Sunday, April 25, 2010

Space Hulk Librarian

Hello All!
Continuing show & tell time, here's my recently finished Space Hulk Librarian. I still want to go back with DullCote to tone down the shine on much of him, especially the recesses of the tabard. But I'm currently out of DullCote and the photo setup was ready, so I decided to go ahead and get some pics. Here's what he looks like, in all his flaws and glory:I'm not ecstatic about his face. It seems my limited selection of flesh tone paints had died and dried up over the years since I last used them. As it's tricky to get good artist paint late at night and I wanted to be done with this damned project, I mixed this and the highlighter up from a couple brown, a red and a white.
I am underwhelmed with several things about this sculpt. There's a number of little details that fell victim of the CAD sculpting process. There also the super-sized axe he's holding up like he's selling it on late night TV. But I've realized the part I hate most is the sculpting on his eyes... or, I should say, the utter lack thereof. They are these huge featureless orbs bulging out of the caverns under his mighty jutting forehead. They look like a normal human had his eye sockets staved in with a sledgehammer and some joker stuffed a pair of golf balls into the cavities. It looks better once I freehanded eyelids, but the effort was probably more than it was really worth. I understand now why many people don't bother to define his eyes or do them with a glow effect.
As if all that weren't enough, I got inspired by the work of several other bloggers and decided to try my hand at doing his shoulder heraldry...It's not a well known thing, but the entire reason I taught myself to sculpt is because I hate doing freehand. Attempting this took me a number of tries... It was bad enough that I had to just scrape the surface clean a couple times. (Yes, I know how bad that is to do... the alternative was worse.) It didn't help that the first time I tried doing it all in metallics. Wow, was that a mistake. Guys, please note that layered metallics do not allow for a clean definition of shape nor blending of tone. Trust me on this mistake.
Still, I'm glad I persevered. I certainly learned that I need to have a better idea of how I want it to look before I start. Also, I need to replace my flesh tones and build a decent wet palette. The end result isn't great work, but it's decent and it's mine. Plus, I'm tired of working on him. It's time to work on some other projects now.

***All images are MINE! They are my precious... and totally posted on the internet. This makes them about as protected as your average Taiwanese hooker. Have fun and don't complain to me if you catch a virus, you perverts.***

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nid Screamer-Killer

Cheers and welcome back to another exciting adventure in rambling 40K blogging! I thought about sparing you all the wall of text and just doing some pics, but the pics can't tell the full story...

So today's post is on an old Tyranid Hunter-Screamer-Killer. A few weeks ago, my friend and gaming buddy Mark called. He wanted to see about picking up the Space Hulk Genestealers I'd painted for him. (They'll be detailed in a future post once I get more pics of them.) This was a Tuesday and he wanted to use them in a tournament that Saturday. (Sadly, I had family obligations and couldn't attend.) While we were chatting, it came up that he was still debating his list. He knew what he wanted to run but it would knock a few painting points because his Carnifex was only primered. I gave it a quick thought, calculated the timing and told him that if he got it to me soon, I could have it at least minimally painted. So he dropped it off the next evening.

Then per the best laid plans of mice and men, I got sick with a nasty upper respiratory infection. I spent a couple days doing nothing more complex than sleeping and coughing. I wasn't able to focus on the fig until some time Friday evening. I should note that I'm not a fast painter; glacial might be a better label. I over think things, apply more layers than most people will ever notice, get easily distracted and generally move projects along only when the muse is with me. But I was down to the wire for this guy. I threw on the main basecoat of color in about an hour. This ended up being a good thing as I got a call from Mark as I was just finishing a wash of Devlan Mud. Seems he wanted to get a full night sleep and could he pick them all up in an hour? Silly Mark, sleep is for the weak! So I spent the last hour doing highlights (while avoiding the still-drying wash), picking out details, and fixing any glaring mistakes. The end result was this:And from the back:I have to say, I'm pretty damned happy with the results for only 3 hours at the painting table. Also, yes, these were taken with the new lightbox setup.

***All images are MINE! What am I going to do if you borrow them? Throw a hissy because you like my work?***

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lightbox Adventures

Hello again everyone!
I'm not really a big painter or photographer, so I've never invested in a lightbox. Typically I'd just put the fig on a white backdrop, make sure there was some decent ambient light and take a few snaps. It was never great, but it wasn't horrible either. Yet occasionally I'd want a nicer base pic for a contest or something. So I'd set up extra lamps, offer some voodoo sacrifice, play with the camera settings, take a lot of source pics and generally do a lot of dancing around and playing with variables. All this extra work would get me pics that were slightly better but never drastically so. I even built a standard do-it-yourself lightbox with wax paper filters, but was underwhelmed with the improvement in lighting compared to the headache of storing that extra junk. I figured my main problem was my antique, crappy digital camera.

Then a couple weeks ago I ran across a post on a different lightbox approach from Corvus Miniatures. The main point was to use direct or strong ambient lighting, but diffusing it across the miniature by having the side walls of the box covered with aluminum foil. I figured I was capable of doing something similar... and if it didn't work, I'd learn something and only be out a couple sheets of foil. Might as well try it out and see what happens! Being the penurious sort that I am, I didn't even make mine as complex as his. I simply covered two pieces of cardstock with aluminum foil. The foil was held in place with duct tape. The rest of the setup was one piece of white printer paper, my usual lamps and lighting, a stack of hardback books to be the framework, another book to raise the camera up a bit, and the lid of a Play-Do jar to angle the camera. The end result looked a little something like this:But how to really compare any difference? I'd recently put up some pics of the Space Hulk Broodlord I recently finished, so I "volun-told" him to present for a mug shot. A couple pics were made and I opened them into Photoshop to see how much work they'd take to correct... and I was blown away by what I was looking at. Here, have a side-by-side comparison:The one on the left was with bright ambient light and no redirect. The one on the right is with the aluminum foil lightbox sides. Click the image to see a larger version... the difference is even more notable. Same lights in a similar setup, same crappy camera, same background paper, same miniature... but OH, what a difference! The pic almost looks better than the real model. There's still a bit of light glare cropping up, but it is a high-gloss model and I kinda expect that. What I didn't expect was how much of the shading and color tone would appear. Wow.

There's an old saying I recall, "There's none who cry louder than a thief accused of a crime they didn't commit or a sinner who has just found God." Well, I'm a convert. If you've been being lazy and just snapping shots of figs on your table, STOP! Spend a couple minutes to put up some aluminum foil and a backdrop and you might find some amazing results. With the way I built mine, it even goes nicely flat back on the book shelf.
Hopefully this has given you guys some ideas and inspiration. Cheers and see you soon! I'm off to work on my super secret BIG project...

***Starter image grabbed from a blog for audiophiles and may or may not have been theirs in the first place. The usual standards apply. The rest of the pics are MINE! Use them as you wish.***

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How many Troops are "Enough"?

Hello boys and girls! Today, I've decided to talk about a critical component of army list building: balancing for "enough" Troops.

Cruising around the interwebs yesterday, Sildani asked me to take a look at his armylist on Warseer. Some of the comments made me shake my head in despair, but one in particular caught my eye: that Eldar should have "one Troop per 500 points".

This comment pained on several levels. Not only did was I misquoted, but he also called it an "adage". Ouch. All things considered, there's worse rules you could follow when building a list, but it's mediocre to use such a generic formula. Not all Troops choices were created equally. There's massive differences in cost, stats, offensive effect, battlefield role and other special rules. This diversity means you need to apply more complex analysis.

Troops are often the bland, common, grunt soldiers of the army. Everything Troops can do, selections from other Force Orgs do larger, faster, stronger and louder. For example, compare to the basic Tactical Marine. Assault Marines are faster and better in assault, Devastators get more heavy weapons, Terminators tougher and better in assault... heck, even most Troops Transports are outclassed by dedicated platforms such as the Predator. But there's one thing the humble Tac Marine has that they don't: Scoring status.

Now what does Scoring really mean? In 2/3's of normal games, living Troops will be critical to winning the game. It only takes ONE guy to survive and be standing next to that objective. The likelihood of a unit surviving is mainly a factor of Toughness, Save, Wounds/Unit Size, and Cost. Low survival units like IG Troopers or Eldar Guardians balance out by having a cheap cost and high unit size. While high survival units like Plague Marines balance with a high cost. How you play, how aggressively the unit is used, the unit's maneuverability, the necessity of having them on the board rather than in Reserves, and even their perceived threat level can affect overall survivability too.

A unit's overall value should also be rated against what is needed to protect them versus the amount invested in them versus what is needed to make them actually "do something" other than Score. For example, Dire Avengers as a Vehicle Upgrade are a durable Troops choice because they're cheap enough to not care about ever getting out of their tank. Plague Marines are also a good Troops choice because they're extremely durable even without the a protection of a tank, meaning they're happy to get out of the tank and zap with a couple meltaguns.

So the truth is, there's no one "perfect" system for figuring out what is "enough" versus "too much" or "not enough". You'll have to find that sweet spot based upon your own army and playstyle. However, I'll share my general formula for Eldar:
5 Guardians, 5 DA or 3 Jetbikes = .5 points per multiple
10 Wraithguard as Troops = 3 points
Non-mechanized but with FortuneSeer = x1.5 points
Mounted in a Tank = +1 point
Tank has Holofields = +1 point
Unit designed to not leave their Tank or hide in Reserves (ex: DAVU) = +1 point
Mechanized with FortuneSeer = +1 point

A force should have a minimum of 1 point per 500 points of game. Optimal seems about 1 point per 275-300 spent. More than 1 point per 200-250 spent and you're probably overspending on Troops. So at 1750 you want a minimum score of 3.5, optimal is about 6-6.5 and going much over 7 is questionable.
2x10 Guardians or 2x3 Jetbikes? 1-2 points and asking for trouble.
2x DAVU Falcons? 7 points... viable but a little limited.
1x10 Wraithguard w Eldrad and a 9+Jetbike squad with Fortune Jetseer? 6.75, fun, durable, and surprisingly effective.
2x Storm Squads in Serpents and a DAVU HoloFalcon? 7.5 points and so solid that more Troops will often be a waste.

Hrm... for more articles on list building, check out Sandwyrm's "4 Things", Raptor1313's "Opportunity Cost", Stelek's "Unit Redundancy", Kirby's "Army Composition", and TheKingElessar's "Dropping the Metaphor". These authors all have some excellent articles on the subject if you poke around a bit, but the ones linked are items I think every 40ker should read. Cheers and see you next time!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sculpting 202: Layering

Hello fearless readers! The last few weeks I've been finding myself returning to the part of the hobby I enjoy almost as much as playing: Sculpting. Today we're going to look at the concept of Layering.

Layering is comprised of two key concepts:
1. You don't have to do every little detail in a single go.
I consider this THE biggest tip anyone can receive when getting into Sculpting. For any sculpt more complex than a simple fill or small detail, you should build up the piece in small sections or layers. Then allow each stage to fully cure overnight before working on another. (This can be cut to about 2 hours if you use a cooker.)
Why do things in stages? Because there's few things as frustrating as getting a sculpt just right, starting on something else and accidentally obliterating or marring the first sculpt. By allowing each stage to fully solidify, you don't have to worry about an errant thumb squishing your prior work. To quote my grandfather, "If you can't take the time to do it right the first time, how do you have time to do it twice?"
So once you've finished a layer, set the piece off to the side and work on something else until the work is cured. This is a large part of why I typically have 3-6 different sculpting projects on my desk at the same time. As a bonus, doing it in layers also means you're (probably) not staring at the same fig for hours and hours!

2. It is much easier to make the outer layer look "right" when you are building onto a correctly shaped underlayer.
In the same way that armature becomes the miniature's skeleton, the underlayer is their flesh. These layers don't have to be perfectly detailed and 100% anatomically correct. After all, you're just going to be covering it up. But it is good to have the general shape and size of the muscles and flesh defined. This will greatly assist you in keeping the miniature's overall proportions and mass correct. It also makes it much easier to gauge the correct shaping for covering layer(s). This is particularly critical for clothing, but also applies to armour, jewelry, decorations and even bare flesh.
For a great example of layering and underlayers, I again recommend checking out Klaus' Ogyrn. It's an excellent example of generally defining the basic musculature and bulk before adding the final layers of clothing and armour.
Another good example is Colonel Corbane's recent Sergeant Harker conversion. For the shirt, he's used the original bare-chested sculpt for his underlayer. The cloak is also built up in several layers to achieve the correct shape and look.

To show you how a project breaks down for me, I've dusted off my photo library from when I'd first planned this article 8 months or so ago. This part of the project was specifically done to show the concept of layering in stages. Originally I meant to just put a pickelhaube helmet on an Assault on Black Reach Ork, but my muse struck and it developed into a little bit more...

Here's what the ugly little blighter looked like to start. This was just after I'd modified his neck for the "Simple Fills" article. Note that I've stuck a length of pin into his skull to act as a basic armature and mounting point for the eventual helmet spike.Then I added my first layer of Green Stuff. I took care to get the right thickness for the dome of the helmet and smoothed the layer, but didn't bother making the edges all neat and proper.On the next application I cleaned up the edges and added the basic temple guards. There's a few tool marks here as I knew I'd be adding some more layers later. I could just as easily left them as he's just an Ork... they're not exactly known for their studious maintenance protocols.It was about this point that I realized he really needed an iron gob! So the next layer spent some time on that. Note that I only did the right side on this step; the left was added in a later step. I also added a small line of putty around the front of the helmet to start defining the brim. It didn't seem like this helmet should be "pretty", so I made sure there were some dents and scratches on the final brim.It looks like I skipped a session or two between this picture and the last. Those saw the sculpting of the left side of the gob, defining of the brim, and the addition of a rivet hinge for the gob. This shot was right after rolling out the putty for creating the helmet's crest.Once the crest was sculpted and cured, I finished him off with a spike stolen from somewhere. I think it was a Fantasy skeleton's spearhead or something...
Anyways, that's it for today. Hopefully you've gleaned something useful and/or inspiring! Cheers!

***Starter image borrowed from this site on CSS tables and randomly found via Google. As usual, it will be removed on request. The rest of the pics are mine.***

Off-topic note: Due to life, distractions and other whatnot, I promised this article "next week"... something like 8 months ago. :-p I find much more enjoyment from blogging when I write about what's on my mind at the time rather than trying to force an article. I hope you guys don't mind, but the quality seems much better when my muse is present.