96290 Hill Giant

I finally got around to finishing up the Hill Giant.  It was this figure, in particular that put me off brush-on primers.  So, I’d prepped him months back and then stripped him while I made some progress on the Ahmut’s Legion figures.  Over the spring break I sat down and finally wrapped him up.  I have mixed feelings about the final product, but in the main, I think he looks great.FullSizeRender 11.jpg

This guy is huge and heavy.  Here’s a picture alongside a normal 28mm figure for reference:
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It comes in seven separate pieces and, I have to say, my pinning and gap-filling job was not the best here.  I did a lot of coverup with my paint job and the overall effect isn’t too bad.  Still, I know it’s there.  The right wrist, in particular, looks pretty bad.

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This was my first experiment using a liner and I like the definition it added to the transitions.  I had to try multiple applications to get it thin enough.  I realized, finally, that the way to do it is to apply the liner first and then go over with the regular paint job to make the lines thin enough not to be obtrusive.


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Skin tone is reaper tanned flesh with an application of Reikland Fleshshade.  I leaned heavily on Agrax Earthshade, especially on the feet to give a dirty appearance.  The model itself had some weird suggestion of whispy facial hair on the chin.  I tried to paint it, did a crap job, and decided instead to give him sideburns.  Despite the overall quality of the sculpt, the shrunken heads on his belt were pretty poorly defined.  So they look less than awesome up close.  But otherwise, I’m really glad to have this finished.

This represents the end of the Drazen’s Horde faction.  I have a few other duplicate pieces I’ll paint at some point, but I have a full run now.  When I get a chance, I’ll pose the whole faction together and make a few photos for the blog.  In the meantime, I need to push to finish up Ahmut’s Legion.

88590 Hobgoblin Adept

Finally finished the last of the hobgoblins:

This was fun to paint. The model has a lot of textural detail that made for interesting work. The pose is simple and the only assembly needed is the banner on his back. I went with a reaper bleached linen and buckskin pale (2:1) tint on the undercloak and shadowed by replacing palomino gold for buckskin pale. The result was still too harsh, so I finished with a light gray glaze.

Faction colors are in the waist sash and the banner. I went with purple for the shoulder sash to give more color variation. The chainmail underneath was a pain in the ass to paint. The lettering on the banner is phoenecian (D/H for Drazen’s Horde).

One piece left and I’ve officially painted all of this faction. I’m having a serious problem with my primer, and it’s threatening to hold me up. I’m using Vallejo surface primer (grey) and mixing it with a little black to darken it up. This gives an absolutely ideal painting surface, in my experience. But the grey foams and bubbles really badly. Usually I can catch this when I’m brushing the primer on. But not always. Even this Hobgoblin has a pitted surface in places because of these annoying bubbles:

You can see what I’m talking about on his right bicep and on the rightmost banner. The Hill Giant is even worse:

So I’m going to have to strip him down and reapply the base coat. I know the real solution is to graduate from brush-on primer to airbrushing. I’m not ready for that yet, though.

Keep an eye out for the first Ahmut’s Legion units to appear this week or next. Two halfling sneaks are being prepped and assembled at the moment.

88349 Hobgoblin Fighter

Well, it’s been a while but I finally finished up these guys:

This is a pretty great sculpt. It’s too flat, like a lot of the cheaper Chainmail figures. But the left arm and shield, which are two separate pieces that need pins, help break up the two-dimensionality. The pose is lively otherwise and there’s a good amount of textural variation to work with.

I went with the classic hobgoblin skin coloration, using Reaper Deep Red and Harvest Brown in a 2:1 ratio. Lots of chainmail to work with and some pretty intricate leather straps criss-crossing it. That made for some delicate brushwork.

I finally picked up a sable Windsor & Newton Series 7 for the fine brushwork. Wow is that a fun brush to use. Helped with the detail work quite a bit. I also wet-blended Vallejo silver and gunmetal grey to make the armor pop. I’m pretty happy with how that turned out. The pants were painted in a high contrast variation between Reaper heather blue and brilliant blue. I tied it together with a glaze of Vallejo Game Ink blue. Really happy with how that turned out. The faction color is in the shield detail:

All in all, this was a pretty boring figure to paint. I think the colors and textures give a nice contrast to a lot of the other figures in the Drazen’s Horde faction.

Two more figures are in progress and then the whole faction is finished. Here’s a sneak peek:

88715 War Ape

Finally finished and based the War Ape. This was a quick paint job, but I’ve been busy working on other minis for a game I’m running, so I let this one sit for a while before I based him. Apologies about the quality of the photos. The lack of contrast made it hard for my iPhone to take a decent picture.

The sculpt itself is great. The contrast between the fur and metal is well-defined and easy to describe. The facial expression and lunging pose are just wonderful.

I went with a harvest brown/black mix in a 4:1 ratio for the undercoat, then added a bit more brown for the highlights. Many of the reference photos online go with a blue & red mandrill look for the face. A lot of those are lurid, in my opinion, but the piece really does cry out for color contrast. So I toned it down a bit but used the same color scheme.

Given that there isn’t much space to show the Drazen’s Horde faction color, I opted for copper in the arm pieces. As with the orcs, I gave a light green ink wash to indicate oxidation. I’m still not thrilled with this technique, but I don’t have the energy to figure out how to paint verdigris properly.

The Drazen’s Horde faction is almost finished. Only two hobgoblins and the hill giant left to paint. I should be done by the end of the month, at which point I may switch to Ahmut’s Legion.

I’ve also painted a bunch of rats and a couple of shadow figures for the Sunless Citadel module. I’m particularly happy with how the plague rats turned out.

88830 Dire Boar

As promised, here’s the Dire Boar.

This was a pretty quick paint job, all considered. The lower jaw is a separate piece and is a pain to attach properly. I wound up drilling it in the back and attaching it with a rod that ran back into the boar’s mouth. It still came out a little cock-eyed.

I base coated with Reaper Harvest Brown mixed with black. This came out much darker than I’d have liked. So I did several coats of highlights, trying to bring out the texture of the piece. I’m pretty satisfied with how this turned out.

I struggled a bit getting the tusks and horns right. A pass with a light yellow ink wash left them looking like bananas. In the end, I went with Reaper bleached linen and buckskin pale in a 2:1 ratio and then finished with a sepia wash at the base of each tusk.

The snout and eyes are Reaper rosy skin mixed with blood red, in a 3:1 ratio. After that I washed with red ink and then then filled in the texture details with more blood red paint. To make it seem moist, I went over it with a third layer of gloss lacquer applied by brush following my usual two spray coats.

This came in the mail this week as well and is already getting use:

It’s a beautiful wooden holder made by Stephan Rath and sold in a Kickstarter that I backed last year. They go on sale to the general public next month. You can pick them up here.

Ironically, when I pledged, I wasn’t much of a painter, having only painted up Reaper Mouslings for my kids. Now it’s going to get plenty of use. I just nabbed two lots of Chainmail figures off eBay, leaving me with only 3 more figures to complete my collection. I also just bought a big batch of reaper minis for a D&D 5e game I’m going to run for some friends. So there is a bunch of painting in my immediate future, I think.

88280 Bugbear Trooper

I haven’t had a chance to update the blog lately. Too much stuff going on elsewhere, and I took a little time to paint some non-Chainmail collection stuff.

But I’ve finally finished and based the Bugbear Trooper, and wow is it a beauty.

Gorgeously defined musculature. A really energetic pose. And a sculpt that is clear, abounding in texture variation, and really fun to paint. The contrast between the chain and the fur, in particular, is what makes this figure pop. That and the pose. Wow.

I went with the traditional yellowish-brown for the bugbear’s skin. There are enough green and pink tones in the faction already. I decided to stay canonical here and with the coming Hobgoblins, who will be reddish. Washed the whole thing in Vallejo umber and then put in the highlights. I finished the whole with a glaze of yellow ink, which brought down the highlights and tied the figure together nicely.

The inside of the cloak I treated the way I’ve been treating all tanned hides: pink undercoat followed by a glaze with Vallejo flesh ink. I still like the effect a lot.

While I was painting this figure, I also took time out to paint an Orc Berserker in non-standard colors for a reddit painting exchange. I’ve got like 6 copies of this figure so it was nice to see one go to a good home. I used the Vallejo metallic glaze medium to give his axe a metallic ice effect. I like how it turned out. That was a dry run for some plans I have for the Mordengard communist dwarves. The other figure is Trista the Loremistress, one of the Reaper limited edition 25th Anniversary figures released this year. This was a commission for my daughter, who specified blue dress and a brown bodice.

Just this morning I finished the Dire Boar. Once that is based, I’ll post it too.

88461 Ettin Trooper

I finally finished the Ettin Trooper last week.

My first crack at it was a disaster. Two lessons: despite what you may read elsewhere, Vallejo Glaze Medium is not very good for wet blending. Maybe it works for non-metallic metal effects better than for skin, I don’t know. But on this miniature it simply made everything look gooey and wrong. Lesson two: if you like using washes to add depth and shadows, this will absolutely not work on larger figures with a lot of exposed skin. After a wash of Vallejo sepia, the piece looked awful, mottled and blotchy.

I wound up having to strip the figure down to bare metal and start all over. That said, version 2 looks a lot better.

Difficulties were 100% a product of my lack of skill. The second time, I was more cautious. I painted all the skin first (in case I needed to strip a third time) and diluted with water. There were still some harsh transition lines. I brought these down with two very diluted washes. The first was a soft gray. The second was a diluted Vallejo skin wash/Reaper tanned flesh combo. The latter was perfect for making the whole figure cohere visually.

Problems painting notwithstanding, this is a beautiful figure. The musculature is finely detailed, the pose is dynamic, and the scale is really stunning alongside the other Drazen’s Horde figures. The Ettin is a good head taller than the ogres, giving a nice range to the faction. It’s going to look great on the table. Casting it in six separate pieces also allows the figure to break out from the planar, two-dimensional quality that plagues many of the Chainmail sculpts.

I was going to push on and paint the Hill Giant next, but I think I’ll do the Bugbear instead. I’ve also got a couple of non-Chainmail figures that I may post on the blog.

88060 Owlbear

I finished painting her last week, but I only just now got around to basing the owlbear.

This figure was a delight to paint. I think it’s the best owlbear sculpt ever made, frankly. The detail is fine, the pose is wonderfully lively, and it’s complicated to prep and paint, but not overly so. I still love the Orc Trooper, but this is running a close second for my favorite miniature in the Chainmail line.

I hesitated starting this one because I didn’t want to screw it up. Once I got going, though, it was hard to stop. I went with a black primer coat, a chestnut brown basecoat on the fur, a black wash to bring out the detail, and then stippled several shades of brown to vary the fur texture. I really struggled over what to do with the feathers and crest. Some reference photos online have really brightly colored feathers which contrast sharply with the drab fur. That seemed a bit much to me, so I went with reaper Green Ochre and Khaki Shadow to keep the figure uniformly shaded but with enough variation to make the textural contrast apparent. I think it worked really well, especially in the face.

As you can see, I still didn’t thin my paint enough on the beak. The reaper yellows and oranges are really hard to keep from separating. So my first pass was way too watery and my second overcompensated. I’m still showing my trembling hand in the eye detail but honestly, I expected to do worse. I drybrushed the edges of the crest and the belly with Reaper Bleached Linen. I think that worked quite well too.

A glob of milliput putty left over from filling the truly cavernous gaps on the Ettin Trooper got turned into a nice owlbear egg. No idea what color owl eggs are in nature. A nice dappled lavender gives good tonal contrast here.

I’ve got 3 more owlbear figures in storage so I’m sure I’ll paint another of these before too long. For now, though, it’s the aforementioned Ettin Trooper. He’s already pinned, primed, and base coated. I should finish the highlights and shading in the next couple of days.

Oh, and splendid news on the collection-building front. A really great Chainmail collector from Ireland whom I’ve gotten to know from a Facebook minis trading board has given me the shadow priest and half-dragon mage. Really looking forward to seeing them. This brings my number of missing minis down to four, I think.

88970a/b Orc Gangfighter

Finally finished these guys today.

I found painting them extremely difficult and have been dragging my feet wrapping them up. The sculpts, which are from the end of WotC’s Chainmail run, are some of the worst in the line. The poses themselves are interesting and visually compelling. But the sculpts are just lazy. There is very little differentiation of the figures and the models have large patches of negative space where a more conscientious sculptor would have carved out the model to open up empty sections. I was continually needing to figure out how to paint large shadowed areas in a way that didn’t detract from the figure itself.

Those spears, for example, are not separated from the figure’s torso. There’s a massive, blobby piece that connects the two and which needs to be painted in a way that separates it from the chest armor and the spear shaft. I struggled with this a lot.

That said, I love the spears themselves and the armor. With a little more care in the production process, this could have been a really excellent piece. The Orc Trooper, for example, has a similar, two-handed weapon stance. In that case, the sculptor made the club and hands a separate piece that needed to be pinned into place. The result there is a figure that is really well defined and a joy to paint. I wonder if, by Set 4, WotC didn’t know the game was going to be cancelled and just phoned in the production process.

There wasn’t much cloth I could use to anchor these figures to the Drazen’s Horde faction color of burnt orange that I’ve been using. Instead, I had the idea of giving them copper armor. On base coating, I thought I had a real problem. The Vallejo copper is really vivid. When shading, I had the idea of giving them an oxidized look by using Vallejo green-black ink as a wash. It’s not a proper verdigris effect. For that I would have needed to paint whitish-green, encrusted patches onto armor that is already pretty well defined. This wash did a good job of taking the brightness down and giving a faint oxidized look to the recesses.

In my haste to finish them up, I forgot to paint the ties on their hair. That’s going to bug me forever. I tried highlighting the black hair with gray where the light hits it. I can see doing more of this with other figures. It really helps add a level of verisimilitude to the figures.

Taking a break from orcs and goblins for the moment. There are several hobgoblin figures I need to do. Before that, I’m taking time to paint the Owlbear, one of my favorite D&D monsters and a standout in the Chainmail line.

He’s pinned and primed. I should start taking a crack at him this weekend.

88713 Orc Druid

This figure was complicated to paint. Overlapping layers and a range of textures meant that I think I spent more time trying to figure it out than I did actually painting it. Nevertheless, I'm reasonably pleased with the results.

No actual cloth except for the deeply recessed undergarment meant that I didn't really have an option to display the burnt orange color scheme I'm using for the Drazen's Horde faction aside from the pelt draped across its back. I think it was supposed to be a wolf, but I turned it into a rather large fox. I made the undergarment a neutral dark gray (Reaper stormy gray) so that the brown tones would pop out. One thing I worried about was that the close proximity of multiple brown tones would wash out the detail of the figure. That seems to have happened somewhat. There could be greater contrast between the braids and their background for example. And the strap of the satchel kind of gets lost on the back.

The real nightmare here was the wrist tattoos. I'm just not steady enough with my hand and my vision is too blurry to get this as precise as it should have been. Regardless, I think it turned out pretty well. I love the large, textured bones and the overlap of the leather cords. The face is washed out, like a lot of the Chainmail orcs. But that Don King hair is amazing. I made the ties on the braids gold metallic to give more color and texture contrast. The loincloth pelt I did in ivory and then washed with multiple inks, using Vallejo black-green for the final tint. The result is a kind of damp, mossy look that works well, I think.

On to the Orc Gangfighters!