Monday, 29 June 2009

Painting Miniatures Quickly: a step-by-step guide.

Hi again,

I’ve been painting fantasy & historical figures on and off for over 20 years and can, I think, paint to a better than average standard, although not particularly quickly. On top of that, I’ve tended to paint in fits & starts, meaning that very few projects were ever completed, resulting in half finished forces being sold on or shelved for “another day”. Being part of a regular gaming group just seemed to exacerbate the problem, with whatever everyone else was doing looking much more appealing than my current project.

For a number of reasons most of my current and immediate future gaming is likely to be either solo play or occasional one-on-one games with my son, meaning that I’ll need to provide, and paint, both sides for whatever period/genre I’m doing. Faced with this I needed to ensure that I didn’t end up with yet more unfinished projects and mountains of unpainted metal.
I decided to focus on a few key projects and work out a method of painting lots of 15mm & 28mm figures quickly and, more importantly, to a standard I was happy with.

After reading loads of painting articles, on Blogs & in gaming magazines, as well as experimenting with various techniques, I finally settled on the following method, which gives good results and is quick and easy to do.

Excluding undercoating, the miniature below took about 15 minutes from start to finish - not too bad for a 25mm figure!!

Stage 1: Clean and assemble your miniatures.

I wash my miniatures in a solution of warm water with a little washing up liquid, rinsing them thoroughly before placing them on an old towel to dry.
I then assemble my miniatures using an appropriate adhesive; UHU for metal miniatures, and polystyrene cement for plastic miniatures. I attach all shields etc at this point too. I do 15-20 at at time.

Stage 2: Undercoating.

I used to use Games Workshop’s Chaos Black spray paint to undercoat my miniatures but found that getting 100% coverage was an issue, and by the time I’d touched up any bits I’d missed I wasn’t actually saving much time. I didn’t find this particularly cost effective either.
I now use Daler Rowney System 3 Acrylic Mars Black: it’s an inexpensive artists colour which is thick and needs to be diluted with quite a bit of water. It covers well though and works out very cheap per figure. Once undercoated, I set the miniatures aside to dry, usually overnight. I tend to undercoat my miniatures in batches of 15-20.

Stage 3: White Drybrush.

This stage was the discovery for me, and was the key to increasing my output.
Using an old brush give the undercoated model a heavy drybrush with white paint, then set this aside to dry. The idea behind this is that when you block in your base colours at the next stage, the white & black undercoat will create natural looking highlights and areas of shadow. You don’t have to use white - I used GW’s Fortress Grey as the drybrush colour on my Perry ACW infantry, and the resulting highlights on those are very subtle. I guess you could take this a stage or two further, adding extra layers of highlights by drybrushing with progressively lighter colours; dark grey, grey, white for example..

Stage 4: Base Colours

Dilute your base colours with slightly more water than you would ordinarily and block paint your miniature (the white you drybrushed on earlier has the added advantage of making detail easier to see..) Although you won’t necessarily notice it too much at this point, the base colour will be slightly lighter where you’ve painted over the parts of the miniature you dry brushed with the white paint at the last stage.

Stage 5: Highlighting (optional)

By this point the base colour over the drybrushed miniature should provide enough highlighting, certainly for your rank & file troops, and you can just go straight to the next stage if you like. At this point I mix a little white into my base flesh colour, and quickly paint it on to the nose, cheeks, knuckles and any obvious muscled areas (I usually just lightly drybrush it on and don’t worry too much about being overly precise).

Stage 6: Klear Wash

Once the paint has dried I give the entire miniature a wash with a mix of Klear Floor Polish (at least that’s what it’s called in the UK – I think it’s called Future in the US), water and Winsor & Newton Peat Brown Ink. I find that 1 part Klear to 4 parts water and 1 part ink is a decent ratio (feel free to experiment but keep it light to start with – you can always do further washes). The capillary action of the polish pulls the pigment into the recesses, eye sockets etc, creating shade, which further accentuates the highlights.
The wash dries to a tough gloss finish (not too high a gloss) so I don’t bother with varnish.

Stage 7: Basing

As per my basing “How to”

Using this method won't win you any painting awards, but it will enable you to get nice looking units painted quickly and on the table...

take care
Bob Mcleish

Thursday, 25 June 2009

HoTT Dwarfs - Plastic Miners

I just received 8x plastic Dwarf Miners through the post; 5x rank and file Miners, a champion, Standard bearer and musician from the Games Workshop Battle for Skull Pass game. If these are the latest GW interpretation of this particular troop type then I have to say I'm quite disappointed! Gone are the exaggerated features; the big, stubby fingered hands, and large bulbous noses that characterised the GW Dwarf ranges for so long. These miniatures may well be more "realistically" proportioned but I feel that they are missing the humorous touch that made GW's earlier ranges much more endearing. Put bluntly, these are bland and lacking in any real character and, perhaps most tellingly, I didn't open the pack and think "Wow, I can hardly wait to paint these!"
Anyway, I managed to assuage my disappointment by finding a regiment of the older style GW Miners on eBay - I paid a bit more than I'd have liked, and bought more miniatures than I actually need, but these are a better fit with the miniatures I have and I know I'll be much happier painting these guys.
Once the Dwarf Miners (the final element for my HoTT Dwarfs) are painted, they'll be based up as a Lurker element (and I'm going to try something a bit different with this base...)

take care
Bob Mcleish

HoTT - The next project

As the first 24AP worth of my HoTT Dwarfs near completion I’ve started thinking about possible opponents for them. My son thinks Lizardmen are cool, but I haven’t managed to pick up too many of those (at the right price) on eBay yet, so they’ll have to remain a future, future project for the time being.
Beyond that there was no army jumping out and screaming “paint me” – All I knew was that I wanted some “baddies” to oppose my Dwarfs, and preferably something which would work thematically with lots of Hordes - purely on the basis that, traditionally, Dwarfs like nothing more than gruffly hacking their way through overwhelming numbers of enemy..
Anyway, during another trip into the loft (putting away some clutter) I unearthed a few older, but still available, GW Orc & Night Goblin character models – enough to give me at least 12AP worth of Hero & Magician elements. I thought about if for all of 5 seconds before deciding – Goblins it would be..!
Thinking about it a bit more, Goblins seemed the ideal choice, “ticking all the boxes” as it were -archetypal bad guys, and sworn enemies of the Dwarfs. On top of that, the innumerable ranks of puny Goblins just screamed out “Hordes”. As if that wasn’t enough, I knew that GW did a large range of easily available, quirky Goblin models which could be used to represent most other HoTT element types.
After some patient searching on eBay I managed to pick up 10x Goblin Spider Riders, some Night goblin Netters & Clubbers, a Squig Herder Team, and a box of 20x Night Goblins all for under £20.00.
That little lot alone gives me more than enough models to put together a 24AP force; something I can get on the table quickly, and add to at my leisure.
Based on the figures I have I’m looking at a starting force of something along the lines of this:

Orc Shaman General – Magician 4AP – the Big Boss, using fear and magic to keep his diminutive troops in line..
Night Goblin Chieftain – Hero 4 AP – Hopefully adding a bit of “oomph” to the Goblin battle line..
Night Goblin Shaman – Magician 4AP – Supporting the “boss” by assisting with those vital spells…
Squig Herders – Beasts – 2AP – Giant Fungi – 80% big teeth and attitude, goaded in the right direction by Goblins wielding a giant trident.
Goblin Netters & Clubbers – Lurkers – 1AP – Opportunists hoping to ensnare, then pummel, the unwary..
Goblin Spider Riders x 3 @2AP – 6 AP – Riders – helping out the hordes with those all important overlaps.
Puny Goblins Armed with various weapons x 3 @ 1AP – 3AP – Hordes – expendable, replaceable and, hopefully, entertaining…!

As I say, this is an initial list based on what I have or have managed to pick up so far. Eventually, I’d like to increase the number of Hordes to about 5, drop 1 of the Spider Riders and add in a Troll (behemoth), possibly at the expense of the Goblin Shaman - I can easily imagine the Orc dispensing with his minion as his head is “turned” by the lure of the raw power of a troll..

Anyway, I still have 1 or 2 Dwarf bits to finish before starting this project so I'm still a few days away from assembling or painting these Goblins - I just thought you might be interested to know what's coming next!! I'll chart this army's progress here..

Take care
Bob Mcleish

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Hi again,
Just a quick update and a couple of pix.

First up, Burlok Damminson, Master Engineer. This figure is based alone on a 60mmx40mm base and will be fielded as a Hero and the Army general. He was very simple to paint as the model is dominated by his metal arm, beard and massive hammer; all of which respond well to the black undercoat/white drybrush/block painted base colour/inkwash technique. I think this figure took about 30 minutes. I'm trying out a couple of banner design ideas for his back banner and will post pix of those as soon as they're finished.

Next, we have the Slayers. these are based on a 60mm x 40mm base and, as expalined in my previous post, will be fielded as a Paladin element. These figures also responded well to the painting technique mentioned above, espcially the beards, and all 3 were completed in about an hour. I used GW's Foundation colour, Macharius Solar Orange, on the beards of 2 of the figures but wasn't 100% happy with it (it just wasn't bright enough). I rooted around in my paint box and found a bottle of Vallejo's Orange Red (910), and used this on the Slayer with 2 swords. I was much happier with this colour and will use this for any future Slayers. The Flesh was all done with GW's Dwarf Flesh, with a spot of white added to highlight the nose, cheeks, and musculature - this wasn't too precise, but my inkwash hides a multitude of sins...!
Lastly, the 2nd element of Thunderers which will take to the table as Shooters. Being all big beards and exaggerated features (big hands and noses) these Dwarfs respond well to very quick and simple paint jobs. the beards on these guys were painted using Vallejo's Middlestone (70882)
That's all for now; I'm finishing off the bases of my Ironbreakers, and hope to post some photographs tomorrow. I'm also doing a quick "how to", covering the painting technique I used for these dwarfs, and hope to finish writing that up later today..
Take care,
Bob Mcleish

Saturday, 20 June 2009

HoTT Dwarfs - Progress Report

One of the things I love about HoTT (and DBA for that matter) is the small number of figures & elements that are needed to field an army. Take my Dwarfs for example; my force consists of 32 pieces - 30 infantry, an artillery piece & a Gyrocopter, and this even includes a couple of extra elements that can be swapped around for a bit of variety! Enough elements to give me some tactical options, whilst remaining manageable enough to be painted up before my interest switches to one of my other wargaming projects...
I've listed my army below, along with some comments, where appropriate, on how I've classed the elements for HoTT. This list has undergone some changes since I first started thinking about this project, and will probably see some more changes once I start playing with it.

Burlok Damminson Master Engineer (Hero) 4AP - a suitably heroic looking figure to use as the army general.
Gotrek & Felix (Paladin) 4AP - Arguably the most famous Slayer of all time, and his human companion. After much consideration, and some discussion over on the Fanaticus Forum I decided that fucntionally, Paladin was the best fit with how I envisaged Slayers; their high Combat Factor giving them a decent enough chance to defeat whichever behemoth they sought out on the battlefield, whilst the Quick Kill reflected their "kill or die trying" approach! On top of that, the Magic damping effect of Paladins seemed a good fit with Dwarfs natural resistance to magic and could also encompass any magic items they might be carrying.
Organ Gun (Artillery) 3AP - I couldn't imagine a Dwarf army without artillery of some sort, particularly with an Engineer leading the force! This might be the most difficult element to use effectively, but I'll see how it goes. I also have an old Flame Cannon model, as yet unpainted, which I'll use for a bit of variety.
Dwarf Miners (Lurkers) 1AP - I was torn between fielding these as Lurkers or Sneakers, and I imagine they'd work well equally, flavour-wise, as either. I imagine them tunnelling up beneath an enemy element, or launching an ambush from some long forgotten mine entrance.
Ironbreakers x 4 (Blades) 4@ 2AP - What can I sy - a decent core to any Dwarf army...
Thunderers x2 (Shooters) 2@ 2AP - Another core troop type which fits particularly well with the Engineering Guild Expeditionary force I envisage..

That's the core force which, on paper at least, looks like it has a decent enough mix of troops to hold its own .
The extra elements I have available at the moment are

Slayers (Paladin) 4AP - see comments re Gotrek above. I can see the Organ Gun & Miners making way to accomodate this element, particularly against an opponent wielding a lot of Magic...
Gyrocopter (Flyer) 2AP - To keep with the Enginnering theme I'd probably swap this in for an element of Ironbreakers or Thunderers when dropping the Organ gun - more for thematic & aesthetic reasons, rather than any tactical nous on my part.

I welcome any & all comments on the element choices I've made above.

The bulk of the list has now been painted, with work well underway on the bases. Photographs to follow tomorrow.

take care
Bob Mcleish

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Basing: a step-by-step guide

Hi again,

I've always been of the opinion that good basing is essential to good looking miniatures; improving the look of even an average paint job, and pulling an army together into a cohesive whole. Conversely, well painted figures can be let down by poor basing.

Over the years I've tried various basing techniques, with varying degrees of success and an inability to settle on one method. If I break it down I guess what I've been striving for is something that:

i) Is relatively quick, and easy to do.
ii) Uses cheap, readily available materials.
iii) (Perhaps most importantly) looks good.
iv) Ties in with my terrain collection.

I feel that my current method meets all criteria outlined above.


PVA Glue (Elmers Glue in the US I believe)
Sand - I use builders sharp sand, dried and sieved to remove the larger bits of gravel.
Coarser gravel/Modelling rubble (I'm currently using some Talus modelling rubble but will use the gravel sieved out of the Sharp sand once this is finished)
Static grass/hairy Grass - I use 2 lengths: Javis Scenics Spring Mix and Noch's longer variety (I can't remeber the exact name)
Broom Bristles - for reeds or dry grass (with 25mm figures)
Scenic scatter/foliage clumps - for bushes. mine is from Woodland Scenics I think.
Paint - Black, White (I use Daler Rowney System 3 Artists Acrylic) and Games Workshop's Graveyard Earth and Bleached Bone.
All Purpose Adhesive
Super Glue

This may seem like a lot of stuff, but it is all relatively inexpensive and once bought, will last a long time and enable you to texture the bases of hundreds of figures. Of course, it's not all absolutely necessary - you could use just one length of Static grass for example.

One more thing before I start, whilst this technique works well on my pre-cut 2.5mm MDF bases, it's not quite so effective with card bases which have a tendency to warp after a while. IMO buying, or making, wooden bases is well worth the little extra effort/cost.

Once you've painted and varnished your miniatures attach them to your base using a good, strong All Purpose Glue (I use UHU). It's a good idea to glue any clumps of reeds to your base at this point using the same glue.

I'll get round to doing a small article on making reed sections but for now here's a quick "how to". I tend to make them in large batches, doing enough for 50 - 60 bases at a time. Basically, I gather a small bundle of natural broom bristles between my fingers (1.5 - 2cm lengths work well with 25mm miniatures) and cut them from the broom. Next, using my Hot Glue gun, I apply a small blob of glue to one end of the bundle, dip my finger into cold water and quickly tap the glue blob flat at the bottom before setting it to one side to dry. (Be careful when doing this as the glue gets VERY hot). Once this has dried you can glue it on to your base. Although the reeds look good "as is" I tend to give them a quick drybrush with Bleached Bone when I'm painting the bases.

With reeds I find that "less is more", and stick to 1 or 2 per base, and then not on every base..

Anyway, once the figures are firmly attached to the base cover the entire base with slightly diluted PVA glue (a 4:1 mix of PVA to water works well) and sprinkle some of your coarser gravel on to 1 or 2 areas on the base, gently pressing it down with your finger. Next, dip the base into your box of sand, tap it to shake off any excess and set it aside to dry. It should look something like this:

Once the PVA is completely dry (I do a few bases at once and leave them overnight) paint the entire base with well diluted black paint. Leave this to dry. Wait for the black paint to dry fully then drybrush the base fairly heavily with the Graveyard Earth colour. Set this aside to dry.

Now, using a bit less paint, drybrush the entire base with Bleached Bone.

You can, after this stage, go right on to applying your static grass, but I prefer to give the entire base a very light drybrush with white paint, concentrating on larger boulders and the edges of the bases for definition. It's barely noticeable in the photograph I took so I haven't included it..

Apply 2-3 patches of barely diluted PVA glue to the base, and sprinkle on the longer of your static grass, pressing it down gently with your finger. After a few minutes turn the base upside down and tap off the excess. Add a few more small patches of the PVA and sprinkle on your shorter static grass, repeating the process above.

You could finish at this point, but I generally add some patches of bush to add some more interest. Tear off a small clump of your chosen foliage and apply a small amount of superglue, before pressing it firmly on to the base (tweezers might be handy here).

Below are some images of the completed Dwarf Organ Gun

Thanks for reading...
The main purpose of this Blog is to follow the development of my armies for WRG's Hordes of The Things (HoTT) fast play fantasy wargames rules, although I may well mention some of the other wargaming projects I'm working on along the way.
I've been playing WRG's Fast Play Ancients rules, DBA, on and off for the better part of 20 years, along with some of the Big Battle sets that have developed from DBA; DBM and, more recently, DBMM. I was aware of the existence of HoTT, and even bought the 1st edition rules at one point. Unfortunately, my gaming group at that point were more interested in Warhammer Fantasy Battles so I couldn't find anyone willing to play it. As a result the rules sat on a shelf, ignored, until I was having a clear out and stuck it on eBay. My interest in Fantasy gaming waned and a lot of my figures were either sold or stuck in boxes, put in the loft, and forgotten about.
I was in the loft recently and discovered a box containing various Games Workshop Dwarfs; a mix of infantry units, special characters and war machines - some painted, some not. I took them downstairs and, realising I had the core of a small army, decided to get gaming with them. I wasn't really interested in playing Warhammer - the prospect of shelling out for the latest rules, army lists, some additional Dwarfs and an army to oppose them (as most of my games will be against my son) filled me with dread. It was whilst browsing on the Fanaticus Forum - an excellent site run by, and for, DBA gamers that I started thinking about HoTT.
I read the available HoTT content there and thought"yeah, this sounds good" and immediately ordered a copy of the 2nd Edition rules. A quick read through them convinced me this was the way to go so I quickly put together a list using some of the Dwarf figures I had available and ordered some appropriately sized, pre-cut MDF bases from East Riding Miniatures
As soon as they arrived I made a start, basing some of the figures that were already painted..
Gotrek & Felix were based first, and were soon followed by some Dwarf Handgunners..