Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Step by Step Guide - Painting Dystopian Wars Minis - Day 2

2. Day two and the really fun part begins, I get to use my best airbrush (which I will describe in this post) and put some colour on the mini. Today I will be concentrating on painting the underside of the Sky Fortress and describing the techniques used.
Paint used - Up until about a year ago I worked primarily with Citadel paints and have pots of their various ranges stretching back over twenty years. However, since working with airbrushes I have found that their paint doesn't work so well though an airbrush. Research shows me that the paint pigments are larger than those in Vallejo paints which I now use. As a result these larger pigments tend to clog up the airbrush easier. So the paint I will be using in the airbrush is Vallejo Game Color 72048 Sombre Grey.
I will be mixing this at a 1:1 ratio with Vallejo airbrush thinner; that’s half and half. I mix the paint to ensure that the consistency is ideal for spaying from the airbrush and creating the correct finish on the mini. Getting the consistency right is probably the greatest challenge when learning to paint with an airbrush. As all paints are different, even within the same range, you have to get used to mixing paints effectively by sight. The rule of thumb for this is the consistency of semi skimmed milk. If you’re new to airbrushing, I suggest that you put some semi skimmed milk in the glass you’re going to mix your paint in and mix it around with your brush. This will help you get a feel for the right consistency.

Equipment used – The only change in the equipment I used today is the airbrush. I want to give this a quick review and detail the benefits of using a professional airbrush over my other eBay specials. The airbrush I use is a Harder & Steenbeck Evolution CRplus 0.2 which cost about £130, quite a jump from my eBay special. So what did I get for my £s? The easy answer is quality. The materials used its design, ease of use/maintenance, look and feel are all vastly superior to my other airbrushes. Most importantly though, it airbrushes better and therefore makes me a consistently better painter. I have never regretted making the investment and would encourage anyone serious about airbrushing to invest in a good quality airbrush.


Taking a closer look at some of the Evolutions’ features I really like. The needle caps on H&S airbrushes can be removed by hand, unlike the eBay special which requires a spanner, patients and careful handling. By comparison I loathe having to take apart the eBay specials. As you can see from the pic, the needle protector is like two prongs. This gives you greater access to the needle for cleaning during painting.


Being a gravity feed Airbrush it uses a cup to put the paint in. This model came with a 2ml cup which easily attached and can be replaced with various sizes. Due to the small amounts of paint I regularly use, I don’t even attach the cup and instead work straight into the paint reservoir on the main body. I filled this three quarters of the way up (about eight drops of paint mix) and it completed the work shown below.

There are a couple of additional purchases I made to improve my airbrush. Firstly, after much research and agonising (I did spend £130 remember) I decided to buy the model with a 0.2mm needle, which I had used previously. I felt after some practice that generally the airbrush was great, but I wanted to produce greater details. Thankfully (and another reason I chose a H&S airbrush) lots of their parts are interchangeable, so I bought a 0.15mm needle/nozzle set at £44. 0.5mm doesn’t sound much, but it has really made a difference to the result I can get; especially on minis the scale of Dystopian Wars.

Secondly the ‘Quick Fix’ device, replaces the standard rear body of the airbrush. It has an adjustable screw and locking device, which enables me to find the right trigger position and lock it in place. This way I don’t have to second guess every pull of the trigger; and simply by pulling the device it releases, allowing me to fully depress the trigger fully when I need to clear the needle tip.

Method – Pressure on the compressor was set at 15 PSI, paint mix pipette into the airbrush and ready to go. I want now to show with pics and describe in words some of the thought processes and decisions I make when airbrushing. What I'm looking to achieve when airbrushing the underside of the mini is to graduate the colour. Concentrating mostly in the centre of panels and working lighter colour concentrations out to the edges. This will leave the outer edges with natural areas of shade.

If you think about how light lands on your mini from above, it creates areas of highlight and shade. What I'm looking to do is hit those areas of light with paint and not those in shade. To achieve this I will vary the direction I shoot the paint from at the mini. By changing my grip and angling the mini correctly I aim to avoid hitting the shaded areas. In addition, by concentrating the paint in the centre of the panels it will accentuate the highlights.

This pic shows the initial position I will airbrush the mini from. There is a midline running the length of the main structure. I aim to paint everything on the mini below this line. You can also clearly see each individual panel which ends in rivets and a gap; these I aim to avoid with the paint.

On this pic I am working on the panels which step down into the superstructure. I want to paint the panels but not the gaps between each step. I shield these gaps by choosing the angle in the pic.

Although a little blurry, this pic of the steps from the other side shows where the shadows have been created. A tip for getting this right is to hold your mini in the light from your hobby lamp and take note of where the highlights hit. Then reposition your mini so that you can airbrush it from the angle the light hit it. After some practice you will be doing this naturally without really thinking about it.

The Camera flash hits all the angles I hit with the airbrush from the front underside (one last blurry pic).
This next pic shows the results of using the previous angle, lots of nice shadows. As a good friend once said to me; ‘what you don’t paint is as important as what you do’, very wise words.

This mini has several structures which protrude from its underside, like the bridges and bombs. I want again to concentrate the paint towards outer edges of these structures and leave the areas where the meet the main structure in shade. This next pic shows the direction I airbrushed from to achieve this. As you can see I am using the sides of the mini to shields the areas of it I don’t want to paint.
In this pic I'm holding the mini flat in my hand ready to paint the underside flat surface. My aims are the same as before hit the centres, graduate to the gaps.
This pic shows the results. You can also see that by, concentrating paint along the central length of the tube shaped parts of the hull, it accentuates their tube shapes.
The last areas to paint are the rotors.

And finally some shots of the finished work from several angles.

AS much of what I have painted today is unseen when in use; I won’t be adding any further highlights with the airbrush. Details will be picked out during later stages. 
Conclusion – With the underside airbrushed, it’s now ready to start work on the minis topside. This will involve new colours, challenges and methods; so join me in my next post to see further progress. 
As always if you would like a closer look at any pictures above, click on them. If you have any comments or would like to ask me questions or provide feedback, please fill in the comments box below (this will be moderated before being published on this blog).

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