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 merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log

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merzbau
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PostSubject: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Wed Nov 04 2015, 21:06

Hey, everybody. I got sucked back into Warhams and miniatures in general last Christmas when I foolishly bought my girlfriend a copy of Mice & Mystics; since then, I discovered to my horror that Dark Eldar had finally gotten an update and one of the best model ranges GW has ever put out.

I fell in love with the Kabal of the Flayed Skull in the painting guide- I love the look, which is different from the usual dark armor with super-bright edge highlights, and the character they managed to give it with some simple conversions (things like the Archon with the spear and Reaver helmet). So naturally I'm just going to straight rip it off; if nothing else, it'll be like painting a special character now that they're almost all gone Sad

I have a few kits picked up at a discount and socked away in a closet- an Archon, a Haemonculus, a box of Warriors, a box of Scourges (the very unit that made me go WAIT WHAT DARK ELDAR ARE ACTUALLY COOL NOW), a Venom and a Raider. But this isn't about them yet.

I've been slowly building up my confidence in painting, both by working on the Mice & Mystics miniatures and painting the Space Marines from the 3rd Edition box set, which I never got around to as a kid because even back then I found them dull.

On my last visit to my parents' house, I found a box in my old room with 16 unpainted 3rd Edition Warriors and some miscellaneous metal models. A few were missing parts, like the old Archon with the skin mask and giant helmet (if I can't find his massive hand on my next visit home, I'll have to find a substitute arm), but I was able to glue and basecoat a Sybarite with Agoniser, a Haemonculus (the skinny male one, with what I'm going to call a scissorhand and a liquefier), a couple of Incubi and 4 Wyches with a mix of standard and gladiatorial weapons.

Like I said, 16 unpainted Warriors. And 20 painted ones, from when I was 15:



OH GOD IT BURNS. The black? Yeah, that's pure, uncut Chaos Black spray primer. I tried to do edge highlights back in those dark days before YouTube tutorials with the point of a large brush, I had no idea how to shade (I owned some Badab Black, but never got around to using it on these guys) and that gold looks nasty.

The plan for the "new" old Warriors is a squad of 8, with one designated as a Sybarite (he gets a bone-colored helmet with red markings to distinguish him), and another squad of 8 as Trueborn (all with bone-colored helmets), led by the metal Sybarite. With any luck I'll be able to paint the first squad over the weekend and report back, and at any rate, I should have the courage to defile my lovely new models before the end of the year.


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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Wed Nov 04 2015, 21:12

Oh, and a word on the black/red/gold color scheme: back when the first Dark Eldar range came out, this was the Kabal of the Black Heart's look. I went with it because, in my ignorance, I thought black would be easy to paint, and I wanted my little dudes on Team Vect.

When the actual Vect model came out, the GW studio army had the familiar black & green scheme they're still more or less using today, although with an interesting "marbled" effect on some models. According to a GW-produced Eldar and Dark Eldar "collector's guide" predating the current range, which I downloaded a while ago, the black and red were now the "Kabal of the All-Seeing Eye" (not to be confused with The All-Seeing I), and Team Rakarth- this was when the Kabal/Coven/Cult distinctions were still a little fuzzy.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sat Nov 07 2015, 18:01

A bit of a delay getting started with today's high humidity keeping me from touching up the first squad's spray undercoat. I did manage to get the first round of metal models trimmed, cleaned up and glued and the gaps in the slottabases filled with liquid green stuff, and I have to say that's not something I'll miss doing anytime soon. I was about to continue onto the five metal Wyches but the first one picked at random had a mold line running not only through a giant mass of hair but literally right down his face, and decided to call it quits for the night- those can wait until I've got the second squad of Warriors touched up and ready to spray.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 08 2015, 02:22

The look of the classic range seems to be... controversial. I'm one of the people who love them. I have a lot of plans for refitting my old classic Dark Eldar, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with yours.

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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 08 2015, 02:39

Thanks! I don't have anything terribly original planned at the moment; most of the work is going to be simply figuring out what aspects of the published paint scheme I can carry over to the old models. Things like the bodysuit underneath the segmented armor will be tricky; I'm leaning toward little to none showing because otherwise I'll wind up with some of them seemingly going to war in their long underwear. Edge highlights suffer a bit as well just for having something like half the number of individual armor plates, and it's difficult to mix up the shoulder pads for variety since the old range essentially had one giant wraparound shoulder pad with the only clear dividing line running up the back.

The Incubi shouldn't be too difficult- I'll paint the head-mounted guns (I forget what they were called) dark like the horns on the current models. And for the Haemonculus, I'm thinking of working out a paint scheme to fit in with the Hex coven (white plates, pale skin robes/aprons, blue-green edges) or the Everspiral (I haven't seen anything except the Talos template in the codex, but white with red accents and a tiny amount of black to break things up).

And to ease my way into painting the good stuff, I found a box of the sorta-recent pushfit Eldar Guardiand for $6; I'll be painting those as one of the Corsair bands in the Forge World PDF. I mean book.


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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 08 2015, 15:30

Some thoughts while I wait for a wash to dry. I'll have pictures soon, hopefully; I'm just doing a run through on a single test model to spot any problems before I start the assembly line.

1. Khorne Red is interesting to work with- it’s requiring a second coat, just like Mephiston Red did when I was doing my 3E Space Marines up as Blood Angels, but the coverage is still excellent. Is it just the case that the old conventional wisdom no longer applies and the major paint lines (GW, Vallejo, Privateer, etc) have just figured out how to make bright colors not impossible over a black undercoat? More than that, though, I didn’t fully appreciate until I had some on the palette that Khorne Red has a lovely blue/purple tint to it, like venous blood. Gross. I’m looking forward to seeing how the unconventional highlight progression in the book works out (Khorne Red, first edge highlight with Evil Sunz Scarlet, fine highlights with Jokaero Orange)- it seems like that kind of rapid progression from a dark, cool color to a muted but still extremely bright edge could either give an amazing sense of depth or, in the wrong hands, look like total ass.

2. I do think it might be worth investing in a new brush for my base layers. I’d been using an old GW Large brush- it’s well taken care of with Master’s, still holds a point, all that jazz, but it’s not the best for the quick & dirty approach to basecoating, where I need to efficiently push pigment into all the nooks and crannies of a model. I facepalmed a bit when I went to my FLGS to replace my ex’s Fine Detail brush and saw that GW had redone their entire line just to create another silly, overly specialized revenue stream, but I think they might be onto something with marketing those stiff, synthetic, wedge-tipped brushes as “basecoat brushes.” I’m not going to buy theirs, mind, because I’m pretty sure I can get an equivalent product cheaper; likewise, please don’t take this as a defense of the new brush line because that “Artificer” brush is seriously taking the piss. It is taking the piss, putting it in a sack, running away with it and now nobody else can have any of the piss. Because it has been taken. I picked up a couple of Army Painter “insane detail” and “psycho” brushes for a grand total of about $7. For $20, GW’s had better come to life and paint eyes for me. And be made from unicorn hair.

3. This is the first time I’ve done an all-over wash, and it’s actually a bit trickier (at least for me) than a finely applied wash- it’s hard to balance the relatively quick-drying shade with the necessity to watch out for areas where it might pool or start to “web” (the old DE models are covered with little gribbly bits where this is all but guaranteed if you’re not careful), and I ended up with a couple of spots where there’s an obvious line where the shade had started to dry. Fortunately, both of those are on parts that are going to be basecoated a different color later, so haha who cares

I’m aware that G-Dubs sells a “shade brush,” but I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. Especially when its main selling point seems to be “HOLDZ MOAR PAINTZ,” and are you kidding me with this

Who has this problem


Anyway, next comes cleanup and highlights on the red, doing one of his forearms in bone and his little booties in the signature DE blue-green, and then the major colors are done and I'm onto the fun stuff. And don't worry, not all of my posts are going to be image-free walls of text; I'm just using this to take notes at the early stages.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 08 2015, 17:18

Hi,
I'm totally with you on Khorne red it is one of my favourite paints in the current range. I find squig orange works well as a highlight colour with it if you find the Jokaero orange too stark.
On the subject of brushes I've switched over to almost exclusively using winsor and newton 7 series brushes they are not cheap (at current exchange rate about $13.50) but I gave up on the army painter range as being one of those times when you get what you pay for, mind you the old GW brushes where no better and more expensive. I can't comment on the new GW line as I've not used them. But the wedge shaped brushes I own (cant remember the manufacturer sorry) are indeed very good for base coats.  
On the subject of shades annoyingly I think its an area GW have a good point on. When your doing a whole model wash a hi capacity brush saves a lot of the frustrations of quick drying.
Good luck with your current project I'm looking forward to seeing how you get along.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 08 2015, 18:10

I've got to say I'm not too thrilled about the Insane Detail brush after breaking it out for its first use. Part of it is down to my skill level/hand steadiness (I've seen the teeny-tiny Army Painter brushes referred to as gimmicks for insecure painters, but thought they might be worth a shot anyway) and part of it is just pure physics- it's impossible to keep a tiny bit of paint from beading on the tip, and surface tension is a real obstacle to actually making use of its size. It also seems like it'll be a nightmare to clean, and it's irritating to have to use a second brush to actually load my palette and thin the paint. I'm still glad I gave it a shot, though, and I may yet find the proper use for it.

I should be done with this first model by later tonight. I'm still not as steady as I'd like to be with fine edge highlights, but that's why I've got 15 more of these guys to get through. The color scheme is coming together perfectly, though! I was a little concerned because some of the schemes in Raiders of Comorragh and in other online guides from GW are kind of half-assed, use really strange color combinations or are just indefinably "off," but someone put real thought into proper contrast for this one, which is nice because it means I don't have to.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 08 2015, 20:54

I don't know how Insane the Insane Detail brush is - I don't use any of GW's hobby products because I'm quite sure my brushes are better, my green stuff is cheaper, and my paints aren't going to be discontinued - but with very few exceptions, the best brush for a very fine line is not the smallest. The really tiny brushes, such as W&N Series 7 000 or 0000, hold very little paint, so that paint dries very quickly and flows very poorly, even when significantly thinned and mixed with retarder. I get much better results from a brush with a very fine tip that will hold its shape well.

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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 08 2015, 21:43

I'm definitely coming over to that view myself. Anyway, here's the first picture from the project. It is...not pretty.



This well-coiffured fella isn't finished yet; aside from the base, I realized halfway through that I don't have a decent blue to do the glowing bit down the gun barrel (although the way the old splinter rifles are constructed, it's going to be the barrel itself glowing)- I think the miniature needs that accent, especially since the tiny eye sockets on the helmeted models and lack of any drugs, tubes or miscellaneous bits screws up the color balance a bit.

So, of the long list of things I need to work on, first is obviously edge highlighting. Both paint consistency and line quality were a headache, and while I can partially blame the latter on the absence of my trusty paintin' cork (currently at my ex's apartment with a Mice & Mystics rat blu-tacked to it; the Master's container is a poor substitute for steadying my off hand), I'd more than welcome any feedback on that front.

Next: faces oh god how do i face
I ended up just slapping on a thin layer of a mid fleshtone (Kislev Flesh from the GW range) to blandly neutralize the horror underneath; I'd been working from a list of successive highlights that even I had written down in my notepad was overly optimistic, but started losing definition by the second tone. I think this is largely the edge highlight/brush control issue again, but I've also very obviously not gotten my head around the natural order in which to highlight facial features. I'd been basecoating, applying a wash, reapplying the basecoat everywhere but eye sockets, mouth and a tiny bit under the cheekbones and highlighting up from there, but things got quite messy indeed.

And finally, the hair. I realize there's only so much I can do with the bizarre clown hair from the old sprue- there's a reason I picked this guy to potentially ruin first as he will not be missed- but it's tricky to achieve a layered effect by picking out more prominent strands without making it look like a stripey fright wig. Again, a more natural-looking 'do would help, and the highlights are still drying as of this photo, but it's a bit of a botch.

This may sound overly negative, but it's been quite instructive overall- it always helps to literally learn the shape of the model as I work on it, and I'm going to be able to work much more smoothly on the next few. I've decided to break them up into small batches and do the next three in assembly-line fashion, then the next four (including whichever rando I decide is the Sybarite). Those should be done and up by midweek.


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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 08 2015, 21:44

...weird, I'm not sure why that photo is showing up rotated- I took it with my phone vertical. I'd fix it and re-upload but the file on my HD is fine...
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 09 2015, 14:08

If I may offer some feedback.
I think you've done a good job on the armour, and weapon.
With the hair if you are finding it a struggle to line highlight, perhaps drybrushing would help? it might also be worth considering glazing it to tie the colours together.
I suspect you are trying too hard with the skin tones perhaps try base coat, shade, highlight and then a thinned glaze/wash. What you are trying to reproduce is skin and that is by its nature translucent. A top tip I picked up from Brother Stobz on Bolter and chainsword is never end on a highlight when painting flesh.
For DE I've been using rakarth flesh, reikland fleshshade, pallid wych then thinned reikland flesh, if you want a more unhealthy pallid look you might want to consider using a purple to shade or glaze with. Personally I use a whiskey cork and a lump of blu tack. the Whiskey cork has two advantages first you have to drink the whiskey (I recommend Laphroaig) second a decent single malt almost always has a cork with a sort of plastic cap that serves to act as a base when you put it down and the cork itself is just about 25mm in diameter so fits the GW bases nicely.
I hope this helps and don't be disheartened You are off to a really great start.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 09 2015, 14:35

I've noticed some orientation weirdness when I take pictures with my phone, too. When I run them through photoshop to correct the light and color saturation etc, the orientation issue goes away on its own. (I'm sure it has something to do with the phone knowing what direction is up, but not communicating it well.)

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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 09 2015, 15:03

Thanks for the suggestions! I'm not discouraged so much as I am recalibrating my approach- fine edge highlights are trivial on Space Marines, what with all the big chunky armor pieces and 90-degrees angles and relatively major changes in elevation on the shoulder pads, and this is just going to require more thoughtful planning. I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge.

I tried to simplify the color swatches for the skin from what's in the book-the instructions there call for a base of Cadian (already potentially problematic, since it's quite a thin layer paint and required two coats), flesh wash, reapplication of Cadian, layer of Kislev, and successive edge highlights of Pallid Wych Flesh and White Scar. I mean, at some point you just run out of face, you know? I decided to drop White Scar from the outset, but even then I got something of a clownface effect.

The hair is an area where I wish I'd walked away and taken my time. It was getting late, and I wanted to finish this one completely before doing my seminar reading for class and turning in. When the ridiculous giant hair head pops up again, as I know it will, I'll try a more delicate approach and think in advance about which strands to select. Honestly, this one looked just fine with just Kabalite Green + Nuln Oil wash, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't the same overall tone as his feet. I'd thought about a glaze, and I might pop some green (or 50/50 with blue) on there tonight to see what it gets me.

As far as painting corks, I'm more of a fruity mixed drink type myself, but I've also found a preferred size of cork. I wish I remember where I'd gotten the advice from, but it's an oversized cork from some arts & crafts brand- large enough on the top for a Terminator base (40mm, I think?) with plenty of room around it, and with a gently sloping side that lets you comfortably rest a curled hand around it without needing to grip it particularly hard. It's fantastic for holding a model steady for extended periods if you work as slowly as I do.


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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 09 2015, 15:04

Here it is on Amazon:

Cork Collection #26, 2-Inch by 1-1/2-Inch, 1/Pkg https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002PICM0G/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_e4oqwbVDNQZVF
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 09 2015, 15:08

Oh, and another couple of things that got away from me in my first reply...

For edge highlights, I've found that my problem is coming from trying to use the side of the brush as I did with Space Marines, and I might get better results working on keeping a point and steadily pulling it toward me.

And for flesh color- I'm avoiding the Rakarth Flesh base for these since Rakarth/Pallid is the color combination used for bone and on models like the Archon and Incubi that wear primarily bone-colored armor.


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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 09 2015, 21:25

Final update for a few days- I made a couple of fixes to the test model, realizing his gloves should've matched his boots, and toning down the hair a bit:



And here's a rear shot, where the edge highlighting turned out a bit better:



EDIT
Oh good lord. Sorry about the sideways photos, AGAIN. I don't know what to say; they were taken with the phone upright, and I've checked the orientation in Preview and Photoshop. I'm thinking it's a servimg thing.

The reason for the delay (aside from the standard school week; I'm finishing my BA in art history and starting grad classes at the same time and it's just a little demanding) is a resupply run. I ordered a new base brush, the blue I'll be building all the glowy bits up from, and some texture gloop to try out a snow finish for the bases. With any luck everything will be here by the weekend and I can start the assembly line up properly.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Sun Nov 15 2015, 23:04

I've found myself with a bit of free time this evening and wanted to do something, aside from a brief touch-up of the highlights on the first practice model, so I started in on a second Warrior. This one was originally going to be the Sybarite for the squad, but I've retracted that since the side of his face is noticeably roughed up (either from incompetent first-time use of plastic glue long ago, or bad spraypaint conditions recently- I haven't noticed it on any of the other models, though), so he's jumping to the front of the line.

Some observations as I go- again, these are pretty much entirely for my benefit, so feel free to ignore completely Smile

1. I'm still dialing in the right paint consistency, and have thinned down my basecoat even further. I tend to freak out a little bit when I see paint that's very thin and paradoxically looks like it's plastering over surface details, but I left it on and regularly checking on the first basecoat as it dries has confirmed what basic science would have told me- that's mostly water, and as it dries, the pigment is depositing closely and evenly over the undercoat.

2. I'm thinking about switching up my working order to see how it goes, laying in all my base coats first instead of working each layer up to the highlights before beginning the next. It seems like a more logical working method, since it gives me more opportunity to easily fix mistakes, which are more likely when laying in neighboring colors at this early stage. If nothing else, I'll at least break it down to colors that take the same wash during shading.

3. I'm feeling more confident about edge highlighting after some practice in using the point of a brush and, again, working on paint consistency. This guy has his arms away from his chest, with his splinter rifle in a one-handed grip and a punch dagger in his left hand, so I've also got more plates to work with. I'll take my time, go slowly and get a picture in between the first (Evil Sunz Scarlet) and final (Jokaero Orange) highlights, since making the latter thin enough is still quite tricky for me.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 16 2015, 12:27

THE FIRST DISASTER

This morning I applied a third thin coat of red after noticing that the coverage was still a bit patchy on large, flat areas like the sides of the helmet. I waited a good 30 minutes or so for it to dry, then gave the model (with all Khorne Red and Incubi Darkness basecoats complete) an all-over wash with Nuln Oil. Toward the end of the wash, I noticed my brush suddenly had a red tip, and discovered that the paint somehow still hadn't dried in the deep recess around his neck and I'd carried a bit of it with me. The only visible effects seems to be a couple of small patches of brighter red and a streak of dull, translucent red on one of his dark-colored boots, and I should be able to fix it first with strategic reapplication of the wash, then by being careful to cover up the red staining during my cleanup pass.

Lesson learned, I guess; properly thinned paints will take considerably longer to dry.


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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 16 2015, 21:21

Actual images!



This is test model #2 with all of the basecoats applied and shaded, but not highlighted. I love the scalloped armor on the chest and asymmetrical armor on just the right leg- I was a bit lazy and not as delicate with the brush as I should have been on the tiniest plates on his leg, but I think it came out OK. And once again my camera's color balance is a little off- it looks a little too bright here, but I'm extremely happy with the red I was able to build up.



And a second shot, showing one of the design elements of these older models I quite like- the left leg has a diamond-shaped recess over the calf that I chose to paint as a kind of keyhole cutout showing the bodysuit underneath, and the right leg armor lent itself nicely to being painted as a kind of armored spat. Just strolling through space in his fancy murderspats, as one does. HE SAID GOOD DAY, sir.

Edit: HOLY CRAP THEY'RE FINALLY THE RIGHT WAY UP
If anyone else is having this problem, here's what I did- in OS X, just open up the image in Preview, rotate it 90 degrees 4 times until it's, you know, exactly like it already was, then upload.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 16 2015, 22:20

Last update for tonight: first layer of highlights on the red.



Calling it for tonight because my hand is starting to get shaky, and as a wise man once told me, sometimes it's best to just walk away.

A sane man might look at that design and think to himself: I will drybrush this.

I am not that man.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 16 2015, 22:41

Thinned paint does take longer to dry, but 30 minutes for acrylic paint seems excessive to me. The paint itself may be thinned, but how heavily are you applying it?

Hooray for better photos!

I quite like the red, actually.

(And you're totally tempting me to switch my focus to one of my classic Dark Eldar renovation projects.)

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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Mon Nov 16 2015, 23:06

Thanks! In retrospect, I think it's more likely I just hadn't gotten enough coffee in me yet and overestimated the amount of time that had passed since the last layer.

I lied, by the way- I went back and did a little more work, with the first layer of highlights for whatever SPACE LEATHER the bodysuit is made out of, along with starting in on the hair and finishing up the bone on his right forearm. Which, in keeping with the spats, is obviously a cufflink: the mark of a proper gentleman.

The tricky bit is going to be that last layer of highlights with orange. I've gotten better at point control and fine application, but these will have to be razor-sharp to avoid overpowering the Evil Sunz Scarlet like on the first model.
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Tue Nov 17 2015, 00:15

I think coffee is probably more important for miniature painting than paint.

I am absolutely going to try working the phrase "space leather" into my lexicon.

I looked again at your earlier photos and posts - I missed some things - and I have some thoughts.

I only drybrush under duress. And when I have to drybrush, I complain about it. Drybrushing is terrible (except when you have to) and you're better off without it (except when you're not). Most of the time you're better off without it.

Going directly into that orange for the line highlights seems abrupt. What about line highlighting with a scarlet/orange mix and then only dot highlighting the pointy bits with pure orange?

I don't have a painting cork. A lot of my models have magnets in their bases, so they just go on the metal lid of a small glass jar. Models that are not part of the magnetized elite get jammed onto a wad a white tac (which is like blue tac but undead) which is jammed onto the lid of an empty late 90s GW paint pot.

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merzbau
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PostSubject: Re: merzbau's Kabal of the Flayed Skull project log   Tue Nov 17 2015, 09:40

I want to keep the highlights as simple as possible and easily reproducible across an entire army- I might try progressively thinning it with acrylic medium, but I kind of dread trying to consistently make a specific mix of colors.

I'm also learning the hard way that I can't be stingy with the white tac myself; I had a close call last night where the tac under the base had flattened out so much it was barely holding the model and I just barely caught it before it slipped off.
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