Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Paint Brands and where they fit with you as a painter.

  I can count on one hand the games I've gotten in any miniature game whatsoever in the last three months.  Here's why.

  He's 5 months old, loves bright colors, being up high, and possibly penguins.  They are the most successful at sidelining his attention so far.  

  He, on the other hand, is easily the most successful at sidelining my attention, and thus my gaming has really dived.  Given my time at home though, I've gotten a ton of hobby time which is great as I descend in Horus Heresy 30k and return to the world of GW.  It pains me a little bit, but while I've spent the last month assembling, painting and forging new skills, I have yet to play a single game of it.  I'm definitely loving the hobby aspect though.  I have desperately missed this quality of models.  NOTE: This draft was originally written in January, and I have since gotten in... 3 games.

  Anyways, as I'm painting through my stuff it occurs to me the vast array of paints I have accumulated, used, discarded, disdained, praised and spilled everywhere.  I can most certainly recount the many opinions I've had of what my favorite brand is, and the more I look at it, the more I think it absolutely had everything to do with my skill level.

  The caveat to that is that I don't actually think that paint brands are intrinsically linked to your skill level.  There's a measure of that, I'm sure, since nobody that wants really nice models ever uses Walmart acrylics, but there are excellent painters that use each brand.  I generally feel sorry for the 'Eavy Metal guys who are forced to use GW paints for all of their models.  I'm sure there's some workarounds for that, but thousands of space marines painted that way?

  I'm out.

  So, let's talk paints.  This is meant to be a fairly quick article, a reminder that I'm still alive, and a nice preview of the plethora of stuff I have in the pipeline.  But that's towards the end.  Paints.

  There's a few brands I won't say much about, like Reaper or Scale75 since I haven't gotten the chance to reaaaaally delve into those lines.  Scale75 is one I'm itching to try out though.  At the beginning though, I was living in a dormitory in Keesler AFB on the gulf in Mississippi, and the gaming store catering to the strictly nerd training Air Force Base had all GW paints, and Reaper. (Not kidding about nerds.  We were all Radio, Radar, or some form of data networking.  Nerds.  All of us.  Except the specop guys carrying rocks on their shoulders for Para Rescue.  We didn't run into those guys at the comic book store).

  So I have owned Reaper, and painted them, and what I remember was really liking them.  However, I had next to 0 idea how to paint that point, so I can't tell you if my fond memories of them are worth anything.  I do know that they loved to clog in the tip though.

Games Workshop, or Citadel

  GW (Games Workshop, or Citadel) was the other thing, and what most painters have started with, or tried at some point along the way.  The advantages of it at that time was that it was thick, and covered very well, and worked very well with the GW wash.  GW paints can be applied pretty quickly, less that perfectly, dumped in a wash and come out with decent looking tabletop quality.  Drybrush and go.  As thick as the paint is, everything will have consistent color, everything will be covered, everything will be popped well by the wash, and it's good to go.  It's also a huge range of colors, and available in every store that has miniatures.  On top of that, every single painting tutorial ever produced by White Dwarf or Warhammer TV uses the Citadel colors.  They also have several different styles of paints, including "basing", "layers", "drybrush" and "washes".  

  The downsides are pretty quick to show their face though.  The paint is super thick, which is why it covers well, but it dries with a thick, textured surface.  In the videos on Warhammer TV, they show the guy watering down the paint, but when you're new, you really don't have a clue what consistency you're looking for..  It doesn't blend well into the other paint on the model without lots, and lots of watering down.  There are now "layer" paints by GW, but they're still pretty thick.  By far, thicker than most other paints on the market.  

  Then there's the pots.  You can't pour from them, you can't mix the paints very well.  There are accomplished artists that get deeply offended when you count pots as a con since the paint should be the only thing that matters, but this is my article, not theirs.  And I don't like those artists anyways.

  The specialty paints... specifically the drybrush stuff, I hate.  Just use regular paint.  Their washes, however, are pretty legendary, and most painters still have a bottle of it somewhere and use it. I have mixed my own washes, but since I use washes for only very specific applications anymore, even that has gone down.  In fact, now that my LGS carries the Vallejo Game Ink (similar to a wash, but has it's roots in the panel liners from the WWII/Model Color series produced by Vallejo), I probably won't use washes but rarely.

  I quit using GW paints when I quit buying GW products, right at the beginning of  2013 when GW was really being a douche in the legal department.  That has since backed off, but I still won't use the paints because when I moved from GW, I went looking for Reaper.  Reaper doesn't actually exist in Omaha, so I moved into Vallejo.  Next on the list, though, is Army Painter.

  Army Painter

  Is also everywhere.  Follows Flames of War around like a little brother Mom won't let you leave behind at home.  They've got the spray cans too, which is a nice touch, however expensive.  I only recently bought Army Painter, and only because the new LGS that opened up, that's what they had.  So I tried it.  IMO, it's GW in a bottle.  So, now you can mix it easier, which is nice, but it's still thick stuff.  If I'm doing a basecoat by brush, I might use it, but when I run out, I won't buy anymore since my LGS got into Vallejo.  I've also found that it separates really bad over any period of time.  Worse than Vallejo or GW.  


  Vallejo is 90% of my paint library.  I'm a dropper bottle fanatic, I love the assortment of colors, I like that they have thinners, glosses and all sorts of additive products designed specifically for their paints.  There's two (three, if you count the Airbrush line) lines of Vallejo, the Game Color and Model Color.  Game Color is your fantasy stuff.  Bright colors, more shades of it, wider selection of a larger spectrum.  Model Color is at Hobby Lobby more often than not these days, and focuses specifically on military and environment colors.  A billion shades of drab green, brown, grey, etc.  One or two of the other shades.  Might only be a dark purple and a light purple, etc.  Which is fine.  If you have Model Color in your area, you're fine.

  Vallejo has a good consistency out of the bottle that usually covers in one coat, but likes to have two depending on how you primed.  If you have a good solid primer that's in the vicinity of your shade, you're golden.  If you're trying to put yellow down on white and don't want a yellowish white, but actually a strong yellow, it's going to take a few coats.  I've also noticed that the paints are a little inconsistent in their thickness, and it's either travel/storage dependant, or shade dependant.  The white always gets a little chalky, while the dark greys always seem more watery.  It's weird.  It's all smoother than GW though so I'm fine.  And there's a thinner to fine tune it, or water works just fine too.  

  There is also the Airbrush line I mentioned earlier, but I'm going to cover that separately.

  P3 (Privateer Press's paints)

  This particular paint is pretty different from everything else.  It's got a different acrylic and is a completely different formulation of paint than most other brands.  When I was a PG, I finally broke down and started buying P3 because I felt like I should understand a paint that I was promoting.  I don't own very many of the colors, just a few of the primaries, and I actually use them quite a bit.  It's possible I'll replace them when I'm out of them even, but I'll still keep those colors in Vallejo as well.

  P3 is still in a pot, so no mixing without getting it everywhere.  Major downside at first, but we'll get there.  The acrylic, on the plus side, is non-toxic unlike most other acrylics like Vallejo, so that's a plus.  P3 is generally very thin, probably the thinnest I own.  Good luck getting the wrong bright color down on the wrong primer.  However, if your primer is right, it's a smooth paint, layers very well and blends extremely well.  The reds and blues below were painted and blended straight from the pot, and did really well.

The only complaint I have about P3, outside of the pots, is that you will struggle to drybrush with it because it is so watery.  If you are an avid drybrusher with a P3 arsenal, I would consider getting a second white, or whatever you're drybrushing, in a different brand.  Vallejo or GW white is fine, and if the white is specifically for Drybrushing, the GW is probably better just because it's thicker.  

Skill Progression

  I have one more paint to discuss, but I want to hit this real quick before we go there.  

  GW is an ok starter.  It covers thick, washes well.  It's forgiving, easy to work with and has a huge arsenal.  If you're just starting, you go with this and it's not too bad, you feel pretty good about your work until you realize that A) it's nearly impossible to layer or blend easily and B) you're literally feeding your brushes to the blood god and you can't keep brushes alive for longer than like, a month of painting.  So then you move into:

  Army Painter or Vallejo.  Army Painter if it's around, Vallejo if you have the choice.  Or Reaper.  Now you can mix paints.  Now you can thin your stuff out without using a wet palette.  You put drops in a tray, mix it together and get exactly the shade you want.  This is how I operated for a long time, and still do most times.  I'll start with straight, unmixed, undiluted dark color to basecoat, then add thinners, lighter paints, and use a couple of different spots in the tray as I work my way up the spectrum to my highlight.  I even have a retarder to keep the basecoat and following layers wet so I can go back to them if needed, to fix errors or 2 brush blend.  The lighter I get, and the closer to the highlight I get, the more I water it down to blend and layer.  I despised anything in pots because it's such a disaster in mixing. The only downside to this is the wasted paint you inevitably leave in the tray, but it's largely unnoticed.  I feel like I get my money's worth out of the bottle in most cases. 

  Then I got some P3.  Suddenly, even with less color selection, I can layer quite easily because of how watery the paint is.  I can dab my brush in the pot, once on the towel and go to the model where it stays wet enough to blend around and work into the layer below it.  Now, mixing is less important.  It's quite convenient.  If the direction I want to take a color is the same as one of my P3s, I'll probably use the P3 for some of it.  Reds and Blues especially, I've been using the P3s a lot, though I'll do my final highlights in Vallejo for specific control.  At this point, I'm able to actually work in layers, do 2 brush blending.  I can mix washes, but it's rare that I use them anymore.  The paint preference changes with the skill level and style.

  This brings me to my final paint, 

  Vallejo Air

  Vallejo Air is the exact same colors as Vallejo Game color, but pre-thinned for the airbrush.  I finally broke down recently and gave up trying to mix airbrush paints by hand, and just bought the stupid paints.  Then I started using them by brush.  It's straight up the best of both worlds.  It's watered down like P3, but has all the shades and mixing ease of normal Vallejo.  

  Lately, my workflow has been to start with a Vallejo color and use it for the basecoat, then mix in the Vallejo airs to simultaneously thin and change the color of the paint.  It's fantastic.  

  There's also the straight up cheating aspect of the Airbrush in the first place.  I shaded Ahriman in a few minutes.

  But now, back to Skill Progression.

  Look at the paints you're using now and consider if it's A) the paints you've always used, or B), you have tried the rest of the market and you definitely like these.  If it's B, that's great, even if it's GW! You're comfortable with your paints, you're churning out good quality, and that's awesome.  You've unlocked what works for you.

  For me, my style is still developing I feel.  I know the looks I like, but sometimes when I'm shooting for those (Jolly Roger Studios is a favorite of mine), I end up doing something slightly different, and actually like it maybe more.  I love the contrast of JRS work, but I'm finding some of my stuff turning out looking somewhat like I used a sketching technique like what Matt DiPetrio has been teaching for awhile.  Idk if it'll stick.

  Like I said, I haven't played more than two or three games in the last three months, but I've done so much hobby work that I've really gotten to enjoy learning my brush and pushing my envelope.  I still like my Vallejos.  Scale 75 is next on the list, but now that I've got Vallejo Air, the game is on.  It's amazing what all I can do now with a watered down paint in the hue of my choosing.  P3 only has so many colors, and you kind of get shoehorned into one specific shade track without lots of extra work like glazes and mixing out of pots, whereas Vallejo has it all.  

  So, look at your paints, and think about trying some other ones.  Secondly, look at your skills, and if you feel like you've hit a wall, and there hasn't been much improvement, try a new paint.  Thin a paint down and play with it.  See what you can do.  I'm having a blast.

  Incoming Projects

  For starters, I'm neck deep in Horus Heresy, for kicks and giggles.  So expect some of that.  I have some of the Prospero models coming in, some of the Calth models, whatever.  All in on Space Wolves since I wished I'd played them back in 40k.  Won't make that mistake again, so here I are.  I also have an assembled, magnetized Leman Russ primarch model on my WIP table.  Priorities atm are playable models, but I doubt I can hold off on painting Russ much longer.  He's playable currently, but I only have two or three praetors, a chaplain (or rune priest.  Nobody knows yet EDIT: Rune Priests/Priests of Fenris.  We know now.), a contemptor and one unit of marines actually assembled.  I have a ton more at home to be built or in the mail, including a Leviathan Dread and a Sicarius, but those are in due time.  The big 30k tournament in Omaha is in June I believe, so that's my deadline.

  With that mess, I also chose to develop some new skills, specifically, resin casting.  There were a couple of custom sculpts I did on shoulder pads and such for the terminator variants that instead of doing a set for every single termy, I just cast them in a silicone mold so I can reproduce them for all of my terminators, of which I intend there to be many of.  I love the looks of the Cataphractii, and the Tartaros is growing on me.

  The offshoot of the resin project is the basing project.  I didn't base my 40k marines at all hardly, but I will be this time.  Instead of individually basing every single one of them though like I have with all of my Warmachine stuff, I just sculpted bases out of FIMO and Sculpey, and cast them in Resin.  Expect that article here in the next few weeks because I'm really excited about it.

  So that's it for now.  Bunch of great stuff in the pipeline, including a detailed version of what you see above.  I'm still alive, just super busy with life.  Have an enjoyable Valentines day!

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