Sunday, 29 September 2013

Digital board game - time to get serious

After spending hours and hours working on our digital board game, we've come to the conclusion that we're going to need some help getting a robust, working two-layer board.
So far we've tried to concentrate on:
a) a board that can be built cheaply using easily sourced components
b) a board that can be manufactured quickly and easily by anyone with no specific skill requirement.

To date we've managed the first, but failed miserably on the second.
We tried using copper tape to make a keypad membrane, but it was far too fiddly to lay down consistently well enough to be robust. So in an attempt to make it more robust, yet keep it easy to manufacture, we knocked up a prototype using conductive ink (one of those silver pens from Maplin). The pens are quite expensive, so we've blown the first requirement of making our boards - but for now we're concentrating on addressing the second!

We drew the "switches" as two halves of a touch-to-make switch. After drawing the conductive traces, we placed a paper separator layer on top. Finally we stuck a top layer on with bits of copper tape to bridge the two halves of the switch, when pressed.

During testing this worked fine, but only when the buttons were pressed by hand. Because the board is copper, not ferric-based, our neodymium magnets are not attracted to it. So we tried sticking some steel nuts to the underside of the board. Our only question was whether or not the magnet would be strong enough to be attracted to the nuts, through the thickness of the copper PCB board (about 1.6mm) ?

It turns out that the magnet is plenty strong enough! There was quite a pull between the magnet and the playing surface. So we did some testing using our fully printed (and plastic laminated) top layer.

here you can see the resistance across the switch is measured at about 13 ohms when closed by the magnet, which is attracted to the nut glued to the underside of the copper board

By a bizarre coincidence, the height of our steel nut raises the top of the copper board to be exactly flush to the top of  a sheet of 5mm thick foam-core FoamEx board.

So with this in mind, our current plan for making the electronic board game sections is to have a PCB made by a professional manufacturer and use some steel (it may even be regular nuts and bolts!) on the underside of the board. The PCB could be edged using FoamEx (or maybe some 5mm acrylic) to give it a finished look, and the top, printed layer, could be glued over the whole thing, covering the joining edges.

Professional manufacturers prefer to work with Gerber files, and our favoured ExpressPCB is only good for making toner-transfer images as PDF files - it doesn't really export the final PCB layer in any format - so we downloaded and installed a previously tried PCB program: DipTrace.

For 30 days, DipTrace is fully featured (you can download a 300-pin-limited free, non-commercial version) so we've got a couple of weeks to try this out and see if it works. DipTrace is actually a really neat suite of programs for making PCBs - we might even go crazy and spend some serious money on getting a full licence once this project is out of the way!

After a few hours of shifting traces around, we managed to make an 11x8 keypad matrix on an A4 sheet. Impressively, DipTrace has a 3d model viewer, to see how your PCB will look once assembled:

Our board is pretty basic. We've used "fingered" touch-switches on the top surface (each half of the two-part switch is interleaved and the printed playing layer on top will have conductive dots under each square on the board) which are routed to a series of pins on a PIC 16F722 on the underside. The notches on the edges of the board will house tiny 3mm magnets which we'll use to connect the edges of each board section to the next one.

The advantage of the PCB-based approach (we originally started off like this, and gave up in favour of a "cheaper" alternative many months ago) is that each board section will be good and robust. It also means that we won't have to mess about with micro-wires, taking the traces from the copper-track-switches to a custom PCB on the underside - since each board section will effectively just be one big PCB, it means that assembly will involve soldering a single 28-pin SOIC chip and sticking a few magnets with some no-solder conductive glue.

With the PCB already designed, all we need to do is find a manufacturing house with a fast turnaround, so we can give the idea a go!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

3d printing miniatures at the TCT Show

The TCT Show had all kinds of amazing 3d printers, with everything from the aeronautics to the hobby market represented. While a lot of the show concerned enormous, super-expensive, metallic powder sintering monster machines, there were also a few smaller-scale printers and some rather interesting print-bureau services on offer too.

One of the more ingenious 3d printers was from mCor and instead of using expensive metal powder, or difficult to handle plastics, it used readily available - and cheap - printer material: paper!

The printer was like an xy vinyl plotter with a rising bed: a sheet of pre-printed paper was loaded onto the bed and the drag knife cut out the outine of the pre-printed shape. The head then applied a series of micro-dots of glue over the layer and pulled a second sheet on top. After this, the bed rose up (pressing the two sheets of paper together) and then dropped down again before the cutting head cut through the second sheet of paper.

By exposing the printed edges of each layer, a full-colour, 0.1mm accurate, 3d model came straight off the machine. As this kind of technology becomes popular, expect plenty more "3d-wedding" photos in future:

One of the nice things about the models off this 3d printer was that they had substance. A lot of times, 3d printed models feel a bit light-weight and flimsy, because the printer is trying to use the minimum amount of (relatively expensive) printing material. With this printer, each model has the same density as wood or mdf. For the models at the show, some were coated with superglue (to seal the edges) which made them very hard-wearing and robust.

The mCor paper 3d printer is an excellent layer-based full-colour 3d printer!

Throughout the afternoon, the inhouse band played along on their 3d printed guitars. We agreed that their "phat tunez" weren't much to write home about, but the actual instruments looked amazing

a complex internal structure was revealed through the stars and stripes of the guitar body

noted for their powerful sustain, thanks to a dense solid wood body, this Gibson Les Paul-a-like might not sound as good, but it looked pretty cool

There were lots of laser-sintering printers on show, many demonstrating the wide range of colours that could be used for printing. Many 3d printers demonstrated how complex and intricate their designs could be. The lasered pieces looked really nice - but when you looked beyond the complex structure, the final finish was still not quite glassy-smooth (though very impressive, all the same!)

There were quite a few companies offering print bureau services. This means that instead of paying tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds for a printer, you could simply email them your 3d objects and have the printed item posted back - a service similar to Shapeways or Ponoko; it's nice to know that there are so many alternatives, and interesting to see the many different finishes available, based on the machine doing the printing.

One printing company that looked particularly interesting was Luma3d print, who were offering laser 3d printing from 10p per square centimetre (cm3). This looked like a really interesting way of getting relatively cheap, relatively good standard, master shapes for mould-making, without breaking the bank.
Their models still had the slightly grainy appearance of most laser-sinter printed objects, but they can print from ABS which, apparently, can be sanded and polished to a really high gloss finish.

Interestingly, there were a few companies demonstrating the quality of their 3d printers by printing war gaming miniatures. There were two or three of particular note:

Solidscape were the first company we spotted with miniatures in their display cases

This little monster was smaller than the GW standard 28mm miniatures, yet had some incredible detail on it:

The Envisontec printer apparently used a wax-based compound and is commonly used in dental practices for prototyping sets of gnashers!

Their miniatures were incredibly detailed with no discernible "banding" or layering as often seen, even on the best laser-sintered objects

Envisontec were another company demonstrating 3d-printed miniatures. Even at the smallest size (the miniature on the right is smaller than the 28mm tabletop standard) the details were pretty amazing.

If anything, the details from this printer were even better than the previous one. This insanely small galleon has rigging on it, less than 10 microns thick. This whole model is smaller than the size of a fingernail!

Towards the end of the show, we got to speak with Gary Miller from IPFL who had some dinosaur heads with the tiniest little teeth imaginable to come off a 3d printer!

Gary went on to explain that his company produced many of the master models for Games Workshop miniatures, and had re-trained many of the GW sculptors into using ZBrush and similar virtual modelling tools, to produce their latest model lines. Maybe this explains why only recently we were asking why Citadel/GW miniatures were of much better quality than many of their rivals!

The print quality of the dinosaur teeth was unbelievable. Their printing can produce models with layers just 6 microns thick.

Interestingly, IPFL offer bureau printing services and Gary explained that an average-sized GW miniature would cost about £25 for printing. Only up until very recently did GW have all their miniatures printed by an outside agency - until they saved up enough, I guess, and bought one of these very printers themselves!

It seems that designing your own characters in CAD and using a 3d printing bureau has actually become a viable method of producing your own miniatures - even a relatively small production run could quickly cover the cost of printing and casting materials. Perhaps this is why we're seeing an explosion in miniature-based games on Kickstarter of late!

Of course, the busiest stand at the whole show was the RepRap stand (or, as some wags described it, Hobby Corner)

The RepRap and RepRap pro were on hand to give demonstrations and were busy printing keyrings and trinkets for people to take away. Disappointingly, there was no-one selling the more exotic abs/pla filament. There were some interesting colours and peculiar effects on display, so it was a shame they couldn't be bought there and then. Though Steve did manage to blag some samples of metallic gold and electric blue filament, so hopefully he'll be able to print some demo objects on his RepRap at home and bring them along to BuildBrighton tonight......

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Army Painter Quickshade results

Army Painter Quickshade is a great way of getting details on miniatures to stand out and get them to a half-decent standard very quickly. As well as adding shade to the creases and crevices, it also "tones down" the whole model quite a bit. So as a result, you need to be quite careful about your choice of colours for the base coats.

Here's a Tyranid base-coated white and shaded using Quickshade. Note how the bright white has become a skeleton-bone colour - perfect for these models, but not necessarily an effect you'd want every time.

Other colours are similarly muted after being Quickshaded - so our Tyranids look rather colourful to begin with

undecided on a colour scheme, we thought we'd try a few and see which looked best at the end!

After applying the Quickshade the results are quite different:

Of them all, the red one is our least favourite, but best-shaded model. Colours with a blue element (blues, purples, slate-grey etc.) don't look brilliant with Quickshade, because of the slightly brown tinge. Maybe the blue Tyranid will be ok once the anti-shine matt varnish has been applied and the blue colours "picked up" again with a few edge highlights.

The purple miniature doesn't look quite as good as the earlier one for some reason. A few people have suggested it's something to do with the colour wheel - the earlier model had a more yellow-y tint to the bone colour, which - apparently - is a more complimentary colour to purple than the paler white-based model. I can't pretend to understand: to me it's like hearing a bum note in music - I don't know what the right one is, but I can definitely tell when something's wrong!

I think I need a few more lessons on understanding the colour wheel. Here are a couple more miniatures painted up over the weekend. The painting isn't too bad (it's in all the right places) the Quickshade really brings out the details, but there's something just not quite there with them - they look ok. But only ok, not amazing...

whacking the base colours on takes less than an hour using the Army Painter approach - no need to mess about with highlights, just get the (sometimes over-bright) base colours on in the right places, and keep faith in the brown gloopy stuff

Quickshade really brings out all the details in the models, as well as adding a bit of "life" to clothing. Where possible we tried to stick to no more than two or three colours per miniature

The soldier on the left is almost ready as is. The guy on the right needs a bit more work to bring out all the tiny little details on his face. To get a miniature to this level would usually take about 4-5 hours of layered painting. These two (and two others) were painted to this level, from undercoated, in about two hours - that's about thirty minutes per model!

We tried to keep to just two or three colours per model. It's tempting to go crazy and stick a bit of colour everywhere - there's no doubt that Quickshade tones down a model a lot, and the immediately obvious way to counter this is to use lots of bright colours. But multi-coloured models look a nightmare on the tabletop, so it's just a matter of finding out which combinations of colours look good after they've been shaded.

Hopefully we can make these minis look good again when they've been matt coated and the tiny details have been picked out to give them a bit more visual interest.

We're not going to make the same mistake as last time - these miniatures will have to wait until Wednesday night before they get a coat of anti-shine. In the meantime, we're going to experiment a bit more with colour combinations, to find out what works (and hopefully learn to stay away from what doesn't).

Friday, 20 September 2013

Army Painter display stand in MDF

After an unusually productive evening at BuildBrighton last night, we're pleased to share plans for our Army Painter paint pots stand:

Here are the SVG files - load these into Inkscrape and save as whichever format best suits your laser cutter (or the laser cutter at your local hackspace!). We used the BuildBrighton "white laser" which runs off RetinaEngrave - a virtual printer, so could just print these straight from inkscape, but  also successfully saved as .dxf and can them on the "red laser" - an HPC 3020 hobby cutter.

Obviously we designed this stand for our Army Painter paints but will work for any dropper style bottle, up to 25mm across and 80mm high  (a few others have already shown a renewed interest in miniature painting and have also got a set - or partial set - of similar paints).

To make this stand, you'll need three sheets of A4 mdf (or acrylic).
If using mdf, the cost of materials works out at about £1.50 (we buy our medite/laser mdf in bulk, in sheets and an A4 sheet works out at less than 50p). This is a massive saving on some of the laser-cut stands on eBay which sell for £20-£30!

Tops - you need two of these per paint pot stand:

Sides - you need one of these

Assembly should be straightforward - the top sit on each "step" of the sides, there's a bracing strut across the front of the bottom step, two struts at the top and bottom of the back and the last strut goes under the pots on the bottom step (our first version didn't have this, and when you lifted the whole stand, the first row of paints still sat on the table!)

We used PVA glue to hold everything together. You can use Superglue for "instant grab" while assembling, but we liked that PVA gives a bit of wiggle-room to slide everything properly into place.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

How to ruin a miniature with anti-shine

Yesterday morning, almost as soon as the postie had delivered the Army Painter Quickshade, I slapped some onto an alien miniature. Despite being a really basic paintjob (flesh painted a bone colour, carapaces painted purple and that was it) the Quickshade picked out all the details perfectly. Even the non-painting nerds started showing a bit of interest, as the results were so impressive!

I love the effect. Nice deep highlights, the almost "cartoon-y" look but plenty of super-fine detail makes the paint job look far better than it is. So this morning, after waiting the recommended 24 hours to allow the varnish to fully dry, I applied a quick coat of Army Painter anti-shine matt varnish.
The result wasn't quite what I was expecting:

All the lovely details have become a cloudy, grey gloopy mess! There's even a nasty crackling effect on the larger flat areas (like along the tail). Either there's something wrong with the spray varnish, or the way I applied it - my latex gloves were covered in sticky scales of congealed anti-shine varnish:

And on the metal minaitures, the effect was even worse! The matt varnish has managed to strip away parts of the quickshade varnish (in the photo below, you can see that on the solider's right leg  -on the left of the image- part of the underlying base coat is showing through)

What started out as an exciting new way of painting miniatures looks like a quick way of assigning them to the bin! I can't imagine that the plastic Tyranid alien is salvageable (paint strippers are likely to melt the plastic). Maybe some Mangers Paint and Varnish remover will restore the metal soliders as it did our Blood Bowl Orks a few years back. Or maybe, since discovering the sculpting inadequacies on these miniatures, I might just pop down to the local GW store and pick up some plastic soldier-looking miniatures?

After all, the plastic Tyranid alien looks great when painted up and shaded with Quickshade - the details really stand out far better than the details on these metal soldiers - I just need to find out how to finish them properly, without ruining them!

Do Games Workshop and Citadel really make the best miniatures?

It's something I've never considered before (it's taken a long time to get any of the other nerds to admit to even being interested in miniature painting, let alone being passionate about it enough to express an opinion on, so maybe I'm on my own here) but there are loads of miniatures manufacturers "out there". And with easy online ordering, there's plenty of opportunity to compete with the dominant retail outlet Games Workshop.

So why are Games Workshop miniatures so popular, and so in demand (certainly in demand enough to command stupid prices for badly-painted second hand examples of their work on eBay) when there are plenty of cheaper alternatives?

A little while back, we got hold of some Mantic miniatures - when I was trying to explain to everyone what a great idea for a game Dreadball was. To be frank, they are awful. Then we got hold of some metal soldiers (can't remember where from, nor how much they were). These are the miniatures I've been painting to try out the Army Painter Mega Set and QuickShade.

On first sight, these are some pretty nice miniatures. But as I've been painting them, I've been a little disappointed by the finishing on some of the details. Where the fingers wrap around the gun handle, for example, the fingers just stop against a blob of some rough filler shape between the arm and the body of the miniature.

It's difficult to photograph, because you need to view the miniature from different angles to spot the problem - but here's another example of poor finishing on these miniatures:

See how the bottom of the equipment hanging off the belt hasn't been finished off - you can even see marks on the base of the packs where the modeller has been shaping his clay!

These aren't major issues - they're not going to stop me using these soliders for the promotional material for our Starship Raiders game - but just examples of the difference in quality of different miniature manufacturers.

The Games Workshop miniatures, on the other hand, are excellent, from every angle. Even in hard-to-reach-places, and areas that are almost never going to be seen, the quality of the sculpting is as good as anywhere else on the model

Even under the body, where it would never been seen without really close inspection, the level of detail on the GW Tyranid is consistently good across the whole of the miniature.

When I started looking into restarting my old miniature painting hobby, after a 20+ year hiatus, I read a lot about how plastic was the default material, and how the miniatures today are not as good as the lead/pewter ones of times past.

As much as I begrudge paying GW prices (of £3-£4 per miniature in a boxed set of multiple models) for a few bits of injection moulded plastic, I can't help but think that there is some justification in their prices - cheaper miniatures - whether made from plastic or metal - can be of much lesser quality.

I can't believe that I've gone from a know-nothing to an uber-miniatures geek in a few short days. And many of my opinions may be discredited in a few months from now, as I learn more about the hobby in general. But from now on, I'm sticking with GW/Citadel until someone can demonstrate a better range of miniatures - in both quality and price.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Army Painter Mega Set - finally arrived!

The postie almost thumped the door down at Nerd Towers this morning, with a boxed set of the Army Painter Mega Set from
There'd been a delay in posting - through no fault of the sender - and the customer service from was fantastic. We feel it's important to support local, independent businesses, and where businesses remember to treat the customers like people, we like to shout about it. We're already looking forward to doing business again with Ian from

But for now, we've got a brand new, shiny boxed set of paints to play with.
It's the "older" Mega Set (Army Painter are releasing a new set for September 2013 with a few more colours and a range of seven different inks/washes) but Ian did us a really good deal, and with an extra 10% off his advertised price, we got the set for about two-thirds of the RRP.

We went for this set because of the dropper style bottles, which should allow us to dispense the right amount of paint, accurately, for mixing colours. With this in mind, we're hoping the days of buying up every shade of green, for example, are over! The reviews of the paint set are also very positive, with reviewers comparing them favourably with some of the more popular, "better" brands.

So what's in the box?

There's a painting guide, six different sized brushes and six boxes of paints. Each box of paints has a range of similar colours:

there's a box of blue-y, grey colours

a box of green-y yellows

a box of browns and flesh colours, and so on....

We've not had time to try the actual paints out yet, but they all look a nice consistency when dispensed onto a white ceramic mixing palette (ok, a small dining plate). At first glance, the Uniform Grey paint matches the Uniform Grey primer perfectly (that's a big selling point of this range of paints) and painting a pale colour over a grey primer gives a very good finish after two coats (you might get away with one coat, as the coverage is very good, but the second coat really makes the colour nice and vibrant).

Also included in the set are water-based versions of the Quickshade in three tones - soft, strong and dark. We'll give these a go this evening, and compare the finishes with the tin of Quickshade we just bought and see how they match up. Having already dropped (and chipped the paint off) one of our miniatures, the idea of a varnish-based stain (rather than ink) is quite appealing - so we'll see how the two compare, later on tonight.

Army Painter QuickShade trial

A tin of Army Painter Quickshade arrived this morning, bright and early.
Just in time to crack it open and give it a quick try before work!

It smells like what it is - a spirit based varnish with coloured pigments. I'd read on the 'net that it' just brand-x walnut varnish, someone else said it was floor cleaner with ink in it, someone else said it was something else... but from the tutorials I've seen using genuine Army Painter Quickshade, everyone has been quite positive about it. So why trying to make up something similar on the cheap, when the real thing is tried and tested and known to work? It's not actually that bad (compared to, say, spirit-based gloss paint) but it does have a definite scent.

It takes 24 hours to cure properly, so it made sense to whack some on sooner rather than later, and have some miniatures ready for painting early tomorrow.

Here's a Tyranid coated with Quickshade. There's no point being gentle with this stuff. It's designed as a dip (you literally dip the miniatures into the pot) but a lot of people recommend "splashing it on" with a brush. If you're timid, you'll just end up tinting all your colours a dark brown: this stuff really needs to be whacked on generously.

Here's the same model painted in just two colours of base coat, so you can see the dramatic difference Quickshade has made already:

Of course, where it settles in pools (you can see on the end of one of the claws in the photo above) you can lift it off with the paintbrush - but to get the best results, just chuck it on!

note how the Quickshade brings out the individual digits on the hands of this soldier - much quicker and easier than painting each digit over a darker base colour (although we'll probably go back and highlight the digits later, to get a really cool finish)

So far, so promising. I got a Tyranid and four soldiers shaded in less than ten minutes. The models are much darker now than before shading as even where it's not settled into the crevices, it still tints the original base colour: something to bear in mind in future, and perhaps move the entire colour scheme "up" a shade when base-coating (e.g. paint with white -not bone- then shade, for a bone effect or paint with mid-green and shade instead of dark green for the base-coat on Orksies).

It's going to be tomorrow before I can try out the anti-shine matt varnish and get some details painted onto these models, but already they're looking quite encouraging. More to follow. In the meantime, we've some board game sections to solder up for testing...

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 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!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Army Painter spray primer first test

We bought some spray primer off eBay, some time after buying the Army Painter Mega Set from The primer arrived today - some time ahead of the paint set - so there's not really much we can do except prepare a few miniatures, ready for when the paints arrive. Then again, if we'd received the paints before the primer, we wouldn't be able to paint any miniatures anyway, so maybe it doesn't really matter.

We've seen a few tutorials on the 'net about spray priming miniatures. Almost all of them line up their miniatures inside a small box and blast them with a quick coat of primer. It looked easy enough, so that's exactly what we did:

spraying outside is always a good idea - and even more so with a paint you've never used before, and have no idea about how it's going to behave!

We stuck some sprues down with a blob of white tack and hit the miniatures with a layer of spray paint.

We turned the miniatures around a bit and continued spraying, in short bursts, from about 20cm - as recommended by the Army Painter website. After a few blasts, we let the primer dry and inspected it.

Sadly there were still large areas of bare metal. Maybe it's down to technique, or just not understanding how it works, but this method of spray coating with primer wasn't exactly a resounding success! The only way we managed to get a nice even coat was by holding the model and moving it around. We really should have used some kind of mount though.

That acrylic primer really does stick to everything - and takes a massive amount of effort to clean it off. On the upside, even in places where we were a little "generous" with the spray, as the primer dries it tightens up and creates a lovely, smooth matt, textured surface ready for painting onto.

Now we just need to sit tight and wait for the Army Painter Mega Set arrives in the post, and see how their "quick tone" method of shading works.