Wednesday, July 20, 2011

40. My Dipping Results

As I mentioned last post, I'm traveling a lot, so I haven't had much time to paint.  However, the dipping process is so fast that I now have two sets of 20-man Arab units finished!  The hardest thing for me now is finding time to take pictures and get a blog post written.

So here are my Arabs.  They are Old Glory, from their Sons of the Desert range.  All pictures are clickable.
SOD-06 Arabs Attacking with Spears

SOD-05 Arabs Attacking with Swords
Each pack contains 30 figures in 10 poses.  To construct a 20-man unit, I took two of each pose to have the maximum figure variety.  I then painted parallel figures in "opposing" colors; that is to say, if the body was dark brown with light sleeves on one, I painted the second figure with a light body and dark sleeves.  I used the same limited color palette on all of them, primarily two colors of brown, with an occasional third just for variety.  I did all this "in general," and felt justified in varying as I wanted.

For the unit leader, I gave him a red turban/headdress to help single him out on the table.  For the unit second-in-command, I painted some part of him in a light purple/lavender color; nothing too bright, just enough to help him stand out a little.

For the spearmen I had to create the spears.  I did not buy the pack of spears from Old Glory because I had read about making them yourself -- more inexpensively.  Naturally, I had to buy my item twice to get the effect I wanted, but it still ended up being cheaper.  I first used 20 ga. florist wire but this was a trifle too small in diameter and would bend.  So I next used 18 ga. florist wire and it worked a treat (as my British friends say).  I snipped the wire at around 1.25" long, and tried to give the "pointy end" a pointy end.  I had read where some people would take a ball-peen hammer and give the spear tip a hard hit, thereby producing a flattened spear blade.  However, and oddly enough, this florist wire was very hard, and would not flatten easily.  So I contented myself with making the cuts at an angle as much as possible, and the end is pointy enough to draw blood from my finger.  If you look closely at the back end of the spear, it's pretty pointy too, but paint draws the eye and makes it all o.k.  For the end result, I think they look fine.

When I came to the unit with swords, I ran into a problem.  The metal Old Glory uses for these figures is very soft, and many of the swords did not survive the bag.  Most of them were bent, and several were broken off.  Naturally they broke at the hilt, so simply supergluing them back in place was not an option.  I ended up making a couple of new swords out of the same metal rod I used to make the spears.  Of course this meant that the swords are not flat, in fact they're more a sort of club, but the effect I wanted was achieved:  from a distance, everyone has a sword.  I also was not able to keep to my standard of "two men of each pose" as so many of the swords were broken, and I did not want to take the extra time to mend them.  Instead I went with as many figures as possible with unbroken swords, then fixed the fewest number I needed to.  This led to three-of-a-pose in two cases, and I also ended up repairing swords after this as well.

Nevertheless, dipping -- and painting with the mindset of dipping -- is remarkably fast.  I just keep telling myself that these are not my pride-of-place miniatures, so it's O.K. to be in a hurry.  'Gotta keep reminding myself of that fact.  I think they look pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  For the two units, each group of 20 has taken roughly 10 hours of actual painting time, including the bases.  That's about 30 minutes per figure.  This does not include the prep time, though, but I don't think that took me more than 2 hours at the most per group of 20.  I don't usually keep track of prep time, but I do track my painting time, so that's the only real comparison I can make with my previous painting time and style.  For me, this is extremely fast.  Your mileage may vary.

I also painted these two guys lying down from the swords package.  I don't really plan to use them, as I consider "lying down" figures about the most useless figures possible.  "Here, let me advance my fast-moving, Arabs charging with swords into your flank.  But just ignore these two guys, they're having a little lie down, got a headache don'cha know."  I mean, I can appreciate them for a more diorama feel, but how am I supposed to attack with guys on their stomachs?  I know an army travels on its stomach, but they didn't mean it literally!  But, I wanted to go ahead and paint them while I as at it, as I likely won't be back around to that package of figures ever again.  Maybe if they'd been shooting, kinda like snipers or something, I could find a use for them, but as it is, well....  And just how do they fit in with the "swordsmen" when all they have is a knife and a rifle?  Stop thinking about it, stop thinking about it.
"Do you see anything?"  "No, I don't see anything, do you see anything?"  "No, I don't see anything, do you see anything?"  "No, I don't see anything, do you see anything?"
Glamour shot of my Arabs, attacking over some sand dunes I attempted to make recently.  This is the first chance I've had to photograph the hills.  I'm not totally happy with how the dunes turned out.
Next up, I'm taking a quick detour down Zombie Lane (sorry, no picutures yet).  My bird-like attention span was saturated with Arabs, and I want to try out the dipping technique on something else.  I had previously bought 50 zombies from Victory Force when they ran their "50 Zombies for $50" special (which they do from time to time; keep watching as it's a really good bargain).

Now, normally I'm not a huge fan of zombies.  How can you tell someone that their lovingly painted, intricately detailed figure of an undead, intestine-trailing, limbless rotting human being "looks good"?  I appreciate the zombie genre, but I don't live for it (pun intended).

However, I have to say these zombies have a surprising amount of personality to them.  They are a nice selection of normal people who have had the utter misfortune to be turned into the walking dead (and I do mean walking, ZOMBIES DO NOT RUN; sorry, got sidetracked there), with a few recognizable historical/fictional persons thrown in as well.  More on that aspect next post.

I'm currently prepping 25 zombies for priming, filing down their mold and flash lines.  The metal Victory Force uses is much harder than Old Glory, and shinier too for what that's worth.  The figures are reasonably clean to begin with, but because the metal is harder it takes just a little longer to get that mold line removed.  (And I WILL remove all mold lines, I don't care if they are ugly, rotting, limbless, intestine-trailing figures, I will not paint a figure with mold lines showing.)  But that's fairly easy; the hardest part was removing enough of the "foot tab" for the figure to be able to fit into the slot on the plastic base (included in the order, BTW).  However, before I last left home, I was able to get all 25 prepped and glued in place.  When next I'm home, I will need to fill the gaps left between the foot tab and the edges of the slot, and then they'll be ready for spray priming.

I hope to use a simple color palette and painting technique on them, as well, to speed them up as much as possible.  I plan on using more modern day colors:  blue jeans, brighter shirts, etc, and then a very pale/almost dead white skin tone, and then a dip in the Classic Black stain instead of the brown.  But we shall see, as it's all subject to change after the first one gets it's bath.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

39. My Nerve...Restored

Good news, everyone!  I no longer consider myself a painting coward.

It came about like this:  After my failure at the tree, er, sorry, my failure to man up enough to "dip" my figures, I was faced with the option of what to do.

Because the whole point of dipping is to save time and money (but mainly time), I decided to throw money at the problem.  I went right out and bought another can of Minwax's Water-Based Wood Stain, and this time I very carefully considered the color samples in the store.  Here are a couple of pictures I took with my phone, using ambient lighting.
You can see that the Classic Black has some brown in it (which is why I went with it the first time); the American Walnut is less dark and more brown, and the Coffee is lighter still.  I opted for Coffee.

Here are the results of my first attempts.
After washing in Coffee stain, no highlighting.
I was afraid that it was still too dark.  I began to wonder if there was something even lighter brown than Coffee.
Left:  washed with Classic Black stain; Right;  washed with Coffee stain.  You can really see the difference in colors this way.
However, before I spent another $11 + change, I decided to try the Future Magic Wash.

I took the darkest brown paint I have, and liberally added it to the Magic Wash.  I then washed this mixture on the two figures on the right (picture below).  The two on the left are washed with Coffee stain.
Left:  Dipped in Coffee stain; Right:  washed with Magic Wash.
I added what I felt was a sufficient quantity of paint, but it barely even stained the figures, as you can see.  Apparently I need to add a lot more paint.

So I got to thinking:  the point of using either Polyshades or Future is to both wash and seal the figure in a protective clear-coat layer all in one step.  That is part of the time-saving feature.  However, I don't like Polyshades and the Future didn't work for me, so any time advantages I might have gained I would have to give up.

I realized that I am less interested in the time-saving aspect than I originally thought.  I still want a good-looking figure, but I could just as easily have taken my brown paint and washed the figures instead of diluting it in the Magic Wash.  I still don't like non-water-based agents, which is a shame because you can get a pint of Minwax Polyshades for around $7 which is more than enough to cover all the minis I have; instead I had to buy a quart (because the color is custom mixed) and it cost me around $11.  So now I have two quarts of two different brown stains, plus a bottle of Future floor polish (mostly unused) which originally cost me around $5.  In other words, I've spent roughly $27 plus tax, and for $30 I could have had one of The Army Painter's Quickshades (although, again, they're non-water-based and only about a pint in size).

But, y'know, sometimes I enjoy the discovery process.  And I like to be reminded that more often than not, time-saving shortcuts are not.

Therefore I finally committed to the Coffee stain, and through trial and error on the amount of stain-on-brush to use I got the following results.
Washed with Coffee stain.
In the end, I ended up going back over the figures with a quick dry-brushed highlight, then spraying a clear-coat protectant like I do for all my normal painting.
Simple drybrushed highlight over the wash.
I'll have to double-check my records when I get home, but these twenty men took me (I think) about 10 hours start to finish (that is, from first paint application to finishing the bases; it does not include filing the metal).
The two on the right are the same two that I earlier Magic Washed.
That works out to 1/2 an hour per figure, which for me is pretty darn fast.  I expect it will go even faster on the next group, and the next, etc.  Unfortunately, with 6-8 more groups of twenty to go, and the ability to paint only 10 days out of the month (and spread out, not ten in a row), it will still take me forever to finish....


Still, I persevere!

Thanks for reading.  Here are some pictures of the first group of 20 men completely finished.  You can click them to enlarge them slightly.

Red turban for Leader, light purple/blue tassles for Second in Command.
Update:  It's taken me so long to even get around to posting this, I have almost finished my second group of 20 figures.  The good news is it's still averaging around 30 minutes per figure.  I had hoped to finish them before I had to leave for work again, but I wasn't able to.  Pictures will appear when I am next home!  I do think the dipping is a time-saver, but I might be slightly biased into believing it because I want to believe it.  But after this group, I am going to take a break from Arabs and "have a go" (as the English say) at some zombies.  I think the dipping will help with them as well.  Will report soon!