Saturday, September 09, 2006

Figure Painting

Painting miniature figures is an integral part of the wargaming hobby. Of course, how important it is to the individual wargamer varies from person to person. From one extreme you will have those who almost loath painting and are quite happy to use bare metal unpainted figures to enjoy their favourite game. To these players the game is more important than the figures themselves. At the other extreme, are those who are more collectors than wargamers and as such collect and paint figures to a high standard simply for their enjoyment of painting.
Most wargamers probably fall somewhere between these two extremes.

For myself, I enjoy the game play greatly, but want to do it with well painted figures, and preferably on a games table covered in well made terrain scenic items, so the whole display is visually appealing. In other words, I want my cake and eat it too!

I started painting many years ago as a young teen-ager, and at that time, I was very happy to turn out, what I would now call basic paint jobs.

Having come from collecting and making Airfix model planes and tanks and painting them up with their enamel range of paints, I started using this approach for my figure painting. Initial attempts were poor and the smelly paints and thinners were unpleasant to work with.

After starting buying and reading White Dwarf magazine and the Citadel Journal of the time, I gradually learned the GW way of painting! This involved a switch to using GW's citadel range of water based acrylic paints. This brought instantly better results, but I still had a long way to go. I currently use a range of paints from GW's citadel range, and also Foundry's own paint range.

Learning about the need for a suitable undercoat, and then varnishing and making decorative bases, all were gradually incorporated into the final figure.

But still these early figures were mostly flat tones, with little or no shading or highlight, and basic detailing at best. But it was a worth while exercise as it taught a sense of discipline to make a tidy and complete paint job.

Having mastered this basic technique, I gradually advanced and learned about dry-brushing, and using shading ink washes, and how to add detail effects to eyes, and belt buckles and such like.

I still had a long ways to go, as I still found it a little difficult to get a small enough detail to the eyes, they often looked somewhat cartoon like if the eye went too large.

Also, the ink process was quite lengthy and messy, the ink often running onto adjacent areas, and required tidying up once dry. Also dry-brushing aswell could be a messy technique as again the paint would often hit other areas of the model you didn't want it to, again requiring more time spent tidying up the model, once dry.

More recently I have switched to the so-called "Dallimore" method, as used by Kevin Dallimore of Foundry.

The idea here is to start the model painting from the shade colour up. After undercoating (black) then paint on the darkest shade of paint first, and once this has dried, add the next lighter shade and so on. Several layers of paint can be done in this way depending on level of detail required of the model figure, and the patience of the painter. Ideally you would use three layers; shade, mid tone and highlight. However for speed and quickness, and for the majority of "rank and file figures" two layers seem sufficient - the shade and mid tone. I sometimes bother with the final highlight layer on character models or individual figures I am just painting for fun.

Oh, before I forget, painting the eyes, I used to find it easier to do after the black undercoat, but now I do after the shading wash.

Here's a pic of what i do, its a bit crude but you get the idea:

1. block paint base flesh colour
2. give a wash of brown colour, this will define nose and eyes
3. paint a white line across eye, this is usually the easy bit. If you make it too wide, let if dry and brush over with a slightly darker tone to base flesh tone you used (to match the base flesh tone plus wash)
4. Now do a vertical black line through the middle of the eye, starting by resting brush tip on middle of eye brow, and drag downwards. I find this far easier than trying to stab a black dot in the centre of the white line with a brush tip that will deform as you do so. It also helps your aim and focus and fines out the brush tip as you drag downwards.
5. Now reduce the excess black line carefully brushing over with a slightly darker tone to base flesh tone you used.
6. Add highlights to face to finish.

I will agree, this can be hard depending on posture of figure, and other things getting in the way; bushy beards and eyebrows, hats and helmets, especially helmets with face guards... but its still possible...

Another trick I have heard about though not tried is dotting in the pupil using a cocktail stick.

My painting style continues to evolve over time, as I try different things. One of the things with painting figures well, is it take time, and when you have large armies to assemble, it can be quite daunting, so finding short cuts are appealing. Recently a product has become available called 'Army Painter' from Warlord Games. I have been intrigued to try this product, but also put off by several negative comments on the web.

Consequently I have stuck with a technique that I know works, and switched to a new product. When GW relaunched the 'washes', I found these excellent products, give a shade wash without a gloss sheen as their old inks used to. But this little pots are expensive. However I found Vallejo do these, at least brown and black in large economical pots, and the product is juts as good as the GW one.

So now my painting technique has evolved to use this product and can be summarized thus:

Prep model; File and trim
Black Undercoat spray and paint touch up
Block paint in base colours
Wash whole model with a 50/50 mix of Vallejo dark brown and black wash.
Do eyes
Build up tones again by repainting original base colour as a first highlight.
Then add final highlight
Add any detailing effects as required.
Do base; PVA glue (thinned) and add sand, and paint and highlight as required, and finish with static grass and other decorative foliage materials as required.

I find using this brown shade wash over whole model, seems to blend whole model together, in a satisfactory manner.

I am not going to win any 'Golden Demon' awards, but I am not concerned about that. I just want good tabletop standard figures to build armies as quickly as practicable.

A couple of important points for novices - posture and lighting. The best posture I have found is elbows on the table and wrists locked together with model held at eye level.

Also, handling the figures can be made easier if you make some kind of prop to stick them to whilst painting. I have seen some folks use old empty paint pots. I made a bunch of 4" dowel rods with a 1" diameter circle of 5mm MDF wood on top (you can just see one in my hand as I paint the figure in picture below). I made an MDF wood base with holes drilled in to stand all these rods in.

And get a good angle-poise light and direct it down in front of you onto the model.

Musical accompaniment and a glass of your favourite tipple will not go a-miss. Earphones are optional!

Good luck!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Warhammer Ancient Battles - Medieval Army

If you have read my introduction, you will note I emigrated from UK to NZ a couple of years back. At the time my main wargaming interest was GW's Warmaster, for which I have two fully painted armies (more on these in a future blog update). However, trying to plan ahead I checked out the gaming scene in NZ via the internet before leaving the UK. I have to say I didnt find much Warmaster going on (and still haven't). However, Warhammer seemed quite prevalent. Thing is I had not played Warhammer fantasy in a long time, and didn't want to got back to it if possible; too many uber characters and magic to make a mess of simple good tactical wargaming for my likes. But not wanting to be left out in the cold, I decided to start a Warhammer Ancients Medieval army, figuring that at a push it could morph into Brettonians or Empire for WFB, if I had no alternatives.

And thus I started my Medieval collection, kicked off by a few good purchases from E-bay for Foundry figures. I always like a bargain and have found E-bay invaluable as a source of figures and other gaming materials and paraphernalia.
The first unit completed was a bunch of Longbowmen, which was added to over time until I now have 80 ready for action.

The Longbows are certainly flavoursome for the period, and can lay down a withering amount of fire, particularly with the medieval massed fire rules from the Age of Chivalry supplement. However they can make for a rather defensive unit, as you often do not want to move them and reduce thier shooting effectiveness!

After the Longbows, came several units of plucky billmen, armed with a mixture of pole-arms; bills, glaives, halberds, spears etc etc. Basically a large two handed chopper. Having to use both arms to carry the weapon means
you lose the chance to carry a shield,
but with heavy armour, you can still manage a good save. And the bills give you +1S, and thus can make quite a dent in your opponent!
I think I went a bit mad with the billmen, with somethng like 80 billmen painted up and ready. However they give several options, from attacking units in their own right, or using mixed order and combining them with archers, as the leading ranks of the overall unit. An interesting tactic I still have to further explore.

A stronger option to the billmen are dismounted knights (or men-at-arms), wearing heavier partial or full plate armour, and carrying quite beefy double handed axes. If their armour keeps them alive, those double handed weapons will seriously spoil your opponents day!

And of course, what medieval army would be complete without the sound of thundering heavy horse? So I looked at the Foundry website again, and thought "oooooh! I like the look of those..."
and ordered a bunch of late medieval plate-armoured knights on plate-barded warhorses. Actually, if I am honest, this was a bit of a cheat on my behalf as I figured they would be easier and quicker to paint, rather than the cloth barded horses which would require a load of heraldry painting! Eek!
The only problem was, my medieval army first started off in my minds eye as a being suitable for the English of the Hundred Years War. The heavy plate barded warhorses were not so suited period-wise to this army and this figure choice has thus shifted the focus of my army to the later medieval period, covered by the Wars of the Roses period.
Still they are nice figures and hit pretty hard if they can get there, all that heavy armour does slow them up a bit!

An extra unit choice, to reflect some of the armies of the Wars of the Roses, was a pike block unit, perhaps representing Martin Schwartz at the Battle of Stoke. The figures for my pikemen are provided by Front Rank. Very
nice figures, although slightly larger
than the Foundry figures, they mix
in quite well, so long as they are not mixed in the same unit.
The pikeblock can have a number of
roles in the army, from securing a flank, to holding the centre. The main thing is no-one likes to charge the pikes frontally, they usually fight first due to the length of the weapon, and consequently can fight in multiple ranks. On top of this, there are often attack penalties to those trying to fight their way past the wall of pike points. The main thing to remember is, like most units, thier flanks are vulnerable and must be protected, either with other units, terrain, or even quite sneakily, the table edge!

I'll add more to this blog to finish it off as I take more pics of my other units, including Irish Kern used as warband and skirmishers, medieval bidets ( javelin men - not toilets!) both of which useful for exploiting terrain on the battlefield, and of course, artillery!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My Wargaming background and present

My Wargaming started "way back when"...
As a youngster in the early 1980's I first read The Hobbit and loved it. I then moved on to The Lord of the Rings, which took me an age to read that first time around. But that was me hooked on the fantasy genre.
I little while later I met an uncle of mine who was at the time going through University, where he described seeing whole tables covered in scenery and figures, with rules to play by. My young imagination went into overdrive and I soon picked up a copy of TSR's Dungeons and Dragons basic set. Getting together with a few mates we started roleplaying and had a tremendous time, working our way through the D&D set and "graduating" into AD&D.(Dungeons & Dragons now by Wizards of the Coast)
Amidst this time, I recall seeing a movie on TV (which I cannot recall the name _ but I think it my have been a spy thriller type thing) in which there was a scene where a mature gent had a table set up in a room of his house upon which he had what I think was a Napoleonic battle set up and he moved the pieces like some elaborate game of chess. This again fired my imagination back to my uncles descriptions of tables covered in figures. And thus my gaming interest embraced wargaming.
Going into my local games store, I came across a boxed set of rules called Warhammer (the boxed second edition rules I think it was).
And thereafter, all my pocket money was spent buying figures and paints and many hours trying to decide which models to buy.
Of course at this early age I did not have the discipline to collect one army but was mesmerized by the variety of models available and would buy whatever I liked the look of. And although these early figures were never going to make a cohesive army, they were ideal for my early painting attempts, and these in conjunction with articles from the Citadel Journal of the time and White Dwarf articles, I taught myself to paint.
The rest of my mates had drifted away from gaming, but it still held my fascination, and after re-reading the Lord of the Rings, struck an affinity with Gimli and decided to collect an army of Dwarves.
I spent the next year or so, working though this army, and finally had about 5000 points painted up, but sadly little or no gaming experience as I had not found anyone else who had an interest.
My gaming then went through a hiatus until much later after having gone though university and started work, I came across a new set of friends when I went into the local GW store and enrolled in the trip to Games Day at Nottingham. I hooked up with a bunch of blokes and we thereafter became a gaming group and had many years of fun playing Warhammer 40k (during which time I collected Squats and Orks) and playing Runequest RPG. This happy time, came to a close with the advent of the home PC as leisure entertainment at home. And thus once again my gaming took a break.
It was not until several years later, that a new acquaintance noticed some models I had on display in my home and inquired what they were for. It was at this time that the Lord of the Rings movie by Peter Jackson, was about to be released. There had been a TV documentary called "Bilbo and Beyond" in which wargaming was mentioned and included footage of people playing warhammer and warmaster. I had not come across warmaster and was intrigued, and so having obtained a copy of the rules, my new mate and I started collecting and painting warmaster armies. Another buddy joined in and we spent the next couple of years playing warmaster, and even attending tournaments including travel abroad to Europe for the Euro-GT. Having discovered the internet and yahoo groups made all this possible.
More recently, my interest in the historical periods was kindled after picking up a book on E-bay called "Last stand" which described various famous last stands throughout history. I thought it would be fun to try playing out these battles and started looking for a source of historical models and rulesets, and came across WAB - the warhammer rules I knew but for the historical setting. Perfect!
Since then I have completed a Medieval army suitable for the Hundred Years War, & War of the Roses periods. I have also collected figures for Imperial Rome and their Barbarian enemies. I have also become interested in the English Civil War Period and have purchased an army for this setting; Parliamentarians, about 50% painted as of September '06. My Ancient Germans are presently enjoying the application of paint (now finished august 07 - see later blog post), and dark age saxons have also been acquired.
The lead mountain continues to grow.....
In amidst all this, I have amazingly enough held down a good job, married, had children, and have emigrated to New Zealand! The emigration was again provoked by the Lord of the Rings movie, I had to see where it was filmed and visit "Middle-Earth", and having visited New Zealand, loved it so much, my family and I emigrated there In January 2005.
I must give thanks to my wife who after initial uncertainty has been very understanding and supportive of my hobby, and is pleased we have a prospective wargamer in our growing family. Bless him, he takes a great interest at an early age in daddies paints but it is absolutely impossible to get any painting done when he is bouncing on your knee and shaking up all your paint pots in glee!
So if you are interested in Wargaming and live near Kapiti Coast, New Zealand, please look me up.
Also, having finally completed (April '07) building our new home in New Zealand (thanks to "Homecreators"), I now have a dedicated wargames room, with a 12' x 6' table permanently set up, and areas for modelling work too. So I can't be told off for making a mess of the kitchen, dining room etc anymore! :-)

Now I find myself pulled in so may different directions, as differing periods and rules sets grab my attention, just about everything interests me, from Ancients all the way through to WWII, and also Fantasy realms, and some sci-fi including VSF.
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