Thursday, 28 April 2011

Been painting...

I shall now return to a subject I've talked about before. It's all about painting technology and not getting caught up in spending a million hours painting one figure. I'm pretty well known for painting at Golden Demon with a fair amount of success. Last year I entered for the first time in five years and found myself a little bored with the process of display painting. I was just starting to think that I wasn't getting enough out for the effort put in. In the case of these particular minis I got a couple of demon trophies so I was both happy and proud but there was definitely the thought that I would never have wanted to bother if I wasn't entering a contest. So, it was around then I started looking at my painting hobby and what was important to me. I enjoy painting minis and have a bit of shiny-syndrome where I briefly want to paint all kinds of things but rarely get them finished. So, it was a case of starting to paint and ten being bored after the first hour or so and then a slog for the next few hours or however long it took to finish. The obvious strategy is to say that I should be painting minis in less than an hour each. This of course throws up a problem. It's tough to paint something aesthetically pleasing in less than an hour and I had no interest in painting figures that I didn't then enjoy looking at...

I looked at a couple of products that were designed for speeding the process up. Citadel Washes and Army Painter dip. There's a little stigma attached where it's assumed that these are quick ways of getting a figure on the tabletop but they wont look that great. I experimented with the Army Painter and it didn't work for me. Results weren't bad but it very much felt like a production line process that wasn't fun and 'painterly'. The Citadel Washes were far more interesting and I played a lot with finding how they work best.

The typical work process for these washes tends to be basecoat, wash and then highlight. Basically the traditional painters way. After a little messing about I felt that this wasn't getting the best out of them. Instead I used them as the final coat. So basecoat, highlight, wash. I also discovered that washing an area twice worked really well. The washes can be a little patchy as a final coat but a second coat evens things nicely. So, from there on it was all about working out what worked best under these circumstances.

One important lesson for me to learn was that with two washes at the end of the process you have to paint your basecoat much lighter than you'd normally go. I have learned that my new paint best friend is the Foundation paint Dheneb Stone. Many of my basecoats seem to be Dheneb Stone tinted with another colour. Bonus is that Dheneb has excellent coverage.

One of my experiments involved the new Grey Knights. Here is my Grey Knight Justicar. Mostly a basecoat with a single wash of Badab Black.

As an idea of what I was doing here is a pic of what one of my Greys looks like before and after that wash. Incidentally... Mithril Silver, Mithril and Burnt Umber ink for the gold, Blood Red.

Generally I'm quite happy with the results but there was a problem with the Grey Knights. I pretty much had to use the Badab Black wash but I feel it's too harsh. I was unable to do two layers to clean things up as even one layer was a bit too dark. It was at this point that I was crying out for GW to release a pigment free wash for altering the intensity of the washes. Thinning with water alters the properties too much and I have yet to find a medium to add that works.

So, I started playing with other minis and got onto one of my favourite things to do. I have learned that I like the effect of using all kinds of different washes for the first layer and then an all over wash of Gryphonne Sepia as the second (nobody ever suggested the two layers of wash had to be the same ones). I played with a couple of Lord of the Rings figures. First up, a Ringwraith...

This one had highlights drybrushed onto the robes and a little mud drybrushed around the lower edges. First wash was Thraka Green over everything except the metal which got Devlan Mud. I went with the Thraka Green to give him a slightly supernatural feel as in the movies. Then Gryphonne Sepia all over. Next up a Mordor Orc Slaver.

This was an interesting figure to do. In my older techniques I always got very annoyed at figures sculpted anything less than precisely. This one was quite rough in it's sculpture but had a good feel in general. Not getting hung up on painting the details is one of the strong points of my new technique so this guy was another quick and easy paint. Just Devlan Mud all over and then Gryphonne Sepia.

Lastly, for today, I wanted to have a go at trying my technique on something that would normally be a tough one to paint because of the detail levels. I decided to grab one of my 28mm Eolith Zombies. These are very finely textured figures so this would be a real workout to see the potential of the technique.

I think it came out well. Two coats of Gryphonne Sepia on the flesh and Devlan then Gryphonne on the rest.

Right now my new style is a work in progress. Plus I really need to work on my photography. New camera plus not having a proper setup at the moment means these pics are rather sub-par. Mostly that the colours are a little... dull. Regarding the painting I'm currently working hard on getting the basecoats right. I still have a tendency towards making them too dark so the end result is duller and not as three dimensional as I'd like. But, I'm getting there.

Also experimenting with wash concoctions for different effects. Still looking for a good way to take the intensity out of them. Really want a much weaker version of Badab Black and Devlan Mud. I think two coats of Badab Black at a quarter of it's usual intensity would be great for Grey Knight armour.

Last up I'd like to say that the longest time spent on any of these minis was 45 minutes on the Justicar. Most of the figures hover around the thirty minute mark. Nice to sit down and knock out a mini that quick and still be happy with the result.


  1. Those are astonishingly awesome paintjobs, specially for being that quick.

    I'm glad to know you are rediscovering the joy of painting thru somehow rebooting your painting style :) Last time I got bored I stop buying any mini to make my own (mostly nonsensical stuff) and abandoned citadel paint range in favor of vallejo's.

    ...speaking of wich, I'm still using the OLD 90s citadel washes (the blue cap hexagonal soft plastic bottled ones) and am considering getting the new ones, mostly devlan mud, due to how great and different from the old ones people say they are. What I'm wondering is, they are so different (maybe better) from let's say vallejo or andrea inks ? I dunno and sure thi ain't the best place to ask, but I "wash" just wondering since "old" washed leave a satin finish and still after decades I don't feel really comfy about them for fine painting but for initial stages of the process.

  2. The new GW washes aren't much like inks or the old washes. The colour is less intense and they have more body to them. It's like a mix of ink and paint medium so when you paint them on you get a smoother graduated appearance and they stain the colours beneath them less than inks do.

    Finish wise they are matt. Definitely worth picking up one or two to try out.

  3. Interesting post Steve. The washes seem to be working great for you, I particularly like how the Eolith Zombies has come out.

    From my experiences I have an issue with the Citadel washes and multiple coats resulting in a paint job that is too dark and lacks contrast. Your minis don't seem to suffer from this. Do you use the subsequent wash layers as a controlled coat in the recess only to add more depth to the shadows? I do however find that stronger tone pigment paints, rather than the more pastel shades of the foundations, tend to help curb the overall darkening and loss of contrast effect the washes tend to give.

    One painter who seems to achieve great results with the Citadel washes in Aly Morrison. He seems to use them quite extensively to a great effect. Take alook at some of his undead - simple paintjobs but still very effective.

  4. Some excellent examples Steve. Out of interest, what did you base the zombie's skin with? Was that Dheneb Stone or something else entirely?

  5. Dave, when it comes to a dark, low contrast finish you are right. The trick is to make your basecoat much lighter than it would normally be, kind of like how they make 3d movies much lighter so they look fine when you view them with the tinted glasses on. If you use an overly light basecoat the wash darkens it to about the right level but still adds the same level of dark shading.

    And Big Steve, the skin on the zombie was Dheneb with a little something mixed in. Can't remember what. Probably either Gretchin Green, Iyanden Darksun or maybe even Tallarn Flesh.

  6. This is really great stuff Steve - the quality of these paintjobs is really good, but they are truly awesome knowing how swiftly you did them. Hoping to crack open my painting kit this weekend to follow suit! Xx

  7. I know what you mean with the washes. I don't mind the GW washes and I used to love them. Used them on everything. But I didn't always like the effect straight out of the bottle. I used water to thin them, but I agree that it does alter the properties and it can be a tricky to find a balance. I have moved to Vallejo inks. Now you HAVE to thin them as they are inks, but there is decent control with how much you thin them. I used them on the 54mm Shae I have just about finished.