Friday, July 20, 2012

Breaking News!!!

I was a little slow in posting this week, but I had a some news to share that had to wait until today for me to post.

First, is that the gang over at WWPD have asked me ...little old me (old is right, but is 6'4" 260 lbs REALLY little?) write reviews for them.  After the humbling shock wore off, I said "Of course!"

...and my first article is up on the WWPD site today!  It is a review of the Autosahariana boxed set and their use in a Raiding Aces campaign.  It looks like the next WWPD campaign will be in North Africa and include regular battles as well as Raids, so this article is the first in a series of the raiding forces that were used in the Raiding Aces campaign we ran at my FLGS...The Foundry in Huntsville Alabama.

Check out the article at WWPD.

Second is that I have joined the WWPD network.  You can get to their goodness which includes the WWPD and Saga sites, forums as well as BUNCH of other great blogs that support the hobby we love so much.  You can get to them from this symbol:

This is also proudly displayed in the upper right of the blog.

All of this SHOULDN'T keep me from doing what I have been doing on the blog...actually will add to it as I will have access to products to review that I normally wouldn't purchase for myself.  I really look forward to sharing those insights with everyone.

Oh well...and we now return you to your scheduled programming

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Painting Miniatures Declassified --- Model Selection

Just wanted to put together a quick note on figure selection. Do you have to have the exact representation of a certain figure to portray a specific unit?

Short answer's up to you. Remember the post on "Expectations?" The key here is what "distance Army" are you trying to build and how best can you "disguise" that "off" figure. If you are building a 6 inch or less Army you will have to do more disguising than if you are shooting for a 2-3 foot Army.

Let's say I am build an SS Panzer Grenadier platoon. What makes an SS Panzer Grenadier different from a Heer Panzer Grenadier? The biggest visual difference is the black left arm cuff with white writing, the right collar tag with SS runes and lots of camo uniforms. There are more subtle uniform
differences... epaulets and camouflaged helmet cover design...and some I am most likely not aware. 

If I use Battlefront's GBX09 Panzer Grenadier Platoon with Halftrack can I use them to represent an SS Platoon? Well...look for yourself. The SS Panzer Grenadiers I painted earlier are from this very boxed set.

These figures can double for SS in a pinch for a 2-3 foot Army with no mods and with a little disguising pass for SS in a closer distance Army. Add an SS arm cuff here and there...paint the SS runes on the collars and paint some camo... the vast majority of people will never know. There will ALWAYS be "that guy" who will point out that the SS "ACTUALLY" had...... do you disguise a unit to make them fit in? 

The first thing you have to do is identify what makes the unit you are trying to portray unique. Polish dismounted Kawalerii for instance....the uniforms are most visibly characterized by the Adrian French helmet, baggy pants and knee high boots.

Dismounted Polish Kawalerii

So step two is figure how to make that disguise and make it believable. Hmmmm... what to do for a unit like the Polish Horse Artillery where Battlefront does not have a unique Polish gun for this unit.  If you stay with Battlefront figs, you have to buy a Finnish 75mm gun and for the gun crews use either the Finnish with German Helmets or regular Polish Gun crew with backpacks and the "Normal" Polish helmet. In this case, I am doing some head swaps with some extra Dismounted Kawalerii troops and stole their heads with Adrian Helmets and a couple extra Heads with Soft caps (Czapska) from the mounted troops then put those on the Finnish gun crew and at first glance no one bats an eye...they look the part.  A future post will talk more on headswaps.  The other option is to see if there is another manufacturer that makes the unit ...but then you have to pay attention to sizing issues between manufacturers.

If you file down the legs a little and make the boot look like it goes up higher or even just paint the boot so it goes higher it completes the illusion. Another option is to use Greenstuff and get your sculpting big boy pants on. Sculpting is another topic all together and one that I am pretty weak at (but always looking to improve). 

Step three is to work the disguise throughout the stand and then throughout the unit. Here is where a theme for the Army comes into play. If I have other figures that are the "correct" type and my "off" figure blends in with them, chances are he will go unnoticed...especially if he is not a central figure on the stand. Or...if all the figures are "off" figures, but have disguises that match and tell the story that works too. You can also add a few "thematic" items to the for my Polish Horse Artillery Battery if I add a horse on a base that really helps sell the unit. If you have multiple stands like that in the unit it helps cement the illusion for the overall unit. Decals and unit markings play a similar role for vehicles. 

The German Nebelwerfer crew that comes with the set from Battlefront is basically a early/mid war uniform with the knee high boots.  For my Late War 5th SS Panzer I had to do a little disguising.  The biggest thing was the boots.  I took the easy road here and painted the pants a little longer, painted anklets and then the boot...on a few others I left the figure in the longer boots.  I read somewhere that some Germans that had been in a while cherished their older boots....these guys are the veterans of the early campaigns  ;-)

Longer Pants with Anklet and short boot

Mix of figs to complete the illusion (lower right has old style boots)

I hope that this helps you out....and modding units to fit into other units helps make your force unique and stand out from other Armies. 

Have fun!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Painting Miniatures Declassified - Decals

Welcome back!  This installment is all about applying decals to your models.  This installment also has a video you can here ==> (DECALS VIDEO).

But let me get into a little more detail on the process in this post.  The first you need several items to do this.

- A set of Decals
- A gloss varnished model
- A dish of water
- Fine cut scissors/sharp hobby knife
- Detail Paint brush (maybe 2)
- Gloss varnish
- Decal Set Solution
- Patience (lots of patience)

You can get a set of decals in several ways.  First is you can use the ones that come with the model kit.  Battlefront's decals are very nice and seperate cleanly. Secondly, you could buy a set of decals from a third party (Dom's Decals, Plastic Soldier Company, Model Dads, I94) are all great and offer some great variants that can make your model stand out. If you want to REALLY make your model unique, you could make your own decals.  This third option is a little more complicated than the "normal" decals, but you can make the decals exactly how you want and not be limited to the "standard" sets.

To make your own decals you need 3 things.  First you need an idea of what you want to print ;-)... Ok, ok, ok...You need a Printer, decal paper that you printer supports and finally Decal Bonder. I have an inkjet printer and use Testors Inkjet Printer Compatible Decal Paper.  Most home computers and printers do not print in white, so decal paper comes in 2 types for us common folk...either clear or white.  This is very important and your first decision is made here.  If you dont need any white in your decal use the clear paper.  The clear allows you to have a little clear"edge" around your design like a storebought decal and are much easier to cutout as a result.  If you need to have white in your decal thing gets a little more complicated.  You could use clear paper, but you need to make sure your design is set to print as "clear" and you paint a white patch on the model where you will apply the decal.  This can be complicated as you have to make sure the white paint is covered by the colored portions of the decals.  This area needs to gloss varnished as well before you apply the decal (more on that in a bit).  A lot of the decals you will make will need to use white though and here you need to use the white decal paper.  This gives you another decision you need to make as you design your decal.  Do you want to leave a little color border around the white or do you want to outline the white in black and cut the decal right to the white edge. 

Both have their own issues... cutting close to the white is easy on simple designs (i.e. German Balken Kreuezs) but is nigh impossible (or time efficient) on complex designs like lettering (vehicle names or registration numbers) or US Stars in a circle.  The trick here is making sure the background/edge color around the white in your design matches the color where it will be placed on the model.  Trial and error here and best to use normal paper until you get that color match.  You need to get as close as possible to the shade, but you can touch up paint around it to better blend it in.  Also, when you print, use the highest qaulity print setting on your printer and the software you are using.  Otherwise you will get the "jaggies" where the edges aren't smooth around the lettering or borders.

So...your design is made and all your colors match.  Now you just print your design on the  paper... ensuring you print on the correct side of the decal paper (follow printer and paper guidelines).  Next step is to let the decal dry COMPLETELY.  The paper is a little shiny and,  especially on an inkjet printer, the ink will smear if not allowed to dry completely.  I try to let them dry over night before I go to the next step, so 5-6 hours at least.  Once the printing is dry, you spray on the Decal Bonder over the printed sheet.  This provides the clear "plastic" top layer of the decal. The ink we printed earlier binds to this layer and stays with it when it seperates from the paper backing.  The trick here is to spray "JUST enough" and not "TOO much".  If you dont spray enough, the ink could run or the decal could tear easier.  If you spray too much, the decal is thicker and wont fit into detailed areas very easily.  Now, let the sprayed decal sheet dry thoroughly.  I usually let it sit over night (say 5-6 hours).  One trick I do when I make my decals is to print in the morning; let it dry; spray it with the sealent after dinner; let it dry overnight; and then apply the decals the next morning.  You can also make them in advance.  The key here is to not let the printed sit around too long with sealent being applied.  Until the sealent is applied, the decal could be smeared.  Once the sealent is applied and dried, you now have several months you can store the decal before use.  haven,t gone beyond 6 months with a homemade decal being stored at room temperature after being sprayed with sealent so the ultimate length of time is unknown.  I have been able to use Battlefront Decals that were sitting at room temperature/humidity for almost 2 years with no ill effects.  I just had to soak them a little longer in water for the paper to seperate. 

So, now you have your decal sheet in hand.  The process from here on out is the same whether the decal is from Battlefront, 3rd party or homemade (although homemade does have one extra step).  Now you want to make sure the model is gloss a minimum the area where the decal will go should be gloss varnished.  Decals adhere best to a smooth surface and gloss varnish provides a very smooth surface for which the decal can adhere. Let the gloss varnish dry completely before applying any decals! 

Now you get to apply skills you learned in Kindergarten or Pre-school.  You get to use scissors (No running now!)!  I recommend some really sharp scissors that can be manuvered easily.  Scrapbooking scissors work like a charm here.  Hobby Knifes/Exacto Knifes can be used too, but you can leave "pressure" marks on the decal where you place the knife down to start a cut.  When you cut the decal out you want to leave an "edge" around the decal.  On "Professional" decals, you can see the actual edge of the decal.  For these your want to leave a paper edge around the actual decal.  For homemade decals on clear paper, your edge is a little sliver of "clear" around the actual design.  For homemade decals on white paper, your edge is typically the color background you used that matches the color of the model.  If you used a black outline as an edge and dont want the black to show, you need to cut carefully to the inside edge ofthe black...which can be VERY tricky.  I tend to only cut the decals I need for a specific model at one time and once those decals are applied I move to cutting out/applying decals to the next model. It is easier to organize the decals while they are on the sheet as opposed to wrangling down a bunch of loose decals....some of which can be small.  Nothing worse than cutting everything out and have to stop mid-process and run the risk of those decals getting blown/moved around and all jumbled up....or even lost!  If they stay on the sheet till you need them this doesn't happen.

Next...get you a little dish and put some water inside.  I find a saucer works very well.  The sides angle to the top and this helps me move the decal around easier.  The water used is nothing fancy.  I use filtered tap water...some will recommend distilled water.  All depends on where you live as to what you can get away with...the fewer impurities in the water the better.  Place the decals you cut out into the water.  I like to place them face up...helps me see the next step better.  You leave the decal in the water until it slides off the paper backing EASILY.  If you rush the process you could tear the decal.  Some decals need longer in the water than others.  I find it best to use a size "0"  paintbrush with 1/2 inch long bristles.  This allows you to under big decals and keep them from curling as well as lifting up the little decals.  For very small decal decals a smaller detail brush is better.  The key is to have the entire width of the decal fit on the brush...not just a corner.  Use the bristles to slide the decal off the paper. The bristle are soft enough so cant apply too much pressure and tear the decal.  Just don't press so hard where the ferrel (the metal part on the brush holding the bristles) hits the will tear the decal this way.  
While the decal soaks, you have a couple of minutes to prep the surface.  Remember...we shouldn't even be at this step if the surface doesn't have a gloss surface.  To prepare the surface for the decal, take a little of the Decal Set Solution and apply a light coat where the decal will go.  This gives you a liquid base to place the decal and will allow it to slide around into place.  Nothing worse than putting the decal down and you can't slide it into place.  If thi does happen though, apply a little more Decal Set,especially around the edges of the decal...this should be enough to get it floating.  Sometimes water is enough to do this as well.  The setting solution also helps the decal "melt" into any detail on the model.  Again, practice makes perfect in knowing when you have enough decal set down as a base.

Once you have the decal set down, it is time to get the decal and place it into place on the model.  A great tool for this is the trusty "10/0" or GW "Detail"  paintbrush.  Give the brush a good point and start to slide the decal from its paper backing.  If it slides onto the bottom of the dish just try to lift a corner and get it to float.  Now, it is just a matter of lifting the decal from the water and placing it on the model.  You want it to be a little wet still, but again...not TOO wet.  Dab any excess water off with a paper towel.  If it rolls or curls or gets out of shape, just place it back into the water and gently work it back into shape.  As I said you need patience for this.  Once you get it on your brush, slide the decal into position on the model.  As you position it, make sure you get rid of any airbubbles.  Once it is in place, you can GENTLY dab any excess water away with another brush, paper towel, cotton cloth, etc...  Once that decal is in place, repeat the process with the next decal.

Once you have the decals in place you are ready to "work" the decal into the detail of the model.  German tanks with Zimmerit are the worst case, but you can still apply decals there.  Take some more decal set and apply it to the top of the decal.  GENTLY use the tip of a soft paintbrush and dab the decal into the detail.  How thick the decal is determines how long it will take to work the decal into the detail....also how much decal set you will need.  Somethimes you might need a second coat of Decal Set (or third)  Here is where not putting TOO much Decal Bonder on your homemade decals is important.  Care really needs to be taken here as if there is any point where you will rip a decal...this is it.  Between the decal set softening the decal to the paintbrush dab (stabbing) the decal...the rip-o-meter has moved into the red zone for sure.  Sometimes, I will put a drop of decal set on top of the decal and let it sit for a few seconds then work it in.  This is one of those techniques that require a lot of practice to master.

Once the decal is worked into place and dry (allow a few hours at least). It is time to seal it with gloss varnish.  Put a coat of gloss varnish over the top of the decal and over the edges.  This SHOULD prevent any air getting under the edge and cause the decal to lift off the model and cauese it to have a silver background.  All the steps we took to this point are our best attempts to minimize this silvering. 

The decals should be firmly set and worked into any detail at this point..."but SonBae they're glossy!"  No worries.  Just hit them one time with some Flat Matte and you are good to go...the shine will be gone.  And if you hit them with a Flat Matte finish now, you are in a perfect position to have you first requirement to apply pigments!

That's all there is to it. Hope this helps and as allways, let me know if you do something a little different...I am always looking to expand my skill set.

Happy Painting!....or should I say Happy Decaling!