Friday 6 December 2019

Dirt, damage and decay - weathering a Kastelan Robot.

I am pleased to announce I will be back at Element Games in Stockport with another masterclass on the 23rd and 24th May 2020!!

The chosen model for this two-day master class is an Adeptus Mechanicus Kastelan Robot from Games Workshop. There will be an emphasis on the techniques I use to paint textured damage and corrosion over a variety of surfaces and materials.

Topics & techniques to be covered will include:

  • Assembly and preparation including the addition of real surface textures to a model;
  • Priming a model and choosing a base colour;
  • An overview of contrast and colour theory, and their application to creating a successful paint scheme;
  • Painting volumes and forms;
  • Painting true metallic metals;
  • Creating and enhancing painted texture - stippling, dry brushing and freehand textures;
  • Weathering effects including battle damage, corrosion and staining;
  • Adding finishing touches and special effects to a painted miniature.

For more information and to book a place please follow the link to Element Games

Monday 2 December 2019

Rockgut Troggoth – Part 6. Some thoughts about painting hands.

For the best part of a year I’ve had difficulty in establishing a regular painting routine. That hasn’t prevented me from making progress but it’s been coming in fits and spurts. Now life is settling into a more regular pattern I’ve been able to focus my energies back onto my hobby and, over the last week, I’ve made a point of painting every day. Taking a ‘little but often’ approach is a very good way of getting back into the swing of things. I think its far better to break out the brushes for an hour or so every day than to attempting some sort of marathon painting binge!

It’s a less punishing approach and it works very well for me because, if things don’t go so well, I can simply put my brushes down and try again tomorrow. I usually find that after a couple of days I get into the flow and end up painting for three to four hours a day. Such has been the case and it’s resulted in some satisfying and productive painting.

Which is just as well because it was time to turn my attention to one of the potentially tricky parts of the model. Hands may not be quite as difficult to paint as faces but I’m undecided about that! A model’s face is usually its focal point and a major element in creating the illusion of a living being, but don’t ever overlook the hands. Hands are used to communicate and they can be just as expressive as a face. They are usually a key element in a model’s pose - be that making a specific gesture, holding a weapon or as part of a greater action. Hands will always be doing something, even if it’s something subtle.

On top of those considerations hands have a lot going on in terms of their form and structure. Fingers are not simply fleshy sausages (unless you are having a very bad painting day) but contain bones, joints and tendons all of which affect the overall form. It’s important to have an awareness of the structures inside a hand in order to paint the outside surface.

In addition to that some of the structures inside a hand, like the veins and joints, may be visible through the skin. As if things aren’t complicated enough you also need to consider how the character’s age, gender, ethnicity and species will affect your painting choices. In short hands can be extremely complex to paint and, like a face, if you get them wrong they will undermine everything else!

Which should all go towards explaining why I’ve taken the best part of a week to paint one hand on my Troggoth! It’s particularly important to take the time and effort in this case because the hands are, literally, a huge part of the Troggoth. The hands are at least as big as the model’s head and feature the distinctive stony scales that are a defining element of the Rockgut Troggoth.

My colour palette for the hands is the same as for the fleshy parts of the Troggoth. I‘d considered painting the hands in the same grey/brown colours as the stony back. But I felt they would not stand out against the boulder they were holding if I did this. I also wanted to create some variation within the stony textures on this model to describe the transition between rock and flesh. To do this I’ve painted the stony parts of the hands and forearms in my flesh colours. So, although painted with the same sharp highlights, the ‘pinker’ stone parts look a little softer than the grey stone parts.

Monday 25 November 2019

Sproket's Troggoth Masterclass - January 25th & 26th 2020

The Troggoth Masterclass has proven to be my most popular painting class so I’m delighted to be returning to Lead Belt Studio in Nottingham, to run it once more! This will be the last opportunity to attend my Troggoth Masterclass before I announce a new workshop in 2020.

For further details and booking info go to the Lead Belt Studio website.

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Adding plant effects to a model. Or, the grass is always greener on the other side of the Troggoth!

Now that the paint job on my Troggoth is progressing I’ve been able to implement something I’ve had planned from the start. That’s the addition of grass, moss and lichen to the rocks on the Troggoth’s back. I consider these sorts of additions to be ‘special effects’ and, done successfully, they can add extra layers of texture, detail and interest to a painted mini. The addition of plant effects to my Troggoth will also help to tie him in more closely with the environment and narrative I’m going to create on the base.

There were a couple of factors I had to take into consideration and the most important by far was scale. It’s all too easy to blow the scale of an effect by making it too big. This applies to drips and splashes as well as it does to vegetation and, if such additions are too big, they will look unrealistic and cartoony at best! As a rough guide I tend to make these effects half as small again as I think they will need to be. This usually works out about right but, if you feel you are going too small, remember it’s easier to add more later on than it is to remove it and start again.

The second factor is specific to adding plant effects to a model. Over the years I’ve decided that my plant effects look better if I combined several different types. This is based on observation as you nearly always find a mixture of plants growing together. Even a simple area of grass can contain a wide variety of species. On a miniature this approach will result in a more realistic effect creating a varied texture that adds a lot of interest!


In the case of my Troggoth I wanted the plants to look like they were growing in the cracks between the rocks on his back. The first step was to use grass tufts. However, grass tufts can often look a bit too dense when used straight out of the pack. What’s more even the smallest of the tufts were far too big for my purposes because I most definitely did not want to create a heavy mane of foliage.

I always pick through grass tufts removing any lose or oddly angled fibres to thin them out a little. In addition I usually cut my grass tufts down to the required size. These steps will create a more natural, less regular, appearance. A surgical scalpel was perfect for this as it enabled precision and control. There is no getting away from the fact that this sort of work is extremely fiddly but I think it’s well worth the effort!

The resulting micro tufts often comprise of only a few fibres but they are perfectly in-scale for use on the Troggoth’s back. To apply them I pick each tuft up using needle nosed tweezers and carefully dip the rooted end into Vallejo Matt Varnish. I then position them onto the model where the matt varnish will hold them into place. Do not leave the model unattended because the surface tension of the adhesive can sometimes pull such small items out of position. If this happens nudge the tufts back into position using the tip of a clean dry paintbrush.

I’ve found that Vallejo Matt Varnish is an excellent adhesive for fixing small, lightweight, elements onto a model. Once dry it has a clear matt finish that effectively disappears on a painted surface. Just as importantly, if things go wrong, the varnish can be removed, before it dries, with a clean damp paintbrush leaving no visible traces. I’ve used Vallejo Matt Varnish to fix grass tufts, laser cut leaves, cotton wool tufts and microbeads onto my models.

You can further enhance the natural appearance of grass tufts by adding individual stems made from old paintbrush bristles. This gives the effect of different varieties growing together and creates a more varied grass texture with different lengths. My preferred source for the bristles is an old natural bristle paintbrush. The ends of the worn bristles are tapered and sometimes split making them ideal for use as grass stems.

The bristles can be painted, stained or left natural depending on the look you want to create. I trim the bristles to length and then dip the root end into matt varnish. That end is then inserted down into the grass tuft creating the effect of a longer coarser stem growing up through the tuft. This is something I nearly always do when I’m using grass tufts.

Moss and Lichen

I think the grass looks good on my Troggoth but the addition of a little moss and lichen would greatly enhance it! The first part of this process was done using tiny wisps of sponge. These were picked off a piece of synthetic sponge using my tweezers and then torn into even smaller pieces. I did say this was fiddly!

The resulting wisps are VERY small but have a convincing plant texture. The next step is to paint them green and I did this by dabbing them with a paintbrush. Do not dunk the sponge wisps into your paint. You need all over coverage but must avoid saturating the sponge and filling in the cells. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step.

Once again I used the matt varnish as an adhesive. In this case I applied a small dot of varnish to the model and then fixed the sponge to that. As with the grass tufts, keep an eye on it as it dries.

The third type of plant texture is made using chinchilla sand. I made up a mix of the chinchilla sand, green paint and matt varnish. The varnish makes the mix bond together once dry and stops it crumbling off the model. This was applied, with a brush, into the crevices on the Troggoth’s back. Remember my warning about keeping effects in scale and only apply a tiny amount at a time. When I use this mix I am often quite literally pushing it around one grain at a time. Now that’s REALLY what I call fiddly, but it makes a difference!

Muddy Roots

I’ve also added grass, moss and lichen to the rock the Troggoth is holding. I want it to look as if it has just been picked up off the ground. To further enhance this effect I’ve added roots and soil to the underside of the rock. The roots are taken from some bamboo growing in my, overgrown, garden. I stuck the roots on to the rock with PVA glue because this has a stronger bond than the varnish.

When the PVA was dry I add my 'soil' mix of chinchilla sand, Scalecolour brown leather and a couple of drops of Valleyo Matt Varnish. The chinchilla sand is my current choice for making a fine texture paste. It has many similar qualities to baking soda not least its’ ability to absorb colour. So far it has proved to be more stable than baking soda so I’m beginning to use it more extensively. Only time will tell if it remains stable in the long term but it’s a risk I’m ready to take.

Once the soil mix was dry I glazed some dilute brown leather into the surrounding areas to blend the edges a little. I then added a few dollops of the soil mix to the roots to make them look as if they had just been pulled up.

For the time being I’m very happy with how the plant effects have worked out on my Troggoth. Once he is based up I may add a little more to him but I need to get an idea of the overall composition before I make a final decision.

At this point I want to say that in my view using ‘special effects’ on a miniature should be approached with some consideration and caution. Special effects can enhance a miniature by contrasting with the painted surfaces. They should only be used when and if their addition is appropriate to the miniature and not simply because they look ‘cool’.

Special effects will not make a weak paintjob better but, if used unsuccessfully, they could ruin a good paintjob. Having said that the successful use of these effects can bring a painted miniature up to a new level of technical skill and greatly enhance its atmosphere and narrative!

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Rockgut Troggoth – Part 5. Now with added goblin!

October was quite a month, beginning with my Troggoth workshop in Nottingham and finishing, back in Nottingham, with the Golden Demon Winners’ Day. But the most significant thing by far was my partner Mark’s return to hospital mid month! This was for a planned procedure to, hopefully, sort out the last lingering issues from last year’s illness. I’m happy to say everything went very well and Mark made a swift recovery. We are now looking forward to getting our life back to normal after a difficult sixteen months.

Not surprisingly I haven’t got a huge amount of painting done recently. This is not to say that there hasn’t been any progress because I’ve finally been able to put my sub-assemblies together and it’s great to be able to work on the model as a whole! Most significantly I’ve been able to resolve my ideas for the overall project.

I get a great deal of pleasure from painting a mini to the best of my ability, and I’m happy with this aspect of things; but I felt there was something missing. I need to do more than an out-of-the-box paintjob if I want a viable competition piece. In order for the model to be up to competition standard the Troggoth needs some element of story telling to give it a context.

Often this would involve conversion work but in this case I’d constructed the mini exactly as I wanted it, so my narrative will develop from the basing. This will be done, in part, from the creation of an appropriate environment but I am also going to include an extra mini, to interact with the Troggoth.

The environment was something I’ve already given a lot of thought to. This project is inspired by my 1988 Troll and, like him, the Troggoth will be perched atop a pile of rocks. The difference is that in this case the rocks will comprise of the rubble and broken statuary of an ancient ruin. I’ve made this using a combination of plastic scenery pieces and plaster. The plaster elements were first cast as simple blocks and then smashed with a dirty great hammer, which seems quite appropriate for the Age of Sigmar. I then refined the plaster rocks with some carved details.

The rock elements were pinned and glued together onto a plinth using Superglue. Once the glue had set I filled the gaps and built up a ground surface using Milliput. The addition of a little garden soil, sprinkled onto Superglue, creates a great texture for the ground. The tricky part is making the back and sides of the plinth blend seamlessly with the additional materials. This involves a lot of careful sanding and filling to create a smooth surface. Although a fiddly process it’s well worth the time and effort because sloppy base work will seriously undermine a painted model.

The element of an additional miniature is the biggest change to my original concept but it’s also the most important. The Troggoth looks great on his own but, with a pose that puts him in the middle of the action, I felt that I could tell a more complete story if I gave him a reason to be hurling his boulder. One way to do this would be to show the Troggoth’s intended target and turn the piece into a duel, but that didn’t spark my interest.

The idea that appeals to me is to show the great lumbering Troggoth getting his orders from a diminutive goblin, who is pointing emphatically at some unseen (by the viewer) target. As well as giving a context to the Troggoth it introduces a touch of humour. The story feels appropriate for its protagonists with the goblin making use of the large, and stupid, Troggoth’s strength for it’s own sneaky purposes.

Putting the final composition together will take a lot of care but, even after the roughest of test fittings, I’m getting a good feeling about the new direction for this project.

Thursday 10 October 2019

Rockgut Troggoth – Part 4. Not just any old rag & bone!

The Nurgle Tank remains my main project and that’s likely to be so for the best part of 2020. However, I’ve decided to stick with painting my Troggoth for a while in order to get him finished. That way I’ll have at least one finished mini to enter into some of next year’s competitions.

The Troggoth is gradually coming together and painting is well past the halfway point. I’m happy with the flesh tones so most of the remaining work involves finishing up the limbs and attaching (seamlessly!) the rock and hands.

But one area remained unresolved and it’s been bugging me! That’s the loincloth and it proved to be quite important to the overall scheme. My initial thoughts were to paint it as some sort of animal skin, possibly patterned with stripes. To that effect I blocked in some brown tones, but I instantly regretted it!

The brown was far too close to the overall tone of the skin. Some contrast of colour and tone was very much needed here! After further consideration I decided to use a cooler and darker colour for the loincloth. My choice was a dark cool grey with a subtle green hue.

Although it contrasts with the warm flesh tones the green hue will tie in with the rocks and boulders working as a part of the overall scheme. My base colour is a mix of Vallejo Dark Sea Blue and Scale Colour Black Leather. This is a very useful mix that I discovered when I was painting my Tomb King. By varying the proportions of the mix it’s possible to get either a cool or warm dark neutral tone.

To highlight the loincloth I added Scale Colour Field Grey to the mix and worked up to pure Field Grey. I finished off with a little Rakarth Flesh and Field Grey for the highlights. Field Grey is an interesting shade as it was a subtle green hue that adds some low-key colour contrast to my overall scheme.

I was instantly more comfortable with the result so I pushed on and worked a little texture into my painting. I didn’t want to overdo this but rather create a subtle look of worn and battered leather. To further the idea of hard use I added some orange/brown to the bottom edge of the loincloth. After all I don’t imagine a Troggoth’s loincloth would stay fresh and dainty for very long!

The palette of colours I used to paint the loincloth and bones.

The final touch was to paint the bones that are tied to the loincloth and here again contrast was key. Obviously the lighter bone colour would stand out against the loincloth but there were other factors to consider too. The highlights on the bones, and teeth, are warmer than the highlights on the rest of the model as I used Flayed One Flesh rather than a Rakarth Flesh and white mix. Once again I had to keep the contrast subtle but it helps to make these details pop out.

The loincloth may be a relatively small detail but it gave me the opportunity to introduce some colour and texture contrasts to the model, I think it successfully contributes to the Troggoth’s overall impact.

Friday 4 October 2019

Sproket did Troggoths in Nottingham.

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since my Troggoth workshop in Nottingham, how time flies! The run up to the weekend was busy as I checked through my workshop notes making sure that everything was still up to date and relevant. Even a tried and tested workshop needs to be kept current and this was only the second time I’d done Troggoths. Having said that it’s become my favourite workshop to run because the Troggoth models are perfectly suited to the topics I like to teach.

On the Friday before the workshop I was able to indulge in a long held wish. I finally got to see the Slayer Sword Winners board at Warhammer World with my name immortalised in glorious wood! It was something I’d never got round to seeing for all the years it was on display with my 1990 win fourth on the list. When I won my second Sword in 2013 I thought my chance had come and, even better, I’d have my name at either end of the list. But before I could manage to get to Warhammer World the boards were removed as part of a refurbishment. It’s an unimportant thing really but I felt gutted! So I was delighted to hear that the boards were back and updated so that all five of my Swords were there. I know that gloating is not an admirable quality but I did allow myself a few moments, after all it’s been a long wait.

Saturday and Sunday were the workshop days and I had a full programme of teaching to get through. It was a busy two days for all and the time flew by incredibly quickly. That was helped in no small way by the venue. Lead Belt Studios is a fairly new venture but the venue and set up were ideal and facilitated a friendly and informal atmosphere that added a lot to the experience. On Sunday, in particular, with everyone relaxed and in full swing, there was a lot of (mostly) hobby related chat.
I’m not going to go into great detail about the workshop myself because Ross over at the has written down his own impressions of the weekend. He has said some very nice things about me but my main reason for sharing (honest) is that I think it’s more useful and interesting to get the views of a workshop attendee rather than my own.