Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Painting With A Plan

Many miniature war game players fall into two categories.  You have gamers and painters.  You also have virtuosos out there who are accomplished at both painting a great army and a putting a superb list together.  Scanning the blogs out there will tell you where people fall.  I think for the best hobby experience you need a mix of both.  40k is pretty much two hobbies one is the painting and the other war gamming.

Today I am going to offer what I think is the best strategy for painters to get an actual army on the table.
Now most people who focus on painting can get taken with particular models.  You see certain pieces you think they look great and you just can't wait to paint them up with your own scheme in mind.  What this means is you end up with a hodge podge of minis that don't necessarily translate into an army.  Now if this is what you want to do there is nothing wrong with that.  However most people at some point do want to play the game.  There's nothing wrong with getting a model here and there you want to paint however if you want to actually play that can't be your main method of collection.

When I decided that I wanted to actually have a viable army I decided on this method.  I make two lists in the 500pt and 750pt range.  If I have painted minis I can use, I include them in the list.  I gather up the models that are going into the list.  If there in boxes I pile them together and start to assemble.  Painted minis stay on the side as inspiration.  Once the army is assembled, I prime, then I paint.  I make sure this army has a special place where it stays together until it's finished.

Now minds wander and sometimes you're just not in the mood so you want to paint something else.  That's okay it is a hobby so it should be fun.  However I really stress you need to have a space where that army sits so it's a constant reminder of what you want to finish.  With my arrangement here the army has a dedicated shelf and I see it all the time so that's my motivation.  No minis go anywhere until everyone is painted.

Here are some quick points on why I like this method.

You can play games of 500 and 750 points.  These games can be faster and help you pick up the rules and rhythm of the game.

Painting up 500 to 750 points is easier than trying to pound out a 1500 point army (I subscribe to the notion that is the standard point total for 40K) and when you are trying to get started and be motivated it really is a milestone to have a list and a corresponding the army painted in front of you.

Once you have a core of 500 and 750 pts it's easier to add on to reach other playing totals like 1000pts.  And as you play with these totals you will learn what your units can and can't do and most of all what no blog can tell you what your style is with your army.  Building small like this helps you get acquainted with your army.

Put a list together your comfortable with it does not have to be the greatest list ever the idea is to have an army you can start playing.  There is a lot of information on lists out there if you try to research it all before you actually build your army you never will.  The point is not to have the best army ever but to have an army you can play.

Chances are if the list isn't working for you adding a unit or two will help, it's highly unlikely that every unit in your list is terrible.  Remember it's a game not a real war.  If you lose no one dies.  We all like to win unless your incredibly insecure you can play a quality game, lose and still have fun.  Unless your my wife she's always out for blood.

Well that's my suggestion for getting you from the brush to the bolter.  I hope this is helpful and as always comments and thoughts are welcomed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Quick Tips- Spray Handles, Paint tops, and Swatch Cards

Okay so the windows 7 upgrade is coming along but still have a number of apps to reinstall.  In any case I'm taking a time out to keep the blog going. This gives me the idea of shooting out some quick tips so I can leave you with some helpful hints in a compact package.

Spray Handles
Here we see a fresh can of P3 primer ready to be used (my first time with this primer).  If you have seen this handle attachment before then you know what it does if you haven't let me explain the power of this item.  Many spray can have small push head nozzles.  These spray heads require you to push down with a finger and try to direct the flow of paint with your hand.  The issue can be if you batch prime like I do your finger will get tired and you won't get the control you need.

With the spray handle you get excellent control because you can move your wrist and your finger won't get tired and have your finger slip off the tip.  This also speeds up priming.  I believe I picked this up for just under $10 or over $10.  I did not did find this at my local gaming store which leads me to another quick tip.  I purchased this at a more traditional hobby store that does models like planes, trains and automobiles and a good number of tanks and model railroads.  Those hobbies have a longer history then our own miniatures and often have some good tools you won't find in the hobby section of your gaming store, so make sure you check out any hobby stores near you.  You might just find a hidden gem.

Paint Tops
This is a tip I picked up early when I started painting.  When you first get a new paint bottle make sure you shake it well to get a great sample batch pour a small amount out and dip it or paint the shade on the cap.  Reason one it makes it easy to know the color if your looking down, you don't have to read labels or look at the bottle.  Two, paint will separate. So having a sample on the cap tells you what it should look like so when  you shake it up you can compare the results.  That way you know how many shakes you need to get the proper color.  Trust me this is helpful, both my Tau and Crimson Fists use that regal blue shade and I had a batch that came out more deep purple then blue, but I wasn't sure how off the paint was because I didn't have another bottle to compare and was new in the hobby so I couldn't just eyeball the shade. The above picture shows how this works when you have a bunch of blues that look similar.

Paint Swatches
Building on this paint sample idea I like to keep color samples on index cards to develop my own swatches.  This provides a few good outcomes.  One on the base white card you get a good sense of the color on a larger canvas.  Also if you have an army you want to paint a certain scheme make a card for the scheme so you can see all the paint in one place. This allows you to see if the scheme really works the way you envision it.  You don't want to wait till its on the model to see the colors clash.  You can also put the swatch up against models to see if colors contrast and complement the way you think they should.  And lastly you can get a sense of coverage from the paint sample.  I don't have a picture to show this but I will give an example to illustrate.  When I started painting my Realm of Battle board I had paint from the GW terrain kit and I also had similar Golden Fluid Acrylic colors.  When I applied both to my index card swatches I saw that the GW brown dried to a thin finish and did crack rather easily.  The Golden color dried thicker and had a richer color.  After seeing that I went with the Golden color because it needed less coats to get the coverage I wanted and it was a more durable finish.  The cards allowed me to see that in 5 minutes.

So there you have my quick tips for the day, thanks for reading any comments, thoughts, ideas etc are welcomed.  Happy Hobbying!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Working with Vallejo Paints

This entry is coming a bit early because I am in the process of upgrading my computer with some new parts and moving from XP to Windows 7.  Since I’m not sure how long it might take me to get drivers, programs, and other things squared away I want to get something out now as opposed to losing steam due to computer issues.  Below you can enjoy some photos of my computer all custom all built by me, and below is my spanking new brand new video card so I can play World of Warcraft again.

Okay jumping into our topic.  Firstly Vallejo paints, these paints are from Spain.  There are two main lines of Vallejo paints.  Game Color (VGC) and Model Color (VMC) the main differences is Game Color basically mimics the Games Workshop line and is directed towards the fantasy sci fi crowd.  Whenever GW releases a new paint or line there will be a game color equivalent soon to follow, the names are also fairly close for example GW Blood Red is VGC Bloody Red.  I would suggest finding an equivalency chart if you use multiple paints because when you follow someone else’s recipe you can sub in your own paints here is a link to Vallejo’s chart.  Model color is primarily for historical miniatures.  In particular Model Color has a number of WWII colors like the aptly named Japanese Uniform WWII M117.  Model Color is also has a huge line of about 220 products.  I would say Game Color is about 120 products.  Model color is loaded with pigment and it separates in the bottle so you need to shake it really well before you use it.  It comes in dropper style bottles of 17mls.  These bottles can clog with dry paint if you squeeze the bottle and nothing comes out DON’T SQUEEZE HARDER!!!  You will get an unwanted paint bath.  I use a small paper clip and gentle push until I feel the clog give way and then the dropper should be clear.

Game Color has a good amount of pigment as well not as much as model color so it needs a good shaking.  If you scan forums and blogs you will get a number of opinions about Vallejo and other paints .  You may hear things like Vallejo greens don’t cover well etc.  The only thing I will say is judge for yourself.  How good a paint is depends on how well it works for you.  If its your army and you like the way the paint works and how it looks on your miniatures that all you should care about.  Opinions are valuable in the way they can help you come to your own conclusions.  Just don’t discount something based on someone else’s word see for yourself.

I can offer this opinion from my experience Vallejo has released their own version of the latest GW washes which are more like glazes, the Vallejo Blue known as Blue Shade is not as good as the GW Asurmen Blue.  I just don’t like the way the Vallejo shade looked on my Crimson Fists.  When it dries it just looks patchy. I then tried the GW and it worked for me, it looked more like various shades and blended well.  Its all about how it looks to you.

Along the lines of shaking these paints Vallejo does not come with an agitator in the bottle Reaper does.  You can substitute your own.  I saw this covered in great detail in this Dakka Dakka post.  In short you just can’t throw a metal nut or BB in your paint they can corrode and release rust into your paint.  But the right size bead of volcanic material has the weight and won’t rust.  When you shake the bottle you’ll hear and feel it and you’ll get better results in keeping the paint together with less shakes.  I got my beads at Beadaholique this is just the right size to fit in those dropper bottles. Beadaholique ships fast and has great customer service is great the post office lost my beads and after one email they sent me a new shipment with no hassle!

Many colors are also different in consistency I can tell you VGC Ultramarine Blue pours out a bit thick, at least in the last few bottles I have purchased.  I prefer to thin my paints with a flow agent, reaper has their own I think the best bang for buck is get one from an art store like Winsor & Newton Flow Improver.   I mainly use it in a dropper to control the amount.  With thinner paints you might not need any, thicker paints take a few drops.  This also keeps the paint wetter longer for blending and helps if you’re a slower painter.  Thinning these paints is important or you end up with too much paint on the brush and can’t control your color so it ends up where you don’t want it and globs on obscuring detail.

Now just a word on reaper paints.  These have agitators in them they also use the dropper bottle.  In particular I should say I am specifically talking about the Master Series here.  These are also sold in triads which contain a base a shade and a highlight.  Reaper has some different colors then GW and can create some good effects.  In fact I like to use the Reaper Ultramarine highlight on my Ultramarines, it works really well, that’s one reason I think my current Ultramarines have a more subtle highlight.

The other reason I like having reaper paints in my mix is even the same color across lines can have a subtle differences.  This really comes in handy when you have armies that have similar colors.  As you can see my Tau have a similar color scheme to my Crimson Fists.  However I use Reaper Brilliant Blue for the Crimson Fists and VGC Imperial Blue for the Tau.  As you may notice the imperial blue goes on darker then the Brilliant Blue.  I’m happy with the results because both armies look distinct.  So look around at what’s out there.  There is a wide range of paints you can choose from to create a distinct look so there’s no reason to limit yourself to one line enjoy your choices and grow your artistic skills. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Time heals all Wounds and Can Make You A Better Painter Too!

In looking over an Ultramarine I painted the other day I compared the piece with the first miniature I painted which was also an Ultramarine.  The first mini dates back about six or seven years.  At that time I was very happy with the results and I would still say I was happy with the results.  However when looking at my most recent Ultramarine I can see the difference and where my painting style has matured.

First Ultramarine
Newest Ultramarine

My style has matured simply because the more you paint the better you become.  In addition reading through Games Workshop painting books which are not bad and scoping the explosion of information on the internet I learned more about what I was trying to do.  You probably can see the biggest change in the base of my minis.  I still don't believe in spending forever and a day on bases but I certainly don't want the base to be neglected to a sprinkling of flock and glue.  My current style shows more depth because as I learned more about my hobby I learned more about how to paint.

If you don't think your a good painter just keep painting and you will see the difference.  There is no magic solution it's just a matter of time.  Today there is more then enough sources of inspiration and instruction on how to paint on the web to keep you occupied for some time.  For me the first sign I was finding my own style was when I wondered away from Games Workshop products.  

Now I'm not saying GW doesn't have good hobby products but when you first start and have no glue how to get started GW products are naturally the first thing you use.  As you start to learn your way you become curious as to other options and through the internet you will hear plenty about those other options.  At one time I used only GW paint and brushes these days I use very little GW paint and learned about Winsor and Newton Series 7 brushes.  I mainly use Vallejo Game Color and Reaper Master Series Paints.  For certain things I use Golden Fluid Acrylics a nice paint many people don't know about.  There's nothing wrong with using GW citadel paints as long as you know there are options out there.  Use what gives you the best results.  The bottom line is with time we all get better.  The only way to become a better painter is to paint and take time to look back so you can appreciate your own growth.