Friday 23 September 2016

Making a title/name plaque for a display plinth.

A title or name plaque may not always be a necessary and I firmly believe that most finished models should be capable of doing without one. The addition of a title or name plaque won’t make a model any better than it already is but it can provide an extra finishing touch to the presentation of that model.

I’ve had a few people ask me how I made the name/title plaques for my plinths so here is a description of the process I use.

To be honest I should be thoroughly ashamed of myself for not thinking of this years ago! I’m a Graphic Designer so I have all the skills and resources to generate the graphics for title plaques quite literally at my finger tips. Having said that it should be possible for anyone to generate the graphics for a plaque in nothing more sophisticated than Microsoft Word.


Printed plaques - It's very important to use laser prints for this technique. Laser prints are set with heat and the ink is then waterproof. Inkjet prints will not work as they are not waterproof.

Plasticard/styrene sheet – between 1 & 2mm thick

Vallejo matt varnish

Scalpel/craft knife

Two part epoxy glue e.g. Araldite

Paint, ink & washes for weathering.


The graphics are by far the most complicated part of the process but they are also the most creative. As I said above, there is no reason why this could not be done in Word, but I generate the graphics for my plaques in Adobe illustrator. The first step is to decide on a size for the plaque and draw a box to those dimensions to define the working area.

You can use whatever combination of text, illustration and graphics you wish but, remember, clarity is the most important thing to consider. You want the label to be legible at a glance so don’t make things too complicated. A clear font and simple border will usually be the best solution.

Having said that, don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of text graphics, colours and size. Print and cut them out and see how they look on the plinth. I often find that once I see my designs in situ the most successful version is not the one I expected it to be!

The picture below shows some of the different type styles and colours I tried for my Abalam bust.

Once you have printed out your final design make sure to leave a margin of about 5mm around the edges when you cut it out. Now prepare your plasticard by first giving the surface a light sanding and then a thin coat of undiluted matt varnish. This will help the paper to stick to it. You can use whatever thickness of plasticard you like, but I prefer it between 1 and 2mm thick. If you use anything thicker the finished plaque may look too ‘chunky’ on the plinth.

Next soak the paper in a dilute solution of the matt varnish. Roughly 60% varnish to 40% water will do the job. The varnish serves a dual function. It glues the paper to the plasticard and seals the printed paper so that it can be over painted. Soaking the paper ensures that the varnish penetrates the surface. This will soften the paper making it easier to apply. It will also cause the fibres in the paper to swell and the paper to expand a little. As the paper dries it will shrink back and this will help to ensure a flat surface. I use a flat-ended brush to gently work any pesky air bubbles out from between the paper and plasticard. Be careful when handling the wet paper as it can become quite delicate.

Once the paper is totally dry I give it an extra coat of undiluted varnish. When the varnish has dried it’s time to cut the plaque out. When cutting a straight line (use a metal edged ruler) in plasticard, it is only necessary to score the surface a couple of times with a sharp blade. The plasticard will then snap apart cleanly along the scored line.

There is almost always a very slight ridge along the edge of the plasticard and this needs to be carefully sanded away. I like to round off the edges on my plaques when I sand them as I think it gives them a smart finish. The next step is to carefully paint the exposed edges of the plaque black.

You could use your plaque like this, if you wish, but I prefer to take things a bit further and apply some paint effects to give the plaque a distressed look. The degree and nature of the effect very much depends upon what I feel is appropriate for the mini.

I usually darken the outer edges with multiple glazed layers of washes (from Secret Weapon). In addition to that I may apply a combination of sponging, stippling and splattering. In the case of my plague bearers I went all out with painted chipping and rust effects.

The pictures below show a selection of my plaque designs before and after I distressed them.

I use epoxy glue (Araldite) to fix my finished plaque to the plinth. I prefer this to super glue as superglue can sometimes cause white fogging on the plinth. The epoxy glue also has the advantage of allowing enough time to tweak the positioning of the plaque before it sets. Only use a small amount of epoxy, if you use too much it can ooze out from under the plaque when it’s pressed into position!

Monday 12 September 2016

Seeing red

I've been painting the red armour on my Megaboss this week and this has given me cause to consider my approach to painting this particular colour.

Red is the colour of passion, danger and excitement! The eye will pick out a flash of red among other colours making it an excellent accent colour. And we all know that if you paint something red it will go faster!

In a nutshell, red is a very useful colour to have in your palette but, it has to be said, it’s also a potentially tricky one.

The big problem with red is that it can be a very difficult colour to successfully highlight. Once you start to lighten red it can become another colour. Sometimes orange but most commonly pink. This is one situation where simply adding white to a colour to lighten it really won’t work!

My own tendency to over highlight makes this a problem I’m all too familiar with. To overcome this I use a mixture of approaches when highlighting my reds.

It’s very easy to think only in terms of lighter colours when highlighting, however, a slight shift in attitude can provide a solution. Rather than lighter, think brighter! Using a brighter more saturated shade of red for highlights will help to avoid the curse of chalkiness, desaturation and pink highlights.

Instead of building your highlights up from a dark base, try using a bright saturated red as your base colour and shade down from this. A light to dark style of painting can be very effective when used on reds as it gives a rich saturated quality to your colours. I used this approach to paint the jacket on my Uncle John bust.

You will probably need to use a lighter colour in your final highlights, so pick your highlight colour with care. The type of surface you are trying to represent, and how reflective it is, will also affect your colour choices; but save white for the final extreme highlights. For my reds, I like to use gold/peach colours in my highlights. In the case of my Megaboss I'm using  Scalecolour Golden Skin.

Whatever colour you are using it’s important to keep the lightest highlights to the absolute minimum possible. If you go a bit too far with the highlighting (and I often do), not all is lost! Glazing over the red areas can work wonders. A carefully glazed layer of bright-saturated red/orange can restore the mid-tones and boost saturation. You can do this with dilute paint, but ink is really ideal as it is both translucent and saturated. I dilute the ink and work with several subtle layers to control the effect. I glazed over the highlighted reds on my Hellion with orange/red tones to create a saturated fiery red.

I’ve focused on highlighting red because that’s where things often go wrong, but it is also important to think about the shadows. You can mix red with black or dark brown to shade quite successfully, but the finished effect can be a bit flat and uninteresting. The use of a contrasting colour in the shadows can make a big difference. Dark blue or purple are good choices and I’ve even seen green used!

For my Dark Eldar Scourge I've created a 'cool' red by using strong blue tones in the shadows and slightly pink highlights.

Thursday 1 September 2016

Ironjaws Megaboss part 5

It feels like I’m dancing a foxtrot with the Megaboss … painting is going Slow-Slow-Quick-Quick-Slow!

Some areas of the armour come together very easily while others take a lot of effort to resolve. However, I’m very happy with the results, so I think it’s worth the extra time and effort. There is a part of me that wants to jump ahead and start experimenting with freehand decoration, but I think a more planned approach will result in a better mini. The overall colour composition will be stronger if I resolve the armour as a whole before I get stuck into the details.

As I said in my last posting, the basic armour scheme is a simplified version of the one I used on my Dark Eldar Scourges. The main difference is that on the Megaboss the blue/grey colours follow a much simpler progression from dark to light. The Scourge minis had a more complex play of colours in the mid-tone range. The result of this is that the armour on the Megaboss is far less ‘pretty’ and more brutal looking than that on the Scourges. This overall impression feels appropriate to the nature of an Orruk.

The colour palette.


You can see the exact colours I’ve used in the photo above. However I’ve used more generic terms in the description below. It’s very important to think about the type and nature of the colours being used. It’s all too easy to get hung up over using a specific named paint colour and that can limit your creativity.

1. Base
Dark brown mixed with a little Dark blue/green to darken and desaturate it.

2. Mid-tones
Cool grey - Stippled

3. Light mid-tone
Blue grey - Stippled

4. 1st highlight
Blue grey mixed with Light cool grey - Stippled

5. 2nd highlight
Light cool grey- Stippled

6. Colour nuance 1
Orange mixed with brown - Glazed into the shadow areas

7. Colour nuance 2
Orange - Glazed and stippled into the shadow areas, use sparingly

8. Colour nuance 3
Sky blue - Glazed into the mid tones, use dilute and very sparingly

9. Final highlights
White - Keep the final highlights as small and as sharp as possible