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.


  1. Oh hell yes. I approve of this.
    PLEASE let me know if you ever decide to paint and/or putz around with and/or write about BattleTech stuff.

  2. LOL- BattleTech. I haven't seen much in the way of battle tech since the heroclix thing, and I think that game is out of print... but I'm sure its something I could get into if and when I find the time and items in the shop. ;-)