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Painting in the Wild: A Journey into Painting


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Hello everybody!


Some time ago I asked on a suggestion for placing a thread about alternatives to many materials that you modellers in the "first world" use and take for granted, but are more difficult to find when you are away (and shipping ends up being more expensive than the material itself).


It was suggested this subforum, so here it is where I am posting.


But I intend to make it even more than a simple "materials alternative" thread. As I thought about placing it in the WIP subforum, I realised... all these tips and stuff are very intimately related to one particular Work In Progress: myself, as a miniature painter/modeller.


So, I cannot warranty entertaining posts, but at least a dumping place for a lot of stuff I came to realise, mostly on my own, and that can perhaps stir in you, fellow hobbist (hobbier? urgh), an urge to try something, if you haven't already.


First, a word of caution: my native tongue is Spanish. In many ways Spanish, as a language, is more twisty and flowery. Please forgive me if my English, other than being grammatically wrong at places, is also full of twisting sentences. Sometimes language is more a rhyme than a simple statement; if you don't understand something I say, please, speak up and let me clarify.


To start, allow me to -briefly- describe myself. I am Argentinian (Argentina is a south-american country waaaaay to the south, reaching into the South Pole area lengthwise), 32 years of age, married, one daughter, and a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. I work in an airline, corporate official, which allows me to browse the web when the job is "slow".


I love airplanes mostly because of their grace, of their aesthetic glory. That some fascination comes with certain forms of art; and since I could never draw well some time ago (about 10 years ago or more) I did some miniature painting (stemming out of my RPG hobby; I've been deeply involved in that for about 15 years).


I was never that good, but I loved to learn about techniques and trying to apply them. I converted every Space Marine I was about to paint (and that is the reason I never had more than a dozen of them painted). I painted alone, for I could never find a group to paint with, to learn and share ideas.


But of course Internet is there to teach us, in a way. This is the first community I actually post to because it is so nice, and so full of people not only willing to teach, but also willing to learn. And I find that is when you do not fear to give your opinion of something you learn the most, out of your own suggestion, and out of other people's.


So, sorry for the lengthy intro, and soon I will be posting about alternate materials, and things I find valuable in this modelling hobby.


It goes as a given, but anyone that feels like sharing, please do. Take over the thread if you want, the more stuff for thought/experimentation, the better!

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Painting is a colorful activity. And if you don't have a natural talent for it, reading about the basis can help a lot.


I struggled to find any decent books on Color, for example. Most books on acrylics I found at the book stores here deal with the "big" techniques that even have the medium being applied with a knife as a paste (shudder!). I recommend you try to find a friend, or someone close, that is artistically trained for advice and reading material. Reading about color, mixes, light, sculpture... especially if you do this during "lost" hours, like when travelling to/from work (I have a looong commute) can help a lot on how you approach a mini.


Based on a recommendation from this forum, I found Color, by Betty Edwards, very inspirational and educative. I haven't been able to find a real hardcopy of this other books mentioned in tutorials, but intend to look very hard for them the next time I am at the States or Europe.


Based on that book, I think it could help a lot your miniature painting and understanding of color if you buy the primary and secondary colors as suggested by Betty Edwards, in students' acrylics, and do a color wheel, and mixes. When you start seeing with your own eyes HOW a green react by being close to a red, or to a blue, you start to understand a lot of what makes a mini look great, not only being painted technically correct.


Fortunately, artist-grade acrylics are available almost universally, even if hobby paints are not. You can even work with them if you can get used to the type of paint (here the finest grade I found is paste, comes in tubes, and requires a lot of mixing with water and medium to be useful... and then still you fight the paint). But I learned to paint with them, and got OK results, and they are great for splashing big amounts on a white paper and seeing how mixes behave with each other, what saturation means, etc.


Do you have any good recommendation on color theory books you can share? On color/painting exercises you believe are valuable for the mini painter? Chime in!

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Here are some links that I found useful when trying to understand Color Theory. Take them as ramblings from someone at a coffee shop; not all of it will help you, but perhaps some little gold nugget is waiting to be discovered in them. And for me, sometimes it is about that "click" that an errant idea produces in my head.






This is the reading that made it to me. After a lot of thinking about colors, the important thing is HOW to apply this theory. This post here was my eye opener: http://5-th-dimension.blogspot.de/2013/06/contrast.html


I also like to check places for color schemes, to give me ideas:





And this is my go-to color wheel. I like it because it also shows desaturated colors along with the main, saturated hue, and you can clearly see the difference in vibrancy.


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Thanks Sanael, feel free (you and everybody) to contribute with whatever crosses your mind. This is about learning, and getting new ideas after all!


Open your eyes

We all see a lot of gorgeous miniatures around. In great environments. Superb dioramas. And we ask ourselves... what can I do to DO that?


We talk and talk and talk about painting technique, contrast, dilution, mixes... but there is little talk about composition. About framing the scene. And I am an honest believer that the frame of a mini (in many cases, the base) helps add a lot of character to the miniature, and complement the paint job.


The truth is there is a lot of stuff out there you can use for your bases. You just need to open your eyes.

Plastic toys. Scraps of wood. Little branches and flowers. Leaves. Roots. Gravel. Cheap decorative plastic pieces from china. Fake coins. Gears from something broken. A whole world of things you can use.




I will give you an example, something I use for basing. Here in Argentina we drink "mate"; an infusion (wikipedia link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mate_(beverage))


The infusion is made out of the dried remains of a plant called "yerba mate". This is the yerba in our home dispenser:



As you see, it included a lot of dried leaves, some are big, and also a lot of small material. Sifting them gives you these:



Something similar to small grass for texture, and some rough stuff that can be useful for some purpose... they make great submerged swap foliage, for example!


And like this, you can get a lot of nice things out of the spice rack! Tea leaves also make great terrain, for example.


If you are also far from places where Woodland Scenics actually means something, clump foliage is also hard to come by. However, there are some "hard" kitchen sponges that can be broken into convincing bushes:





The small rocks above, for example, are the kind of little stones you can buy for cats to do their... things on. A handful goes a long way. The big rocks are typical broken granite used in railways. I live next to one, so getting a dozen or so is very easy!


Sand is also very easy to get from construction sites, and a cup will go a long way for us. That sand is usually very coarse, but you can sift it and separate thin texture from rough:


Sifted, fine sand and the remains, above, as rougher texture!

If you don't have pigments and want to experiment, you can also ground some pastel sticks and use the powder... I have read they are basically the same thing and still need to test it, but hey, at 0.50$ a piece this was a cheap experiment:



The containers above where also sourced by my wife, for me... they are small 10ml containers for cosmetics, and I got 34 of them for about 12$... they even have screw on tops and I am very happy about them.



What are your favorite sources of non-hobby stuff for modelling and painting? Share them with us!

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I have used fish tank ornaments for ruins, especially pillars. My KoW orc army is based up to show them advancing through ruins, and a couple of pillared temple type ornaments were broken up to provide background and unit fillers.


Also a good source for plastic plants and gravel, though not as cheap as finding it on the roadside.

Edited by misterc
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ooh! I love this! I like to use a lot of natural items from my garden. I have a thread on pepper seeds and basil flowers. Also, never forget the trusty birch seed leaves or the raiding the spice cabinet craft articles! Also, I really like using pine bark for rocks, and roots for trees. I make most of my trees from wire and milliput, but "finding" them is easier!

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Cattails (the name varies with location, but the genus is Typha) make quite good long grass when the head dries out. I strongly recommend keeping the head in a sealable plastic bag, btw, since they will make a huge mess when they dry otherwise.


My favorite stone for small rock bits on bases is sandstone. With a hammer you can break it easily into whatever size you need and the texture is good.


Around here, pine bark mulch is popular for landscaping and available for a few dollars for a huge bag. Washed and broken to size, it makes very nice stratified rock outcroppings that weigh hardly anything.


Woody weeds (Russian thistle is common here), especially the root balls, can make very nice tree trunk and branch structures. Just add foliage. In general, much of nature is fractal, so can be used to replicate or suggest things of much larger scale.


Clear report covers (or tranparencies used for overhead projectors) make very nice glass for building windows. If you have access to a printer that can print on transparencies, you can make brilliant stained-glass windows for model cathedrals.

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@misterc: I thought about ornamental pillars... yet I never thought about raiding the fish tank ornaments... thanks for the idea! I am already a visitor of the local shops that sell little pieces for making necklaces, wristbands, etc (hehehe!). I got some nice stuff there as well that I can show you next!


@Corporea: Those craft articles are great and also served to stir my imagination, but I want to reinforce the first idea: open your eyes. A lot of stuff can be used to enhance a miniature model.


For example, I just got a message from my mum that she found some old metal buttons. You know, the kind that had designs engraved, sometimes heraldic blazons? Like these (pen for scale):


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I could... or I use them to get GS molds out of them, and then duplicates! Or to lightly apply paint on them and press them into a cloak, then blend the pattern into the fabric, and make it look like embroidery.


Again, the posibilities are endless. I am forever a hoarder of stuff; all my family knows it. I keep old pen metal ink canisters (they make nice poles), quality champain cork covers (the metal kind, make excellent flag material), clear acetate scraps from binding books at the office (as Doug mentioned!), broken clear plastic cigarette lighters (quite a few things in there), and more, much more.


I have always said, the size of your bits box is a measure of for how long you've been involved in the hobby ;)

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Another couple:


If you're doing SF stuff, take a look a the packaging for things you buy, especially high-tech stuff. Vacu-formed computer mouse packaging can make quite a nice base for an armored vehicle, many formed styrofoam shapes can work well for bunkers or buildings -- think about the shapes before you send them to a landfill or recycling.


And speaking of styrofoam, if you break off the large-bead kind, you can get a pretty nice surface that suggests granite. And you can refine the shape by scraping the surface. It's messy, but the result can be convincing rocks that don't weigh much. Once you have that, you can paint it appropriately. When painting styrofoam, though, make sure that you don't use organic solvents directly on the foam; it will melt away almost instantly (and the resulting shape isn't interesting, IMO). To prevent that, you can first paint with latex wall paint to make a barrier (just make sure you cover everything). I've also found that after sealing, you can use spray-n rock texture like this Krylon product (found in home stores here). Fairly convincing and very quick for the result.

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Pine bark for me. I have easy access to pine trees, so I just go out and pry off however much I need. Cedar needles can make some small plants. I also have easy access to dry moss and lichen. And at the right times of the year the are kajillions of little flowers around here. I just need to learn to dry them out properly.

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My wife got a big package the other day with a lot of styrofoam in it, the kind that is shaped around small household appliances and it got me thinking about what I could do with some of the stuff if I wanted to work with it as a basing material. Thanks for posting the information Doug!

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