Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Primer and U2

Had I known that I would been writing a followup to the primer article I would have named the first one Optimus Primer and this one Rodimus Primer. Instead of that pretty bad joke, you get an even crappier one about aging British rock sensations.

Distancing myself quickly from the above puns:

I got a reader comment from AoM which I will respond to in two (duex) parts:

GW doesn't actually sell a primer anymore. Ever notice that they switched the name of the product from "Primer" to "Chaos Black/Skull White Spray"? Primer is primer. spray paint is not. Right about the time they switched to the cheaper product (spray paint) is when they also switched to the $15+ per can. When you're "priming" plastic models, it doesn't matter nearly as much, but for metal and resin, a true primer is pretty important.

I dunno, ye olde online store still shows a can clearly labeled as 'white primer'. To be completely fair, I haven't looked at GW spray paints in an actual store for quite a white. I might have to check that out to see if I can get some confirmation. If I had 15 bux to burn, I'd order it direct and see what came in the mail. If it IS still that same white primer I have from a while ago, then it IS primer. It's just not all that great.

In any case, you're dead on about the Chaos Black spray. It doesn't say primer, so I can't honestly claim that it is. You, the astute reade, have created a need for an article edit so I can prevent bad informtion.

I'll agree with you on duplicolor. It's the best. And another thing about it that you didn't mention is that is dries very quickly, and will shrink slightly as it dries if you're prone to heavy priming. Depending on the model, I'll over-prime a bit because I know that the duplicolor will not fill in my details.

Yes and yes. These are further excellent reasons to use Duplicolor. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I was aware of the drying time but forgot to mention it. As to the shrinkage, I hadn;t even thought about it until you mentioned it. Agian, thanks.

In keeping with my 'knowledge base' aprroach to this site, I've edited the article in question to reflect better data.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hard to Paint Colors and What to Do About Them (Besides Avoidance) - Yellow

Do you smell that? Its the smell of actual painting advice. Mmmmmmm.... breath it in, its AP certified non-toxic.

Moving along. I covered the qualities of various paint types and brands in pretty good detail a while ago (see the On Paint series). Now its time to do something similar for another category of paints - colors. Not all pigments are created equal and there's a world of difference between how one approaches painting dark grays and bright reds.

The 'Eavy Metal team may make painting look easy, but there are a fairly large number of colors that cause difficulties for painters who are just starting out (often times vets can get caught up with them as well). For whatever reasons, these colors have some characteristic that makes things more difficult to work with. Unfortunately, there very common colors that people want to paint.

Over the last few years, I've learned a thing or two about how paint these problem colors AND make them look good. Time to share my knowledge in a new series with an overlong title. Underlying all of these suggestions is my continuing insistence that thin coats of paint are best. Obviously, its not worth the time to do this in every situation, but please keep it in mind.

I'll include pictures when I can (all of which are the copyright of the owners unless otherwise stated).

First up is a color that is fairly situationally difficult.

Bright Yellows
For clarity, I'm talking about pure, bright yellows. Lemon yellow and so on. I'm talking less about ocher/ochre type colors and other such yellow browns. Even pastel yellows (ones with some amount of white in them) are much easier to paint. Its primarily just those really striking yellows that grab everyone's attention. Like our Imperial Fist friend over there.

The Problem:
Yellow pigment has lousy coverage. Especially when it has to go over dark colors. Its thin and its often streaky. This is a problem for people who like to prime their models with black. This is also a problem for mistakes that get painted on to yellow. It can be very difficult to fix an errant streak of paint on your yellow areas.

Some Solutions:
Lucky for you, there are few tricks to making yellows work for you AND to make them pretty easy. First, if the majority of your model is going to be yellow, its probably a really good idea to prime with white. And by 'probably a really good idea', I mean 'prime your damn models white if you want yellow as a major color'.

A white primer will do wonders for alleviating your coverage problems. This goes for painting yellow details as well. Another alternative solution to 100 thin coats of yellow paint over a dark color is to hit the area in question with a quick layer or two of white. As white has it's own coverage issues, I often find that an ivory color works much better. Go figure. More on this at a later date.

Speaking of layering, most yellow goes lousy over black, but much better over other darker yellow/yellowish shades. However, this will affect the final color of your yellow as yellow is so prone to translucence. Lemon Yellow wont look too good over an ochre or light brown.

So this option works best for dirty yellows like P3's Sulfuric Yellow. I'd also like to point out the Citadel Foundation color, Iyanden Darksun, as a readily available example of what I mean by a yellow ochre. It's the color that the above Lamentor is almost assuredly painted in. Iyanden Darksun also has pretty good coverage too.

Its at about this point, when the yellow starts being pushed towards brown, that the yellow paint gets markedly better coverage. The further towards brown, the better the coverage. Making brown/ochre yellows a viable option over a black base coat.

Though not as strong a pigment, yellows on the pastel side (like VMC Ice Yellow) also have better coverage than regular bright yellow. However, the coverage can still be spotty depending on the exact color and paint formulation. Again, a white base coat is the best option for bright yellows.

Yellow isn't actually all that hard of a color to deal with as long as you're aware of its shortfalls and aren't married to black primer. Layering can be your friend here as well. As to what to do about mistakes on yellow, try to be careful. If the worst happens, remember that layering and thin layers are your friend.

Finaly, make sure you pay attention to the color differences between various yellows to make sure the shades your using are complementary.

[Edit]: Personal anecdote: the futility of trying to airbrush yellow over black is especially severe. I might as well have been pissing on the model for all the coverage I was getting out of my Vallejo Model Air yellow over black primer.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quick Hits - Volume IV

My schedule has been a little weird lately and not at all conducive to writing about a visual medium. I normally work the night shift, but I've been pushed back to working til midnight for the duration of midterms in order to keep the place open a few extra hours.

I've got a lot of stuff I want to write about, but most of it needs pictures I haven't taken yet. As it stands, my schedule is arranged as such that pictures are taking a back seat to painting. With that in mind...

Some Quick Hits:
1) Project Future Boys is coming along nicely, though not at all as fast as I had hoped. Still speedy compared to my Iron Warriors. As it stands now, most of the purchasing is done and what I'm calling 'wave one' is complete. Wave two is coming along at a steady pace. I hope to do a few articles on the whole shebang once I get off my ass and take pictures.

Probably over-optimistic time line projection: can I get my army done by mid December? I hope so.

2) There's always a pretty constant stream of hate leveled at GW. Most of this is because GW is fairly consistent in implementing their "fuck you" model of customer service. Price hikes in a recession, 9 dollar an issue White dwarf and refusing to sell metal miniatures anywhere but the online store (at least shipping is free). In any case, there are two things that miraculously made it past the ghosts of the railroad robber barons who obviously make up the board of directors: The White Dwarf archives and the What's New Today column.

The White Dwarf articles are nothing new (announced some time ago). However, the What's New Today feature is something I'd like to give special mention to. Probably concieved of as a marketing ploy, there's actually a lot of really cool stuff that gets showcased in the 'column'. There are just a ton of neat conversion ideas, and pet projects from around the world in the various updates. Some of them are just fan-fucking-tastic. I can't recommend enough a thorough look at these articles.

3) Been playing a bit of Blood Bowl (the video game) lately. The more I play, the less convinced I am that I'm actually having fun. Dunno if I just don't 'get it' yet,if its the league structure, I just need to cool out or what, but things are often a lot more frustrating than fun. I'm halfway through the league with my pals, so we'll see how it goes and whether or not I can recover from losing a Chaos Warrior when I can't win more than 20-30k a game. In any case, I am getting to interact with my geographically distant friends more. This, if nothing else, is worth it.

That's all for now. Hopefully next week I can get some perty pictures taken.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Take Your Hobbies to Work Day

Recently, I've begun experimenting with painting at work during my lunch hour.

So far, its been GREAT!!1!! Blagrhwwertght! Flrppt.

No, seriously, its been a really good experience. Not only does it help with my stress levels, but it also has helped speed up Project Future Boys. I recommend it for anyone who has a lunch hour and works at a place where this will fly. Here are my reasons:

Stress Relief
My job is often rather more stressful than it needs to be. This is mostly due to the actions of a few of my insane coworkers and the constant last minute approach that the director takes with everything. At the beginning of the semester, things were pretty bad with all of the increased student activity on top of everything else.

My stress level was very high and, short of going home, I had no way to keep on an even keel. Later on, as things began to settle back down, I started looking for things I could do to mellow the rough spots out in the future. I eventually hit upon doing what I would do at home when I was stressed out - paint.

If you've got stress at work, then try taking your hobby with you. Its a great release. Just the 30 minutes a day I manage to sneak in on my lunch is more than enough to relax me when I need it. Its a great release to focus on something I really enjoy. Totally takes my concentration elsewhere for a few precious minutes.

Speed Up Your Time Line
The other really neat advantage of painting at work is the decent sized boost it can give to a project's time line. Over the course of my week, adding that half hour per work day gives me a net of 2.5 hours. Without using up any more time than I normally would at work, I manage to squeeze in a little extra juice on whatever project I'm working on. Truth be told, there are many days where all I get is about 2.5 hours of painting. Its like finding a free day. Pretty sweet deal.

Just based on the amount of writing I've done for both points, its pretty clear which aspect of the whole endeavor I value most.

Getting Started
I've covered the 'why', lets talk about the 'how'. First things first, the idea is to paint during your lunch hour. Which means painting is in direct competition for time with eating. This raises the issue of time management. I usually eat first. Since I normally make my own lunch, I don't have to waste much time picking up food or doing much more than reheating it in terms of preparation. I can usually eat my lunch at a healthy pace (not wolfing it down) and then get about 30-40 minutes of painting in.

What this means for you is that you need to figure out your own balance between eating and painting. Two pieces of advise: don't forgo your lunch to paint and don't eat while you paint.

The next major obstacle is get your workspace, supplies and equipment ready. Make sure you have enough room on your desk (or wherever) to work. You will also probably need some additional lighting. The lights in my office are nowhere near strong enough for my purposes. Luckily, I have a easily portable fluorescent lamp I leave in my filing cabinet. I also recommend some kind of anti-mess technology. Your work bench at home is something you can get paint on and so forth. Your desk at work is not. I use an old file folder. Its all I really need.

Everything else is just basic supplies. I get paper towels from the bathroom and I have an old Gladware container that does double duty as a water container and as a travel box for my paints and models. I leave the light and a spare pallet (or spare fantasy bases) at work and transport the brushes, paint, models and water container back and forth as needed.

The whole deal is pretty quick and easy to set up and take down and is extremely portable. Below are some pictures of what my desk typically looks like. Please ignore the lack of water in the container, the 30 year old carpet, the aging and beat up blinds and the mess of cables.

The last few things I can suggest are to double check the paints you're bringing with you before you leave home. There isn't too much you can do about it and it can totally shut down your plans. I'd also recommend saving the little protective tubes that better paintbrushes come with. Traveling can be hard on a brush. Unless you have a brush box,* you'll need some way of protecting the bristles. I'd also advise against planning to do any painting that's overly time consuming, messy and/or complicated. 30 minutes can leave you in a time crunch - though it may teach you to paint a bit faster.

As I'm wrapping this up now, I'd like to reiterate how positive an experience painting at work has been. Give it a try yourself.

* First link I came to for an example rather than a product plug.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Helpful Handy Hint #2 Buying Light Bulbs

Most people who paint their little toy soldiers are well aware of the benefits of a well lit area. Even more important is having the proper lighting, not just a lot of it. As the Brushthralls have noted, there are a ton of good reasons to get some bright white light sources. Eye strain relief and color correctness and alla that.

The notion of the color of light you use as an important concept is touched on, but they don't really go into enough info for my tastes. The reason a low temperature color of light can be problematic for painting is because the lower the temperature of the light, the more yellow it tends to be. It's kinda hard to tell what your colors actually look like when everything has a yellow hue about it due to the light.

I fully support the 5000 kelvin industry standard (though I use 5500 kelvin).

I also fully support using those low-wattage, energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs. Not only do they look super cool, but they last a lot longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Saving money over time on power bills and light bulb replacements is a good thing. Additionally, they also generate a lot less heat. I tend to paint with my light sources at head level. One false move and I just burned my face/head on my metal desk lamp.

The last little bit of advice I have for selecting your light sources is on how to know exactly what color the light is. I ran into a lot of trouble a few months ago because I forgot to check the bulbs to see what the light temperature was. I kept trying to use the arbitrary descriptors the manufacturers had put on the packages.


Over 4 trips to the store, I ended up with a ton of extra light bulbs well below the 5000-5500 k range that I wanted. What constitutes 'day light', 'natural light' or 'bright white' is up to interpretation and will be different from company to company and even over time within the same company. Always, always try and check the temperature of the light. It's usually printed on the base of the bulb (in the case of the energy-saver curly-cue kind) and is pretty viable through the kind of clear packaging that these things come in. Sometimes its also printed on the package itself.

Now, go participate in some commerce.