The trials and tribulations of assembly

The studio has undertaken a commission to paint up three of the Lieutenants from Descent, Journeys In The Dark. This is a questing game or a”dungeon crawling” game that I have yet to play, but looks very similar to a game that I used to play in the ’90s called Warhammer Quest.

I had some downtime last evening, where I thought it would be great to simply clean up the models ready for the start date of the commission for the client, which isn’t for a while yet. The models I received were three Lieutenants: Belthir, Bol’Goreth, and lastly Valyndra, the Wyrm Queen.

Valyndra is the model that I want to specifically talk about today.

I find the cleaning up of models, really satisfying, but it can be tedious. There is nothing more unsightly than a model that has has a lot of time being painted with mould lines showing. I really felt that as I was developing my abilities as a painter many years ago, even if I couldnt get an ‘Eavy Metal studio paint job on my models, if I could clean the miniature up well, then it helped the aesthetics of the model immensely. I really like to go to town and clean as much off as I can and well sometimes you just can get all, without damaging the model, but I really attempt to have the light shine on the model, to help with finding as much of the mould lines as I can.

After cracking open the blister packaging that the model comes in, I took stock of what I had in front of me:

With this being my very first Descent experience, I immediately found that the model was sculpted in a very beautiful manner. I could tell that there was a major difference in the time required to assemble a Descent model, compared to that of Games Workshop (you could easily spend hours assembling a few models from GW, but that is half the fun). Now dont get me wrong, I understand that the miniatures serve two different markets of gamers. Wargaers who play Warhammer Fantasy or 40k, are modellers and painters as well as gamers and as such command a different level of interaction with the assembly of their models. They like to be able to have multiple parts, so that they can easily convert up models so that one, say, High Elf Lord on a Dragon is different from somebody elses. Whereas gamers who play games with miniatures such as Descent, or Relic, or even Mansions of Madness are primarily board gamers and as such they are a demographic that just want to open the box, setup the game and go for it.

I found that there was a really fine mould line on Valyndra, so immediately I got out my set of files and hobby knife and began to clean up the plastic. The plastic was just shearing off from the edge of the model, making it a really effortless task. I did notice one significant quality to the plastic, of which I will get into in a moment. The mould line, being such a fine line here, was at times a little hard to detect. That actually is a good thing because someone who doesn’t want to do any prep work whatsoever (and for Descent, most don’t) can be assured that they have a high quality miniature that is professionally made. It was clear on certain parts of the body, that because the Wyrm has had the major assembly done prior to packaging, there were slight gaps or minor misalignments evident, but nothing that I couldn’t fix.

Now, as I was filing away I noticed that the plastic was an extremely soft, bendy plastic that I suppose lends itself well to board games miniatures. Its better that if a miniature is dropped, that it bend under the fall. I have noticed that all Fantasy Flight minis for their board games use this particular type of plastic. The main thing I was concerned with is just exactly what type of glue to use here. The two main glues that I have are super glue and polystyrene cement. Super glue is used for any metal miniatures and polystyrene cement is a glue that is used for plastics where you apply a small amount to each of the sides to be stuck together and wait a few seconds. What actually happens here is that it melts the plastic a little and then when you press the two pieces together, the pieces “melt” together and eventually set, resulting in something that is glued together.

I did a little research and found that the material used in production is actually a vinyl plastic, therefore super glue won’t do the trick. Poly cement won’t be as effective as if I were to be gluing GW plastics, so I had to investigate another product. It was something that I actually had already and was called The Last Glue and it is composed of something called Cyanoacrylate. It bonds when the two sides are deprived of oxygen, so if I were to get any on my fingers, everything would be ok, until I touch the two together (which I think is a normal reaction) and it is strong, really strong. I had recently run out, so an order was placed and should arrive in perfect time to glue together Valyndra.

I think my point here is I really like the plastic that FFG use for their miniature products in the preparation, now I just need to get the mini stuck together and painted. There will be many photos of the painting process, so keep on checking back in the future.

Whet The Palette Shall We?

I thought I would discuss something that was a complete eye opener for me; the wet palette.

Back in the day, when I was beginning my painting hobby, I used many things to mix my paint onto. At first it seemed a ceramic plate was a great way to go about thinning and mixing my colours, I soon realised that I needed more of a flat surface, so I moved up to a kitchen tile. That worked for a while, actually for the longest time that’s what I relied upon and only that. I tried other things like paint extender medium, and using mixing pots (which became VERY expensive). I am happy to say I have now seen the light; wet palettes.

As I traveled the Golden Demon award circuits, year after year I witnessed the painters that were on show there using a wet palette. I know the theory; you need to keep the paint moist so you can blend two or more colours on the miniature. It’s just, well, I wasn’t into blending on the model. Maybe I was just stubborn, but I would be the type of painter that used lots of colour gradations on any one space to achieve my desired effect, and would also utilise feathering of my colour(s).That worked for me for a very long time until I realised that wet palettes can serve another purpose entirely.

If anyone has ever experienced the pain in the neck of just how tedious a tile is to mix their paints on and then work against the clock to get that mix used for all your painting, before it dries up and then having to clean it off, know probably just how useful a wet palette is.

For those of you who have no idea what a wet palette is, its basically a shallow container that contains something that soaks up water, but on top of this material, whether it be a sponge, or kitchen towel, you lay your actual palette. This palette is made from a material that through a capillary action, draws water up from the sponge below and keeps the paint you are using most and the best thing, is that it reduces evaporation of your mix. You can get acrylic paper from any art store or you can even use parchment paper, but I have has more success with acrylic paper. It has worked wonders for me and if you have a container that comes with a lid of some sort, then you are able to seal out the outside environment, preserving the paint in a useable form.

It is just so freeing to know that you can work with a colour for as long as you need to, seal it up and then come back after lunch and pick up where you left off.

The wet palette is super easy to make. It doesn’t need to be overly expensive and the cost saving in dried up paints comes back to you very soon.

There are a few things you will need:

  1. A container that has a depth of 1″ to 2″ and can be as wide as you want. Make sure it has a lid that encloses firmly. Mine is about 7″ long, 5′ wide and 1.5″ deep This can be found at a “dollar store” or type of equivalent near to where you live. Usual cost is $1
  2. Cheap kitchen sponges. The thick kind. These can also be found at the same place as the container, so you can easily judge on the quantity of sponges needed. A bag of them should also cost you around $1. Try to find sponges that come to just below the height of the container you will purchase.
  3. “Handy Palette” acrylic paper.The one I found was made by a company named Masterson. This was the most expensive item at round $5.09. This is a little harder to find, but any quality art supply store will stock these.
  4. 5 minutes to construct the palette (time is priceless, so this may cost you more than you were bargaining for)

How to make the palette;

  1. Gather all components (see above) and firstly look at how many sponges you may need.
  2. Place the sponges in the container and cut any to size, to ensure that the entire container has a layer of sponge and leave them in the container.
  3. Take out a sheet of acrylic paper and cut to size to fit on top of the sponges. I like to cut a few at a time as extras for later. Set them all aside, but one.
  4. Take that one sheet of paper run it under HOT water and soak it for about 1- 2 minutes. The paper should become semi-transparent.
  5. Wet the sponges until they are completely soaked.
  6. Take the semi-transparent sheet of acrylic paper and lay it onto the sponges. It needs to stay moist (thanks to the sponges), but not saturated all the time (thanks to the sponges). Initially, if there are large pools of water, just soak them up a little with a paper towel.
  7. THAT’S IT!

You should be able to now place your paints onto the paper that’s moist and you can paint with this same colour, blending  and mixing your heart away for hours and hours. When you need to leave, just seal the container with the lid and NEVER let the paper dry out. just keep adding water to the sponges and keep the level topped up. You can also get more life out of the paper, but washing it off and then flipping it over to use the other side.

Happy painting! Feel free to post you experiences with wet palettes in the comments section below.