Thursday, September 24, 2009

Painting Space Hulk, Part 1

I've decided to record my progress painting the lurvely Space Hulk minis here, partly as a guide to those who'd like to learn to paint the GW way, that is, the basic formula of:

1) Base coat
2) Shading (includes washing)
3) Highlights (includes drybrushing)
4) Details

This assumes an undercoat of black, of course. Be warned that the GW way is extremely meticulous. If you dig around on the net, you should be able to find any number of techniques which will give you minis that look pretty ok in a fairly short time, i.e. perhaps an afternoon to do 5 marines. This record won't cover that. I intend to come out of this with minis that you can look at and admire and, in my case, 5 years on wonder how the hell I managed to do that.

DISCLAIMER: I may have mentioned that I worked for Games Workshop once upon a time. I worked in GW RETAIL. As such, there are several different standards of painting. A rough guide, from best to worst:

1) Golden Demon - The pinnacle of the art of miniature painting. Truly, you are a god among men.
2) 'Eavy Metal - The people who do the miniatures that get photographed real nice in the magazines. Serious professional work here.
3) Shop display - Often the personal armies of particularly artistically inclined retail staff. Painted and modelled with some love, but just short of the technical expertise needed to make 'Eavy Metal standard. I'm around here.
4) Trial - Models painted to introduce newbies to GW gaming. Painted nice enough to look good on a tabletop, but not too nice, because we generally expect some arsehole to steal them at some point. The great bulk of GW hobbyist armies I've seen will fall into this category, as do dip method minis.
5) Basecoats only - Just basecoats, no shading, no highlights. Lazy bastards.
6) Fail - Monstrous parodies of the original miniatures, which can result from too much effort as easily as too little effort but nothing is as insulting to the tabletop as...
7) Unpainted - The only use you have for a paintbrush is to put a big red 'L' on your deserving forehead, you Loser.

There's any number of pitfalls for the novice painter, so out of the goodness of my heart, I'm putting up a few little tips that'll make your first attempts to painting GW-style hopefully not end in too much fail. Also, I thought it would be nice to have a photographic record of my progress. I think there's something a little magical about slowly bringing a wee lump of plastic to life with paint.

I'll be more or less following the guidelines laid out on GW's site, because a) the miniatures have all been festooned with Blood Angel iconography, so using a different colour scheme would look a little odd; and b) I lack the imagination to do so. Note, however, that the people who paint those as seen in the gallery are pros with ungodly amazing skills who will not only dot the eyes, but paint a gleam in the eye of miniatures barely the size of the top joint of your thumb. So, I'll deviate in one or two places in a manner commensurate with my own abilities and the limited number of colours I have currently at my disposal.

Tips on brush technique, assuming you are using a Citadel standard brush:
1) Protect that tip! The bristles will most certainly splay out when there's lotsa paint on it, but with small amounts of paint, the brush should be able to come to a point.
2) Don't let paint touch the metal bit. If it dries there it'll fray the brush.
3) On contact with the model, pull, never push, and definitely don't drag it sideways.
4) You may lick the brush. No, really. After giving the brush a good shake in water, I'll wipe it on a tissue, then use my tongue, curled in an 'O' to restore the brush to a sharp point. Just don't drink anything other than water when you're painting.
5) Pay attention to how you grip the brush and the mini. I find the steadiest way to grip is to place both elbows on the table, mini in left hand, brush in right and brace your wrists against each other. Also, I grip the brush the Chinese way, like so:
I find this grip gives me far better control than the usual pen grip, allows a greater range of movement and is especially well-suited to the way I hold the mini, that is, wrist-on-wrist. Also, since elbows are up on the table, you can keep sitting up straight with a decent posture, as opposed to crouching with wrists braced against the table, as some prefer. Make sure you've got a good, bright lamp, preferably one with a movable arm and you're good to go.

If, like me, this is the very first time you're painting Blood Angel Terminators, it helps to have a spare model to experiment with. This is my guinea pig of choice, Trooper Bob:

I forget where on Earth I got him, but as I continue painting the Space Hulk minis, I'll be testing colour mixes and techniques on various bits of him. I'm kinda curious how he'll turn out at the end of all this... .

So, first things first, basecoating. The dominant colour of the Blood Angels is, of course, Blood Red*. I distinctly remember this colour being an absolute bastard to work with as a kid. That's because back then, no one told me that:

a) You have to thin down the paint.
b) You have to use several coats.

Here's what the effect of each coat looks like, modeled by the exceedingly badass Squad Lorenzo**:

From left to right: Black undercoat, 1st coat of Blood Red, 2nd coat, 3rd coat, 4th coat + shading.

You may notice I've been a little sloppy with the brush at some places. This isn't really an issue. Since the paint is heavily thinned down (about 2:3 paint to water), when the paint dries, it won't obscure the detail. Since the Blood Red bits cover the most of each of the minis, I've opted to complete the base coat (i.e. 4 coats of Blood Red) and proceed straight to shading, then come back and base coat the other areas. Also, I went for Blood Red first because there's heaps of little trinkets and bits all over these guys. The Blood Red bits are underneath quite a few of these, so to minimize the impact of possible errors, I went for the colour that is most difficult to reach with the brush first.

Tips on basecoating:
1) These minis are absurdly detailed, so it really won't hurt to study the model for a bit before you start. Turn it over and over in your hand look at the way the light hits it and just get a feel for how you're going to shade and highlight it.
2) Be systematic about it. Start at one place, preferably the largest flat area you can find, then draw the paint as evenly as you can around the mini. It's a little counterintuitive at first, but ignore the fact that, the first time round, your Blood Red isn't quite Blood Red. Just remember, after 4 coats (maybe 5), it will be.
3) Make it as even as you can! Can't stress this enough! Don't let the paint pool in the crevasses, and smoosh away any bubbles you see. When these paints dry, they form a tough layer. If you let too much accumulate in the crevasses, you're making it much harder to shade later.
4) As mentioned before, don't stress too much about getting Blood Red on the wrong bits. Chaos Black is an extremely solid colour and even thinned down it will quite easily wipe away your sins at a stroke without squishing out the detail.
5) You can afford to be sloppy for basecoating the first colour. Beyond that, correcting mistakes is a LOT more troublesome. Be patient. Breathe steady. Have a tissue ready for a quick draw and wipe in the event of emergencies.

Seeing as I didn't have, as recommended by the guide, any Dark Flesh, I decided to improvise. I used Scab Red and a touch of Chaos Black to wash the Blood Red bits. Now, what 'washing' means here is to take a colour significantly darker than the base colour, thin it down to more or less the consistency of milk, then go over the base colour and deliberately let this darker colour pool in the crevasses. Sounds easy, but takes a little practice to get the hang of making surface tension work for you and letting the right amount pool in said crevasses. You may have noticed Trooper Bob's left leg has been shaded. After testing it out on Bob, I moved on to Brother Deinos below:

After washing, your mini will generally look like he's been playing in the mud. Fear not, just come back and touch up the raised areas with the base colour again.

Anyway, this is as far as I've gotten for the moment. I feel I should mention that, at this point, I've actually played the game twice; the first mission as both Marine and Genestealer. It is as they say: Painted minis roll more 6's. And red definitely makes 'em go fasta.

* All the colours I'm using are of course Citadel Colour standards.

** No, I didn't come up with these names. No imagination, remember? I'm using the names from the Space Hulk Mission and Background book. From left to right, those marines are: Brother Goriel, Brother Valencio, Brother Zael, Sergeant Lorenzo and Brother Deinos.

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