Friday, September 25, 2015

Tablescapes Urban Streets Part 3: Finishing Up

Having finished the street tiles, the next step was to paint the foundation tiles to provide locations for God-Emperor-faring business and citizen-dwelling units (?). This was simply applying the same method used on the sidewalks to entire tiles. There were only two places where the method differed.

First, I wanted to show a little earth inside the deep cleavages in two of the tiles. For that, I sprayed on two layers of brown (I forget the specific colors used, but it doesn't matter much.

Adding Some Earth 

Following applying the browns, I then highlighted the tile with Minitaire Concrete Slab, as per the sidewalk portions of the street tiles detailed earlier. I think I actually over sprayed the earth too much. It doesn't really show through in the final tile, but, well, whatever.

Developing an Industrial Theme 

The second additional step was that I wanted to create something that could work for an industrial zone for placing chemical tanks, barrels, waste, or what have you. Hazard stripes are an easy way to do this that matches with the stripes I placed on one of the street tiles. The choice also helps to break up the otherwise perhaps-too-consistent feel of an urban city board and adds some interest. As you'll see in a moment, this -- combined with other mechanical elements in the tiles -- creates an industrial thematic to the tiles.

I chose one of the tiles that has once big concrete block rather than those that are made up of smaller concrete sections. I used the hairspray method to chip the paint off afterwards to give the area a well-worn vibe (industrial stuff is heavy and bangs against other stuff such as the ground, after all).

Finishing the Rest of the Tiles

With that, it was time to apply varnish to the tiles and get to oil washing. Because I was only working with the lighter concrete sections, I only had to apply burnt umber washes. It was a bit tricky to try to keep the wash concentrated in the cracks while leaving the "right" amount on the surface of the tiles to blot off with paper towels. The wash ended up being a bit heavier than I wanted, but -- again -- what are you gonna do, you know? I was able to remove most of what I thought was excessive staining with adding some paint thinner to the paper towels and wiping vigorously. I also found myself having to apply multiple thin washes to the big long cracks on the tiles with one big slab in the center and wiping off the bleed-over. But the results were worth it, I think.

Putting it Together 
and with that, the Tablescapes were complete!

Concluding Thoughts 
With that, the project is finished -- well almost. I want to add some heavy-duty GW Purity Seal (matte varnish) because the matte varnish was using (an artist's brand) seems a bit too delicate for gaming purposes (but does take the shine off just fine).

But with things being nearly done, few things jump out at me:
  • Overall, I think the paint scheme works really well and the results are definitely table-top worthy. I'm glad I simplified the Secret Weapons Miniatures tutorial a bit. I could have spent more time painting to a better quality, but I would have gotten into diminishing returns pretty quickly.
  • This is the first time I've used an airbrush for terrain or large, flat projects. It turns out it's a very easy, intuitive process - and really fast. Definitely going this route in the future.
  • Painting with oil paints is a lot of fun. You just need to mess around with oil washes to get comfortable with them and to understand their properties -- but once you do, it's a potent tool (I think I'll be integrating oil washing into my miniatures painting from here on as well).
  • With a consistent paint scheme, getting the tiles to match just kind of...happens. I was pretty nervous about this, but found managing consistency tile-to-tile wasn't too big of a deal. Some tiles don't match perfectly (too much or too little wash, different levels of airbrush opacity) but it doesn't seem to cause any aesthetic problems. Being a big-ass city, some variation makes sense.
  • I am considering a few extra details but am going to sit on it for the moment. I think I'll probably add grass tufts here and there (why not?) and may add some weather pigments once I re-seal the tiles -- but I'm leaning towards no because I don't want to ruin a good thing and I'm suspicious pigments can withstand the use and abuse of gaming.
  • Overall, I really have to hand it to Mr. Justin at Secret Weapon Miniatures. These tiles are a great product. I prefer them over the GW city tiles because in typical GW fashion, those seem to have a bit too-much-over-the-top details and, being that there are only two different kinds of 2ft x 2 ft tiles, they are also less flexible for gaming purposes. While the Forgeworld tiles are gorgeous and take advantage of vertical dimensions in a way the Secret Weapon tiles do not, they, too, are less flexible because of their size (and because they have built-in raised foundations, which forces building dimensions and placement). Besides, as I hope to show in the follow-up terrain to this project, one can can add interesting detail to a cityscape -- beyond vertical features --  beyond just buildings. I do have one criticism of the Secret Weapon Miniatures tablescapes: some of the streets have a textured surface, while others do not. This means that you are inevitably going to get slightly different appearances once they're painted, especially if you're using washes (or dry brushing). But I didn't find the difference between the textured-tiles and untextured-tiles to big enough to set off my nerd-OCD. Nonetheless, I cast a half-hearted fist-shake in your general direction, SWM and award you a mere 4.5 out of 5 stars for this product.

    And with that, I now have a gaming table. Actually, this is my first gaming table! Sweet. Double-sweet, actually, because I was a backer on the SWM Tablescapes project which means I waited a long time for these bad boys to paint. But it was worth it. Definitely. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Tablescapes Urban Streets Part 2: Street Tiles

Applying the same steps outlined in the previous post, I completed the rest of the street tiles from the Secret Weapon Miniatures Tablescapes Urban Streets kit. Total time spent on these (13?) Tiles was about a weekend.

The first picture is the tiles before they were weathered. The only things different from the previous steps was (1) I added crosswalk markers on many of the streets; (2) I created blast patterns in the craters by spraying Minitaire Coal, fanning outwards; (3) I took the liberty of applying some hazard stripes around the vent-machine-thing in one of the street tiles. Regarding the cross-walk and yellow road markers, the Tamiya tape impressed me -- I used just one masking for each, reused on all tiles.

Below is following a gloss varnish coat followed by oil washes for weathering. Powders were also added to the metal bitz.

Next I'll post the foundation tiles, the whole board together, and some concluding thoughts. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tablescapes Urban Streets part 1: Tester Tile

After a grim period of neglect and en tropic decay, I'm getting this blog going again. What better way to do so that show a step-by-step of painting the Secret Weapons Miniatures Urban Streets Tablescapes? Part 1 will go over the overal paint scheme and the test tile I produced, Part 2 will go over the painting of the street tiles, and Part 3 will show the painting of the foundation tiles and the completed game board.

After some research, I settled on  a simplified version of the paint scheme posted on the Secret Weapon blog by James Wappel, which is:

Step 1: apply Minitaire Rock to the street after you've primed black.
Step 2: apply Minitaire Concrete Slab to the sidewalk
Step 3: apply street markings and paint metal details (Lead Belcher, wash Nuln Oil, drbrush Runefang Steel)
Step 4: apply gloss varnish followed by oil washes of Burnt Umber and Davvy's Grey
Step 5: seal with matte finish
Step 6: apply rust effects to metal areas using pigments

Steps 1-2 and application of street markings used Tamiya painting tape for masking. 

Step 1:  Painting the Street 

When applying the layer of Minitaire Rock, the trick is the get uneven coverage leaving a natural patchy look, concentrating on cracks (here, there aren't many). 

Step 2:  Painting the Sidewalk

Apply a masking along the edge of the sidewalk and then apply Minitaire Concrete Slab. To maximize contrast and reflect the fact that sidewalk generally is more consistent than a street, I went for a much more opaque layer, thickest along the lines separating each slab of concrete but still with some unevenness. 

Steps 3-4:  Painting Metallics and Oil Wash

I've painted the metallic areas Lead Belcher, follwed by a wash of Nuln Oil and Runefang Steel drybrush. I then used the masking tape to create a stencil for the dashed lines in the center of the street, about a centimeter wide right down the middle.

Then came a layer of of gloss varnish accross the whole tile. This is important to give the oil paint a slick surface for its properties to work on.

The first oil wash was using Burnt Umber concentrated on the sidewalks and gutters. 
I was intentionally sloppy here and matted the excess with a clump of paper towels, leaving a thick spotty-like-pattern of oil wash on the tile which diffused out as it dried. On the sidewalk, the goal was to soak up almost all of the excess on the flat surfaces while making sure the recesses were full of wash. To accomplish that, I found myself going back and applying a second layer of wash directly into the recesses. Because of the gloss varnish, I only had to touch the tip of the brush to an intersection of recesses and the capillary action sucked the oil wash in all directions. 

Next, I washed the street with Davvy's  Grey oil paint using the same technique as before but with a heavier application of oil wash. 
 Here's a picture while the street was still wet:  

Steps 5-6:  Sealing and Rusting 

I sealed the tile using an artist's matte sealer. I ended up finding it was a bit too delicate and I now plan to go over the tiles with GW's more heavy-duty Purity Seal. But for aesthetic purposes, it took the shine off the tiles just fine. Then, I used MiG pigments and pigment fixer to apply a rust-colored pigment wash to the metal areas. Later, I decided I had applied too heavy of a pigment mix and removed much of it using q-tips and paint thinner. 

Celebration Shot  

It took a few hours to produce this tile (helped along with the use of a hair dryer to hasten the drying time of the oil washes), but the experimentation was a lot of fun and turned out well. Here is some little yellow men having a little yellow celebration at the conclusion of Part 1 and the renewed blog: