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Gunpla Miniatures WIP it good

WIP it good: prepping a Deadzone Forge Father for assembly

I knocked out two more Terminators today but got a bit frustrated with one of them (I didn’t feel like my paint job was up to snuff, but pushed ahead anyway), so I figured it was time for a palate cleanser: assembling space dwarves!

Gunpla tools, meet miniature assembly

Gunpla detour

Fortunately, I already own the tools for this because I got into Gunpla in 2019 and there’s quite a bit of crossover. In fact, if I hadn’t started building Gundam kits — something, like miniatures, I assumed I’d be bad at — I might not have gotten back into minis at all.

HG Astaroth Origin (somewhat dusty!)

When I decided to give Gunpla a shot, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could build a kit and be happy with the results. I’m not great! But every kit is better than the last one, and I’ve added more steps along the way: double-nipping, sanding, filing, and polishing are all standard practice now. I also enjoyed the process of building as much as the pleasure of having a finished model; finding that same joy in painting is what’s really gotten me jazzed about miniatures again.

And hey, minis fresh off the sprue are covered in mold lines, nubbins, and bits of flash that need the same attention as a Gundam kit before assembly — nice!

Back to the space dwarves

I’m used to single-piece minis or figures that just need a bit or two popped on — not full-on kits like the ones in the Deadzone core set. One of the first things I figured out was that I have the wrong glue; I assumed superglue worked for everything because it’s worked for everything I’ve ever assembled — but what I need is plastic glue.

So while I wait for a chance to nip over to Mox and pick up a bottle, I thought I’d get the “use these squads for your first game” minis off their sprues and cleaned up so they’re glue-ready.

Steel Warrior Huscarl

I started with the default leader, a Steel Warrior Huscarl. He comes in 9 parts: head (with cool dwarf beard armor!), back, chest, hammer arm, gun arm, R and L shoulder pads, legs, and base. It’s a neat mini, and pointlessly gendered name aside the Forge Fathers are a cool faction. But after fiddling with it I’m much less excited about it.

Just from sort of squashing the bits together in my fingers it seems like the amount of assembly is not going to be rewarded with a matching amount of posability. There’s zero in the head and legs, the shoulder pads limit what can be done with the arms, and the torso is . . . so-so.

The torso is made to face straight forward, but it doesn’t do that well: There are substantial gaps all around the edges. But if I turn it a bit, the areas on the leg piece which are made to match up with it no longer do. Poking around online I see that this appears to be a problem with the Steel Warriors that Mantic has never fixed with a fresh sculpt.

I won’t know for sure until I try to glue this Huscarl together, but my initial impression is poor. It feels like I’m about to do a bunch of work to assemble what’s essentially a single-pose figure that could have been delivered in one piece.

Fuck it, I’m going to call it a night and revisit this dude another time.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: Valencio and Goriel

My project for this evening before tonight’s tremulus game starts: Seeing how far I can take Brothers Valencio and Goriel, who are currently partially base-coated.

Goriel is carrying a Genestealer head MK fatality-style, so I grabbed one for color reference
Valencio fully base-coated and starting on his wash
Valencio fully washed

Brother Valencio was an absolute blast to paint: braids, purity seals, gems, skull and crossbones, weird pipes, and a fun pose.

Goriel’s turn on the painting handle

Goriel wins the coveted Most Colors in His Base Coat award for these Terminators, at least so far: 10. He has every color I’ve used for Termies plus another three for the Genestealer bits.

The Terminator equivalent of sweatpants that say JUICY across the ass

Goriel has been the most challenging Termie so far because he’s covered in bling that the others don’t have: a butt skull, a skull on the hatch on his back, white braided cords, and other entertaining complexities. I keep going back to hit things I missed . . . and then seeing more I missed and going back again. And again.

March 2 (left, Omnio and Claudio) meet March 3 (right, Valencio and Goriel)

Like most of these models, I’ve diverged a bit from the paint/color guide in the rulebook — sometimes for aesthetic reasons, sometimes because I forgot a bit, sometimes because I know I can’t do some effect (like freehand 50/50 color schemes) justice yet . . . and sometimes just because Past Martin painted something the wrong color and I decided to run with it.

My back is killing me (I must have been painting like a gargoyle), so that might be it for tonight.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: late night edition

Look, I’m in my 40s: 8:30 is late.

I got the Leadbelcher out to work on Brothers Claudio and Omnio and figured while I was at it I’d hit the bases for a few other Termies at the same time.

5×5, in the pipe
Off to the rack with you

Then I realized I was instinctively settling back into assembly-line painting and returned to focusing solely on Claudio and Omnio.

Omnio, keeper of the Emperor’s holy TI-82 graphing calculator

I like having two minis on the go so that while one is drying I can work on the other one.

Brother Claudio (I love that they went for the pun!)

Claudio is probably my favorite mini in the whole squad. I’ve always loved Lightning Claws. And he’s a fantastic sculpt: covered in golden skulls, those cool little clusters of wires leading to his claws, draped in chains, dripping with gems — and to top it all off, he has a golden chalice on his codpiece. Baller.

Winding down for the night

I got Omnio done and dusted and then took a one-hour break while Claudio’s sealant dried . . . and came back and knocked him the fuck out too.

Two more down!

That’s two Terminators down and it’s only March 2! Technically I painted four figures last month, although only two were normal-sized; the other two were little bits of “stuff” for a mission. Even so, I’m halfway to hitting my mark for all of February with plenty of March to go.

Today was one of my most productive painting days ever.

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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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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: dotting in those eyes

I likely won’t keep this frenzied posting pace up, but when my excitement is high and I’m loving it I tend to post, post, post. So: another quick WIP post before I head out to see Birds of Prey.

I’ve never owned a brush this fine. It’s an Army Painter Wargamer: Detail brush, with an oversized triangular handle for a comfy grip, and I love it.

5-minute painting session, so this month’s White Dwarf is my painting mat

This is the sort of brush I need for eyes!

I love this shade of green

I picked Moot Green, which pops just as much as I’d hoped it would. Why did I struggle to paint things this small without this fine a brush for so long?

Done!

With Scipio off the painting handle, I knocked out a quick Leadbelcher coat on his base (to match my Genestealers; with a brown wash it should come up a treat, just like rusty/weathered metal) — and with that his base coat is done.

Now I’ve got two Terminators ready for shade/wash experimentation.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: trying out the painting handle

For today’s painting progress I queued up my favorite work/create album (shit, one of my overall all-time favorites), Nicolay’s City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, and sat down with a couple of Terminators.

First up was yesterday’s throne boy, as I noticed I’d missed a couple of spots. I touched those up, then grabbed my new Citadel Painting Handle (paid link), dropped in Brother Scipio, and took it for a spin.

Throne boy and Brother Scipio

I also switched from painting over a paper towel to using my Gunpla cutting mat. Getting paint on that won’t cause any issues, and when I’m ready to start nipping my Deadzone minis off their sprues and trimming them down, it’s what I’ll be using anyway.

A decade ago, I used putty to affix a mini to a paint pot, wine cork, or other suitable object as a painting handle. It was fine, but always a bit of a pain — and sometimes they fell off. Metal minis in particular would work themselves loose over time.

One of the coolest things about this handle is that working upside-down is a breeze.

Turn that grim frown of eternal darkness upside-down

I also like that it has two “layers” of base grips built in. I’m using the top layer for Scipio. The bulbous grip shape is also easier on my fingers, which are a decade older too . . .

Like the Citadel water cup (paid link), the handle is one of those things that sounded unnecessary at first but is proving to be quite nifty.

Scipio, nearly fully base-coated

I need to finish up the base edges (and a couple hard-to-reach spots by his feet), and then go buy a pot of “Terminator visor/eye green” and dot those in — but apart from that, he’s fully base coated as well.

Base coat colors, as ever for these guys: P3 Khador Red and Marrow White, GW Leadbelcher, Lothern Blue, and Auric Armor Gold. TDB: green for the eyes.

Observations

Having gotten off the assembly line for two miniatures now, I’m 100% happier with this approach (as I speculated might be the case). Sure, it’s less efficient — but given that these miniatures have been in my possession for 11 years, is efficiency really my top concern? Completion is satisfying; seeing real progress in one painting session is satisfying.

I also found myself solidly in the mindful, relaxed yet focused state I talked a bit about in my post on realizing I secretly enjoyed miniature painting — that state of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes, not to have clean dishes,” of enjoying painting for the joy of painting.

Case in point: Brother Scipio, who never met a craft store he didn’t walk out with another yard of locally sourced vellum and a jar of decorative glass gems, is covered in scrolls and jewels. I discovered I love painting the little teardrop-shaped jewels, and I enjoyed taking a deep breath and trying to capture the “tails” of his decorative chest scroll. That feels damned good.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: finished base coating the throne Termie

After mulling it over I decided to try what I’d been toying with after my first WIP it good post: getting off the assembly line and just base-coating one Terminator to completion.

I figured I’d pick one of the miscellaneous pieces in Space Hulk, the dead Terminator on the throne — who is used in exactly one mission, I believe — rather than a mainline squaddie so that if my experiment in shading went wrong I wouldn’t have destroyed one of the primary models.

There was one small problem . . .

Gehenna’s Gold != whatever gold I used before

I have Gehenna’s Gold on hand, which I think I bought as a replacement for some GW or P3 gold that had dried out — whatever I used on the gold accents on my Genestealers (decking bolts, etc.). But it looked coppery, so I tested it on throne boy and yep, that’s copper.

So I made a quick trip to Mox Boarding House, which has a full selection of Citadel paints, to pick up a replacement. You know where this is going, right?

Three gold options, a gold for drybrushing, and…

I wound up with the gold I figured would be the right one, Auric Armor Gold, but just in case I also picked up Liberator Gold and an Army Painter option, Bright Gold. Plus Golden Griffon for drybrushing . . . and AP Toxic Mist in case whatever I’d used for my Genestealers had dried out, and a painting handle because it looked useful and I wished I’d had one earlier today, and two very fine brushes (something I don’t have in my arsenal).

Then I got properly tucked in and wrapped this guy right up.

My first fully base-coated Terminator!

For Future Martin’s benefit I sat him atop his five base coat colors: P3 Khadar Red, P3 Morrow White, and the GW pots of Auric Armor Gold, Leadbelcher, and Lothern Blue.

I’m pretty sure his wax seals and the gems on the throne aren’t supposed to be blue, but red seemed redundant, yellow seemed too likely to conflict with gold, and I don’t have a light green at the moment. I dig the bright blue.

Next I do some reading up on brush shading, pick a couple washes from my Citadel Shade set, and take throne boy to the next level!

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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: Terminating the weekend

Sharing work-in-progress (WIP) pics seems good for motivation and sounds fun, so here’s today’s WIP: finishing the Leadbelcher base coat on the last of my Space Hulk Terminators.

I paint batches of minis like this assembly line-style, so 100% of my Termies have been primed (with Armory white spray primer) and base-coated in P3 Khador Red. All of them have metallic weapons and other shiny bits, so I moved on to GW Leadbelcher next.

My final four Terminators about to get their Leadbelcher base coat
Three down!
One to go
Today’s foursome complete, about an hour of painting

I realized I’d forgotten to the little vents in the heels of most of them in Leadbelcher, so I fished out the whole squad to hit them all while I still had the pot open.

All the Termies in Space Hulk 3e

That was when I discovered Mister Hammer, who’s in the foreground in the pic above. He’d been tucked into a corner of the Plano box where I’ve been keeping (cough cough mostly storing) these guys and I hadn’t noticed that he still needed a Leadbelcher base coat. Ah well, my eyes are tired now and I’m ready for a break; he’ll have to wait until later, or another day.

Sidebar

I’m also noticing a downside of batch painting vs. completing one model at a time: There are no bursts of accomplishment along the way, as a figure gets finished; instead, it’s one big Tunguska Event of accomplishment all at the end, when 100% of them get wrapped up more or less at the same time. They also look like crap for longer, since every base coat produces a measure of spillover that I won’t fix until I do one final touch-up pass before shading. It still feels more efficient to batch paint, though, but it’s making me wonder if I shouldn’t try switching gears when I get to my Deadzone squads.

One more unrelated observation: This is my first time using this Citadel water cup (paid link), and it’s great. It has a brush rest, a wide base for stability, little striations on the bottom and sides for agitating paint off your brush, and “brush tip-pointing slots” in one side. I wasn’t sure all those bells and whistles would be an improvement over using the giant movie theater cup I’ve used for years (or just grabbing a random mug, etc.), but I used 100% of them in this session and appreciated them all.

Whipping it

Incidentally I think I’m going to preface all my WIP post titles with “WIP it good,” because 1) fuck yeah Devo! and 2) the lyrics to “Whip It” are actually pretty apropos for miniatures painting:

Now whip it
Into shape
Shape it up
Get straight
Go forward
Move ahead
Try to detect it
It’s not too late
To whip it
Whip it good

Devo, “Whip It!”

And in closing, one more stray thought: Today, while holding minis about six inches from my face, I realized it might be time to invest in a magnifier lamp. Another time!