Wednesday, July 19, 2006

[Retired] Back to Basics - The Stuff Beginners Need to Know (Pt1)

I've had an idea kicking around in my head a while... A while ago, I decided to aim my blog in a slightly different direction. My writing has mostly attempted to meet those goals. But maybe something is missing?

A few days ago I picked up the AT-43 initiation set to see what a pre-painted game is all about. Besides it being pretty fun so far, one other thing struck me. The quality of the pre-paints is better than what most gamers bring to the table if they even bother to paint at all. This got me thinking. How useful is my blog as an information source if I only write for the advanced painters?

I spend a lot of my time writing about fancy tools, weird techniques and so forth. My articles on paint types and bad taste are a step in the right direction for many people because they address fundamental concerns of painting. My articles on buying and using an airbrush... less so.

I am by no means going to stop with the advanced stuff, but I think this is a good time to stop and help out the beginners. So, realizing that painting can be hard, frustrating and discouraging, here is some advice for the beginners:

How To improve Your Painting: for the Beginners
Chances are you've picked up a brush and applied color to something at some point in your life. Even if all you've ever done is paint a wall or or fiddled around with washable paints in kindergarten you've got the basic concept down: using a brush to apply paint to a surface. Not that hard. What is hard (and often intimidating) is doing all that 'fancy stuff' to really make you're miniatures look great.

But you don't need all that fancy stuff to get a good miniature. Lets go back to the AT-43 pre-painted miniatures and do some analysis. Here's an example: Link.

The AT-43 paint jobs are pretty simple, pretty basic and pretty good. At least good enough that the majority of AT-43 players seem to have little interest in re-painting them (though this could be a function of the mindset the game attracts). Could they be better? Yes. But they do two things: they convey the sense that the model is a stand in for a real-life thing and they aren't embarrassing.

All you need to recreate this on your 40k models is a few basic concepts and techniques. Hell, you might even end up with something BETTER than the AT-3 models. If you're a super beginner, this article will answer some questions about paint selection, priming and a few other prep areas.

1) Keep your lines clean. This is probably the hardest thing on this list because it requires a steady hand and at least some practice Try and keep the borders between painted areas of the models neat and straight. Basically, don't color outside the lines. Importantly, I'm not talking about black-lining either.

2) Keep your coats of paint smooth. This might be the most important thing on the list. One of the many, many reasons I have so little regard for the BoLS hobby content is the fact that all of their actual tutorials make it look like the miniatures are made out of oatmeal. This is potentially because of flaws in the surface of the model, but definitely a function of overly thick layers of paint.

Thin your damn paints! Thick coats of paint glommed onto the miniature look like shit. It may take a bit longer to do a few thin coats, but it really adds to the visual appeal of the model if the paint layers are nice and smooth. I recommed glaze medium if you're a bit daring but regular ol' water works too.

Lastly, be sure to smooth out brushstrokes.

3) Simple Shading. For the purposes of this article (quick and easy), shading is more usefel than highlighting as it is also useful for creating definition between areas on the model and requires significantly less work. Perfectly good results can be had with the GW washes and/or the P3 washes/inks. The key things to remember here are:

- only apply shading to the spots that need it. DO NOT wash over the entire color area, just the natural shadow areas. Ex.: shade the folds on the models clothing - not the entire pair of pants or the entire jacket.
- If you use inks, you may need to thin them a bit. they can be quite color intensive and quickly take over.
- Black can shade everything but probably shouldn't. Try to do a little color matching with your shadow colors if possible. Though Black is always a decent fallback.

*For you adventurous souls, you may want to mix up your own shadow colors.

4) Pay attention to the face. Its widely considered one of the most important parts of the miniature. Its worth a little effort. A dab or line of black in the mouth is always a good start. So is darkening the eyes. You don't have to go crazy with painting in pupils or anything, just give the face a bit more love.

5) Be careful with drybrushing. It's messy, imprecise, leaves bumps on the surface and usually looks like shit. Unless you're painting fur, hair, chain mail or a few weathering techniques, try and stay away from it. Even then, try to do the drybrushing first, before you paint the other areas. You don't want to have to go back and repaint a ton of mistakes.

6) Do something to your metals. Metallic paint looks kinda crappy without some form of shading or weathering done to it. At the very least, do some shading (black for silver, browns for gold). You may want to even consider some easy weathering effects.

And there you go. Nothing to fancy going on, just good, reliable basics. That's all you really need to get a good looking miniature.

Probably get them painted a lot sooner too...

Hopefully, I can provide some picture examples of what I'm talking about in the near future.

Part II will cover the basics of finishing your model - clear coat, basing and the like.