Friday, May 4, 2012

Joy of Painting (Miniatures) --- Painting Process

There are lots of ways to complete a unit and ultimately complete an Army.  A lot of them are similar. I mean we are ALL painting and basing miniature soldiers and there are only so many ways that can be done differently.  The process I use follows 9 steps from beginning to end.  Depending on the type of force I am painting, 7 of the steps will ALWAYS be used.
In this post I will layout the basics of the SonBae's Joy of Painting (Miniatures) Officially Sanctioned Method of Painting Miniatures...also known as the SJoP(M)OSMoP.  ;-)  Actually I call it the "Dr. Frankenstein (that's Frahn-ken-steen) Method...because it brings a figure to life.  Actually that is one of my favorite things about painting figures...seeing the figure come to life.  There comes a point in the process where the little guy transform from a little lump of white metal to something that looks what you want it to be (usually around step 4) and then it only continues from there.

What I do is:  Prime...Basecoat...Shade...Hi-lite...Seal...Detail...Weather...Re-Seal...Base.   Now a little more on each of the steps.  Future posts will go into more detail on the steps with pictures and if I can swing video.  You will just hear my voice...I will spare you the full on body shot.  Don't want to scare any subscribers away. ;-)

0. Preparation:  Remove mold lines and well as do any mods you want to make such as headswaps, arm repositioning,etc...  It is best to do this BEFORE you paint so you dont mess up your paint job.

1. Priming.  Paint needs a surface to which it can bond.  If you don't prime a model/figure the paint sort of "floats" on the surface of the model and can be wipe off even when dry.  Not something you want to have happen after you have spent several hours lovingly bring the figure to life.

All priming consists of is putting a layer of paint down on the miniature that will stick to the metal/plastic/resin without being rubbed off easily.  You can spray it on...paint it on...use black...use white...use grey.  The only thing is to use it!  ...but not too much.  You don't want to obscure the wonderful your model has.  Too much paint can get into all those little crevices and valleys of the detail and "clog" them up...which limits what you can do with shading and hi-liting.

2. Basecoat.  This is the first layer of a color you are trying to achieve. Typically it will be over the primer, but it could be over another color. This is the thickest layer of paint I use.  You have to get good coverage to cover up the primer, but not too thick as to obscure detail.  I cut my Basecoats down to a 1:1 ratio of paint:water....sometimes 2:1 depending on the thickness of the paint.  Make sure you cover the area you want the color to be.  We will build up to a lighter color on higher areas in the Hi-Lite step and make the deeper areas darker in the Shading step.  If you want a deeper area to remain black, paint the edges lightly, almost like a dry brush, but reach into the recess just a little so just the bottom is black.

3. Shading.  This step we will make the recesses and deeper areas of the model darker.  Here you can use "Magic Wash," "Magic Sauce," or just a watered down darker shade of the color you will use. For Infantry, I typically use a 1:8 ratio of paint to water of a color a shade or two darker than the basecoat I am working with.  Here, you load up the brush and add just enough to the recess so you get into the fold/recess of the model with a little going up the side.  If the paint isn't sealed, it will change the color of the basecoat a smidge, but will still be darkest in the deeper parts.  Which is what we want. For vehicles and large pieces of equipment I will use a black "Magic Wash" after the vehicle is sealed with a gloss coat. This will run into the deeper areas and help give a "grimy/oily" look.

4. Hi-liting.  This is just the opposite of Shading.  Here, we use a color a shade lighter than the basecoat and apply to the raised/higher portions of the area we are trying to paint.  I use a drybrush technique with the paint cut to a 1:5 ratio of paint to water.  Most times I can use the basecoat color again as the shading has darkened the basecoat I applied earlier by a shade or I use another color a shade lighter...or mix the basecoat with about 25% flat white. Whichever way I cut the final mix to 1:5 of paint to water, load the brush with the paint and then wipe almost ALL of it of the brush.  "Say, WHAT SonBae?' you say...yep, what almost all of it off the brush and then brush it lightly across the raised areas.  You will still a lot of pigment on the brush and  that is enough to grab onto the ridges and give a subtle hi-lite.  You might have to repeat a few time to get it enough.  I like the subtle hi-lite...if you add less water to the mix you can go for the "Cartoony" effect.  Both look great...just a matter of what YOU like.

5. Sealing.  Once you finish painting your model you need to seal it one time. For vehicles use a gloss varnish as you will be going Magic Wash a little later.  If you are doing infantry mounted individually you could skip this step and wait till later.  I don't.  I want to have a couple layers of protection since I am using these to play a game and they could see some abuse.  I use Vallejo's Flat Matte finish for my infantry in this stage.  Once dry, I take the teams and mount them to their bases.

6. Detailing.  For vehicles, this is when you apply the "Magic Wash".  This is mix of Future Floor Wax, water and your color of choice...typically black or chocolate brown depending on the effect you want.  You can do the whole model, which does run the risk of slightly darkening the overall model...or you can do "Pinwash" which is applying the wash directly to the spot you want.  For example, putting a drop on a rivet so it runs down the sides and creates a circle around the rivet....directly into the lines around a hatch...etc... For infantry that have been painted individually, this step is your 1st step of the basing process.  As mentioned in the Prepare step, you apply your spackle/pumice/glued sand/etc... on the base.  Once dry it is at the same level of completeness as an Infantry mounted as team before painting.   Take care not to get the glue/pumice on your painted figures.  If you do, not to worry...since you sealed the miniature before this step you have LITTLE protection and might be able to remove the glue/pumice with no adverse effect. If you didn't get it all off let it dry and paint the basecoat color of the affected area. Do the same if some of the paint was chipped as you tried to remove the glue/pumice.

7. Weathering.  For vehicles, this is when you would apply any pigments or mud/snow effects.  For infantry this is when you paint your ground cover.  To get a good dirt effect I basecoat the ground Chocolate Brown, shade it with a flat black wash, then hi-lite with USA Tan Earth.  You can adjust this formula with redder colors to get red clay....move it to greys/greens to get a rubble effect.  Experiment.  This is also when I paint the unit markings on the bases.

8. Re-Sealing.  This is your final protective cover for your model.  I avoid spray cans of sealant like the plague now and airbrush my Matte Finish...2 coats.  This gives the model 3 costs of sealant.  3 coast of a Flat Matte for infantry and 1 coat of Gloss and 2 coats of Flat Matte for vehicles.  Gloss Varnish is a better protector than Flat Matte, but Flat Matte is prettier (in my opinion at least).

9. Basing.  This is where we add grass to stands.  You can get pretty creative here...add wire, trees, bushes, etc...  It can be as simple as adding Static Grass to as complicated as what I do....a 3 step process where I add layers of flock for soil, turf, grass, and tufts/bushes.

And that's all there is to it.  This all becomes second nature to you after a few units and the progression is very logical.

Following a process allows you to multitask more efficiently.  If you follow the process here and the organization tips from the last post, you can run several projects at once.  Let's say I have unit 1 in the basing process, I can start priming unit 2 while unit 1 dries.  When unit 2 reaches Sealing, I could prime Unit 3.  And keep the line going as one unit is drying you could work on the next unit. 

The most I have ever had going on at the same time was 4 units (remember a unit is 2 infantry teams for 8-10 figure count or the hulls/turrets of a tank/vehicle platoon or all the guns of a gun platoon). It was a constant flow with no breaks in the batches.  Not something I recommend for a sustained period of time though.  It is good to take a little break while things dry.  Comfortably, I can do 2 groups and retain my sanity.  Don't say it ;-)
Hope this helps.  The next installment, I will go into more detail with the first 4 steps (Prime, Basecoat, Shade, Hi-lite) and hope to include video of each step. Actually shot some video as I finished the Pz IVHs of the Company HQs and 2nd Platoon from my 5th SS Wiking force.  Sadly, all of those cover the latter steps.

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