Saturday, October 24, 2015

Armies On Parade: Trench Board in 24 Hours Challenge

Long post: Brew some coffee

So my local GW had their Armies on Parade for this year today. I was not going to enter, as if my lack of posts over the last month has been any indication, I haven't had time for modeling really.

In the store yesterday I was challenged to use existing fully painted models, but to construct from scratch a 2'x2' tile and paint it in less than 24 hours. Given that I had to sleep at some point, and my preschool boys with me today, I had significantly less time than the full 24.

But, I decided to give it a shot. More than anything, to use it as a learning experience - one of my biggest weaknesses is taking WAY too long to complete projects. Inevitably, I will always use as much time as I have. I'm a professional procrastinator and perfectionist. I also have been wanting to learn how to create miniature trench lines for a diorama for a while now. Seemed a perfect alignment to force myself to learn with only a minimal time commitment.

I'll have to only use supplies I have around my house, but given my borderline unhealthy obsession with construction, hobbies, and modeling, that's luckily a rather generous amount.

Friday Night: 10PM - 19 Hours to Competition

I start with a 2'x2' MDF board.

I would not recommend this for most projects - the board will warp and cause issues (note: foreshadowing) if you apply too much paint or other mediums to it. If you can get your hands on a 2'x2' piece of at least 1/4 inch plywood, that's WAY better. But, I didn't have plywood around.

Next, I know I want a trench line for my Imperial Guard... And no I didn't mean to say Astra Militarum. Unfortunately my regiment is in a corner of dark space that is severed off from Terra due to warp storms, and that particular change in nomenclature hasn't been able to be defined by my astropaths yet. So we are still called Imperial Guard. And yes I tell that same story every time someone corrects me in a GW, but I digress. 

A trench line takes a deep cut into the surface of the tile. Instead of cutting into a single 2x2 piece, I decide to use some floral green foam I have to 'build up' the terrain, leaving the MDF board as the base of the trench. This takes a little planning, as you are now building the trenches exactly the opposite way they are built in real life. 

I also decide that I want a focal point for the board. All winning Armies on Parade boards usually have that a theme or main model that make them stand out. I decide that I'm going to tear apart an old, unpainted basilisk I have and try to scratch build a Heavy Artillery Carriage with Earthshaker cannon on it. Foolhardy? Yes. Stupid? Definitely. Was I thinking ahead to the fact I only have 17 hours? Of course not. But I'll let my idiot self 10 hours from now deal with that error. 

So, I cut the foam to give me a large, central pit for the gun, and reuse the cut sections to form the trench headed off in each direction. ALWAYS DRY FIT THINGS FIRST. Learn from me people. 

After dry fitting everything, I smother the bottom of each piece with PVC glue, then stick them back down. This really needs about 1-2 hours to dry, but I don't have that time. Instead, as they slide around while I continue to work I simply drag them back into place. Ideally, I would have used a slightly stronger foam, and used a hot glue gun as well. On MDF this gluewill warp to high heaven, but on plywood hot glue is just fine. 

10:30PM - 16.5 Hours to Go

I try to seal up that gap between the foam pieces. 

The great thing about this foam, while it is embarrassingly weak and can't hold weight at all, it is incredibly easy to shape, cut, and work with even with a simple X-acto knit. So as the base shape for plaster, it is honestly ideal in my opinion. I cut the top of the trench walls to round them out at 45 degrees, then begin dragging the blade and gouging the foam to create the uneven terrain. You can see in the last photo one of the craters I sculpted. 

Digression: Crater Creation- The trick to doing this without any building up (just cutting out) is to dig down a bit around the crater, lowering the height of the surrounding ground. This makes it look like the crater 'rises' out of the ground, but allows you to keep the single piece of foam. To make the hole itself, stick your blade in at a 45 degree angle from the outside top of the hole, and get the point as close to the center of the crater as you can, then, leaving that center point as still as possible, cut a circular cone out of the foam. And don't worry at all if you rip the roam or have rough edges - That's what your going for!

Also, I didn't worry that the cuts in the foam were so evident. Because the foam is so brittle I have to cover the whole thing in plaster, and that will easily smooth over the cuts. 

11PM - 16 Hours left

I began splattering on the plaster, just applying it by hand. I wish I had modeling plaster, but all I had around was a sheetrock patch plaster. It would have to do, but it's drying time and brittle nature would become my two new biggest headaches. 

This step was a lot like applying icing to a cake. I noticed my fingers were leaving streaks, and hated it at first, then decided to use it for something. 

By globbing on the plaster and dragging my fingers through it, I was able to sort of simulate tracks and trenches. I decided the bottom of the trench should be muddy, while the top dirt outside the trench will be rocky. This will save me some time, and some supplies. It also allows me to be sloppy while applying the plaster, which helps on the time too. 

At this point I have to wait. Nothing I can do until the plaster dries, which I know will take a bunch of hours. 

7AM - 10 hours to Go

Not good....

I've made this mistake before, and should have known better. The unequal amounts of plaster and glue applied to the MDF board have caused it to warp as they dry, creating some rather large cracks where the foam edges are. While another coat might cover up these blemishes, I just don't have time. 

On top of this, I'm on Dad duty from 9-2pm while my wife is at work and have to watch my 5 month old and 3 year old. I have to be ready to set up the board at 5PM. I still think I can make it, but I'm realizing some dreams for this board need to die, now. 

First, the ordinance gun is gone. Not happening. Second, I love to add small details and character to a board like this, be it ladders, dropped equipment, graffiti, etc. but none of that will work either. I have time for some texture, paint, and maybe some glue elements. Hopefully it will dry by 5PM. 

8AM - 9 Hours til Competition:

I've decided that I have to get all the texture and dirt done before my boys go nuts, then let it all dry during the day (hopefully) and paint from 2-4PM. I start by spreading a moderately thick layer of PVA glue on 6"x6" sections so I can get the ballast down before any of it dries. I use 4 different sizes of railroad ballast (fancy name for expensive rocks), random bits, and timber pieces from my mulch our front. I start with the largest pieces in each section, then next place the second larges pieces, slowly working my way out to the smallest sand which I just scatter over all the other areas. 

When done, it works pretty well. If you base paint your terrain before this step, and use rocks that match your color scheme, many people can stop here. I am going for a much darker and dirty world though to match the bases I have on my painted IG army. Some black primer will be needed. 

Crater Update: Back on the topic of craters, use your larges debris to line the ring of the hole. Again, work down to your smallest rocks outward, but make sure to leave the center very clean unless you want it to be an old and weathered crater. New craters are bare and burned. Make sure to not place too much debris. Think about the size of the foam you cut out to make the crater. If you put all your rocks you're using into that shape, they can't be more than maybe 75% of it's size (since some stuff if just vaporized). The burned tree by the crater above is just a piece of garden mulch shoved into the plaster and foam. 

Hopefully all the glue will dry by the time my wife gets home. 

Break for Daddy Duty: 9AM-2PM

Painting time: 2PM - 3 hours to competition

So I notice right away that the glue in some spots seems a little plastic-y still, and I put the plaster on so unevenly is also starting to chip and crack more. No time for 'should haves', I have to push on. 

I only show these photos because I actually loved the way the board looked here, it just wasn't at all what I was going for. (Mud isn't white, for example). But, it did give me great inspiration for future projects, as using the black spray primer to create shadows and burned edges I think would be great. 
One thing I WOULD do if I pursued this, is paint the plaster before I added the rocks and sand. You can kind of tell from the crater pic, but the underside on some terrain is white, and really jolts the eye as it's just not realistic. If I had primed this a darker color, then applied the ballast, I might be tempted to stop here. Live and learn. 

Black priming is done, and I go back with a brush to touch up the little spots that the can missed. And again, my plaster fails on me. The highest edges are extremely brittle, and break off showing the white below. Some people will dye their plaster for this reason. I should have just given the whole model a rough 'brushing' with a regular painters brush before I started priming to break these loose pieces off. Damn. We'll no time to stop now. 

2:30PM - 2.5 Hours to go

I place the tile under 2 fans, and pray that the primer dries fast. I should wait an hour, I wait 15 mins. 

I go ahead and give the top rocks a dry brush with Steel Legion Drab, then a dry brush with BaneBlade Brown. The mud I spray with Rhynox Hide, then Khaki, and the rocks I hit with Dawnstone then Adamantium. I leave the corners the darker color, and make sure to focus highlights on the top edges of the trenches. It's coming together now, I might just make it. Side note: I love dry brushing. Probably saved me on this endeavor. 

3:30PM - 1.5 Hours to Armies on Parade (drive time to store 15mins in case you're wondering)

The lighting in these photos is bad, and they're blurry, but I begin to now try and add some flock, moss, and other metal debris to the field. 

To apply my flock the method I use is a big blotch on first..

Followed by spreading it out using a 'stipling' technique. Essentially you want the center of your glue spot to be the thickest, and you want to almost blend your glue edges into the paint. This helps give a smooth transition from thick to thin on your flock. 

I try to put big puffs of flock in the center, then build to a thin drizzle on the outside edges. The clue dries clear and matted, so it's fine if you don't get 100% coverage.

3:45PM - Home Stretch

While I'm not happy about the many errors and issues on the board, I'm happy with where it stands at this point. I decide to add one fine set of steel fencing around the trench walls. I do this by breaking BBQ skewers to size, then wrapping them with the edges of the thin steel mesh I have. I then glue these to the walls. While they add a great detail (and no trench walls would be finished without some sort of support) I'm really not happy with them overall. The wood skewers are WAY too bright of wood, and the metal fencing just doesn't make sense - that's not holding back that much rock and dirt. If I had time, I'd try to model some metal or concrete looking walls using particle board and sprue arms. 

I throw a quick agrax earth shade on the toothpicks and the mud trenches to try to darken them and add a final touch, then it's packing this thing and getting it to the store. There is a lot of chipped plaster, and by no means would I call this done, but it is by most GW Store standards, table top ready. 

I literally didn't have time to take finished shots of the board. I'll post those tomorrow once I have time to set up the board and get good lighting. It will also show the areas I messed up better so you can see my mistakes and hopefully avoid them. 

Final "completion" time: 4:15PM... Phew. 

At the store, there we lots of great entries for Armies on Parade. I was lucky enough to bring home first, but I think some others deserved it more. I also think my placement was more due to my models than the board, but who knows. 

If you actually were able to stay with me all the way to this point, bravo! I'll set up the board with models and without them at home and take lots more shots tomorrow so everyone can critique and comment more fully. Today was more about the process, pitfalls, and joy of getting it done. Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Age of Sigmar: Stormcast Eternals Army Painting WIP 3

Back for more on the AoS army.

After Natfka generously posted some screens on his "What's On Your Table" Feature over on, I got some great feedback on increasing the strength of the dark areas and highlight the top most edges more.

Sometimes it's great to take photos of your models, even if you aren't blogging or sharing. You can not only get great close up views and see details you normally miss, but they can give you an 'honest' perspective on the model. This was definitely one of those cases.

After adding some more washes and thin layers of blue to the shaded areas, I also went back with some extreme gold highlights to several edges. The key here was that using an airbrush for your highlights will only get you so far - for example, I needed to add more blue around the helmet, but using celestial highlighting with an airbrush couldn't achieve that effect easily - a brush could.

I also took some time to add some more layers and detail to the Lord Celestant. First was the base, as I needed to work on something other than armor for a bit.

Really, really simple concept above, using only 3 paints. I applied GW Gorthor Brown to all the dirt and mud areas heavily, then GW Dawnstone to the rocks as a thicker than normal dry brush - focusing on only 'dry brushing' the areas that would have shadows, i.e. the sides and bottoms of the rocks. The tops pretty much got smooth, normal paint as they should be more colored in direct light. I then gave a super heavy wash with GW Agrax Earthshade and let dry. I'll end up going back and dry brushing up two more colors on the rocks to get them to almost a white in feel, and the dirt and mud will be kept dark with hints of green put to mimic moss and also the colors caused by the brush and grass I'm putting on later. My Imperial Guard army really uses just the technique above though - super quick, and super easy to paint LOADS of guardmen's bases.

Oh, and because someone asked, the base is just two large pieces of garden mulch with some sparkling or green-stuff equivalent puddy to create the feel of dirt around and between them. Then some PVA glue and different size of rail road ballast for the rocks and sand. Start with the biggest rocks, carefully placing them, then work your way down keeping each size adjacent to the larger one. I've personally found this looks better than just a container with everything mixed together and dipping the base, but to each his own.

On to the LC, still lots of work to be done on him. I am painting him in pieces (unassembled), to help make sure I can get a good coat on the clock and also cleanly paint around his helmet and torso. This means that his mount is much farther along in the paint job than he is. 

Cutting off the base portion attached to his foot was way too tedious, I should have done it before I started painting. So for now it's staying on, and I'll have to paint it separate from the rest of the base. I'm not too happy about it, but it's solid plastic and the thickest part of the model, and cutting was just not going to happen for me today. 

I hope you enjoyed the update, comments and critiques always encouraged!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Skitarii: Cult of Neptune Underwater Theme

No WIP step by steps shots for this, but one of my many half-completed projects is a Cult of Neptune themed Skitarii army, themed after a 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea / Bioshock Theme. Hopefully I'll get around to converting and painting up the vehicles, as I have some cool ideas for them.

The cloaks are covered with milliput, then I used some wiring mesh to create the 'scales' pattern. The armor is a simple bronze layer with the oxide technical paint on top, that's it. Simple and quick is what I'm going for.

Comments and criticism encouraged!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Age of Sigmar: Stormcast Eternals Army Painting WIP - Celestant Dragon

While most of the ScE army is the same painting wise, the Celestant's dragon poses a unique palate opportunity, as well as a much more rough and colorful option. Doing so helps draw attention to the Lord, and helps also distinguish between the many similar-looking models in a ScE army.

In my personal opinion, you have to choose whether you want the rider or the mount to be the focus on your model. While a large enough model can have multiple points of focus, from a distance your color choices and paint scheme will draw the eyes to one point first.

For me, the model is about the Lord, and not the dragon. Knowing that the LC's armor was the light, airy-esque blue gold I'd started I wanted the dragon to fit into that scheme while also being a darker color. This way the super bright highlights on the help of the LC would be the main focal point. At the same time, the dragon couldn't be too dark, nor too contrasting a color, otherwise it would draw attention for the opposite reason as above.

Step 1: Basing Black and Washing Burgundy

Knowing I wanted the model to be darker than the LC, I went back and painted over all the skin area with black. I then mixed a custom wash of red / blue / purple to create a deep burgundy color. It look rather intense in this picture, and it also is still wet so it looks glossy. But the main effect here is what I wanted - The darkest parts of the dragon will be this color, wash with some Nuln Oil, and my layers will be thinned down enough to show this color through. 

Note on skin and base colors:  Lots of people don't know this, but the reason that some painters can achieve super realistic skin and flesh tones is because of the undercoat. By applying red, blue, yellow, or green to the model, you can drastically change the look and feel of the creatures skin. For healthy, 'good' characters some form of red or pink is a great choice. For dead characters blue works great, and for rotting characters green works well. Doing this gives the skin a feeling of 'depth' which you can't achieve in a single layer. Anyways...

After the red based dried I began picking out the transitions. The more transitions (i.e. colors) you can get on a model such as a dragon, the more 'realistic' and beautiful the model becomes. This is achieved through washes, layers, and dry brushing. 

I played around with colors in the palate I am using, and decided I wanted the beast to go from the red base, to a brown I'm using the leather of the models, to a 50/50 brown teal, to a teal which goes with the armor well. Using very thin paint and lots of reducer helps make sure that your paints don't dry too quickly but also don't become washes. We want the tops highlighted in the scales, not the recesses, so either don't thin you paint so much it runs, just enough so that it would take two or more coats to cover well - this way the base coat is showing through. 

After working through the colors, from bottom to top, I have the model at a stopping point. I also went through and repainted the horns, cloth, and other areas that were over-sprayed with my original base grey color. 

I also did some work on the base at this point, BEFORE FINAL HIGHLIGHTS, as the angle of the model is slightly different than it is intended out of the box. I also will need to add the rider before final highlights are done, as all these things influence the strength and location of those highlights. I will cut the foot off the supplied base / rock thing it comes on, and paint the base separately (again without final highlights), then put it all back together. 

I'll cover the base creation technique in a separate post. 

The whole model will now get a wash with Nuln Oil to give it some black linking, which will have a big impact on the areas where the armor meets the cloth and scales. Now to let the base dry a bit before I cut the dragon off and proceed. 

I hope you enjoyed this WIP, please leave questions and criticisms in the comments section, always looking to help and improve.