Category Archives: Project Log

Speed Painting Two Ways

Painting fast is something I struggle with. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and always have been. My mom loves to tell stories of my art projects back in grade school where she told me, “It’s great, be done, and get to bed!” and I would push for a little bit more, a little extra time to make it just right. Unsurprising then that 20 or so years later I end up painting minis the same way, only no one is telling me “Stop. It’s good enough.”

I’ve taken a few speed painting classes, but inevitably fall back into my familiar habits and style of painting if I feel like the speed techniques don’t live up to the quality I want. Recently I’ve been following two different miniature artists who do incredible things at incredible speeds; Raffaele Picca from Massive Voodoo, and Matt DiPietro from Contrast Miniatures. I was able to take a ‘Speed Painting Display Quality Miniatures’ class with Raffaele at Adepticon 2017, and I hope to be able to take Matt’s weekend class on his ‘Sketch Style’ sometime in the future. As an experiment, I decided to try both styles on identical models, and see how they worked in my hands.

Raffaele’s speed concept is all about creating focus on the model. As he says, no one is taking time to look at the feet (which is funny because my dad always used to say the same thing about shoes). Time is better spent painting the important areas and letting the rest fade into the background. He accomplishes this by using desaturated colors to start, and building up brighter colors and details only around the focus area, usually the face.

I started with a primed model, the Tharn Ravager Whitemane by Privateer Press, and then airbrushed an undercoat of P3 Battlefield Brown since this model has lots of leather tones. It’s a cool, dark brown color that is perfect for a desaturated, muted look. From there I used the airbrush to highlight the upper portions of the model with Gun Corps Brown, and a final highlight of Hammerfall Khaki around the face and shoulders.

Primed Whitemane, left, Desaturated Browns, right

From here the base colors are glazed on to get the overall midtone base tints. Once the main colors are on (ignoring the metals for now) a dark brown wash is used in the shadows, and wiped away from the higher highlights. When the wash is dry, airbrush a very transparent white layer on the face and upper shoulders to bring back the highlight and really solidify the focal point on the model.

Glazed midtone colors, left; White highlight for focus, right

Next I used Army Painter Dark Tone wash on the lower half of the model, again wiping the wash away from anywhere that should be highlighted. From here, it’s highlights only, focusing on the upper half of the model, adding in details only around the face, shoulders, and upper arms. The metals got done right at the end with a simple basecoat, wash for shadows, and a bright highlight. The finished Whitemane has a strong focus on the face and shoulders, and the rest sort of fades from view.

Finished Whitemane

 

Matt DiPietro’s Sketch Style has been super intriguing, and I’ve been keeping an eye on the articles and models he’s been putting out there. That said, a lot of what is going on with this technique is just me guessing until I have the opportunity to take his class. The Whitemane starts out with zenithal priming through the airbrush. This gives a good grayscale base for the next step.

Zenithal primed Whitemane

Using the primer as a kind of map, the next step uses P3 Thamar Black, Morrow White, and a Golden artist’s acrylic Titanium White to create a value ‘sketch’ on the model. The titanium white is the brightest, most pigment rich white and should only be used on the highest highlights. The value sketch refines the shadows and highlights, and basically creates a black and white version of the model.

Whitemane value sketch

From here, the midtones are thinly glazed on over the value sketch, allowing the grayscale to show through. The value sketch does almost all of the work with the shadows and highlights as long as the colors aren’t applied too thickly.

Colors glazed over value sketch

To finish the sketch style Whitemane I basically just added a couple details, a few higher highlights here and there, and some tone adjustment of the leather armor with brown ink. The metals I did the same as the previous model with a quick basecoat, wash, and bright highlight. The finished model has a high level of contrast throughout, and makes a very engaging looking model on the table.

Finished sketch style Whitemane

Since the goal of this whole thing is eventually to have some good looking models with less time spent, I kept careful track of how long each method took. I was doing both of these techniques for the first time (and also stopping for photos and looking at notes) and both ended up taking about the same amount of time, around 5 hours total. With some more practice I don’t doubt that I’d get even faster. I did a side by side comparison and I still can’t figure out which one I like better, so I think that’s a win!

Take a look! Raffaele Picca’s what I’m calling Focus Style on the left side, and Matt DiPietro’s Sketch Style on the right.

Una the Skyhunter

I started on Una the Skyhunter almost immediately after her release at Warmachine Weekend 2016. It’s an awesome event that I highly recommend, and we were able to snag her and another of the new warlocks at the Privateer Press booth. Overall, after getting her put together, I think she’s one of the better models of the group. I’m also a much bigger fan of this version over her journeyman model, which has just too many things going on for a model that size.

Anyway, I frequently get asked to explain how I do skin, particularly faces, so I thought I would do a short step-by-step tutorial on Una, followed by a few intermediate progress pictures on the rest of the model. I almost exclusively use P3 paints because they work the best with how I paint, so the colors that I mention are all in their range.

I prefer to use a light gray primer on most of my models these days, as it doesn’t mute the bright colors as much as black primer does, and I seem to have a hard time with white primers having separated into chunks and watery medium no matter how hard I shake. I prime with my airbrush because it’s hard to nail down decent weather for spray can primer in the Midwest that doesn’t change drastically from day to day. So that covers primer, on to the paint!

For Caucasian female skin I start with a basecoat of a 50/50 mix of Midlund Flesh and Ryn Flesh with a teeny tiny dab of Thamar Black added in to desaturate the somewhat orange tone of the flesh colors. This helps it look more like real skin.

Skin tone basecoat

Immediately after doing the basecoat of the face I tackle the eyes. Here’s a secret… I used to HATE painting eyes, they were always crooked, and no matter what I tried I messed up my finished face. Then I took a class with Meg Maples, a former Privateer Press studio painter, and boy did she open my eyes (wink wink) on how to tackle this tricky subject! She has written a superb article that takes you through the exact process I used for Una, which you can find here, linked with permission: http://www.arcanepaintworks.com/blog-1/2016/6/9/6-step-eyes The best secret I learned was to do the eyes first and then clean up around them when they were finished. No more mess ups on finished faces!

Una with 6-Step Eyes

Now I start with the shadows on the face. Regardless of skin tone I always do one warm shadow color and one cool shadow color. By “warm” and “cool” I’m referring to some basic color theory that warm colors are generally red, orange, yellow and cool colors are blue, green, violet. Warm colors pop forward to the eye and cool colors visually recede. For more on color theory and color mixing, I super recommend the book “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green” by Michael Wilcox.

The warm tone helps bring some life to the model. As humans we’re used to seeing blood flowing under the skin which creates a warm, reddish hue. So the warm tone, used in the cheeks and around the ears, gives the illusion that the model also has some blood flowing under the skin. I make a mix of the base skin color and add a small amount of Sanguine Base, just enough to tint the base a little red.

Warm Shadows on Face

To give the face some depth and definition I go to the cool shadows next. My go-to color to achieve this is Coal Black, and it is hands down my favorite color in the whole P3 paint range. I add just a touch to the base skin color, enough to achieve a slightly blue tint. This is not mixed at all with the previous shadows color, otherwise it gets too purple and we lose the pure cool effect of the blue.

Cool Shadows on Face

For the first highlight I use pure Ryn Flesh and focus on placing it where the light would naturally hit. Areas to focus on are the tops of the cheekbones, the forehead, the bridge of the nose, the skin over the upper lip, and the top of the chin. Try not to completely lose your midtone (the basecoat) leaving some to transition into the shadows. I frequently have to go back with the midtone color and make sure to redefine it as usually either one shadow or the highlights get a little over-zealous.

Ryn Flesh Highlights

For a final highlight I mix the Ryn Flesh with a good amount of Menoth White Highlight (about two-thirds and one-third, respectively). Menoth White Highlight is a nice warm white, almost a cream/linen color and will help the final highlights pop not only with light, but with warmth. This should be placed inside the first highlight where the light would hit the very most. It’s generally a pretty small highlight, but very important for the full definition of the face.

Final Highlights with Menoth White Highlight

As a final step for the face, I gave Una some lip color using Sanguine Base and Sanguine Highlight. The darker color goes on the upper lip because it’s in shadow, and lighter on the bottom. I add a very small highlight on the lower lip by mixing the Sanguine Highlight with some Ryn Flesh to give the lip a fuller feeling.

Lip Color

In order to make sure everything looks good before I move on to the rest of the model, I block in the colors around the face. So I did a quick base coat of the hair, the hood, and the shirt by her neck. This serves as a good check on whether or not I’ve achieved a decent level of contrast on the skin tones, and helps me see what the face is going to look like in the context of the rest of the model.

Block in Colors Around the Face

Since the model I’m working with here is pretty small, work-in-progress photos with even my good camera are less than perfectly detailed. I’ve drawn a simple diagram of how I place my shadows and highlights on a face given a sort of ambient, overhead lighting, like what you would find if they were outside on a sunny afternoon. Placement of shadows and highlights can change drastically under different or more dramatic lighting situations, but given a model you’re going to play with on the table, those usually don’t apply. The colors are a little exaggerated for effect and clarity in understanding the “zones” of the face.

Face Map Front
Face Map Profile

Now that the face is done I tackle the model from the inside out, moving on to the fabrics, and then the armor, and then all the little details afterwards.

Cloth and Leather
Armor

And then after a hundred feathers, we have the finished model!

I hope this is helpful in showing exactly how I tackle faces on models. Even when they’re small in scale like Una, the face is where we’re programmed as humans to look first. It’s worth spending the extra time and practice on getting it right! Until next time, Happy Gaming!

 

Winter Hunters

Guild Ball is a great game by Steamforged Games with a low model count, and I love getting teams . The models themselves all have great expressive faces and active poses to go along with the whole idea of fantasy murder soccer. This team of Hunters was imagined with a winter theme, in such a way where they might blend in to a snowy forest environment. Whites, icy blues, and dark grays are the main colors, and the crushed glass on the bases helps sell the effect of crisp, shining snow.

Theron, Hunter Captain
Theron, Hunter Captain
Egret
Egret

Fahad was probably my favorite of the whole team, getting to do her as a snow leopard and freehanding all the spots was a great challenge. In the end, I think the effect turned out pretty nicely.

Fahad
Fahad
Hearne
Hearne
Jaecar
Jaecar

Who doesn’t love a rampaging polar bear? Seenah only has one foot on the ground, and you can just picture him barreling towards the enemy team.

keith_seenah1

Seenah
Seenah
Chaska
Chaska
Zarola
Zarola

You can’t have Hunters without their traps, cleverly disguised for the winter season, nor a game of Guild Ball without the ball, given the appropriate logo.

Hunter traps
Hunter traps
Guild Ball
Guild Ball

One of the best things for me is to put all the models together and take a team shot. Looking at them all out there as a visually cohesive unit is really rewarding!

Hunters
Hunters

Weathered Cryx Inflictor Tutorial

This blog was first featured as a guest post over at the Privateer Press website, here’s the original! http://privateerpress.com/guest-hobby-blog-weathering-with-griffons-roost-painting

 

The Inflictor is the newly released Cryx warjack that comes as part of a hard plastic kit along with the Seether. I’ve long been a fan of the Nightmare Empire, so I just had to add the Inflictor to my collection. In my imagination, the Broken Isles are a kind of wet and dreary place. I’ve always thought that Cryx ‘jacks could look rusty and corroded in that climate, since the undead probably aren’t the most fastidious of beings. So I’d like to share a step-by-step for painting the Inflictor focusing on the weathering technique I use to make my Cryx ‘jacks look nice and dirty!

 

Step 1: Prep and Prime

Assemble the warjack according to the instructions, remove mold lines with a sharp hobby knife, and fill the gaps with an epoxy material of preference. It is important to note that I failed on the following instructions part, and didn’t notice that the Inflictor should have two small acid tanks on its right shoulder instead of another set of spikes. So mine has two sets of shoulder spikes… oops!

Assembled, cleaned, and gap filled
Assembled, cleaned, and gap filled

Prime the model in a light gray or white primer using an airbrush or a rattle can variety. A lighter primer is important here because it helps the next step, a rusty orange, show up vibrantly.

Primed in a light gray
Primed in a light gray

Step 2: Rust Layer

Using the airbrush again, give the Inflictor a solid base of Bloodstone mixed with a little Bloodtracker Brown.

Rust layer base coat
Rust layer base coat

Next take a bit of blister foam, and using it as a sponge, dab on spots of Khador Red Base, Khador Red Highlight, Bloodstone, and Umbral Umber.

Rust Colors and blister foam sponge
Rust Colors and blister foam sponge

After spongeing on these colors, the rust layer should have a decent amount of variation.

Rust variation added
Rust variation added

At this point, I sealed the Inflictor lightly with some Testor’s Dullcote, a spray matte varnish, to protect the rust layer in the next steps. After that had fully dried, take whatever cheap aerosol hairspray and apply two light coats to the model, letting it dry fully between coats. A hairdryer on a cool setting can speed up the drying time significantly. It is possible that the hairspray will make the model look shiny, but this is fine as it won’t stay that way.

Inflictor_Step6_Hairspray
Hairspray application

Step 3: Airbrush the Main Color

My Cryx are the standard gray scheme, so I used Cryx Bane Base, Cryx Bane Highlight, and Thamar Black. Using the airbrush is crucial to making this weathering technique work since it applies paint in very thin layers, much more so than what can be achieved with a brush. When airbrushing, I prefer to start with the darkest shadow color, and work my way all the way up to the highest highlight. I start with mostly Thamar Black, mixed with a little Cryx Bane Base, then add more Cryx Bane Base for the next layer. Straight Cryx Bane Base is the third layer and serves as the midtone. First highlight is Cryx Bane Base mixed half and half with Cryx Bane Highlight, and finally the last highlight is straight Cryx Bane Highlight.

Shadows and Midtone
Shadows and Midtone
Full Highlights
Full Highlights

Step 4: Exposing the Rust

For this part you need a clean cup of water, a bristled dental pick, and a cheap, soft paint brush.

Bristled dental pick, clean brush and water for exposing the rust layer
Bristled dental pick, clean brush and water for exposing the rust layer

With the wet dental pick gently scrub away at the gray until the rust color underneath is sufficiently exposed. The water dissolves the hairspray, and weakens the paint on top of it so that it can be removed. Use the clean paint brush for cleanup of any paint flakes that may not be removed with the dental pick. Focus rust spots on areas that would be prone to them, anywhere water might pool and sit, around rivets or other weak spots, or anywhere the ‘jack might be prone to being scratched or damaged.

Exposing the rust layer
Exposing the rust layer

It’s impossible to fully control this process, you get to choose where and approximately how much paint comes off, but not the exact shape or outline of the rust spots. Embrace the chaos, it makes the rust patches look more natural! When the ‘jack is as corroded as desired, make sure it’s fully dry, and then seal the model again with Dullcote. This will protect the work thus far, and prevent the grays from chipping down to the rust any more.

Seal with Dullcote
Seal with Dullcote

Now this ‘jack is good and rusty!

inflictorrustwip
Inflictor after hairspray weathering

Making the rust varied in the step with the sponge really gives it an extra boost of realism. Check out the circled area to see the detail inside the rust spots.

Detail inside rust
Detail inside rust

Step 5: Define the Rust

To really make the rust stand out it needs to be edged. To simulate the effect of paint lifting from the rust, paint a fine Thamar Black line around the top edge of the spot, so it looks like it’s casting a shadow. Use Cryx Bane Highlight to paint a thin, light line around the bottom edge of the rust spot, as if the peeling paint edge is catching the sunlight.

Edging the rust spots
Edging the rust spots
Rust edging detail
Rust edging detail

Step 6: Paint the Metals

Paint the steel starting with a Pig Iron base coat, then shade with a 50/50 mix Coal Black and Umbral Umber. Highlight with Cold Steel. For the brass areas, base coat with Blighted Gold, then shade with a mix of Umbral Umber, Cryx Bane Base, and a small bit of Gnarls Green. Highlight with Brass Balls.

Metals painted
Metals painted

Now, it makes no sense that these metals look clean and shiny and new while the paint is old and rusted. To age the metals, dab some Bloodstone on the steel using a sponge to give it a light rusted appearance. Make a wash of the same color and apply it judiciously where rusty water might pool, or coming in streaks from the rust spots in the gray areas. Brass corrodes differently than steel and oxidizes into a blue-green color. Make a mix with Arcane Blue and Iosan Green, and sponge that on the brass areas. Using these colors, make a wash and apply it carefully around the bottoms of the rivets, or around any of the brass crevices where water might get stuck.

Aged metals
Aged metals

Step 7: Cryxian Glow

Hands down the most eye-catching thing about Cryx is their eerie green glow. It lets you know that that’s no normal fire powering these machines, it’s something Evil. To start, paint all the areas that are going to be glowing with Menoth White Highlight. This will insure that it is the brightest part of the model.

Paint white where the glow will be
Paint white where the glow will be

Now make three separate mixtures of ink. One of straight yellow ink, one that is two drops yellow and one drop green, and the last mixture is one drop yellow and two drops green ink. Starting with the middle mixture of two yellow, one green, glaze the ink over the areas painted white. Take care not to have too much ink in the brush, and don’t let it pool around the edges or in the cracks. Next, use the straight yellow ink and blend it closer in to the core of the ‘jack. Then use the darker green mix and blend it towards the outer edges, as if the fire is getting colder farther away from the middle.

Green glow
Green glow

 

Step 8: Finishing Touches

Almost there! All that’s left at this point is a few hoses and the boney shoulder spikes. Paint the hoses black and highlight the ridges with Coal Black mixed with a bit of Menoth White Highlight. The bone spikes are a ‘Jack Bone base, shaded with a 50/50 mix of Gun Corps Brown and Cryx Bane Highlight, then highlighted with a mix of ‘Jack Bone and Menoth White Highlight.

Almost complete
Almost complete

Get the ‘jack based with your favorite creepy materials, take some final photos, and voila! The Inflictor is ready to go onto the battlefield to further the plans of Lord Toruk, drain enemies of their souls, and perhaps give them tetanus, too!

inflictor1 inflictor2 inflictor10inflictor7

Rats! A Malifaux Crew

I recently got a commission to paint up a crew of Malifaux models, which was my first foray into anything produced by Wyrd Games. I don’t know much of anything about the game itself, but I have to say, the models were a delight. The plastic is really great, cleaned up easily, and has some really impressive detail quality. As I understand it, the group I got are Outcasts, led by Hamelin, and made up of a combination of “The Plague Cometh” and “Brotherhood of the Rat” box sets. All that was asked of me was to paint them close to the studio scheme, and leave basing to my client. The interesting thing about Malifaux, though, is that they don’t currently seem to have studio painted models for their plastics. There wasn’t a physical model to copy, so I had to turn to their graphic images for inspiration and guidance.

The Plague Cometh box set art - Wyrd Games
The Plague Cometh box set art – Wyrd Games
Brotherhood of the Rat box set art - Wyrd Games
Brotherhood of the Rat box set art – Wyrd Games

When I go about starting any project where the models are going to end up as a cohesive group, I find it critical to stop and think about what it is that’s going to tie them all together. Color and basing are always good choices for this, but when the models themselves are more individual, it can be more difficult to get a single color to unify everything. So for this project I chose to go a more thematic route. It seemed like all of the models were meant to be people on the fringes, living rough on the streets or in the sewers. It made sense in my brain that they should all have muted colors, and a mostly subtle, limited palette.

Let’s start with Hamelin! Here’s a nice clear picture of his official studio illustration, followed by my interpretation in miniature form.

Hamelin - Wyrd Games
Hamelin – Wyrd Games
Hamelin painted model
Hamelin painted model

The Obedient Wretch was probably my favorite model out of the group. She’s sweet and creepy, and even though she’s a very simple figure, it feels like she has a story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even find much in the way of a studio illustration, just this one image from a Malifaux page that appears to be in Cyrillic. It’s still a great imspiration and starting place for my model.

Obedient Wretch artwork
Obedient Wretch artwork
Obedient Wretch painted model
Obedient Wretch painted model

The color choices on the other models were largely guided by the images from the art on their box sets above, though I couldn’t resist putting the little girl eating a rat in a pink dress. The dichotomy of what she’s doing and the innocent, childish color just felt too right.

Rat Catcher - Wyrd Games
Rat Catcher – Wyrd Games
The Stolen, girl - Wyrd Games
The Stolen, girl – Wyrd Games
The Stolen, boy - Wyrd Games
The Stolen, boy – Wyrd Games
Rat King - Wyrd Games
Rat King – Wyrd Games
Nix - Wyrd Games
Nix – Wyrd Games

And you can’t forget the rats! Of course I see plenty of real life references for those in my city alleyways… Eek!

Malifaux Rats - Wyrd Games
Malifaux Rats – Wyrd Games