Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘Tamiya X-21 Flat Base’

Paint-in #2: the eyes

Posted by Martin on January 23, 2013

Eyes: extreme (non-flattering) close-ups!

Eyes: extreme (non-flattering) close-ups!

If you ask most people which part of painting figures they hate the most, you can be sure of a fair smattering of answers involving eyes. So much so, that there are many who simply don’t bother with them. So that’s the issue I’m going to tackle in this second paint-in.

Before we begin, here’s a cheklist of the paint and equipment I used for this session:

I always begin every painting session by using the pipette to dispense some of my paint diluting mixture into one of the wells of the palette and mixing a little X-21 Flat Base into it – see my video review of X-21.

The first paint we’re going to use is the white, so put a small amount on the palette and dilute it a little with the cocktail of filtered water, flow improver and X-21 to achieve a thin but not runny consistency. Use the 00000 brush to paint the eye sockets white on all four figures. It’s best to use a thin coat of paint; by the time you’ve done the fourth figure, the first one will probably be dry enough for a second coat. At this stage there’s no need to get stressed about accuracy because it doesn’t matter if white paint gets on to other parts of the faces.

Now wash your brush in the jar of water and washing-up liquid and dry it off gently on the kitchen towel. Looking after your brushes as you work is one of the secrets of getting a good long working life out of them and is well worth the effort if you use expensive Kolinsky sable brushes like I do.

The next colour is burnt umber which we’re going to use to basecoat the faces of all the figures and the hair of most of them – I’ve decided one chap will have grey hair, so he won’t get his basecoated with burnt umber. Prepare some paint as before and apply it with the 000 brush, starting with areas of the face well away from the eyes. This way you can get attuned to how both paint and brush are behaving before attempting the more delicate business of painting around the whites of the eyes. As before, don’t worry too much if some burnt umber strays off the faces onto collars or headwear. That’s easily tidied up later.

Now paint as close up to the whites of the eyes as you are comfortable doing with the 000 brush. Some of you might be able to do all of this step with the 000 brush, while others may prefer to switch to the 00000 brush. Either way, you are aiming for narrow almond-shaped whites of the eyes. To avoid that goggle-eyed effect, these almonds need to be thinner than you think. As before, be prepared to apply paint in two or more thin layers rather than one thick one. You’ll get a smoother finish that way as long as you let each layer dry before applying the next. With four figures to work round, drying times shouldn’t be an issue anyway.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes. We all make them and I had to make a number of corrections as I went along to get the results shown here. Just let the burnt umber mistakes dry before going back over them with white and repeating the above steps until you have eye shapes you’re satisfied with. Don’t forget to keep cleaning your brushes as you go along.

Next it’s the pupils of the eyes and we’re going to use black for these. Prepare a small amount of black paint on the palette and load the 00000 brush with only a little paint. Now go for one confident thin vertical stripe down the middle of an eye. Notice how I’m not suggesting that you dot the pupil. To do that successfully requires a much steadier hand and risks spoiling the work you’ve done so far if you misjudge how firmly you press the brush tip on to the eye. The vertical stripe technique is much easier to master and delivers equally good results at this scale. Now all you have to do is repeat it another seven times!

The only drawback of this method is that your black lines will probably extend beyond the eyes and on to the burnt umber basecoat. So one final round of tidying up with burnt umber will be required to finish the job. That’s all for this time. In the next session I’ll move on to finishing off the faces and maybe even starting on the headwear.

Posted in BfK Limited Edition Figures, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment, Tutorials | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Final version of Tamiya X-21 Flat Base review

Posted by Martin on June 2, 2012


After dipping my toe in the experimental video waters last month, I’ve now revised and re-recorded my review of Tamiya’s X-21 Flat Base product. I’ve certainly been on a steep learning curve and this version is a great improvement on my first attempt. And not just because it now has audio. I think I’ve achieved a better image quality overall and added on a demonstration of actually working with X-21 Flat Base.

However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The autofocus on the webcam I used gets confused sometimes so it might be a good idea to try switching off that feature in future. Plus I think I could improve the lighting. It only took a couple of hours this afternoon to record and edit this version, including doing some re-takes. So that’s not a bad effort-to-reward ratio and the whole process certainly benefited from being thought through beforehand. Especially when you consider that I was able to do most of the pre-planning during the otherwise wasted time of my daily commute to the office.

Let me know what you think of this version and if you have suggestions for what I should do next.

Posted in Paint and Equipment, Tutorials | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

If a picture paints a thousand words

Posted by Martin on May 13, 2012


What you see here is a first for BfK – it’s an experiment with the idea of adding video to the blog. And, before we go any further, this is far from the finished item: there’s no audio track, I haven’t filmed a third section of this yet and the video quality / lighting is basic (to say the list). But it is a proof of concept and, on that basis, I’d be interested in your feedback.

You see, I have this idea that I can do several things with video that the written word and some photos can never convey satisfactorily. However, I’ve already learnt that doing those things has the potential to be time consuming, so I want to gauge if it’s worth the effort before pursuing it any further. I suspect that the clip above will give you a fair idea of two of the areas I’m considering committing to video – namely product reviews and “how to” tutorials. In this case, the rough cut already has the basics of the review element but I’m yet to record the “how to” part. If I can get that sort of thing to work out well, then I might move on to some “on location” reportage style recordings.

So what’s triggered this dalliance with video? Well, like so many events in life, it’s the serendipitous intersection of several different threads. Some of which are: watching a report of the BBC News website about how professional films can now be made on smartphones, my daughter’s acquisition of an iPhone, me getting an Android tablet that has a rudimentary camera and video recording software on board and a recent e-mail discussion I had with a BfKer who wanted advice on brush cleaning. It was this last item that really got me thinking. I found myself trying to put into e-mail an explanation of how I look after my brushes along with some (hopefully) useful tips. It took quite a bit of thought and a while to write. All the time I was doing this, I was thinking how much easier it would be to sit with my correspondent and show him. Of course, it wasn’t realistic for us to travel and meet up in person. And then what if more than one person asked me the same question? So that’s when the germ of this video idea planted itself in my head.

I could go into gory detail about how I recorded the video and what software I used to edit it and start to witter on about transitions and pans and fades and cuts and… But this is a wargaming and figure painting blog, so I’ll spare us all the pain. Instead, I’ll ask for your comments and suggestions (possibly even for topics to make videos about). Gulp!

Posted in Announcements, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , | 8 Comments »

Blue is the colour

Posted by Martin on February 19, 2012

The Andrea Blue Set in all its glory.

The Andrea Blue Set in all its glory.

My involvement in the La Bricole painting competition was, in part, intended as an opportunity to experiment and one of the areas I wanted to investigate further was how to achieve the most pleasing result for the blue of French infantry uniforms. My existing palette for Prussian blue has served well over the last couple of years: Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue (VMC889), Vallejo Prussian Blue (VMC965) and Vallejo Medium Blue (VMC963). But when I tried to adapt the same palette for French uniforms, I found it unsatisfactory.

The main problem is that the blue of French uniforms is actually rather dark. And that means that you need a really dark blue basecoat for highlight layers to show up clearly enough without them making the whole effect too light. After a lot of consideration, I reached the conclusion that Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue isn’t dark enough a starting point.

The secondary problem is with Vallejo Medium Blue as a final highlight. It seems too bright and, to my eyes, to contain too much green whereas I was looking for a greyer blue. I’ve tried various other blues in the Vallejo range as a replacement and none of them quite hit the mark. Plus, with both its fellows under scrutiny, I has also started to wonder about Vallejo Prussian Blue’s suitability.

So what was to be done? Answer: time to experiment outside the Vallejo range. When I previously had problems with my white palette I ultimately found the solution in the form of the Andrea White Paint Set – or at least with some of the colours from that set. So the logical step was to try the Andrea Blue Paint Set, not least because I’d seen Sascha Herm’s success with it. Like other sets in the same range, the Andrea Blue Paint Set comprises six shades: a basecoat, two shadows and three highlights. Visual inspection of the bottles suggests that the change in shade from one colour to the next is subtle to say the least until you get to what appears to be quite a jump from the second highlight to the third highlight.

Further, three of the colours seem very close to the Vallejo shades mentioned above. In certain lights, the basecoat colour is close to Vallejo Dark Prussian Blue and there’s a marked similarity between the second highlight and Vallejo Prussian Blue. In particular, the third highlight looks very similar to Vallejo Medium Blue. So I was initially a little disheartened about the prospects of finding a solution with this set. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I decided to take the plunge.

New blue palette on French officer's habit-veste.

New blue palette on French officer's habit-veste.

I started out by applying a basecoat using the second shadow (i.e. the darkest colour in the set). Experience has taught me that Andrea colours work best with two thin coats for the basecoat and, in doing this, it became instantly clear that this was a colour to be reckoned with. It really is a deep black blue with an exceptionally matt finish that flows smoothly on to the figure. Of course, some of the mattness may be down to the inclusion of Tamiya X-21 Flat Base in my new mix for diluting paints (more of that experiment in a future posting) but I suspect that is only a modest factor in the case of this particular paint.

Next I tried the the second highlight as a first highlight (I know, confusing isn’t it?) on the basis that my test application of many blues on some white card showed this to be sufficiently lighter to show up as a highlight and rather similar to the Vallejo Prussian Blue that I know so well. This wasn’t so successful because this paint didn’t seem to have quite enough covering power to complete with the dark base coat. To be fair, I did skip several of the intermediate colours in the set and perhaps if I had layered up through them, that might have made a difference. So I switched to the Vallejo Prussian Blue as a first highlight instead – bingo! A most pleasing effect: clearly visible highlights without being too light or drifting tonally to green.

Emboldened by this success, I moved on to a second highlight using the third highlight colour (i.e. the lightest colour in the Andrea set). Now I was worried about how similar this would be to Vallejo Medium Blue but I was reassured by a comparison of the two on my white test card. I think my initial impression must have been skewed by the fact that the bottles are not completely transparent and therefore give a slightly false idea of the actual paint colour. This colour also seems to lack totally solid covering power but, in this instance, that turns out to be an advantage because if it did provide too effective coverage it would be too bright a shade. In reality, a degree of transparency to let the previous layer show through slightly helps provide a more subtle final highlight and means that I can control how intense I want it to be by painting on additional brush strokes of the colour if needed.

In terms of finding a new palette to use for French blue, I think this has been a successful experiment but I need to use it on more figures to really understand the properties of these Andrea colours and how they interact with the Vallejo Prussian Blue. On the downside, as it stands, I’ll only be using two colours out of a set of six paints, so it hardly qualifies as the most cost-effective solution. Still, I live in hope that the other four colours will one day come in useful for something!

Posted in French Infantry, On the Workbench, Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , , , , | 12 Comments »