Nearly Done: Standard Bearer

Here is some more progress on my Standard Bearer.

The Marine himself is pretty much done, with only some static grass needed around the edges of the rock he's standing upon. That rock was actually a major pain in the ass to base around. Normally, I put small strips of plasticard under my Marines' feet. This raises them up a tiny bit so they don't appear to be sinking into the ground. It also allows me to put sand all the way under their feet, so I don't end up with gaps around the feet when I glue the model to the base. The problem with the rock was that I wanted it to look like it was sticking up out of the sand, not sitting on top of it. I skipped putting card under it, while still putting card under the other foot. I'd hoped it would allow the rock to be sunk down while the other foot was not. All I ended up with were the gaps. It's simple enough to obscure them with static grass, but I need to be careful not to apply too much and make it look like a fuzzy ring around the rock.

Here is the current state of the banner itself:

It's pretty plain. Originally, I'd had grand plans for it, with a huge laurel wreath surrounding an Imperial aquila clutching the Ultramarines symbol in its talons, with the scroll at the bottom. I sketched it out on paper and searched Google for art I could use as a model to construct the whole thing. I was then going to print it out to scale and use the pencil-rub/carbon paper technique to transfer it to the banner. Then it would be a simple matter of painting it. Problem is, I no longer have access to Photoshop and GIMP flat out sucks for working with images other than retouching and cropping things. Every time I tried to combine my images, one would end up pixelated beyond recognition, or the scales wouldn't match, etc.

I said "screw it" and sketched a new design on the banner with a soft, sharp pencil. I had wanted to sketch my original design on there, but the curves of the piece make intricate lines tough. I ended up just going with the simple design you see above. That grey smear in the middle will be a red starburst that I need to re-draw and re-center. The red starburst is an old-school Space Marine symbol. It's supposed to be used for veteran sergeants, but I've co-opted it as a more generic symbol.
I still need to go back in and add some shading to the scroll and the symbol. Probably just a thin layer of a darker color for each one, and I should probably ding up the edges of the scroll with tears and dog ears. You don't typically see perfect, pristine scrolls on 40K artwork.

I also need to add something to the area between the Chapter symbol and the scroll, especially to the right and left edges. I'm not sure what to add though. A fancy, squiggly design? A couple crux terminatus symbols? Very small laurels?

There's no way I'm adding anything above the Chapter symbol unless I get VERY brave and ambitious. Those folds are a nightmare to draw on. If I were to add anything up there, it would likely be a row of checkered boxes, a Greek key design, or a small aquila.

We've also got the monthly tourney at the FLGS tomorrow. As of right this moment, I'm planning on going. I just have no idea what I'll bring for an army. I've not played at the FLGS in months now, so I have no real idea of what the meta is anymore. From what I've seen on Facebook and blog posts, there are plenty of Knights showing up in Imperial forces. Still a good number of power armored players, and plenty of monstrous creatures in non-Imperial armies. I guess it doesn't really matter, as honestly I've not upgraded my army to a 7th Edition style. There isn't a single grav weapon on any model in my collection yet. The last time I had plans to upgrade my bikes, it was to add Scout Bikers and a Command Squad with power lances. That should tell you how far behind the times my army is now.


Command Squad Progress: the Tank Killer

In the last week or so, I've made some very solid progress on my Command Squad. Painting for the Standard Bearer is done except for his base, I've picked some parts for the bionic Veteran, and I fully built the tank-killing Veteran. Here are some shots of him:

This is the initial body construction, showing the FW torso defects I repaired and some studs I added to his knee pads.

And then his final state, with a head picked out and pads on.

The studs are micro beads, set into small drill holes and glued in place. You can see the tutorial I got the idea from over at Drowned in Plastic. While you're there, check out his Helbrecht build. It's AMAZING.
I held off on a full spread of studs, because I wasn't sure how well they'd come out. A couple added to break up the smooth lines just a bit felt like enough.

The general design behind him is that he wears plated Mk4 armor and a left-leading pad with an extended edge to protect him from the shrapnel and blast from tanks and bunkers he's destroyed with that meltagun and meltabombs (the meltabombs are behind his left hip, not visible in the images). He's got improved targeters in his helm for finding and tracking weak points in vehicle armor, including an upgraded thermal imaging suite for finding exhaust ports and venting seams in xenos and Imperial STC vehicle patterns.

I didn't elect to use another tabarded set of legs for this Marine, as I figured he'd either have no use for one as decoration or that it would be burned up pretty quickly as he stands in the blast wash from exploding tanks. It might bust up the cohesion of the squad some, but probably not a lot as the Apothecary and the bionic Veteran also do not have tabards (though the bionic one is still up in the air, with a post on him and his legs coming later this week).

It's exciting to be nearly done with the Command Squad as a whole. Once the Standard Bearer is done, I'll be over halfway finished, with only two guys left. Both are simpler paint jobs than the Standard Bearer or the Apothecary. The tank hunter will go pretty quickly, being all blue and gold and the bionic Marine will as well, since I don't forsee using any white or fancy sections on him.
Once the squad members are done I have to decide if I'll build them a custom Razorback, or just paint up a turret to put on top of one of my Rhinos. Right now, all of my Razorback turrets are assault cannons or las/plas.

Thankfully, I've finished most of my home improvement projects that were eating up my evenings and the summer heat has gone, leaving me time and motivation to paint again.


Thinking About Black Armor

As I inch closer to completion of my Ultramarines Command Squad, I'm turning my mind towards a plan for painting Raven Guard.

I have been thinking about the paints I'll use for their black armor. There are a lot of tutorials and how-to's online about how to paint black, each uses a different variation on the theme. Some rely purely on a black paint with grey or blue highlights. Some use grey shaded with black, and some even attempt an NMM (non-metallic metals for those who don't know) effect.

I've only painted black armor twice before, both times for Ultramarines Chaplains. For those models, I used a deep, dark grey from Reaper call "Grey Liner." Basically, it's a paint designed for darklining fantasy miniatures. Darklining is where you paint a thin line of a darker shade between two separate pieces of a model, like a flesh-colored arm and a tunic sleeve, or an armor plate and a leather strap or belt. I think this is an outdated technique that most folks don't use anymore, having been supplanted by washes, but I could be wrong.

Anyhow, this paint is a very dark grey. For my Chaplains, I primed black, applied Grey Liner to all the armor, and then edge highlighted with lighter greys. Here is what it looked like on my counts-as Chaplain Cassius (try to ignore the horrible posing of the model):
Here's another shot with less colors, so you can compare it to the basic black of primer:

One thing to note is that I painted this Chaplain back before I started using Badab Black as a wash. In those times, I used thinned black paint to wash my metals and such. I can't remember if I added a black wash to his armor, but I doubt it.

I think this paint scheme will work for Raven Guard. However, my Raven Guard will be very plain in the armor department. I'm planning to select a lot of models and parts that don't have a ton of dangly decorations and fancy parts. I just don't see Raven Guard, the sneakiest of sneaky, carrying around all that junk on their armor. The clink of a decorative chain can give you away, and too much carved decoration on armor makes it harder to slip through small areas. The issue facing plainer armor using my Grey Liner method is that the models might be too plain on the table, looking like unpainted, primer-only models. My hope is that the edge highlights, small metal or colored details, and deeper black of a Badab Black/Nuln Oil wash in the recesses will help them stand out enough to look properly painted.

One additional idea I'm thinking about is switching over to GW paints for Raven Guard. The only problem is, I have no idea if they have an appropriately dark grey to replace the Grey Liner. I know I'll be using Leadbelcher and Ironbreaker for metal parts, plus Nuln Oil as a wash. While I do want the models to be muted and dark, I don't want them to be boring. The solution to boring black armored models is to add small splashes of color here and there. Grenades, pouches, and especially bolter casings. The bolter casings for my Ultramarines are black. Black casings over black armor will be too monochrome, so I'm thinking of using a very dark tone washed with Nuln Oil for the casings instead. I had my eye on Incubi Darkness for a greenish blue undertone, but I have no idea what the paint looks like in person. The other option is Caliban Green. Does anyone use these colors and able to tell me how they'd look slathered in Nuln Oil?


Standard Bearer Progress

This weekend allowed me a few good hours of painting, which I used to work on my Standard Bearer for my Command Squad. This is what he's looking like as of today:

I still have all the red to do (eyes, purity seals, tabard) as well as the linen of the seals and the freehand on his armor and shoulder pads. After that is the standard itself. I have it primed and mounted, but haven't touched it with paint yet.

I tried a slightly different approach with the gold this time around. I started with my standard brown, then gold, then wash with Gryphonne Sepia. But instead of going back to my base gold, I skipped right to Reaper MSP New Gold, which used to be my first highlight color. I like the brightness of it, so I'll be sticking with that from now on.

The next veteran in line is the demolition specialist, who'll end up with meltabombs and a meltagun, plus a bolter. I successfully repaired his armor collar (from the FW Mk4 power weapons kit; it was miscast too thin), and added some rivets to his armor using microbeads. I'll get a picture as soon as I can (hopefully tonight). Thus far, I've only stuck the torso on the legs and let it sit to dry. I sometimes rush assembly stages, and end up knocking parts out of alignment slightly while glue dries or cures.


Metals and Music

I found the time to do a little painting last night. I got the midtone coat finished on my Standard Bearer, but decided not to press on to the top coat as it was getting late. Instead, I brought out the dozer blade for my Forgeworld Vindicator. I've got all the blue done on that already, but needed to start on the metallics.
I was too lazy to take a rather boring shot of a blank dozer blade, but essentially I'm painting the bottom teeth of the blade and the surrounding plate, as well as the side plates silver metallic, while the blade face is my standard Ultramarine blue.
Back when I was working on my drop pod, I'd had a really tough time on the metallic sections of the model. My Reaper Master Series metallic paints just didn't cover very well. I was getting brush strokes, pigment separation, and not enough paint in various areas. I muddled through, but decided MSP silver metallics weren't going to work for large areas anymore. It had been suggested that I try out the GW/Citadel line of metallics, so I grabbed a pot of Leadbelcher and a pot of Ironbreaker a couple months ago.
I broke open the pot of Leadbelcher and started working on the dozer blade. I held my breath and started applying paint. SWEET MOSES! It was like a revelation. The paint went on in a single coat, and perfectly covered the primer. I didn't need more than a single pass on any of the primed areas. I did need a quick second touch on areas that I'd gotten blue paint into, but it wasn't the struggle I normally encounter with my MSP metallics.
I've always been a bit of a Reaper paint snob, but I have to say I'm sold on these Citadel metallics. I don't think I'll go back to Reaper metallics on anything larger than infantry weapons. My only concern with the Citadel paint is that pot design. I had to paint with the pot open on my desk, which made me think it would dry out over time since it's constantly exposed to open air. Has anyone noticed drying in the modern Citadel paints? 

I've been listening to some 40K music in an attempt to get myself re-motivated to paint. It's not that I don't want to paint, it's just that when I have free time at 8pm at night after a day of work and a few hours playing with my son, it's hard to park myself in the heat of my office (it's been an Indian summer here lately) and put brush to model. It's even tougher when I spend an hour or two a night working on home improvement stuff, like redoing windows in our living room.However, 40K related music seems to really help with getting the mental juices going. I've been spending a lot of time listening to the soundtrack to Space Marine. You can listen to the whole thing on YouTube if you don't want to buy it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v4kaE_XbR8). I recommend Titus' Theme, Battlements, Titan, and A Hero's Legacy, though there's no bad track in the whole thing. The tracks have a little ore meaning if you've played the hell out of the game like I have, as you can picture the scenes from which they are pulled. Also good is the Dawn of War 2 soundtrack (also available on YouTube), and the first track from the Ultramarines: The Movie soundtrack, "Steel and Doom." Yes, that one's also on YouTube. I can fire these up on my Kindle Fire and listen to them while I paint, or while I'm trapped in my cubicle at work.


Expensive Conversions

This morning I've been scanning around the interwebs looking for examples of reposed Space Marines posted by players on various sites. This was prompted by my experience playing Space Marine on my Xbox the other night. I have been playing a lot of Exterminatus co-op lately, and during a pause between waves I happened to have my Marine standing on a rock. I panned the camera out and thought, "Wow, that would be a great pose for a model!"
My Marine had his arms by his side, with a combat blade in a reverse grip in one hand, and his bolt pistol in another. He was looking sidelong at the camera, with his rear leg up a little on the rock, while the front leg was extended to the ground. I wish I knew how to take screenshots on my 360 so I could analyze the pose.

Anyhow, I decided that it would be interesting to try reposing some legs and arms to make what will eventually become my Raven Guard Vanguard or Assault Marines. You know, once I finish my Ultramarine Command Squad, and the Vindicator, and the Raven Guard Shadow Captain...

In my searches, I saw some absolutely great work, and some complete butchery of parts. As part of those trends, I saw some nice things done to expensive models, and then some expensive models that were completely ruined. An entire squad of Forgeworld Mk4 Marines sliced up at the joints, and then glued back together with the gaps poorly filled with Greenstuff, or knee plates cut through and not replaced. It's not a new idea. I've seen examples online of people who buy a $400 Warhound Titan and then take a Dremel to it to give it "battle damage" or saw through joints to pose things awkwardly or with massive gaps.

Those are those peoples' models and they're free to do what they want with them. But the question popped into my head "What's the most expensive model someone risked a conversion on?".

Personally, I'm not a big risk taker with my expensive models. I'm not going to chop apart my Korvydae model to repose his legs. I've also avoided buying the Finecast Lord Executioner model and removing his arms and pads for fear of ruining a $23 model. I've done some small reposing on arms, but that's about it. The only major attempt I ever made at a leg chop/repose was for my old Master of the Forge. I'd originally intended to repose and build him some bionic legs. I started like this, but abandoned the idea when I laid hands on a set of the metal Iron Hands upgrade legs.

Even with the planned Raven Guard reposing, I'm thinking a lot about using salvaged/stripped parts to minimize the bitz cost. This might be a mistake, as a good model deserves new/fresh parts. Marine legs are one of the more expensive infantry bits you can buy, so I'm a little reluctant to invest in a ton of new legs for chopping up (though I actually already have plenty in my bitz boxes).
I've bought some expensive parts for kitbashes, but never for a full on chop-and-slice conversion.

What's the most expensive model you've ever sliced to pieces? Were you hesitant about it, or were you confident enough in your abilities to fix any mistakes?



Checking In

It's been some time since my last posting, so I figured it was time to check in with an update and some random thoughts.

I took the last week off work (hooray for paid vacation days), but didn't paint a whole lot. I had a lot of home improvement projects to do (and still do, nothing takes the time you'll think it'll take). I only found a few spare moments here and there to pick away at things. I primed the Standard Bearer, but not his banner. It's separate from the pole for painting. I also finished painting blue on the siege shield of my Vindicator (also separate from the parent model for painting). No picture, as I figure no one really needs or wants to see a siege shield painted plain blue.

I can't decide if I should finish the rest of the dozer in metallic colors before masking off the angled stripe I plan to airbrush across the front, or if I should airbrush the stripe and then finish the metals. It probably doesn't make much difference, as the stripe won't cross the metal areas.

I've selected some preliminary parts for the fourth member of the squad, who is the anti-armor and demolitions expert. I chose one of the armored torsos from the Forgeworld Mk4 Power Weapons Set, basic legs (no need for a tabard under all that plating), and haven't picked a helmet yet. FW parts are always ever so slightly smaller than GW plastics, so some heads look odd on the torso I picked. I thought about the grilled helmet from the VenDread kit, but it looks hilarious when test fitted in place.
For armament, I'm torn. I'm trying to keep every member of the squad at no more than 15 points of upgrades. Command Squad members start with a bolt pistol and a boltgun. They can buy pretty much any of the upgrade options (ranged, melee, special) and various other items. Because this guy is a demo/tank expert, he'll get meltabombs alongside his grenades. The meltabombs from the kit I linked above are about half the size of regular GW plastic bombs, so they can be fitted to a Marine's belt, pack, or thigh plates.
The sticky part are his guns. All Marine Veterans get two base attacks in their profile. You can bump them to three if you trade the bolter for a melee weapon while retaining the pistol. But this Marine isn't a melee fighter, so he won't get a melee upgrade. My decision comes down to: meltagun and bolter, or combimelta and bolt pistol? Both the combimelta and the meltagun are the same points cost.
If I take a pistol and combi, I'll get only one shot with the melta but also have the bolter to fire the rest of the time, as well as a pistol shot before a charge. It's simple to model and a pretty standard choice. However, if I take the meltagun and bolter I can fire as many melta shots as I like, and still have the bolter when other things are out of range or are less than ideal targets (you don't shoot melta at Gaunts and Orks). I won' tneed the pistol before a charge, because a meltagun is Assault 1. Modeling the bolter and the meltagun in a somewhat realistic way will be tougher. I will have to sling one or the other weapon over his back or under his backpack, or try to clamp the bolter to his leg. Unfortunately, there are no smaller bolters in any kit, and slinging weapons has always been a modeling challenge.

The fifth member of the squad is one I've not assembled parts for, though I did pickup some parts I might use. I got a handful of what I'm told are old upgrade torsos for Fabius Bile enhanced Marines. They look suitably bionic/augmetic for my purposes of building a squad member who's almost entirely rebuilt with bionics because he takes a lot of bullets for the Apothecary. The general plan is to use the half-bionic sergeant head from one of the older Marine kits, one of those Bile torsos, and then either buy or build bionic arms and legs. GW makes the Iron hands upgrade kit (though its in Finecast now), and Kromlech also makes some interesting bionic legs but no arms. I haven't picked armament for him yet, but I'm leaning towards something cheap like a stormbolter and a chainsword, because he'll be taking Look Out Sir rolls for the Apothecary a lot.

After all of that, I'm still working and planning some Allied units. Raven Guard are still in the works, but I'm also looking sidelong at Grey Knights. I own a 5-man unit of the old metal Terminators, and a Captain Stern model who can be just about any of the HQ models in TDA. I'd originally wanted to add them to add some Sanctic and anti-Daemon ability into my force, but the new codex looks really interesting. Not over the top like its prior incarnation, and much more streamlined.
There's also the upcoming Officio Assassinorum dataslate to think about. The one thing I hated about prior incarnations of Assassins was that you had to spend points on an HQ and Troops to get access to one. I'm definitely going to look at the dataslate when it's available, as I've always wanted to put an Eversor or a Culexis on the table.