Friday 31 October 2014

Quick, middle of the night update about paints and Space Hulk

It's nearly 1am, and I've just finished dying repeatedly in Alien: Isolation.  Mikey's taken over the Playstation for some Battlefied, and as I'm typing I can feel my old RSI flaring up. Quickly then.

Today was interesting - I pulled the compressor and airbrush out of the garage to give my new Vallejo Game Air set a whiz. It was my birthday last week, and apart from being given the scary Alien game, I received a complete set of VGA paints and a copy of Space Hulk.

It's taken me most of the week's evenings to clip, file, sand and glue the plastic game pieces together - 12 Terminators, a dead Termie on a throne, 23 Genestealers, a robot drone (C.A.T.) and a chalice of some kind. I haven't read the rules yet.

A couple of things:

1. Space Hulk is a very heavy boxed game. It's almost a 2-man lift.
2. The plastics in Space Hulk feel more 'consumer' than 40k - a bit 'Christmas Cracker Quality'
3. The 'complete' set of Vallejo Game Air is from Element Games - a good price, but they don't offer these in the bundle: White Primer, Black Primer, Grey Primer, Airbrush thinner. What you do get is all the new VGA paints, a chipping medium, gloss, satin and matte varnishes, and 5 coloured primers: red, blue, silver, brown & bone.
4. I recently dropped my H&S airbrush, bending the 0.4mm needle, so I'm spraying using the 0.15mm, which isn't really designed for base-coating.

I started with the Genestealers. Approximately 3:1 ratio paint to thinner, mixed in the cup, and compressor set to 1 bar (c.15psi). A few thin layers - perhaps the blue primer was too thin, but as long as it's going through the tip without drying, and it's not running when it hits the mini, I'm okay with multiple layers. I think I'd get away with a 2:1 through the 0.4 needle, but I'll find out when I order a replacement.

Next, the Terminators - 11 red, and a librarian - so, blue again - but first to try the brown primer for preshading, and to get a different colour contrast on the minis before finishing with red primer. Same ratio, ish, as the blue, and it went on fine.

Lastly, the floor tiles, cup-thing and CAT robot. Priming in silver, no less. This is a new thing for me - metallic primer. Usually, I'd prime grey to get a good footing, then a layer of gloss black and then the silver. I mixed the primer at a more 4:1 ratio - truthfully, I was a bit squirt-happy with the thinner, but the pigment held together fine in the cup, and, although it went on a bit wet and thin, it dried fast enough and gave decent coverage after about 4 coats.

I let them cure in the air for a couple of hours before packing away and getting on with Hallowe'en with the kids. So far, so good. I'll see how they take washes and other layers soon.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Warhammer Fest 2014: impressions before overthinking

2014: the year that Games Day died. Actually, that's not strictly true - it died last year, but this year Games Workshop's annual hobby mega-meet was officially buried; given a new name, and so permanently changing the direction the company wants to point our pasttime.

Warhammer Fest 2014 was everything last year's event wanted to be, but in a more accommodating venue and with a more relaxed atmosphere, and over two days. There wasn't the expectation of a classic Games Day - there were no gaming tables organised (there were a few self-run ad-hoc sessions played by punters), and there was (sadly) no Scrap-Demon contest.

There were, however, free seminars - much like last year, and new drop-in pods where GW and FW staff gave step-by-step tutorials on various hobby techniques.

I only attended the second day, and after turning up late (long story), sat in on demo pods for Zenithal Highlighting, and Painting Faces - and came away with a couple of useful pointers. I also attended a Black Library seminar, which, for me, was hit and miss.

The three authors on the panel had interesting insights into their own writing processes, preferences and practises, but then each read from their own stories, which was offputting. None are trained orators, and only one managed to convey any expression through his speech. All agreed that they loved writing audio books, and that hearing the voice actor during the recording brought their words to a completely new level. Should leave it to the pros, no?

Golden Demon was there - the only one being held in the world this year - and the entries were amazing. Even the worst model was of a high standard. Needless to say, my 3 entries lacked that certain something to get through to the final.

Disappointed, sure, but I used my dejected energy to seek advice from the painting experts in the White Dwarf lounge, and came away with some good advice. I'll share this advice now, because I'm nice, but to be honest, it's so obvious, I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it in the first place.

Here's my main entry. A duel between a flying Tau Battlesuit and Commissar Yarick. I'll update or add a better photo when I've taken one.

My inspirations were from a couple of sources - there's a Tau suit going around the net at the minute with a cool carbon-fibre paint job, and cool expanded shields. The second inspiration was a category winner from GD s few years ago - a Bretonnian shooting the head off a skeleton assailant.

There's nothing that says 'dynamic' like a Tau suit in flight, but you don't want to see the wires. Also, the weaponry can be used for some cool OSL effects.

The Yarrick figure was chosen late on in the project. It was a tossup between him and a dead Ork boy.

Look at the picture again. The line of sight is off. Neither figure is engaging with be other. While I was getting some painting advice today, another staff piped up and said 'look at the figures'. I replied, "they're not looking at each other", and he said 'yep!'

Fair enough. Don't blag at the last minute. Plan ahead, dry-pin figures for composition and then paint them. Glue and tweak paint and you're done. Simple, right?

Here's the advice from the first chap - paraphrased:

1. Golden Demon is a painting contest, judged by painters. Fancy conversions don't necessarily get points, and cotton-wool fire and clear-plastic shields may go against you. Paint the minis well. Don't hide behind effects.

2. Make highlights brighter. Get a better dynamic range for the colours. Whatever you think is too bright isn't bright enough, perhaps. The model needs to stand out in a sea of similar projects.

3. Save fancy effects for the open contest and/or diorama. They may be appreciated there.

And that's it. Less is more. More is less. The ├╝ber-cool stuff on CMON may be fashionable, but it's not GW. It's not 'Eavy Metal, and this is a competitor judged to house standards.

If you do decide to do effects, make sure the paint job is up to the task by itself first. FX are the gravy, and you can't have gravy on its own.

The other main thing I learned today is that a glaze medium, such as Lahmian Medium will always make you paint better faces. Smoother paint; less chalky finish; more control.

So to sum up:

Choose good models
Compose a good pose/shot
Paint well
Use lahmian medium.