A Blog about Wargames and wargamers. Discussion of rule sets, painting techniques, different models, figures, links to manufacturers, reviews of all of the above, and other gamer resources. Not all Gamers, not all modelers - a blend of both! You are at http://tabletopgamer.blogspot.com Your hosts are Bwana Bill, Krazy Keith, and Consul Scipio. Thank you for visiting our little slice of the World Wide Web!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Tools of the Trade – a Prelude to an Introduction to Painting

It was a very wise man who said, “Use the proper tool for the job.” Of course, he was most likely single and therefore able to buy those tools, without the oversight of CINCHouse (Commander in Chief House), which often results in conversations similar to the following:

Wargamer: “Oh!! I need this tool!!”

CINCHouse: “Why? You don’t use the tools you have.”

Wargamer: “I need this one for that special project!”

CINCHouse: “You haven’t finished the last (insert large number over 20 here) projects you’ve started. Finish those before you start a new one!”

Wargamer: ““But it’s on sale!”

CINCHouse: “And… this matters how? Buying another tool you’re not going to use, even if it’s on sale, is still a waste of money.”

And of course, in the end you don’t get the tool, try to make do with another tool you may have never used, and end up cutting off parts of the project, and perhaps your body, that you didn’t want to cut off.

In a perfect world, a guy could buy all the tools he needs to do the job right.

Since it’s far from a perfect world, we’ll make do with what we have, as best we can. However, there are some tools that, if you compromise quality, your project will suffer.

Paint brushes: This is the most important tool a wargamer will purchase. Skimping here WILL adversely affect the outcome of your figures.
Imagine having to pick hairs out of your paintjob as you go. This costs you in time taken to remedy a problem that could have been avoided, and costs you in a reduction in quality. Bad brushes make for bad paintjobs.

Be picky about your brushes. ‘Nuff said.

I use Reaper Brushes, almost exclusively. No, this is not an advertisement for Reaper – I just happen to like the brushes! They are good quality and are reasonably priced.

The average wargamer will need a broad range of sizes and shapes of brushes. For figures, you will need a very tiny brush to use for painting details, a medium brush for applying paint to small and medium areas, a larger brush for overall coverage of medium and large areas, and several sizes of stiff brushes for use in dry brushing.

For vehicles, I recommend the “Tank Brush” by Citadel. If you properly thin your paint, you can use the Tank Brush to paint a vehicle, without leaving brush marks, thus negating the need for expensive air brushes. (Not a knock against airbrushes!)

Soap, Water, and Paper Towels: No, I’m not going to tell you to wash behind your ears. Soap, water, and paper towels are essential items used to properly care for your brushes!

A bar of soap, such as Ivory or some other plain, square block of soap will work nicely. Any old dish will work to hold the water – just make sure it’s cleaned after each session, if possible – or soon thereafter!

The way this works is, you dip the brush in water and swish it around, then wipe it off on a paper towel. Then, after wetting the brush again, place it on the bar of soap and draw it towards you, rotating or spinning it slightly as you go. Then swish it around in the water and repeat until clean, periodically using paper towels to dry the brush off and remove excess paint-filled water.

Another technique, though perhaps not as economical, is to use surgical prep pads; cotton pads soaked with rubbing alcohol. These pads can be used in place of the soap to remove paint from a brush, or so I’ve been told!

It is critical to care for your brushes properly. Brushes will last longer, and be usable at a moment’s notice, if they are cleaned and stored carefully.

NEVER leave your brushes in the water dish for extended periods of time. Doing so will result in the paint being more difficult to remove, and the brush attaining a new, and likely undesirable, shape.

Artiste Palette: No, I’m not going all “artsy-fartsy” on you. A palette provides you with a place to thin or mix your paint, where it will not dry as fast or be absorbed. I use a glossy (that’s important!) square tile, such as is used for tiling floors or walls in bathrooms or kitchens. The glossy surface allows the paint to be mixed prior to use, and it cleans up easily. I use a putty knife and hot water to clean my palette when needed. There are other resources that can be used as a palette, such as a Styrofoam picnic plate – which, instead of cleaning, you simply throw it away.

Another, more environmentally friendly, item that works nicely is a Teflon painting mat. The one that I use, in addition to my "old style" ceramic tile, is called Slip Grip Mats. These mats are easily scraped clean after a painting session, and remain ready to use for some time to come! Bwana Bill bought some at a recent convention, and thinking of his old friend, decided to gift me one! I love it, and more importantly, my wife loves it too! That's especially important!

Water bowl: Folks, a word of warning here. Don’t use your nice china as a water dish for cleaning your brushes!! There are specially designed plastic dishes on the market that have a separator and places for brush storage. An inexpensive alternative is a “Cool Whip” bowl. I don’t recommend explaining to CINCHouse that you simply had to use the entire bowl of “Cool Whip” ‘cuz you needed the dish for your hobby. I can attest to the likelihood of this excuse resulting in a rough night in the doghouse.

Cleaning up: It is important to clean the water dish and palette regularly to avoid cross-color contamination and the introduction of dried paint chunks into your current project.

Clothes: If you own clothes that you would like to be able to wear in public, don’t wear them when painting. This does not mean that you should paint in the nude, but rather that you paint while wearing “scruffy” clothes, such as sweat pants and an older t-shirt. Even though many of the paints used today in the wargaming hobby are water soluble, they are readily absorbed by cloth, and are not easily removed.

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