Sunday, June 24, 2018

Coniferous Tree Trunk Tutorial

Title card with the tutorial name and several stages of the tree-making tutorial - from a twig, through unpainted sculpts to finished effect.
At some point, I decided that I want my undead army to be forest themed. And to be more precise - a coniferous forest themed, to resemble 'bór' forests that can be found, for example, in Poland. Below you can see a photo that shows the look I was going for (picture from pixabay). Mine is only a little more grim.

Photo showing a road going through a coniferous forest - showing the general feel that the trees are supposed o to convey.

I started with the appropriate basing flock, but when I was doing Nagash and his giant base, that wasn't enough. So I decided to sculpt my own trees, looking at photos and trying to make something that would resemble the real ones close enough. I started with few short ones, but later, when doing the Zombie Legion the trees got higher, thicker and branched too. I made so many of them that once I decided to actually make some photos and make a tutorial out of it. Maybe someone will make an use of it.

NOTE: My trees do not have any needles or bushy branches, those are always very high up the tree - mine are all conveniently broken at a certain height to avoid that. Thanks to that, I can make them as high as I want and they look certainly good enough for me. It's much easier too!

What's needed, including all the optional parts:

For the sculpting:
  • a straight stick
  • Greenstuff
  • Milliput
  • a sculpting tool / a knife
  • some cork pieces
  • thin twigs or leftover sprues
  • round clay shaper / rubber brush
  • Liquid Greenstuff
  • sand
  • some kind of varnish

For the painting:
  • Steel Legion Drab
  • Athonian Camoshade
  • Nuln Oil
  • Agrax Earthshade
  • Ushabti Bone
  • light turquoise paint, like for example: Templeguard Blue mixed with white
  • Coelia Greenshade

I start with a mostly straight stick glued to a base or something else you can hold. Pinning it wouldn't hurt too, I had some of those trees break off when I was sculpting the bark.

Photo showing a wooden stick taken from the backyard, cleaned of bark and glued vertically to a square, plastic base.

Then I prepare the mix for the bark. I use Milliput mixed with Greenstuff in a ratio of about 3:1. I find this mix really good for this purpose - not too rubbery, not too crumbly - and not too expensive too! Guessing the right amount of it to cover the whole tree can be tricky, so I try to flatten the mix and compare it with the stick.

The stick is laying on the table, with a flattened rectangle of greenstuff-milliput mix laying next to it as a comparison.

Then I cover the stick and try to spread the mix around to make it relatively even all around. The thicker this layer is, the more definition you can sculpt on the tree.

The stick is standing vertically and the greenstuff-milliput mix is wrapped around it.

Now it's time to use sculpt some vertical ridges on the bark. I use a sculpting tool you can see below, the producer called it 'a scythe'. A knife can be used too, I use this tool to give those ridges a bit of width. That makes them easier to work with in the later stages.

Closeup on the sculpting tool - looking like an inverted, tiny scythe.

Below you can see the ridges. They should be kept pretty random all around the bark.

The greenstuff-milliput mix around the stick has now numerous vertical indentations all around its surface.

And now it's time for the bark texture. For that, I am using various pieces torn off a cork mat:

Photo showing numerous torn pieces of flat cork to illustrate what's needed in the next step.

I wet the pieces with some water to prevent it from sticking too much and I press them against the bark, trying to line one of the cork edges with the existing ridges.

Closeup on the cork inserted, by the edge, into the milliput-greenstuff mix.

This gives it a random, bark-like rough texture. I try to turn the cork piece or switch them often to keep the pattern from repeating too much.

Closeup on the milliput-greenstuff mix with the irregular texture left by the cork.

Here you can see the bark texture mostly sculpted:

The milliput-greenstuff around the stick has now the texture all around, while retaining some of the deep crevices left by the sculpting tool.

And a closeup:

Closeup on the current state of the sculpting.

Now it's time to deepen and emphasize the ridges, to simulate many pieces of broken bark sticking to the wood of the tree. Earlier stage, even if performed very carefully, tends to cover up some of the earlier ridges so it's good to bring them back. Not to mention separating them a bit. For this, I have been using either a scalpel or the 'scythe' tool pictured earlier.

The 'bark' is once again shown close up, with red pattern imposed over the photos, showing the places where the crevices should be pronounced - with the effect after shown below.

I try to sculpt elongated cigar shapes interlocking with themselves. On the left is the idealized version, the principle that should lead the sculpting process - and on the right how it should mostly look in the end. This time it's important to distinguish many separate parts of this cracked bark, in opposition to the continuous, vertical surfaces seen before texturing.

A diagram showing the sculpting principle. On the left - a geometric, regular pattern, like scales - and on the right - an irregular, more organic pattern that resembles the other one.

If you want to use real twigs to act as branches, this is the time to add them - while the sculpting mix is still soft. I put a small drop of superglue on the end of such a twig and stick it into the bark, trying to get them at different heights all around the tree, pointing slightly downwards.

The sculpted tree with bark now has several, unpainted, much smaller twigs stuck inside it - some of them thicker, some thinner and branching.

If real wooden twigs are used, I suggest coating them in some superglue or a greenstuff + glossy varnish mix. This makes them a tiny bit more durable. Still, even with that, I had numerous of such twigs break off...

The same situation as on the picture above, only that the new twigs are green - covered with the described mixture for protection.

And because wooden twigs break off easily, I tried to do some of them out of plastic. The easiest way would be to take branches that come in a Dryad box, for example. Those didn't fit my needs, though - I wanted long main branches with smaller pieces sticking out of it - that's why I made some of my own!

I start with a slightly curved piece of leftover sprue. I found ones that are 2-3 cm (or about 1 inch) long tend to work the best. Still, longer ones can be shortened easily and are easier to carve, so it's always better to cut them longer.

Photo showing a cut segment of a gray plastic sprue, slightly curving.

Using a scalpel or another sharp knife, I begin to shave the sprue away, switching from side to side and thinning them down, tapering to a point at the end.

The sprue from previous photo is shown shaved from one side, with the tool used - a scalpel, seen on the right.

Instead of sticking them into the bark while it's still soft, for these branches I drilled holes in the tree after the mix has already cured and glued them inside with some superglue. Any gaps that remained were covered up with greenstuff. Like earlier, they should be set at different heights all around the tree.

Closeup on the piece of sprue shaved and sculpted into a fine point, stuck in the milliput-greenstuff mixture, creating a new, plastic 'twig'.

And now it's time to go fractal and add little branches around the big branches in the same way that the big ones go around the whole tree. For those, I actually used the branches that are found in a Dryad box - but instead of using them whole, I cut off the thinnest and tiniest ones and gathered a pile of them:

Photo showing a collection of loose twigs and branches taken from the Sylvaneth Dryad box.

I glued those little twigs around the big branches using plastic cement glue. For each one I put a drop on the big branch and a drop on the small one - and glued them together only after about a minute later. That gives the glue some time to work with the plastic, melts it a little and makes the new connection much stronger and smoother - and there's no worrying about the loss of detail here.

The 'sprue' branches are now seen mounted on the 'tree', with many additional plastic twigs from the Dryad set glued around them, creating a branching effect.

If you want - that's optional - this is a good time to add some roots going around the tree. For ones that look like here below, I made some rolls out of the same Milliput / Greenstuff mix that the bark is made of and stuck them on the ground. After that, I smoothened out how are they connected with the ground and sculpted them a bit with a round, pointy clay shaper/rubber brush.

And another optional part - moss on the trees. I make it by mixing sand with gloss varnish and liquid greenstuff. It would be easier to just add some flock after everything's done, but I couldn't find one in the right color, so I made my own.

As for the ratio of this mixture, I suggest adding 1:1 sand and greenstuff and keep adding varnish until the mix achieves the right consistency. It cannot be watery, but it cannot be dry too - it needs to be wet enough to stick to the tree and thick enough to retain some shape. Not enough varnish and it will fall off - too wet and it won't be even noticeable after drying. Thankfully it's easy to adjust.

I put it in random spots and amounts all over the tree.

Now it's time for the painting! It's not short, I'm not a very optimized person when it comes to painting - but it's all straightforward.

After the usual priming (I primed them white here, but any grey, black, brown or green should work too) the basecoat is done by applying two thin coats of Steel Legion Drab.

Now coat all the bark with Athonian Camoshade.

When this is completely dry, apply a drybrush of Ushabti Bone all over the tree, watching out not to break any branches.

And now, another throughout coat of wash, this time Nuln Oil.

When that's dry - once again, an Ushabti Bone drybrush.

And a coat of Athonian Camoshade again.

A subtle, refining touch - few careful, thin spots of Agrax Earthshade applied randomly all over the bark. It's probably not even visible on the photos, but it livens up the tree a bit and makes it more natural.

If you went for the 'sand moss' earlier, this is the time to paint it. I didn't use flock to make it because I wanted to make it look like I remember it from polish forests - where it looked like THIS, with a light grey / turquoise(ish) color (and it's technically a lichen, not moss). I start doing it by mixing a very light turquoise paint out of white, green and blue, to achieve the paint you can see below. I tried to find a ready, potted equivalent, but I couldn't... I think the closest one I could come up with was mixing Temple Guard Blue with white paint. If someone knows a paint that looks like this, tell me about it, please.

I forgot to take photos of the whole process, so I will just describe it here, it's simple.

Using the paint shown above, I paint all the spots of moss/lichen - they should be easily found, they stand out on that bark, especially after all those drybrushes and washes. When that's done, I coat them with Coelia Greenshade. It's a pretty thick wash, so later, when it's dried, I use the same light turquoise paint to add some highlights on the moss/lichen patches.

And that's it! The tree is ready and it should look similar to the one you can see below (painting-wise of course, the height of the tree may differ of course!):

I hope somebody will find at least parts of this tutorial useful. I will probably do another one about sculpting and painting Slavic wooden idols you can see on my bases often.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Vaclav the Red, the Dragonrider - Finished Base

EDIT: The finished model can be seen HERE.

This is the project (whole WIP can be found HERE) that I shelved in September 2017 when I decided to focus on the Zombie Legion. When that massive project was finally done I could go back and actually make a proper base for this dragon. The problem was, the most important parts of it were two trees that the beast was supposed to be felling down - and I was completely sick of making those for the legion. So, the project waited more and more.

Only about a week and a half ago I moved my ass and actually sculpted the bark for those two trees and set them in the right place - one being broken and another being uprooted. When that was done, the rest of the work went really smoothly. I was supposed to paint my Blood Bowl Bretonnians first, but it was difficult to resist messing with the base. I just kept adding more and more stuff, changing, reposing things, checking the composition, etc. I wanted to create an impression of the dragon emerging from the forest and into the fray.

I did quite a lot of those trees for all the zombie fillers, but this was the first time when I added plastic branches to them. Real thin twigs I used for this purpose earlier are REALLY breakable - and for this project, I wanted to avoid it. They took much more time, but they should endure more too - I hope they'll look okay when painted. I will describe how I did those branches in an upcoming tutorial describing the process of making those trees.

Here you can see the base without the dragon on it.

And here it is with the dragon and Vaclav on it, everything ready to be primed and painted. I would like to say that this was my most elaborate basing project, but the one I made on Nagash was still way more complicated and took MUCH more time...

And now only the painting remains! Only if it was that easy... Currently, I am struggling with choosing the right color scheme. I know that he should keep my usual red-black-white scheme, with the red one being the most prominent. Below you can see some of my rough sketches. From those I am mostly torn between 2 and 5. 2 is a classic look, like a DnD dragon and looks the most natural, but 5 looks more sinister, more vampiric, so to say - and I still need to think what do I like more. Fiery belly on 4 is also an interesting idea, but adding fire to this busy composition would be disrupting in my opinion - not to mention that it suggests, that those belly plates are thin and/or open somehow.

Any ideas or opinions?

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Blood Bowl Team - The Badlands Badbuttz

My first painted Blood Bowl team, that was a fun project, with lots of things that I didn't do for a long time. I haven't painted any greenskins since 2002, didn't use any decals since 2006 and didn't paint minis on round bases since 2012 - so that was kinda refreshing after the unending hordes of undead. I had to keep myself from getting into too much detail because I wanted to finish them as fast as possible, but some detail still made it to the finished minis.

For the armor, I choose wanted to go with the red depicted on the box, but that was too uniform for me - something messier would fit the greenskins more and I needed some differentiation for the duplicated models. Thanks to adding black to the mix, I could make sure that two identical linemen wouldn't have two pauldrons or greaves of the same color - that should help to set them apart a bit. After that, the armor got all the freehands markings and numbers. When that was ready I applied all the damage - first by making dark brown spots and only later adding bright silver ones on those. It turned out quite good and properly orcish, but I think I made it too messy and chaotic in the end - they did lose that strong, red effect they had before adding all the dents. It was also quite problematic to keep their colors strong enough, as my painting tends to be pretty dark and dirty - fine for the undead, but here I wanted something crisper. Refining that time and time again added another messy layer to this paintjob, but I think it turned out not that bad on the Badbuttz here. I just need to be more careful on the next, Bretonnian team.

For their skintone, I always wanted to try out the recipe for a pale orc skin shown by Duncan on Warhammer TV HERE. I either messed something up or my laptop is showing false colors, for my orcs turned out much more saturated and neon-like than those on the video... Thankfully that was easily fixed with a dirty, yellowish glaze.

The Badlands Badbuttz are a team that was always about representing the Badlands as a whole - yet while earlier it meant taking unwanted rejects from other teams, these days it’s more about gathering valuable talents from all around the land. All thanks to the famous goblin headhunter, Dugtig the Headhunter, who started helping the team recently. Even though they hail from many different tribes, when they don the black-red colors of the Badbuttz, they act as an effective, unified force composed of diverse talents. Well, that’s the idea, at least. In practice, they are only slightly more interested in crumpin’ their opponents than themselves on the field. It’s probably only thanks to their stern Black Orc captain, Ogak the Flayer (known for flaying game balls when angry) and their own competitiveness that they manage to win matches from time to time. Still, even if they are slightly unruly and have difficulties following plans, they are all talented players with great intuition and ability to improvise. They just need a good reason to set aside their differences and winning the Blood Bowl is definitely one such reason.

First, the whole team:

And the individual players:

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Haughr of Förghann - WIP

EDIT: The finished model can be seen HERE.

For a long time, I wanted to have a mounted necromancer, but I also had a really tough time finding a good model for him. The mounted Nurgle lord is a popular option and I have that model in my army too, as Haralamb Gudvanger, but he has grown into something different, with a bigger base and he doesn't really fit that much anymore. Much, much later I found a pretty cheap mounted Chaos Sorcerer on eBay - and then I realized that this guy fits my needs perfectly and will be my longed-for mounted necromancer. Besides, I always wanted to have someone with an elongated, skeletal, metal mask in my army and this was the perfect opportunity for it. Together with the hood and all those robes that will be painted green like other necromancers, he will look like some kind of a Doctor Doom expy - completely accidentally, but I decided to just go with it.

First I needed to convert him and remove that Chaos taint. I simplified his armor a bit and cut off all the tentacles - they inspired me to give him a really long hood, though - it works really well with the whole composition and was more interesting than a small one. The skull face was next - I wanted to use one provided in the Cairn Wraith set, but I couldn't find it, so I sculpted one from scratch. Then I added some bits and bobs, like the skulls, the book and the scythe on the horse's head - both to make him look more 'deathly' and because I like a lot of clutter on my minis. Last, but not least, this metal model needed a lot of greenstuff to cover up the gaps, especially on the mount's underside - so I decided to use it and sculpt a stitched section there, just to get rid of any doubts about the horse's undeadness.

Now I need to think how to paint him. I know that want him green and I will probably paint all the different parts of his clothes with different shades of green, but that's all I have at the moment. Maybe I'll add some green rot or fungi on the bottom of his robes, maybe I'll freehand some runes, I don't know. Any suggestions, anyone?