit for my loose painting style. I don't have an entire army on my shelf of shame, but I do have several dozen Orks. With a box of Nobz, I may even have enough for a 1500 point "Green Tide" army. I started out thinking that this unit would be a nice break, but they were so much fun that I'm going to try a few more before I return to the Space Wolves. It may be a race to see which army I finish first.

These models were painted using Jim's "Painting Orks By the Numbers" article on Bell of Lost Souls. There are a few differences, but the basic highlight-then-wash process is the same. Thanks, Jim! I'm very happy with the results.