Friday, 23 November 2012

It's going to be a busy time...

Well as you can see I decided to splash out and buy myself the Necron Megaforce, just to ensure my army is big enough come the apocalypse. This set expands my total force to over 50 Necron Warriors, a full unit of Spyders, a full squad of Tomb Blades (which I have plans for, oh yes...), over a full unit of Scarabs, 2 Triarch Stalkers, another Annihilation Barge, 2 Ghost Arks and a second unit of Immortals. I'm happy with the purchase, crying at the task of putting it all together and painting it. Sigh...

But that's not all I wanted to update about, I have other projects to do and updates I have in mind. I've decided that updating about Necrons (and painting them continuously) is getting a little stale and the blog (not to mention my sanity) needs to break things up a bit. Don't get me wrong, I will still be hard at work on my metal monstrosities, but I want to add a little variety now.

First things first, since I've finished my Realm of Battle board I've already started a minor terrain building session, specifically craters. I'm testing out a way of snow-ifying them and I'll write up a tutorial on how to do it my way if they turn out good. I also still have an old Imperial City kit (not Sector, City) that is almost entirely untouched that I really should put together and paint.

Secondly, I still have Space Hulk with all the lovely miniatures still on the sprues that I've decided need to be painted and played with.

And finally...

Okay so the picture's a little misleading, I'll explain in a moment. I plan on finally starting up a Warhammer Fantasy army, partly to expand my playing options, partly because so many people have been pushing for me to start it. But the question was, which army do I collect? Originally it was a coin flip between Vampire Counts or Dark Elves as they are my favourite races in any fantasy setting, but after much agonising, I decided not to go with either as I've briefly played Vampire Counts in the past and got absolutely slaughtered, didn't like how they played but they may have improved. As to the Dark Elves, I was swaying towards them but I was being told they were a cheap army that were overpowered, and I don't want to jump right in with an army like that, besides, I have been reading the Song of Ice and Fire series (more commonly known as "A Game of Thrones") and have become a huge fan, so much so that I wanted to emulate it's feel into my hobby. The choice was obvious...


I want to make a Song of Ice and Fire-esque Bretonnian army, but unlike other collectors with the same idea, I won't be basing it on characters from the book, no sir. I've been playing a very long running Song of Ice and Fire roleplay campaign using a house me and my fellow players came up with together. I will not only be using this specific house but I am challenging myself to include every character we've ever played in the campaign (living or dead) and I will write about my workings as I go on.

Happy Birthday Games Workshop Wood Green!

I thought I would post about this whilst I'm updating. Tomorrow marks the Wood Green store's 5th birthday, and to celebrate the staff there are running some fun events. There will be a Warhammer Quest style game going on (£20 buys you your own warband) and, I'm not 100% sure if this was a joke or not, but apparently a "Take the Fort" style game where the Fort is made of cake! If that doesn't sound appetising (pun not intended) then I don't know what will.

Come join in the fun if you can, I will be down there, and the staff and community at the store are awesome and cool people.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Realm of Battle Board Finished

I apologise for the poor picture quality in this post - all photos were taken on my phone.

Well I finally went and done it! I went out and bought myself a Realm of Battle board to play some games at home instead of relying on other peoples tables and going to Games Workshop. Sometimes it's nice to chill out and game in your own living room, knocking back a couple of cans of beer and not having to worry about carrying your precious models to and from a place. Yes, it's a nice dream for a hobbyist and one I intended to live out, no matter how long it took

But just buying the Realm of Battle Board is not enough, and the £175 tile set needs painting to make your battles truly epic, and for a while this is where I was stumped. I have no garden, no garage and no large ventilated areas... or any ventilated areas for that matter. This was a matter of pure frustration as I desperately wanted to start and finish the board fairly quickly, plus I needed to come up with a scheme for my board. For the scheme, this was a fairly quick decision, I decided to go with a snow themed board because a) I don't see enough of them and b) it suits my Necron army's bases. As for the time and space to do it, fortunately last Saturday I was able to hitch a lift with my flat mate to the London Hackspace, a community run hacker space where I had enough room and tools (excluding paints of course) that I could get the job done.

Day 1: Rocks, Snow and Hills

After much thought on my painting method, I decided go with the method used on Games Workshop's website, mostly because it seemed a simple and effective way to do a snow board. I began by spraying all the tiles with Chaos Black, then using the Citadel Spray Gun (with free propellant thanks to a working air compressor someone was just throwing away!) to spray The Fang over all areas of the board except the rocky areas. I purposely made the grey splotchy and non-uniform to imitate the pattern of fallen snow. I then gave a heavy drybrush of Codex Grey over all the rocky areas. I spray a bit more of The Fang around the rocky areas to blend the sections together. I was quite surprised at how clear the grey came out on the rocky areas, and even though it does fit in fantastically with the rest of the board, this was the undercoat colour to give more definition to the board once it's finished.

Finally I dusted the entire board with Skull White primer and was hugely surprised at how much difference it made! I kind of went a little mad with this step, sporadically changing the speed and distance with each pass over the board, but to be fair, snowfall is irregular, it does come out clump and I was more than happy with the final results:

The Skull White layer makes all
the difference.

Day 2: Fine Tuning and Details

With the lion's share of the work done, I was able to complete the rest of my battle board at home. I started by laying the full thing out on my customised wall pasting table I made a while ago - though I will say if you use a wallpaper pasting table to play on, avoid putting a boarder around it unlike me as the table won't fit the whole thing perfectly. This was where I would fine tune the board and finish the infamous (and not particularly great) pit o'skulls.

My original plan was to paint the skulls then layer blues over them before using realistic water to make a pool and dust over it with Woodland Scenic Snowflakes to imitate a frozen pool.

This didn't happen.

Instead, I accidentally created something that looked even more awesome before I I even got to the realistic water stage (note, the picture is terrible but you get the idea):

Pool O'Skulls!
It turns out you don't need realistic water to make these things look like pools. I started off with painting just the skulls, which was simply a matter of painting them white and coating them with Agrax Earthshade - nothing fancy, and I did this with every bone and skull on the board. I originally planned to drybrush them with Bleached Bone as well, but I was happy with them as they were and felt it was unnecessary. I then drowned (and I meant DROWNED) the skulls in all the places I wanted my ice with Drakenhof Nightshade to give the base colour for my ice. 

Now, here's the thing...

Something I have learnt about the new Games Workshop shades is that, when used in extremely heavy quantities like this, they dry gloss, not matt like the old washes. However, this happy accident actually worked to my advantage as it gave the pools more of a wet look, really making them look like icy cold, shimmering pools. I loved it so much I didn't want to tamper with it, so I left it and haven't regretted it.

I also troubled myself to add definition.
Finally, my flat mate pointed out that the cliffs would look better if the cracks in the hills were more defined. After spending the time to do this I am inclined to agree. This was simply a case of painting some Agrax Earthshade into the deeper cracks on the board.

And there you have it! Thoughts? Criticisms?... anyone up for a game? ;)

A Small Note of Paint Quantities

I decided to add this last section after I learnt how much paint this bad boy takes up, mostly for your sakes more than anything. Any paint you spray to create this thing eats paint for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Throughout the whole first day process, I went through 1 and 3 quarters worth of Chaos Black primer, and entire can of Skull White primer and 3 pots of The Fang, and even then I reckon I should have chewed through more of The Fang than that. If you take on the project of a Realm of Battle Board, be prepared! Stock up on spray paints!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Tutorial: Beginner's guide to painting

4 Ultramarines painted by me, from my first model (left) to
my latest creation (right)
Sometimes, I enjoy visiting my regular Games Workshop store to do my painting, to commune, to see other peoples works. It still astounds me that so many people rate my painting so highly, with many people saying that I'm a "pro" and some even saying I should enter Golden Demon. Personally, I don't entirely agree with either statement entirely.

Don't get me wrong, I'm hugely flattered by such praise, but the truth is that my first steps in the hobby are just as humble as many others (see the picture to the left), and the techniques I use are not particularly hard to learn or employ. You see, I genuinely believe that good painting isn't the art of making a complicated technique look simple, but rather making a simple technique look complicated. In the past, I have passed on the following rules to remember to people that have asked me for painting advice and their painting abilities improved almost over night. Finally, I have gotten around to publishing these tips on my blog.

Please note, these are not tips for the pro amongst you, there is no "Original Source Light" or "Vector Shading" techniques here, but merely simple things to bare in mind that can make models look 100 times better.

1. Keep it neat!

This may well seem like an obvious thing to say, but neat paintwork is an absolute must for making your model look great. Such a simple tip that is the difference between a model looking terrible and a model looking good. The way I describe it to people is think of miniature painting as "Advanced Colouring In". Keep your paints within the lines, keep the colours sharp.

Example 1
Take the above picture. These are two models I painted in two very different points in time. Both use the same colours and similar techniques, except the model on the right had great care taken to keep within the lines. As you can see, there is a massive difference in the quality of the paintwork. Simply taking care to clean up mistakes and neaten up your brushing can make a world of difference, as you can see.

Now, obviously there are exceptions to this rule, the main two that spring to mind are basecoats and washes. These layers on any model are, as a rule, messy and part of the creative process, giving you definition or a foundation with which to expand. Just remember, these can and will improve the quality of your work, but unless you clean this up when finishing up your model, it'll still leave the model looking unfinished.

2. Avoid relying too heavily on drybrushing

This is a step that everyone I know has been guilty of at some point or another, including me - painting your army almost entirely by drybrushing. It's an understandable solution to the old age problem of not having an army painted quickly enough, the drybrushing covers quickly and catches the edges of models well. However, if it is well painted models you're looking for, avoid this urge. The reason is simple:
  1. Drybrushing gives a very dusty look and, unless you're painting dried mud or something similar, it doesn't look natural (see example 2, below).
  2. Drybrushed colours tend to look very dark without many, many layers (see example 3, below).
Example 2
Example 3
In example 2, we see two Necrons painted in two different methods. The one on the left was painted simply by 3 drybrushed coats of metal in escalating brightness on straight black undercoat, whilst the one on the right was painted with the method I posted up 3 months ago. You will notice the Necron on the left looks very two dimensional colourwise, and quite scratchy, whereas the Necron on the right looks more three dimensional and smooth.

In example 3, we see two Ultramarines. The one on the left was painted with 2 or 3 heavily drybrushed layers of Ultramarine Blue over black undercoat, whereas the one on the right was painted using the method I posted last year. As you can see, the one on the right, again, has a smoother finish and is even a little brighter, which is shocking since the blue used on that model is actually darker than the blue used on the drybrushed model and has 1 less coat.

Now that's not to say you should avoid drybrushing completely, in fact...

3. Learn how to get the best from drybrushing

Example 4
The problem with drybrushing is purely down to the grainy effect you get from it. Therefore you may very well be surprised to learn that the cape on yesterday's post's Harbinger of Despair was painted almost entirely using drybrushing, but lacks any of the grainy qualities associated with the technique. How was this possible? There are two things to remember when you decide whether or not to use drybrushing:
  1. Drybrushing always looks better when done over a darker shade of the colour your using. The above example had 3 shades of green (Warpstone Glow, Goblin Green and Moot Green in that order) drybrushed over a basecoat of Orkhide Shade.
  2. Glazes and Washes do wonders to blend colours together and remove any grainy parts of the model. Glazes also do a fantastic job of really making colours look more vibrant.

4. ALWAYS shade and highlight

It's the ye olde question - manual highlighting or natural lightning? Manual highlighting as it happens. Painting models is very different to real life objects catching light for a few reasons. Firstly, real life objects are made up of varying materials, whereas models will always be reflective of acrylic paints and undercoat, and secondly, the scales are different. Models are a work of art, they come to life when they show off their details and highlighting.

But shading and highlighting doesn't need to be difficult, far from it. This is where Games Workshop shades and glazes come in. Shades can effectively be applied in one of two ways:
  1. Basecoat the model, wash the entire model with the relevant shade (generally Nuln Oil, but Agrax Earthshade works well for reds) then go over the model again in a layer colour, avoiding the recesses.
  2. Apply the shade only to the recesses.
Both these methods work well, try experimenting with both and see which works best for you.

As for highlights, as a general rule of thumb, the more shades of one colour you use to highlight give better results, but only if done right. Applying these in the right quantity takes some practice, but glazes work wonders in blending these to the base colour and making the overall miniature look more vibrant.

5. Practice makes perfect

Unless you are naturally talented, the chances of starting day 1 of your hobby and painting to the same standards as someone like me who has been in the hobby for 16 years is, not unheard of, but very, very unlikely. You need experience to truly know how the brushes flow, how colours work together, what products work best for you, what type of style of look you personally prefer etc. it is very rare that you will know straight away what you want and how you'll get it.

Even if you've been in the hobby for a while and you want to improve, no-one ever gets better without experimenting and getting stuck in. I have a few models that are abysmal failures that I used purely to test out a theory I had, or to test a look before finally stumbling on the look I want. At the end of the day, you won't know how a model will look until you go ahead and do it.

A few final thoughts

As I said at the beginning of the post, I don't think I'm an amazing painter, and I don't use complicated methods to make my models look how they do. I have done some tricky painting and pulled it off, but this has purely been down to practice, getting my eye in, learning to steady my hand. For the first time in 16 years I have shown everyone a picture of my very, very first model for one, simple reason. 

Many people see other hobbyist who are better than them at painting by far, and it can put people off the hobby. By putting a picture of my first steps into the hobby, I hope to inspire you all to pick up that paintbrush and practice, I was likely worse than most when I started!

One of the things I love most about the hobby is seeing other peoples works, seeing how their style and vision differs from my own. We are all overly critical of our own works, but to judge your own work harshly in comparison to someone else's is not the way forward. Everyone has their own style, and it should stand out as your own.

I'd like to say just one more thing before I end this post. I have recently been scoping out the work of kids younger than I was when I started in the hobby, how they paint, what they envision and some paint way better than I did when I was older than them. Because they get stuck in, because they want to experiment. That is how we all get better. That is how I got better also.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

One Eyed Freaks

I thought it was time to unveil my latest project today, and that would be my unhealthy obsession with my one eyed minions - specifically, two Crypteks and a group of Deathmarks. You have probably seen the unpainted version of my Harbinger of Despair, but I now let loose my Harbinger of Destruction loose upon the internet! I didn't post any work in progress pictures of the conversion before, but that is because the flames I made from green stuff just didn't show up before I painted them - it was fun trying to find them whilst I was painting them too!

I plan on writing an indepth post later in the future about how and why I have modelled my Crypteks the way I have, but that'll be when the other 3 are put together and painted, but for now, I thought I would go through a few points about each model individually.

Harbinger of Despair
First off, the Harbinger of Despair, an utter joy to convert and paint. I did steal using the Cairn Wraith idea off of the internet, but I decided to put my own spin on the model, specifically I wanted to model him after the idea of the Grim Reaper, so a Scythe was in order. I made this with a kit bash of a Lychguard/Triarch Praetorian staff, a weapon from the Wraith kit (using Whip Coils myself, I have them lying about) and two Spyder fabricator claws, trimmed down to form Necronesque scythe blades. The fact that half of the body is missing is purely a representation of a Veil of Darkness, whilst the skulls, twisting and contorting out of the cape are a model representation of a Shroud of Despair.

Harbinger of Destruction
Next up, my Harbinger of Destruction. I always loved this particular Necron Lord model and I thought it would look amazing for a Cryptek conversion, but the head needed a swap (not a problem, I have a knife and plenty of Deathmark heads) and the scythe was replaced with yet another Lychguard/Praetorian staff, but used two warscythe blades to make it look more like a staff and less like a scythe. The Gaze of Flame was a fairly simple green stuff sculpt and painted almost entirely with Gryphonne Sepia Wash, Lamenters Yellow Glaze, Baal Red Wash and Bloodletter Glaze over a white base. The same goes for the Solar Pulse, located between the blades of the staff in the form of the ball. I also painted a lava crack on the base to highlight the themes of fire, war and destruction.

Deathmarks - Work in Progress
And then finally we have my Deathmarks which, like my Warriors, are armless (seems to be a running trend in my paint schedule lately). I was a little worried about how they would look with the blue shoulders and gold heads, but luckily my worries were unfounded. I'm really pleased with how they came out, and I actually think they look better than my Immortals at the moment! I'm going to try and get these guys finished soon...

Monday, 5 November 2012

So I should probably explain...

Some of the more eagle eyed readers might have noticed that I included myself a "Harbinger of Destruction" in my battle report last week - yes, I have made a miniature for it, no, I am not posting it up until it's finished.

The reason for this is that I've done a bit of green stuffing converting on it, but before I even thought to take a work in progress picture of it, I undercoated it and, even in person, the green stuffing I did doesn't show up particularly well. I'm hoping that once it's all painted up it'll stand out enough to showcase it, but for now, all I ask is patience...

In other news, I have a Realm of Battle board now I will hopefully start work on this week (damn my lack of spraying space!) and a lovely new Necron Megaforce is available to reorder Saturday, so I know how I'm spending the week! In the meantime, I will be working on my Deathmarks. Sorry, I have no pictures at the moment...