Monday, June 1, 2015

Painting Imperial Assault, Part 2: The Uniques

In part 1 of the series, I talked about painting the non-unique miniatures in Imperial Assault. Today, I share my experience painting the rest of the set. For all of these figures, I used the color schemes provided in the game or movies. These were all painted using black primer and then layering up to the highlight colors, once again following the basic technique endorsed by Doctor Faust's Painting Clinic. On most of them, I sparingly used black or dark brown ink pinwashing to enhance the contrast.

A friend asked for lots of shots, so I'm sharing pretty much all of my "done" pictures. I keep a private painting album on Google+ Photos where I keep notes about what I was doing, what paints I was mixing, and so on. Well, in theory, that's where I put those notes... it seems that lately I've been taking pictures and then forgetting to caption them until I cannot remember what I really mixed. Since they're one-off figures, it probably doesn't matter. The point is, I'm showing a lot of pictures, which I figure you won't mind, dear reader, otherwise why would you be here?

I started with Jyn Odan, and I think she is actually my favorite. The color scheme was fun and vibrant. Her shoes were not shown in any of the game's art: I decided to keep the bright orange-and-white theme, resulting in some cool space kicks. Her face did not have a lot of detail, but I believe I was able to give it some depth through layering flesh tones. The gun is rather conservative, but I think it works for her given the rich colors in the rest of the model.

Next, I turned to a cultural icon: Luke Skywalker. He's clearly in his Tatooine garb, so I used movie stills for inspiration. The outfit is not very interesting, really, but I am very pleased with the result here, in part because it was an experiment in warm whites. Looking at him in isolation, his shirt looks white, but put him next to the stark white of a storm trooper, and you'll see that it looks more like linen. Although he lacks the interesting detail and pose of the previous figure, I think the figure turned out well. Matching the skin and hair color may have been the most stressful part, but I think it's a fair match. Also, like the previous figure, the gun is pretty conservative, although I added some colored bits.

From son to father (which I suspect is not a spoiler for anyone reading my blog)—the next figure is Darth Vader. As Luke Skywalker was a study in whites, Vader is of course a study in blacks. Through many layers of grey I was able to get a result that fills the bill. The colored accents on his chest are subtle, which is good. The second picture shows how I used an object-source lighting effect to give the illusion of a glowing lightsaber: a few layers of red glaze on the cape make this work. I thought about making this even stronger, but I think I like it as a subtle glow. Also, the pictures don't show this, but the figure is also an experiment in multiple varnishes. Looking at stills from the first movie, it's clear that there are very different materials making up his outfit; on the miniature, I've used gloss varnish on his helmet, flat on the cloth parts, and a slightly-satin varnish on the rest. I think it works well, but it's hard or impossible to photograph.

Away from the icons, back to the game characters. Next up is Gaarhkan, who gets this set's prize for requiring the most restarts. I tried two or three times to build him up using drybrushing, as I did reasonably well with the cave bears in Wrath of Ashardalon... although looking back in them now, they are kind of bland. Anyway, I kept having a problem where the figure looked dusty, and I wasn't getting the color variations that I wanted. The face in particular was troublesome. Something inspired me to break apart the figure into separate colored regions. I tried using a darker base color on the legs and forearms, and a lighter one on the chest and upper arms, and then instead of drybrushing, I layered highlights onto the raised areas, as well as a few freehand lines to enhance the texture. This worked much better. My miniature is still probably a bit darker brown than the card art, but I think it's a good wookie, and nobody will complain if he looks like Chewbacca.

The weapon required some reworking as well, as my ink-over-metallic tinting approach went wonky the first time around: I ended up with some spots where the ink pooled or got extra layers, and it became splotchy. In the revision, I went to a more conventional approach to painting bronze or copper, with a brown undercoat and gold paint mixed with browns. Dark inks did help me add shadow and texture to the business end of the weapon.

Here is Gideon Argus, who, judging from his coat, used to work at Ralston Purina. It was actually several days after I thought I had finished him that I realized I forgot to paint the insignia on his coat, so some of the photos show this part still unpainted. He is primarily earth tones, and I think the highlights turned out nicely. Dark inks were helpful in accenting the shadows between his coat and his shirt. I painted the binoculars to look like the white ones from Empire Strikes Back, and this was a case where a black ink wash was essential to getting good contrast. I was a bit more creative with his pistol, where I used the same yellow-ink-over-metallic-paint effect as on the probe droids to get a nice copper sheen.

This figure's head was perhaps the most finely detailed of the heroes, and I am happy with how it came out. Conventional advice is not to paint eyebrows on miniatures, but I think these really help tie the face together, between the brown bald head and grey bushy beard. Incidentally, the beard was done with fine lines and edging, not drybrushing, as with the wookie.

Next up is Fenn Signis, who wins the Most Star Warsy Name Award. Like the previous figure, he's mostly earth tones, except this guy has a fabulous scarf. As he's the soldier type, I decided to go with a conventional gun design, by modern standards. I think his flesh tone is interesting. One detail of which I am particular proud is his right forearm: the model is completely smooth here, but I used some shading variation to give the illusion of muscle tone. I freehanded the Rebel insignia on his right shoulder, and I think it is decent, though hard to see due to low contrast.

Time for more non-humans. This is Mak Eshka'rey, a bothan who clearly likes black and green. This is another one that took a few tries to get the skin colors to match the illustrations, but I think the result is fair. Assuming I'm right about his being a bothan, he's supposed to be covered in hair like a horse. I tried to give this illusion by some thin parallel lines around the arm, which is molded smoothly. His hair—pulled into a pony tail in what I assume is a terrible artist's joke—was sculpted with ridges, which makes it easier to give the effect there. His eyepiece was painted first with a white-to-grey transition (top to bottom) and then hit with multiple layers of yellow ink. In the illustrations, his weapon is a monochrome metal piece, and so I used that here too. Also, for what it's worth, the "black" of his suit is actually an almost-black green, which gives a good variation in black shade when put next to someone like Vader.

The last of the heroes is Diala Passil. I think my mix of Vallejo Purple and white is a good match for her skin tone, although I did not highlight it enough on my first pass. The bandages around her hands and feet were frustrating. In the illustration, they are fairly loose, with flesh showing, but in the sculpt there was no easy way to see how I could accomplish this look. Also, the detail was not fine enough that a wash really gave the contrast I desired. The end result is passable in that, if you know they're supposed to be wrapped around her hands and feet, it looks like that, but I would have liked it to be more apparent. I thought about going back over it and trying to pinwash in the cracks, but as I said, the detail isn't really there, and I was not keen on revisiting this part of the model.

The other major frustration is the mediocre OSL job. I had everything else done, of course, when I tried to add a glow effect to her lightsaber. In re-reading about how to do this, one of the sources I came across referred to the problem of "chalkiness" with light-colored paints, and I think that's what bit me here. The effect works from arms-length, in that you can tell that it's a glow and not something else, but I'm not very happy with it. The OSL effect hits almost every color on her, each of which was a custom mix that would be very hard to match, so it's not like I could easy patch it and re-do it. Maybe I'll give her a full repaint job someday, but first I should figure out if she's worth playing or not. If she sits in a box, it doesn't matter if the effect is a bit sloppy. In truth, I was probably impatient with it: it was not work that was done in the quiet, relaxed focus of painting, but rather done as a distraction from work.

That's it for the humanoids, and so the last unique piece is the AT-ST walker. I saved this for last partially because I wasn't really sure what to do with it, and partially because I find painting big models to be kind of tedious. A friend told me that if you're not enjoying painting, you shouldn't do it; yet, can you imagine the incongruity of an unpainted walker causing mayhem to our heroes? I knew I could use a layering approach as I had with all the heroes, but given the large surface area, that would take a long time. I don't have an airbrush, so I needed something that would work with plain old brushes. I poked around the Web a bit and found Sorastro's guide, which was quite nice so I decided to give it a shot.

Unlike the guide, I started with black primer, because that's what I have. The base layers of grey went on fine. I used my own ink wash instead of the Citadel Nuln Oil; mine was mixed with black ink, a smidgen of sepia ink, Future Shine, and water. My walker came out much grimier than Sorastro's, I think because I washed too large areas before wiping it down: the ink had more time to tint the paint before it was removed. The result is not quite what I wanted, but it's not bad: it just looks more weathered. In fact, it looked weathered enough that I did not end up adding any more rust or grime effects. It does have a different motif than the other models in the set, for which I kept a very "clean" look. If I could do it again, I would wash smaller areas at a time.

With everything painted, I sat down with my wife and son to try the Learn to Play scenario. We had a good time, and I'm currently trying to gather a group of friends to try out the campaign mode. Here is a photo of the first time the painted minis hit the table.

I enjoyed painting this set. I grew up with Star Wars, and it was fun to reminisce about the movies and childhood make-believe while painting. I'm happy to have seen all three Star Wars movies, and maybe this fourth one coming out in December will live up to the hype.

Reflecting on the painting itself, I realized while working on this set that I should probably be using more contrast—brighter highlights in particular. Miniatures always look different under the painting lamp than they do on the table. I tried to keep the set coherent, but I think for my next project, I will try to practice contrast and highlighting. Also, I had some pangs of regret regarding not having based these miniatures, the decision I described in part one is probably still a good one. Sorastro's series mentions a similarly-justified decision in his first episode, that since the figures will be moving across many different terrains, it makes narrative sense to keep the bases neutral. Still, when I look at these and compare them to some other figures I have worked on, they do like kind of naked. I may need to make sure my next set gives me a good excuse for creative basing as well.

Thanks for reading!