Friday, February 24, 2012


Work on the Land Raider is almost done!  I'll have a full post soon, but until then, here are some pictures to enjoy while you wait.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Progress On The Land Raider

I have made some progress on the Land Raider since my last post on it.  Lots to cover.
And this is what it looks like before I even add the weapons.

First of all, this thing is cool as hell.  The photos aren't perfect- getting a camera stand, some decent lighting and whatnot is on my to do list- but even if it doesn't look bad ass in the pictures, it is when you look at it in person.  This thing just kind of grows in aspects and areas of coolness as it is assembled and painted the way a town in the old game SimCity does.  At first, its just look little piece of this, cool little part of that, then it gets bigger, and you're like, hey, I'm cooking now.  And then you do a little more, and its three times cooler than it was before.  And you do a bit more work, and suddenly, its twelve times cooler.  And before you know it, you've spent six hours on the thing and you have an airport and a sports stadium and no crime and 100% fire coverage and the best road and mass transit system going ever and you look down on your little creation and you think, damn... I made that!

Instead of a door, there is a space marine supply
cupboard in the door frame here.  Um... Why don't
they just keep all that stuff inside the Land Raider proper?
Right now, I'm nearly done with the color blocking of the outside. I used a thick brush to get the big sections of things with two layers of ultra marine blue, and need to go in with smaller brushes to get in the nooks and gaps.  I am going to do a separate entry on some stuff I picked up assembling the thing.  I learned a lot in the process, and I'll cover that later.  But for now, here is what I have.

I have the sides built, top on, treads added, and obviously, have the interior done. I built the model so that the doors open so you can see the details I painted in the interior.  I thought I would be half done when I was complete with the interior walls section of the model- everything else looked like it was just big, wide, flat surfaces that would easily be painted.  It was the details that were going to take all the time, and those were all on the inside, right?

Yeah no.

Port side door closed!
I really discounted how much work painting the treads would be.  I'm also not using an air brush to paint the outside, which would probably save me a ton of time.  In any case, I now consider myself about halfway done.  I will need to do detail work on the exterior as well as get the weapons assembled and painted... but we'll see.  I figure I'm probably on hour ten or eleven on this project.  Will I be done at hour twenty or twenty two?  We'll see.  And if so, how cool will it be at that point?

 So what do I have going on here?  Well, first, as I said, I have it set up so the doors open and close. You can build your Land Raider so that all the doors are glued shut, but I knew I was planning on painting the inside details when I started that project, and just had to hope the doors were cool.

Port side door open!  And you can see the computer station
inside the Land Raider itself!
The doors are very, very cool.  The port side doors slide back and forth.  There are blocks to keep them from sliding too far apart and blocks in the middle of their track, both on the top and bottom, that make the doors come together in the center.  It looks cool.  The *really* cool door though, is the main hatch up front.  Again, you can glue it together.  If you don't, there is a little turning lever assembly that connects to the posts that the the front doors are attached to.  The way the assembly works is that as one door is opened, the other door will open as well.  It is *really* cool.

I put some close combat knife bits on the rack inside the
forward hatch.
The Land Raider doors are too small for any space marines to actually stand inside of. You could slide them in horizontally.  And the cool thing about the Land Raider is that it actually looks like it is tall enough for some Space Marines models to fit inside of the thing. Some one who wanted to do a *really* awesome interior could get a few of them standing inside, receiving final orders and assembling their gear.  Or someone could put a little map table inside of a Land Raider, as the cable is completely empty.  It being empty does make it possible to see the details painted on the walls through the doors, however.

You can kind of see the engine wall in the back of the
Land Raider cabin in this shot- hard to get enough
light in there AND get the camera lens in the right place
but I think you get the idea. 
I still need to finish the following steps to complete this project:

  1. Finish the exterior paint blocking.
  2. Paint the door covers
  3. Paint and assemble the weapons
    1. forward chain gun
    2. side guns (I'll be doing the hurricane bolters)- two sets of these. 
    3. top mounted multi melta
  4. Paint and assemble the other bits
    1. portal covers
    2. smoke can launchers
    3. flood light
    4. communications array
    5. etc.
  5. detailing the exterior
    1. paint all the rivets 
    2. clean up detailing
    3. etc.
I am not planning on doing weathering right now.  I want to practice on another model first, and then apply it to this one.  I could do it right, but I don't want to risk screw this up.  So the weathering step is on the to do list.  Like getting better photo resources. 

And that is where I am right now.  I'll write again when there is news to post. 

Until next time,

David D. 

Spray on Primers For Less Than 15 Bucks A Can...

Ok, so back in December I mentioned my frustration with looking for hobby grade primer. I grumbled a bit about dropped $15 for a can of Games Workshop Citadel primer when there is primer at Walmart for about $3 a can.  At the time, I was told by a game shop owner that the walmart stuff is good if you are working on your car, but you could end up melting the plastic because of the chemicals used in the cheaper stuff.

Ever since then, I have been on the lookout for less expensive but still decent quality materials.

That search has born results.

Behold!  The Army Painter line Base Primer Matte Black (can size: 400 ml, $13.00 at a local gaming shop) and... Armory Black Primer, by Alliance Games, (can size: 12.0 oz/341 g for $5.95 at my local gaming shop.)  $5.95!!!!!

Lets say that one more time.


For comparison my Citadel spray paint is 10 oz/292 grams/400ml.  The cans for all three products are themselves the same size. 

But how does Army Black do?

I used the Armory Black on my Land Raider, and I like it.  It is actually gritty, as real primer is and Games Workshop black spray paint is not.  Games Workshop black spray on paint (at $15.00 a can, mind you) isn't really primer but just another Games Workshop* licensed product that is meant to make us think it is better because it has the Games Workshop logo on it.  Armory Black isn't as black as the GW black spray on paint, and is kind of a half black/half charcoal color.  It isn't as light as I consider charcoal, but it does have some speckles of gray in it.  It also goes on thicker and gritter than the GW paint does, which again, is because Armory Black is actually primer, not paint.

The Army Painter stuff is also good.  It is very black, which is cool, and also goes on a bit thicker than the GW black paint, but it doesn't seem to be as gritty as the Armory Black.  It is nearly as expensive as the GW paint.  If you really want to buy something that is black AND a primer, and feel uncomfortable going with the less expensive Armory Black on your high cost hobby figures, I totally understand. You aren't going to get burned if you buy this.

I'm a beginner, and my view could change with more experience, but I think these are both options are absolutely viable alternatives to the GW black or white paint when used for your primer coat.

Also note- Primer can be dangerous stuff.  If you are a youngster (and with the extension of adolescence in industrialized nations, this can mean up to your late 20s now**. ;-)) know that spray paint and spray primer fumes are REALLY bad for you, that you NEED to use a paint mask when you apply spray paints/primers, and that you NEED to apply them in places with lots and lots of ventilation.  Also, the stuff is super flammable, so don't play with it and fire, because actually getting hurt or having someone close to you hurt no where near as exciting or interesting in real life as it seems like it is in the movies or on TV. I promise you.

*I actually love Games Workshop despite their high cost stuff.  I just would rather spend less money if I can on the things I can spend less money on, which will allow me to stretch my hobby budget. ;-)  Nothing but love for ya, GW!

** One of my professors mentioned this week that he read an article over the summer that had a really interesting theory on why we are seeing extended adolescence in industrialized nations.  In the article, about 50 12 year old males from industrialized cultures in the Americas, Europe and Asia were studied to see how many hours a week they spend with their fathers, as were 50 12 year old males from tribal cultures in Africa and South America.  It turned out that the average number of hours a 12 year old male spent with his father in an average week in industrialized cultures was 2, and the the average number of hours a 12 year old male spent with his father in an average week in tribal cultures was 20.  Very interesting stuff.

Anyway, more on the Land Raider soon.  Its really coming along!  It looks cool as hell.

Until next time,

David D.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Learning those paint shades!

My business cards are so useful for so many
things besides their intended purpose. 
So here is a cool little exercise that I engaged in this week.  Prior to painting the engine block, I noticed that three of my paints, Citadel's mithril silver, boltgun metal and chainmail look really, really similar.  In and out of their containers.  So what is the difference between these paints?

The painting guides usually call for painting metal items boltgun first, then highlight in chainmail and then just add a bit of mithril silver on the edges of the chainmail.  But why?  They look so alike.  Sometimes when I paint I can't even tell after the work is done what parts have the highlighting and what don't.  What is my eye looking for?  Is it brightness?  Finish?  Are some of those paints matte, and some more shiny?

So I decided to do a little experiment.  I took one of my small brushes and painted a bit of each paint on the back of one of my business cards.  Since the surface is a solid, uniform color, I figured I should get a good idea of what I am looking at.  And voila!  The difference became quite clear.  Boltgun is by far the darkest color, followed by chainmail, and then mithril, the lightest.  And ding!  It all makes sense.  Layering paint is often all about putting lighter colors on top of darker ones- hense, the older the guides suggest you put down the paint.  I also noticed that each color is about as shiny as the others.  They are metallic paint, so it makes sense that they would all reflect some.

The picture does not quite show this because the light was coming from the right side of the image- making the chainmail reflect more of the light, and hence, looking lighter than it i in general, but you get the idea.

I can (and will) use this technique again on other colors to see exactly what order I want to use them in when I am working on other laying projects.  There are a lot of paint shades that look close to alike both in their containers and on the work piece.  Even when I'm a doing a model more or less paint by number, which is where I was and am just starting to mess around with a little creativity, knowing the 'why????' of the logic behind the instructions I am following is useful for me to become better at my craft.  This is one of those situations where a I can read something in a book, but I don't necessarily get the concept until I play around with it a bit and make it mine.  And that's a useful skill in a lot of different situations.

Until next time,

David D.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Land Raider, cont'd...

Left side!
Work continues on the Land Raider.  I've probably put another 3 hours in on this guy, bringing my total up to 6 thus far.  I have the two interior side walls more or less complete.  My painting skill isn't going to win me a Golden Demon award anytime soon, but I'm pretty happy with how everything is looking.  Here is what I have going on. 

Here you see the left side.  You can click on the pictures to make them appear much larger, which helps to the smaller specifics.  I apologize in advance for the imperfect focus.

In any case, moving from left to right, here is what I've used for the painting.  All these paints come from the Citadel paint line (I have really sold my soul, or rather, hobby money to these people.  But this path to perdition is paved with pleasure.) I've got boltgun metal on the rack in the front with chain mail highlights, chain mail on the metal bar running top to bottom with mithril silver rivets and highlights.  The conduit and light are boltgun metal with chain mail and mithril highlights.  The red light it blood red beneath red gore.  The compartment door has a tallarn flesh foundation below bleached bone.  The edge around it was washed with badab black to make it stand out. The seats are calthan brown as a foundation with bestial brown on top.  The footlockers (and all of the rivets over the background, which is shadow grey) is spacewolves grey.  The alarm light on the top of the middle column is boring blazing orange over the black primer.  The cross speaker is shining gold washed with ogryn flesh, a brown wash.  The computer screen is black with a scorpion green freehand graphic of a guy and text around him, which is actually my favorite part of this section.  The data jack is boltgun metal with chainmail highlights.  The center of the data jack opening is blood red with red gore on top.  The second set of seats is the same as the first. 

Right side!
The right side is also pretty cool.  From right to left, I've got computer keys painted in dark flesh, (I needed a new color for computer keys and it looked good.  The left and right arrow keys are blazing yellow, and the button between them is boltgun.  The conduit data jacks below them are boltgun metal with mithril silver highlighting.  The metal bar is chainmail with mithril silver rivets and highlighting.  The conduit and metalic box is boltgun with chianmail and mithril highlights.  The compartment door is identical to the one of the other side; tallarn flesh foundation below bleached bone for the skull, and badab black wash on the edge. The seats on this side are the same as the other side.  The alarm light is also orange, and the cross speaker and skull are the mirror the other side.  In the little alter, I've got talaran flesh for a foundation, dwarf flesh and then skull white.  I also free handed some black script to look like a blessing.  On the sides I have two candles with shining gold and mithril silver highlights, and the candles are golden yellow and little flames have been plaints on top in blazing orange.  The rest of the side are identical to the other.

So that's the yield of another 3 hours of work.  And we're up to six hours total on this project.

Until next time,

David D.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Starting work on the Land Raider...

Here we go!
 Ok, I've done a total of 27 space marine infantry figures thus far.  That is sanding down mold lines, priming, assembling, gluing, holding while the glue sets, painting, second coat-ing, washing, detailing, and second coat detailing, over two dozen little guys.  And I still have more to do.  But I needed to do something else because I have gotten really, really, REALLY bored worked on little people.  Good thing I had a land raider crusader/redeemer sitting on the shelf waiting to be worked on, because it is exactly the kind of thing I was up for working on.  So I am.  I figure this is going to take me about 20 hours to do, which means it could take me two or three weeks to finish, depending on how busy I am.  I would love to see my complete kick ass looking land raider right now, but its a labor of love, and the more time I spend on it during painting and construction, the more I'm going to get out of it when its finished.  And here on the blog I'll document the progress of the project.

Ok.  The Land Raider Crusader/Redeemer is one of the biggest models there is in Warhammer 40K, and possibly the biggest model for the entire space marines army.  It clocks in at 124 parts- the Storm Raven Gunship for the Blood Angle Space Marine faction, which is probably the vehicle closest in size to the land raider, has 116 pieces.  In game play, the Land Raider Crusader gives me 12 Strength 4, armor penetration 5, twin linked (meaning you get to roll twice to hit) shots from the side mounted storm bolters that shoot 24 inches.  The top mounted assault cannon gives me a 4 strength 6, armor penetration 4, twin linked shots.  It can carry 16 infantry figures who can assault on the same turn the disembark.  It has armor of 14 all the way around.  Right out of the box, before you add any additional weapons such a multimelta to kill other vehicles, this thing is fast moving, enemy infantry shredding, moving fortress bar none.  I plan on throwing my terminators inside and just demolishing the armies of my foes.  Hordes of cheap orks or necrons?  Bring 'em on.  But first I need to build the thing.

Its gonna take me a while to get this all put together.
As I said, this thing has a *ton* of pieces.  Here are the sprues untouched, just out of the box.

Yeah.  That's almost as many items as were in the entire Assault on Black Reach Warhammer 40K starter kit.  I love seeing all these pieces though.  It reminds me of when I was a kid and got the Lego Blacktron Message Intercept Base for my 9th birthday.  There were sooooo many little bags of lego pieces to put together.  That thing was HUGE.  I remember that it took me 5 hours to put it together.  I *loved* that toy.

Well, as my mother always said, "the bigger the boy, the bigger the toy."

This thing isn't going to be done in 5 hours.

First step, wash off the sprues.  Its a pretty standard step.   I want to get all of the oils and whatnot off of the plastic before I start going to work on it.  I want the primer and paint and glue to go on without any problems, and I don't want any little bumps or ridges screwing up the pieces or the fittings between them. Little soap, little water, little kitchen sponge action, little drying off, we done.  There were a few parts with little crevices where water had beaded up and I couldn't reach it with a towel, so I let the sprues air dry for about an hour before I applied the spray on primer.

I've done enough blogging about my priming and I think you all get the picture.  It took me a while to prime everything, flip it over, and prime it again, and let it all dry.  There are six separate sprues in the package, and my spray paint box was only big enough to spray two at a time, so I would spay them out, wait ten minutes, flip the two I was working on over, do them again, wait ten minutes, take the finished ones off and put the new ones on, and repeat.

A detailed section of the inside of the Land Raider.
Based on my work on my rhino space marine transport, I have decided to work on several pieces of this project while they are still on the sprue instead of cutting everything out and working on them seperately.  I decided to do this for a few reasons.  First of all, it makes it much harder to misplace any of the pieces.  With 124 parts, and some of them very small, its easy for something, such as the instructions, a painting book, the paper towel I use to clean of my brushes, etc, to cover up a piece, which results in my wasting time looking for something, and its kind of a buzz kill.  Second of all, keeping the pieces on the sprue makes it very easy for me to paint the pieces and move the 'em around to get the bast light and painting angle without ever having to touch the piece itself.  Less smudging is better.  Third, it cuts down on items getting knocked around, scratched or otherwise banged up.  So hey- I'll see how it goes. I know it'll mean that I need to repaint the places where the pieces connect to the sprue after I sand down the connection spots after I clip the pieces out.  I'll have to see if it is worth the hassle.

One last pic before I end this entry.  This picture shows a computer counsel that will also be on the inside of the land raider.  The instructions call for constructing the land raider from the inside out; its pretty much impossible to paint the interior once the the model has been constructed, so I need to work on detailed parts like this now.  The rest of the model, while big, isn't especially detailed, at least not in comparison to the interior of the raider.  I bet at this point I have put in about 3 hours of out and out work, not waiting for something to dry work, on this thing.  And I keep working on it.  I'll have more photos soon.

Until next time,

David D.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Customizing 40k Space Marine Terminators

Claws?  Coool!!  Sword? Not so cool!  Lets fix it. 
So!  I'm new to Warhammer 40k, and I'm also new to customizing stuff.  But I found a great project that hit on both.

In the box set that Games Workshop makes to act as a starter set for Warhammer 40k, Assault On Black Reach, 5 Space Marine Terminators models are included.  The models are armed not with hammers or claws, their awesome melee weapons, but with a big pistol and a big gauntlet which are ok, or basic sword that looks cool, but in game terms, is actually a pretty basic and unimpressive weapon.  I don't want to spend points on Terminators if they aren't going to be tearing stuff up.  Seriously, they are called Terminators.  They SHOULD be tearing stuff up.

On the other hand, if you buy the Terminators Close Combat Squad box set, you get pieces to make 5 terminator models but enough weapons to arm 10.  You get 5 of their hammers and 5 sets of claws.  I grabbed a box, and thought, hmm...  I wonder if I could get these claws to work on my Assault On Black Reach terminators?  The trick is, the Close Combat Terminators weapons do not come on fully built arms- you need to either use Green Stuff or some other sculpting medium to build shoulders on those arms, or cut the claws off of the half made arms to go on the arms of the AoBR Terminators.  And you'll need to cut the the gauntlet/pistol/sword hands off of the AoBR Terminators to create a space to place the gloves.

Time to get that aggression out!
So How Did It Go?

Not badly, as a matter of fact.  Even with my lack of experience, I didn't screw it up.  I used the Games Workshop hobby saw (I nicknamed it "Sharp Tooth") to chop up the Close Combat Terminator claw arms right where the claw gauntlet connects to the arm.  There is a little  hose that also connects to the gauntlet, and I cut that where the hose connects to the back of the arm.  The lines are pretty straight, so it wasn't too difficult to cut anything with the Sharp Tooth, which was nice, since the thing is not a scalpel.  Fine incisions is not what this thing does.

I repeated the process with the AoBR arm pieces.  I cut just where the arm fit into the gauntlets, but this time, I tossed the gauntlets (tossed them into my scrap pieces bucket, not the trash.  They could still come in handy) and kept the shoulders and arm.  For about half of the pieces, I ended up doing a little sanding with a hobby file to make sure the angle of the arm connected with the angle of the clawed gauntlet, but the good news is, a little hobby glue and the two pieces stuck together like they had been built that way.  Check it out!

Worked out just fine!  Only 18 arms left to go. 
It took abut a minute or two of careful sawing per arm.  I was glad to have Sharp Tooth- my xacto knife would not have done very well at this task.  Before going to the store to buy the saw, I tried with the xacto just to see if it would work, and yeah no.  The plastic used by Games Workshop would take forever and a day for an xacto knife to saw through. Maybe with a smaller, finer, blade the line would have looked nicer, but it looked plenty nice with Sharp Tooth.

I had some Green Stuff on hand and did use it in three cases.  In the first case I used it to connect an arm to a claw glove where the angles just did not work and I needed to fill in a gap.  In the other two cases, the hose from the glove did not connect with the shoulder of the new arm, so I created little green stuff hose extensions that did connect from the end of the hose to the top of the arm.  I haven't painted it yet, so I don't know how it'll look when its done.

Yeah.... we look a lot meaner with these claws
than we did with pistols.  ::snicker::  Pistols...
All in all, this project turned out pretty well.  Everything looks great at this point and is structurally  sound.  My biggest question now is how the painting is going to look, since I primed the terminator models in black before I started this project and primed the arms from the Close Combat Terminator kit white.  I'm not sure if it'll make too much of a difference since its going to be ultramarine blue in general, and UMB is pretty opaque, especially after a few coats, but I'll have to see.  I'll tell you how tings turned out in a later post.

Until next time,

David D.

Spraying On Primer Fast And Easy

 This post is just a quick demonstration of the technique I use for priming anything I am working on, be it Warhammer minis, action figures, vehicles, etc.  First I set up everything in my cardboard box spray enclosure, and then I place everything I am going to prime on a square cardboard scrap I've cut from a cardboard box.  I spray everything head on at an angle as close to horizontal as I can, and rotate everything by turning the square scrap 90 degrees, and repeat the process.  Turning the square makes sure I don't touch I'm working on while it is wet, and makes everything go plenty easy.

Everything ready to go, before any primer is applied.
Primer applied to the front. 

Rotate the card to the left 90 degrees...

Spray the objects on their left. 

Rotate the card to the left 90 degrees again... 

Spray your stuff from the back. 

Rotate everything to the left 90 degrees one more time...

And now you're good to go. 

Until next time!

David D.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The first squad thus far

I know, I know...  I'm late with an update and I didn't even have the courtesy to do a "sorry, going to be late" post.  Apologies.  Its end of semester for J Term, and I had two papers due this week.  I've got a ton of pictures of 40k stuff I have been working on between reading passages, taking notes, and putting my papers together, and will get some of those up hopefully this weekend.  In the meantime, here is a picture of what the army that I started painting in the last post looks like at the moment. 

Until next time,

David D.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Enter the Ultramarines. Or, how I learned how to apprecaite brush sizes

You can find us at your local gaming store!  But not at model
shop.  Holy moley, model shop owners take umbrage
at even the question of "do you care 40k minis?"  Or at
least the ones near me do. Learn from our mistakes.
Model shops carry MODELS.  We (despite looking
and seeming a lot like models) are GAMES.  Not
MODELS.  Never make this mistake again.

You know, we just don't get the new Joe action figures up here in Minnesota.  I can see pics and reviews of each new wave of figures on the 'Net a good month or two or more before I ever see any of them in my neck of the woods.  Over the weekend, I did a little run through various Targets, Walmart, and today, even a Toys R Us that was near a place where I had a meeting this morning, and the view everywhere is the same.  Not only do I not see any of the new figures, all I see are piles of the previous wave still sitting on the shelves, holiday toy rush over, probably doomed to be there, like the snow drifts, until the snow thaws in April or may.

That is, if we had any snow in Minnesota this year.

Its kind of freakish- we have had a total of about two or three inches of snow total this winter.  Usually, we'd have about five or six inches on the ground right now, easy.  But hey- I'm not complaining.  Less snow means easier driving and less snow shoveling.

Anyway, the lack of Joe stuff has led my eye to wander, and land it has on the Warhammer 40,000 game franchise.

There is a lot of overlap between 40k and action figure customizing.

1. All 40k figures come unpainted and thus, *require* painting.
2. All 40k figures (and vehicles) come assembled and need to be put together, often with xacto knives, files, rotary tools, clippers, and all the other cool little tools used to customize action figures.
3. Military/fantasy theme going on in both places.
4. Neither hobby is gentle on your wallet.

Yeah.  Anyway, my wife's cousin, his wife, his friend, and a few other folks I know play 40k.  I've seen their stuff and it was cool.  I've always wanted to play, and now I've got the funds (although, not really the time) to do it, but what can I say?  Fools rush in.

My spray paint station in my heated and ventilated porch
full of space marine parts getting their primer coat.
I did my first batch of painting these guys last week.  All I got done was the priming step and the first color blocking step.  The army I plan on playing (and painting) is called the Ultramarines, and their main color is a dark blue. 

The nice thing about 40k miniatures is that you can really focus on your technique, because the company that makes them, Games Workshop, does a lot of the creative work for you.  You don't have to follow their guidelines, and many people don't, but it is nice just to focus on one thing at a time.  What I learned this week on the painting front is the key to the different brushes.

Using the right tool for the job is obvious, but not always so when you are in the moment.  In the picture at the top of this posting there are 3 distinct types of models- 10 space marine figures, a walker called a dreadnought, and parts of a transport vehicle that, when assembled, will be called a rhino.  I was painting the largest sections of the figures this week, and thus, didn't need the tiniest brush I had, although when I started painting, that was exactly the brush I was using.  I have, check this, an 18/0 brush.  (thank you, thank you.) for those of you not in the brush size know, that is a really, really tiny brush.  And I was using it at first to paint my guys.  Needless to say, it was taking me about 15 minutes to paint a single shoulder pad of my guys.

Here is how brush sizes work.  Big brushes have high numbers.  Like 10 or 15. Small brushes have little numbers.  Like 1 or 2.  Really small brushes have 0 numbers.  Like 0, 00, 000, and 5/0.  5/0 would be the same as 00000, but its easier to print "5/0" on a brush then all those zeros.  10/0 brushes are meant for fine detail work like one would do on minis like these, such as work on painting eyes, mouths, etc.  I looked at my brush and thought, 'man, there must be a better way'.  So I worked my way up the brush sizes.

I ended up painting the shoulder pads and most of the other "large" surfaces of the figures with a size 2 brush.  2!  It was about 10 times the size of the 18/0 brush.  I didn't have any problems getting paint anywhere I didn't want it, and it saved a TON of time on going back and forth between my paint tray and the minis as I used up the paint on my brush.  I used a 5 brush to paint my rhino.

I also learned that those tiny jars of Citadel paint that Games Workshop sells for its models actually goes a long, long way.  I did one coat of paint on each of my 10 minis and dreadnought, and two coats of paint on the rhino, and I still have paint left.  You can water the paint down and it makes it go even longer, but going by the advice of my wife's cousin, Abe, who is an artist and a graphic designer, I found out you don't really need to water down the paint that much.  Games Workshop does a really nice job of formulating the stuff so it has a good amount of coverage, coating, and control right out of the bottle. So that's pretty nice.

Next up for the space marines is detail work for the minis and some washes for the rhino and the dreadnought.  I have printed out the digital camo stencils I am going to use for the clipper project, and hopefully, will have something to show you there in the next week or so.

Until next time,

David D.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Mythic Interview

Hey folks.  One of the coolest things about this hobby is the awesome people I have met through it.  One of those people is Mythic, a gifted custom artist over at  He gave me some advice on my last project, and I asked him if he would be willing to let me interview him for the site.  He was cool with that, and with no further ado, here is the transcript of the discussion.

Spec-Ops Scarlett.
Custom and photography by Mystic
David Draper: Thanks for taking time out of your Monday night to chat.
Mythic: sure.
David Draper: So Mythic- how long have you been making or customizing custom action figures? Or anything else?
Mythic: That is something of a two-parter.
David Draper: Ok.
Mythic: When I was little, I used to unscrew my Joes and make new ones by mixing parts.
David Draper: Nice.
Mythic: I made a few I still have today.
Mythic: More recently though I started seriously customizing about two years ago.
David Draper: What got you into it two years ago?
Mythic: To be honest, my dad had just passed away and I needed a distraction. I had bought a lot of VvV Joes and found my paints in a box I unpacked and just started playing around.
David Draper: No kidding. Wow.
David Draper: I'm sorry to hear about your father.
Mythic: Thank you.
David Draper: Were you an artist before that, then?
Mythic: My first customs were using the older construction with the rubber band hip joint.
David Draper: Ok.
Custom PoC Kamakura.
Custom and photography by Mystic
Mythic: I have always been kind of "artsy", but never considered myself an artist. I painted Warhammer and 40k minis and have always painted and such, and then got into Photoshop about 10 years ago.
Mythic: My mom always made sure there were markers, pencils, paints, clay and crayons in the house, so we were all encouraged with art.
David Draper: That's really cool. Did you ever study art, so to speak, or are you pretty much just self taught?
Mythic: My last art class of any sort was somewhere around 7th grade.
David Draper: Gotcha. That's about where I am too.
Mythic: I taught myself Photoshop as well as photography.
David Draper: Did you grow up in Arizona?
Mythic: AZ? Noooooo. I was born and raised in San Diego. I moved to AZ about 7 years ago.
David Draper: Ahh. How did you pick up Photoshop? In school, for a hobby, etc?
Mythic: I have always been a tabletop gamer and wargamer. And I wanted to manipulate some images to suit locations and NPCs in some games I ran so I got photoshop.
Mythic: I have done a lot of digital photorestoration as well for friends and family.
David Draper: Very cool. So you're kind of in that professi-amature creative type.
Mythic: I have always been a better writer than anything else.
POC/Battle-Ready Crimson Guard Immortal.
Custom and photography by Mystic
David Draper: And a writer. no kidding. Do you have a website or blog?
Mythic: Kind of.
David Draper: I am looking at your gallery on Hisstank and its impressive.
Mythic: I used to work in advertising, doing ad layouts, scanning images and so forth.
Mythic: Thanks. A lot of my commissions work is not even on there.
David Draper: Is there a place online where people can see your work besides the hisstank gallery?
Mythic: I look at my [Hisstank] gallery now and really see how I have improved myself. I would be ashamed of some my first customs if I made them today at that level. Hehe.
Mythic: The 'tank is about the only place I post. I will have a Deviant Art page properly functioning soon and I have considered a blog. Right now it is just an issue of time.
David Draper: Ok. When did you start taking commissions?
David Draper: And do you advertise?
Mythic: I have been open to them from the beginning and my first commission was very shortly after I started posting on the 'tank and got some exposure.
Mythic: My posts on the 'tank are my only ads.
Mythic: heh.
David Draper: Very efficient.
David Draper: What has been your favorite project so far?
Mythic: Hmm... That is a tough one. I would have to say the "battle-ready" line of figs I have been doing.
David Draper: I'm flipping through the “battle ready” posts of those right now- what is the inspiration behind them?
David Draper: just making them look badass, or something else?
Mythic: Mostly I just enjoy updating characters while still keeping their classic feel.
POC / Battle-Ready Tomax and Xamot.
Custom and photography by Mystic.
Mythic: Here is my view on it:
Mythic: if you do a custom, people should be able to tell who it is of without an explanation.
Mythic: If people do not recognize the character, then you did too much.
Mythic: The PoC line was a good part of the inspiration behind then battle-ready figs.
Mythic: I saw the more cutting edge tech route they were taking and went with it.
Mythic: i.e. Reactive Impact Armor, Jungle Vipers' optical cammo and so on.
Mythic: PoC has more of a very near future feel to me.
David Draper: Sure.
David Draper: Your are a very skilled painter for someone whose last art class was in 7th grade.
David Draper: Do you have any advice for people who are just getting started painting and customizing their own figures?
Mythic: Aw thank you. That was my last class, but I have painted more than a few Warhammer 40,000 minis in my time.
David Draper: Joes seem to me to be much easier objects to paint than Warhammer figs. What armies did/do you play?
Mythic: ((I'll get back to advice in a sec))
David Draper: Apologies for typing the questions in so fast! No problem.
Mythic: Actually, Joes are harder to me
David Draper: Really?
Nightshade (OC Cobra sniper)
Custom and photography by Mystic.
David Draper: Why is that?
Mythic: You can get away with some things at the smaller scale.
David Draper: Huh. I would have thought the tiny details of Warhammer minis would be a lot tougher. Interesting.
Mythic: Essentially, the bigger the thing it you are painting, the better you have to be.
Mythic: The eye will easily note all the mistakes on a large piece.
Mythic: On a small piece, they are harder to see. Hehe.
David Draper: Gotcha gotcha. Interesting. I'm just getting into 40k, and thought the joes would be easier since they have such larger, smoother surfaces. I guess not.
Mythic: I learned to paint figs through painting 40k armies and Blood Bowl teams.
David Draper: What is Blood Bowl?
Mythic: Blood Bowl is an American football game set in the Warhammer Fantasy setting.
David Draper: Cool. So it uses Warhammer figures?
Mythic: It uses figs made by Games Workshop, but made for Blood Bowl.
Mythic: You can adapt figs though.
Mythic: I probably learned the most in painting the treemen for my bother's halfling team.
David Draper: What did they teach you?
Mythic: I have never even used a wash before or drybrushed and the guys at the shop were amazed at what I -did- pull of.
Mythic: then I learned about washing and drybrushing. a way to do the same thing I had done but in a fraction of the time. lol.
Rikka Seferis, Mandalorian Death Watch Member.
Custom and photography by Mystic.
David Draper: Nice.
Mythic: I did the treemen by just layering color and then glued in lichen and such to add a 'living' quality.
Mythic: The funny thing is, before I started customizing, I had not painted a single fig in about 10 years.
David Draper: Wow. no kidding.
David Draper: Your skills really are great- it must be kind of like learning to ride a bike.
Mythic: Kind of, but I still learn all the time.
David Draper: What advice for aspiring painters who would like to be able to paint like you?
Mythic: 1) There are great tutorials and the like out there. Check them out. I always do when I see one because you never know when somebody has a better way of doing something or a technique you had never thought of. I am always learning.
Mythic: 2) THIN YOUR PAINTS! I add a few drops of distilled water to my paints to keep them a little thin. They go on better and allow more control. A few thin coats is better than 1 thick one Mythic: 3) Practice with washes and drybrushing. They are two of the most basic techniques that will get you a lot of return.
Mythic: and 4) Use the right brush for the task.
David Draper: Where do you look for tutorials? All over? on HissTank? on YouTube? Elsewhere?
Mythic: Nowhere in particular. There are a lot of great ones on the 'tank. Some 'tankers post them on youtube as well.
Mythic: That is not to say I agree with every tutorial I see. Some people just find a different way than I do things, that works for them. Hehe.
David Draper: That makes sense.
David Draper: How long does it take you these days to do a custom figure? On average?
Mythic: That I really do not know because I am almost never working on just one.
Custom and photography by Mystic.
David Draper: Ahh. ok.
Mythic: I usually am working on half a dozen at a time.
David Draper: Wow. You are busy.
Mythic: I go back and forth between them, letting things dry and so on.
David Draper: Do you have a favorite custom tool in your collection?
David Draper: er, tool that you use in your customs?
Mythic: My fave is my dremel. It is a tool that you do not need often, but when you do need it, you REALLY it. The tool I use the most often though (aside from paint/brushes) is the xacto knife.
Mythic: A lot of tools in customizing are like the dremel. You do not use it much, but they make certain tasks much easier.
Mythic: My main tools are dremel, xacto, hair dryer, hot glue gun, snadpaper/files, toothpicks and super glue.
David Draper: What kinds of paint do you use? Do you have a favorite brand or line, or do you play the field?
Mythic: I use mostly Citadel paints (mainly because I know them from painting 40k figs). But I still have some Ral Partha and Vallejo that I use from time to time.
Mythic: I also mix a lot of colors myself from Citadel paints.
David Draper: Slick.
Chop Shop.
Custom and photography by Mystic.
David Draper: I want to let you go pretty quick, but before I do, if someone sees some of your work and would like to ask you to do a commission for them, what are your rules? Do you do minis and actions figures? Do you do any other work? How should someone get a hold of you?
Mythic: Anymore I do Joes (including vehicles) mostly. I can do dio stuff too. The best way to get a hold of me is through the Hiss Tank or eBay.
David Draper: Ok. what is your ebay name?
Mythic: akilles626.
Mythic: I usually have links to my auctions in my signature for my posts on the tank as well.
David Draper: Ok- good deal. Well Mythic, thanks very much for your time! I really appreciate you agreeing to this interview.
Mythic: No problem.
Mythic: if you have any more questions, just PM me.
David Draper: will do. Thanks very much!
Mythic: Catch you later!

(interview conducted via Yahoo Messenger on Monday, January 2, 2012 and ran from approximately 8:10 pm CST to 9:00 pm CST. )

Monday, January 2, 2012

First Custom Action Figure Complete

New Year is a time for many things.  Resolutions.  Hangovers.  Actually getting some snow in Minnesota for the first time this winter.  And new beginnings.  Which means its time to be done with the First Custom Action Figure Project.

Applying the clear coat.
As I write this paragraph, I am waiting for the sealant to dry on the figure so I can reassemble it.  While I wait, I'll reflect on what I did well and what I didn't do so well in this project.

What I did well.

1. Got a clue.  I wanted to do some custom painting, but I didn't know jack about how to actually paint.  I read some forums, watched some youtube videos, and found several great tutorials, but the problem with that was that most of them assumed the reader/viewer had at least some background with painting.  I didn't, so I bought some books aimed at beginners.  This was a good move.

2. Fully disassembled the figure before I began painting it.  Yes, it took time and was irritating, but it made painting everything much, much, easier.

3. Rotary Tool down the rub zones.  Again, this took time, but I think it was the right way to go, if all of the folks on the internet who know what they are doing are to be trusted.

4. Priming the figure.  Some people do not prime their work pieces before they paint.  Those people are taking the quick and easy way.  That is the path to the Dark Side.  If want are taking the time to actually customize a toy, take the time to do it right.  Primer makes the paint adhere to the object being painted.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I expect my customs to be family heirlooms that David Draper XXXVCII  hands down to his children.  That means I want them to last.  That means I prime my damn figures.

5. Come up with a color scheme before hand.  This was a very good idea.  I knew what I wanted.  That made it possible for me to not second guess myself when I was painting, which was good, because at my beginner level of painting I need to be able to concentrate completely on the actual painting, not on doubts I have about the choice of paint.

What I didn't do well.

1. I didn't know my paints.  Just because something looks one way in the bottle does not mean its going that way when it is applied to a surface.  That's a grade school mistake.  I ended up making swatches of all my paints, but I should have done this before I started.  It won't happen again.

2. I painted myself into a corner.  By painting details like eyes and ammo onto my figure, I made it impossible to paint a wash onto the figure without screwing that stuff up.  Washes are watered down mixtures of dark paint that fall into the recesses of a model and give the illusion of shadows and depth.  I could repaint, but eh.  Now I know the correct order to paint a model (once it is primed) is:

  1. Apply the base coats.
  2. Apply wash.
  3. Apply details. 
I won't screw that one up next time.

3. I didn't layer my paint.  When I started the project, I incorrectly thought the idea was to paint dark colors onto the object first, then lighter colors because the darker colors would show throw the lighter ones.  Yeah.  Not so much.  Lighter colors are painted on top of darker ones so the lower, more recessed areas of a model look darker, which, like the washes, helps give a sense of depth and and shadow.  I get that now.  I didn't when I started this project.

Ok- I think the clear coat should be dry now.  I'm going to go get everything from the porch and try to reassemble the figure.  Through the magic of blogging, you won't even notice the gap of time between when you read this paragraph and the next, even though the next will will be written minutes to half an hour after this one!


Ok.  This is the project that will not die.

All I had to do was reassemble the figure, right?  How hard could that be?

Ha ha ha!  Funny!  Ha ha ha!

These are the joys of doing something for the first time.  Surprisingly long and rather frustrating story short: the little pegs that go in the joints did not want to go back into the joints.  At all.  No matter how hard I pushed, they only went in about half way.  So I had to come up with a plan.  Here is what I did.

Fire it up! Fire it up! Fire it up!
1. Use a hair dryer to heat up the joints and make the plastic nice and flexible.
2. Insert peg.
3. Use my little desk vice with rubber grabbers to CRUSH THE *&^% JOINTS back together.

And this worked great, except for one thing.

THE *&^%^$^%#$ &$^%$#%^_)(*(*$&# vice rubbed the paint right off the pegs!!!!!

So some touch up work was needed.


Talhk, you Svine!  Vee haav your friends in Astreeah!!

Not so much.

In any case, things are back on track now.  As I type this, the second coat of paint is drying on the ends of the pegs viable from within each joint.  I am very happy that I had my little desk vice here- without it, I would have never been able to get those pegs back into their sockets. If and when this phase of the project is complete, my little desk vice is getting the MVP for this inning of play.

I really was not ready for the pegs to not pretty much slide right back into the joints. Sure, I figured I would need to heat the joints up again, but I thought that they would be soft enough for the peg to fit back in, but it became pretty clear pretty fast that this method was not going to work.  Thank goodness for the vice.  Too bad the paint came off.

Enough stalling... I think the paint should be dry at this point (my paint dries in about 20 minutes, and I only needed a bit, so it should be good now.)  Be right back.


Ladies and gentlemen.  It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you, the NEW and IMPROVED Kinji "Rain" Shinto, of The Corps.  First a quick run back down memory lane- here is what he looked like fresh out of the package:

From the front.

From the back.

And here is what he looks like now!

Woo hoo!

Yee ha!!



I'm really happy with how this turned out.  I learned a lot of stuff from this project that I will be able to apply to future work.  And it ended up looking pretty good.  I'm pretty stoked right now.

Yeah baby!

This is a good time to mention I could have never finished this project without the support of many people, including most of all my wife, who was nothing but supportive of me spending so much of my free time here in my workshop putting this together.  I would also like to thank Mystic, Numbers, and all the rest of the folks who had supportive comments and advice here on the blog and in the threads on

I had a great time with this project, but I am also glad to move on to the next one.  It is going to be a vehicle.  Alpha class.  I think you know what project I am talking about.  If not, tune in next week at the latest to see.

Until next time,

David D.