Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Army Painter method makes you re-think miniature painting

I've not done any miniature painting for a long time. Well, maybe three miniatures in the last couple of years. But before that, it was about 20 years since I last picked up a 000-sized paintbrush.

While waiting for the Army Painter Mega Set to arrive from www.ibuywargames.co.uk I tried out some painting techniques, using some old acrylics, to see if I could still paint an eyeball with a 5/0 brush without my hands shaking uncontrollably. Since the Army Painter method relies heavily on ink washing, I figured it'd be a good idea to try that out too - only this time using Games Workshop's old style inks/washes.

Previously my painting technique was to undercoat in black, and then colour dark colours up to the lighter ones - often leaving a thin black line between touching shapes - giving a very 80s-style cartoon look to my miniatures. The problem with this approach is that it's really laborious - every colour requires a super-fine brush (and a super-steady hand) to leave just the thinnest of black outlines.

And while small brushes for small models sounds like a great idea, using such a small brush means you only get one or two "swipes" onto the model before it's time to load the brush up with more paint. The trouble is, use a larger brush and it's really difficult to get those nice thin black lines between different colours without lots of correcting and over-painting. So I'm still more comfortable with a tiny brush and spending more time laying each colour down, absolutely precisely.

Here's a half-painted Tyranid, painted using a combination of washes (brown ink over a Skull White model) and fine-detail brushwork (carapace painting, patterning and face details).

I'm still not 100% sold on this model - I think the limbs could do with more colour (maybe a red/pink where the joints are) but I was rather glad that I managed to get the details in roughly the right places on the face (the eyes are in the eye sockets and the teeth are all inside the mouth!). I've never really used inks/washes, and this looks a bit  dirty and muddy, rather than neatly tinted, like many other painters manage. But it's nice to see that I can still work fairly detailed (though no clever blending or gradient techniques for me!)

I even went as far as a thin highlight line on the gun panels, and a little light drybrushing on the head. But ultimately this model was painted the "old school way" I've always done - with a tiny brush, layers of lighter colours over darker ones, and lots of patience.

(top shows my usual sized paintbrush, below is the much larger GW standard brush)

While visiting the local hobby store to buy some different coloured inks recently (Army Painter are bringing out a range of different inks, but not 'til the end of this month, and I'm still waiting for the paints and some QuickShade to arrive in the post) I asked for some advice on speeding up painting - I'm still spending far too long getting the basic colours in place, rather than on the fun stuff, like faces and finer details that really make a model look cool.

I was told to use a much bigger brush. At first I was horrified.
But then I started to understand....

As inks/washes was a technique I'd never used, I never appreciated that the first few coats of paint don't have to be exactly perfectly placed - the ink settles in the crevices, usually where two different colours meet. This can help disguise tiny imperfections between the joining lines.

Using my ink-free technique, even a tiny wobble in these lines was noticeable, so I spend lots and lots of time making sure that every area of colour is as neat as I can make it. Using ink to "blur the joins" you can, apparently, get away with a larger brush. And since a larger brush can hold more paint, this means fewer round-trips to the paint pot to reload the brush - which in turn speeds up your painting.

As I'm expecting some Quickshade to arrive in the post, any time soon, I thought I'd give this approach a try. It was certainly liberating. I raced through base coating a couple of miniatures in about half an hour (instead of the usual 2-3 hours it would normally take just to get the flat, base colours down).

using nothing but a Citadel "standard" brush, I painted the bone coloured body and purple carapace in about 15 minutes.

note how the hands appear as just grey blobs, rather than meticulously painted individual fingers (in two or three shades of highlight) prior to shading the miniatures - here's hoping the Quickshade does it's job!

I'm hoping the Army Painter Quickshade (when it gets here) works as well on my models as it appears to for other painters. Of course the result after inking still requires touching up and some highlights to be added and brightening up in places - but just the idea of roughing out models prior to inking has made me reconsider how (and even why) I'm painting my miniatures.

Ultimately the idea is to get some playing pieces onto a board game.
That's why I'm painting these miniatures. Not so I've a dozen perfect works of art, but so I've got some player counters for the up-and-coming digital boardgame Starship Raiders.

At the rate I was painting, I'd probably get one piece done a week - and by the end of six weeks, I'd be fed up and put all my paints away, still leaving a dozen or more miniatures needing to be finished just to play a single board game!

Army Painter encourages you to paint quickly:
To begin with, prime and base coat all your miniatures in one go. My Spaceship Raiders are going to be mostly grey, so they were primed with Uniform Grey spray paint. It took just a few minutes to do the whole troop. What next? Get you big brush, paint the gun black. Was that quick? Then paint the gun on another miniature. When you're done, grab another miniature and paint that gun too. Before long I had five miniatures painted grey with black guns.
So next up, paint some paler grey bits (I did the shoulder pads and equipment belts). Suddenly that's my three-colour analogous colour scheme done, right there. Although I've plans to introduce more colours and plenty of detail to the miniatures, I very quickly got to the stage where I'm ready to apply the Army Painter Quickshade and see all the tiny little details "pop out".

Sadly that'll have to wait until the Quickshade arrives. But already I'm looking forward to adding the little details to finish these miniatures off, instead of dreading the thought of having four or five more to do after getting just half-way through the first!

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