Friday, January 8, 2010

A New Year, A New Way To Paint

As my army has grown, and my slow plodding progress in painting hasn't picked up speed, I've started to get worried that I'm going to burn myself out before I finish my Ork army.  I'm not speedy, and I'm probably marginal with my skill at best.  That's not to say I don't enjoy painting, I do.  However, I got Assault on Black Reach, an Ork Trukk, a Killa Kan, and another set of 20 Assault on Black Reach Ork Boyz over the holidays.  Combine with that my Stormboyz I'm almost done with and my Nobz and Warboss I hadn't started yet, and you can see where I would start to feel overwhelmed.  I want to spend time making my Warboss, Killa Kan, and Ork Trukk look really good, but I'm afraid I'll either never get to the Boyz, or the Boyz will take so much time I'll never get to the other pieces.

So I decided perhaps I should attempt a quicker, although not necessarily simpler painting method.  So after researching and getting an understanding for it, I attempted the Dip Method of painting.

For those who haven't heard of it, this method uses a mildly dilluted polyurethane stain to eliminate the need to do more than priming and basecoating.  The stain blends and darkens the colors, and beyond drying time saves a lot of time in the painting process.  The name Dip comes from the original incarnation of the method, where the miniature is dipped in the stain, and then shook or flicked to get the excess dip off.  I don't really have the facilities to flick or shake off miniatures (my garage has our pop-up camper stored in it), so I opted for the more recent incarnation where the dip is brushed on.

The first attempt wasn't great, but I learned quite a bit that I have applied towards a second miniature.  Let me outline my progress, and then I'll discuss what I learned.

First thing I did was clean up an Ork Boy from Assault on Black Reach.  I washed the mini, cleaned up where he was attached to the sprue, and cut and sanded away as much of the mold lines as I could get to.  Then I primed him with white.

The white primer concerned me because first I'm used to black, and second I picked the coldest weekend of our young winter to prime the pieces in my unheated garage.  So I noticed some slightly excessive pooling and dripping from the primer I don't normally get.

After the primer dried I painted the mini using brighter colors.  I also wasn't sure how the dip would affect the colors, so I opted for some experimental color choices.  My normal color choices are green skin (obviously), grey pants, red tunics, and brown leather straps and boots.  Beyond that it's all fair game since they're Orks and Orks don't care how they look as long as they can kill.  In my normal painting process I basecoat the exposed skin with a dark hunter green and the tunics with brick red.  Then I paint over them with Christmas green and Santa red, and highlight with a brighter wild green and regular red.  For the brown I always basecoat with a lighter tan and then paint a darker brown to brighten it up a bit.  For the sake of basecoating for dipping I used the wild green and regular red.  I painted the pants grey, I used tan for the leather straps, with iron brown for the axe handle, and velvet brown for the boots.  I painted the gun black and dry brushed metallic silver over it, and painted the axe head and butt of the handle silver.

I was very unhappy with the look of this Ork at this point.  My 6 year old's Ork she works on and off on looks better than this.  Also the axe head in this picture featured some red I was toying with trying, but I ended up painting over it because I decided to just try the basic colors for the first time.

I pieced the Ork Boy together after filling in some of the glaring white I saw and was ready to brush on the mixture, which I still hadn't made.

The mixture I made was the small 8 oz. can of Minwax Antique Walnut Satin which is roughly 236 ml of stain.  The stain is too thick for minis straight out of the can, so I thinned it at a 10:1 ratio with mineral spirits.  So I grabbed an old medicine dispenser and measured out 23 ml of spirits, and shook the can thoroughly.

Everything I had read said glop on the dip pretty thick, and then use less for more detailed parts.  Well I forgot it's a mini so there's a lot of detail, and I glopped it on thick.  Too thick.  I tried to thin it out, but it still pooled excessively in crevices and cracks.  Also, it discolored the axe head and pants.  Both of those color choices on the white primer didn't have enough depth to hold out against the stain.  Rather than deepen and enrich the color, it changed the color.  The tan worked, but was too light for my liking when compared to my other Orks.  The boots and axe shaft looked okay.

Ultimately what I ended up with was an Ork that looked a lot better than he did pre-dip, but looks like he just slogged his way through a sweaty muddy bog.  The grey for the pants was too light and turned tan, the tan was too light and didn't get dark enough.  The browns and reds look good, and the gun looked great.  The silver axe head didn't look silver anymore.

After letting it sit well past the recommended 8-12 hours to dry, I tried to dry brush silver on the axe head.  Let me tell you that doesn't work.  The stain doesn't seem to accept dry brushing very well.  I eventually zapped the axe head and armor with some pig iron metallic paint and the leather straps with brown.

So looking at the pictures I learned some valuable lessons from this mini that I used on a second one.  The first thing I applied to the second mini that I struggled with in the first one is that it's still a mini.  The paint still needs to highlight the detail of the mini.  Also, I learned about the grey and silver on the white primer.  For the pants of the second mini I did a heavy dry brush in black, and then slopped some grey over that.  Nothing too clean as I wanted the pants to have a worn look, but nothing to gloppy or badly painted.  For the leather straps I just went right to brown, for them.  I also decided to try metallic bronze for the armor, and dry brushed the bronze over some pieces to hopefully add a hint of rustiness to them.

Another lesson I learned was on the use of the stain.  Before I endeavored on the second mini, I tried dipping an extra arm I had from my box of Boyz.  Observing how the brush handled the minwax (It seemed to just soak up as much as it could), I was able to better control how much I painted on, which made the arm look much better.

So I painted the second mini with a basecoat, some drybrushing, and a little more attention to both details and how colors react to the stain.  He still looks like something a 10 year old would paint, but I was happier with him pre-dip than I was the first Ork.

Still not the best looking mini, but the colors are better.  The pants have a darkness to them that should help keep their color, and I shied away from using any metallic silver, using metallic bronze and pig iron (a darker metallic silver) instead.

Same mini post-dip shows a better depth to the color, and they blend a little better.  To control the dip I let the brush soak up less, and brushed excess dip off on a paper towel first.

Finally the two minis side by side show a definite improvement in technique.  They also didn't take anywhere near as long for me to paint.  I was able to complete them in roughly about two nights of painting each.  Possibly could be one if I allowed myself more time to paint in the evenings.  Drying time was overnight when I was asleep, and while they still show my inexperience in painting, they also show a way I can get through my minis and have them table top ready a lot sooner than I was looking at.

My next step will be to get some Testor's Dullcote to cut the shine down on those two minis.  I also want to clean and prime the 18 remaining Assault on Black Reach Ork Boyz I bought separate from AoBR my lovely wife and kids gave me, paint and dip those.  I'll track my progress and see how long it takes me to do them.  But hopefully soon I'll be able to field the 50 Ork Boyz I have, in a game, fully painted.


  1. Nice work. I am sure once you do more of them ... the more defined technique will develop with you.

    Have you had any luck with inks ?


  2. Thanks! I haven't really worked much with inks, but I was debating whether I should work on using them so I could utilize some on one of my pieces I want to paint completely without dipping (a la Warboss and Killa Kan).

  3. Inking works great ..... takes some practice but is a good option