Saturday, 25 January 2014

Tutorial: Plasticard Rhino Tactical Symbols

Today I am going to run everyone through how to accomplish my latest achievement in the world of hobbying, namely making tactical squad symbols to put on the tops of your Rhinos. I thought up this idea after deciding after many hours of contemplation that I really couldn't be bothered to just stencil the symbol on the top hatches.

I will warn you all before hand that this effect will take a while to achieve as it involves a lot of effort. But it looks good. Try this out at your own leisure.

Step 1: Sketch the shape - First and foremost is to make sure the shape of the symbol is straight and tidy. To do this you'll need a pencil, a ruler and, of course some plasticard. To get the size you can work with it's worth sketching around the hatch the symbol will go on (important note: do not glue the hatches together or on to the Rhino just yet, this will become evident shortly!)

Now get your ruler and draw a 4 straight lines lengthways giving you 4 boxes of equal dimensions (I think this was about 1.25cms at each interval but check your measurements just in case). Then draw a single line in the middle of the area widthways. Finally draw a straight line from the top of the middle lengthways line to each end of the widthways line. It's a fiddly process but it will give you your shape to work with and it will give the icon accurate and smooth dimensions. There's nothing that ruins these decals more than jagged and in proportionate sizes!

Once this is done, pick out the arrow symbol with a felt tip pen or biro (I personally used the latter) so it's clear what you have to cut out. Finally cut this shape out carefully using a modelling knife. I will warn you all now, however that the thicker the plasticard the more work this will be!

 Step 2: Get the placement right - This is mostly a judgement call on what you think looks best, but my method for doing this is to put the rhino latches in their place (again, don't glue them on, this is important!) and dry fit the icon on the latch.

Once you have got the placement right, use polycement (plastic glue) on one half of the latch only and let it set. It is important that you don't glue the symbol on the whole hatch at this point or you will ruin the effect, but I have shown a work in progress shot of my Rhino to the left without one of the hatch halves to give you a rough indication of where you should be aiming to place the tactical squad icon. Once you got this step down, it's time to start working to make the whole thing look functional...

Step 3: Making the whole thing look real - This is where not gluing the hatch together is important. To put a flat symbol on top of a hatch that should be opening looks wrong and impractical. This is where we fix that.

I will warn you all in advance that this is the hardest part of the process. Taking the hatch half that has had the icon glued to it, use your modelling knife to carefully trace the jagged "teeth" of the hatch, cutting off the unglued part of the plasticard. After doing this, dry fit the unstuck half of the symbol on the opposite hatch door, ensuring that these halves align properly. Using polycement (plastic glue), stick this to the door hatch.

Step 4: Clean it up! - Before finally gluing the hatch doors on to the vehicle, clean up the symbol by aligning your knife along the edges of the model itself and, running it along the path clear up any unsightly overhangs on the symbol. Now you can glue the finished product to the tank and make yourself a cup of tea.

Why stop at Tactical Squad Symbol?

If you're feeling particularly adventurous, don't stop with the tactical symbols, go further! Using simple geometric methods you can make accurate and clean looking symbols for... well, just about anything.

I made this Iron Halo outline using slightly more complex methods that are similar to how I created the tactical squad symbol. The circles were made using a stencil I merely drew round, then measuring the dimensions of the circle I put the points more or less dead center and made every spike equal in width and length (well, apart from the obvious ones). As you can see I've shown you an example of using a biro to outline the shape itself so you can all see how much clearer and easier it is to get the right shape to cut out. Plasticard is a pain to work with at times, but it doesn't take an expert in rocket science to get basic, clean and cool looking shapes. Space Marine tanks are great for this material so go nuts, experiment!

An Ultramarine Symbol with embedded Iron Halo

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