My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Painted my Ratmen (Skaven)

I was able to get another Warhammer Underworlds warband completed. Lest anyone think I am out of work, I am not. (I am very lucky in that regard. My wife, however, is a nurse at a hospital, as is my daughter. Everything still good on those fronts too.) I have just been focusing more on painting over tabletop, computer, or virtual gaming. (Shaun Travers burned me out for a week or so on the latter. I may have possibly burned him out too as I have not heard from him. Shaun, are you still out there?!)

So, why all the painting? As I have probably said more than once, I have a tendency to rotate through my hobbies, of which gaming is only one (well, two, because I consider tabletop gaming and computer gaming separate and distinct, while virtual gaming is a variant of tabletop gaming). Painting miniatures and making them are two other hobbies. Clearly I am in "painting mode", which I have not been for quite some time.

These figures had been partially painted twice before, along with being stripped twice. This time I primed them white and went to town with contrast paints.

The first color is the bluish-gray used for the metals. This is the Space Wolves Gray color. As you can see it is a bit blotchy in color. The first time I used it I tried to even out the blotchiness by painting another coat. Then another. Several coats turns this paint into a very dark shade of bluish-gray. Because it has some medium in it that makes it thicken relatively quickly it is hard to soak up the pools of paint before it thickens. If it gets too thick then trying to soak up the excess paint breaks the surface of the paint, which looks even worse. I need to find a mix of paint and flow aid/gloss medium/gloss gel that will smooth out the pools on the flat areas while maintaining its ability to collect in the crevices, creating the contrast. As it stands, I like it as a bluish "non-metallic metal".

You can see the chainmail and stonework were painted the same color, despite the former representing a different shade of non-metallic metal and the latter representing stone. That is the Basilicanum Gray contrast paint. This too is a very blotchy paint on flat surfaces. I think it works better for chainmail than it does for stone, but neither are really bad for tabletop standard. I think if you undercoated the chainmail with a true metallic, then used this gray, it would look better.

The gild work on this next figure's helmet is one of the yellows in the contrast paint range. It is clearly too yellow for a gold, but I later found out that if you use the flesh color as a wash over it, it takes on a deeper golden tone. So I may go back and do that. That is one of the things I like about singly-based figures. In theory, you can always go back and add a little more detail later. In theory...

I used the standard human flesh color for the flesh of the ratmen. I wanted the color of the tails to be a bit more distinct from the rest of the flesh, so I mixed the flesh color with the pink in a 1:1 ratio. That toned down the near-magenta look of the pink contrast paint.

I wanted to make sure that my browns were distinctly different colors, so the flesh was a light red-brown, the fur a deeper red-brown, and the wood was a mid-brown to which I added a coat of yellow-brown on top. Again, another nice quality of some of the contrast paints is that they are weaker and make great glazes so you can apply colored filters and subtly change the final color value.

A good example is the base of the figure above. The sewer grate is the same bluish-gray color of the armor and the flagstones are the previously mentioned gray, but I have used two shades of weak green as filters to spots in order to give the appearance of algae-covered stone.

The final two colors used were the Gryphon Orange, for the cloth, and Snakebite Leather, which appears on the hood of this character.

The orange is simply too blotchy to be used as what most people would use it for, representing cloth. If you use it for hair, well, it will be some pretty bright hair. Like dyed orange hair. As a cloth color, however, it just does not go on smooth enough, like the bluish-gray. Maybe more coats of the orange would not be a bad thing. I think it is one of those colors that simply need tweaking with either contrast medium, flow aid, or acrylic gel.

Snakebite Leather used to be a classic yellowish-brown in the Citadel paint lineup that was great for leather (hence its name). Alas, they are no longer sold and the "replacement", Balor Brown, is not the same. (Or rather, no longer sold by Citadel. I hear that the same color is a part of the Coat D'Arms paint line.) It seems like if you slather the Snakebite Leather contrast paint on, in several coats, it has a quality much like the old paint of the same name, but I hate painting the same spot over and over to build up a color, so I need to find a formulation that fixes this contrast paint.

All in all, I like them. I used to be able to do much better, using a much cleaner style. (Maybe someday I will post picture of my old miniatures, from 25+ years ago, but it might depress me.) But for what I am aiming for – tabletop ready troops – this is fine.

Next Up

This will probably be the last fantasy subject for a while. I have quite a collection of unpainted 15mm Classical Greeks – as in hundreds of them – and I am now very curious about painting them with contrast paints.

Will they look okay? It is possible that they need deep creases in order to look better, but I won't know until I try.

Will they be significantly faster to paint with contrast paints? Given that they have been sitting in a giant plastic tub for damn near a decade the significant factor is actually attempting to apply the paint.

Can I make the right colors? I consider ancients sort of cheating in this regard because we have very few examples of the exact Pantone shade used in ancient times! 😁So I think pretty much any dull color I use will be good. You can further vary the shades by changing the primer color from white to light gray to beige to light blue and these will change the color values of the contrast paints as many of them tint the undershade.

So, hopefully I do not burn out before I get that project started.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Contrast Paints for Painting Ork Skin

As I am painting a warband of Orks (or I guess they are now called Orruks) for Warhammer Underworlds the first area to address is their skin color. Citadel has a number of greens in their Contrast Paint line and, interestingly, it has changed shade from the "old days" when I painted Orks, i.e. Warhammer 40,000 Second Edition.

The basic way that contrast paint works is that the medium tints all of the figure but is a much darker shade where it pools. As it pools in the cracks and crevices to a greater degree than it does on flat surfaces, it naturally shades the model, much as their earlier washes were designed to do.

So what is the difference between a wash/shade and a contrast paint? Well the tinting of the underlying base color is supposed to be stronger with a contrast paint. But in both cases the color underneath can change the final shade once you put a wash/shade or contrast paint on top.

To show this effect – and to help me decide on how to paint my Orks' skin – I decided to take some old Gretchin models (space goblins) that I collected from Warhammer 40,000 Second Edition boxed sets. (No one wanted Orks or Gretchin back then except me, so I picked them up for practically nothing. They were still laying around unpainted some 20+ years later.)

I started by using Citadel Corax White spray paint, which is a cool off-white tending towards gray, to prime them. This is a recommended, and hence expensive, primer for those using contrast paints. I can tell you that it is a better primer than, say, acrylic inks when it comes to contrast paints. Acrylic inks can cause the contrast paints to bead, so if you are going to prime with that, you need to shoot it with matte varnish afterwards.

I basically had three greens on hand to try out: Plaguebearer Flesh, Militarum Green, and Ork Flesh. There are at least three others, Dark Angels Green, Creed Camo, and Warp Lightning but my FLGS did not have them. If anything, Creed Camo is the one closest to my idea of what Ork skin color should look like, but I did not have access to it. (I could complain about COVID-19 closing down the shops, but honestly, if it were not for the closing of the shops I would probably not be painting.)

I started with Plaguebearer Flesh alone, as an undershade to the other greens, and as an overshade to a brown (Aggaros Dunes).

Paint combinations with Plaguebearer Flesh
Next I tried Aggaros Dunes as an undershade to the three greens.

Paint combinations with Aggaros Dunes
Next I tried Militarum Green by itself.

Paint Combinations with Militarum Green
And finally I tried Ork Flesh by itself.

Paint Combinations with Ork Flesh
One of the things that I noticed is that certain paint combinations did really well when it came to smoothing out the colors, ending up much less blotchy than colors by themselves. Other combinations remained blotchy. I don't know if it was how I laid down the colors or, as I suspect, that the contrast paints with stronger pigments and covering power do not react well with other contrast paints.

For Orks tending towards a yellowish skin color I preferred Plaguebearer Flesh over Aggaros Dunes. Neither of these contrast paints are particularly strong in their covering power.

Best Yellow – Plaguebearer Flesh over Aggaros Dunes
The best combination for Ork skin color tending towards green has to be Ork Flesh over Plaguebearer Flesh.

Best Green – Ork Flesh over Plaguebearer Flesh
Something about the Plaguebearer Flesh formulation smooths out Ork Flesh so that the latter is not so blotchy. Either that or I had a really good touch for once and got it just the way I like it. Given that my armor color is going to tend towards the lighter green color I am probably going to use the latter color combination for my Orks' skin color. If I were going to go with a single paint as the color, right now it would be Militarum Green. However, I suspect that once I see Creed Camo it will likely turn out to be a favorite.

Let me know if you are not interested in seeing painting discussion. I know I am usually a gaming blog with an emphasis on rules reviews, but there are really four aspects of my hobby (making, painting, gaming, and gaming with computers) and I have been focusing on the latter two for a while now. I have shied away from painting for some time mostly because I feel like between my back and my eyesight I cannot accomplish very much volume and what I can accomplish is always pleasing to my own eye. (I am very critical of my painting because I used to paint very well for an amateur.)

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Comic Style Painting and Contrast Paints

This post will be a departure from my norm as I rarely talk about painting, although sometimes I show painted figures.

More than 30 years ago I discovered waterproof inks and how they could be used in miniatures painting. Largely I confined myself to using them for painting horses, but on occasion I used them to paint cloth and leathers. I was also very much into blacklining when painting Napoleonic Austrians, which are practically all white.

As time wore on and the inks dried, I switched back to painting block style with washes to increase contrast by enhancing the colors in the folds, but I was never too keen on it. I felt too many washes tinted the main color too much despite generally giving good results for the folds.

Contrast Paints

Then came contrast paints. Initial results that I had seen from YouTubers were ... ugly, to say the least. Painters I watch (or now watch) slowly started experimenting with the paints and the results started getting better. One good (but very long) video is Vince Venturella's "Ultimate Guide to Contrast Paints". He explores just about every way you can use Contrast Paints. If you only want to get an idea of some really cool effects, watch the beginning of  Juan Hildago's "'Eavy Contrast Marine - Death Guard" where he lays down the base color of the armor, then uses two other Contrast Paints as glazes to achieve the really stunning effect of Nurgle plague-affected armor. Long tory short, real artists started understanding that Citadel's initial instructions of "one thick coat" was a bad idea and that the qualities of the formula could be used for same really good paint jobs.

I tried them and almost immediately did not like them. I could not seem to come even close to replicating the success of these guys, largely not getting the smooth colors without massive pooling, coffee staining, tide marks, and too heavy of a contrast. But, just like with painting, you have to keep practicing. So I would dunk my figures in Simple Green, take a soft bristle toothbrush to them, pull out the airbrush[1] to prime them, and start all over again.

I haven't given up completely on Contrast Paints though. Here is my latest effort, Rippa's Snarlfangs warband for Warhammer Underworlds. This is what Games Workshop would call "battle ready", meaning I have used Contrast Paints to paint the miniature, but not used normal acrylic paints to come back and provide highlights.

The Leader
The Lancer
The Bowman
The wolves are actually painted with a homemade wash with ink to boost the contrast and drybrushing to accentuate the hairs with another color. That and there red eyes was the only instances where I did not simply use Contrast Paints; everything else is pure Contrast Paint. Mind you there is quite a bit of use of primer (black, grey, bone, and white) to provide additional contrast and an undertone, but basically the colors on the goblins and their equipment are Contrast Paints.

Comic Style Painting

Someone posted a picture of a gundam painted "comic book style" in a local gaming Facebook group and I really liked it. So I started looking up "comic style painting" on YouTube and FaceBook and came across Mike Cousins of Epic Duck Studios (FaceBook, YouTube, and Instagram) and the Comic Style Mini Painters FaceBook group (FaceBook).

Mike Cousins is the one to inspire me to try comic style painting. If you are still wondering what comic style is, here is one of Mike's earlier models.

Imperial Fists Space Marines
As you can see, it uses solid black as shading, especially in areas not generally visible, uses blacklining to separate details and uses small "scratches" here and there to add interest and break up large areas of a single color.

I have to say, I have not been successful at it quite yet. What I found hard is painting contrasts and then blacklining after the fact. Here is a better picture of some of Mike's work with his more common comic style (he has two).

Here you can see that the colors, say the green in the tunic and the red in the hair, are not single shades, but generally three different shades, dark, medium, and light. These shades are not blended, but painted solidly, in order to intentionally increase the contrast. After that, he adds significant detail with black ink, giving it that comic style look. (Interestingly, this three shade style of painting, sans blacklining, is very much the style Matt uses on the Wooden Warriors blog that I co-author with him.)

That said, Mike recently showed his second method of comic book style, which is to paint the figure white, add the black ink shading and lining, then color the figure, in this case with Contrast Paints. Here was his result.


That is all Contrast Paint with no highlighting. As you look at the red you can see it is a bit blotchy, but for the most part it works really well. As I have that same figure (the whole warband, in fact), I decided I was going to try my hand at painting in this style, but use a different armor color. I like how the Ork flesh turned out, but I am hoping to get a smoother color on the armor. I am pondering, but not quite sure if I want to attempt, the Death Guard armor color scheme that Juan Hildago showed.

Death Guard Space Marine in Contrast Paint
That is all Contrast Paint. (He made it look so easy.)

Step 1 – Black Shading and Lining

After priming white I took out a Faber Castell XS black waterproof ink pen, which is a 1.5mm nib. I also have some 005 pens, which are 0.2mm. You can do much finer detail with the latter, but the problem is that the nibs are extremely short, and thus it is hard to get into some little crevices.


As I get used to doing this more – it is slow, painstaking work – I have made some improvements. So it is a process of do a little with the larger pen, then with the smaller. Also, I find it easier to start with the brush in order to shade large areas first. This is what I like about this style; it forces you to focus on the areas people can see, and paint the rest black. Here are shots of the underside, with the black shading.

Notice that under the chin, belly, legs, and arms it is solid black. Same with the bottom side of the weapon. Looking dead on from the front, back, or side you can barely see these black areas; you definitely cannot when the figure is on the table and viewed from above.

This shading effect makes sure that you do not do something stupid like make sure you detail the bottom of the shoe or make sure that the underside of the weapon shaft is appropriately shaded and colored compared to the rest of the shaft. You immediately black it out and never have to worry about it again.

Note that I did not ink the chainmail or fur pieces. These recesses will be handled by Contrast Paints. Same with the details of the face. As you can see with the Goblins at the beginning of this post, Contrast Paints work very well on their own when a figure has a lot of detail. Right now the faces look stark white, but they will come out with appropriate shades once it is all done.

If the Goblins taught me anything it is that you cannot judge Contrast Paints by how they look initially. You really have to wait until it is all done and judge the effect.

Well, I know I won't have the four Orks done any time soon. Although Contrast Paints can be a time-saving method of painting, the way I do it is not. I am too finicky a painter to let paints slop over the lines and two colors mix at the edges. (Painting in one color and then a second darker Contrast Paint color is however a legitimate technique.)

But so far Contrast Paints produce the best results that my old eyes can handle. I either need to stop buying miniatures (selling a lot of my lead pile that I have accumulated), accept the battle ready style in order to get more troops on the table, or pay more people to paint my troops.


[1] Yes, I bought an airbrush, a Iwata Neo Air, which is their cheaper "starter" airbrush. Using it produces very nice, smooth coverage for primer. I have also used it for varnishing, but not much more than that. I think it is almost a must for painting with Contrast Paints, inks, or glazes because the paint is so delicate that brushing on varnish can sometimes chip the paint below.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").