Sunday, September 25, 2011

Painting Step-By-Step: WHFB Nurgle Champion

So, in an effort to stave off building a new Ogre Kingdoms army (good lord their new monsters look cool!), I've been trying to knock out some older WHFB projects- namely my Chaos army. I originally built the force when I worked at GW, quite literally because I was left alone in the store too long. When you get that good of a discount, it becomes remarkably easy to talk yourself into things, and the next thing I knew, I was playing a 2000 point game the next night. Flash forward a couple of years, and I have a strangely configured force that's only half painted. I've been playing some games, and getting some painting done of late, and along comes the new plastic Nurgle hero. I've been a huge fan of the new single-sprue plastic figs that GW has been putting out of late, they use the material very nicely, and are really nicely thought out- if this is what is eventually going to replace Finecast as the replacement for metal figs, sign me up. It also just so happens that our local GW shop is starting up a cyclical paint competition- everyone paints the same model, winner is decided by votes by store visitors, and the winner chooses the next figure. A paint competition? With a figure I wanted anyway? Sounds good to me. I haven't really done this kind of step-by-step since I was logging my painting on Warseer, so I figured it'd be fun to do again.

STEP 1: Basecoats - 90 min.
On a figure like this, I find it helps to get solid colors in first- while it's not anywhere near as absurd as some of the Privateer figs where you really can't tell what some of the greeblies are, there's a couple of things that are easy to miss, like the strap on the back of his helmet. If I'd started working the flesh without noticing it, I'm not sure I would have even bothered fixing it. This part is easy- Tallarn Flesh for skin, Gretchin Green for cloth, Boltgun Metal for all the armor and the axe blade, Khemri Brown for the horns and the axe haft, Calthan Brown for the straps, and a little bit of Tin Bitz for the three little circles on his chainmail tabard. Neatness is key here, as anything that needs to be corrected after the next step will be kind of a pain.

STEP 2: The Easy Bit (Allegedly) - 35 min.
My Chaos army is unified more in technique than actual color. All of the Warriors start out with silver armor, which then gets sprayed with a wash of their god's chosen color, along with matching capes. The nice part about spraying the washes is that if everything goes according to plan, it behaves more like a glaze than a proper wash- you get a nice smooth coat over the metallic paint beneath. This time, it was slightly less according to plan. Turns out I forgot to clean out my spraygun from the last regiment (Baal Red wash for Khorne warriors). (PROTIP: Don't do that.) Once I got it cleaned up, I got to rejigger my jerry-rigged hose connector, as the GW spraygun hose doesn't seem to match anything else I have, and then get the thing spraying properly. After a half hour of cleaning and fiddling, this step took about a minute and a half, plus a couple of minutes later wicking away some excess wash with a brush to help ensure a smooth finish. The all-over coat also serves the same role as a blackline, helping define transitions between materials without being too stark, and also tones the figure into the green spectrum a bit on all the colors.

STEP 3: Axe I, Horns I, Flesh I - 30 min.
The axe is corroded, but unlike the armor, I want it to be mostly silver, so I re-coated it in Boltgun Metal, leaving the green wash in the pitting. The horns get a coat of Khemri Brown, leaving a bit of the washed brown visible at the base, and between the ridges on the shoulder spikes. The haft of his axe also got some Khemri Brown, mostly a very light edge highlight, as I want to keep that a bit darker. His chainmail also got a quick overbrush of Boltgun, to make it contrast with his green platemail. The flesh gets a coat of Tallarn Flesh, leaving the greenish color visible at the edges and in the rolls of fat. Looking at him again, I actually kind of wish that I'd used Dwarf Flesh here- it's a little ruddier and more translucent, but Tallarn covers ever so much better that Dwarf Flesh has largely fallen out of my arsenal.

Step 4: Gore I, Flesh II - 40 min.
Green wash looks pretty excellent as a shading tone for red- color theory wins again. With that in mind, I want to keep the highlights on the exposed gore crisp and smooth, so that the green shade shows through, and so that they will look good covered in gloss at the end of the process. They got a second coat of Mechrite Red, making sure to look carefully at the holes in the skin to see the texture beneath- not all of them are flat, a couple have secondary indentations, which were left the darker tone. The skin got a layer of Elf Flesh. OMFG do I hate Elf Flesh. It's lightly pigmented, but for some reason seems to be prone to thickening weirdly- if you're getting Cakey-Face when you're painting skin, you're probably using this color. Unfortunately, it's one of the better light skintones out there, even with the weird 90's GW orangey tone. (I will admit here that I forgot about the P3 skintones- I don't think I've used their lighter one. Rackham's old elf skintone is almost white, much too light for this step.) This step covered even less than the second coat of Tallarn Flesh, for a basic layering technique. I attempted to make the transparency of the color work for me, but it's not very consistent. Here I blame one of my many bad painting habits- do as I say, not as I do, and use a palette. Getting used to pot-painting just screws you up later.
STEP 5: Horns III, Flesh touch-up - 30 min.

Most of this step was fixing my lousy painting in the last step. Working slower, with thinner paint, I went over most of the Elf Flesh again, trying to even out the tone. Painting at 12:30PM instead of 2AM helps with this. The horns got a coat of Dheneb Stone, again leaving the darker tones between the ribbing at the base.
STEP 6: Armor I, Gore II- 20 min.
The armor gets a very soft drybrush of Chainmail, to bring out the edges. This is actually my one complaint about the figure- the edges on the leg armor, particularly the knees, is a little soft, with the delineation almost completely disappearing on the outside of the knees. The exposed guts got a highlight of Red Gore, again trying to increase the dimensional effect of the holes.
STEP 7: Armor II, Flesh decomposition, Cloth- 30 min.
The armor gets another soft drybrush of Mithril Silver, concentrated on the hard edges and places that are visually important- the fly on his bracer, and the "face" of the helm. The wounds are outlined with Rotting Flesh, increasing the contrast between the skin and the wounds, and also making the flesh look unhealthy. All of the various sores and pustules are also dotted with Rotting Flesh. Another highlight on the wounds and intestines, mostly focused on the intestines, with Blood Red. The cloth on the tabard is highlighted with Gretchin Green, using the darker green-washed portions as a nice sharp shadow between the folds.
STEP 8: Axe II -5 min.
To further sharpen the contrast with the corroded portions, the blade gets a coating of Chainmail, and then a sponging of Mithril Silver along the sharp edge to make it look sharp, but not perfectly maintained.
STEP 9: Axe III, Armor III -5 min.
On the back half of the blade, it gets a sponging of Tin Bitz, followed by another of Blazing Orange, to get some more traditional weathering. This also gives a second bright point at waist height- the hands on the figure aren't really the visual focus like they'd normally be, in this case, the eye is drawn more to the bright red of the exposed gut, with the bright orange rust drawing the eye across the figure. This is probably also why the Studio version of the fig has a silver helm instead of a green one- it provides another point to draw the eye, since the figure has no face or real eyes for the viewer to be drawn to, and the head is so tiny compared to the rest of him.
With the drybrushing on the armor, it has depth, but it is not green enough anymore. A light glaze of Thraka Green tones it back to green without taking away that highlight. I specifically went light over the eyeholes on the helm, in an attempt to brighten the "face" of the figure to help keep it visually interesting. The skulls also got a quick coat of Bleached Bone to brighten them back up.
STEP 10: Details
Frankly, if this fig was just going into my army, I would probably have stopped after the last step. The painting is solid, the colors look good, and it fits the aesthetic of the rest of the force. For a competition, however, especially one judged by passersby, there needs to be a little more flash in the scheme. I picked out the fly on the bracer in a corroded brass, and stippled some Tin Bitz and Chainmail onto the axe blade to tone down the orange a little bit. I also added some bright green glow in the helmet with Scorpion Green, while re-highlighting around the holes with Mithril Silver. A little bit of paint on the base and gloss on the goopy bits, and I'm done.

So, including meals, writing the blogpost, and a few periods of doing more TV watching than painting, I figure I spent about 8-10 hours staring at this little fat dude. Frankly, I'm still not sure I'm happy with it, but I've pretty clearly moved into the stage where additional tinkering might do more harm than good, so I'm going to wrap it up, and look at it again in a day or so- I have until Saturday before it has to be done for sure. If I were going to do another one of these, I might rethink the skintone- while the ruddier healthy skin tone is easier to paint, and provides a nice contrast, it might be more fun to play around with a more necrotic tone, or a bruised, purplish tone like the studio model. It's been a while since I did a marathon session like this, much less for a single model, it's a nice change of pace from painting full units.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Loathsome Ratmen

So, anyone that knows me reasonably well knows that I have Somewhat Peculiar taste in animals. I've got zero interest in owning a dog, and the bird in the house doesn't like me. What I do like, however, is rats:
(This is Marcy, my rat. She is, alas, no more.)

Given that preference, it's really a wonder that Skaven were my 4th WHFB army (not counting a few smaller projects). I find it really interesting that they're in the current starter set- I would not call them a beginner's army in any sense. With huge numbers of models, highly unpredictable (if high-powered) units, and wildly unstable leadership, they have incredible potential for both victory and frustration. But hey, if it means I can get models cheaply from players buying Island of Blood for the High Elves (Thanks Emily!), it works for me.

I built and painted my Skaven force in the waning days of 7th edition, with the last edition of the Skaven army book. The Skryre Army of Doom was the strongest build, but I couldn't resist a horde of Clanrats and Slaves, marching along with the Screaming Bell. With the old Mainstay rule, my force was built in chunks based on the Clanrat units- 25 Clanrats, 20 Slaves, 20 Plague Monks, wash and repeat.

The update to the Skaven book changed that quite a bit. For one, the Screaming Bell changed size dramatically, making my Stormvermin unit suddenly rather the wrong size, and the power level of the weapon teams swung drastically away from the Ratling Gun (the obvious choice previously). Clearly something had to be done, but I let the army sit for a bit, as I was working hard on getting my Dwarfs to a relatively finished state.

Enter 8th Edition. With so many advantages to large units of infantry, the Clanrats started to look better and better, and my old list with it's 25-rat blocks started looking just a little bit inadequate. After getting my hands on the Skaven from the Island of Blood, I finally had the motivation to look through my collection and figure out how the force would work.

First to go was the relatively tiny Clanrat units. With plenty of spare models in the bitz box, it was a simple matter to combine them into a 50-strong unit with spears. Running in 10-wide Horde formation, the first four ranks get to fight, and dropping a Warlord in the unit gets them to Leadership 10 with room to take a few casualties without losing effectiveness. The two smaller units of Clanrats get a role protecting the flanks of the big monster unit.
The Plague Monks didn't have a whole lot to change- the new army book gives them two hand weapons by default, which is what I had built mine with, it was just a matter of adding more models to the unit. 25 should be enough, at least until I build a Plague Furnace.

The Skavenslaves get no help. Nay, they DESERVE no help! Intended as a discount speedbump, I don't know how to improve on 20 models for 40 points, except by churning out a couple more units of the poor guys. Nothing like getting them into combat in order to hold a target in place for shooting. Life is cheap, especially at 2 points per model.

The Stormvermin are a bit of a conundrum. I need to get my hands on some more of the old models- 19 just isn't enough to hack it, and the new figures, while beautiful, don't match up well visually. I have re-based my Screaming Bell, but without the Stormvermin to push it, I think I'm going to stick with a Warlord as my general for a little while.

Ah, the Weird Stuff, the reason to play the Skaven in the first place. Island of Blood comes with some killer Rat Ogres, not to mention the only available model for the Plague Mortar. I also have a stack of Poison Wind Globardiers and Plague Censer Bearers from the Warhammer 25th Anniversary box. The right mix of weird stuff, of course, can define the character of the army. At the moment, I'm leaning towards a Warpfire Thrower with the big unit, though I am seriously considering picking up a Doom Flayer for maximum smashiness. The other units are currently getting Ratling Guns still, since I have them around, but I will likely be switching them out for Warpfire Throwers. The Warp Lightning Cannon is less overtly bizarre than it used to be, but it still certainly merits a spot in the list.
A horde gets nowhere without someone to lead it, even someone as conniving and cowardly as a Skaven general. The Skaven line was hurting for cool looking characters when I got started, but the Island of Blood solved that problem rather nicely with a fantastic looking warlord. My old Warlord model will now be doing BSB duty, and with Ikit Klaw back in the army list, I'll be using a regular Engineer for my pistol-shootin', lightning zappin' duties.

Overall, I think the new army book is a vast improvement, and with a couple of players spinning up WHFB armies right now, it's a good time for me to stop resting on my Dwarfy laurels and get to painting again. The original Clanrats and slaves are some of the most effective and easiest models I've painted- once I fire up the spraygun, I'll take some step-by-step shots.