Thursday, 10 March 2016

Work in Progress : Warhammer 40K Salamanders Fire Raptor Gunship

I realize I haven't posted anything regarding my own painting for some time now.  In fact, I haven't posted much of ANYTHING lately, but "Works in Progress" posts have been especially lacking on Sable and Spray.

Just to prove that I haven't completely abandoned painting minis myself, here are a few pics of one project that's currently on my painting desk, a Warhammer 40K Forgeworld Salamanders Fire Raptor Gunship:

Now this is a pretty sizeable kit.  Not Titan sized, mind you, but still much bigger than most vehicle kits I get to work on.  For a vehicle kit junkie like myself, that makes it extremely enjoyable to paint.

Best of all, it came all pre-assembled.  I'm doing this up as a commission paintjob for a friend of mine, and he prepped, cleaned, assembled, and primered the model himself.  That is a huge project unto itself, as Forgeworld resin kits are very labour-intensive.  Many parts come warped, and need to be gently bent back into shape with the application of a little heat (blow dryers or with warm water).  Others have horrible casting issues, and practically need to be re-sculpted by the modeller.  There are often fitting issues, air bubbles, and other nasty problems that also need to be fixed before painting.  Parts also often need to be degreased thoroughly, otherwise the residual mold release coating will reject paint and primer.  In short, Forgeworld kits are a labour of love, and an exercise in extreme patience.

I am VERY thankful that I got to skip that step.

Matthew did a fantastic job of putting this model together.  Yes, there are still some mold lines here and there, and ample evidence that there was judicious use of an exacto knife on parts.  But nothing I can't compensate for with some well placed weathering and painted on battle scars, which will only add to the realism.  On the whole, the model was built very well, and there are no loose pieces looking like they will break away any time soon.

Knowing that I was going to paint this for his Salamanders Space Marine army, I picked up some Vallejo Model Air paints from my local hobby shop.  I wanted to be able to do as much work as I could with the airbrush, and purchasing the Model Air paints meant that I wouldn't have to mess around with paint thinners and mixing quite as much as I normally do with standard model paints.

The two above pics show the amount of work I was able to do with just the airbrush.  Now, airbrushing isn't quite as much of a time saver as some would think.  With a standard sable brush, there is no time spent masking off areas in case of overspray.  There is also a minimum amount of time spent cleaning your tools.  You don't have to mess around with respirators to make sure you don't inhale a bunch of atomized paint and thinners.  Generally, I don't use the airbrush unless I can help it.  I much prefer blending paints by hand.  Yes, it takes longer to do the shading and highlighting if you want the same quality of smooth transitions, but when you add in the prep work and cleaning, it's often faster and less stressful to just do the work by good old fashioned sable brush.  However, in this case we're talking about a good amount of green real estate, so it was worth it.

Notice that the paper towel below the model is decorated with plenty of different shades of green.  One of the big differences with airbrushes is the lack of feedback from the tool.  You can see how the paint looks in the cup, but that's not necessarily how the paint will look coming out of the tip.  Test spraying onto another surface not only gives you a better sense of what's going to happen on the model (before you apply to the model), but it also preps your fingers to better understand what amount of pressure you need to apply, and how far back you need to pull, in order to get the result you want.

Another thing to consider is that not everything needs to get masked.  Sometimes when I'm painting near the final edge of something, simply turning the model at a sharp angle to the airbrush means that any overspray won't hit other parts of the model.  Any time you can get away without masking, is a huge time saver.

Now, while this was a good start, I still have a long way to go with the green areas.  That's when I put away the airbrush, and pick up the sable brush.

I'm now working up some blended highlights with my trusty Kolinsky sable brushes.  I'm working in some P3 Thrall Green (the bottle can be seen in the bottom left of the pic), which is a bone linen beige colour, with just a tiny hint of green in it.  That makes it ideal for highlighting the green armour plates.  You can tell that it's already starting to bring out the detail better, and simulates how the light would reflect off a "real life sized" assault gunship.  I'll also need to go in there with the shading to accentuate the contrasts a bit more later.

Have a look how I'm trying to place the shadows of one armour plate right next to the highlights of the next.  This technique / approach is called, "colour modulation", and it maximizes contrast and visual interest.  While heavily stylized (and not entirely realistic), it's a necessary approach to a model that you intend to weather later.  Weathering tends to flatten out contrast quite a bit, and so you absolutely need to exaggerate contrasts ahead of time in order to compensate for this.

The plan is to blend some more shading in, in order to deepen the contrasts.  I will also add a little bit of edge highlighting in order to simulate how light likes to catch on the hard edges of large plates.  This is a nice touch when used in conjunction with a decent blending job and nice gradated highlights and shading... NOT when overdone and used all alone (as I described in this past article).

One thing I did find interesting was how the P3 Thrall Green acted on my wet palette.  While primarily beige in colour, that little touch of green had a tendency to separate as the paint got saturated with water.  Thin it too much and then turn your back on it for awhile, and the green would break free and "float" to the surface.

That's the watered down Thrall Green on the top right, full strength Thrall Green on top left.  The Vallejo Model Air paint in green is to the bottom left, and mixes of the two are in the centre and bottom right.

By the way, paints that are pre-thinned to work in airbrushes (such as the Vallejo Model Air line) are a bit harder to work with on the palette and with a standard sable brush.  They start off rather runny, and have no real body to work with.  They seem to be a lot like a glaze in consistency, only powerfully pigmented.  I could see two-brush blending them straight from a dry palette, but using them on a wet palette was a constant challenge in controlling their consistency.

Speaking of brush blending, I'm alternating between Mathieu Fontaine's "push-pull" method of blending, and Meg Maple's "two brush blending".  I have been fortunate enough to attend both their classes, and those were two amazing techniques I took away with me.  With them, I have been able to slowly improve my blending to the point where I can work them into airbrushed transitions without too much notice.

Lots more to do, and that's only for the green areas.  After that, I've still got to do the glass canopy, the metal areas, some freehand work, and plenty of weathering.  If I'm really a sucker for punishment, I may even paint all those rivets...

As always, comments, questions, and criticisms are always welcome.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Quick Tip : Use Zip Ties to Keep Your Tools From Rolling Off the Table

Lately, I've been reading a LOT of home renovation books and magazines, as we have finally managed to purchase a house.  It's an older one (built in the mid '50s... if you are European, go ahead and laugh.  To us North Americans, 60+ years for a house is OLD), so there's lots of renos to do.

Anyway, I came across this neat little tip in an issue of Family Handyman magazine:

After reading this, I had one of those moments of, "Holy crap!  How did I NOT think of this before?"

After posting this up on the Vancouver Miniature Painters and the Eavier Metal Facebook pages, I had hundreds of "likes", and numerous comments saying pretty much the same thing.

I can see this working for plenty of miniature related tools, from exacto knives, to sculpting tools, to paint brushes, etc.  Basically anything that is barrel shaped and tends to roll if set down on a sloped surface.

I probably would use the smallest zip ties I could get my hands on though.  Larger ties would add more weight (not much, but still...), which may affect the balance of the tool somewhat.  It wouldn't be a big deal after awhile, but initially you would have to become accustomed to the shift in the balance point.

Anyway, worth a try for anyone who's ever been annoyed by rolling tools.