Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Camo Disaster

The Khador Spriggan is the only warjack so far that I actually really like. It reminds me of 16-bit video game characters; specifically Sonic and Knuckles. Who I was planning on naming my Spriggan(s) after.

I've been putting a lot of work into my Spriggan over the last couple of months. I spent  something like six hours or possibly more assembling and magnetizing it - I put over thirty magnets into it so I could use any of the frame options, I re-positioned and supported the arms so it looked like it was actually doing something rather than just standing around looking bored, and I sculpted Sentinel Eternal symbols over the Khador ones (like my Sentinel Eternal space marines and other 40K models, I wanted my own "chapter" in Warmachine, and I decided to just stick with Sentinels Eternal rather than try to think up something iron-kindoms-ish. They transcend space, time, and gaming systems!).

So far I've just thrown paint on my Warjacks in the quickest way possible as I don't really care about the models. But because I actually like the Spriggan model, I wanted to take the time and effort to give it a paint job that I actually liked. I've painted lots of blue and the rest of my jacks are red, so I thought I'd go for a white colour scheme. I thought a winter camo scheme would be interesting.

Well, it seems that winter camo tends to use light grey as a base, so I mixed up about two parts white with one part light grey to try to get a really light grey, then I spent hours and hours building up to a smooth coat. But first I had painted the metal parts as I was planning one washing and drybrushing them first, plus it helped me "block out" the model so I would know what colours went where.

But because I figured I would end up washing the rest of it in the same colour, and the model has some rather hard to reach nooks and crannies, I decided I would wash the whole thing in one go at the end. So I ended up drybrushing the unwashed metal to little effect, then spending hours and hours painting multiple layers (it took at least three) of light grey in between the metal details (when you paint this thing you start to realise just how many bolts and screws it has scattered around...) in an effort to get a smooth coat.

Once I had a smooth coat I was quite unhappy as the colour ended up being very similar to unpainted plastic, which I hate - I don't want a model that I've spent hours painting to look at casual glance like it isn't painted at all. Plus, I was regretting using grey rather making the basecoat white, as I liked the idea of it looking very bright and clean. I didn't have much choice but to press on and hope for the best though.

The next step was the camo pattern. I first thought to use the camo pattern I had used on my scouts, but I did a test on some spare plastic and I realized that would be far too crowded. At this point I started to understand the problem: most of what we do when painting is to make the form and detail of a miniature "pop", but the purpose of camo is to break up the form and hide the detail. So what I needed to do was find some sort of camo pattern that did the opposite of what camo actually does.

After a number of test and internet searches, I settled on using large simple spots of colour with lots of empty space between them. Because the spots were larger than the "scale" of detail, they don't interfere with our ability to resolve that detail. Plus, I found that by drawing the spots on edges and corners so they "cut off" along those edges, it actually helped to define those edges - at least it didn't hide them the way the it would if I stayed away from the edges or continued smoothly across them.

Painting spots in a darker grey was easy, but building up to a pure white was as expected very painful, even over a light grey it typically took four coats or more. But eventually I had the main body and all the armoured bits painted up. The hands and weapons I had already painted in simple metallic tones and even varnished, so all that was left was to shade and hightlight.

I had tested some methods of shading on my test piece, and wasn't happy with anything. Quickshade gave everything a warm tint, while I was going for cold winter colours. I tried various mixes of black wash with medium or varnish, and in the end I settled on a 2:1 mix of medium to wash as being the best compromise; it seemed to flow well enough over the flat surfaces without darkening them too badly, while being dark enough to shade recesses.

I considered adding shade directly into recesses and cleaning up the mess afterwards, but I thought it would still look flat and I just didn't think it I would be able to do it without a ton of cleanup needed afterwards. So instead I decided to go ahead and just throw it over the whole thing, then edge-highlight afterwards.

I started applying the wash on the small bits; the shields and shoulder pads. The results were encouraging,although it didn't spread out quite as smoothly as I had hoped, and the grey shades ended up too close together, the results I felt were acceptable. Then I moved on to the main body.

It was a disaster. I'd used up all of my first batch of wash on the bits, and had to mix up another lot for the body (two actually), and I don't know if it's because I got the mix wrong or if it was the larger area of the armour plates, but it came out very splotchy. It looked awful; after all my work it just looked a mess. I was extremely dissapointed.

It was late at night on a sunday at this point, so I had to leave it be. But I couldn't sleep; I'm not sure if it was the disappointment or the caffeine I had drunk to give me the focus to keep painting all day, but I gave up and decided to have another look.

After mulling it over, I thought that perhaps a light white drybrush could help somehow - it's not like I had anything to lose at this point, right? Well, the results were terrible. It now looked like a model that had been painted grey and heavily drybrushed white and nothing else; all my work just disappeared into a mess that looked like it had been thrown together in five minutes by someone who didn't give a damn. I couldn't even bear the thought of putting something so ugly on the table, so I ended up spraying a heavy layer of white primer over the whole thing just so I could use it while I tried to decide what to do.

You can see the camo pattern on the shields, which don't look too bad even after the wash, but the main body looked much worse and after a drybrush was just a complete disaster.

Close-up: you can still see some traces of the camo, but if anything it just makes it look worse.


You see, normally I would strip the paint off and try again. But the problem is stripping the paint usually weakens and dislodges superglue and softens and damages greenstuff, and there was so much gluing and greenstuff involved in this model that the idea of trying to put it all together again just made me want to give up on the whole thing. Even if only a few parts seemed to come off when stripping, I would not be confident about the strength of some joints (like those stupidly spindly upper arms), and the last thing I would want is magnets slipping out of place and stuff after the model is painted.

Anyway, I hit the internet in search of a way to strip paint without damaging the greenstuff or superglue, and it looks like I may have found something, so I'm going to give that a go soon. It's just disheartening to put so much work into this thing only to have it come out so poorly.