Thursday, 22 October 2015

40k Army building - modelling/painting overview

Hi all, welcome to the third article in my army building series - we've already looked at an overview of list writing, and introducing you to the idea of creating a background story for your collection, so today let's have a quick look at the basics of building and painting the miniatures that are the focus of this hobby.

I thought I'd start by listing all the key tools and materials that I have stashed around various places that I use for my construction and painting projects. This is probably a small list in comparison to some of the more ambitious modellers and painters out there - but it'll certainly take you to a decent level.

Construction tools

Craft knife (I say knife, singular - I've actually got lots, though I definitely have a favourite, which these days is pretty blunt I have to say, but then I have had it for over 15 years)
Clippers (GW ones are fine, though you can probably get better ones if you're willing to spend a bit more)
Superglue (I don't use GW superglue, I have in the past but I'm a firm believer in loctite gel myself, which stays where you put it)
Polystyrene Cement (GW thick is my weapon of choice here, though do bear in mind it has a shelf life)
'Green stuff' (Don't buy it from GW, please. It's much, much cheaper elsewhere)
Modelling tools (For sculpting and converting)
Magnets (tiny ones, i commonly use 2mm disc magnets, and I have been known to use 1mm on occasion. If you can get a big enough hole, 5mm ones are really quite strong)
Pin vice (it's basically a hand held drill used for drilling small holes into which you insert wire to strengthen the joints of the models. I'm currently investigating the practicality of converting a little hand held screwdriver to take the hand cramping out of larger projects, and will let you know how that goes)
Wire (generally speaking i use paperclips, used with the pin vice they're for strengthening joints)
Files (filing down mold lines on miniatures usually, but occasionally for more realistic bullet holes)
Basing materials (whatever you wish really, sand is a key one, and slate is pretty common too)
PVA glue (great for using to base your models, superglue is way too expensive).

Painting tools

Large water pot (Obviously this will depend on the space you have available, so mine isn't large, but the more water in it the less often you need to change it)
Brushes (Definitely worth spending a little extra here - I use Winsor and Newton series 7, which are commonly considered to be the best you can get)
Kitchen roll (For mopping up the tears when you sneeze and paint a big black line across that almost finished model)
Paints (I use GW, though there are others out there that some prefer, such as Vallejo, P3 and Army Painter)
Spray undercoat (I've tried several types, but to be honest I still consider GW to be the best as it's a little more forgiving of over-spraying)
Acetone free nail varnish remover (If you really need to remove an old paint job, dunk the model in this stuff for about 5 minutes and then just brush the paint off)
Old toothbrush (For the above mentioned brushing off of paint. Don't use the wife's and then put it back, they get a bit grumpy when they get shredded paint stuck in their teeth, not to mention the funny taste)

So, what are the overarching things you need to think about when beginning your army building project?

I work on these basic principles.

1. Do you buy everything first then assemble all in one go, or go for a 'slow burn' and buy new bits and build them as you go along. I've done both, though pretty much relegated to the second option now due to finances (2 kids, house etc)
2. Paint scheme. I've partially covered this in the background article, but when starting a new army one of the first things I do is build 1 model (or several spares) and try out the paint scheme I'm thinking of. They often don't come out quite how you were expecting so it's good to get some paint on a model early on. There are loads of things to consider when creating your paint scheme (probably enough for a whole article on their own - note to self, write paint scheme article). Here are the key points though. Bright, dark or realistic. Dirty or clean. Drybrush or layering. Army badge. Extreme highlights?
3. Flexibility. are the basic troops choices genuinely a choice - am I going to want to swap and change weapons around, do I just buy extra models to cover that or do I need to think about an army-wide magnet strategy. Remember here that transporting magnetised models is much easier, and that codex updates in the future can make different weapons much more appealing.
4. Undercoating - at what stage do I want to prime the models, on the sprue or assembled? If the latter, do I want to assemble the whole thing or paint it in several sub-assemblies.
5. Basing strategy - bases are a part of the models I hate doing, so it always pays for me to think about how I want them to look early on, especially for getting consistent results.
6. Conversions - do I want to just use the odd one here and there, or am I thinking more about much more extensive conversion work across the whole army? I used to have a Raven Guard marine force where every model was converted in some way or other.

If you're the sort of person where having 'an army' is something you can do, and you can consider it finished, then it's definitely worth spending some time at the start thinking about how you want it to look as a cohesive whole. Many of us won't, mainly because our collections begin to sprawl so much that there's no way you can be cohesive across several years of collecting, but if you've considered all of the above at the outset, at least you stand the best possible chance of having a cohesive collection.

So, next up I'm going to look at preparing your models for painting - there will almost certainly be a bit of a delay in this regard since until the end of next month I don't have funds to buy more models, but there'll be plenty of pictures from then on!