Deathbridge Warhammer

Deathbridge Warhammer

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Secret to Modelling and Painting 2 - The Opinioning

I know... WORST... TITLE... EVER...

But let's get past that to the meat of the article.  Part 2 of this article is much more opinion-based than the first part.  Granted, a lot of what was said in part one is opinion, but for the most part, they are pretty obvious, and a little hard to argue with (yes having a ton of models actually does make you less likely to paint them).  Part two, on the other hand, will deal more with the painting of models, and will be very skewed to my personal opinion of painting.  Will it be as informative?  Maybe.  Will it spark conversation?  I really hope so.  So let's get down to it: (Also, I couldn't find relative ranting pictures, so enjoy these pictures of puppies!)

1) Base colors aren't enough anymore.  Look at the tools available to us now, as opposed to ten years ago.  Cheap, easily available (if sometimes poor quality) airbrushes.  Matte medium for creating washes out of damn near anything (don't want to fork out the dough for matte medium? Try Future Floor Wax with a little bit of water!).  High quality brushes at affordable prices.  The list goes on.  If you are just slapping down a base coat, and calling it good enough, then you are one of two things:  Lazy, or only in the hobby to win the game.  "I don't know how to paint" isn't a legitimate excuse anymore.  There are books, DVDs and about a billion YouTube videos to show you how to do almost anything.  Not to mention a bunch of long-winded, opinionated jerks who post on the internet (that was self-referential, in case you missed it).

I don't want to get off on a rant here, but painting miniatures is more a technical skill than some born-with, innate talent.  You know how you develop technical skill?  PRACTICE!  And practice doesn't mean taking a tank brush to some space marines and calling it a day.  You develop a steady hand.  You learn to control color and paint viscosity.  I know color-blind painters, blind in one eye painters, and have even read about a painter with no hands!  Now I get that not everyone enjoys painting, and that's fine, but if painting is not your thing, find someone whose thing it is and get them to pant your stuff for you.  This is a hobby.  9/10ths of the hobby is the collecting, preparing and painting of the models.  If you are spending more time in your week playing than any other aspect of the hobby... seriously, think about if this is the right hobby for you.  If you just like winning games, there's nothing wrong with that (as long as you're around like-minded individuals... nothing wrecks a good time more than a WAAC gamer at a casual event).  Wizkids are still putting out (*cough*) quality pre-painted minis.  Rackham has joined the pre-paint bandwagon.  Wizards of the coast has a great D&D mini game line.  Then of course there are the countless card games, board games and video games.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to crap all over people who like to win.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to win (except for winning at the expense of everyone else's fun, but that goes for anything, and just makes you an ass), but if you only care about winning in a hobby that's rules were only invented to help sell minis, you've probably got the wrong game.

Bottom line:  Help is abundant, practice makes perfect, and it's easier than you think.

2) A grimdark setting is not an excuse for a muddy-looking model.  Yes, the world of 40k is a bleak, hopeless dystopian future.  Yes you're average tank shouldn't look like it rolled off the showroom floor (though I'd argue that with the Eldar).  But too many times, you see models that are base-coated, then washed in Devlan Mud and called finished 'because it looks more gritty and dirty that way'.  No.  It doesn't.  It looks unfinished and sloppy.  There is only one way of doing weathering on vehicles and models.  And it's time-consuming.  Anything else is just being lazy.

I'm all for giving something a wash to add depth to the model.  I'm a big fan of Devaln Mud.  But the process does not, and should never, stop there.  Trust me, I get that some models are just more fun to paint than others.  And I understand the pain of knowing once you finish this model, there are still 200 more needing your attention.  I also get the desire to all least have everything better than primed.

But here's the thing: Just because you have 200 models to paint doesn't necessarily mean that you should paint the model in the front nicely, and the rest like crap.  Again, I'm coming from a hobbyist's perspective.  I game, if I'm lucky once every 2 weeks.  I spend the rest of the time painting.  The hobby part of this game means a great deal to me.  And it's been my experience, playing hundreds of different people, that the better your army is painted, the more fun you are to play with.  I have never played a douchebag with a nicely painted army.  Coincidentally, all of my worst games were against people who didn't even have their models fully-assembled.  As a hobbyist, I can tell how the game is going to go by the amount of effort put into the models.  It's obvious.

How many of you Deathbridgers would agree that Wallshammer is great to play against?  I'm guessing all of you.  You know why?  HE LOVES THIS HOBBY!  He lavishes his models with attention.  He converts, he paints many layers, and picks out the details.  He tricks-out his bases.  You see his army on the table and you know he's not just playing to win.  He's playing to have a good time AND to make sure you have a good time too.

And that's the key to this whole little rant: Your effort in the hobby-side of the game shows what kind of player you are.  A poorly-painted army is a STRONG indicator of a player not interested in the other guy in the game.  Warhammer Fantasy used to be called 'the Gentlemen's Game'.  Because almost all Fantasy players were hobbyists, and the showed courtesy and respect to their fellow gamers by taking the time and effort to deliver a polished army and good gaming experience (and thank-you Mat Ward for ruining that).

Getting back on point, we are talking about miniature models here.  If it's all dark and muddy, it's essentially a blob on the table.  Your opponent may or may not have any idea what it actually is from 4 feet away.  However, if you paint cleanly, you use some bright colors, and you use a palette that is more than just 'brown, brown and more brown' you are helping your opponent.  You are helping them understand what they are facing, you are helping them ease game play, by not wither having to explain what each model is, or  worse, handing them a big surprise when it's too late.

3) Realism in painting miniature models is absurd.  Seriously.  We are talking about 8 foot tall mutant humans surrounded by essentially a walking tank, with a gun that fires rockets.  At that point, make them colorful.  It's not like they are going to be able to hide behind a bush anyways, what with their chainswords roaring and walking sarcophagus lumbering behind them.

Essentially this is a variation of point number 2.  But it's a little more metagame.  Remember, we are playing a game of little toy soldiers.  Why not make them look nice?  Go look at  Go look at the weathered models there.  All the good-looking models started with a bright color made dark by chipping paint and weathering boots.  The base coat and a devlan mud wash minis won't even show up on there. 

Space Marines should be bright, their armor is their heraldry.  Eldar should be practically glowing.  Does this mean that there is no place for camouflage in 40k?  Of course not.  But what most people don't realize, camo is actually really hard to paint well.  It takes a lot of time.  Mudding the bottom of a transport, or the boots of a soldier takes time.  And only works if you paint the model 'facotry-fresh' first.  And THEN wear it down.

Remember, this is science fantasy, not science fiction.  In 'real-life' yes, a soldier probably would be brown on brown.  On the table, it looks terrible.  It's what I dislike most about LotR.  They paint everything 'naturalistic' to emulate the movies, but it makes for boring models and takes away from the gaming experience.  I personally LOVE brightly colored models.  Never in my life have I thought 'that doesn't look very realistic' (I'd punch myself in the face if I ever used 'realistic to try to describe the painting on a Carnifex).  I have gone 'Holy Crap!  I love how that's painted!' and 'Did that guy even paint that model, or just throw it in the dirt?'.

4) No one is asking you to win a Golden Daemon.  They are just asking you to try.  Put a little effort in past 'Git'er dun!'  I once read a great article on a guy building an Orc and Goblin army.  He base-coated everything, to get his army table-ready.  Then every week he showed up to game, one of his units was shaded and highlighted until his whole army looked really polished.

This is a fantastic way to get started!  Plus, if you show your gaming club that you are making genuine progress on your models every week, it tells them that you take the fun and enjoyment of other club members seriously.  I can't stress that enough.  Well-painted models show courtesy to your opponent.  Showing all the upgrades on a unit shows courtesy to your opponent.  Showing up on time, having all your gaming materials... it's all about courtesy.  Make 40k a Gentlemen's Game.  Strive to make sure your opponent has as much fun as you do.  And nothing says you are concerned about the guy on the other side of the table as making your army look the best it can.

No one is expecting you to win awards for your painting.  But it's really obvious when you're trying and when you're not.

Anyhow, that's my incredibly long-winded rant about the real secret of painting and modeling.  I'm sure there will be people who don't agree.  Which is why I prefaced this part with a strong opinion warning.  But at the very least it's food for thought.


Anonymous said...

Hesr, hear!!

AbusePuppy said...

While I largely agree with you, I have to play devil's advocate here: some people just don't like painting all that much. Heck, some people _hate_ it. Yes, there are lots of great tools out there that make it possible to learn to paint well with relatively little ease, and yes in this age of internets we are truly blessed with examples and advice, but that doesn't actually change the fact that some people don't have the time or inclination to put into that aspect of things.

Just as not everyone is interested in creating ueber-competitive lists and kicking hiney at tournaments, not everyone cares to learn to paint their minis well. There is an expectation that you _will_ paint them, but I don't think that should be extended to an expectation that you will try to advance your painting skills if it isn't something you're interested in. The "you're in the wrong hobby if you don't like painting" mantra is no more correct than competitive gamers sneering at casual folks because "everyone is playing to win (with the implication that they're simply better at it than you)".

Different folks enjoy different aspects of the game. Some people don't like to convert- our local store owner is this way. He has four different armies and dozens of half-done side projects with one or two models, but I haven't seen a single one of his models with any more conversion than a weapon swap or gluing on a bit from a different sprue; I, on the other hand, have half my army converted but have trouble mustering the motivation to paint, despite the fact that I actually like doing so. There is no one "right" aspect of the hobby to enjoy, just as there is no wrong one to fail to care about.

Anonymous said...

I'll second AbusePuppy on this one. I have the most fun in this hobby when I'm assembling and converting my models. Those tiny bits of plastic are all the fun of Legos to the Nth degree.

I've got 3 nearly complete 40k armies, random units from 3 others, and a goodly chunk of a Fantasy army. The only one I ever finished painting was my Tau, and the only reason they meet the three color minimum is because I primed them white, hit the panel lines in black, and did accent work with Space Wolf Grey. They get more complements than my Grey Knights, which I've lavished days upon days on for each model.

It's a bit dispiriting, honestly.

Green Feevah! said...

The counter to people saying they don't want to paint is: Then why play this game? There are at least a half a dozen pre-painted miniatures games I can think of off the top of my head. Or, if you don't like to paint, then why not play a different game all together that requires ZERO painting? Magic, or any other Cards game. There are dice games, board games, etc...

Basically, if you choose this 'version' of the hobby over another, the expectation is that you paint. And in the modern age there is no excuse to paint poorly other than a complete lack of effort.