One Lonely Khorne Berzerker

 This was only supposed to be just a picture of the inducted Ultramarine Berzerker in my Disciples of the Four Chaos warband, but in true 'zerker style a friend muscled his way into the photo shoot:

 I'm hoping I've got the red down reasonably well - I'm a little ambivalent about a slog through the reds-into-oranges on these guys (all future 'zerkers included) as I've been there before with an all-red squad (Vior'la Tau), but the biggest part of the work was taken care of with the airbrush. Now I just need to add highlights and details.

 The red look about right? (It's roughly an accurate match from my monitor to my figures this time around, surprisingly!) I'm not necessarily aiming for a garish bright red, but more for the color of blood. I used a mixture of Red Gore, Scorched Brown, and Mechrite Red to try and get good coverage - I figger it should be somewhat of a darker mid-range basecoat color.


Plaguebearer WIP [Update 4/28/2010]

For some inexplicable reason, I woke up at 4am and couldn't fall back asleep. At least I got some painting done. These may very well be the last work-in-progress pictures of this Plaguebearer:

These are better pictures color-wise than what's come before, I think. I believe I may have figured out my color balancing issues with this guy, and maybe even future pictures. The problem with this particular figure is that the red + green on him end up mixing towards the pinkish-beige end of the color wheel (if there is such a horrible place), much like the "official" Cleaved Chaos Space Marine scheme put out by GW in the most recent CSM Codex (it's even more noticeable, the pinkish tinge to the beige, that is, on the color test figure I painted up a long while back). The color is tricky to capture in pictures, especially since I'm using translucent paints and inks on this particular figure and the eye sees things differently than the camera due to, I dunno, light refraction or something. (That's my official excuse, and I'm sticking with it!)

That said, I think the face is lacking something, I just can't quite put my finger on what to do or change to give it that little extra bit of "oomph" - my understanding is that milky white is the "official" eye color for Plaguebearers, but I may have to take some artistic license. I already tweaked them a bit so that the unbalanced-looking larger eye has a grey ring around the outside, sort of like a milky cataract or something. Any suggestions on kicking the appearance of his face "up a notch?"


Plaguebearer WIP [Update 4/26/2010]

 Well, I figger I'm about done with this guy. I went for dirtier bandages - weeping wounds underneath and stuff like that would be a bit much effort, I think, since I'm just painting this guy up as a color test for a commission piece I'm working on simultaneously. I tried painting actual brass for the first time on this guy using an actual brass-colored paint (P3 Brass Balls! Woo!) - my Golden Demon Skaven Warlord brass areas had a make-do attempt using a mixture of Dwarf Bronze and Black, but I think I like the lighter, more gold-toned version here better since I was actually able to dirty it down and get better contrast between the edges and the main color, I think.

 I also highlighted up the wounds, but they looked too awkward and stood out too much - a glaze of green over the figure and into the depressions again seems to have evened things out. I'm not about to go back and highlight the entire figure, since I really just want this guy at tabletop level or so (although there's been a few more steps involved, I don't think I'll be repeating this scheme on any of the other 9 Plaguebearers I now own.)

 I'm curious to hear what you all think of the maggot coming out of his mouth. Staring at a reference picture of a pile of 'em trying to get the colors right was a little awkward, especially since my wife is squeamish about them and caught sight of the color picture sitting on the printer before I took it down to my painting den quick-like. (She gives her thanks, folks! Heh.)

  Anyone have an opinion on basing color for him? I'm thinking a neutral cooler color of some sort (like flat brown dirt, maybe?) or something along those lines. I want him to be standing on something like urban ruins, wreckage, debris, or exploded earth - a 40K battlefield appearance to go along with the rest of my Chaos force, in other words. Painting concrete my usual way would make his base as underlying red as this guy already is (but he's got a lot of green over the top of that, so I dunno). I really don't want him overwhelmingly green/red, so I'm open to suggestions... maybe blacktop, which I painted the basing of my first Chaos Space Marine to resemble? Again, I dunno.


The People Have Spoken!

The voting is now well over and done with, and we have a clear answer to the burning question, "Should I paint the segmented protrusion coming out of the Plaguebearer's mouth so as to make it resemble a giant, pasty-looking maggot, or paint it up as a dripping, putrefactingly rotten tongue?"

By an overwhelming (but thankfully not unanimous, you sick puppies, you) majority, the Plaguebearer guinea pig, er, color test figure will be painted up so as to appear to have a giant, pasty-looking maggot coming out of his mouth as opposed to merely a dripping, putrefactingly rotten tongue. Now comes the utter joy of color research on the Intarwebs, unless someone can recommend a color progression or similar color recipe they already know - and I won't ask how they came by it.



Hobby Tip: On My Word, Unleash Nurgle!

 It's somewhat sloppy and disgusting work (isn't that the Nurgle way of it?), but here's a few ways to get your plastic or metal figures looking like they've given over to Papa Nurgle in no time. (For those not familiar, Nurgle in Warhammer 40K is the Chaos god of disease, decay, pestilence, entropy, and fearlessness of death.)

Supplies for adding disgusting texture to your figures:
  •  You'll need some type of PVA glue. I'm partial to Elmer's Wood Glue as it's a bit "stiffer" in consistency than regular White Glue and comes in larger containers by comparison especially if you buy it at a DIY or building surplus store - then again, you can probably find cheap (as in inexpensive) glue, like Elmer's or another good brand name, at some of the higher end dollar stores (Dollar General, Dollar Tree, etc.) especially if they have a school supply section.
  •  You'll probably want some sort of thickener, which ought to serve the added bonus of giving your infected areas some gross texture as well. Anything along the lines of talcum powder, baby powder, or extra-fine grit will do - ideally you want something inert and non-food based (although I've always used cornmeal as a basing material, and I've never had any figure bases turn, um, Nurgly). The thicker the "grain" of your material, the more textured the final result will be - in the example pictures, I used a mixture of fine grit, cornmeal, and baby powder.
  •  Last but not least, you'll want to pick up an assortment of smaller-sized beads. If you get coupons in your weekend paper (JoAnn's) or subscribe online (Michael's, Hobby Lobby) you can probably get 40% off a decent-sized container of seed beads - the kind with tiny holes in them so as to resemble pustules on a figure. In the example pictures, I used a mixture of the larger dessicant beads from a few packets of silica gel (the sort you find in new boxed home items or clothing pockets when bought at the store) as well as the tiny plastic ionized beads from the inside of a water purifying pitcher filter (they are a pain to separate out from the activated charcoal, but well worth it!)

Here's the step-by-step on applying a disgusting texture to your figure:
  •  Sort out your beads first, making sure you have the sizes and appearances you want - maybe even divvying 'em up in groupings according to where you'll be placing them. (It's not rocket science, granted, but I'm all about having stuff at hand and ready to go when you need it as opposed to sorting through piles of beads while your glue slowly dries unused on the figure.)
  •  Mix some powdery thickener into your PVA glue and apply it in a smallish amount where you want your pustules to sprout, preferably not with a good paintbrush unless you want to accidentally make Father Nurgle extra proud.
  •  Stick your beads where you want 'em, making sure they're aligned (sprouting?) just the way you want the final product (crop?) to look.
  •  Slather on more of your glue and thickener mixture around or even on your groupings of pustules, trying to be sloppy but careful - there's an oxymoron for you, but I'm thinking you can picture what I mean. You probably want to steer clear of the tops of your pustules-to-be, unless you want the areas near the top of the sores to be grainy textured - I'd think smooth would be the way to go (like pus-distended skin stretched sickeningly taut by the diseased innar... er, yeah).
 As the glue dries, it'll tighten everything into place and your powdery/gritty thickener ought to generally make a mess of the appearance around and between your pustules, as well as smoothing out reasonably well where the diseased areas meet the "unblessed by Papa Nurgle" portions. You might make several applications (like I did in the example pictures), using more coarsely grained thickener to glue the beads down and then going back with a thickener like baby powder to smooth things out a bit.

A mixture of PVA glue and baby powder:

A mixture of PVA glue, fine grit, and cornmeal:

Adding a look of disease and decay to your figures:
  •  Gather an assortment of fine drill bits, the smaller the better. (In the example pictures, I used drill bits from 1/78" all the way up to 1/8" in size.
  •  Make sure you have a sturdy base to mount your drill bits for use - a good pin vise should have a chuck for extra-small bits or be otherwise adjustable to hold even smaller-sized ones. If your pin vise is not nearly as adjustable for tiny drill bits (my first one wasn't, for example), you can take a short cut-off length of dowel and make a relatively deep hole in it a little larger in diameter than a drill bit you want to mount (I used a pair of locking pliers to grip one of my smaller drill bits initially - it was hard work, but I finally got a nice deep hole to set my 1/78" bit into with room to spare for glue.) Once your preferred drill bit will fit in the dowel, try roughing up the non-spiraling end of it with a file or sandpaper to ensure a good grip for glue. Slather the roughed-up end of the bit with glue and set it in the hole you drilled - I'd recommend epoxy glue since CA glue (AKA "Super Glue") is overly brittle, but even something like rubber cement would work in a pinch.
  •  Drill holes in various sizes across the areas you want to look especially diseased on your figure. It's probably best not to clump larger holes together, but a larger one surrounded by an assortment of smaller-sized ones generally looks good. Make sure not to repeat any particular pattern over the surface of your figure, since this is ideally supposed to be random.
  •  Tidy up any burrs on the edges of your drill holes with a quick, light drag from a scalpel or hobby knife (unless you want the holes to look somewhat inflamed as well).

And here's the finished detail on a figure, a combination of added texture and tiny drilled holes:


Final Hours for Plaguebearer Voting!

Some of you may have noticed the little voting poll I've had running on the left side of the site for roughly a week now - obviously 11 of you did as of my typing this (the other 12th one is a proxy vote for my daughter, who was soundly in the "tongue" camp).

Essentially, I'm painting this Plaguebearer up as a test figure for a commission piece I'm painting at the same time with the same colors and I'm not too fussy about how or what he turns out looking like, since I don't have any immediate plans for Plaguebearers in my CSM Warband.

In the poll are two options as to how I round out painting this guy after all the color testing's said and done - both of them ideally disgusting, but neither being more nor less appealing to me than the other. That's where you folks and the voting come in, and there's just a little over 12 hours left to exert your mouse-clicky power in coercing me into painting this guy one particular way or another. I would've done a "write in" option instead of just two choices, but I was afraid I'd not get any consistency - sorry, maybe next time! (If there is a "next time" - researching rotting tongue and/or maggot images online for color references is probably going to be the end of me.)

As an aside, I've been tweaking the layout of both the blog and the full painting website - let me know if anyone notices and strangeness!


Plaguebearer WIP

 I did a little bit more work on this guy tonight, mostly deepening the shading and working in some more color so as to see what it would look like if I used those colors on the one commission piece I'm working on. I then went and airbrushed on a "highlight layer" and thought I messed it all up, but after a lengthy drying it seems to have sorted itself out to satisfaction - this airbrushing is a finicky thing, and I guess I still have a long way to go in the learning curve as to how thick to apply new coats and how much pressure on the trigger with which to run.

 I wouldn't mind feedback from anyone with airbrushing experience, or suggestions as to its use. Aside from a little light reading online, most of which covered stuff like thinning, I'm more or less finding my way along as I go.


Hobby Tip: A Cheap 'n' Easy Spray Booth

 This is a tutorial on building (like the name says) a "cheap 'n' easy" spray booth suitable for priming, sealing, basecoating with aerosol sprays - even airbrushing. I am simply providing step-by-step instructions, and am not to be held responsible for anything that may happen through the use of a spray booth such as this indoors, i.e. toxic exposure to paint fumes, exploding furnaces, or a light dusting of primer on someone's antique furniture. (Consider yourself warned and myself absolved - nothing says "bad karma" like feeling responsible for someone else's fiery, explosive demise!) Also, many thanks to Alf from the RelicNews Forums for the original inspiration!

With that out of the way, here's the materials:
  • 1 reasonably-sized durable cardboard box
  • 1 roll of standard duct tape
  • 1 roll of packing tape (optional)
  • A supply of microfiber filter as can be found at most home improvement-type stores, generally in the Heating/Cooling or Air Conditioning department
  • A heavy-duty commercial-grade vacuum, AKA "Shop Vac"
  • A medium-sized plastic bag - always good to recycle the bags from those impulse figure purchases!
  • A pair of good shears/heavy scissors

Here's a picture of the first spray booth I set up myself (it saw about 4 years' worth of frequent use):

 I would suggest that you set your spray booth up in a well-lighted, well-ventilated area such as a garage. I would also suggest that you raise the overall level of the booth to a comfortable height to allow for easier spraying - my first homemade spray booth was at roughly floor level due to space considerations, but a small stool underneath gave me enough clearance to easily see all areas of my figures when spraying whilst sitting on the floor in front of it. My new booth is set back on a shelf of my painting desk, so I don't need to hunch over to see!

 To start, cut a squarish piece of microfiber filter a little larger than you actually want the opening at the back of the box to be - try to make the hole reasonably large, as the whole point of this setup is to remove as much of the excess paint vapors from the open air as possible. The next step is to cut a hole about 1" or so smaller than the piece of filter in the back of the box, relatively centered behind where you expect to do the majority of your spraying. Make sure to leave a reasonable border of cardboard for the filter to sit flush against on the back of the box.

For reference sake, this is what microfiber filter looks like in its natural state:

 Next, tape all the seams of the box so as to prevent excess paint being sprayed from escaping out any holes or crevices - ideally, you want as much paint as possible to be drawn towards the filter when using the spray booth. Taking your plastic bag, cut a hole in the opposite end of the opening, or, alternatively, cut the length of the bag down to a more manageable length - depending on the size of the bag, you might want to cut slits at the end so it opens neatly into four "flaps." The purpose of the bag is to act as a funnel between the hole at the back of the box and the nozzle of your shop vacuum.

 The tricky part now is to tape the sides of the filter down to the back of your booth over the cut opening so that there are no gaps and the filter sits flush and overlaps the hole on all sides - with mine, I used overly long strips of duct tape on all four sides and made sure they overlapped at the four corners around the filter. (The reason I used duct tape as opposed to packing tape is for ease of removal when I next need to change the filter or bag.) The filter doesn't necessarily need to sit into the opening, but the edges do need to be airtight against the box for the next step.

 For the final step with the box, tape one opening (likely the largest) of the bag over both the hole and the filter from the back of the box. As can hopefully be seen from the picture, I made a similar overlapping square of tape around the mouth of the bag against the box - what you can do is tape down a side and then trim off the excess bag sticking out with a pair of shears. I also taped over the first layer of tape holding the bag down so that the second layer of was sticking, at least partially, with nothing but cardboard underneath - this is to prevent the tape and bag from peeling away from your booth from the weight of the vacuum hose, which could be very messy if it happened in mid-spray session.

 For the sake of a snug fit, you will want to taper the bag via wrapped duct tape so it fits tightly around the nozzle of the vacuum. With my box, I made a "collar" of sorts to fit around the nozzle of the vacuum - although this is actually an extra shop vacuum I have, it's occasionally useful to be able to separate the vacuum from the attached spray booth if I need to use it for anything else. One way to make the "collar" is to wrap a length of duct tape around a jar or bottle with the sticky side facing outwards, hold that inside the open end of the bag, mash the end of the bag around the tape, and then wrap another length of tape or two around the outside of the bag end. The tape on the outside serves two purposes: it maintains the shape of the "collar" so it fits the nozzle of your vacuum snugly, and it also holds the nozzle in place to prevent it from collapsing inwards when suction is turned on. (Don't make the same mistake I did and use a bottle with a slight "lip" around it - the inner ring of tape was tight enough that it wouldn't fit over the lip in trying to get the bottle out, and I ended up having to undo the entire taped-up bag!)

 My first spray booth was set up on the floor and fairly low, so I used a length of wood to prop the hose up so the mouth of the nozzle sat at roughly a right angle to the back of the filter inside the bag - it gets better suction this way. If you have the entire setup on a shelf or something, this prop might not be necessary. I can virtually guarantee you will need to play around with the placement of the vacuum nozzle the first few times, as it has a tendency to either suck in the bag or stick to the filter - as you can imagine, neither situation is ideal for drawing off paint fumes, and a total blockage with the vacuum running will kill the motor. With enough adjustment and a good prop, you should be fine - just remember the ideal angle is about 90° to get the strongest draw of air toward the filter of your booth. If you're really cramped for space or your vacuum continually misbehaves by trying to eat the bag, I might suggest buying an extra-wide funnel of a large enough diameter to cover the filter and hole in the back of your box entirely, and with a narrow enough spout to fit inside the nozzle of your vacuum hose. The spout of the funnel will stop the nozzle of the vacuum hose from collapsing inwards towards the filter when suction is on, and the wide mouth of the funnel will feed fumes towards the vacuum hose nicely.

 Hopefully this is all pretty self-explanatory, but let me add a few parting thoughts. The vacuum is used whilst spraying to draw excess paint and fumes towards the filter and interior of the box - ideally away from yourself and the area around where you spray. To do this effectively, you need a pretty strong vacuum (mine is 3.5 horsepower) - the stronger the suction, the less airborne paint and fumes end up in places you don't want it: your lungs, your parked car, or nearby sources of flame.

 * The micro-fiber filter is there to prevent the airborne paint particles from clogging up your vacuum itself: you will ruin a perfectly good vacuum if you skip using some sort of ultra-fine filter material or if you fail to change the filter out when it starts to become clogged with repeated spraying. For the sake of brain cells and your overall health, only spray in open, well-ventilated areas and not anywhere near open sources of flame: paint fumes can easily build to toxic levels in enclosed spaces; you can kill off massive amounts of brain cells as chemicals are absorbed fairly readily into the bloodstream via the lungs; you can cause an explosion if allowed to build up anywhere near a source of flame or heat - this includes the pilot lights of furnaces and water heaters, cigarettes, and space heaters.

Decisions, decisions...

Do I prefer an airbrush or a paintbrush now? Do I paint the segmented protrusion coming out of the Plaguebearer's mouth so as to make it resemble a giant, pasty-looking maggot, or paint it up as a dripping, putrefactingly rotten tongue? Anyone have any suggestions?

I've been trying out some new stuff here over the past few days - one of these figures was airbrushed with some additional shading touch-ups via a brush which were then gone over with an empty airbrush to drive the thinned paint into the depressions, and the other used the same colors but was strictly hand-painted via paintbrushes.

I must say I am certainly loving this airbrush, now that I've finally put it to use - it works especially well with washes. Even using windshield wiper fluid to cut my paints, the extra bluish tone from the wiper fluid adds a little extra something outside of the beige paints themselves. I applied a basecoat, two shading colors, and a highlight in about an hour! Whee! (I do have clear airbrush thinner, but I think I might stick with this wiper fluid for a while...)

I'm also pleased that my prep work on the Commission Giveaway Contest winner's Speculo Killer turned out so smooth. The figure is so delicate in appearance and what angles she has are so awkward - I wasn't sure I got everything or that things were smooth enough. After giving the figure a guide wash tonight on the "unpainted" parts, it looks like I covered both aspects well. Yay, me!


Plaguebearer Voting

I set up a vote on the left bar of the site for the sake of getting opinions about a figure with which, among other things, I'm testing out my airbrush. (I'll also guiltily admit I wanted to play around with trying out polling - mea culpa!)

Should I paint the segmented protrusion coming out of the Plaguebearer's mouth so as to make it resemble a giant, pasty-looking maggot, or paint it up as a dripping, putrefactingly rotten tongue?


Infinity Speculo Killer, AKA Commission Giveaway Contest WIP

 Like the title says, this is a work-in-progress update on the Infinity Speculo Killer that the winner of the Commission Giveaway Contest I ran a little while back had shipped to me to paint up.

 Before I get to that, though, a little summary of what I've been up to: our one-year-old son is now over his bout with pneumonia, none the worse for wear, and has added four more molars to his collection of baby teeth in the past few weeks. He's also managed to gain some weight with all this going on, so in short, he's healthy and our family's doing better. I finally got a chance to do something(s) I've been meaning to do ever since my birthday last August - clean up my painting area and build a new, narrower spray booth (cheap and easy and made out of cardboard and a shop vac, but still). I got a chance to do both of those these past few days, and actually took a first stab at painting via airbrush - no, not on the Speculo Killer, but on another figure for a competition over at the RelicNews Tabletop Painting & Modeling Forum. It's a GW Plaguebearer, and it now has a flesh basecoat - I figgered I'd take a stab with airbrushing with a Plaguebearer because even if I completely maul the painting, it'll still look good! (I'm breaking in the airbrush for a secondary commission I'm working on, and it ought to make basecoating the massive skin areas much, much easier and quicker.) Oh, and I don't have to serve jury duty as I was thinking I might - I got called off, so my weekdays are now my own again.

 That update of sorts out of the way, here's the Speculo Killer prepped, assembled, and pinned on her permanent display base! (Just ignore the bottle cap - it's not the base you're looking for...) I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a pin vise drill bit actually small enough to fit within the socket of her monofilament sword arm wrist and even better, that I had something of a narrow enough gauge to glue in for a pin to keep her sword hand from loosening. The display base she's on is going to have a puddle of thick oil dripping out of the exposed piping that will look like it's pooling around the flat top of the slottabase that the concrete round sits on. Adding the liquid can wait until after the rest of the painting is done - I feel that sort of thing looks much better if everything else is painted and highlighted and then any semi-transparent liquids are applied over the top.

 By way of the current paintjob, just her bodysuit is fully basecoated and in an "alternating" pattern of sorts - looking at the figure after priming, I decided that the exposed scalp behind her face mask and her arm with jutting armor spikes might look best in some sort of flesh tone since there's enough open area to have a "triangle" of similar color to balance things out. I'm to understand the Speculo Killer in game background terms is a shape-shifting assassin, and so I think playing this up by way of contrasting "shifting" skin areas and a bodysuit covering the rest will look better than an even color of some sort all round (it also helps that the texture of the areas in question seems slightly different, which I didn't really see clearly until after I primed the figure.)

Here she is, in her current work-in-progress glory:

 I'm also working on a lava-themed display base to cover the large plastic sheet stock oval blank I posted a picture of not too long ago. I'm trying to evenly juggle two commissions simultaneously for the sake of fairness, on top of everything else, even though one is technically "free" via the Giveaway Contest. Pictures of the lava base should be going up soonish, time and luck willing - I need to finish detailing it first, as well as sculpting over gaps I've been filling on the massively diabolical figure that goes with the base.


Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm

 It's been long overdue, but I've finally posted a webpage specifically for my "Gandalf at the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm" diorama with the Lord of the Rings figure that won a Silver Demon at the 2007 Chicago Games Day in the Golden Demon Painting Competition.

 The page itself can be found here on my painting website. I've also updated my Gallery with the linked page for Gandalf, and I'm adding in a few more recently- and not-so-recently finished figures.


Reporting In, Sir!

 If anyone's noticed the relative scarcity of updates lately, there's been a few reasons for it. One is family stuff - trips out of town, wife starting a new job, our 1-year-old with pneumonia; the other(s) are that I've been trying to focus on the commission work I'm doing. I'm ready to start painting the Speculo Killer from the Infinity range, and was hoping to do so after getting back from a trip with two days that the kids would both be at day care - well, our son's pneumonia's scratched that "free time" idea for the most part, but at least now's the easy part in that I much prefer putting brush to figure. I generally dislike prepping figures since it takes me a long time being somewhat obsessive about mold lines and flush fittings and all that fun stuff.

 I also received another commission shortly after running the Commission Giveaway Contest, and while assembling and tidying up and gluing that is still underway, I will say this - it's not a GW Trygon or Mawloc, and it's not a Valkyrie, although it's up there in scale and will be mounted on a similar blank. It's something big and evil, and it's going to be going on this base:

 I cut it out of sheet plastic stock with an electric bandsaw, trimmed to shape with a heavy rasp, and then smoothed things out with a progression of sandpaper from 60 grit up to 800. It's fun to break out the big toys once in awhile, and thankfully our son's a relatively sound sleeper!


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