Clockwork Temple Base-ics part II: Painting

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.

Steel

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.

Oil time!

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.

Oil washes

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.

Dot filters

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!

Conclusions

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.

Clockwork Temple Base-ics

It’s been a while. As one of my projects lately, I’ve been starting a Convergence army for Warmachine and posting these to the Warmachine/Hordes Painting group on facebook, where I also help run the #pointaday challenge. If you are on facebook and aren’t in this group, definitely check it out.

Anyways, since Convergence are the clockwork art deco robots faction, I’ve been making my own clockwork themed bases, loosely inspired by some sort of clockwork temple. I’ve been getting a couple and comments on them, so I figured I would do a basic tutorial.

What you will need

Materials:

  • Privateer Press bases
  • 0.020” and 0.040” plasticard
  • Round wound guitar strings
  • Little gears – from watch parts, steampunk jewelry, or model car gears
  • Plastic cement (optional)
  • CA glue

Tools:

  • Circle Cutter – I use the OLFA CMP-1, which is a compass style circle cutter
  • Hobby Knife
  • Sanding block – I have the Goodman Models super sanding blocks which I love, but you can make your own sanding blocks by gluing sandpaper to a block of wood
  • Scribing Tools – you have plenty of options here, from a simple hobby knife to purpose-made scribers and chisels
  • Cutting mat
  • Side cutters or some tool to that effect
  • Straight edge (a small L-shaped ruler works best)

Sampling of tools. Top to bottom: circle cutter, pin vise rivet punch, Tamiya scriber, hobby knife, MadWorks chisel with 0.2mm tip

Scribing and cutting

Before we get started, I want to talk for a minute about scribing – that is, the process of carving additional detail into plastic models. There are a lot of tools you can use to scribe details into plastic, but I want to talk here about the simple hobby knife and the difference between scribing and cutting.

To illustrate this, consider the simple hobby knife. If you run it across a sheet of plastic, you will get different results depending on if you are using the front or the back of the blade. If you use the front, sharp edge of the blade, two things happen. First, the blade cuts as it presses into the plastic. But the plastic that you are pressing into with the knife has to go somewhere. This means as you make the cut, the plastic that you are cutting into gets pushed to the side and creates a raised area on each side, kind of like how a snowplow piles up snow on the side of the road.

If you use the back of the blade, you can see that it behaves differently – it creates some debris, be it plastic dust or little curly bits. This is because instead of cutting into the plastic, it’s scraping away plastic. This also means that it doesn’t pile up on the sides like with a knife, because the excess plastic is being taken away.

Understanding this difference is going to be important for a few steps in this process – sometimes you want to cut, sometimes you want to scribe, and sometimes you want to do both.

1. Make circles

For each base, what we need are two circles – one in the 0.020” plasticard, and one in the 0.040” plasticard. While you can use different thicknesses for the thick piece if you want, I find at 0.020” works best for the thin piece because it’s about the thickness of the depth of the inside of a PP base rim. The diameter of the circles should be close to the inner diameter of a PP base. It’s probably better to err on the side of slightly too large as you’ll probably want to sand down the edges with a sanding block just to clean them up anyways.

To make these, I use an OLFA CMP-1 circle cutter, which is a simple tool that can be used cut circles with a variety of diameters. It has a needle for the centerpoint and a cutting blade that can be set to any diameter from about 1cm to 15cm. Simply press the needle into the center and spin the tool so that the cutting blade cuts a circle into the plastic.

While this tool wasn’t really designed to cut through plastic this thick, there is a workaround. I find it easiest when cutting these circles to go back and forth between clockwise and counterclockwise with the circle cutter. It is like switching between the front and the back of a hobby knife – going forwards to make a cut, then going backwards to scrape it deeper and wider. Eventually you will cut and scrape most of the way through, at which point you can take a sharp hobby knife and cut out any parts where it’s just barely hanging on.

0.020″ and 0.040″ thick circles, of same diameter as inside of the bases

2. Add Scribed Detail

Now that we have circles in both thin and thick plasticard, we’re going to use the thin pieces of plasticard as the base for our work and our greeblie layer, while the thick plasticard will represent the floor plates that the model is standing on. We need to do two things to the thick pieces – cut away sections to create recessed areas for greeblies, and scribe detail into the floor plates.

There are a lot of different scribing tools you can use for this. The back of a hobby knife is something you already have and can use, though it’s not always the best or safest. Tamiya makes a plastic scriber that comes with retractable hook-shaped blades that works nicely for things like this. I also have a set of MadWorks chisel tips which range in width from a needle to a 1.5mm thick chisel; I find the 0.2mm is a good thickness for these sort of panel lines.

Simply run your scribing tool of choice across the surface of the plastic, guided by your straightedge, to create a scribe line. This will take multiple passes, so be gentle, especially on the first couple passes – it’s better to press lightly and go over the panel multiple times to get the desired depth than to press too hard trying to do it all at once and have your tool skip out of the groove.

To cut away sections, simply scribe all the way through with your scribing tool of choice, and clean up the edges by running it along a sanding block. You can also use your circle cutter to make curved scribe lines or cut away round sections that might match the diameter of your large gears.

For rivets, I made a simple tool out of a piece of brass tube that I sharpened the end of and put into a pin vise. By pressing down into the plastic with this, you can create a circular impression. However, since it is pressing into the plastic like the front of a knife, it does create these raised piles of plastic around the rivet, which can be easily fixed by scraping it off with a hobby knife and running the face of the plastic over a sanding block to sand away any excess.

There are other rivet ntools you can try – from leather punches to pattern wheels to the tip of a mechanical pencil – depending on what you have around and how big of rivets you want.

But for bases like this, I generally like my rivets to be big and chunky.

Finally, glue the thick piece on top of the thin circle. I prefer plastic cement for this, but you can use CA glue in a pinch.

3. Add greeblies

Greeblies are random details that are used in science fiction modelling to make objects look more complex. They are most famous for their use in the studio models for the Star Wars movies – ships like Y-wings are just covered in random crap like hoses, grates, and, if you look closely, you can see a shovel from a model tank kit on the back. We’re going to use greeblies to make our bases more interesting.

Hoses are simple – cheap roundwound guitar strings, cut to length, make great hoses and take paint and washes quite nicely. As for the rest of the greeblies, since we want to give a clockwork vibe, we want to incorporate a lot of gears and such into our greeblies. I’ve found a few sources that I like, all easily available from your friendly local online retail corporate overlord, which I will run down here.

My favourite are the baggies of random watch parts that you can buy online. In addition to gears, they have other cool-looking clockwork parts that can be incorporated like plates and wheels and shafts. You can also get similar gears which are decorative only for steampunk nail art that also work great.

There are also these larger metal gears for steampunk jewelry. They have a lot of very nice patterns to them and are great . The down side is that they are a little tricky to work with – you need some nice big side cutters and some metal files if you want to cut them to fit the edge of a base.

Finally, there are plastic gears for things like model cars. Since they are made of plastic, they’re easier to cut and sand and work with than these big metal gears. However, they don’t have very much detail; I find that I’m drilling holes in them just to add some additional detail and break up the big flat spots.

Using a thick CA glue, simply glue the greeblies in place quasi-randomly. Depending on the size of the greeblies, you might need a good pair of pointed tweezers. Some of them you may need to cut and file to fit how you want them, but most of these greeblies are thin enough and made of soft enough metal that a decent pair of side cutters with a decent sized handle to give you good leverage will take care of that.

Greeblified base toppers

Final Steps

At this point, what you should have is a cool looking steampunk base topper. Simply glue it into place on top of a PP base, and you’re ready to start painting. Which… may be another article as there are some cool tricks you can do with oil paints to make it very easy.

The Skill Wall and Display vs. Army Painting

When I started painting miniatures and figures, it was for gaming. I had a bit of a false start with Reaper’s first Bones kickstarter, but eventually I got hooked by way of a Warmachine starter set I got for Christmas one year. However, as I’ve moved more and more into display painting and away from just painting for games, I’ve started to notice some differences between army painting and display painting.

The skill wall

One of the concepts I have been thinking about in my display painting has been a “skill wall.” This is a point where you look at a model and, even if it isn’t perfect, you don’t have the skills to really do anything to it which will actually improve the model. At that point, you are best to call it done because any further work is just futzing around with it for little to no actual improvement.

To use an analogy, think of the skill wall as a physical barrier that you are trying to run towards. As you get better at running, you learn to run both faster (representing how fast you can put paint on a model) and farther (representing how good the final product looks). A painting competition is measuring the distance you go, and it is up to you to take it all the way as far as you can. We all eventually hit that wall, but if you want to win, you need to drag yourself to the outer edge of your skill and not just say “meh, good enough.”

When you are just starting out, I would argue that you should push yourself to the max with every model. Let’s face it, all of us when we started barely knew how to get the paint onto the model. In the previous analogy, we were the equivalent of a 500 pound man huffing and wheezing as we struggled to waddle the 100 metre dash. At that point, you need all the exercise you can get. But as we practice and get in shape, we can go both farther and faster. Maybe after a month of training, our skill wall is 200 metres from the start line, but we can now jog 200 metres in half the time it previously took us to waddle 100 metres.

Ideally, as people who paint armies and hordes for games, as we paint more and more, we are both getting better at painting and getting faster as we learn the basics of brush control and all sorts of little tips, tricks and techniques to speed our work. We start producing better work, but it doesn’t take that much longer (and may even take less time) because we now paint faster as well. We might even find some shortcuts like using airbrushes, sketch style or contrast paints to take a different route which gets us better results faster.

However, once you start doing some serious display painting, things start to change. Eventually, you end up in a situation where, even though you have the brush control techniques to paint relatively quickly, your capabilities are so advanced that you could spend dozens of hours on a single model and not even hit your skill wall yet. But since dozens of hours per model times dozens of models in your army equals an unrealistic amount of time, the approach of always pushing yourself to the max on every single model may start to get problematic at some point.

Basically, at some point, no matter how good of a runner you are, it will still take a while to do a marathon.

From a practical perspective, since there are only so many hours in the day, you end up having to do one of two things when you are army painting. First, you start looking for techniques that save time rather than improve quality. You might do some sketch style or try out new airbrush techniques instead of slowly and carefully layering highlights. Second, you have to start saying “good enough” at some point, and this is where the whole concept of “tabletop quality” starts to come in (even though “tabletop standard” is kind of a confusing concept).

That sounds bad, but in the context of painting an entire army, it really isn’t. Yes, no individual model from your army will win a best single model painting competition (except maybe a centerpiece model you have kicked up to a higher standard), however that isn’t the point of army painting. To paraphrase Stalin, quantity has a quality of its own. A large decently-painted army with some uniformity in sculpts, colours and basing schemes, some nice pop on the highlights, and maybe a couple really nice centerpiece models looks rad as hell, even if random dude with spear number 37 isn’t the most impressive model.

IMG_1816.JPG

Pictured: Two small, rad-as-hell looking armies

All about the base

One other big difference between painting for a game and painting for display is the question of bases. In many wargames, base size serves an important gameplay purposes and measurements are made from the base. In Warmachine, this is a particular issue because tournament play requires round-lipped bases, which I am not really a fan of because the lip seems to take up a large portion of the area available for basing, and there are fewer third party scenic bases available than there are for the traditional GW style angle-lipped bases.

Gaming bases are generally pretty simple and utilitarian, often consisting of a flat plastic base with maybe a touch of simple texture or other scenic elements on top. There is an incentive not to build up too much height on their bases because taller models means they take up more room in your army transport bag, and it can get difficult at times to lug armies around to games.

Display painters often like to put their models on fancy plinths, which both looks nice and serves a practical purpose – where wargamers tend to handle their models by the model itself, display painters often don’t varnish their pieces and don’t want to touch them, so a nice plinth can serve as a convenient handle for when you do need to put them on the contest table.

volkvo.png

An early attempt at an almost-display level model that I could game with, before I started doing real display models. Note how the arc markings on the base are distracting from the model. This was basically my skill wall at the time.

In games such as Warmachine, there is also an issue with facing and arc marking. Since you are strongly encouraged to mark facings on your bases, this can become an issue because these markings can draw attention away from the model and towards the usually high contrast markings on the rim of the base. A plain black rim just looks better as it doesn’t draw attention away from the model and gives some nice separation between the table and the scenery on the base. This is why, in spite of encouraging players to paint arc markings on their bases, Privateer Press has plain black rims in all of their box art.

Finally, there can be practical issues with overly scenic bases. Games featuring true line of sight, where line of sight is measured to the model itself, can cause issues. It can be hard for your awesome character model to take cover behind a wall if he is permanently standing on top of a pile of the corpses of his vanquished enemies. In other games such as Warmachine, players tend to place an extremely high value on precision movement, so things like overhang and fancy, elevated basing can cause frustration. If you are trying to do something display-like that you still want to game with, the demands of the game can compromise your artistic vision.

Simply put, a gaming base looks underwhelming in a painting contest, and a nice plinth wouldn’t work on the gaming table. While you can sometimes get away with using the same bases, you eventually get to a point where you need to decide if you are going to use a piece for gaming or as a display piece and go one way or the other.

Varnish and protecting your paint

Finally, we get into one of the biggest differences between painting for a game and painting for display. Game models are meant to be touched and handled, display models generally aren’t.

This means a few things. First, display models can sometimes incorporate small, fiddly details that would be unsuitable for the sort of rough handling that a gaming model goes through, between transport and gaming. As one example, I saw a model of a tank for one of the WW2 combat games that came with two main guns – one to the proper scale, and a thicker one for gamers because the proper scale gun is too fragile for tabletop gaming.

And, we have to get into varnish. Since gamers tend to handle their minis a lot, they tend to appreciate thick coats of varnish. While I’m not sure to what extent the varnish actually protects the miniature (I would think primer adhesion would be a bigger culprit for chipping),

Unfortunately, when you are painting for display, a varnish can change the finish in ways that you don’t intend. Obviously, a matte varnish will destroy the shine of your metallics (do I really need to explain this one?). You can rescue it somewhat with a gloss varnish overtop, but it still won’t quite be the same as if you left your metallics in their natural state.

However, even with regular, non-metallic paints, a varnish can slightly change the finish of the paint in ways that you don’t expect. As a result, it is common for display painters to address this problem by leaving their models unvarnished, and simply not touch them, as they are not willing to risk sacrificing their hard work on getting the blends perfect only to have it be messed with by a varnish.

What does this all mean?

While they are very similar skills and incorporate similar techniques, I believe that army painting and display painting are different enough that we should recognize and celebrate both. There are people who aren’t going to win a painting competition because their skill wall isn’t far enough out yet. These people either don’t want to make the jump into display-only painting (especially when they are staring down a bunch of space marines they need painted for the next tournament) or they simply aren’t skilled enough yet to seriously compete. However, they can field very nice armies thanks to patience, practice and perseverance.

When it comes to wargaming, I’m a big advocate of rewarding and incentivising all aspects of the hobby. There is an attitude in some circles that tournaments are about game mastery and painting competitions are about display painting and never the twain shall meet in order to protect the sanctity of both. However, I feel this attitude is wrong-headed because it leaves out the army painters – the sort of people who may not have the skills to be competitive at something like Crystal Brush, but who have the perseverance to play it painted and to produce nice looking armies.

On the tournament side, this can be done in a variety of ways; some combination of best painted army awards, paint scores, or bonuses or raffles for fielding a fully painted army could work. On the display side, I think events like GW’s Armies on Parade are a neat way to allow army painters to showcase their work, compete, and get some recognition for a job well done. Space permitting, things like this could be incorporated into painting competitions, which would give army painters an opportunity to mingle with display painters and pick up some skills.

Final thoughts

While display and army painting involve a lot of similar skills, there are a number of significant differences that make them not always the same. However, that is not to devalue or diminish army painting; the patience and perseverance involved in painting an army is not unlike that of bringing a single model up to a very high display standard. And both should be rewarded and celebrated.

 

Bonus content: French Cruiser De Grasse

One of the raffle prizes I snagged at TorCan was a Heller 1:1400 scale kit of the French cruiser De Grasse. Construction started on this ship before World War II, and in the chaos of the war and the Fall of France, plans for the hull changed a number of times before it was finally finished as an anti-aircraft cruiser in 1956.

The kit itself was not very big and was showing its age. Instructions came on a single sheet of yellowed paper, and no decals were supplied. I ended up struggling to get the two halves of the hull and the deck in place properly, which caused a number of issues with seam lines. Most of the painting was relatively simple, with the exception of the helicopter landing pad at the rear which I painted onto the deck by hand. I used brass rod to fashion a pair of flagpoles at the front and back, each flying tiny French flags made of little squares of aluminum foil, and since I couldn’t find my ez-line, used one of my own hairs for the rigging.

Also, even though it makes no sense, I painted the plaque on the front using TMM shading because… reasons?

Baselog: Sexy Gorman

That’s a title that I never thought I would write.

Anyways, recently I finished up my first Privateer Pres model designed solely for display and not gaming purposes. For this undertaking, I figured I should go big or go home, so I chose the “di Wulfe in Sheep’s Clothing” VIP model from MiniCrate.

studio_sheep

Studio scheme

To be honest, I wasn’t really jazzed about this model when it was first announced. While I like what Privateer Press is doing with some of their mini-crate models in doing the gender-bending alternate sculpts, I just wasn’t crazy about the idea of a model wearing a sheep onesie based on a mediocre pun. However, once I got the model in the mail, she really grew on me. The sculpt quality is great, with a lot of crisp details and an excellent job on the facial features, and there weren’t a lot of mold lines to clean up. Further, the whimsical nature of the sheep onesie was something that I only began to appreciate once I saw it in person.

Of course, it is well documented that when presented with a studio scheme, my youthful anarchist tendencies tend to come out and I immediately decide to do something else with the model other than following the directions laid out by studio painters. This was no exception; my black sheep tendencies meant that I decided to go with a black sheep instead of a white one, as well as make a lot of the leather bits and straps that comprise the rest of her clothing black and shiny like my Zerkova2 rather than brown or grey.

That said, this article isn’t so much about the painting of the figure, because a lot of the techniques I used on her are things that I have been practicing lately for this purpose, and which I have covered in previous articles. This article is going to be all about that base. Specifically, the display plinth that I had made up for this project.

Quick Safety PSA: My process for this project involved a lot of cutting, filing, and sanding of resin pieces. Resin dust which is produced from these processes is nasty stuff, and you really don’t want it to get into your lungs. We want to be painting miniatures for a while, so make sure to take appropriate precautions for dust control and protecting your lungs.

So, once I decided that I was going to make this a display quality mini on a nice plinth, a couple considerations came to mind. First, I knew I didn’t want to go with a wooden plinth, because I just didn’t think it would go well with the steampunk aesthetic of Warmachine. Second, I started thinking about composition. I knew I didn’t want to just have her standing on a perfectly flat piece of ground, so I wanted some variation in elevation on the top surface. I also wanted to incorporate multiple textures, so I eventually settled on a vision of her standing on a sloping surface with some rock behind her.

IMG_2266.JPG

The first step…

Anyways, after browsing the internet for a little while, I settled on a 40mm square plinth from Dark Messiah Bases. These are black resin plinths that come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and have a nice, sleek, modern look which is a great start for a display miniature project, even if you don’t do a lot to them.

Of course, I’m interested in taking it to the next level, so I’m going to do some stuff to it. First, I took my jeweler’s saw and cut away a little piece on the front, just because for this project, I wanted to have it sloping slightly forward. Next, I created the rock formations out of bark chips. After cutting them to size, I drilled into them and pinned them to the base with some brass rod and plenty of gel super glue, just to make sure they would stay on nicely.

IMG_2269.JPG

Milliput sculpting

Next, it was time for some sculpting. I chose Milliput as my sculpting medium, because (spoiler alert) I knew I was going to do a lot of filing and sanding, and milliput works a lot better for that sort of thing than something like green stuff. I sculpted the slope of the ground in milliput, then added some in areas of the rock face where it needed a little filling out. I also made sure to sculpt outwards from the top of the base a little, because I wanted to carry the flat, vertical surface of the sides of the plinth upwards as though this base is a perfectly square cutout of the surrounding groundwork.

From there, it was a matter of filing and sanding the sides flat. Starting with a big old hand file and progressing to a sanding block with some very fine sandpaper, I took it down to a flat surface.

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Sanded flat

With the sculpting done, I primed the whole thing black, then used the airbrush to give it a coat of the straight black acrylic hobby paint of my choice. The rationale behind the coat of regular paint over the primer was just in case I needed to do any touch ups at the end; I wanted to make sure the black paint I used for the touchup matched the surrounding area.

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After the basic profile of the groundwork was applied, it was time to add some texture to the ground area. Some people glue sand or other grit down, but I like to use textured artist mediums. It’s probably a matter of personal opinion, but I find these to be a lot more convenient than using glue and grit as they are easier to apply and I don’t have to clean loose sand out of my apartment when I’m done. Further, you can mix some cheap craft paint straight into the medium and save yourself a step in painting that sand up.

I applied a quick dark grey basecoat to the rocks, and from there, it’s a matter of applying washes, dry-brushing, and perhaps a hint of dry pigments until you get something you are happy with. I like to give everything a dark wash and then work everything up with browns and greys and tans. Applying some dry pigments in a controlled manner can also help add just that little touch of colour variation to grey rocks and generate a bit of visual interest, which is a trick I touched on before but might write something focusing on it soon.

After attaching the model to the base, we need to add vegetation. This could be a whole article in itself, but throw on a bit of flock, static grass, tufts, and leaves, and you’ll end up with some nice finishing touches on your base.

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The finished project

Finally, I made up a little sign for the front just to take the whimsical, punnish theme home. I started out by cutting out a piece of plastic from a Privateer Press blister pack and doing a little sanding on the edges and roughened up the surface that was going to be the back a little. After priming it white, I took out my airbrush and a few different off-white colours in various shades of bone, ivory, light khaki, etc. I airbrushed a nice smooth base coat with one of them, then followed up with the others, putting a couple drops through the airbrush (with a drop of an appropriate thinner, of course), not bothering to clean out the airbrush between colours and just randomly spraying some patterns on. These slightly different colours are going to be a base for the sort of aged, uneven look that I’m going for with the sign.

Once I was happy with that, I cleaned out the airbrush, turned the pressure way down (into the single-digits), and pulled out some Scale75 Intense Wood ink. Aside from having quite possibly the funniest paint name in my collection (get it? because wood…), this colour, as its name applies, works really well to help create a realistic wood effect. In this case, what I did was drop some of it in my airbrush and shoot it onto the target at a very low pressure, which, similar to a wood stain, went on like a glaze and shifted the colour of the underlying material into a nice woody tone. Again, I wasn’t going for an even coat; I wanted to get some colour variation, so I sprayed it on in a sort of random pattern, varying the amount on any given point to get dark and light spots.

Finally, I shot it the sign with a quick spray of dullcote, as the Scale75 inks dry a little glossy when applied as a glaze. With the shine gone, I used freehand techniques to draw the skull and write on the sign. Here, I wasn’t too concerned with making the lettering perfect; I wanted the sign to have a sort of hand-drawn look as though it might be something spray painted on a wall by a graffiti artist.

From there, we can just glue the sign on and we’re done! With this neat display plinth, I’m looking forward to bringing her out to painting competitions as well as putting her in a place of pride on my shelf.