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Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk

A full squad of Terminators down!

Today is a big day for me: I finished two more Terminators out of the 12 that come in Space Hulk, bringing me up to what would be a full squad of them in 40k.

“Only in death does duty end.”

Until I started painting in February, I hadn’t finished a miniature in eight years. Between Feb. 22 and today I’ve finished five. Five. Fuck yeah!

They were a blast to paint. I’m energized and ready for the next seven!

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

More mechs from the vault, circa 1997-2007: part 2 of 3

My intro to part one applies here as well:

These mechs span about a decade of painting, some while actively playing BattleTech during regular matches with a friend in the University of Michigan student union (which I lost, no exaggeration, 100% of the time — but they were fun!) and some after moving to Utah.

The ones I painted while trying to get a fully painted force to the table tend to be pretty unrefined, and anything that wasn’t an assault mech got less attention too — I’ve always been a 100-ton goober, and the tiny ones just didn’t grab me as much.

Zeus

My overly heavy drybrushing (in the wrong colors) here kind of works — entirely by accident, but still. The Zeus is a classic design replete with little lines, radii, and circles, and drybrushing picked those out pretty well. Like a lot of my mechs from this era, he looks weathered; that’s neat.

Kingfisher

I committed hard to my unit color scheme of black with red highlights/unit markings, and it didn’t always work out well. But on the Kingfisher, I like the red legs and weapons. This looks like a mech piloted by some grizzled, battle-hardened mechwarrior with a call sign like “Blood Fury,” known for wading through the blood of her enemies.

Pillager

Up close I can see that I needed to spend some more time concealing the base that went into the larger base. Metallic silver and metallic gold also looked better in my head than they do in reality.

Pillager rear view

I want to play around with sharing two views of some of my minis, and the Pillager is a good one to start with. For one thing, the silver/gold combo works better here — especially in the vents/fins on the legs.

For another, I’m seeing depth in those fins, and in other places, that looks like it could only have come from an ink wash. Maybe I drybrushed this guy in black? Or maybe after ~20 years I’ve just forgotten that I did experiment with ink washes before learning about the Dip Method? I wish I knew for sure, but I don’t.

Score another one for the lightbox on that front: I was 100% sure I’d never tried a wash before 2010 or so, but I’m not nearly as certain anymore. Whatever I did to the Pillager was overdone, but also somewhat effective.

I really, really have not being giving past me enough credit as a minis painter — and it’s held me back from doing more it, and from finding joy in the work. No more!

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

More mechs from the vault, circa 1997-2007: part 1 of 3

These mechs span about a decade of painting, some while actively playing BattleTech during regular matches with a friend in the University of Michigan student union (which I lost, no exaggeration, 100% of the time — but they were fun!) and some after moving to Utah.

The ones I painted while trying to get a fully painted force to the table tend to be pretty unrefined, and anything that wasn’t an assault mech got less attention too — I’ve always been a 100-ton goober, and the tiny ones just didn’t grab me as much.

Starslayer

In hindsight, I can feel my frustration while painting this guy — which led to over-drybrushing. I wish I’d known then that an ink wash would have eliminated that frustration and prevented me from desperately drybrushing the shit out of this model and thinking, “Why doesn’t it look how I want it to look?!”

Perseus

The pose combined with the rusty look I chose for this Perseus makes him look like a stern old grandpa. I’m kind of digging it. Also, I did a pretty good job on his missile battery — the rim is mostly even, and every missile port was hand-dotted because (again) I didn’t use an ink wash on him.

Goshawk

This Goshawk sculpt looks like he’s swaggering into the club, knowing he’s big king swinging dick. I kind of like the green/yellow color scheme.

Nobori-nin (Huntsman)

The Huntsman is kind of fundamentally doofy-looking, and I’m not sure I did him many favors. Despite the over-drybrushing, I do like how his legs turned out; there’s some reasonable depth to them and they look nicely weathered.

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Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk Warhammer 40k

My first finished miniatures since 2012!

After buying the 3rd Edition of Space Hulk back in 2009, it took me about three years to finish painting my Genestealers — about 2/3 of the minis in the box.

That was in 2012.

Today, in the year of our glorious Emperor 2020, I finished Brother Scipio, Blood Angels Terminator, and “throne boy,” a nameless fallen Space Marine found aboard a space hulk in one of the missions.

The eye of the Emperor is upon you

It only took me 11 years to reach this point . . .
Let me get some action from the back section

Since I’ve put these two in the lightbox at every stage of production (base coat and wash in one post, dry brush in another, sealant in this one), let’s do a quick 4×4 gallery showing them side-by-side.

As always in my (limited) experience, the starkest difference is between base coat and wash. I wish I’d started doing washes years ago, instead of being too gun-shy to try them.

But it’s drybrushing that brings a mini to life for me. The difference between wash-only and wash plus drybrush isn’t huge at first glance (and some of that is likely down to my inexperience as a painter!), but it’s the step that makes the mini feel most real.

The overhead LEDs in my lightbox make the matt varnish (sealant) pop more than it does in person. A small price to pay for minis I can play with worry-free.

Onwards! I have 11 Terminators left in my Space Hulk set. It will not take me 11 more years to finish painting them. If I keep up this pace — roughly 2 minis a week, without feeling like I’m grinding them out or stepping on my other hobbies — I could have the rest done in about five weeks. Although the temptation to put in a marathon painting session is strong . . .

Musings on joy

More importantly, painting these miniatures brought me joy. Painting them, not just having them fully painted. There was joy in finishing them too, absolutely (and I’m so glad I stopped painting them assembly line-style), but my head was in the game as far as enjoying the painting as the hobby as much as the rest of the hobby around it.

That plus reading a piece in White Dwarf #451 about Phil Kelly, who has been collecting and painting the same Waaagh! of Orks for many years, across multiple editions of 40K, with models he’s inherited, kitbashes, new and old sculpts — just keeping going, loving the hobby for itself, riding out the vagaries of different editions because the Waaaghh! is the fun part — has got me thinking about trying out 40K again.

But not necessarily in my usual mode (buy game, learn rules, paint minis, find opponents). Rather in the mode of: pick a faction that speaks to me, buy a box, enjoy the painting, and maybe try playing down at the local shop sometime in 2021 — or not, and just keep building an army for the fun of it.

This r/Warhammer40k thread overflowing with positivity towards a 40k newbie and painting novice, is full of folks saying basically that: choose a faction you think is cool and form a bond with your minis. That’s where my head is at.

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Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: two Terminators down

I know for folks who paint miniatures regularly finishing a couple is no biggies, but for me as an amateur rediscovering my love of painting, who hasn’t finished a miniature since 2012, this is a big day.

Two days ago I washed Brother Scipio and throne boy, my first time doing a full-on wash with multiple shades involved. Yesterday I wrapped up their drybrushing (and re-dotted Scipio’s eyes with Moot Green, since my wash had made the green pop less than I liked), and today I sealed them both and took the last two bits of “stuff” in the Space Hulk box — the chalice and R/C shrine-thingie — all the way from base coat to touch-ups, wash, and drybrush.

Scipio and throne boy drybrushed and awaiting their sealant
Rear view

I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve been trying to be more subtle in my drybrushing. Maybe I swung too far in the other direction? I’m not sure.

Onward to sealant

Throne boy is 90% sealed, time for Scipio

I’m using the top of the empty Chessex dice box as a palette, since the Vallejo stuff comes in a dropper bottle.

So undignified, but that bottom ain’t gonna seal itself

I’ve never brushed on sealant before, only sprayed it on. This is slower, but (as with washing) I have more control — and I don’t have to wait for the weather outside to cooperate, or risk destroying a mini when I assess the humidity/etc. incorrectly.

I used Vallejo matt varnish (paid link) because its Amazon reviews showed photos of sealed minis that didn’t look sealed — which is my goal with all my minis. I applied it with a medium brush in large sections, then backtracked with a second brush before it dried and poked out all the bubbles, redistributed it where it was too thick, and generally made sure no mess was left over.

This is a great varnish. My Termies aren’t completely dry yet, but the sealant is just baaaaarely visible. (When they’re dry, these two are going in the lightbox for a celebratory post.)

Tiny follow-ups

I think the little mobile shrine is for the Librarian; the chalice is part of the same mission as throne boy, I believe as an objective.

Having these rattling around in my to-do box has been bugging me
Calling them done (well, except for sealant — they’ve got to dry first!)

My Blood Angels Terminator colors

My drybrushing colors for the Termies

It surprised me how many separate pots of paint/shade went into my basic paint jobs on these Terminators — 14 plus primer and sealant:

  • Primer: Armory white spray painter (which I won’t be using again in the future; I’m switching to brush-on primer)
  • Base coat: P3 Morrow White and Khador Red; Citadel Lothern Blue, Leadbelcher, Moot Green, and Auric Armor Gold
  • Wash: Agrax Earthshade, Seraphim Sepia or Reikland Fleshshade, Nuln Oil
  • Drybrush: P3 Arcane Blue and Marrow White; Citadel Wild Rider Red, Mithril Silver, and Liberator Gold
  • Sealant: Vallejo acrylic matt varnish

And compared to someone more experienced, who uses layer colors, possibly multiple drybrush passes, blending, etc.? This is peanuts, color-wise.

The last time I finished a miniature, according to my BGG notes, was in 2012. Eight years! My dry spell officially ends today, with two 100% finished, play-ready Terminators.

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

A bevy of old BattleTech vehicles in the lightbox

I’m not going to go as deep into a self-critique on these as in my previous BattleTech minis post, mainly because most of what I said there stands for these minis as well: they needed shading and I over-drybrushed (and generally not in the right color), but they also show effort and look dandy on the table.

I’ve got multiples of many of these vehicles (like any good tabletop army), so I’m just going to throw up one of each type here.

Enter the box of light

First in the box are these two Games Workshop tanks (from Epic 40K, I guess?), which I used in combined-arms games as 100-ton tanks. It’s been so long that I don’t remember if those were the product of house rules, but whatever the case I do remember having a devil of a time finding BattleTech tanks that felt like they were 100-tonners. These fit the bill.

Definitely not BattleTech miniatures

They’re two of my favorite vehicle minis that I’ve ever painted, and I put a lot of time into them back in the day.

Mixed BT vehicles

I like these, especially the cheerful green one with his little headlights.

My quick and dirty color scheme got me through a lot of models back in the day

Base coat black, pick out details in red as unit markings, drybrush (waaaay too heavily) in white, and then onto the table! It got the job done. These look pretty rough as a result, though. If I painted them now, I’d figure out what wash to use on black and then drybrush in medium gray rather than white.

More mixed BT vehicles

The two hovercraft are tiny, and I remember being frustrated by them and putting in the bare minimum to get them table-ready. The little grey missile tank is kind of neat, though.

And to close, these two unprimed beauties — which, I have to say, I’m looking at in a new light now: as possible future painting projects.

Atlas and Ti T’sang

I think I was working my way up to the Atlas back when I played BT; it’s such an iconic mech that I didn’t want to mess it up. I should just have painted it!

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Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

Putting my USCR squad in the lightbox

Painted roughly three years after the BattleTech mechs I posted yesterday (2010, maybe drifting into 2011), the main difference between these MERCS minis and those mechs is that in between I learned about the Dip Method — which means that these have a wash applied, which the mechs did not.

Getting these guys out again, I have to say that I really like MegaCon’s figure designs here. There are a lot of little details, like the pouches and the variations in the guns, that give them character without making them feel cartoonish.

Unleash the all-seeing eye of the lightbox

Trying out a group shot in my lightbox (USCR squad, minus the tank)

I can definitely see the difference washing (shading) makes. I suspect the Dip Method’s floor varnish (Minwax PolyShades) is thicker than an actual made-for-minis wash, too — which may be why some of the shallower lines and transitions lack depth. There’s some nice warmth to the leather and some decent shading in the “vents” on the armor, though.

I learned from the mechs and their pesky rocks, too: These bases have just a few rocks apiece, and I glued those fuckers down tight. I’m also digging the contrast between the green central portion of the base and the rocks (which is hard to see here because of the angle).

And shit, these do look markedly better than my mechs. Progress!

On to the main event, the Behemoth — and his massive hammer, painted yellow for maximum USSR hammer/sickle vibes.

OSCR Behemoth

I like this guy. All the red adds up to being a bit bland, but some parts of his armor showcase the wash pretty well. He’s the “hero piece” in the squad, and I spent the most time on him. I also did a decent job keeping my base coated sections discrete, too . . . at least from this angle.

Here’s a shot composed so as to be as unflattering as possible, partly as an experiment — I’m still figuring out my lightbox, angles, etc. — and partly to highlight the difference between “good enough for tabletop” and “stands up to scrutiny from six inches away.”

Dat ass, though…

There’s a full-on unpainted spot on the small pouch where his left leg meets his waist (at the bend), and you can also see where I blobbed black on the pipes/cables on his lower black — relying on the Dip to cover my sins — and the Dip did not in fact cover my sins. I’m not sure if it’s glare or if I was overzealous in my application of spray sealant, but that’s something for me to keep in mind in the future.

On the other hand, the row of pouches facing the camera look really good! I also like the warmth in the yellow, and the shading, on his hammer. And the Dip worked its magic on his circular armor vents.

On balance, I’m surprised to say that my takeaway from these MERCS figures is that I’ve been selling myself short as a minis painter. I have a tendency to be overly critical of myself, so that tracks pretty well. Nothing I’ve shared so far makes me — or, I suspect, would make you — recoil in horror. Especially not at arm’s length during a game.

I’m not going to get anywhere by being uncharitable with my own lack of experience as a minis painter: My lifetime total is around 85 painted miniatures. To put that in perspective, Rushputin of Warpstone Pile — who is seriously fucking talented, a real brush-wizard — paints more miniatures than that in a single year. Looking at his 2018 year in review post, he paints an average of roughly 242 minis per year (~450 in 2016!). I can’t expect to be nearly as good as him after what’s basically 33% of one of his average years.

The lightbox is proving quite useful for self-evaluation, and for putting things in perspective; I’m really digging it. (I reviewed this model in my previous lightbox post.) It highlights both positives and negatives much more clearly than just holding up a mini at squinting at it — and it makes the minis look cool!

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Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: applying washes to two minis (with comparison photos)

A big part of why I love my lightbox is for how clearly it showcases my paint work — for good and ill. It’s a great learning tool.

To that end, here are a couple of comparison photos of the same two models: first with only a base coat, and then with a wash (Citadel Shades) that I applied in this evening’s painting session. So far I’ve only been putting finished minis in the lightbox, but this seems like a potentially good use of it as well.

For context, I may have attempted a couple washes many years ago (~2007), but I can’t remember for sure. I know that all of my “recent” minis — from around a decade ago — were washed with the Dip Method because applying washes with a brush has always made me nervous. (It seemed so easy to screw up!)

I used an excellent article on Tangible Day as my basic guide to washes. It’s what pointed me to the Citadel Shade Paint Set (paid link) as a good starting point, and to the specific shades I’ve used here.

This is my first time doing a proper wash in something like 13 years — it might as well be my first time, really. I was nervous!

Reikland Fleshshade on throne boy, starting on the Seraphim Sepia on Scipio

Before and after: front

Brother Scipio and throne boy, base coat only
Post-wash

Before and after: rear

Rear view, base coat only (those teardrop gems on the throne were so much fun!)
Rear view with a wash

Side-by-side photos

WordPress makes galleries a breeze now — let’s see how they look in A/B mode.

Colors and shades

Colors are P3 Khador Red and Marrow White; and Citadel Leadbelcher, Lothern Blue, Auric Armor Gold, and Moot Green. Primer is Armory white spray and my brushes are a mix of Citadel and Armory.

I used different shades for each Terminator. Since throne boy is long-dead and basically part of the space hulk, not the Terminator squad, he got Reikland Fleshshade on his gold bits (to make them look a bit more aged) and Agrax Earthshade everywhere else. It’s not like he’s doing regular armor maintenance anymore, right?

Brother Scipio got Nuln Oil on his Leadbelcher elements (for that cool/dark metal look), Seraphim Sepia for his gold (for a more burnished look), and Agrax Earthshade everywhere else — including the base, since it’s rusty decking.

Annnnnd exhale

Compared to using the Dip Method, which is both forgiving — it goes everywhere, you can’t miss any spots — and unforgiving, since you only get one color and it’s pretty thick, applying a wash with a brush (Citadel Shade M) was . . . a lot of fun.

With the Dip, I was outside on my stoop, gripping the base of the mini with needlenose pliers, shaking the everliving fuck out of it while hoping I didn’t a) fling it across the driveway or b) shake off too much varnish.

With a brush, I felt much more in charge. I did a quick pass everywhere, probably too heavy, making sure to brush across details rather than along them. Then I poked all the crevices; and finally I followed up with a shade-free wet brush to get some of the “globs” of wash thinned out a bit.

Not gonna lie: It was a bit nerve-wracking — at first. But after a few strokes I saw that this was going to be almost as forgiving as the Dip, and increased control and the ability to use multiple shades felt like solid trade-offs.

I’ve always been nervous about doing washes. No longer!

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BattleTech Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools

Experimenting with photographing my painted minis in a lightbox

After seeing Warpstone Pile‘s cool setup I bought an inexpensive lightbox to use for photographing my miniatures.

For $20, this DUCLUS lightbox (paid link) — one of dozens of cheap lightboxes on Amazon — offered some features I really liked.

  • Folds up for storage in the included bag
  • Built-in LEDs with a dimmer switch, 95+ CRI, and a button to switch between cool, neutral, and warm light
  • If you turn it off while it’s plugged in, it has setting memory for both brightness and color temperature (it resets when you unplug it)
  • Five fabric backdrops, including black — the one wanted to start with

Here it is with the black backdrop in place, on the lowest light setting, with the LEDs set to neutral white. As a flashlight enthusiast who’s obsessed with high CRI and neutral white in my lights, I’m pretty happy with the light this puppy puts out.

DUCLUS lightbox

I’m just shooting with my phone because it’s easy: shoot, email the pics to myself, and then crop, auto-adjust and -contrast in PhotoScape, and they’re ready to upload. Getting out my Serious Camera would only reduce the likelihood that I do this at all. Pitter patter!

I chose my favorite paint job that I did back in ~2007 for my first victim: this 100-ton Behemoth. I’ve always loved assault mechs and this is a great design; I spent a lot of time painting it back in the day. It’s one of the first minis where I felt like I had my drybrushing down.

Painted Behemoth in the lightbox

But in the lightbox? Oof, that close-up under even lighting is really unforgiving. This mini is absolutely good enough for tabletop, and it looks sharp at arm’s length — my usual painting standard. But here I can see that I over-drybrushed, perhaps to compensate for not doing a wash. I’m pretty sure I didn’t drybrush in a complementary color, instead just using my default white.

Still: not terrible! This post, and my evaluation of my past work, isn’t about tearing myself down. I’m not winning any Golden Demons, but I’m not as bad a painter as I’ve long felt that I was — even under the all-seeing light of the DUCLUS. I’d play proudly with this little Behemoth in my force.

Next up is this Bushwhacker, which I painted with a metallic base coat. Definitely from around the same time as the Behemoth, in terms of when I painted it.

Painted Bushwhacker

Over-drybrushed, not washed, and I can see I wasn’t great at removing mold lines either. The rocks on the base are glued down, but I suspect they needed to be varnished or something to help them stay in place. I like the look, but I don’t plan to base minis this way again — the little rocks fall off quite easily.

But overall, I’m not sad about this little dude either. There’s ample room for improvement, but even in the lightbox I’m pretty happy with how he turned out.

It will be fascinating to compare these to some of my later dipped (washed) minis and see how they stack up.

Anyhoo, I’m quite pleased with this lightbox and I look forward to sticking more minis in it. Being able to shoot photos without worrying about having good exterior lighting (sometimes a challenge in Seattle!), or finding just the right spot in the house, should make it a breeze to keep doing these posts.