Friday, November 13, 2009

The Art of Painting Miniatures

Just a few weeks ago I picked up a new hobby. As I wrote about last week, passion is the key to joyous living, which is why I always like to try new things and broaden my horizons. As a long-time gamer, I have always quite enjoyed playing board games and cards games of all sorts. Warhammer 40K is something that I've known about for a few years, but it always seemed like such an involved hobby game to get into. Not only is building an army a bit expensive, especially initially, but there is also a fairly large time committed required simply to assemble and paint your army. For some reason, I decided that I wanted to broaden my skills artistically, mechanically and creatively, so I have begun to select, assemble and paint my own Space Wolves army. Assembling the models is fairly simple and straightforward, but thoroughly enjoyable. However, one thing that I found surprising is how much I enjoy painting my soliders. It feels very rewarding to take something that looks so plain and colorless and bring it life little by little, as I paint each layer and color each detail. In this blog I will briefly share my process of assembling and painting the soldiers.

Before I ever begin to mix colors or pull out my paint brushes, I have to assemble the model in question. I have to decide what sort of solider I want to create, how he should look, which weapons he should carry, and what sort of pose to give him. Here are the different pieces that I have chosen to assemble a new Bloodclaw Recruit. He'll be armed with a chainsword and a bolt pistol, both basic weapons.

Here's what he looks like, fully assembled.

Once I finish assembling a model, then I spray paint it with black primer. Here's an example of one that has been primed.

Once all the models I plan to paint are fully assembled and primed, then I set up my painting station.

Right now I'm still a bit slow and I'm still working on my technique, so it takes me about 2 hours to paint a figure. I could have gone with the default paint scheme for the Space Wolves, but I decided that if I lived in a frigid region I certainly wouldn't want to be wearing armor that hints at frost and snow. To me it makes more sense that warm and earthy tone clothing and armor would be worn, which would give one the feeling of being warmer even in sub-zero temperatures. With that sort of aesthetic in mind, I wanted to primarily use green and brown as the dominant colors for my models. Over at the Games Workshop in Union City, Greg gave me some pointers on how to best paint faces on my soldiers. With a basic concept of the overall look I wanted to achieve and a few practical tips on how to approach painting a model, here are my first two attempts at painting soldiers.

Overall, I was happy with the color scheme and the basic concept, but none of the colors seemed quite as vivid or saturated as I desired. The red wasn't red enough, the brown wasn't dark enough, the green wasn't an especially pleasant shade and the white wasn't bright enough. The idea was right, but I wanted more contrast. With my next soldier, I used a darker foundation, and I double-layered the reds and whites to make them stand out more.

The reds, whites and browns turned out much better, but this time the green was way too dark. Since neither of my green foundations seemed to be the color I wanted, I decided to create my own custom shade by mixing the two to reach a more balanced color of green that wasn't as dark as the second one, and wasn't as harsh as the first. The next one figure I painted using my a temporary new green color.

This one I was quite pleased with! All of the colors complement each other well, and all of them are sufficiently saturated. The red is a rich, bloody red. The weapons look shiny, though reasonably worn. His face and hair look absolutely stunning. For the next four, which I painted simultaneously, I mixed up a whole batch of the new green color and used the same color scheme. Also, I my made first attempts at doing armor highlighting.

The highlighting is more challenging than I thought it would be, so I'll definitely work on practicing that a bit more. Also, with these guys I learned not to apply wash too liberally to the face, because the eyes aren't as clear when there's too much wash. But, apart from those two little details, I am quite happy with the overall look of the soldiers. I'm especially pleased with how the squad leader with the power fist turned out. All of the little details, and the richness of the bear pelts he wears look quite exquisite.

Here's a picture of all my painted figures so far. The squad looks a bit rag-tag because of all my color experiementation, but now that I have settled on my final color scheme, all future squads will look very uniform.

So begins my foray into painting miniatures.

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