After a pretty rough start, I have to say that I'm pretty pleased at how these models eventually turned out. Prep and assembly was the main issue... like I said before, the Privateer plastic was an odd material to work with... something inbetween a resin and traditional plastic. It holds a decent amount of detail, but it doesn't respond well to a needle file or scraper. I can't quite explain it, but it was almost like the models disliked being cleaned. I also noticed some off-coloured residue on the parts, which meant I had to soak them in warm water and soap for a few hours, just in case it was some sort of leftover mould release lubricant. Being particularly wary of these models, I gave them a final scrub with a toothbrush and dishwashing liquid.
Also, there were quite a few noticeable mould lines, many of which ran right through areas of high detail. Therefore, scraping them off was a delicate and time consuming process. However, despite all that, these were pretty nice models to paint. At least, they didn't fight me nearly as much during the painting stage.
The process of painting was very similar to what I've done on my old rank and file models, only with more care and attention paid to feathering and wet blending. When that wasn't enough to get a smooth transition, additional layers of glaze were added.
One thing I've changed with my approach to painting lately is my choice of basecoat colours. In the past, I would pick a fairly dark shade of whatever colour I was using (for example, scab red). Then I would give it an ink wash to further define the shadows, rebuild the base, and then add layers of progressively lighter colours all the way up to the highlights. In the end, the overall impression was a wide spectrum of shades and tones, and wouldn't come across as overly dark or overly light overall.
However, I've started picking much lighter shades for my choice of basecoat colours. Then I would spend more time building up the shades, and then building up the highlights from there. The reasoning was that darker tones had more coverage / opacity, thus it is easier to build upon your shades than to highlight. I'm not 100% sold on the concept, but it seems to be working out so far. The only drawback I'm finding is that my basecoat takes a few more coats to ensure solid coverage. Like I said, lighter colours / tones usually have weaker opacity.
The tufts of grass on the bases are Battlefields Wilderness Tuft from The Army Painter. These are pre-made tufts of static grass, attached to sticky sheet of plastic. You simply dab some white glue on the base where you want the tuft to go, pull the tuft of your choice off the sheet with some tweezers (there are an assortment of random sized patches), and push it down onto the white glue on your base. The glue will dry clear, and the grass will appear fairly natural... at least, it looks much better than the old method of grabbing a pinch full of loose static grass and pressing it down with your finger. Games Workshop also has their version of this product, but I've read one or two reviews stating that of the two brands, The Army Painter version was slightly better (apparently there were some issues of the glue holding the tuft together being a bit less transparent in the GW tufts).
I also added some OSL (object source lighting) as requested by the client (a good friend of mine). I decided to do this the old fashioned way (no airbrush) and build up progressive layers of thinned down glazes. It went terribly at first... for some reason, the glazes wouldn't grip to the metallic paints used on the weapons. Instead, after I laid down a thin even layer, it would simply pull back into little puddles / water droplets. Perhaps I thinned down the glaze too much? In any case, I ended up using more opaque paints, which worked in the end (even though they covered up the surrounding areas, rather than tinting them).
Another client request was for lines to be added to the bases to denote facing of the model during gaming. Now, I've seen this on various people's models, and in my opinion, they look pretty tacky. The rim of a base acts as a nice frame for the model... it adds a nice elegant touch that is somehow sullied by the addition of a decidedly artificial line on either side of the model.
That being said, these were primarily gaming pieces, and even I could see the practicality of defining the model's front and back facings. I played around with a few ideas, and came up with using glowing runes instead as an alternative. The outside edges of the runes would work as the bisecting lines, while giving the base an artistic touch, in keeping with the background and fluff of the model (the runes were taken directly from the Warmachine world). I put an "F" on the front, a "L" on the left side, and a "R" on the right. A bit more time consuming than simple slashes would have been, but I think they are much nicer to look at.
Two light coats of Testors Dullcote later, and the models were finished. I've had excellent results with Games Workshop's Purity Seal spray as well, but I find that it's a touch more "satin" in finish when compared to Dullcote. That means GW's spray is probably more durable, but if the players handle the models by the bases whenever possible, that shouldn't be too much of an issue.
Whatever the brand of spray sealant, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to get the best results. First of all, do not spray when it's cold or excessively humid outside. If you do, instead of a clear coat, it's more likely that you will get a foggy layer. Second of all, make sure you shake the heck out of the can before you spray. Lastly, after you're done, turn the can upside down and spray until it runs clear. That should prevent the tip from clogging, and as with airbrushes, fountain pens, dropper bottles, and other things, clogged tips are a bad thing.
So, what's next? I'm not sure. Other than on this particular project, I've been taking it easy. I underwent an open hernia surgery 3 weeks ago, and it'll probably be another 2-3 weeks until I'm fully healed up. Until then, sitting in a hunched position for long periods of time puts pressure on my lower abdomen, which leads to a bit of soreness. I'm trying to alleviate that by alternating activities as much as possible, so I'm not locked into any one position for long. I really need to start playing around with bits in preparation for my Samurai Space Marine army, however, I'm really obsessed with the whole "Inq28" thing right now (Inquisitor, the game, in 28mm scale). There's a whole community out there converting, sculpting, and painting up their own Inquisitorial retainers and Inquisitors a la John Blanche style, and it's absolutely fascinating, and quite gorgeous. It's only a matter of time before I jump on the bandwagon as well, but I will probably try and make sure my models are fully useable in games of 40K as well... my Sisters of Battle army could use the help of the Imperial Inquisition...