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Architect of Old

Looking for Advice / Criticism

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Hello all!

 

This is my first post. I have been browsing these forums for a little over a week, and WOW - there is some amazing talent here! You all seem so very nice and helpful - that is much appreciated. I'll probably end up posting a topic in the "Painting Tips..." section, as I have a few questions.

 

Anywho, here are the first few minis I have painted, and am still working on until I feel like they are finished. So, I come to you seeking advice, comments, criticism ... They will be solely for display (maybe a chess set) as I don't play the table top games they are made for. These are the first minis I have ever painted, and I have been trying to use the techniques I've been reading about by you fine folks. I think I have them down (as far as the basics) but I know I need to refine my skills at them all.

 

Here are my attempts at blending colors. I'm still basecoating this guy.

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Trying to use the main techniques like washing, drybrushing, highlighting... These are kinda done for the most part - unless I get some good ideas/comments from you guys. Plus I'm still gonna beef up the bases.

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I'm still going to add to the bases. I have some grass and rocks and stuff I have yet to add. I also haven't sealed these yet.

 

So, what do you think?

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One fickle thing about painting miniatures, is that you also have to learn photography skills. I have seen plenty of awesome paintjobs that looked horrible on the net cause the painter did not also learn photo basics.

 

So, I am gonna start there. Because at the moment it is kinda hard to give critique help on the paintjobs due to the pictures. Not as bad as some pics I have seen, but still enough so that I could be giving wrong feedback.

 

First, always more than one light source, and never directly above the mini. Causes too many heavy shadows and hot spots.

 

Second, close ups are good, but focus is more important. Back up even 6 inches will make a huge difference in those pics. Example, the best pics you have above are the two back shots. Thats because nothing was sticking out towards the camera in either of those two.

 

There is more, but for now thoes two things ought to help a ton.

 

On to painting critiques...

The fact that you are using actual metals verses the metallic look thru non metallic paint, helps for you. Looking at the evil knight, it looks like you used a silver and then came back in with a black wash to get the nice contrast and edge definement.

 

Not sure if you did the same with the fur though (or dwarven beard). For a beginner that is a fairly good technique for getting decent fur and hair. You might try starting with a lighter shade of brown and then doing a dark wash to help define the fur and hair, then come back with side of your brush and lightly follow the grain so to speak a little with an even lighter highlight to give it depth and life.

 

Lastly, use the same technique to set that pattern of the dwarven shield out. A controlled wash to get some dark lined definement around the pattern, then come back with a silver mixed with some white and do a little edge work to make it pop.

 

My last sugestion I think you already talked about, but I think you yourself noticed how much better the evil knight looks simply cause you based him. Doing that with the other models will help them out a bunch too.

 

Hope that helps.

Good luck

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Here is the crusader after some more work. I'm pretty happy with this one, although I didn't really know which colors to use in some places.

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Dain got a little re-work.

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Here is another orc. The picture really doesn't do it justice. I'm pretty pleased with this one so far.

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I'm still working on the camera and lighting crap. I used another light this time, but I guess I got the angles wrong cuz the shadows are still pretty bad.

 

Any advice and comments are gladly accepted!

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Looks like your brush control is coming along well, and it shows on the dwarf's shield. I really like the skin tone you got on the ork, as well. If you can manage it, sunlight is the best light source for both painting and photography: Though it is fairly unforgiving, the amount of light and unfocused nature of it helps reveal the mini, and can help you catch stuff you didn't see before the photo. Also, try photographing the mini against a matte background, like a piece of white printer paper.

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Wow, these guys are looking very nice for your first few attempts. Why no front shot of the orc with the double-headed axe, though?

 

Anyhow, I can't see any sloppy mistakes, and it looks like your paint is going on nice and smooth - so thinning and brush control, 2 of the biggest challenges for new painters, would seem to be well in hand. The light-to-dark blue transition on the crusader's... skirt thingie... looks quite nice too.

 

If you're not ready to call the dwarf's helmet horns done yet, a google image search on "cow horns" yields images of horns in a surprising array of colors and shapes for your reference, but in general I noticed that almost all of them darken toward the tips, and many toward the base as well. I painted a minotaur's horns this way (ie. darker at both ends with a sort of off-white or ivory color in the middle) once and was quite happy with the results, though they were sculpted quite a bit differently from this guy's horns. Click the link in my sig then hunt around a bit if you are interested in seeing a pic of that - he's in the same thread as my skeletal dragon, whose horns I did not give this treatment for some reason. Doing this would also let you see some of my own work, which will give you a better idea of whether you should trust my mini-painting advice or not. :lol:

 

I see you decided to scrap the silver on the dwarf's shield details in favor of using nonmetallic colors. What made you change your mind, if I may ask?

 

I also have to ask what paints you are using for your metallics? Your golds and silvers are really nice and shiny, oh, and the coppery dagger and sword hilts too... and I've been thinking about picking up some new metallic paints for some time now. Normally I'd default to Reaper paints, but my FLGS has been out of MSP metallics (other than weird stuff like purple) for months and no sign of getting any more... I am not that big on online shopping, and I don't want to shell out for readily-available GW unless I have to, or someone convinces me they're the best choice, but I've had about enough of my grainy craft brand metallics and am determined to upgrade soon, one way or another.

 

Kang

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@Hamish; Thanks for the comments! Funny you should mention, but I did use a peice of white paper behind the minis. I still need to work on the lighting - that much I know. I'll try taking some photos in direct sunlight, but I took these at night.

 

@Kang; Thank you as well for the great comments. I didn't include the frontal of the orc cuz the pic was just too overshadowed. I'll try and get a better one today, as I'm happy with that guy. I also don't thin my paint (altough i've read and read that thats one of the basics!), but personally I like how the paint works straight out of the jar. Which leads me to say that I'm using GW paints (i know, I know...). There is only one FLGS that I know of in the area (San Diego, North County) that sells mini stuff, and they only carry GW painting stuff. Plus, I don't mix paints hardly at all, as I usually just go straight from the can/jar. I found it too hard to match colors for touch-ups and such after the original mixed paint on the pallet has dried up. I only have a few colors as well ... I bought one of GW's paint packs that came with about 10 colors and a brush. I bought a couple other colors I thought I would use, and a couple inks (altough I think I like using paint for washes better).

I will definitely look at your galleries once I get home from work. Although I've read the post(s) I haven't tried the horn colors because I suck at blending/layering. I guess I'll give it a shot though, cuz I can always just paint over if I don't like it.

I chose to change the colors on the shield because A. I didn't like the monotony of just blue/silver and B. It looked to me like the design was of a dragon spitting fire (possibly) so I thought that would make for a much cooler look. At least, thats what I tried to make it look like!

I don't know how "right" it is, but I'm using Testors Metallic oil enamels for the gold/brass. I had some of these paints on hand already, and rather than buy some GW paints I thought I'd give them a try. I'd say I'm pretty limited with my paints on hand, so I do what I can.

 

On a side note - anyone know where I can get some Flow Improver and some Dry Retardant? As far as I know I'm limited to HobbyTown and Michael's in my area.

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Flow improver and retarder can be found at Michael's. Liquitex and Winsor & Newton are both good brands found in the fine art area along with the artist's paints. They can be a little pricey. You may find one or both of those things in the craft paint area as well for less. I've seen Anita's brand Extender (retarder) either there or Hobby Lobby. I'm not sure you can find that sort of thing at HobbyTown. If you ever find a place with Reaper stuff, they have flow improver and retarder in the Master Series Paint line, too. Unless you are lucky enough to have a very well-stocked LGS and an art supply store (for the better brushes), you may end up ordering some stuff anyway.

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I know this is in drastic need of an update, but here is a pdf of a mini-photo seminar I did at RCon '06. Much of the info is still good, just cameras/prices need to be updated and I wanted to add some graphics for lighting setups plus a section on making your own, inexpensive, light box. The best advice I can give for using your camera for closeups is to read your manual. After that, read the section in the pdf about depth of field and exposure. This is your biggest problem at the moment. Also read about the lighting setup and my Rule of Three (three lights, one left, one right, one top).

 

What kind of camera are you using? Knowing this will help us help you easier.

 

As for the paint job, it's really difficult to tell much with the darkness and shadows. If you have photo-editing software (GIMP is free and is comparable to Photoshop), you can adjust the photos to be lighter and show more (look at adjusting the gamma more than brightness/contrast, although you'll want to adjust those a bit, too).

 

What is your paint consistency like? Take a look through the Tips section for thinning paints and using extender and flow improver, especially for blending. You might want to try your hand at layering, first. It can give the illusion of blending, but isn't quite as hard as wet-blending.

 

So far, for a beginning, you're doing really well. Practice practice practice!

 

Oh, if you want to practice blending, get some smooth blanks (shields work well for this) and practice on those. The smooth surfaces will help you learn the finicky stuff that blending can lead to.

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I also don't thin my paint (altough i've read and read that thats one of the basics!), but personally I like how the paint works straight out of the jar. Which leads me to say that I'm using GW paints (i know, I know...). There is only one FLGS that I know of in the area (San Diego, North County) that sells mini stuff, and they only carry GW painting stuff. Plus, I don't mix paints hardly at all, as I usually just go straight from the can/jar.

 

On a side note - anyone know where I can get some Flow Improver and some Dry Retardant? As far as I know I'm limited to HobbyTown and Michael's in my area.

 

Where in North County are you? We've got a paint night at Game Empire (Clairemont) tomorrow night from 6:30 to 10. One of the best ways to improve is to paint with others, they can show you techniques as well as describe them. Aaron Lovejoy (who is a pretty good painter, consistently gets 9's on Coolmini) is going to be showing us how he does metallics. Hope you can come, it's always fun having new blood to paint with ::):

 

And you may be using those paint straight out of the jar now, but when they dry up a little, you will need to thin them. Also, take a close look at the horns on the dwarf's helmet - you can see the effect of using paints straight out of the bottle there, it's not as smooth as it would be if you thinned your paint some.

 

ETA: Also Game Empire carries a bunch of brands of paint, just not Reaper Master Series ::(: They will special order it for you though. Local folks have all kinds of different paint brands, you can always try them out and find what you like! IF you come to paint night! :;):

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@ Aryanun: Thanks for that camera tutorial. You know whats funny, I used to think I was pretty good at photography. I took several courses in High School and College and got to be pretty dang knowledgeable with a fully manual slr. Now, 10+ years later I can't remember an F-Stop from an F-Key! I have a Nikon N65 and a Nikon D40, so I now find myself having to go back and read up a lot more than I thought I would have to. Your tips (as well as others) have really opened my eyes about how much I forgot about basic photography! I also have Photoshop and consider myself pretty proficient at it, but one can only do so much with a crappy picture to begin with. I also have read many a time the importance of thinning paint, and I am now trying to start utilizing that process. I finally got some Art Advantage acrylic flow improver and some Winsor & Newton Blending & Glazing Medium for oil colour (which I think might be the wrong kind - it says its for oil paints, but it was the only one I've seen at both Michael's and Valuecraft). So, I tried making some "gunk" using The Craft's formula (from Anne I think) but that didn't seem to work right - again, it might be the drying agent. I want to get that down because I really want to get good at blending paints to form a true gradient, as I really like the look of some of the cloaks especially on the Reaper painted gallery. I have also done a few more minis that I am more happy with since these photos were posted. I'm already noticing my subtle improvements. I'm also trying to work on some cool bases. So much to learn!!!

 

@KatieG: Thank you for the invite! I would honestly LOVE to go, but unfortunately I have plans this weekend. I am in Escondido, and it is really nice to know there are others in my near vicinity that I can possibly learn from. I haven't been to Game Empire (although I have wanted to go) - I have bought my minis either directly from Reaper, or from Pair A Dice Games in Vista. They also carry GW Citadel paints, which is what I have been using.

 

Hopefully someday soon I'll be able to hook up with some of you and learn some much needed techniques that I am lacking in. I sincerely hope it goes well, and would have loved to make it.

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I finally got some ... Winsor & Newton Blending & Glazing Medium for oil colour (which I think might be the wrong kind - it says its for oil paints, but it was the only one I've seen at both Michael's and Valuecraft).

 

I would be quite surprised if you got anything usable out of an oil-color blending medium when using acrylic paints. (Actually, I'd be surprised if you got anything short of a mess.) Oil paints use organic solvents that are commonly immiscible with water. Acrylic paints use significant quantities of water. If you worked really hard, you might get an emulsion, but I think you are far more likely to get unmixed layers of solvents.

 

You might want to try Liquitex Flow-Aid, which is formulated for acrylics and (I think) available at most art stores. But water works pretty well for thinning most acrylic paints.

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Okay, the paint we use, GW or otherwise, is acrylic and water-based paint. The oil blending medium you have won't work. Try looking for Slo-Dri by Liquitex at Michaels or Hobby Lobby, that's where I get mine, and make sure it says it's for acrylics. You can try online as well at some place like Dick Blick or Jerry's Art-a-Rama. They carry it, often for a lot less.

 

Also, what kind of brushes are you using? You want one that can really hold a point with plenty of spring. Vallejo and W&N Series 7s are really good.

 

As for the photography, go back to it. Look at the manual for the N65 (I have one too) and look for "Aperture Priority." This is the only way you can set the f-stop on the camera and it's kind of funky. The Macro function cannot be used since it is set to have an extremely narrow depth of field for pictures of flowers and birds. I went ahead and got myself a digital and leave my N65 for things I want to end up hanging on my walls.

 

You'll have to set in your mind that mini photography is a cross of close-up and portrait photography. This can make things difficult, but pull on your old knowledge and it will start coming back to you. I recommend looking into an inexpensive digital camera with a good, close focal length with at least 1" and aperture priority capabilities. This will let you get really close and give you some room to mess with the exposure time. Get a table-top tripod ($10 at Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy and easily portable) unless you have a full-sized one. Also look into the Reveal bulbs to eliminate the tungsten yellow. Depending on exposure, the color of the bulbs can cause big pains in color correction.

 

Since you already have Photoshop, you should be good to just adjust the gamma to help brighten the photo. If it looks good on your screen, check on another computer, or even a laptop as well. Checking on multiple screens will give you an idea if your personal monitor has off-beat settings and thus is not rendering the photo for others. Flat-panels/LCDs (laptop) tend to give odd results for graphics, often resulting in the image being darker.

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I also have read many a time the importance of thinning paint, and I am now trying to start utilizing that process. I finally got some Art Advantage acrylic flow improver and some Winsor & Newton Blending & Glazing Medium for oil colour (which I think might be the wrong kind - it says its for oil paints, but it was the only one I've seen at both Michael's and Valuecraft). So, I tried making some "gunk" using The Craft's formula (from Anne I think) but that didn't seem to work right - again, it might be the drying agent. I want to get that down because I really want to get good at blending paints to form a true gradient, as I really like the look of some of the cloaks especially on the Reaper painted gallery. I have also done a few more minis that I am more happy with since these photos were posted. I'm already noticing my subtle improvements. I'm also trying to work on some cool bases. So much to learn!!!

 

@KatieG: Thank you for the invite! I would honestly LOVE to go, but unfortunately I have plans this weekend. I am in Escondido, and it is really nice to know there are others in my near vicinity that I can possibly learn from. I haven't been to Game Empire (although I have wanted to go) - I have bought my minis either directly from Reaper, or from Pair A Dice Games in Vista. They also carry GW Citadel paints, which is what I have been using.

 

Hopefully someday soon I'll be able to hook up with some of you and learn some much needed techniques that I am lacking in. I sincerely hope it goes well, and would have loved to make it.

 

I just want to point out (and I may be a minority on this board) that water works perfectly well as a thinning medium. It's pretty much all I ever use these days, after playing with Color Float, Flow improver and different kinds of extender. You can get excellent results just using (clean, and I prefer distilled since my water is super hard) water. I'm not a master painter or anything, but I know a couple who are that also just use water... As a bonus, water's a lot cheaper than that other stuff (not that Flow improver and all that is all that expensive of course).

 

Game Empire has a painting night every month. It's usually the last Friday of the month, but it's earlier this month cause of a scheduling conflict. But come join us sometime! Yeah we're a little strange, but you'll get used to us :wacko:

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Great start. And Katie, all I use is water also, sometimes I don't even change it for a few days.... until I see stuff floating in it it is still good... I definitely agree that thinners and such are over rated.

 

I really like how the paladin is coming out, very nice. I agree with the others about the basing, I think it is going to make a world of difference for the overall effect of the mini.

 

Are you using a white primer? If so I would suggest washing the entire mini with black before painting, or just use a black primer. This is only personal preference, but it makes it a lot easier to leave a small black line in between major objects (i.e. arm and shirt, or the glyph on a shield)...

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Thanks guys for all the great comments. I have already implemented quite a bit of what I've heard in the last few days. I have about 8 minis "semi done" that I'll soon post pics of. I've been fascinated by basing the last two days or so, so I haven't gotten around to taking any pics - but I will.

 

Thanks again!

 

- Architect

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