Friday, July 10, 2009

What's in your workspace?

As it seems obligatory to post some pics of your workspace... Here are some shots of mine:
My daughter Faydra and the cats vie to steal my chair whenever I'm up.
Keeping things organized
My tool organizer.

Here's some workspace tips:
1. Get a comfortable chair. This doesn't have to be expensive or "ergonomic", but should be something you're willing to plop down in for hours at a time. I really suggest a good office chair as they are designed for normal table heights, promote good posture, and the arm rests are convenient to steadying your hands. Do a little hunting at second hand stores or business sales and you can find a good one for less than the cost of a character model.
2. Dual-source lighting. Nothing beats strong, clean, natural sunlight. However, you may have a day job, live in San Francisco, be allergic to sunlight, or just unwilling to schedule your painting muse around something as mundane as the daylight hours. I use two desk lamps, one with a full-spectrum bulb and the other with a high wattage incandescent. The reasons for this are:
a. Shadows on a fig will become deeper and sharper the closer and brighter a light source is. You can remove this false shadowing by having a diffuse secondary light source coming from another side. Incandescent bulbs are naturally "softer" and more diffuse, making them a perfect choice for a second lamp.
b. Incandescent bulbs are HOT. Using one as a primary source is a great way to burn yourself. (Yes, this is from experience...) The full-spectrum goes to my left to directly illuminate what I'm working on. The incandescent goes on the right to provide diffuse light yet be far enough away that I don't brush into it accidentally. A secondary benefit of this is for sculpting: the heat helps greenstuff cure faster but isn't so much as to melt plastic.
c. How often do you get to play a game outside or under display quality lighting? Yeah, me neither. By having yellow (incandescent) and purple-white ("full-spectrum") hue bulbs, I can not only light my fig well, but also get a sense of what it is going to look like under the kinds of lighting you find in a store or convention hall.

3. Cutting mats are your friend! This will protect the surface of your table and also provides a handy way to pick up and put your entire project on a high shelf. This can be invaluable if your workspace isn't private and must vie with cats, children, or be tidied up when guests are over. You can pick these up at any decent art store for a pittance or just acquire one from a former employer during a rebranding.

4. Organize your work. One thing I really like about my cutting mat is the handy grid on it. When constructing several figs at the same time, it is easy to lose track of what has or hasn't been done. For example, when cleaning flash I'll start with the fig in the top right spot. As I finish each bit, it gets displaced 2" to the right. This gives me a quick and easy way to tell what is done and what isn't; a critical item if you are only sitting down for short stints and want to be thorough.

5. Organize your bitz. Those damn little things go everywhere and are easy to damage if you're pawing through a pile. I used to use a beader's box with a lid so that I could carry it with my to the local gaming store. These days I do most of my work at home and use a wall mounted shop organizer instead. It's in another room, but you can see some of the clear trays in the second picture.

6. Organize your tools. The only thing worse than not having the right tool for a job? Not being able to find that tool when you need it. It may seem silly, but by designating a specific place for a tool, you'll start habitually putting the tool back in the same spot. This may not seem like a big deal when you're first starting out, but trust me... it will escalate.
Additionally, a tool box or tray for your tools and extra supplies will allow you to pick everything up quickly. If you're doing a good bit of travel with your tools, there's some nice tackle boxes that can double as a bitz box too. The downsides are that the lids make access a little less convenient and the plastic will eventually break with (mis)use. My current model is a simple office drawer organizer as shown in the third picture. Notably, this is not all of my paints or tools, just the ones applicable to my current project(s). I have an extra toolbox and storage shelf for everything else.

With that, it's time to head home and finally decide what I'm running for Ard Boyz tomorrow. I have a final scenario playtest scheduled for after dinner... I'm still debating between Black Legion, mech-Eldar, or mixed-mech Iyanden. We shall see...


  1. Is that a superheavy under your work table?

  2. Is that a superheavy under your work table?

    Most certainly! It's a levithan of Slaanesh, singing sickeningly insipid songs as it rocks forward to crush the souls of all who oppose it. You can't quite see, but the battery pack sits in the back of the "skull" at the mane... The wife and I got so tired of the damn noise it makes that I yanked the battery. Had to tell the daughter that "The horsie is feeling sleepy and doesn't want to sing..."

    The upside is that the "friend" who gave it to us is having a kid in September. I think I'm going to do a little "surgery" and replace some resistors so that it is even louder before I gift it back to him...