Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hobby Basics: Basing with Vallejo Paste

I don't go bonkers with my bases. Prior to about a year ago, my approach was sand, and pebbles, and some baking soda snow when I really wanted to get "fancy." At some point in the process, I glued the mini to the base and called it finished.

However, as I've moved away from GW and gone on to explore other companies and other product ranges, that approach had real limits. Many models out there include little platforms on which the mini stands, and it looks terrible to just throw sand over it, as you end up with a lot of sharp angles... which don't look great. I may advocate for simple hobbying, but I do have some standards.

The solution, for me, has been Vallejo paste.

I picked my tub up from Amazon, but they do have an actual website. Since the overwhelming majority of my miniaturess have sandy bases, I've been using their White Pumice paste, but they have stuff to mimic asphalt, desert, lava... all sorts of cool things.

So let's hope into it, shall we? To base with this paste, you'll need:

1) A model
2) A base
3) Tub of the paste
4) A tool
5) Water
6) Q-tip or old brush
7) Paper towel or toilet paper

1 & 2: The Model and the Base

Pretty simple. Take whatever model you have, and whatever base you want it to have in the end, and get them glued together with your normal hobby glue.

Here on the left I have a few examples of the kind of models that go really well with this basing technique, as each of them has its own inherent base as part of the existing mini. From Warlord Games, we have two horses from the Praetorian Guard box sets (each on 25x50mm bases), and from Reaper Miniatures, we have a minotaur (on a 40mm square) and a gnome (on 20mm square). The gnome had a base roughly half the size of the minotaur base... so I trimmed it down to a more reasonable size.

Whatever base you need your mini on, this is what you're going for. The model glued to a bigger base, with some space to work with.

3 & 4: The Tub and Tool

Also pretty simple. Get your tub of paste, and some kind of tool.

The tool itself isn't that important. I was really getting into sculpting for my armies a few years ago, and had a bag of tools for working with milliput and green stuff. When I went to use the paste, I tried a few, and found that I liked ones that resembled flat head screwdrivers, as the flat bit made for a good scooper, in addition to being able to smooth out the paste a little. If you are really cheap, you probably could use a small flat head screwdriver.. but a bag of sculpting tools is not hard to come by, and you may be able to find even cheaper alternatives at your local art, craft, or hobby shop.


So, when you have all these 4 things mentioned above, you can just jump right in. 

Use the tool to scoop out the wet paste, and spread it around the base. As the paste dries, it generally shrinks a bit, so be sure to apply a little extra around the model's inherent base, so that the join from model-to-base is camouflaged a bit.

To the left is an "in-process" picture. Nothing complicated was really done here. I used the tool pictured above to scoop out some paste, and then spread it around the bases. 

Cleanup & Drying

Once you're done, wipe your applicator tool clean with a wet piece of paper, or rinse it under the sink. If you don't, the paste dries on the tool, and will make your life harder should you ever want to use that tool again for anything.

I have an office job, so I will generally do this in the evening, and let it sit over night, or if I'm working with a single mini and want to hobby on it later that day. I apply the paste quick in the morning and let it dry while I'm at work. Drying time really only takes a few hours though, so my process is a little overkill.

Here is the finished processes on the right. You'll notice it looks much like the wet picture above. Some of the model-to-base joins are more noticeable here (a few spots on the minotaur; the general shape of the gnome model's base) than above, and that is due to how the paste dried. I didn't slop enough paste around the model-to-base joins. I'm going to add rocks and pebbles to these, so it doesn't bug me. If you get a result like this and it does bug you, and you don't want to add pebbles or something, simply add another glob of paste after the first glob has dried.

After Basing... on to Painting!

Once you're happy with your basing, prime the model, and then you're ready to start painting. The paste part will need to be painted up along with the rest of the mini, but it's not that onerous.

The Optional Parts

Should you slop the paste around where it is not wanted, assemble those optional items!

Here, we have a very packed base of Roman models. Quarters were tight, and I slopped paste all over these poor guys.

The paste is water soluble, so using the water and old brush/q-tip, you can apply the water and then then either wipe the excess away with the brush, or with some paper product. I usually opted for an old brush, as it allowed me to be a little more dexterous and precise with what I was trying to remove on the models. For the edges of bases though, a chunk of paper towel is probably best.

The water and wipe approach was done here on these Romans. You will notice that there is still some paste residue on the minis. That's fine. So long as you get the gritty particles wiped off, a little white splotch here or there is just fine, and will be covered up by the primer and future painting. What you're concerned with is removing the gritty bits.

Should you not notice an "oops" until later after everything has dried, don't worry. The dried paste likes to adhere to itself more than to another surface, so you can pick and scrape away pieces of dried excess paint with a hobby knife or something.

...And there you have it. The four example models up in the top of the post took me about 10 minutes to get through - this process is not rocket science. Should you find yourself working with models with inherent bases, give the paste a try.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hobby Basics: Washing and Shading!

As you may know if you've visited the blog before... I'm an advocate for really simple hobbying. I'm not a great hobbyist, buy I can do the basics, and do them reasonably well. My work looks just fine on the table and up close, and the painting process is actually relaxing for me, since I'm not stressing out about every brush stroke.

Using shades or washes (some companies use different vocabulary) on a mini is a really easy technique, but one that looks fantastic. In terms of time spent to result gained, it is really economical, and fabulous techniques to learn for a new (or in my case, lazy) hobbyist.

Shades and washes are diluted paints, and they're designed to get into the recesses of the model, whether those recesses happen to be facets in metal plate armor, bulging muscles, or swirling robes. Since they are designed to get into those deeper places on the model, they are usually darker colors already (black, brown) or darker shades of more normal colors (dark red, etc). 

To use them, you grab a painted model, a brush, and the color wash you want to work with, and then just apply the wash to the model using the brush. Sounds easy enough... let's see how it works and looks in practice...

Painted but unwashed.
I've been hobbying more on stuff for Dungeons and Dragons than I have been for kings of war recently, so I grabbed three models, and painted them up over an hour or two.

On the hobby desk, all from Reaper Miniatures, we have an Ilithid Pirate, who in retrospect, looks a little too much like a mind-flaying Santa Claus; a Drow warrior; and an Ilithid Mage.

...and from behind.
Now, the more savvy D&Ders among you may object to the drow having black hair instead of white. Because white is white... it easily picks up any wash color.. and I didn't want that to happen, so painted the hair once the washing was complete. 

So, I have these models, and they are all passably painted. They've got at least three colors, no glaring unpainted spots, and some coloration on their bases (though admittedly it is nothing fancy). These is a pretty usual "tabletop standard" in my book. Now to wash them...

The right side is in the process of being washed.
It usually helps to try to match your wash color with your paint color, red paint and dark red wash for example, though that is not a requirement. Going a little darker though is usually fine. 

Here we have an in-process shot of the process, with the right-half of the robes haveing received a purple wash. As designed, the wash is sticking to those recesses in the robes, and making those folds look darker.

Washing a model is a pretty easy process. It takes a while for the wash to dry, but it's not usually a big deal. I think these were all done within a half hour, using purple, red, brown and black washes.

Washed, from the front.
From left to right, the pirate's blue skin got a purple wash, and the red coat a red wash. The drow got purple on his skin, and brown and black on his armor and cloth. The mage got a red wash on his skin, brown on the staff, purple on his robes, and black on the ornamentation of the robes.

And washed, from the rear. 
If you compare these models to the picture of them unwashed... these will be darker. That's expected; this is the effect we were going for. 

Washing is a simple way to add a sense of "depth" to the model. It's not necessary, but it is a wonderfully simple and efficient way to add some color gradients to your models, and make it look like you've spent lots of time on them. This technique is a wonderfully time-effective way to churn out some good looking models, and I think is a great technique for new hobbyists to embrace.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Hobby Update: 4x Roman Spear Phalanx

As I've said before, my hobbying doesn't exist in a vacuum. It is heavily influenced by the games for which I use these minis. I haven't had a Kings of War game since April, and despite some nice days here and there... my KoW-related hobby has really slowed down.

I dove into the Roman infantry projects with gusto in June, only to have progress grind to essentially a halt, and my hobbying shift over to some minis to use for Dungeons and Dragons... which I am playing (DMing) these days. 

For nearly two weeks, the 3 remaining Spear Phalanx Regiments have stood on a shelf... needing only their bannermen finished up. I finally rectified their situation today. Hopefully they will see the game table sometime soon.

Ready... aim....
All my spears are really pila/pilum; actual Roman weapons. However, pila were more javelin-like than spear-like, and were chucked at opposing lines before entering close-quarters combat. This unit was essentially a homage to that tactic, and most all of these guys are in the process of getting ready to throw them. When these guys do eventually see the field, they will be getting Kaba's Holy Hand Grenades as an item, to keep things fluffy and interesting.

This unit was also the most frustrating to paint. I had tried three 40x60 mm bases, with to 20mm squares at the front. The group of 6, with the banner, was really frustrating to paint up. Even without shields and weapons, there were just too few good brush angles to get things right. If it was a group of 5, it would have been better. The group of 6 is just too densely packed.

Pretty normal. The damaged shields up front though make for a nice effect. The Veterans kit has some good bits!
This unit is a little more "relaxed," with most of the soldiers having their weapons at their sides. The second row has 3 go-getters, whose arms may be replaced down the line. I'm not sure how many Regiments of Spears I really want on the table yet. This unit and the test unit are pretty similar, and would look good on the table together I think. They will likely be the first to be added to a list.

I think the bannerman might be trying to get in on the action. If swung/dropped like a club... I bet that thing could do some damage.
The last unit ended up being more ready for close-combat, with pointy things sticking out in nearly every direction... including the banner.

Which brings me to my only real gripe about these models so far: the banners/bannermen. 

The arms on the bannerman model are separate, so when you go to glue everything, you're fumbling around with everything. And the banner bits, which are based on real banners, are nice, but just a bit unwieldy in conjunction with the arms. You either end up grabbing it in weird spots and not getting a good glue (1st pic) or you get good glues, but the banner ends up leaning way forward.

I'll be trying to figure out a remedy for the other 6 regiments coming eventually down the pipeline. I'd like to get the banners a little more upright and secure on the future models.

We're starting to look like an army!
Overall though, I do still like these models, and I think they look pretty good all ranked up. Hopefully, I'll get them out onto a gaming table soon, and we can see how they play!