Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sketching with Matt DiPietro!

Earlier this year I had the pleasure to attend a painting class with Matt DiPietro on painting using his sketching technique. And as it usually goes when you take lessons, I learned a whole lot more.

A short bio: Matt DiPietro was a studio painter for Privateer Press for years. I understand he went rogue somewhat recently, doing commission work and giving lectures. His work is amazing and you should go look at it. Really inspiring stuff. Here's a sample:

You can find his work and contact information on his personal website, putty and paintfacebook, and probably some other social media.

Now that I have you a good reason to go and look at someone else's way better work, I wonder why anybody would still be reading this. Well, let me summarize the sketching technique that he developed! Both busts I showed here were painted using this technique, at least in some part.

Do you know how TV works? As in, the antenna kind, not digital? Neither do I, but I think that colors were sent separately from luminosity on the frequency range. And that the luminosity information was more precise, or more detailed, than the color information. This made sense because we can tell shades of light and dark apart way easier than we can tell colors apart. Our ancestors developed color sensitivity very late in evolutionary terms. And it makes sense, telling colors apart is difficult and not so necessary, while telling light and dark apart is way easier and far more useful. So anyway, the TV would produce a crisp black and white image, and overlay it with colors fairly imprecisely. Our eyes wouldn't notice the difference.

The core idea behind sketching is kind of like that: you paint a model in gray-scale first, then glaze colors on top of it.

The first phase is the most important one because it lets you establish shadows, shapes, highlights, and the mood of the model using nothing but black and white paint. You blend them on the wet pallet, of course, for all intermediate tones. This phase goes extremely quickly because you don't have anything but shadows on your mind, and nothing by grays on your brush.

I really can't stress this enough; it's so much easier to paint using just two colors! You don't paint each detail one thing at a time, like you would if you used different colors for different bits; you just paint the whole figure at once. You can look at the figure as a whole while doing this and make large changes easily: darken the legs, lighten the shoulders, whatever you think would draw the eye the best.

Before I go onto the second phase, here's my sketch. Painting this took no time. We used white spray primer over a black model to establish the light source, then followed that up with brush work to deepen the darks and highlight the lights.

I hope you see what I was going for: a strong light coming from behind him, a bit to his right. I was imagining a soldier entering a pitch black corridor. I also painted his shadow on the base.

The second phase is the most important one because it brings the model to life. You use glazes, or highly thinned paint, to bring color in. I decided to green for no good reason, really. I've never painted anything green. I glazed the rifle some tan color, but left it off-white closer to the stock as I wanted the model to look like light is being reflected off it.

And that's it! This took a bit over an hour, and only because I was learning and trying things out. It's an extremely effective way to paint deep, dramatic models and communicate mood.

For the first time in my life, I was not thinking about painting a model by recipe, but by making my vision come to life, and doing what it takes to do that. Nothing more than that.

I learned a whole lot more during those lessons. A lot about color theory, composition, and mixing. I used P3 paints for the first time, and let's just say I'm still using them. After trying P3's Morrow White, I don't want to see a Citadel or Vallejo white paint ever again in my life. I also used some artist acrylic paints and even inks. I two-brush wet blended for the first time. I experimented with metallics and, again for the first time, painted a metallic model that I was happy with. I settled on my new Black Templars color scheme right there, after those experiments. I learned the value of a good light source, hence my pimped out painting desk.

Once I write a post about how I'm painting my Space Marines, I hope the effect this lesson has had on me will be plain to see. I'm looking at miniature painting differently now, and my approach to painting them is way different.

In short? A weekend well spent. Thank you Matt!

And thank you for reading.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Magnetizing Marine Weapons

First I want to apologize for the pics here. I took them over a month ago on the phone and didn't check the image quality. Things are a bit out of focus, but I don't have pictures any better than this.

For my first squad of Tacticals, I didn't really know what to assemble. Space Marines have way more options than Necrons. So magnetizing is an obvious way to go, however, while magnetizing Necrons I found that there's a limit to how much magnetization makes sense. Specifically, once there's a single way to grab the model, you've gone too far. If you grab the model wrong and his limbs start popping off, that's too much.

I eventually decided to give my Sergeant a combi-weapon (magnetized to all 4 options), and to magnetize one guy with all special weapons (again, all 4). I didn't include a Heavy weapon because I'm thinking I'd like my squads to move and shoot, and grav is a bit cheesy. I didn't have a grav gun anyway, and I can always one-off a Marine with a grav gun if I really want to spend some points on not being fun to play with.

So, here's how I magnetized the Sergeant's weapon:

Pretty straightforward and it works fine. I used 2mm x 1mm round magnets. The top sides of the weapon cannot slide sideways to the left hand side of the weapon, just the right; so I put the magnets at a slight offset to make the magnets pull the top edge in such a way to keep it stable.

The Special Weapons guy was a bit more work. Same magnets, but this time one pair for each arm:

Turns out that the 1mm thick magnet can fit in their palm without breaching the other side of the hand. The weapon rests very firm when put in, enough to lift the model by the weapon.

So much for now. I'm getting close to finishing the first ten, really looking forward to taking some nice pics and starting to work on a Rhino.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Space Marine Bases!

After a lot of turmoil, I'm finally settled on a base theme:

These are Ruined Temple bases by Secret Weapon Miniatures. I also got some of their Flagstone bases to give them a shot, but the Ruined Temple ones look better in my opinion. Not as medieval, and the two color scheme is just the right amount of color. Colorful flagstone is too colorful, whereas a uniform stone color would look boring.

With that said! This color scheme took forever to develop and settle on. At one point I had all 10 bases painted but each one differently, as well as some flagstone bases too. And some of those were repaints after other failed attempts!

This is also the first time I did two brush blending. Look it up online, but it's a technique for making sure glazes blend smoothly into the surface as opposed to covering up perfectly. See the browns on some of the gray parts above? That's how I achieved that effect.

Here's the recipe I used:

  • Prime in black
  • A few coats of Eshin Grey, sides and bottom too, until the color is uniform.
  • Light drybrush in Greystone, all over.
  • Light drybrush in Fenrisian Grey, but spotty. Not uniform in intensity, and only apply it a little bit here or there.
  • Light drybrush in Ushabty Bone, also spotty. These two drybrushes are there to create "warm" and "cold" areas of the base.
  • For the parts that are going to be yellowish, wash them using Seraphim Sepia, not applying too much wash. When it dries, repeat a second time.
  • The rest, wash in Nuln Oil just once.
  • Go back and drybrush lightly using Fenrisian Grey and Ushabti Bone, applying some Ushabti bone over the yellow parts a bit stronger than before.
  • Here and there, apply blotches of Agrax Earthshade and immediately spread the wash around with a second, wet brush, until the bloch is a smooth brown gradient. Apply this as a glaze, not as a wash; you don't want it to pool anywhere. If it starts to pool, spread it around with the wet brush.
  • Do that one more time.
  • Light drybrush in Ulthuan Grey to bring out the greys, and a Ushabti Bone/White mix to highlight the yellows
  • Repaint the sides of the base in Eshin Grey to neaten it up.
I wrote this list for your benefit as much as mine, because I'm sure to forget by the time I get to painting another set.

Before I wrap this up, I'll attach some work in progress pics I was taking while experimenting. With that, thanks for looking!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Alt-Black Templar Paint Theme!

I finally settled on something! Here's what it looks like:

I've been toying with it here and there, but it's more or less settled. Here's how I came to the theme and where do I intend to try to do better.

So first, my inspiration for a Space Marine army was learning how to paint metallics. I don't use them often, and when I do, results tend to look worse than what I normally do with plain paint. My Necrons have no metallics on them whatsoever. I'm just not comfortable with glossy and shiny stuff, and Space Marines are great to do both with.

I chose Black Templar for quite a few reasons, but I wanted to give them a unique twist. Metallic black armor was the first idea and was there to stay.

As for the rest of the paint scheme, I was looking for different high church or orthodox motifs online and this image had a huge effect on me:

It looks old, rich. Still ancient in some way, but not crusader peasant old. It's rich, royal looking. So I decided to paint the shoulder pads white, and the red cloth would fit perfectly. The brass would look great too. So I took a model and here's what I came up with:

I was trying out different things with metallics, so pretty much every limb is painted a bit differently. I wasn't happy with how metallics turned out. But there was definitely something somewhere. The gold was too gold, but I didn't have any brassy metallics on hand at the time. The reds were intentionally faded, but it didn't look as good to my eyes. I tried a more vibrant red:

I was definitely happier with that. I also noticed that, as I was painting, the shoulder pads really popped while the paint was still wet. I decided that maybe now was the time to glossy-up a surface. I only tried that later.

Back to metallics: the model looked too plain, almost Grey Knight-ish. I don't like that look. What you see here is a more-or-less even coat of Scale75 Black Metal, their darkest metallic. I tried blending it with Vallejo's Black Metal but that wasn't working out either. I also tried glossy Nuln Oil to darken it up, but it made the model look sticky, not good.

The secret was in using a matte black paint in shadowed parts. Not only does it make it as dark as things get, but it also makes sense: there shouldn't be any reflection coming from the shadows. I first tried this on his right arm, which you can see on the pic right here:

That definitely gave me a direction to go towards. I tried a second pass on a throwaway model I had laying around. I painted the shoulder pad the same red, but glossied it up. The trim was brassy, and the chest and thigh armor are painted only where you'd expect light to fall; the rest is completely matte black, with a blend in between.

Looking good! Time to try this out on a marine.

Just around then I finally got some Black Templar etched brass to put on their shoulder pads. I don't want to paint all those crosses, are you mad? This is the same model I painted at first, but stripped and with etched brass added:

Finally, you might have noticed that my truescale conversion was not smooth at all on some models. Painting this guy metallic really helped me see that, but in truth, just priming the model exposes irregularities very easily. So I primed my 10 guys, then inspected them closely and sanded any irregularities. Then brush-primed again, and checked them out again. It took a couple of nights but the conversion looks much better now.

With that, here's my reference model as it is right now:

The reds I'm happy about, as well as the glossy coat. The metallics I'm proud of, considering my previous bodges. You can see on this one, everything in shadow is almost completely black. The inside of his legs, for example, is literally unpainted. His shins are painted in the back, blending into pure black up front. You can notice a similar gradient on his arms. The bolter is a bit brighter, but not by much.

Where do I want to take this next? Well, the brass could be more brassy, less gold. The patina could be more intense, and should probably be darker. He really needs accessories on/around his thighs, but I'll paint some and glue on last after putting him on a base. The base might change my opinion. I didn't pick out any rivets and such, but I'm worried that it's going to be too much if I do. Finally, you can't see the cloth much on this model, but it's not glossy and that makes it stand out a bit, but not by much. I'd like to have a stronger difference between red metals and red cloth. I might dim the cloth down a little bit, or maybe go for a bit of texture.

Since taking these pics I've brightened the top of his helmet a bit, painted the bullets on his weapon and shoulder pad (oops) and worked on his shoes a bit, which I somehow left out at first.

That's all I have to say for now. I'll keep experimenting but will slowly start painting the rest of the squad. And if you're still reading this, thank you so much, you have more patience than me :)