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Wednesday 24 July 2013

Siege Equipment: Painting the Mighty Fortress. Part 5 - Back with a Vengeance

Part 1 - setting up and overcoming nerves

Note:Part 2 and other updates are found below.

Now that I've completed the build of my Mighty Fortress comes the job of painting it.

Some time ago I was given an airbrush and compressor set-up for a birthday present by my wonderful wife, Anna.
My airbrush and some black paint I've mixed to base-coat with)

My compressor
My work with it so far has been sparse, sporadic and not entirely successful. As such I've built up a bit of a hesitation about using it, but have decided to use this project as a back-breaker. There's a lot of castle to paint (this is only *most* of it):
My two mighty fortress sets.
The speed of application from an airbrush should be a boon as long as I can really work out how to address the problems I always seem to face. In a nutshell, they are all to do with paint - thinning it to appropriate consistency so that it shoots without spatter or blockages and covers well.

Part 2 - slow going...

It feels like I've made very little progress in the last couple of weeks. My work on this project is confined to early mornings, before the rest of the family gets up. That means getting up earlier than normal myself which I don't think many of us wargamers are good at :-).

As a result I've only been able to put a few hours work in since I last wrote about painting the castle, and a lot of that has gone into getting used to using the airbrush. As a result, I was able to write a detailed post on Overcoming Airbrush Problems, but have not made as much progress painting the castle as I'd have liked.

So far I've managed to get a basecoat of black on all my wall sections and my ruined tower:

But I've still got all the remaining towers to do:

Part 3 - Hiatus... Over!

Well, if you've been following this post's progress you'll know it's several weeks since I posted an update on it. There's a very good reason for that: MY AIRBRUSH BROKE!

Well, sort of.

What actually happened was that when I was cleaning it, the nozzle (there's a schematic on my "Overcoming Airbrush Frustrations" post which will show the part I mean) broke in half as I was removing it for a clean. The conical front piece came away from the thread that secures it into the brush, leaving the thread stuck inside.

Getting replacement nozzles was simple enough and very inexpensive, but getting the threaded section out of the brush proved trickier (I finally managed it by removing the back end of the airbrush handle and the chucking nut then using my pin vice to grip the blunt end of the needle and using the needle to unscrew the broken nozzle from inside the brush).

If truth be told, all of that is an excuse. I have another airbrush (a siphon-fed single-action model). It's actually better suited to this "basecoating large models" kind of a job. If you think of the gravity-fed dual-action airbrush as a scalpel, then the siphon-fed brush would be a sawn-off shotgun. Lots of paint, quickly. I avoided using it for the early part of this job because half the point was to gain confidence with the dual-action brush. I got so "into" working with the dual-action that when it failed it never occurred to me to switch to the single-action brush.

Anyway, after kicking myself up the butt I've managed to get myself started again. Using the single-action brush I've completed the black basecoat of all the castle towers over the last two mornings. My intention next is to mix up some grey paint and using start layering up the stone colour so this thing starts to look more "Old World" and less "Mordor".

Part 4 - Hiatus... Over! Well almost...

I've had another progress slump on the painting of the Mighty Fortress. My self-inflicted kick up the butt only lasted a few days.

I got the spare parts I needed for the airbrush (nozzles, and I also ordered a spare needle) and then managed to lose the nozzle-cap o-ring whilst fitting one of the new nozzles. Then I noticed something odd: my airbrush needle was protruding a long way out of the front of the brush which wasn't normal. I finally worked out that the new nozzle hadn't got the inner lining of paint that the old one had accumulated and also that the old nozzle had been abraded by the passage of air and paint over it. This had slimmed it down and allowed it to push further through the brush. Combined with the missing o-ring, this added up to a very annoying couple of day's effort as the paint just wouldn't "flow".

I can't easily get a replacement o-ring but am muddling through without it by carefully adjusting by hand the position of the nozzle-cap.

So far I've managed to complete the airbrush-work on about two-thirds of my wall sections. The remaining third and the towers are yet to be started. This is the sort of effect I'm going for:

Wall viewed from front

Wall viewed from top
You can make out the "mottled" effect I'm looking for in the stonework from the "front" view above (you can also see the join line where the battlements can be removed for replacement with a damaged rampart section). In the bottom picture you can see my attempt to create a "worn" look to the rampart due to centuries of footfalls.

I'm not done with the paint effects here - I'm planning to go back over these sections (and all the others) with some light "sponge painting" work to brighten up the bricks a bit with some lighter greys and possibly some reds. This will hopefully add some texture to the bricks and also deepen the effect of the shadows between them. Another bit of airbrushed darkening will be applied along the base of the wall (to simulate some "rising damp") and along the bit where the rampart joins the walkway and in overhangs etc. to create some emphasized shadows.

Once all that's done, the plan is to attack the whole thing with some weathering powders, which will be another "first" for me.

Before I wrap this post up, I've not been completely idle on this project as I have completed all the painting on the castle's "wooden" components (doors, gates, hatches and ladders):

Hatches, ladders and gates
More news as it comes in.

Part 5 - Back with a Vengeance

I've finally managed to get myself back "in the zone" on this project.

I've overcome my technical issues with the airbrush and got my "visualisation" on how I want this castle to look (which is "Dark, menacing and the sort of place my Chaos Warriors might want to hang out") firmly in place.

It's amazing how quickly you can make progress with an airbrush when you're not struggling with it. I've gone from my previous post to this one in less than 2 hours of "work time" with the airbrush and about 30 minutes of drybrushing (which has just been used on the "broken" sections of the walls to pick out damage. No drybrushing has been used on the walls or towers otherwise. I'm therefore very pleased to consider this my first, proper, major airbrush success.

Shown below is a selection of snaps I took with my phone. It was done immediately after the aforementioned drybrushing and so only the the sections I had to hand at that time (i.e. damaged wall segments) are shown. Shown is anything with damage: from a shipped rampart-corner to a totally shattered tower (which, incidentally in case you've not read all the posts above is completely home made) or collapsed wall section.

For the photos I'd arranged the pieces in a simple four-sided layout, 1 segment of wall per side. I'd also put the doors and gates in place.

The photos only show a small proportion of the pieces I've actually prepared. All told I have:

  • 7 Intact Towers
  • 1 Damaged Dower
  • 1 Destroyed Tower
  • 2 "Gate" wall sections
  • 8 wall sections
  • 3 collapsed/detroyed wall sections

All are currently finished to the same standard.

And I'm not done yet! My airbrushing experiment (varnishing aside) is done, but I've decided to take this a stage further and experiment with weathering powders. I've never used them before so it's another step into new territory. Wish me luck!

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Painting: How I paint Beastmen. 3rd and final installment

I've got a game coming up soon for my Beasts of Chaos army that means I need a few more Bestigors than I currently have.

I'm working in fits and spurts to paint up a batch of 28 models, just doing a few minutes here and there as time permits. I've always been very happy with the appearance of my Beasts, so I thought I'd share how I paint them up step by step.

It's basically a repeated application of drybrushing.

First off the models are primed with black spray. For this I use "plasti-kote projekt paint" which I buy from a local DIY shop. It's inexpensive when compared to the GW spray (currently £9.80 for 400ml can). I buy a 400ml can of this stuff for about £6.00 and it works totally fine.

Next up I drybrush the "skin" area on the models with a very dark brown colour. Again, I'm not using GW paint here - I  tend to avoid it as it's soooo expensive for such tiny amounts. I do have some from years back when I started - you'll see it in use later. Currently GW are charging £2.40 for a 12ml pot of paint (i.e. 20p per ml). I buy this stuff from a local art/craft shop for about £5.00 for a 250ml pot (i.e. 0.5p per ml). By my reckoning that works out as 2.5% of the GW price. It's thicker than GW paint and so goes much, much further too, when thinned. It's still an acrylic and washable with water, same as GW paint.
Black undercoat with dark-brown drybrushed flesh

One problem with that range of paint is that it's very limited in the range of colours. It's designed for artists to paint on canvas who will typically be frantically mixing on a palette as they go, so range isn't a requirement. No matter, as the same shop also stocks a range of hobby paints, as shown in the next step.

After the first round of drybrushing, I apply a second layer of a lighter brown to the "skin". This paint comes in 59ml pots and costs just £1. It is very similar in thickness and coverage to the regular GW paints but again the range of available colours is lower (that said there are still at least 50 colours available). Doing my sums again that means that this stuff costs 1.69p per ml, so is just 14% of what GW charge. This paint is also a water-washable acrylic, same as the GW paint.
A layer of mid-brown drybrushing applied to the flesh

Shop around!

Anyway, the "skin" is now finished, as far as I'm concerned (and so is the lecture on buying cheaper paint!) so I move on to the next area. I chose to do the "metalwork" on the model next, again just drybrushed:
More drybrushing - metal details this time

The next phase of the process is another drybrushing application - this time in a light grey colour (the exact colours used are shown in the photo below - about a 50:50 mix) to pick out the hair, fur and horns. The same shade is applied to the model's base (which was textured by applying PVA glue and some gritty sand before the black spray undercoat was applied).
Yet more (and final application of) drybrushing - light grey to pick out fur, hair and horns

I'm only aiming for "Acceptable Army Standard" with these models so I'm close to finishing. All I plan to do from this point is pick out the eyes (red), teeth (I use bronzed flesh for this - white is far too stark), the belt/butt-flap and the weapon-haft. So far I've invested about 5-6 hours into this unit of 28 models so you can see that this is a fairly rapid process so far. By my reckoning, that's about 12 mins per model so far. Going forward I move away from drybrushing to simply "painting" and then applying a one-stage highlight. Progress will be slower, but should still average out (I hope) at about 1 model every 20 mins.

The final part of the process went a little faster than I'd expected. I found when I applied the last few colours that to reach an "Acceptable Army Standard" that the one-stage highlight wasn't required - the colour itself over the base colour was sufficient.

So all I needed to do was to apply paint to:

  • Eyes (red)
  • Teeth (Bronzed Flesh)
  • Bracelets (Bronzed Flesh)
  • Belts (either black or dark brown)
  • Wrist-pennants (on the right wrist just beneath the hand) and Butt-flaps (either red, grey, dark brown or mid-brown)
  • Weapon-haft (dark brown with a Bronzed Flesh drybrush to bring out the wood-grain).

The final result looks like this:
Two models, front & back

A slightly different perspective
And the whole unit of 28 looks like this:
The whole unit
Start to finish time came in at about 18-19 minutes per model so about 9 hours for the whole unit.

These guys won't win me any Golden Daemon awards, but they will look splendid on the battlefield with the rest of my  my Beasts of Chaos army