Thursday, May 28, 2015

Taco Tutorials: Oils, Weathering and Final Touches

So we are at the final installment of my painting tutorials for this round. Here we will see the TURMs get weathered by oils, pigments and have its final details finished off. Without further adieu, lets get started.

Stage 1

To prep for oils you need to give your vehicle a nice, solid gloss coat that can take some abuse from the corrosive elements of the wash. This can actually be a bit finnicky, as many gloss sprays don't seem to have the staying power needed for weathering. I've experienced many failures in this regard, which is always a little traumatising after having invested so much time and effort in a piece. I have long stood by Helmar Crystal Cote gloss Varnish, which in Australia is available at Riot Art stores for around twenty dollars a can. It went out of stock for about a year, but recently has come back online. Spying it back on the shelves I immediately bought six cans =P. Anyway, give your vehicle a nice, consistent coat and make sure the surface is completely covered on both sides. Leave to dry for 24 hours and then you are good to go.
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Stage 2

Now the fun really begins.  With your freshly shiny tank, load up the brush with your selected oil wash (in this I use AK interactive's Dark Yellow Wash, generally speaking for light vehicles you want a brownish-type shading), water around 50 percent with turps and proceed to flood the model. While many modelers prefer pin washing, I find with the subsequent cleanup that level of finesse is unneeded and exhaustive. With the gloss coat you'll find the oils tend to run into and build up in cracks and naturally shade themselves. Again, this is about finding the balance of aesthetic pleasure and laziness. Leave the wash to dry for a few hours, before returning for the next step.
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Stage 3

Cleanup time. You've made a mess, and as your mom always used to say, its your responsibility to fix it. The trick with this stage is to wipe the raised surfaces clean of the wash, to provide shading and weathering to the kit. Without gloss, this would be disastrous, as you would be wiping away your precious airbrush layers, but with the protective layer in place you can go to town without fear of damaging the model itself. Originally I used Q-tips soaped in turps as my tool of choice, but being a bit of a green freak I found these extremely wasteful. Further, Q-tips often leave annoying residual fibers on the model that require further vigilance on your part to clean up. About a year ago I discovered the wonders of the Gaianotes Finish Master tool, an absorbent bit of latex-type material that is easily cleaned in turps and lasts a very long time before needing changing. They also have the added effect of conforming to the surface they are running over, allowing greater control in cleanup and evening of particular lines you may want to affect.
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I find this particular stage of the process extremely cathartic, as its like watching your frog reform into a Sasha Grey or whatever have you.

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Cleaned up and ready to go.

Stage 4

At this point of the process if you wish to add heavy mud layering now is a good moment. For this I utilized MIG's P501 Europe Dry Mud Rough Texture, which I've found is far superior to any other texture pastes I've dealt with previously for 'gunking up' kit. Apply to where you would expect mud to build up heavily with an old brush.

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Stage 5

After the mud if dry its time to de-gloss your AFV. There has long been a debate about the best matt flat finish and personally I had long adhered to Testors Dullcote. However, in recent months I've decided its just too noxious for my tastes, even with the appropriate respiratory gear. I also found that in my new location the high air humidity makes the finish extremely unpredictable, with lots of clouding and general awfulness. I found my salvation in Vallejo's Acrylic Matt in a 50/50 mix with Italeri Thinner. While I've heard horror stories of the Valljo matt, it has performed extremely well for me and seems unaffected by the constant 80% humidity of my environs. Coat your entire model with several thin layers and leave to dry for an hour or so.
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Stage 6

With the newly matted model, its time to finish off the details. I proceeded to highlight the lenses, the canvas, ammo cans, and smoke dischargers before giving them all one more light matt coat.

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Stage 7

 We're now entering the final laps. Now its time to add the dust and mud ubiquitous throughout operating AFVs. For this I took AK Interactive's Dark Mud, European Earth and North Africa Dust and randomly applied them with a very soft, large flat brush, blending them together over the tracks and mud patched to give a generally random effect. The mixture of pigments helps prevent a dominant monotone emerge, which to me tends to ruin the effect of mud.
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With this applied I then spray the whole muddied section with AK interactive's pigment fixer using a PSI of around 15. You need to be careful here, because a high PSI will just blow away most of your pigment and ruin the effect.

Stage 8

Final stage! I haven't worried too much about proper rust on this model, but the tow cable on the front looks decidedly odd in a simple dark gunmetal finish. I coat the whole thing in a base of MIG track brown dampened with fixer, before dotting it with various lighter shades of rust also mixed with fixer.
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After these have dried, I return with a small brush wetted with fixer and proceed the blend the gaudy mess into something more resembling an actual rusty cable.

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And thats it! Glue your components together and your vehicle is done.

Finished Product

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This is probably not the last of my tutorials - for instance I didn't use rainmarks on this - but it gives you a general idea of my approach to wargame mini painting. I hope it was of use!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Khurasan space whale....of DOOM

Another commission for the Khurasan range, this time in the spacey battlefleet area. This rather huge guy is called the Nomad and apparently has some wider sci fi roots I have no idea about.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Taco Tutorials: pre-oil prep weathering

In this tut we will look at what needs to be done to prep our airbrushed model before the gloss coat and oils can be applied. Generally speaking, this consists of chipping and base detail painting.

Chipping theory
Chipping has long been part of my painting repertoire, although my old style was markedly different to the techniques I use today. Previously, I tended to chip manually, utilizing a hand brush to pick out individual spaces with black and then applying metal to the middle. Although this was adequate, it never really achieved an aesthetically pleasing finish and also looked incredibly artificial.

For roughly the past four to five years I've been utilising a sponging technique that makes the chipping effect far more random by taking the individual decision making out of the equation. As my wife has pointed out, part of the problem with the human brain in making random decisions is that it tends to try and order everything. This is why flocking our bases with individual patches of grass often looks far too consistent to be truly representative of a natural, organically developing scene. So too with chipping. While the sponging technique still requires us to decide the general areas of the vehicle to which it is applied, the actual application of individual chips is essentially random.

In addition to sponging, over the past few months I've also started utilizing a staggered highlighting technique to add further variance to my wargame pieces. This adds further contrast to dark chips and I think adds another level of vibrancy to a modulated model. Anyhoo, without further ado, lets jump in.

Stage one

With our modulated model in hand, we now need to start the weathering process. Before jumping into oil territory, this consists of a few key steps that add greater nuance and depth to the model. The first of these is a scheme of staggered highlights that represent the worn edges of the vehicle that have yet to properly erode down to the undercoat and metal.

Given the light nature of the model, I've chosen to use a plain white for this and a size 0 brush. To apply this technique we look for edges and raised surfaces that might come under wear from the natural environment and crew usage. Rather than simply apply a straight line, however, we draw the brush along the target length ways and stipple as randomly as possible, leaving gaps between the individual highlights.

This can be an exhaustive process, but the end result is quite satisfying I find. For other colors I generally suggest a 50/50 combo of the highest modulation color and plain white, you want the contrast to be considerable at this stage, as it will fade with later weathering stages.

Stage 2

With the highlights complete, its now time to add proper worn chips to the mix. To achieve this effect I combine an old brush with some decent packing foam often found in wargaming blister packs and such. While some modelers like to utilise multiple colors of chips, I have always been happy with a single tone - Vallejo dark rust. Add a blob to your palette, dip in the brush, then use some paper towel to wipe off most of the excess. Test the brush on the towel to ensure that it is leaving a 'splatter' impression with numerous distinct flecks, rather than just making a solid color. Target areas where the vehicle would come under consider wear and begin to spear them with the brush.

The extent to which you want to apply this technique is completely up to the individual. As I've become more comfortable with it, I've found myself utilizing it more and more conservatively.

Stage 4

Its now time to paint the base details of the tank before the gloss coat is applied. In the case of the TURMs I need to paint lenses, smoke launchers, MG ammo cans, the barrel canvas, coaxial MG, wheel rubber, tarp, tracks and tow cable.

The tow cable, coax and tracks are painted in a mix of oily steel and flat black.

On the  turret the gun canvas is painted flat khaki, while the lenses and smoke launchers are painted in German grey.

The wheels are also carefully brought out with german grey.
The TURMs is now ready for a gloss coat and oil weathering, the subject of the next installment :)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

USMC armor for the Black Sea

To battle my not-Russians here are a couple USMC vehicles to hoon around Eastern Ukraine.

I managed to get ahold of a couple Cromwell TUSK IIs and promptly used them to convert a USMC M1A1HATUSK II. I don't think this vehicle actually exists in reality, but nor do I really care.







To support that monster I also threw together an uparmored M1114.





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taco Tutorials: lets modulate a T-72M1 TURMS

So its finally here; the first in a series of tutorials to give you a sense of how I paint things. I suspect there will be two or three more of these, depending on feedback and how I decide to split things up.

The first chapter in this saga will deal with the base scheme of the vehicle, with subsequent entries focusing on detailing, shading and weathering.

A snippet of history and art theory

I have been painting for around 20 years, which is just over two thirds of my life. I began, as so many do, with 40k. My mom responded to my brattish demands and purchased me an old 2nd ed Tyranid Lictor (perhaps she was actually getting me back for being such a little asshole). I thus spent considerable time in my formative period enmeshed in the gaudy bright color show that was classical grimdark. In this, realism was eschewed and brilliant, polished reds, yellows and greens the norm.

This trend continued until an unfortunate encounter with GW's legal department well and truly turned me off the company and I detached from war games all together for a while. Some time in the late naughties, however, I once again began to feel the hankering. This time it was towards historical that I was drawn,  specifically ww2 through to the modern period.

My first attempts at this genre were admittedly pretty miserable. The skillset I had built in 40k was completely unsuited to real world subject matter and I spent some time unlearning previous habits. Gone were brilliant contrasting, straight line highlights, clunky metal chipping and all the other miscellany I had adopted, a new approach was required.

The first major milestone was the adoption of airbrushing. I cannot stress this enough: if you wish to paint real world vehicles, you need an airbrush. There is simply no substitute and I have yet to see any hand-brush or spray can technique that truly approaches the effect. I began with an Iwata Custom Micron B, which given my amateurism was like equipping a Russian conscript with an ICBM.

 After much trial and error , however, I began to pick up the necessary skills, to such an extent that today I am competent with it enough to modulate and replicate camouflage schemes with reasonable fidelity. I also learned how important a good compressor is. I picked up an Iwata deluxe job a few years ago and have never looked back (apart from a bizarre incident where it started vomiting large amounts of mysterious brown paint and required me to literally hold it over a toilet like a drunkard while it emptied its reservoir).

Originally I had simply painted one-tone vehicles with a single flat coat. Green was green, sand was sand and there was little more needed doing. But this became unsatisfying after a while. Perusing forums like Armorama and the brilliant work of Alex Clark showed me that much more was possible and that a monocolor scheme didn't have to be boring. Thus it was I entered the world of modulation.

In my mind, modulation is not so much about replicating the absolute accuracy of a real world vehicle. Rather, it takes the 'spirit' of the thing and adds considerable characters, making an end result that is much more pleasing to the eye in its various subtitles that combine with subsequent detailing and weathering techniques. While modelers like Mig Jiminez tend to use modulation to highlight towards upward light sources, I am less adherent to this view. Instead, I tend to utilize it to highlight individual panels centrally, regardless of their physical position. The basic idea is to create a darker zone towards the periphery of an individual panel, and gradually lighten it as it approaches the center. Absolutely realistic? Hell no. Aesthetically pleasing? I would argue yes.

It should be noted at this point that I am incredibly lazy when it comes to painting and will never spend the adequate amount of time or effort to make something look truly showcase. I remain truly in awe of people like Mig and Clark, both in their remarkable skill and their willingness to spend hundreds of hours on a single subject. For the former I simply lack the capacity, while in the latter I am far too distractable to spend more than 8 or 10 hours on a single subject.

TURMS and Tools

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The subject of today's experiment is a T-72M1 TURMS. This is a modified T-72M1 in Syrian service that integrates the TURMs fire control system produced in Italy. Theoretically this conversion was aimed at making Syrian AFVs more competitive with their Israeli counterparts. In reality, however, these vehicles have only seen use in the Syrian Civil War, a context in which such expensive upgrades are likely of little use. The kit itself is a combination of the classic Revell T-72 and a ModelTrans conversion turret.

For this chapter I've also chosen to utilize my workhorse airbrush, a Badger SOTAR 20/20. While not quite as precise as the Iwata, it is more ergonomic for big jobs, and is easier to clean. The AK to Iwata's Armalite. Paints wise I'm using a hodge podge picked out from the bucket. With a base of Vallejo Israeli armor, moving up to Italery US army Sand and finishing with AK interactive New Iraqi Army Sand.

Stage 1

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At this point I load the badger up with a 75/25 mix of Israeli Sand and Italeri thinner. The airbrush is switched to a comfortable 25 PSI. I then proceed to begin painting what I can identify as the individual 'panels' of the kit, with greater buildup towards the center. This is simply on top, as the T-72 has a fairly demarcated surface. On the turret, however, this becomes more up to the individual artist. I try to emphasize raised surfaces, while leaving the gullies darkened. At this stage the scheme is fairly rough, which is of no concern, as later layers will create a smoother finish.

Stage 2
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Now we jump forward somewhat jarringly. Here we employ the desert yellow mixed and sprayed in a similar fashion to above, although in this case we concentrate more on the centers and begin to leave the darkened patches darkened. Again, this is applied over the entire vehicle.

Stage 3

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Now comes the Iraqi Sand, similarly diluted. As you can see, the subtly delineations are beginning to emerge that show the vehicle to be  monotone while retaining 'depth.' Again, apply to all surfaces and angles as you see fit.

Stage 4

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The final modulation stage where we employ highlighting. For this I add around 30% italeri white to my Iraqi sand and spray only on the sky-ward facing surfaces. For this I recommend applying sparingly and only at the very center of the panels.

Stage 5 (bonus stage) 

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My inner armor nerd wanted to add a bit more life to this particular kit, so I decided to paint three of the wheels on this sucker in a replacement green scheme. For this I used a base of Italeri flat olive drab and highlighted it once with a bit of white added to the mix.

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The TURMs is now prepped and ready for detailing. With four layers of sand it retains the look of a desert fighting vehicle while still retaining a layer of depth that draws the eye.