Sunday, June 30, 2013

Painting Basics: "3 Step" Painting (Basecoat, Wash, Drybush) made easy.

     So, if you're like most hobbyists, painting your models isn't exactly your favorite part of the hobby. For most, it falls in somewhere between doing chores and getting a root canal. While it's true that it's not always the most rewarding part of the hobby, it's the part that makes the rest more rewarding. Painting your models is like going to practice, or Leg Day- it's what you need to be at your best and get the most out of what you've already paid for.

     The good news is, we live in fortunate times. Several excellent products exist to make your painting duties easier. I'm going to demonstrate the simplest way I know to get a really solid finished product, and link you to each one of those products so you can find out more about them.

     What we're about to do is called "three step painting." This technique has been around for a long time, and it works. I first learned this technique way back before the dawn of time, in a period commonly called "the late eightiess." It was published in an early Battletech book put out by FASA, back when they were a major player n the RPG/TTG market. In homage to that much loved humble beginning to the hobby, I'll be demonstrating the techniques on mecha- but you can use any model you damn well please, at any range from 6mm to 54mm. (For clarity, these are not Battletech mecha. They are produced by EM4 Miniatures.)

Step Zero: Prime your Models Cleanly.

     While not a step in and of itself, Priming is a necessary component of having good looking models. Always do this is a warm, dry, well ventilated are. Make sure you shake the can thoroughly- the bearing should "roll smoothly" with the can right side up and upside down when it's ready.  When priming, hold the can 10-12 inches away from the model and spray left to right past the model in even strokes. turn the model's position as needed, but do not touch the model, instead turn the object the model is sitting on (or circle around it if needed). 

Step One: The Basecoat.

     Time to drop the base. what you want to do is start with the most principle area of the model- the color that covers the most area. Find a color you'd like to use. If in doubt, go a shade or two lighter, as the next step will darken the model. My preference is Army Painter paints, your mileage may vary. I find dropper bottle paints a more efficient way to mix colors, and I like the flow and texture of AP. For these mecha, my paint scheme will be red and white, with "cool" (steel-colored as opposed to brass-colored) metals. Army Painter Red begins my basecoating. 
     The size of the brush that is best for this will vary with painting technique and model size, but generally a Size 1 or Size 2 brush is a good way to go. Now, depending on the color you choose, you may need more than one coat. This is normal. The rule of thumb is that several thin coats is better than one heavy coat. In this case, it took me three coats to get a uniform layer, and then I added one more to be sure- red is like that. Had I done blue or brown, it would have probably been over in one maybe two.

Step Two: The Wash.

     The next step is to add shadow to your model- the first step in creating a dynamic contrast. If you have heard of the "dip method," it pretty much stops at this step. If you haven't, forget I said anything, because this is much better for little more work.
    There are again several good products on the market for this. My suggestion is Secret Weapon shading- goes on easy, doesn't dry glossy. Here you want to do the exact opposite of the base coat: make you coat heavy so that the wash can recede into the crevasses. If you paint it on too thin, you won't get any shadows. Washes generally require larger brush to allow more fluid to "soak" the surface of the model, so a Size 2 or larger brush is suggested.
     Washing can be done two ways: "shading" involves using a darker version of the same color family as your basecoat (bright red to crimson, for example), while "staining" involves using a complimentary or contrasting color (bright red to brown, bright red to purple). It's worth playing around at this stage, because you can find some really unique combinations that can automatically make your models stand out. In the pictures, I went with a blue stain, so that I could use the stain to unify my color scheme (you'll see what I mean in a little bit).

Step Three: Drybrush.

     Now, there's a lot of people that will tell you they "drybrushed" their models, and I'm going to tell you they're wrong. The reason they're wrong is nobody taught them the proper technique, and what they're doing is actually "overbrushing." If your drybrush leaves a smear or streak of paint, that's overbrushing, and you're doing it wrong. If you can see paint on the brush, you're doing it wrong. if there's so little paint left that you swear you're doing it wrong, you're probably doing it right.
     When drybrushing, you want to make sure to hit the raised areas of the model. "Going against the grain" as it were. If you can't figure out which direction that is (or no direction is appropriate) a "swirl pattern" works just fine- that's why you need almost no paint on the brush.
     Now, as far as paint, the thicker it is when it starts the better off you are, so avoid using any thinning medium. Some companies even offer paints specifically formulated for drybrushing. As far as color, I actually like to use my base tone over again- after all, the model as a whole got darker with the wash, so going back to that color again is not a bad way to go. Some people like to go lighter, or even do a "light drybrush" step afterwards of a lighter color. Experiment and find your own way.
     For this step, you need a larger, stiff-bristled brush. Alternately  mascara brushes work really well, as they're pretty much designed for this technique on human skin. The brush must also be completely dry before being used or it will not leave the correct finish, so if you've cleaned that brush within say the last hour or so, chances are it's too wet to use.

Step 3.5: Back to the top!

     Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Pick your next color in line, and repeat the process, being careful to avoid already finished areas. This becomes particularly tricky with the drybrusing. Be very careful and try if possible not to brush "towards" ) already painted areas.
     In this case it is Army Painter White, and Metallic.  I did both of these base coats at the same time, as I'm planning on using the wash for both. That wash is the same blue wash, but with the color thinned down even more- 1 part wash to three parts Army Paint anti-shine.  I try to avoid using water to thin my washes because it changes how they recede into the cracks. Any paint medium on the market does just fine however.
     Again, my drybrusing for this was the basecoat colors.  Just be very, very careful to only hit the areas you want those colors- avoid straying into the red areas.  If you're not so good at staying inside the lines, you may need to touch up the red when down with a little more drybrushing. 

And You're Done!

     This gives you a functional, table-top finish that literally anyone can accomplish. All it takes is a little practice, and all your soldierdolls will wage war strutting their stuff in a brand new coat of paint.

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