Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rules and Holiday

I've started updating the "Rules of Paint Machine." Finally. Just a few thoughts that came to mind as I sat painting and relaxing on the day after my Christamas festivities. I will hopefully continue to expand them in the near future.

I hope all those who are celebrating holidays of whatever sort are enjoying them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

(PM02) Swiss / Landsknechts

I'm working on some commission figures. In talking with the owner, he brought up the idea of a "basic" paintjob for less money. I don't normally do this. But I thought I would give it a try and see how it worked out, since I'm trying to cut the time on some of my own figures. So in this process I skipped or simplified a few steps, and wasn't quite as precise as I might normally be with figures like this.

They were painted in a single color scheme, at the owner's request. But I varied the way in which the colors were used. I've not included step by step instructions on this, nor have I included the time, which I tracked privately.

The next project will be another one of my own and include all the details. I just thought I would include the photos for this one, since I had taken the time to track it all for my own reference.

Base Flesh.

Flesh Wash.

Flesh Highlight.

Eyes (Flesh Wash Socket, White, then Black).

Tidy up flesh mess.

Yellow base.

Yellow wash.

Yellow highlight 1.

Yellow highlight 2.

Blue base.

Blue wash.

Blue highlight.

Steel base.

Buff leather base.

Dark grey (black leather) base.

Red-brown leather & wood base.

Wash on every base since steel.

Base hair. Wash hair with GW Delvan Mud (not shown).

Base grey feather. Drybrush white feather.

Dark gold on sword bits.

Base white shirt.

Wash shirt.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Next Project?

Time to consider the next Paint Machine project. Right now most of what I want to get done is more Romans, and some assorted single Skaven (WFB) figures.

But possibilities for the next project here include:

24 Spanish Scutarii (Crusader & Old Glory)
28 Carthaginian infantry/veterans (Crusader)
28 Thureophoroi (Crusader)
8 Balearic Slingers (Foundry)
12 Cretan Archers (Black Tree Designs)
30 +/- Numidian infantry (Wargames Factory)
30 Ancient Germans (Wargames Factory)
30 +/- Numidian infantry (Old Glory) (When/where did I get these!?)

25 Low Countries Pikemen (Old Glory)
12 +/- Low Countries Plan├žoniers
12-16 (or more) Assorted Artillerists
30 Landsknecht Pikemen (Old Glory)
10 Landsknecht Handgunners (Foundry)

I have some other medievals but don't know what I want to do with them yet.

All of the fantasy stuff I've got on deck at the moment falls into one of three categories, either a single figure, something I need to purchase more of (and I'm on a mini buying "freeze" at the moment,) or something I don't see myself using in the near future (like more Empire infantry.)

There are a couple in the list above that I'm considering, more than some of the others. If anyone cares to have any input, feel free to reply.

(PM01) Romans - Part 7

Step Twenty-Two. Painted all the helmets, shield bosses, greaves, and a few other bits with VMC Old Gold.

Step Twenty-Two: 22 min.
Total: 287 min.

Step Twenty-Three. A slightly diluted GW Flesh Wash on all the gold. I would prefer something a little darker but less red/orange. As much as I like the new GW washes, they're not strong enough on gold for the look I want. Last time I tried it, I had to use two coats. So for now I am sticking with the old Flesh Wash.

Step Twenty-Three: 6 min.
Total: 293 min.

Step Twenty-Four. I highlighted some areas around the tops of the helms, the spine of the boss, and other areas. On the cornu (horn) I made a second pass at highlighting with some old GW Shining Gold mixed into the VMC Old Gold.

Step Twenty-Four: 3 min.
Total: 296 min.

Step Twenty-Five. The crests on the helms were already painted black, so I hit them with a little mix of Black and Mississippi Mud as a sort of highlight. While I had both of these paints out, I also quickly drybrushed the wolf pelt with the Miss. Mud, and painted the opening on the cornu black.

Step Twenty-Five: 5 min.
Total: 301 min.

Step Twenty-Six. Quickie step, but not much to see. Another light drybrush on the wolf pelt with Coat d'Arms Horse Tone Roan. Then a drybrush of GW Dark Flesh on the bear pelt, followed by a light drybrush with Snakebite Leather.

Step Twenty-Six: 2 min.
Total: 303 min.

All done! Way ahead of my initial estimate -- almost half the time, exactly. I really did push myself, and in all honesty these are relatively simple and they are not my best work. But I have a lot of Romans to paint, so I'm looking to make some compromises.

303 minutes /18 figures = 17 minutes per figure (rounded up.)

Not bad. I have 9 more sets of 18 to finish, so that's good news. I will be doing some of them in slightly different colors. The process should be the same, however, and should take a similar amount of time. The time above doesn't include the prep time & basing, of course.

(PM01) Romans - Part 6

I'm just going to lump steps Seventeen through Twenty-One together. Each one involved a thin layer of the dark red I used for the base, mixed with an increasing amount of Vallejo Model Color's Rojo Mate (Matte Red). The first mix was maybe like 1/6, then 1/3, then 1/1, then 2/1 then straight Rojo Mate. Honestly, I have no idea if those numbers are anything near accurate. Sorry. I mix paints by "eye" not by measurement.

As with my previous update, I'll stand by the decision to paint a few extra layers. The total time for all of these steps is only slightly over a minute per figure. Cutting back on a couple of steps may have saved me 10 minutes, but like the final effect.

One note, though... and this may sound a bit like excuse-making, but because of the differences in the finish (sheen) of the two paints, the reds always look more extreme in the photos than in real life.

Step Seventeen: 7 Min.
Step Eighteen: 5 Min.
Step Nineteen: 3 Min.
Step Twenty: 3 Min.
Step Twenty-One: 5 min.
Total: 265 min.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

(PM01) Romans - Part 5

Step Twelve. I painted a base coat of light tan (Vallejo Model Color 912 Tan Yellow) on all of the cloth.

Step Twelve: 14 min.
Total: 221 min.

Step Thirteen. I painted over the tan in all areas except the parts that would have the deepest shadow.

This bottle of Americana Antique White is almost empty. I have bought three other "Antique White" paints and none of them are the same (see next step). Unfortunately both craft stores near me seem to have quit carrying this particular color. It's still listed at their web page, though, so it still seems to be manufactured. Very frustrating. Seems silly to pay the shipping for just one bottle of paint.

Step Thirteen: 7 min.
Total: 228 min.

Step Fourteen. Another highlight using one of the alternate "Antique White" paints mentioned above. It's about midway between the other paint and pure white. At least it makes a good mid-point layer.

Step Fourteen: 6 min.
Total: 234 min.

Step Fifteen. Small highlights at some of the most extreme areas of highlight.

The "three color" style of painting gives decent results. But going with further layers will increase the effect of layering, making it blend (visually) with each extra layer. Looking at the time spent on the last couple steps, particularly this one, you can see how little time it is involved in going that extra step. I was actually wondering if I should have stopped with the previous step. After looking at the time myself, I'm fine with going with 4 or 5 layers on major areas of figures.

Step Fifteen: 3 min.
Total: 237 min.

Step Sixteen. Base coat of red on the shields. Many reds have weak coverage on a black base. Or even over white -- they will look streaky. So I usually figure on at least one "prep coat." If I wanted to paint a very dark red, I'd repeat a second thin layer of this paint next. But I will be painting a bit of a lighter/medium red. So the next step will be... be continued...

Step Sixteen: 5 min.
Total: 242 min.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

(PM01) Romans - Part 4

Step Nine. I painted all the leathery bits, backs of the shields, etc. with GW's Dark Flesh. This took longer than I thought.

Step Nine: 52 min.
Total: 184 min.

Step Ten. Just one figure for this step, but it was one last thing I wanted to get done before doing a black wash. Mississippi Mud on the wolf pelt. This is the same color I use as the basis for most of my bases, plus a hundred other uses. I buy this stuff in bulk and always keep a few bottles stashed in case tragedy strikes and its no longer available. The paint didn't even have time to dry before the photo.

Step Ten: 1 min.
Total: 185 min.

Step Eleven. I did a wash over everything from the last three steps -- the silver, and both browns. This will help cover any slop from drybrushing of the mail (and make it look more like steel than silver), plus tone down & shade the leather, as well as bring out some of the detail in the boots.

Step Eleven: 22 min.
Total: 207 min.

I'm making good time. I'm at least half way done, if not further, and I'm only about 1/3 of the way into my time estimate of 600 minutes (10 hours).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

(PM01) Romans - Part 3

I've been busy with other things the past few weeks, so obviously there have been no updates. Further reason to try to make the best use of my painting time. ;)

Step Seven. I touched up all the non-flesh areas that had gotten some of my sloppy flesh paint on them, especially the metallic areas. This always seems a tedious step, but it's the price I pay for getting the flesh done quickly.

Step Seven: 26 min.
Total: 109 min.

Step Eight. First I did a quick drybrushing of the mail, then I went back and painted the steel parts of the pila, as well as a couple helmets and other bits silver. I'm using a bright (GW Mithril Silver) color because these areas (along with others) will get a black wash later. About half the time on this step was spent on each portion (drybrushing mail, painting other parts.)

Step Eight: 23 min.
Total: 132 min.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Back in a Minute

Quick almost-update. After starting this project, a few things have drawn me away for a week or so. I hope to pick back up over the weekend or early next week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

(PM01) Romans - Part 2

Step Six. The eyes. I paint both the whites and a small black dot on the eyes. I've always done that since my first figures, and after 20 years or so, I've got a decent speed at it.

Sometimes I will need to go back and repaint an eye or two. To do that, I will usually just cover the messed up eye with dark-ish brown, then repaint the white and black. That didn't happen at all this time.

I frequently use some pretty beat-up brushes, but I have set aside a detail brush for very fine work, almost all of that is painting eyes.

A couple of tips...

1. Practice. Like I said, I've been doing it for a long time on a lot of figures. I've painted a lot of very bad eyes.

2. Thin your paints. It will help control where the paint goes, and it will keep the eye area from getting globbed up with paint.

3. Keep in mind the natural movements of the eye on real people. If you screw up and paint the black dot to one side, make the other one fit that gesture. This means that sometimes figures won't be looking straight ahead. In fact, sometimes I don't want them looking straight ahead. But having one guy in a unit of 18 glancing at the man to his left doesn't seem so odd and is better than obsessing over detail that most people won't even notice.

I spent about half the time on the white, half the time on the black dots. Because of the speed I can do this at, it's sometimes the sort of thing I will do while waiting for something else that's going on, like water boiling for dinner, etc. (That's what I did tonight.)

When it's sometimes hard to get enough time to paint, you can find small breaks in your daily schedule now and then to make small progress.

Step Six: 5 min.
Total: 83 min.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paint Machine Project No. 1 - (PM01) Romans

I'm going to do a series of Paint Machine Projects. For each one I will try to push my painting speed while trying not to make too many sacrifices to quality. Although this first Project will help me set a bit of a benchmark, I am still trying to pick up the pace from the past batch of figures I recently finished.

My guess is that I can paint the 18 figures in around 10 hours (600 minutes). I will post my time at each stage, and keep a running total.

I'm working on Late Republican Romans, and have a boatload of plastic legionaries from Wargames Factory to paint for the basis of the army/armies. Some of the peripheral troops may come later. Each unit of legionaries is a group of 18 figures, including 4 "command" figures.

For the purposes of the Paint Machine, the figures are already cleaned, assembled & primed. In this case, the primer is a little rough. These were some of the last figures I primed using Armory black primer, which came out very grainy. That is a discussion for elsewhere, however. On with the painting!

Tonight was flesh night.

Painting flesh is almost always the first thing I do. It's also the messiest. I don't know if it's just the enthusiasm for starting a new project, or just the fact that there's nothing else painted on the figure to "mess up" if I work sloppy. But it works for me.

I've always been able to find good flesh colors with good coverage in the craft store brands, like the one above. They last for a long time as well. Above is the base coat.

Step One: 30 min.
Total: 30 min.

I follow that with a slightly diluted (with clean water) wash using GW's old Flesh Wash. This is now out of production and is like gold to me. I've got another bottle or two horded away and haven't yet figured out what I will do when I run out.

I've wondered if these first two steps could just be combined by using a darker base coat, but the Flesh Wash really does provide a nice gradient, even if I do end up layering on top of some of it.

Step 2: 10 min.
Total: 40 min.

Next comes a highlight of the raised & top areas with the original flesh color. I try to keep this fairly quick & not worry too much over minute precision.

Step Three: 16 min.
Total: 56 min.

I took a shortcut here. This is really two steps. The first (Step Four) is to give one more highlight to the uppermost portions of the flesh and any other spots I want to pick out. I used a mix of slightly the original flesh mixed with white. My guess is that I used about 30-40% white at most. The second (Step Five) was to put a tiny bit of straight Flesh Wash into each eye socket in preparation for painting the eyes.

Step Four: 10 min.
Step Five: 2 min.
Total: 78 min.

Paint Machine Introduction & Summary

The idea behind the Paint Machine is to find a middle ground between detailed, high quality painting and "speed painting." It's an attempt at painting better than average armies, but at a pace that allows the painter to get the figures on the table quickly.

My plan is to use the skills and techniques already learned through years of painting, and try to push them further. I will try to keep a list of tips here, and reference this introduction at the top of the page. I plan to update it as I continue to pick up new ideas. I'm calling them rules. But they're not really rules, as such... more like guidelines. ;)

Let me state once again, to be clear. The goal of this blog is to help myself and maybe help others paint armies. Not individual showpieces.

The Rules of Paint Machine:
Last updated: 26 DEC 09

1. Tools and Work Environment



Work Area


2. General Painting Tips


There are many people with a perfectionist streak when it comes to painting miniatures. That's a great quality for those painting detailed show-pieces or competition entries. For that sort of painting, there are many painting guides that will help you paint at the very best skill level and quality of detail that you can.

I, on the other hand, will tell you to relax and let a few things slide.

The way I look at painting armies for wargaming, there is no right or wrong. There's just a sliding scale of how much time and effort each painter wants to put into their figures. If you want to get armies painted, you've got to be willing to accept that every line, every block of color, etc. may not turn out exactly the way you want.

This is not to say you can't go back and correct something you think looks awful. By all means, paint you figures to meet your requirements. But try to determine a realistic level of quality in the first place, and paint figure that you think look good but to a degree of quality that is realistic in the first place. There are very few armies that look like painting competition winners.

This is important, I think, because I've heard people say, "well, I'm such a perfectionist, I can't paint armies because it takes me a month (or whatever) to do just one figure." The issue here is not necessarily the fact that they are a perfectionist. The problem is an unrealistic concept of what a large army of figures should look like.

Level of Detail

Related to the above comments regarding perfection and what is achievable, I suggest considering what level of detail you consider to be your realistic goal, and set out some guidelines for yourself. Feel free to change this as you are working. If something looks good to you before you're reached your planned level of detail, consider whether you might be willing to stop at that point, and skip a step or two.

As with most other painting considerations, there are no right or wrong ways to paint. Eyes are a good example. Personally, I paint eyes on almost all figures that have them visible. Some people paint the eye areas dark, since realistically, eyes can be hard to pick out from a distance (hence the phrase "don't fire 'til you see the whites of their eyes.") Other people paint the faces, and let the eyes stand out a bit with a wash on the entire face. In any case, it's about your own preference. Don't try to do anything you don't think looks good to you. I can paint eyes pretty fast, so that's why I usually include that step. But, related to the perfection statement above, I'm also willing to accept that sometimes a few figures may not look quite right. I just make sure they're in the back ranks. ;)

Many other details fall into this category. Shield designs on ancients and medievals, for example -- and whether or not to use hand painted shields or transfers, or just solid colors. Lacing on horse & musket era figures is similar. Insignia on modern figures may be another.

If you're going to be painting a few hundred (or many hundred) figures, take a minute to consider what details will stand out when they're on the table, and what level of detail you'd like to see, and most importantly, can reasonably accomplish.

"Assembly Line"

One of the most important factors for speeding up painting is the "assembly line" process. That is taking a group of figures and painting them at the same time. Each step in the process involves paining the same part on multiple figures, before moving on to the next step. The quantities involved may vary by painter & type of figures. I personally paint anywhere from 8 to 30 figures at once.

Like Colors

Related to the Assembly Line process is the idea of painting like colors in one group of figures. With uniformed troops, this is no problem. You can paint a big group of ancient Romans or Seven Years War French at one time, and they will all look the same, so the Assembly Line process is simple.

But what about something like ancient Germans or Celts? Or multi-colored Landsknechts? Or figures in civilian clothes?

The trick I use is to ignore the game (army) organization and pick figures from various units, regements, etc. that will be painted in similar colors, and paint them at one time.

So, for example, for a group of Landsknechts (or WFB Empire state troops) I may take 8 pikemen, 3 handgunners, 3 halberdiers and 2 artillery crew and paint them all in the same scheme of red, green and white. Then I will pick a second batch of similar figures and paint them in blue and yellow, and so on. Although it will delay completion of each individual unit/group/regiment, when I've finished them all it will have taken less time than doing them separately.

The reason is because there is less switching of paints and all the accompanying tasks (thinning paint, washing brushes, etc.) You also don't have to think about how to paint each figure. You know that the given group will all be red and white, so you just paint them that way without delay.

3. Specific Painting Techniques