Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Wet Palette

Tutorial – The Wet Palette

I would like to share with you my painting palette arrangement that I utilise. It has been something that I have developed through a little bit of trial and a lot through research. As with most techniques these days, it is not original in any way. However I would like to contribute additional insight through my experiences. It would be best to start going through my iterations of my painting palette and how I arrived at what I use today.
The History:
When I first started painting, many years ago in my youth, I used to dip my brush straight into the pot. I was using citadel paints and brushes to paint my Imperial Guard miniatures. The idea of a palette was foreign to me and I only thought about it’s application in the use of canvas painting. It wasn’t until I began expanding my painting techniques into highlighting and shadow that the necessity of a palette for mixing paints became apparent. This, combined with my propensity for knocking over paint pots, lead me to seeking out a medium for my palette. A porcelain saucer served this purpose well. I continued using this until my painting hiatus, which lasted well over a decade. Towards the end of my initial foray into miniature painting I had just started collecting flames of war and Vallero acrylic paints. Yes it’s true, I still have the first edition rulebook and some green box sets; i’m sure that there are those who can relate.
Upon my return to miniature painting I began where I left off. With an affinity for having a mountain of unpainted metal and with me repurposing another porcelain saucer or two. The notion of a wet palette was raised with me during a discussion with a fellow painter at a local hobby store. I thought about it later and then dismissed it as been too specialised a tool and difficult to make. After a time, while reading through the various flames of war forums, I stumbled upon the following, extremely resourceful, tutorial that I highly recommend (NB:- you must have an account on the flames of war site):-
After following his instructions I had made my first wet palette. I will repeat it here
The Wet Palette:-
  • Select a small shallow plastic/glass container (I use tupperware) that has a lid that forms a tight seal, preferably airtight.
  • To this add two layers of white paper serviettes. They have to be white with no colour at all. Otherwise when you use the palette any colour in the serviettes will show through.
  • Thoroughly wet the serviettes with water until you have about a 1-2mm layer of water above the serviettes.
  • Cut/rip enough baking paper to cover the bottom of the container plus an additional 1cm around all of the sides. (If you don’t leave the extra then if you later move your palette or bump it the water will flow over the top of the baking paper and into your paint mix)
  • Add paint and enjoy.
A Full Palette

The main reason that I took the plunge was that I was finding that the paint on the porcelain plate was drying quickly. This had two consequences, firstly I was wasting paint, and secondly I had problems mixing paint to exactly match the same colour consistency as a previous batch of mixed paint. This was a serious problem as the differing colour tones could plainly be seen on the miniatures I was painting.
My Palette Experiences:
It was easy to make and the materials were cheap and easy to obtain. After making and using it I have never looked back. There are a few things about it’s usage that I will delve into to assist those who are interested in utilising this wet palette. Before I start though I will say that I am using Vallero acrylic paints, so all of my observations and comments will be based upon these. Also I will mention that some of the Vallero paints that I am using were purchased over a decade ago and as such my experiences may differ to yours.
An airtight container with a good seal is a must. I have been able to keep paints wet for weeks. When I say ‘wet’ I mean that they still maintain most of their original evaporative mediums along with the pigments. After a prolonged period the evaporative medium will go, leaving just the pigment on the wet palette. This means that you need to add water to the pigments so that the paint can still be used. There is a caveat to this however; the paint may not retain it’s original properties. These properties include flow, drying time, consistency, coverage and in some cases the finish. In one extreme case the matt black that I was using started having a gloss black finish once the original medium had gone. There are a few solutions to this however I must first mention that you have saved a small portion of paint for a couple of weeks and it may be time to just replace the baking pape or use a fresh batch of paint. There are occasions when I have mixed the paint to the perfect colour consistency that I was seeking and wanted to extend it’s usable lifespan. The first solution is to over saturate the paint with water and apply double to triple the number of coats than normal. The second solution is to purchase ‘retarder medium’ and apply it on the paint in question. I have used this with mixed results, it sometimes changes the flow of the paint too much. I could not get it to apply to the miniature in a smooth consistent manner after the retarder treatment. The third solution is to apply a brushful of water on the remaining pigments and add more of the original paint then mix thoroughly. All of these solutions are viable however I must add that you have to watch out for pigment clumps. These can be small and initally unperceived until they hit the miniature and dry as an unsightly lump. The way to watch out for these is if, when you are trying to recover the paint, you see small flakes lift off the baking paper and don’t break up then it is probably better that you forget about this batch and start afresh.
Another thing to note when using the palette is that when you first add the paint you will find that the paint ‘draws up’ more water than necessary. I like this behaviour because I prefer using very thin paint and apply extra coats, however for those that consider this a problem I suggest that you reduce the amount of water in the wet palette. Only use enough water to completely soak the serviettes through. If it does draw up too much water initially you will find that later the properties of the baking paper changes. Where the paint has been the surface of the baking paper will change so that less water passes through it. So when you ‘top up’ a certain colour you should add a brush full of water practically everytime you use that colour. I am a real advocate for thin paint so I have a dedicated water container to continually add water as I paint.
An issue I have found with the wet palette is that the paints and paint mixes can seperate out into their constituent components. See below:-
Colour separation on the Wet Palette
So from left to right I have the following paints:-
  • German Cam. Bright Green mixed with Black
  • German Cam. Bright Green
  • German Cam. Bright Green mixed with White
  • German Field Grey
  • German Field Grey mixed with White
  • German Field Grey mixed with Black
As can clearly been seen the pigments and in some cases the medium has seperated out. Once again this normally occurs when the first batch of paint is applied. The extra water drawns through tends to seperate out the colours and/or colour components. This is does not occur immediately, I have left this paint on the wet palette overnight. The solution is simply to mix the seperated portions of paint back into itself thoroughly. Make sure that you take care to mix back in all of the seperated portions otherwise the colour consistency will change from that of the original. If you look at the German Field Grey you will note that the colour has changed completely to brown and turquoise. The turquoise that you can see is actually mostly the medium plus some pigments. When mixing make sure that you ‘capture’ all of this back into the paint, otherwise the colour tone and flow will change dramatically.
Lastly I will go over some basic steps that will ensure that you get the best results from the wet palette.
  • Seperate your cleaning water from your mixing water. As you will be using a fair amount of water to rejuvenate your paint you do not want cross contamination from dirty water. You may not think that a little bit of paint in the water mixing into the paint on the palette will change the colour, I assure you over time that it will. I have learned first hand the hard way and I want to save you some anguish.
  • Have tissue nearby when painting. After every brush clean dry off the brush on the tissue. It will help negate the issue mentioned above.
  • Use a mixing brush rather than your painting brush to stir/remix the paint on the wet palette. This mixing brush can be an old brush however I use very small brushes to paint so an old brush is not practical. A larger brush is more efficient for stirring/remixing. This will extend the life of your good painting brush.
  • Before every painting session change the water in the cleaning container and the mixing water container. In addition to changing the water, clean the containers as well. The paint pigments will settle and accumulate and stick to the bottom of your containers.
  • Invest in some paintbrush ‘shampoo’ and clean your brushes regularly following the cleaning product’s instructions. I found an excellent product to use is “Jo Sonja’s Brush Soap & Conditioner”. It is a bit of extra effort but it will extend the life of your brush. It will also ensure that no old pigments hit your paint next painting session.
  • Don’t store your wet palette near sunlight or near a heat source, such as a desk lamp.
  • Always keep the water level topped up in the palette, especially when you finish a paint session. This will ensure that you keep the original consistency of the paint for as long as possible.
  • After every paint session close the lid of the wet palette container. The water will evaporate much slower and the paint will last longer. Also no stray dust or other particulates will fall into your paint.
As you can tell I am fastidious when it comes to painting. So I have conveniently arranged the points so that if you are more relaxed with your painting then you can take note of just the final three points.
In closing I hope that I have helped you in making the decision to move to a wet palette in addition to how to make one. That I have forewarned you about the potential issues and their solutions in order to save you troubles when using the wet palette. Also how to look after your wet palette in order to get the most out of it. I will end this tutorial with a snapshot of my painting setup. Please feel free to comment and add your experiences with using a wet palette.

Friday, March 7, 2014

concrete painting

Step by step: Rocks and concrete

 Welcome to this installment of step by step tutorials. Last tutorial was on how to paint a ravenwing army, you can find it here.

This week, we go through the steps for painting rocks and concrete in a simple yet striking way.  This will be quite shorter than a whole army like last time!

Read on!

Disclaimer:  I'm still french, this is still written in english.  Bear with me.

Once again, I emphasize on speed and effectiveness in this tutorial.  This will probably not get you a crystal brush, but you can easily paint an urban table in an afternoon ( 4 beers time to be more specific on time. )  Notice how I put «  probably not get you a crystal brush » this is because it still looks awesome.

Here's a list of what you'll need:

Rock or urban bases, or a building that you want to paint.
Black Primer
GW Mechanicus Grey ( neutral dark grey )
GW Celestra Grey or ( Fortress grey of old, any Light neutral grey )

GW Rhinox Hide ( Scorched brown of old, or P3 Umbral Umber )
GW Skraag Brown ( Vermin Brown of old, or any orange-ish brown )
Black paint for the edge of the bases 'cause it looks boss.
Large worn brush ( 1'' wide is pretty nice )

Optional Materials( You still need all the stuff above ):
Grey Primer
Dark Green, Dark Purple, Turquoise, Reddish Brown ( GW Doombull brown )

For this tutorial, I'll use a Ork Golem that I had to paint as part of a feral ork comission, you can find the same steps applied to traditional bases and building at the end.

Step 1

Black primer.  Give your models 2-3 light coats, you want to get in every recess with the black.

Step 2

Grey Primer.  Lightly go over everything your painting.  Less is more on this case.  If you are familiar with dual priming, this is much like it, but with grey instead of white, and lighter.

You can airbrush or drybrush your Mechanicus Grey to get a similar effect.  I use a shaker can because it's quicker and your stuff is already lined up from priming them black.

Prime smart, prime p-ma... whatever.

Step 3 to 5 require no skills, a blind monkey will get this done for you.  Make no effort to blend colors together, the goal is to get this done quickly, much of this will be covered later.  Also, I did these step with a brush for quite a while before switching to the airbrush.  The result is honnestly the same, only you save time by using the airbrush because you don't have to wait for the watered-down paints to dry.

Step 3

If you do not own an airbrush,  you can do this step with a brush using watered down ( 50-50 ) colors.

Get your artistic juices flowing, this is the happy accident step y'all.  Well start with Rhinox Hide, and airbrush this in random patches, but aiming for deep parts of the models.  You can cover from 5% to 50% of whatever you're painting with this step.

Step 4
 Pretty much like step 3, but with Skraag Brown. This time, go a little less trigger-happy, you want both your primer and your darker brown showing on the model.

Step 5 ( Optional )

This is for those of you who want to go the extra mile.  Much like the last 2 steps, create more patches with dark green, dark purple, or even turquoise.  Turquoise is best used on the higher parts of the models rather than the recesses like the darker colors.

I used Dark green on the Golem and also applied it to the lichen-like stuff on it.

You should be into your 2nd beer by the time you reach step 6, assuming you're doing a man-sized project.  ( Step your massive quantity painting game up, bro.)

Step 6

Using your trusty beaten down 1'' brush ( GW or Army Painter's Large Drybrush is my weapon of choice here )  drybrush you entire models with celestra grey like there's no tomorrow.  For reference, only the right arm of the golem has benn through this step on the picture so you can compare.

Although this step is quite straightforward, it is quite time consumming as you want to wipe the paint clean your brush enough so you don't over do it.  You are better going over your model twice with not enough paint, as once stroke with too much will ruin this step and you'll have to pretty much start over ( more on that later )

Step 7 ( Optional )

With a lighter grey or white, drybrush over certain areas to give them a more striking look.  Once again, overdoing the drybrush will force you do re do steps 3+

Step 8

Paint whatever details are on the models you're doing.  Skulls, ammo casing, grass, lights, whatever, the way you want.

Step 9

Paint the edge of your bases black.  Finish your beer.  Take your shirt off Paul Murphy style.  Victory dance all over the place.

Quick note on touch ups:

It is quite easy to touch up this method, simply start on the area to tough up and around with step 3 and work your way to step 9 doing all touch ups at the same time.

Here's a couple of buildings done with this method.  Because I don't really care for them being pretty, I skipped the whole brown steps and simply dual primered and drybrushed them.  Looks mighty fin on the tabletop.

These are a bunch of resin bases.  I needed 50 of them for an army, they were done in less than 2 hours.

Couple more shots of the Golem.  Overall, the golem took 2 hours and a half.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Terrain is everything - 'Tis the season to pick up your trees

A couple of years ago I picked up a bag of model trees from Dobbies, our local garden centre [and craft shop]. They only have them in the run up to Christmas as they're for making your own Christmas scene with miniature revelers and holiday nik-naks.

Now I haven't had chance to go this year but I'm betting they're back in stock and just thought I'd remind folk about them. The set I got was 21 pieces from a company called Lemax for £13 which I think is good value. Clearly there's at least two that are just a bit too big, they're the same size as my 40k outpost that got bigger! but great line of sight blockers for a Trygon!

Of course they weren't going to fit with my table so I decided to paint them - undercoating them all in Red Oxide primer and then repainting them in shades of yellow.

And here's the finished result:


Terrain is everything - mo' fences

Here's an update on the fences - as you can see below my two test subjects are all growed up, the glue has dried with no warping of the cardboard base [yay!]. I think perhaps the grating provided some sort of tensioning effect that prefented this, that's my pseudo-science explanation there. The grating is a bit too chunky for my taste but I'll live with it seeing as it's esay to work with and I've a ready supply. I'm sure it'lll look better painted.

One minor concern is that I rushed a little too much and they don't meet neatly at the corner. Hopefully with a dozen or more of these there'll be some that fit others better but for gaming purposes we can live with this.

The last shot was after I undercoated the fences black. I thought this would stick to the granny grating a little better but I think it uses far to much spray to fully cover the sand and the rockcrete posts still come out as plastic so I'll be adding a coating of black art paint, PVA for adhesion and some plaster [my usual base]. This will probably be thinned on the fencing because it's chunky enough as it is. 

Before I do any more painting I'll be prepping a fair few more fences and some broken ones. I'm confident this test has served it's purpose so there's no stopping me from doing the rest.

Sci Fi Stairs

Sci-Fi Corridor Tutorial #1: Stairways

As I mentioned before, one of my main projects for 2011 will be making a modular Sci-Fi corridor for Space Hulk-style games. I have a soft spot for heavily detailed terrain - and as much as different bits from Urban Mammoth, GZG and The Scene could help me with detailing the walls, a single problem remained: stairways.
So, without a further ado, here's my take on making 15mm industrial/spaceship stairways - but you can easily use this technique to make some stairs for fantasy/medieval gaming (just use wood-textured plasticard or pieces of balsa wood for the steps).
The stairway I'm going to make is going to be 2cm high, 2cm deep and 4cm wide - but you can adjust these measurements to your own projects.

Tools and materials
Hobby knife
Steel ruler
A pair of zig-zag pattern craft scissors (you can find these in art&craft store) like these:

0,25mm plasticard
Medium-thickness cardboard
Balsa or pine wood
Some textured plasticard or 'granny grating' (plastic canvas used in needlework)

Part 1: Stringers
Cut four squares of equal dimensions (mine were 2x2 cm) out of plasticard, two for each of the stringers.
Cut two squares out of the cardboard (using the same dimensions as with plasticard ones).

Using your craft scissors, cut diagonally through each of your prepared squares (see the picture).

Four plasticard stringers

Glue a plasticard stringer on each side of the cardboard one, sandwich-style:
Cut a piece of balsa or pine wood, roughly 1 cm long and glue it between the stringers (see below). Notice that I used 2cm wide wood, so the edges where the stringers will be glued on are even and won't need any sanding:

Part 2: The treads
Cut strips (each measuring 40x5mm) out of textured plasticard or granny grating:
Using superglue, glue the strips to the stringers (tip: put a drop of superglue in the corners, so to make sure each tread is glued to the stringer both vertically and horizontally):

Finished stairway
I painted the stairway by undercoating it with black and then drybrushing it with silver. Some black wash was added in the places that appeared too bright for me. 

As you can see, the treads can held a miniature base between them
 That's it for today, I hope you will find the above technique useful.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

1/35 Scale Kits

ci-Fi Tank (1/35 Scale Kit Bash)
I started getting involved with miniature sci-fi war gaming thanks to ALIENS. I purchased a gaggle of bug figures and even found some nice Marine minis as well. Then one day I saw a 1/35 scale tank for a few bucks and couldn't say no to the purchase. My mind immediately saw that a basic kit bash could net me a nice piece of light armor for my games.
The main body of the tank I assembled as directed except for the two exhaust pipes. I then placed the turret on backwards and shaved flat the area where the main gun would have been mounted origionally. I took one of the figure bases from the kit and glued it over the opening. The bottom corners were clipped to allow the turret to turn past the future armored side skirts.
I then took the two exhaust pipes and mounted them off of the turret so that they appeared to be light or medium blasters/cannons.
I then cut up a piece of old stiff packaging plastic from Games Workshop into pieces of armored skirt. This stuff is awesome as it welds to the plastic kit with the use of liquid cement, and it was easy enough to hold the clear plastic over the tracks and trace out the shape I wanted with a marker.
Initial matte black base coat sprayed onto the vehicle.
I think you'll agree that with very little effort I've bashed a very nice piece of sci-fi armor. You can always add more stuff to it in order to push the effect even further, but for me this baby is ready for painting and then some bug stomping!

Vegetation On The Cheap

Vegetation On The Cheap
I recently discovered that several of my brothers in arms are war gaming fanatics just like myself. I was invited to their private war game fest at a local hotel where eight of them were holed up during a weekend pass. As they were occupied trying to glue their new figures together I decided to run out and pick up some basic supplies to make them some terrain. Here you can see three different types of brush I found at a local hobby store, and the best part is that all of it was on sale for cheap!
I also purchased an inexpensive pair of clippers to cut the vegetation down, and they would also be useful for trimming figures from their sprue.
Next I picked up a small brick of air dry clay and worked it until I had some nice globs into which I could stick the pieces of recently trimmed brush. I then squashed the clay so as to make a nice solid base for the vegetation which could later be sand coated and painted over with the three color dry brush technique.
I also found some of those nice large and dark cork board tiles for a low price as well. So I picked up a package and broke them off into pieces, gluing them onto each other in order to make some ruins.
As you can see the various pieces start to make the bare table top less so with very little effort.
Finally I showed them my technique for churning out cheap razor wire. The bottom line is you can easily produce a massive amount of nice terrain on short notice as long as you have a craft store nearby!