In the last article, I talked about how I made my clockwork temple bases for my Convergence army. This time, we’re going to paint them up and use some techniques that may not be familiar to most miniature painters. That’s right, we’re using oil paints!
But first, lets get started. With the bases done, the first step is to prime them. When painting models and bases that are mostly metallic, it’s generally better to forgo the zenithal and just prime black. As such, I go with Stynylrez flat black through the airbrush, but you could do a rattle can prime if that’s more your speed. Simple, everyone knows how to do that.
Next up, we’re going to lay down our silver metals, so it’s time to take out the Vallejo Metal Colors (not Model Color or Model Air, Vallejo Metal Color) and get to work. The specific colours don’t really matter, but you’re going to want a dark grey metal like Steel or Gunmetal Grey, a mid-tone like Silver or Dark Aluminum, and a highlight such as Chrome or Aluminum. The specific colours don’t really matter because it’s bases we’re talking about and VMC has a somewhat ridiculous range of grey metals (but not enough golds and coppers, grumble grumble).
We’re going to work from dark to light, so I started with the gunmetal grey, added some black ink to darken it even further, and applied a base coat over the entire base. From there, we’re going to apply our dark colour, our midtone, and our highlight in succession. But we’re not just going to just cover everything up with another base coat, we’re going to move the airbrush around, applying each colour in a marbled pattern, which will create visual interest. Also, as you move to the highlights, start focusing your fire in certain areas that you want to highlight – namely, areas that aren’t going to be in the shadow of the model, and the centers of the floor panels, away from the panel lines.
Picking out details.
The next step is to simply pick out the various details – paint up the gears and greeblies in brass and copper, highlighting as you go. Then give the whole thing a quick dry brush with a bright silver, which will highlight the steel, copper and bronze all at once. From there, pick out the hoses in grey and give them a nuln oil wash. Hit the hoses with a quick coat of brush-on varnish and let the paints cure, preferably overnight, because the next step is where the fun part begins.
Note that if you use a rattle can primer, this is the only airbrush step in the process. If you don’t have an airbrush, there may be a workaround — what I would probably do is get some big makeup brushes and apply the metals over the black primer by dry brushing them on successively from dark to light, and maybe doing a little stippling here and there of bright silvers.
That’s right, it’s time to break out our oil paints. Oil paints aren’t anything new, but they’ve been rediscovered by a lot of miniature painting influencers who are a lot more influential than me lately, so they’re kind of the hot fad right now. The thing with oil paints is that they have a few properties that make them totally different from acrylic paints, so you’re
First, the challenges with oil paints. Obviously, oil and water don’t mix, so you’re going to need some odorless spirits for thinning the paints and cleaning your brushes. You’re also probably going to want to use them in a well-ventilated area; I’ve found they can cause irritation, but it might just be that I’m using decades-old tubes. Finally, oil paints are used by canvas artists and as such, part of the drying process is for the linseed oil to be absorbed into the canvas. Since we aren’t painting on canvas and plastic isn’t very absorbent, if we are using artist oil paints, we’re going to want to squirt what we need onto a piece of cardboard and let the cardboard soak up some of the linseed oil for a couple hours before we get to work.
But, in spite of all these challenges, oil paints offer huge benefits. They have a really long drying time, which opens us up to some techniques that simply won’t work with acrylics – and we’re going to use two of these techniques on this project. They can also be very forgiving because if you make a mistake, the paint isn’t dry and can be just wiped away.
By mixing oil paints and your spirits, you can make a wash that behaves very differently from your standard Nuln Oil. For this project, I like to make a blue-black wash by mixing up some black and blue paint with my spirits of choice. I’m not sure the exact ratio, but it’s easy to add a little more white spirits or paint if it doesn’t feel right.
As you go to apply the oil wash, you’ll notice that it is actually pretty amazing. You know how when you started painting you slathered minis in Nuln Oil and then moved away from that later on as you started to get annoyed with all the coffee staining and the dirty look? Well, an oil wash in many ways feels like that magical moment when you slathered that first mini in Nuln Oil all over again.
It’s been a while since I took any sort of fluid dynamics, so I’m not sure if it’s the viscosity or the surface tension, but you’ll see that oil washes move around on the surfaces more. This makes them great for doing things like panel lines, as you can simply touch the panel line with a loaded brush and the oil wash will flow along the panel line, shading it all in one quick go.
The other trick to oil washes is since they take so long to dry, you can easily avoid coffee staining by soaking up any excess. I like to use makeup wedges, but a paper towel or some foam from a blister pack can work in a pinch. You can also let the oil wash dry in the panel lines for a couple hours then come back in with the makeup wedges and wipe the excess off the flat surfaces. This is much easier than trying to panel line with acrylics, and because you aren’t getting coffee staining everywhere, it’s much cleaner and it doesn’t mess with metallic shines.
Now that we’ve got our panel lines picked out, we’re going to dirty up our floor and add some more visual interest. Here we’re going to use a technique called a dot filter which is something that you really can’t do with acrylics for reasons that will soon become obvious.
First, prepare your oil paints by squirting them onto the cardboard and letting the linseed oil soak out. Since we’re trying to make the floor look aged and maybe a little dirty, we’re going to go with a few shades of browns and some black. I also like to throw in a little blue just to add some contrast and visual interest.
When you’re ready to go, take a round brush and apply some dots in all the various colours to the surface. Yes, this will look stupid at this stage, but don’t worry. Just apply your dots, focusing on areas you want to shade like the areas near panel lines and, with the black, areas that are going to be in the shadow of the model.
With the bases covered in silly looking dots, you’re going to want to take a dry brush – and I’m using dry brush in both senses of the term, that is, a brush that is dry and also the sort of brush that you use for dry-brushing – and push these dots around. Using little circular motions, spread these dots around and get them all mixed together. You will quickly see these dots disappear as they are spread out over the surface, shading it in all the various colours of the dots. The browns give a grimy floor look, while all the different colours add some neat visual interest to the surface.
And, since we’re using oil paints, the process is pretty idiot-proof. If you want to shade them more, you can always add more dots and spread them around more. If you’ve got too much oil paint on there, it’s very easy to wipe some off the surface with a dry makeup sponge, exposing more of the underlying metallics.
Once you’re satisfied, leave them to dry. And once the oils are all dry, you can touch up anything you need and paint the base rims. Paint them black and go over them with a brush-on sealer and your bases are ready for models!
When it comes to making good-looking armies, bases are a huge part of it. By using these techniques, you can make some amazingly cool and thematic bases for a Convergence army, or for any other models that have a lot of cool clockwork steampunk stuff going on.