Friday Quick Tip: Snow Basing

In keeping with the season, I thought it only proper to have a winter inspired tip this week. So we're going with a quick and dirty method for snow basing! A lot of folks avoid this as they really don't understand how simple it can really be. So I'll break it down to the basics!

What you'll need:

You can substitute with a myriad of things here and there. You don't NEED a GW sculpting tool for example, I just happen to find it to be the best tool I have on hand for this particular job! You will however NEED PVA glue, some sort of snow medium, and something to mix and place all that snow! And of course the miniature is a given...

The first thing you'll want to do is squeeze out an appropriate amount of glue onto your paper towel. Then shake out about the same amount of snow medium right next to it. A little more or a little less snow isn't going to hurt your end results, so just get it roughly equal.

Once you've figured out how much you'll need, it's time to mix it up. Continue to mix the snow into the glue until you start getting little clumps.

Applying the mixture to your bases is rather straight forward. Take up some of the mixture and press it down onto the base with your sculpting tool. You can add as much or as little as you want, it's your base afterall!

Below is the finished application. Be sure you clean up the rim of the base with a finger and wipe away any overhanging excess snow. Though really that's just personal preference!

I normally use snow as an accent to the basing, not completely covering it, so additional drybrushing and some static grass would have gone down before this to get the effects I've achieved with my Skaven in the begining of the post.

It's a very very simple thing to use, and it just takes a few tries to get familiar with. This method is MUCH faster than gluing successive layers of the stuff until it really looks like snow. Trust me, I've done it!

What do other folks use for snow basing?


Root Trees

This weekend I was at my local shop and while talking terrain with the owner, he was showing me some things online he was considering doing/getting for the store terrain. One of the pieces that really struck me was an ash waste tree. What made the tree unique was that it was made using the root of a plant! I thought it was absolutely genius and decided I had to give it a try.

Later that night I went out into my backyard with a flashlight and found a suitable sized root that happened to be from a weed. I couldn't help but be amazed at my luck as my backyard as well as the front is covered in these weeds! I cut the root from the plant and got to work!

For the base of the template I used a piece of MDF shaped with a Rasp and an electric hand sander to smooth it all out. The rocks are just that, properly shaped and sized rocks glued into place. The root was placed in the midst of the rocks and some sand was added to help add some additional detailing.

I used White Glue to secure everything, but I believe for the next one I'll end up using some hot glue to get everything in place and hide that with some white glue and sand. White glue just took far too long to secure everything and wasn't very good about me working it at all while things were still drying. I'd highly suggest the hot glue gun for the big pieces.

The sand was given an additional wash of 50/50 water/white glue to help secure everything further, and save my brushes later on when I went to paint it all!

For paint, I primed it all black, and gave it a simple drybrush of a dark grey color. I used some random house paint I had on hand but you could easily use Codex Grey. After this was a lighter drybrush of a light grey. Again, this was some random house paint I had, Fortress Grey would be a good choice of color.

All in all it was an extremely fast project, with the longest part of it all waiting for the white glue to dry completely! For something that normally is a nuscience in my lawn to become something useful like this is a real treat. Now, to make about 5 more of these bad boys!


Friday Quick Tip: Metallics and Color Basing

Heya folks, that time again! This week I thought it would be a good time to bring another little tidbit I've picked up from none other than GentleBen of BoLS fame. And it has to do with a fundamental change in how you go about your metallics.

The idea here is to paint a Base Color of some sort before applying your metallic paints. This seems like such a simple and easy thing that anyone in their right mind would think to do, but honestly, I would have almost never thought to try this had I not been 'enlightened' a week ago!

The practice of this is simple:

When you're painting silver, base coat the area in a grey color, such as Codex Grey or Fortress Grey.

When you're painting a gold, try a Light Brown like Snakebite Leather.

Looking for a rusted feel? Paint Bestial Brown under your silvers.

Drybrushing seems to be the method of choice for this technique, but I can easily see it working in thin application of watered down metallics where the base coat will show through. And of course using a wash of some sort, be it inks, washes, or a custom mixture, will help bring it all to life.

I've done a little bit of work with this idea recently with my Chaos Knights, doing a full drybrush of Codex Grey over all areas that were getting a Chainmail drybrush, and I have to say, I believe I'll be using this one from now on.

Those of you out there looking for a quick and easy method to bring your metals to the next level, give this idea a try and see what sort of results you have from it.

And those of you looking for some additional reading this weekend, be sure to check out GentleBen's Painting Academy posts over on BoLS:

What the Hell is Paint?

Matte Medium Tutorial

From these you will definitely get a better understanding of the theory behind using this technique, as well as some insight to other great ideas.

What little tips do you have for painting metals?


Friday Quick Tip: Setting your white balance

I've got a "photo Friday" tip for you this week to help your pictures come out true to the original: set your white balance.

Setting the white balance is just a tool for getting your pictures to look like you want them to look. There really is no right or wrong, except for what looks good to you. Almost all digital cameras have some setting for white balance and in most cases the "auto" (AWB) mode will do a decent job.

But when you take a picture under less than ideal lighting conditions, the color usually will not be true to life with AWB.

Here's a demonstration that shows how the white balance setting changes the color of a picture.

This picture was taken with 5500K fluorescent lights and a light tan fabric background. The modes in the first column: AWB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten. The second column modes: Fluorescent, Flash, Custom, Kelvin.

The AWB mode does a decent job, but the most faithful reproduction of color is the Kelvin mode, since I have it set to match the 5500K output of my lights. If you can control the light, setting your camera to the light color will usually give you the best results.

But often you aren't controlling the light. For example, if you are taking a picture of a model outside in the shade, you might find that your model looks too "blue". In this case you can use the key above to pick one of the mode "yellow" modes: Shade, Flash, Cloudy.

If you are inside taking a picture of a model on your desk with only a single lamp, your model may look too "yellow". In this case try Tungsten or Fluorescent modes.

If you want to get advanced, you can use the Custom mode on your camera. For the image above I set the Custom white balance based on the tan fabric with no model. As you can see the tan hue of the fabric was removed (turned almost grey) and the model is given a darker almost bluish cast. By setting the custom WB to an image with a strong color, you can get some interesting effects in your photos; like "fake night" explained in this white balance article. You can find some good tips on setting and trouble-shooting your white balance in this article.

What photography tips do you have for getting great photos of your models?


Friday Quick Tip: Sponge Painting Battle Damage

I recently stumbled across the idea of using a piece of foam/spongy material to add random patterned battle damage/wear and tear to my models. As soon as I read about it I just HAD to give it a try on a model. The first model I used it on was my test piece for my recently decided upon Sons of Medusa, which you can see at the bottom of this post for a full example of how this technique looks.

Step One is to paint your model up to normal standard with your base colors, I have used Space Wolves colors here since I've got a bunch of the Wolves laying about not doing anything!

Step Two starts by finding an appropriate spongy material. For this tutorial I used a small chunk of blister pack foam:Once you've located an appropriate material, rip off a ragged piece like I have above and dip an end into a darker colored paint. For this tutorial I mixed 50/50 Shadow Grey/Chaos Black. Apply the color to the model where damage would normally take place. Don't worry about being too liberal, you can always clean it all back up with the base color to get just the right amount of damage.

Step Three is as simple as highlighting the bottom edges of the damaged areas to add a slight bit of depth to the 2D surface. Here I've used Space Wolves Grey.

You can really go nuts with this technique in both color variation as well as amount of damage you apply. The randomness of the ragged sponge pieces help add realism compared to hand painting it on. I plan on using this on many many more projects in the future. It's just to simple!

What have you used to get realistic battle damage on projects? Feel free to share your ideas and experiences!

Take care of your brushes

To paraphrase the old commercial, "take care of the things that take care of you," and taking care of your brushes is what any good painter should do.

Nothing is worse than an expensive sable brush that has lost its point and is clogged up to the ferrule with dried paint. Here's a few tips to keep that from happening to you:

The Don'ts:
  • Don't let paint dry on the brush
  • Don't load paint up to the ferrule (metal part)
  • Don't use a good brush to mix paint or add water to paint
  • Don't store your brushes point down
The Dos:
  • Do use a large container for rinsing-- a Mason jar works great
  • Do rinse and clean your brushes after each use
  • Do rinse the brush "mid-flight" when painting large batches
  • Do keep your brushes dry when not in use, and not being conditioned

If you've never used Pink Soap then you need to go out to your local arts and crafts store and buy some now. Your brushes will get a whole new lease on life. Even if you've got an "old crusty", giving it a good pink soap wash and then letting it condition with a little pink soap can really bring it back to life. If you have a brush, then you need to have brush soap!

A word on brush selection: while you will get great results with expensive brushes, you can get very good results with much cheaper brushes that you take care of. I look for the cheapest red sable (lower quality sable) brushes that come to a good point. These usually cost much less than the Winsor and Newtons and perform almost as well. When well cared for these cheaper brushes will provide a long service life. And frankly my painting skills just don't require such fine brushes.

If you are using any type of speed-painting techniques and not doing a lot of detail, definitely don't spend your money on the big-bucks brushes.

For more reading, check out these brush selection and cleaning links.

What do you do to take care of the brushes that take care of you?