Thursday, 29 April 2021

Project P30 - Part 11

Skulls, Nurglings, Tentacles and a spot of bother with my microbeads!

Since I started painting my Daemon Engine at the beginning of February, I’ve made very good progress because I’ve managed to paint for a few hours almost every day. In fact, at times, I’ve almost gotten ahead of myself. I went into the painting stage of this project with a plan, of course, but I had many different options. That’s because I’ve spent years thinking about this project so I have a lot of ideas for how I could paint it. Far more ideas than I can (or should) incorporate into one scheme! 

So part of the challenge I face is to sort through all the ideas I have and edit them down to those I’m going to implement. I have to make just as many choices about what I’m not going to do as to what I am going to do. This is where my notebook and a file of reference/inspirational images have come to the rescue. They help me to keep track of my changing ideas and make sure I don’t forget any of them when the time comes to make a decision. This is an ongoing process because the more I paint the more resolved my ideas become but they can also develop in directions I’d not anticipated.

Every now and then I need to pause, sit back and consider my work. Which is just what I hadn’t been doing so it should come as no surprise that I found myself working on a part of the model for which I had no firm plan. The back of the left arm featured the sculpted detail of three skulls, forming a Nurgle icon, set into a large open wound. Very gruesome and apparently straightforward, all I had to do was paint what was in front of me.

However, I had a nagging feeling that I needed to do something with this area other than just paint it as it is! The skulls are a great detail in their own right but were too distinctive a detail from the donor model (Great Unclean One) and in the new context seemed a little fiddly. Whenever I’ve had doubts or problems with this model I find the best solution is nearly always to be bold, so I decided to replace the skulls with something a bit more dynamic!

I chose to have a Nurgling popping out of the wound. I painted my Nurgling, stuck him in place and filled the surrounding wound with microbeads. As it turns out this was not a good choice because I had replaced one fiddly detail with another. In addition to that the microbeads looked very artificial. It was time to follow my own advice and be bolder! 

I scraped away the microbeads and prised the Nurgling off the model. Then I took my Dremel and ground away all the detail of the wound to make a deeper recess. This was nerve-wracking work, and it made a horrible mess, covering the area in tiny plastic flecks that were very difficult to clean off the painted surfaces. But no pain no gain!

I decided to see how the model looked with a tentacle hanging out of the wound. This was a much bolder element than the skulls or Nurglings and it also tied in to the other tentacles on the model. A quick test fitting confirmed that this was a move in the right direction but I decided to add two tentacles because that was a little more dynamic than just one. I pre-painted and varnished the tentacles before I pinned and glued them into place. Next I had to deal with the wound and microbeads. 

I’ve covered the use of microbeads on this blog before and you can find my tutorial HERE. However as time has passed I’ve gained more experience with my technique and materials.

I still recommend applying the microbeads one at a time as this gives far more control over the final look. If you fill or cover an area with a mass of microbeads in one go the finished result can be formless and bland. Taking care with their placement will enable you to ‘sculpt’ with the microbeads and create some form and structure to your effect.

In my experience water effects is the best medium to fix your microbeads in place and bind them together; but it can also be mixed with a range of differing materials to tint it. Of course quantities used can be varied to adjust the finish but the examples bellow show my favourites. 

Water effects finished with a coat of gloss varnish will give a crystal clear finish.

Tamiya clear colours will tint the water effects without lessening the transparency. 
A small amount of pigment powders will give a slightly cloudy and less translucent finish. 
Acrylic paint can create a more opaque effect. 

To varnish or not is a big question because it can radically alter the final result of any water effects. I use Vallejo Still Water which dries to a clear shiny finish but that may change over time. I’ve noticed that over the course of a few days the finish will become a little duller and eventually take on a matt/frosted look. This may be a result of my products being out of date but it has eventually happened in all cases where I’ve not varnished over my water effects! 

However all is not lost because I quite like the frosted/translucent look. It’s an interesting and useful variation on the effect and the frosting doesn’t occur if the water effects have been varnished once they are dried. Where the frosting occurred and was unwanted it was easy enough to fix. I think the frosting is caused by humidity so I take a hairdryer and apply a gentle stream of warm air to the model. The frosting will disappear and the clear gloss finish will return before your eyes - like magic! It is then possible to apply a couple of coats of gloss varnish for a permanent fix. My preferred varnish for high gloss effects is Tamiya clear X-22.

The final update to my use of microbeads and water effects came as a direct result of how they looked on my Daemon Engine. I’ve always intended to feature a quantity of slime and goo on my new model, as it was a prominent feature of the old one. I felt that the semi-opaque look and more muted colour I get from using pigment powders was the way to go because I didn’t want my slime to be too bright and ‘cartoony’. But as soon as I started adding water effects and microbeads to this model it looked very artificial and didn’t feel like a part of the whole.

The solution was to apply some subtle red glazes over the green slime once it was dry. I usually build up a stronger red in deeper areas and along the top edges of my slime. This has the effect of toning down the slime and blending it into the surrounding areas. Even when it has been glossed over the slime now feels like a part of the whole scheme.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Project P30 - Part 10

Painting skin tones in three (painfully complicated) steps!

Over the last few weeks I’ve established a good routine where I’m able to paint for a few hours every day and it feels like I’m making steady progress. There is still a lot to be resolved with regards to how I use my colour palette, but the more I get done the more developed my ideas become. I am especially happy with how well the flesh tones are coming together. 

When I started painting, I thought that my plans for the flesh tones had gone out of the window in favour of something similar to what I’ve done before. However, as I’ve explored my colour palette, and the surfaces involved in painting the flesh, things have become a bit more interesting for me. Although the flesh tones I’m painting are similar to those in earlier projects, I’ve been able to incorporate the pale tones and cool hues I intended. The result is a more complex and nuanced Nurgle flesh than I’ve painted before. 

Overall this is a very satisfying outcome. It’s keeping me challenged and interested during the painting process and the results feel appropriate to a model of this size and scope. I think a straightforward application of my Plaguebearer flesh tones would have looked far too basic on this model! 
This Nurgling was painted to give me a change of pace
and will be added to the Tank (along with others of it's kind) later on.
I’ve already shown the colour swatch from my notebook but lets now look at the actual palette I’m using for my flesh tones. 

Global Shadow colours.

Black Leather
Boreal Green

These two colours are used in all of the shadows. The exact proportions I use in the mix vary depending upon the values of hue, temperature, tone and saturation I want. Broadly speaking, the shadows tend to be cooler than the mid-tones and highlights. To adjust the nature of my shadow colours, Black Leather will warm things up and desaturate while the green will give a cooler but more saturated colour. Boreal Green is, like many blue and green hues, a very pigmented colour and should be used cautiously. A little bit of Boreal Green will go a very long way!

Global Highlight colours.

Flayed One Flesh
Purity White
Flayed One Flesh is currently my favourite highlight colour it makes for bright, warm highlights. When I want to push things a little further I use Purity White. It is a slightly translucent soft white that will not overpower a colour mix. I’ve found that, although I need a little white in my highlight mix, here and there, I need to be very sparing with its use.


Bugmans Glow 
Bering Blue
Sherwood Green
Blood Red
Sahara Yellow
Rakarth Flesh

There are quite a few colours in my mid-tone range but I am not necessarily using them all together at the same time. As with the shadows, I will vary things to adjust the values of the colour I want. I’ve found that pale flesh tones look very good if they contain elements of blue, red and yellow, so I’ve included these colours in my mid-tones. Green is there to introduce a Nurglish element and Sherwood Green is a favourite colour in my Nurgle schemes. It’s a yellow green that works very well in warmer flesh tones and compliments the cooler Boreal Green I’ve used in the shadows

Bering Blue is my blue of choice for flesh tones. It is a subtle desaturated hue that will not overpower other colours in a mix. I especially like using it to create cool reflections within my shadows, adding extra nuance to those areas. 

As well as serving as a base colour for my flesh tones, Rakarth Flesh is a useful addition to the mid-tones. It’s inclusion helps to unify all the colours into a convincing whole. It may not be obvious but there is nearly always a little Rakarth mixed in with my mid-tones.

As my title suggests painting the fleshtones on my Demon Engine is a complicated process! It involves a lot of going back and forth to adjust the values of my colours. One thing it most definitely isn’t is a regular step-by-step process. Naturally enough some areas are difficult to get right while others fall into place more easily; but the overall process can be loosely described as having three stages. It usually takes me between eight and twelve hours, spread over several painting sessions, to be satisfied with my work on a particular area.

The first stage is the most systematic as I block in the overall placement of my highlights and shadows. This will provide some structure to my painting. I will adjust the characteristics of my colours but the placement of highlight, mid-tone or shadow is fixed. In addition to the tonal values I will make initial decisions about the hue, saturation and temperature of my colours. 

It’s during the second painting session, having taken the time to sit back and study my work, when I will fine tune the colour values. I am considering the area I am working on and it’s relationship to the model as a whole, to influence my choices. This work is carried out with a succession of glazing, stippling and thin layers. It is a process of going back and forth between colour values, using different techniques, in no specific order. This is by far the longest (and potentially most frustrating) part of the process, if things don’t go well. I will also begin to consider and introduce texture. 

Once again I will take time to step back from painting and consider my next moves. Time spent thinking about painting is at least as important as time spent painting. Step three is where I will finesse my work. Any adjustments to the colour values are usually subtle and most changes will involve refining the textures and transitions. 

To be honest I’m thoroughly enjoying myself as I push all this paint around!

Friday, 12 March 2021

Project P30 - Part 9. Metallics, molars and monster skin.

I’ve made a good start at establishing the flesh tones on my Demon Engine but, before I get too far into the project, I want to turn my attention to the metalics. The contrast between flesh and metal is a big part of what this model is all about. So I want to establish that contrast at an early stage. I’d decided quite some time ago that true metalics were the way to go on this project. The difference between the shiny true metalics and the flesh would add to the overall material contrasts on my model. The large size of the model lends itself to the use of true metalics as there will be plenty of space to play with the effect. 
I prefer to paint my metalics over a dark base so I blocked out the eyepiece with Black Leather from Scale colour. I find that using a brown hue for my base colour helps to give the metalics a dirty and corroded look. My plan was to paint the main box as dull steel and the lens mounts and other parts in copper and bronze hues. To get things off to a start I painted a layer of GW’s Leadbelcher. 

As I painted the flesh tones I’d begun to wonder if true metalics were the correct way to go but this was nothing compared to my reaction to the colour I’d just applied. I loathed how the metallic paint looked on my model! Normally I’d stick to my guns and persevere, to resolve any issues, but this time I decided to switch to painting non-metallic metals (NMM). There was no deeply thought out reason for the change, I was simply following my instincts.

I decided to paint all the NMM colours using the palette I’d already devised for the flesh tones. I think my negative reaction to the metallic paint was, in part, because it looked very artificial and separate to the rest of the model. By using the same overall palette for the flesh and metal they will sit together more comfortably on the model. 


I was still going to use a dark brown base colour and would, for the most part, paint my metalics from dark to light. This approach, along with the use of sharp highlighting and strong tonal contrasts, will create the material contrast between the soft flesh and hard metal. In short, although using the same colours, I’m using different techniques to represent different materials.

I don’t want to get too bogged down while painting one small area at this early stage. However, my painting needed to be slower and more detailed than anything I’d done on the flesh so far. I needed my work for the eyepiece to be crisp and precise to emphasize that material difference. It took me a couple of days to resolve things but I am very happy with the result and I’m now sure that NMM is the correct approach for this project. Of course this means that I’ll now have to repaint the belly cannon at some point!

Once the eye was painted I turned my attention to the teeth as the next step in completing the face. I usually paint teeth with a warm ivory hue but I felt this would be to clean looking. For the highlight colour I would use Flayed One Flesh as usual but I decided upon a dark base colour of Black Leather, which also serves as my global shadow colour. In the mid tones I’ve used a variety of blue, yellow, green and brown hues all mixed with Rakarth Flesh. This creates a subtle greenish/grey hue to the teeth and creates a slightly rotten look that feels appropriate.

It was especially fiddly to get my brush into all the areas where I needed paint on the teeth. Without a doubt this model, due to its size and shape, is tricky to paint; and it’s going to involve some awkward brush angles! The solution requires patience as I’m spending a lot of my time making repeated passes to gradually refine my, initially crude, painting. I’d already painted and varnished the tongue as a sub-assembly so once the teeth were done I could glue it into place. The mouth is now fully painted although there will be a layer of drool effects added at a later date.

It’s easy to lose track of the overall balance within the paint scheme on a model of this size, especially when concentrating on one small area at a time. So this was a good time to step back and take stock. I decided to extend my painting to the upper belly/torso areas so that I could get a better feel for my overall scheme. Where necessary I’ve adjusted the colours and tones I’d painted with a combination of stippling and glazing. 



I’ve also begun to tidy up and smooth out some of my earlier painting. The intention is to refine and adjust my painting but not to smooth everything evenly over the entire model. There is a lot of sculpted texture on my tank but I want to add painted textures too. This will add interest and variety to the surfaces and enhance the material contrasts. Rather than adding painted textures as a separate stage I am trying to incorporate them as the scheme develops. 


This project continues to challenge me both physically and mentally but that’s the entire point of it after all!

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Project P30 - Part 8. Lets get the painting started!

I wondered if I’d ever get to this stage but, at long last, I’m painting my Demon Tank! However, before the ‘fun’ could start, there was one last little bit of preparation to be done. I had to wash the model prior to priming it. This was to remove any grease and dust that had built up during the construction of the model. It’s essential to have a clean surface before you apply any paint. I first masked off the belly-mouth and then set to with an electric toothbrush and dish soap. Once I’d given the model a careful scrub, I gently rinsed it off under cool running water. This was a terrifying process as it had the potential to do quite a bit of damage but everything went very well.

The size of this model presented a challenge to me in that I would have to handle it quite a bit during painting. That, combined with the large surface area, meant that priming the model would be essential! I first gave the underside and deeper recesses a coat of black and then sprayed the whole model with several light coats of Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. This is another potentially tricky job but the primer gave me an excellent result!


And so to painting!

Painting this model feels like going on a bit of an adventure. The physical challenges presented by the size of the model are something totally new to me. Add to that the nostalgia, and expectations involved in revisiting my first great success, and the result is a project unlike any I’ve taken on before! That’s the main reason why my colour palette uses a lot of tried and tested favourites. I do believe that stepping out of your comfort zone provides a positive challenge, but I like to pick my challenges carefully. The size and scope of the model is a major challenge in itself. By using a tried and tested palette of colours I’ll be able to draw on my experience with them to resolve the overall paint scheme. After all the entire point of this project is that it’s a coming together of old and new.

As I’ve said I’d expected the size of the model to be something of a challenge and I wasn’t wrong! I started off by attaching a painting handle to the model but took that off straight away. It shifted the centre of balance and made the model too big and awkward to hold during painting. So I am carefully holding the model in my gloved hand while I paint it. The tank weighs very little, which is a great help, but I’ve had to adapt my painting technique and posture to its size.

I’m used to working up close to the surface I’m painting. I usually brace my hand by holding the model on my desk and my brush hand is usually also braced on the desk, or sometimes against the hand holding the model. It’s a very stable set up and allows me a lot of control over my brush. However, in my usual painting position, there isn’t now enough space for the model and my hands between my eyes and the desk! I’ve had to get myself a taller stool so that I can sit a little higher. I also have to adapt to bracing my brush hand against the model rather than my desk.

This new set up is taking quite a bit of getting used to as it’s far more difficult to keep my hands stable during painting. There are some tricky angles involved in getting my brush into contact with the model’s surface and I have to handle the model while I paint it. Challenging as this may all be, I’d anticipated these issues as a part of the project and, so far, there has been nothing that a little patience and perseverance can’t overcome. In fact, I’m enjoying this project because of the challenges not in spite of them!

As usual I decided to start off by painting the face. This is going to set the tone and character of the model. It’s also a relatively small area that contains a lot of contrasting surfaces. So it will give me the opportunity to decide how I am going to resolve many of the material contrasts at an early stage. My usual habit is to work on a fairly small area at a time but, on a model of this size, I think that would be a mistake. Therefore, I decided to work over a larger area, which included the face and chest, by starting out fairly roughly and then gradually refining the painted surfaces as the project evolves. 


After painting a base of Rakarth Flesh, my first layers of paint were applied with a size 4 brush, roughing out the areas of light and shade. I then began to lay down a series of glazes to add and adjust the colour nuances. My next move was to focus on smaller areas to begin refining my work. However, I made sure to keep moving around the overall area I was painting, and not to linger on one spot for too long. This enabled me to balance things out over a larger area than I might normally do and resolve the overall skin tones.

By starting out big and bold I’ve been able to avoid getting stuck on one small area. My overall approach is one of going back and forth between different areas and different tones. This is a very different way of working from a structured step by step approach but it feels appropriate for this model.

I’m very glad that I’d taken the decision to think through my colour palette in advance because it saved me a lot of time and helped me to work swiftly at the early stages. However, as expected, once I started to work with my chosen palette I felt the need to adapt it. I had some definite ideas about the direction I was going to take but, as my work progressed, so did my ideas. As I’ve said before, the good thing about starting out with a plan is that it gives you a structure to work within but it also enables you to vary from that structure in an organised way.

I’d planned to use a cooler blue/green hue on much of the model but, as I progressed, that felt wrong. So I’ve used more of the yellow/green hues from my palette in the flesh tones. I turned to my old favourite of Bering Blue to bring some subtle blue tones to the flesh. I think is a more successful choice than my original option of turquoise. However, I think the blue/green hues will come into play as the project progresses. 


I’d thought that the overall look and feel of my colour palette would be very different to anything I’d done before but, in reality, it’s turning out to have a familiar feel to it. As has already been pointed out on Instagram, my flesh tones have much in common with both my Plaguebearers and my Troggoth. Although it’s not what I’d intended to do, I’m actually very happy with this. It feels like a more natural progression from my earlier work and a truer reflection of my style and instincts.

This project has been in planning for many years so it’s been on my mind as I’ve worked on many other models. Consequently many of my models contain things that I was trying out in preparation for the Demon Tank. My Death Guard, Horticulus Slimux, Kastelan Robot and Sloppity Bile Piper may all have an influence before I’m finished. I don’t want this project to nothing more than a ‘Sproket’s greatest hits’ but it is intended to look back over my past work while, hopefully, continuing my journey to be a better painter. 


I think I’m off to a good start but there is a long way to go yet!

Friday, 5 February 2021

Project P30 - Part 7

So here we are in 2021 and let’s all hope it’s a better year than 2020! For the last few months I’ve been very quiet with regards to painting sculpting and being online because I simply wasn’t ‘in the mood’. That’s not to say I was down or depressed but rather my energy and enthusiasm were directed elsewhere. I rediscovered my love for Lego and spent a lot of my time building a version of Hogwarts Castle to sit on the top shelf of my desk. I didn’t especially need a new hobby but lockdown seemed like a good time to start one. 

I chose a crazy time to put my tank onto the back burner because I was on the verge of completing the construction/sculpting phase. However, I think this pause proved to be an unexpectedly good thing because this was exactly the right time to stop and think. Not that I haven’t spent an awful lot of time thinking about this model already, but this was different. 

Up to this point my design for the tank had existed as an idea but not a completed three-dimensional object. But now I was able to have the entire model in my hands and, as a result, my plans began to evolve.

With the addition of the long awaited chimneys I finally had the overall composition fixed. This meant that I was able to consider all the elements of the model in context. I quickly decided to adjust the angle of the arm swinging the bell. By doing this I was able to raise the bell up. It was a relatively simple change but it opens up the overall composition and makes the pose look more active. After all, if your model is ringing a dirty great bell you want it to look like its giving it some welly! 

My idea had been to paint an updated version of my 1990 Nurgle Predator’s paint scheme. It would consist of a stippled green flesh tone with metallic details. However, I began to feel that this would not be enough. Regardless of how well I painted the model I think it would look very basic in the 1990 scheme.

Miniature painting has come a long way since 1990 and I need to reflect that in my new paint scheme. I want to create a scheme with more drama and contrast than the old one. The new scheme will reflect the range of materials and surfaces present on the model and most especially the transitions between machine and flesh. These areas will be treated differently in terms of colour and texture and the transitions between them should help to tell the story of a Demon engine manifesting itself as flesh.

The next step was to create an initial colour palette. Things will probably change as the project progresses but I need a starting point. The colours in my palette need to fulfil the following roles:
Base colour,
Spot colours,
Nuance colours,
Metallic colours,

Bearing all of this in mind I began by lining up the colours I thought I might use. I then set about testing different combinations in my notebook. You can see my test swatches in the photo below. The first is at the bottom and they progress up the page. 

As you can see, it was during this process that I moved away from my mostly green 1990 colour palette. My new palette gradually became more varied and saturated as my ideas developed. I’ve decided to create a much paler flesh tone than I’d initially planned and graduate this into a dark (almost black) colour on the tank parts. I will also use a cooler palette of greens than I did on my old tank. The overall colour palette will have a lot more variety than my 1990 one but this is a large model and it can take it.

The next step was to paint a full-page colour swatch to see all my colours together. My initial reaction was to realize how similar this scheme looks to the one I used on Gutrot Spume. However this is a misleading impression. It doesn’t reflect the intended paint scheme in terms of the relative proportions of the colours or how the colours will mix together. Many of the subtler relationships between the colours will have to be resolved during painting. I think my colour selection will give me a good starting point to work from but it’s important to be flexible! 

My tank is now in the final stages of preparation for painting. I’ve photographed it for lighting reference. Washed it to remove any dust and grease, left over from its construction, and mounted it onto a painting handle. The final bit of preparation is to give it a light spraying of primer.

Then, finally, I will begin painting the tank!