Monthly archives: August, 2017



Completion Date: 02/26/2017

Time: 176 hours

Putty&Paint Link



I had originally conceived the Vanity idea for Michael Kontraros’ Vampire Queen, with the idea that the Queen has commissioned a portrait of herself that hangs behind her in the throne room. However, I have other plans for the Kontraros miniature, so I went searching for another option and found this miniature from Dark Sword.

I put together several rounds of concept art. It was originally conceived as living inside a vanity box. However, I couldn’t find anything of suitable dimensions. If I was working on it now, at the time of writing (almost a year later), I would probably 3D sculpt the vanity box base, but that wasn’t my mentality at the time.



So, I changed tack and did some concept art for what it would look like on a traditional base, and moved forward with that.




There were a lot of discreet challenges with the sculpt. The first basic conversion was that I needed to replace the mask with a hand mirror. My first attempt at this involved simply shearing off the mask and attempting to sculpt a mirror in its place. This didn’t work because the join was so small that the new mirror kept popping off at the smallest touch. So, I ended up having to buy second copy of the model (this happens to me constantly, it seems), to borrow a new mask piece. I then shaved down the mask, and built the mirror around the core that remained.

The furniture was pre-made dollhouse 3D sculpts from Shapeways, making it possibly the easiest of the diorama elements. The frame was a challenge. I found a 3D model of a frame that was designed for video gaming and not 3D printing, and it required heavy conversion to make it printable. It took several design-print/ship-examine-adjust iterations before I got something that worked.

The small box on top of the table was 3D sculpted by me. Because it’s so small, it was made from primitives, and not a big task.

Finally, the mirror etch was done through Pokono. It also took a couple iterations. The 3D print for the frame and the etch for the mirror were essentially two moving parts which had to be calibrated.



I found this image and was immediately inspired to borrow the color scheme. I used Marike Remier’s box art as a template to re-color in Photoshop.


Another inspiration was this miniature. I love how it’s completely covered with different textile patterns:



I did a paint sketch to find my pigments and originally thought I would paint the gold with TMM:


However, I didn’t like the way it looked in the sketch, and I tried painting the table in TMM as a test, and hated the way it looked, so I changed course and used NMM for the gold elements. It was a similar approach to the Slayer King, with purple shadows and yellow highlights. The main difference was that the common shadow color in Vanity is a dark, desaturated red, so the purple in the gold shadows had a bit of that as well.

I’m finding lately that the first area on a miniature that I refine ends up getting completely repainted, and this project was no exception. After starting with the freehand brocade on the front of the dress, I eventually circled back and completely re-did it, because it looked too soft, and the pattern wasn’t structured enough.

Another technique that was helpful was pre-printing guides for the wallpaper freehand. I borrowed David Soper’s approach that he uses for his nameplates, and varnished on a printed sheet which had my guides for the wallpaper:



The painting was its own mini-project. I almost exclusively stippled the design to try and create texture like you might see on some oil paintings.




I started using Schminke Titanium White for the first time on this project. The viscosity solved a big problem for me. I can now put down a thick, opaque highlight without any problem.



Good: This was my piece at GenCon that people seemed to really respond to. Given how much time I spent on it, I’m happy that people like it. It was also fortunate enough to win its category (Open).

Bad: My previous project (Slayer King) had a ton on NMM gold, and when I started this project, I was already sick of painting it. I didn’t really think very hard about how much NMM gold this one had as well. I wanted to kill myself by the end.

Ugly: Looking back, I could have nailed the presentation inside an actual vanity box, had I thought to 3D sculpt it. It could have been awesome. Even more ugliness is that there is a huge amount of freehand on the train of her dress that you can only see from the side. Could have skipped that.



Marike Reimer and Jessica Rich for the awesome boxart variants which I liberally borrowed ideas from.

Aaron Lovejoy and Ben Komets for feedback on my WIPs.


Finally, here’s some random WIPs:



I wrote up a monster post about this piece, as it was a really big time investment and creative effort for me. I’m planning on doing a post per entry, and posting them in chronological order of when the projects were completed.


Completion Date: 01/18/2017

Time: 119 hours (prep and paint)



This is an awesome sculpt by Raul Garcia Latorre. Marc Masclans’ box art captured the spirit of the original model, a green skinned Ogre (Cyclops Ogre?) with copper armor. I knew I didn’t want to be in the same realm of the box art, so I started to play around in Photoshop with ideas for different color schemes (see below). I thought maybe if he had gold armor, he could be some kind of king. But still, there’s a ton of battle damage on him, so he can’t be a fancy king… he must be a Slayer King!



Rule #1 of kings is that they need crowns. I initially sculpted a crown out of Fimo, but it didn’t have enough resolution/sharpness sculpted into it, a direct result of my very meager sculpting skills. I tried to convince myself that I could paint my way out of it, but literally 20 hours into texturing it, I let it go, as it looked irreconcilably terrible:


I searched for 3D models of crowns, and found one that I thought would work. It wasn’t originally designed for 3D printing, so I spent quite a bit of time in C4D thickening walls and removing detail that was too fine (opposite problem of my sculpted crown). I also had in printed by Shapeways in four different sizes (one version that I thought was exactly the correct size, and three insurance versions, +10%, -10%, and -15%). I used the -10%, so the insurance versions definitely ended up paying off, although I now have three awkwardly sized crowns sitting in the bitz box.


I had an idea that the Slayer King collected flesh trophies from his kills, but was still dignified enough that he wore them like military awards. I did some more scouring for 3D models and found some military awards that worked. The attached bones are from a tiny kit that Figone did… they released it right as I was scouring for trophy ideas, so I smashed the two together.


I designed the front plate and had it etched by an online company called Ponoko. They take a vector based graphic, with different colored lines for etching and cutting. When I set the design, I decided not to specify any cutting lines, thinking that I’d rather cut it myself. This was an oversight. The material they etch on is an absurdly hard and slick plastic, and will not cut straight even with a sharp blade (it will crack before it cuts). I actually snapped a scalpel blade from applying too much force. In the process of attempting to cut out the front plate, I accidentally split it in half, which is the same split you see on the final piece. I still had five more untouched versions of the same etch on the printed sheet, and could have tried again, but I felt like it was a happy accident, so I kept it.



I’m really going to insert a bunch of shoutouts in here, because I’ve seriously learned so much recently from the generous protips and advice that have been given to me directly from other painters, as well as from classes, blogs, and tutorials. This is such a different environment than when I was painting Space Marines in the late 90’s and only had White Dwarf ‘Eavy Metal tutorials to learn from.


I don’t have extensive NMM experience, so I decided to “borrow” Masclan’s box art highlight placement and volumes. I felt like my color and conversion choices were unique, and keeping this aspect of the box art made sense. Being a NMM neophyte, I also employed a protip about that I learned from Marike Reimer at her GenCon class, about using complementary colors for shadows and highlights in order to maximize hue contrast. So, knowing that my highlights would be a yellow-brown, I went with purple shadows. Yet another protip I absorbed was one from Ben Komets, about having a common shadow hue across the entire piece, for harmonization purposes. Although I see this “rule” broken sometimes to amazing effect (check out Aleksandra Cvetanovski‘s insane work), I was aiming to be baseline competent in a conventional approach on this one, so I used the purple as the shadow color on the skin and leather as well.


One thing I wanted to do before actually applying any paint was nail down exactly which physical paints I wanted to use for each hue I had decided on in my Photoshop concept. So, employing yet another Marike protip, I did an extremely janky sketch and colored it in:




This test was actually super helpful, as one thing I noticed was that my mixed purple (from Vallejo Model Color Flat Red and the skin tone color VMC Sky Blue) wasn’t saturated enough for what I was going for. So, I switched from a mixed color to a specifically selected paint from Reaper.


As a competition piece, I wanted to cram as much as possible in, so I took the broad flat surface of the shoulderpad as an invitation for some freehand. I ping-ponged back and forth between laying out designs in Photoshop and trying to freehand them in my sketchbook. The result was several iterations of removing detail until the design was something that was actually manageable with the amount of physical real estate available.



The other thing I wanted to accomplish was making a strong differentiation between different textures. I painted the skin primarily with glazes for maximum smoothness, while using a combination of stippling and glazes for the armor, to give it a splotchy, forged look. The leather and bone was all high contrast stippling, trying for a very rough, pitted texture.

Some random progress pics:



A few new things on this one. I designed and 3D printed a combo dry/wet palette design. “V1,” which I used for most of this project, sucked. It was too shallow, and when closed, paint would stick to the bottom of the lid, creating a huge mess. “V2” fixed this problem, and is what I’m currently using. I couldn’t help myself, and emblazoned the lid with “Metal AF” and some sick skulls which you can’t really see in the photo:



I tried out some different brushes on my test freehands to see what would produce the tightest lines. Being an avid reader of David Soper’s blog, I immediately bought a Reaper Pro Sabre II when he mentioned that it was his preference over Winsor Newton S7 for freehand. After testing, however, I found it too much to adjust to, and stuck with my S7 000.


I also started branching out and using paints that aren’t Vallejo. The now popular Schminke TItanium White was perfect viscosity for the tight NMM Gold highlights, and Reaper’s Monarch Purple was a more suitable shadow hue than what I could find in Vallejo’s line.



Good: I really got to dig into NMM on this one, and feel like I came out of it with a better understanding of material and reflection.

Bad: Nothing really bad here. It was a fun project, I learned a lot, and I’m marginally satisfied with the result.

Ugly: The original sculpted crown that I tried to “paint through.” Not only is it literally ugly, but between painting and sculpting, it also represents a 27 hour total wasted timesink (7 hours sculpting and 20 hours painting it to final and then resetting three times over before I gave up). It’s also hard to rationalize as a “learning experience” because the only lesson is to make a course change sooner rather than later if something looks wrong. It’s a lesson to be learned, sure, but 27 hours is an absurd price to learn it.