Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vindicare Part 2 - Back in Black....

In Part 1 of this series, I talked briefly about the posing of the model, base selection, and overall plan for priming/base coating.

After letting the model cure over night, I checked the strength of the joint. Because this is a smaller joint, I not only pinned and super-glued, but I also used greenstuff to fill the gap and give the joint some additional strength. In order to ensure such a joint is strong, you should let it cure for at least 24 hours. Satisfied with the bond, I then moved onto the next step. Priming.

This Vindicare is ready for priming.
Previously I mentioned that winter is a difficult time of year for priming with a spray type of primer. The whole process is hampered by the cold and airborne moisture, and often results in very poor quality of primer coat, which can flake off, or get fuzzy. One solution would be to do this indoors, but even with good venting, fumes from such primers can be extremely uncomfortable, and disperse quickly through your home. This can be especially problematic in small apartments, or homes with pets/children.

Needless to say, painting in February poses some problems unless you already have models that are pre-primed, or another viable solution. One such solution is the use of an airbrush to prime your models. There are many brands and varieties of airbrush available, along with many brands of paint that can be used in an airbrush for priming and painting purposes. I won't expand on that, except to say that my airbrush is a Testors Aztek, which I have had for over ten years of reliable service. This is driven by a small compressor, which suits my needs well.

The Testors AZTEK is an inexpensive, reliable, and easy to maintain airbrush.

For this project, I decided I would use my airbrush, and Vallejo Model Colour Black mixed with 50% water to prime the model, running at about 20psi with the gravity feed option. At this mix and pressure I found the airbrush sprayed very well and the paint was opaque enough that the model was quickly covered in a nice smooth and opaque coat of paint. After a brief inspection, I hit the crevasses a little more intently to ensure the model was fully primed. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this stage of painting, but imagine the Vindicare in  matte black, and you'll have a good idea of what it looked like.

I allowed the model to cure for 15 minutes. During that time I cleaned the brush by spraying out the remaining paint (which was not much admittedly), then filling the jar several times with windex. While doing this, I actually practice airbrush control on a piece of cardboard, drawing fine lines, and dots, and then connecting the dots. This is a great way to practice airbrush trigger control and free hand work without wasting too much paint. After the brush was clean, I prepared the next colour, VMC Sombre Grey. This was prepared in the same manner as above, and I thinned the paint with 50% water.

Now, instead of painting the whole model with a full coat of the Sombre Grey, I targetted the model to create a grey highlight effect. To do this, I angled the airbrush at 45 degrees, and used a very fine spray stream and very light touch, aiming at areas where light would naturally fall on the feet, legs and abdomen. I then widened the spray to full flow and did the same thing, aiming on the upper torso, shoulders and head. This leaves a nice dark shade and a naturally fading transition to the highlight. The trick to doing this is a very light touch on the air flow, so that you build up the layer of lighter paint slowly.

Here you can see the features of the model appear very bright. This is because I used a high contrast. I was not worried about the brightness at this point in time, but rather, getting a nice contrast between light and shadow, so you can clearly see the definition in the model's details. Notice how the muscles have a highlight on the upper surfaces, yet the lower surfaces and crevasses are darker, and appear more in shadow. I will take advantage of this high contrast light and shadow in the later stages of painting the miniature.

I also highlighted the upper torso and the feet a little more brightly. To do this, I merely applied another coat over the specific targeted areas. This gives the illusion of more light falling on those specific areas, and supports more strongly the illusion that his body is casting a deeper shadow.

Here you can see how the weapons have a strong shadow below their main stalks and bodies. This is an easy effect to achieve on straight angular pieces, as long as you maintain your airbrush angle on the part. The spray can not bend around the corners, so will leave a very sharp line between highlight and dark, which you can use later with the overall painting process to your advantage, as it makes picking out the highlights easier, since you know where the light and shadow will more naturally play.

The back of the model shows a deeper shadow. The reason for this is because I consciously decided to spray mostly from the front and sides of the model, when doing the highlight. I did this to simulate a light source in front of the model, as if the subject might be emerging from a shadowy corridor. Again, you can see a sharp contrast on the pistol. You can also see deeper transition of shadow on the lower back, and around the back of the helmet, and buttocks area. It is enough to suggest definition without creating too strong a highlight.

Notice too that the base has also had a strong application of the grey colour now. This is partly to add highlight, but also because I plan to paint it a ruddy grey colour.

I mention earlier that I use a Testors AZTEK double action airbrush, but a similar effect can be achieved with a single action airbrush, like the Games Workshop Spray Gun, though you do not have as fine control over the stream size. The trick to achieving this effect is to hold the brush a little further away from the model. You should only do this from above the model, and let the wider spray cone naturally highlight the lower portions of the model.

Remember, with either type of air brush, a light touch is key here. If there isn't enough paint on the first pass, you can always build up the highlight. Just keep a light touch, and take careful passes to not build up too much paint at once. The trick to knowing if you are depositing too much paint or are too close is to observe if the paint pools on the model. If you are too far away, the paint will dry before it hits the model, and the model will appear dusty, and can even develop a texture. Naturally, practice makes perfect, so if you haven't got much experience with an airbrush, you should look up some airbrush exercises on the internet and practice on a piece of cardboard before moving to a model. Then you should try it on an old test model or junk model, so you don't ruin your project piece.

Related Article:
Vindicare Part 1 - Strike a Pose
Vindicare Part 2 - Back in Black
Vindicare Part 3 - For the Gold

Testors Airbrushes

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Vindicare Part 1 - Strike a Pose

Well, it's been a while since I have done a hobby update here. Life keeps me busy, and even though I don't always get a chance to update the blog, I'm still doing hobby stuff.

But this weekend, after the monthly gaming night with the friends and discussing our hobby progress for the year so far, I decided to give updating the blog a bit more priority. Partly so they can easily see what I'm working on, and to help keep us all inspired (especially me since I've been losing inspiration lately).

In February, I spent much time experimenting with paints and such, mostly trying out a bunch of my new Vallejo Paints, after I had recently purchased the full Vallejo Game Colour, and the full Vallejo Panzer Aces paint sets. I've been using Vallejo for a long time, just have difficulty getting it here, so needless to say, getting both of these full sets, and at such good prices, was definitely a happy day.

I also decided I would break out the airbrush and start using it more for painting table top miniatures. The primary reason is that priming models during the winter months is a lot harder to do with spray primers, often being forced to do it indoors. The fumes from spray primers are particularly nasty healthwise, and having the residual smell in the house is unpleasant. Where with the airbrush, I can prime models to my heart's content without the fumes overwhelming the house, which I know my wife and pets all appreciate!

The main subject for February's experimentation was a Games Workshop Vindicare assassin. Specifically, this model:

By way of an explanation, I have posed the Assassin so his rifle is slightly at rest, to give him more of a sense of readiness, as opposed to the "Here are my guns!" pose prevalent in the late 90s that he originally has. This required a little green stuff work to fill in the shoulder joint.

The model was also mounted on a resin base from Dark Art Miniatures. They are rather nice easy bases to work with, with lots of flat surfaces. They are also easy to drill, for pinning your models to, but not so soft that they crumble after drilling, and not too hard that they shatter.

Anyway, I went with this basic base as it gives a nice generic base for me to use for the model, allowing it to be used on nearly any table. I know that basic stone and dirt bases are very easy to make, but I rather like their stone bases, though I really only got them to fill out an order when I bought some lava bases, which these will be complimenting for the army that gets those lava bases, as rough volcanic rock. But that's another story.

One other thing you might notice is that this miniature appears shaded. Well, that's a side effect of age. Tins oxidize as they age, and you often get a brownish tinge on older models if they have not been previously sealed. No real harm as this is sealed with the primer and paint. But I was able to use this oxidation as a visual clue to gross flash and mould lines. A trick you can use that helps you see flash and mould lines better, and similar to this, is to give your model a generous wash of black or brown ink. It really makes them stand out without harming your model.

Related Article:
Vindicare Part 1 - Strike a Pose
Vindicare Part 2 - Back in Black
Vindicare Part 3 - For the Gold

Vallejo Paints
Dark Art Miniatures