Saturday, August 27, 2011

Table Ready: An Eldar Showcase

A phrase commonly heard around the game store is "table quality" or "game quality," referring to an army's paint job. Whichever way you say it, the meaning is the same, 'this is an army that performs best on the tabletop, not sitting on a shelf.' And that's ok. Not every model you paint has to be aimed at achieving golden demonhood. The 9 months it takes to paint a Slayer Sword winner simply isn't a reasonable approach for each model in your army. However, by utilizing a few key techniques, a clean, crisp and table ready army can be painted in no-time.

I've been playing Biel-tan Eldar for eight years now, having collected somewhere near 4,000pts worth of minis. This article is going to focus on that collection, and the basecoating, highlighting, and modelling techniques that will turn heads and garner praise wherever you take your army.

Let's take a look at some Dire Avengers and what makes them pop on the battlefield.

There are some gamers who hate the assembly phase of putting together minis. "It's boring and monotonous!" they say. They're looking at it the wrong way, assembly is your first chance to personalize your miniatures and make them unique. For instance, these two Dire Avengers, for all intents and purposes regular squad members. However, the simple cutting of the ammo clip from the shuriken catapult and posing of the arm to be reaching for a new clip or ready to slam one home adds a level of unique detail to the minis that gives them a realistic battlefield feel.

When constructing new models ask yourself three questions:
1. "What would this model be doing as they prepare/get to battle?"
2. "What would this model be doing before reaching hand-to-hand combat?"
3. "What would this model be doing in combat?"

I answered question number 2 by saying the Dire Avengers would be shooting the crud out of something and reloading as they did so. Remember, nothing was altered besides the clip being removed from the gun, that maximum conversion for minimal effort!

Next, let's take a look at the squad exarch and a few features that helps him stand out on the table top.

His paint scheme is relatively simple: prime black, base coat 'regal blue,' broad highlight 'enchanted blue,' and final highlight 'ice blue.' His green features are primed the same, but base coated with 'dark angels green,' broad highlighted with 'snot green,' and final highlighted with 'scorpion green.' How to go about applying the colors is to paint on 1-2 thin layers of the base coat, until you get a nice uniform coat with no darker areas (one coat might be too thin and show through to the primer, appearing darker than the rest of the coat). Next, a broad highlight of a lighter shade is applied by using a standard brush around armor plate edges. Apply liberally, covering approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of the desired area. It also helps to layer an extra coat nearer to the armor plate edge where your final highlight will be to give the effect of gradation and shading between highlights (this isn't actually shading, but a quick trick to look like you did). Finally, add the top-most highlight with a fine detail brush (standard will do with a light hand) and paint on a nice clean line, following the contour of the plate edge. If you smudge or mess up, don't worry, just trim the smudge off by applying the lower level coat (i.e. to trim 'ice blue' use 'enchanted blue' to paint off the offending misstep). This is also a great technique to use simply to gain sharp lines, paint the final highlight and then use the color underneath it to repaint the highlight edge getting the sharpness to the line you want.

It's safe to say that over eight years my painting technique has increased and that my early models look a bit shabby next to my latest creations. This is a common occurance amongst gamers and should be viewed like touching up paint chipping and battle damage.

This is the first wraith lord, painted about four years back. The base painting was good, but it lacked levels of highlighting that I didn't start utilizing until later in my hobby career. A quick addition of a broad 'snot green' highlight and final 'scorpion green' highlight (pictured above) quickly gave the model the added pop it needed to stand out on the table top. When viewed from a gaming perspective, highlights on top of a clean base coat go a long way.

A few years later and I was ramping up the painting technique on my second wraith lord. This time I applied the fundamentals of wet-blending on green surfaces to achieve a broader highlight and increase the overall depth of a surface, instead of just picking out the edge detail. How I did this was to apply my broad 'snot green' highlight to the center on the highlight focus (in this case the center of the wraith lord's head). To do this I would dip my brush in water, remove most the excess, and then get some paint out of my pot. The paint is slightly watered down at this point and applies in super thin coats (you can also use a wet palette for this technique, see last month's post for more details). Starting with my brush at the very edge where I would like the broad highlight to stop, I dragged the brush to the highlight apex (where the 'scorp green' highlight would go). Since the paint is slightly wet it want s to bead and condense where the brush last touched the model. Ending the brush stroke at the highlights highest point puts most of the broad highlight's density there and blends the highlights together. After doing four to five of these broad highlights I repeated the same process with the 'scorpion green' toplight, starting it midway into the 'snot green' as I had when applying that highlight onto the base coat. To complete the shaded highlight, I would apply a clean final highlight of the highest highlight color, picking out an edge or contour surface.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Going Wet: How to Build and use a Wet Palette

First, last week I promised a sneak peek look at my Tzeentch herald on chariot.

The chariot is still far from finished, but the base structure is complete. To get the base I used 0.8mm Plastruct brand plasticard (called styrene sheet by the manufacturer). Starting with the base I traced an outline onto the plasticard and then scored it along the tracing with a heavy duty hobby knife. After the outline was done (scoring well past corners helps to get a clean corner point) I bent the plasticard along the scoring until the seam broke all the way through to the other side. This is a useful technique because plasticard is fairly hard to cut straight through with a blade while keeping a clean line.

Making the sides of the chariot were considerably more involved than the base. Essentially what I did was make a "base" outline (an outline to use for both sides so they'd be symmetrical) that didn't include any motif details. With that complete, I cut four identical sides using the technique described above. Now, on each I created a unique motif pattern that would create a negative image. It was important to game-plan the pattern on each side so the top and bottom layers of the chariot walls would complement each other. Before I glued each piece together to make the two walls I made sure to use a hobby file to smooth out some of the rough cut marks and create sharper curves, etc.

The third and final step in the assembly was to file the sides of the two walls where they would meet at the prow of the chariot and with its base. Filing them at complementary angles to their attachment points created a flush and strong fit. Viola! The base to the chariot was complete! Plasticard is a bit tricky to work with, but when you get down the fundamentals, a whole other world of hobby possibilities is open.

As you can see from the concept pics above there's a bit more work to do still, namely the inclusion of two screamers pulling the chariot and higher levels of embellishment.

As the title of this post promises, let's talk wet palettes. But what gives with the horrors above? They're the first two models I've painted using my own home built wet palette. What is really great about a wet over dry palette is the longevity that you can drag out of a paint. The two horror models above were painted five hours apart using the same on-palette paints. This is really essential when trying to get a uniform color scheme across a squad, you simply don't have to worry about re-mixing a blend and hope it matches. I've come to expect about 24 hours of use out of a paint applied to a wet palette, but with the application of some acrylic thinner, you could probably stretch that out even further.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Thousand Sons 100 Conversions

For the last few weeks I've been caught in Tzeentch's grand scheme and have been fervently converting a massive number of minis for both a Thousand Sons and Tzeentch Daemons army. As you can see from my desk, the hobby madness hasn't been contained to just the minions of the Great Deceiver, I also have a number of Eldar pieces in the works and even a few of Grandfather Nurgle's followers.

For the Thousand Sons, I o
riginally planned to construct a 1500-2000pt force, led by none other than Ahriman. The army focuses on rapid deployment troops, a ton of psychic powers (7-8 a turn depending on composition), heavy fire support from allied Obliterator Cult members, and daemonic reinforcements. What really excited me about this army were the conversion possibilities. As I was to have a unit of undedicated chaos marines roaming about to act as the vessel for my greater daemon, a bland bunch of marines was simply not going to do.




Though these five marines aren't dedicated to Tzeentch, I wanted to tie them into the theme of the army somehow. What I struck upon was the idea to make them "disciples of Ahriman" or rather put, freeblade marines that have pledged themselves to their master's service in hopes of attaining arcane knowledge and power. I mentioned earlier that the greater daemon is summoned from this squad, and as such, each member has a role in the summoning ritual. The vessel for the summoning is the champion who holds aloft an icon which acts as a focal point for the squads ministrations. Because he will be sacrificed I wanted to add details that suggested he was about to spawn the greater daemon into the material realm. To get this effect I modeled flames swirling about his body. In my mind a Tzeentchian daemon wouldn't crudely burst from its host, but rather, the host would erupt into ethereal flame and the daemon would stalk out from amongst the inferno.

Not overlooking the others in the squad, there is a ceremonial censer bearer, meltagun wielding vanguard, sacrificial blade bearer, and one of my personal favorites, the orchestrator of the ritual. For this model I posed him to give the impression that his oration was reaching a climax and he was beseeching Tzeentch to bless them with the aid of one of his servants. Though these marines are merely "bolter" marines, with the exception of the champion and meltagunner, I still wanted to add a distinctly Tzeentchian feel to the squad and a strong sense of purpose.

The main body of troops for my "Disciples of Ahriman" army is, of course, Thousand Sons. I've always been a big fan of the Sons models and am delighted to finally have the opportunity to model and paint my very own. The kit for the basic troopers is fairly straight forward, so I concentrated my conversion efforts on the unit's sorcerers.

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