Insider 5-11-2011

To begin this blog, I need to borrow my favorite line from the movie Dogma: “Painting an army is the most exhausting activity one can engage in, next to soccer.”

I don’t think anyone who has attempted the feat would disagree with me here. It starts off easy enough and with the best intentions. You pore over the Force Book, carefully choosing your models by theme, gameplay, or a combination of both. You stroll into your LGS, list in hand, the fluttering in your gut much like the feeling you had on Christmas Eve as a kid. You stack up the boxes on the counter, pay, and merrily make your way home, barely able to hold back from tearing open your purchases and getting at the miniature goodness inside.

Heck, if you are like me, it’s only a matter of minutes before you are assembling everything you bought. The first few models go easy enough. You’ve picked out a color scheme and are excited to make this new army the best looking yet. You are going to take your time. You imagine the oohs and ahs and smile at the image of your immaculately painted warriors crushing all before you.

A few models and maybe a unit down, something happens. Maybe a new distraction shows up (for me, the worst distraction is the release of a new video game I’ve been looking forward to), or your work hits the busy season, or your wife complains that you don’t love her the way you love your silly little toys, but no matter what, the shine wears off. Now you curse yourself for always choosing the most difficult models to paint. You bemoan every last pouch, every last intricate piece of filigree, every backpack and rivet. Your paint table is no longer an escape but a prison, a never-ending line of impossibly detailed figures whose accusing stares haunt you like some twisted version of the Tell Tale Heart.

Somehow, you make it through, bit by bloody bit. So what is the point of my exceedingly long blog? That despite the grueling trial that is getting a fully painted Unbound army on the table, the end result is worth every drop of blood and sweat. Of course, I’m not just here to preach. I’m here to help.

There are two pieces of advice I’ve received about painting since I joined the crew at Privateer that I have never forgotten. The first was from studio director Ron Kruzie who told me, “I never paint my gaming models like a studio piece. One is for playing and one is for showing. The worst thing a person can do is mix those two things up.”

If this isn't perfect than I don't know what is.

I loved Ron for this. One of the top painters in the industry had just told me that it was okay to not be perfect and that not being perfect was perfect. Sure, I still love taking my time on centerpiece models or the few miniatures I paint with display only in mind, but I will never again lose sleep because I didn’t three-stage highlight every button, clasp, and belt on my grunts.

The second piece of advice came from a conversation I was having with studio painter extraordinaire Matt Dipietro, who said, “People like to say this or that technique is cheating, but there's no such thing as cheating when painting models.”

Matt went on to say that every technique and trick in the book was completely valid in the fight to paint an army quickly and effectively. So, armed with this advice, here is a breakdown of how you, too, can get a great looking Unbound army on the table and keep your sanity intact!

Color Scheme: My 150 point Retribution force was painted in five weeks. The first 100 models were done for the first Impossible Dream Challenge, and the last 50 were done right when I got my hands on the Arcantrik Force Generator and creative director Ed Bourelle challenged me to a fully painted Unbound game (which you’ll see more of later this week). One of the biggest reasons I was able to accomplish this in the short time frame was I set out with a very clear and limited color palette. Only having ten paint pots on the table greatly improved my speed, as I wasn’t struggling to find the right color for this or that detail. Furthermore, I chose a scheme that I knew I could paint quickly using techniques like drybrushing and plenty of washes.

I love the smell of bronze in the morning!

Priming: Okay, so everyone knows the importance of priming. What most people don’t realize is that it is a perfect opportunity to basecoat your models as well, especially if there is a single color that will dominate your overall scheme. For my Retribution army, it was much more efficient to use a spray gun loaded with Arcane Blue than to actually paint it on. In essence, I primed my models twice. First, I primed with P3 Black, and then I primed with Arcane Blue using a spray gun available from any hobby or craft store. Another way to make priming work for you is by using the underpainting technique described by Matt DiPietro in NQ #34. Combined with washes, underpainting can net you a great-looking army in a fraction of the time, but only if you’ve taken the time to plan it out before you begin.

Underpainting's undeniable outcome!

Drybrushing: Drybrushing gets a bad rap from some painters. True, it doesn’t create smooth layering like other techniques, but it’s hard to argue with its effectiveness and speed. Metals and stone are especially good candidates for drybrushing, but any high contrast surface area can benefit from a good and speedy drybrush.

Two battle engines, 6 hours. Brought to you by drybrushing!

Washes/Glazes: Mixed from inks and paints, washes provide fast and great-looking shading with one simple application. Glazes are much the same as washes, but instead of just being used for shading, glazing can be used to create cool highlighting effects by subtly altering the basecoat just like a color lens on a picture. Want a fiery orange? Glaze red ink over a yellow basecoat. Because it functions similar to a wash, glazing will create natural highlights at the same time.

Pizza and Paint: Pizza is perhaps one of the greatest currencies known to man. The prospect of free pizza is a siren’s call few can resist, no matter the work involved to get it. So hold a painting night with some friends and let them know there will be pizza. Coupled with a promise to help them on their next pizza project, you should have no problem getting some extra hands to help.

So there you have it. My tips and tricks for getting a good-looking army on the tabletop without losing your mind or sacrificing those personal relationships we all rely on. And because I started with a movie quote, I felt it only proper to end with one.

“Paint Long and Prosper!”