Closing the Circle
The upcoming release of HORDES is a fantastic opportunity to build a fully-painted force from the ground up. With only a few new models to paint each month, you don’t have to worry about the “oh crap, I just bought like 50 guys and now I have to paint them all” factor. The boxed sets hit on April 22. No matter what your faction, you can easily paint yours and still have a few weeks left over to play Fully Painted before the next wave is released.
Throughout this article, I’ll be including “Fast Track” comments in italicized text for folks who have limited resources or limited patience. The Circle box can be painted quite satisfactorily for tabletop play without some of the colors and techniques I’ll cover here.
Are you down with brown?
I sure hope so, because the Circle boxed set uses a lot of brown. I’ll be using pretty much every brown in the GW line, plus a couple of extras from Vallejo. Fast Track: You can get by with only three browns (dark, medium, and light) if you’re OK with your force looking fairly monotone. As we know from Mike’s article in NQ5, there are warm and cool browns. You’ll want to mix them up for contrast and variety.
VMC 941 Burnt Umber
VGC Brassy Brass
VMC 979 Dark Green
VMC 803 Brown Rose
VMC Matte Medium
|Fast Track palette (all GW)
Dark Angels Green
It ain’t easy being green
Quick inventory of the box contents:
- Kaya body
- Kaya left arm
- Kaya right arm
- Four Argus heads
- Leaping Argus body, left & right halves
- Walking Argus body, left & right halves
- Warpwolf torso
- Warpwolf legs
- Warpwolf horn sprue x 2
- Bases: one small, two medium, and one large
I unfortunately neglected to take a picture of the above. I trust that you will be able to manage without it. As you start dry-fitting the pieces together, you’ll notice that, uh, they don’t fit. There are gaps everywhere.
If you like to hack up your models and make different models out of them, you will not mind this part. If you like to create details on your models where once there were no details, you will not mind this part. If you (like me) hate Green Stuff and would rather just paint the [expletive] model than screw around with assembling it for multiple hours, this part will be almost as enjoyable as eating a pile of cold, rancid fish sticks. Fast Track: You can completely dispense with the gap-filling part if you don’t mind the way it looks. A strong gap-filling CA glue or two-part epoxy will probably be adequate for your purposes. I still recommend pinning some of the joins as detailed below. Skip everything else and go straight on to painting.
The sticky, nightmarish process of working with Green Stuff (GS) can be somewhat mitigated by the addition of Apoxie Sculpt. I mix the four elements (yellow, blue, white, and grey) in equal proportions. The 50/50 blend is more forgiving to work with than straight GS, has a longer working time, and dries to a sandable texture. It’s very important to let the mixture sit for about half an hour after you mash it all up. Otherwise it’ll be too soft, not adhesive enough, and generally frustrating to use.
Start with the Arguses…Argii…er, dogs. It’s easiest to use GS as both adhesive and gap filler. Roll out a thin cylinder of it and run the cylinder around the inside edge of one half of one of the dogs. Take the other half of that dog and press the two halves together. GS will splortch out of the join. Make sure not to press the two halves together too hard. You want to leave enough in the gap to form a strong bond.
It’s a quick process to carve the extra GS off the underside of the dog, flush with the surface. You can smooth out and burnish across the top of the join if you want to be super meticulous. Don’t worry if you don’t get it exactly flat. You can always cut or sand the extra off when it’s dry.
The top takes a while longer. For one thing, it’s visible. That means you need to be more careful with it. For another thing, the join passes through two different textures: fur and armor.
The fur will look better if you spread it out a bit from the join and mix it in a bit with the existing fur. You can match the texture pretty well by pushing the GS around with the tip of a dull Xacto #11 blade or the point of a dental pick. Just look at the existing fur and screw around until it looks pretty close.
You don’t want to spoil the detail on the armor, so you’ll want to cut it clean and flush like you did with the underside. This is more difficult than it sounds. Keep at it slowly and deliberately until you think it looks right. I find Colour Shapers to be an invaluable tool for this kind of work. They’re essentially rubber paintbrushes. You can get ‘em at pretty much any art store. They have a variety of shapes and they don’t stick to GS. That’s right—no water, no Vaseline, and still no stick. I am in Matt Gubser’s debt for that little tip. Cheers Matt.
There’s plenty of gap in the neck joins too. These you’ll need to pin before applying GS so the head won’t move around while the GS dries. From there it’s the same drill as the previous gap fills.
Finally, take a little ball of GS and stick it in the hole where the tail goes. Insert tail, add texture, and set dog aside.
Now take the other dog and go through the whole rigamarole again. Whee.
The warpwolf has four joins that require filling: waist, tail, and both arms. The waist and tail are just like the dogs—pin, splortch, clean up. The easiest way to get a smooth look on the fur here is to cover and texture the entire butt area of the model.
The arms are a bit different. The way the joins are set up, there’s no way to keep them together while the GS dries. You’ll need to pin and glue them first, then GS over the cracks. The right arm is pretty much impossible to pin because the right leg gets in the way. Use a two-part epoxy or a strong gap-filling CA glue like BSI’s Maxi-Cure, and pray. Attach the spines with whatever you’re using to attach the arms; the fit is pretty snug, so they should be plenty solid without pinning.
Kaya thankfully requires no GS. Both joins do require pinning though, as they’re extremely susceptible to shearing forces. The left arm is straightforward. The right arm has a funky join. Fiddle around with it until you have a clear idea of how it fits together. Then use the “red dot” technique (I’m using yellow here in the pictures) to mark your pin point, drill it out, and dry-fit the join. Glue your pinning wire into the arm but leave the arm off until you’ve got the body painted. Having that big stick way out in front of the model will mess with your depth perception while you’re trying to paint the body.
Normally I’d base the models before priming, but all three of the warbeasts have undersides that will be difficult to reach with a paintbrush or a spray can. You’ll want to prime them without bases, then shim the foot-bars and stick ‘em in temporary bases for painting. This will enable you to pull the models out of their bases if you need to get to a tricky spot.
All of this filing, putty and pinning work took me four hours and a great deal of foul language. By the end of it I was ready for a medicinal martini or three. So much for day one.
Better by leaps and bounds
Day two got me back to the part I like—painting. I started with the leaping Argus; I figured if I I had to paint two, I might as well get one out of the way ASAP. In the box photo, this Argus is painted in dark, warm browns. I therefore started with an all-over coat of Scorched Brown. A quick drybrush of Bleached Bone was sufficient for the back fur.
I mixed up some Bleached Bone with the Scorched Brown to get a midtone red-brown, a little on the pink side. When you’re mixing paint, it’s important to do some test blends before you put brush to model. This will save you having to clean up the model if your color is too pink, or too ochre, or too whatever.
Use the midtone brown to outline the areas where light hits the Argus’ coat. Don’t worry about hard lines. Just get the lighting right. The model’s musculature is clearly sculpted, so it’s easy to see the highlight areas.
In order to keep the model from looking too pink, I switched to the cooler brown of Kommando Khaki for the final highlight. Fast Track:You can add more Bleached Bone and a trace amount of green to get roughly the same effect. Red and green are complements, so they veer toward a muddy grey-brown when you mix ‘em together. Don’t go overboard with the green though—a very tiny bit in the mix will go a very long way. Kommando Khaki unfortunately has the worst coverage of any brown in the GW line, so these highlights take some time and patience to complete.
Once all the highlights are blocked in, it’s easy to work your way around the model and smooth ‘em out. Let “this is a gaming model” be your mantra. I just took a thinned-down mix partway between midtone and shadow and feathered down the edges where midtone and shadow came together. The highlight/midtone join was even easier. The places where highlight meets midtone are the places you’re going to see fur texture. Take a brush with a good point and paint in little tiny fur lines to pull the highlight and midtone areas together, a la Mike’s article in NQ5.
All told, it was about 2 1/2 hours to paint the Argus’ fur. I still had some energy, so I knocked out the metals next.
The green color you see in the studio photos isn’t a solid green. Fast Track: Just paint it solid green. It’s actually a wash composed of green ink, forest green paint, and matte medium. The paint gives it color and adhesion; the ink gives it flow; and the matte medium gives it a flat finish. I’m going to need a whole lot of this stuff for my growing Circle army, so I mixed up a batch in a spare dropper bottle. The ratio I used is about one part VMC 979 Dark Green (any darkish forest green will do), one part water, two parts matte medium, and three parts green ink.
I started with a basecoat of Brassy Brass. The verdigris mixture went over the top of this. Thanks to the miracle of color theory, the wash knocked all the red out of the Brassy Brass and left me with a nifty bronze color. I did a second wash, this time being careful to only hit the recessed parts of the armor. The second coat gives a nice opacity and depth to the green color.
I have a pretty clean painting style, so the raised part of the trim was bugging me. A little variation in the metallic color is cool, but overall the trim was just looking too messy for me. I thinned down a little Shining Gold and did some touching up. Fast Track:Your metals will look just fine if you start with Brazen Brass and paint DA Green in the recessed parts. By thinning out the DA Green to a wash consistency, you can knock the Brass down to more of a bronze color in the way I’ve described here. It’s really a matter of time and personal taste.
All the metal work took me about an hour. The dog was almost done at this point so I was tempted to go straight through to the end, but detail work can suck many hours away and I was tired. End of day two.
Lucky me! Day three was short and satisfying. The leather bits didn’t take long at all. The studio models have a warm brown look to their leather, albeit a different shade than the other warm browns in the set. I went for some Dark Flesh, mixing in brown ink to shade it down and Snakebite Leather to highlight it. Fast Track: It’s just as fast and good-looking to make the straps black. Mix some Bleached Bone in instead of white to highlight. That’ll keep the grey nice and warm.
Eyes and teeth were a snap as well. The Argus’ eyes are black all the way round, so a mere spot of white for light reflection was adequate to make the eye look right. VMC 803 Brown Rose gave a pink sheen to the gums. Fast Track: Mix Bleached Bone with Bestial Brown to get a pink color, or just leave the gums black. My dog has black gums. The teeth were a quick drybrush of Snakebite Leather, Bleached Bone, and white. Fast Track: Skip the Snakebite Leather.
This was just a little over an hour and a half of work, but I wanted a fresh start for Kaya. Day three ended with me on the couch watching my wife play Champions of Norrath for a couple hours.
Starting with skin
No surprises here—day four started with Kaya’s face and skin. My Show Me Some Skin article goes into great detail about how I build up skintones, so I won’t spend long on it here.
I started with Scorched Brown in order to tie Kaya in with her warbeasts a little bit. I built up the skintone by adding Brown Rose and then Elf Flesh to the mix. Fast Track: Skip the Brown Rose; it’s a nice “passing tone” but you can get by without it.
The sculpt has kind of a weird little pot-belly. I like my women curvy, but the belly in this case isn’t contoured enough to look right. It’s just kinda stuck on there. I fixed it with paint by downplaying the shading between abs and obliques, and adding shading down the center of the abdomen. This gives the appearance of an actual stomach instead of a bump with a hole poked in it. Note that the picture here is from a later step because the shot I took at this point was over-exposed.
Hell bent for…
Kaya’s wearing a lot of leather. Some of it is a very light deerskin. Some of it is a darker leather, like the straps on her warbeasts. The only real difference in the approach is the base color. For the light leather, use an ochre like Desert Yellow. For the dark leather, use Dark Flesh as on the Argus above. Shade with brown ink. Highlight by adding a little white to the Desert Yellow (light) and Snakebite Leather to the Dark Flesh (dark).
I’m not sure what those things are that she’s wearing around her calves, but on the box they look almost the same color as the leather. I used the dark leather highlight color as the basetone, shading with Scorched Brown as necessary.
The armor was the same deal as the Argus: Brassy Brass, verdigris wash, Shining Gold. At this point I was about four hours into the model (I’m very meticulous about faces and skin) so I called it a night.
The browns just keep comin’
Day five and I was about halfway through the box. Okay! Same ol’ Scorched Brown as a basecoat for the cloak and hair. Differentiating the two was going to be a little tricky so I resolved to make her a little blonder than the box art. The extra highlight or two would be enough to set the two browns apart.
I introduced a new color into the brown mix at this point: Bestial Brown. It’s a medium red-brown that’s more orangey than pink. I used this to highlight the folds in the cloak, and added a little black to my Scorched Brown for the shadows. The same painting technique used on the Argus’ muscles also applies here: block in, smooth out. Red-browns are awesome because they take to this technique very well.
Kaya’s hair started with Bestial Brown too, but I kept going with Desert Yellow to add some blond sheen. It looks most realistic to do this as a kind of halo around the crown of the head. If there are curves in the hair that look like they’ll grab light, put a little spot there too. Use one of the countless shampoo ads in magazines for reference on where to place the highlights.
Make sure to paint the little rune-stones hanging from her belt before you put her other arm on. Bleached Bone on the ropes; black, white, and grey on the stones. Easy.
Before you glue the arm on, scrape off the primer with a sharp Xacto knife. Be very careful while you do this! If you try to speed through it, the knife will slip and you will have to retouch some meticulously-painted part of the model. Murphy is always looking over your shoulder while you work. Don’t tempt him.
Dry-fit the join one more time before you glue it. Use only a small spot of glue. The pin will give strength to the join, and you don’t want extra glue glorping out onto your paint job. From here on out, it’s the same deal as painting the rest of the model. The only tricky part is the staff; the wood grain isn’t sculpted quite deep enough to paint and wash, so if you want it to look like the pictures you have to paint, wash, and then draw in the highlights carefully by hand. Try it. It’s not so bad.
Bark at the moon
Days six and seven were all about the howling Argus. I used exactly the same techniques here as on the leaping Argus; the colors are the only difference. This Argus is much lighter than the other, with ochre as the dominant tone instead of red-brown. Fast Track: Use whatever browns you want for this model, but don’t try to mix Desert Yellow and Bestial Brown. You’ll see why in a minute. I figured that since I was working with a lighter brown, I’d start with Bestial Brown as my all-over basecoat. Mistake number one.
The drybrushed fur was fine. A little Bleached Bone, a little white—bang, done. Spot in the highlights with Desert Yellow. Again, no problem. Blend Desert Yellow with Bestial Brown. Recoil in horror. Sooooo not the color I wanted. The mixture, while fine on Kaya’s hair, is way too orange in large quantities. I leaped for my VMC 941 Burnt Umber and quickly applied two thin glazes to knock the color back into ochre-land. From there on out it was Desert Yellow, Snakebite Leather, and Burnt Umber. Whew.
Are those spines in your pocket or…?
Surprisingly enough, the Warpwolf took about the same time as the dogs did. I knocked the whole thing out on day eight in one five-hour session (including breaks). The box-cover Warpwolf looks like about the same color as the leaping Argus so I went with the same Scorched Brown basecoat.
The Warpwolf has enough fur to warrant some complexity in the highlighting. I used Snakebite Leather, Desert Yellow, and white to drybrush layers onto the fur, keeping the lighter colors toward the outside edges.
I wanted to use more orange-brown than pink-brown in order to differentiate the Warpwolf from the Argus, so I used Bestial Brown as a midtone. Highlights were a mix of Bestial Brown, Desert Yellow (the orange hue worked for me here!), and a very light grey.
The spines got the same treatment as the teeth, at the same time: drybrush with Snakebite Leather, Bleached Bone, and white. Grooves are sculpted into each spine from base to tip, so you’ll get those cool dark streaks without having to do any actual work. Everything else—straps, armor, eyes—is a repeat.
In Fiction is one of the most amazing songs ever
Day nine was the Isis show at the Great American Music Hall. They were phenomenal. All three of the new songs they played were in the same vein as my favorite tracks on Panipticon. I am really looking forward to the new record. I got no painting done on day nine. You wouldn’t have, either.
Arkentyre wins! Flawless victory.
Last day of the ten, and nothing left to do but basing. Since I had a few hours to work, I decided to step up to Ark’s basing challenge. I followed his technique almost to the letter, so you can read his article and just look at the pictures here. Click the last picture in the series for a closeup view. Fast Track: Just rock ‘em and flock ‘em like you usually do.
Note that I left slots open for the feet on the miniatures. I like using the tabs wherever possible, since they’ve got so much more surface area than pins. I just cut off the section between the feet and then slot ‘em in.
The dogs’ feet have metal between the toes that’s hard to remove, so I didn’t bother. The funky little gap between feet and base is easily plugged with CA glue and a little sand, painted to match the rest of the base.
The Warpwolf is so big that his feet overlap both sides of the base. I had to pin him instead of using his foot-tabs. I put a pin in each foot and “red-dotted” to make sure the holes would line up. His toes are wide enough apart where you can snip out the metal between them; go ahead and do it now if you didn’t do it during assembly.
I used flock to mask some glitches in the base and add a little brightness to each model. Paint the edges black and that’s a wrap.
Until next time—