Friday, February 10, 2012

[The Rogue Trader] Leveling up at painting Part 1 - Skool

You’ve been painting for a while, long enough to have graduated beyond techniques that involve dipping.  You have seen some phenomenal work on various websites and wonder why your stuff doesn’t look anything like that.  Well, what you need is some learnin’.  Hopefully that is something we can provide.  Sure, these posts aren’t going to magically turn you into a Golden Daemon winner.  (For more on that GO HERE).  Hopefully they will help you become a better painter by pointing out some of the things we commonly do wrong, and give ideas as to some new things you can try.

Something that will always help your painting is paying attention to others.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a friend with one technique they do better than you or a wandering painting master (we’re talking about you Mathieu Fontaine), you always have something to learn or try.  I'm lucky to have quite a few gamer friends who are better painters than me.  This gives me lots of opportunities to learn.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few painting master classes. The most recent have been classes presented by misterjustin of Secret Weapon and Mathieu Fontaine who is about as close as you can get to the painting equivalent of a Jedi Master (We thought Sith Lord to start with but he’s more like Yoda in a bad mood).  The class was two days (and 12 hours the first day) but you leave full of new ideas and things to practice.  It’s not possible to attend and not leave a better painter.

The class was well attended with 21 folks, a waiting list and some people who drove in over 7 hours to attend the class.  The class was in Sacramento, but we had attendees from San Francisco, San Jose, and even San Diego.  Basically we had the cities beginning with S part well covered.  Experience ranged from a couple of folks who had been painting less than a year to one person with a Silver Golden Daemon.  We even made the store staff get up early to let us in (it helps some were attending).  The class started at 9.00 both days.  Yeah 9.00 AM.  On a weekend. 

Mathieu started as a Magic player before moving to Brettonian Knights in WFB.  His first competition piece took over 250 hours.  And didn’t make the cut.  So while residing in the frozen northlands of Canadia he decided to learn how to do this properly.  And now was my  chance to learn some of that.

First thing I’ll say is that while I will pass on some of the stuff we learned here, it’ll be a small fraction of what you can learn in a class like this.  This is from my notes, but actually sitting there discussing, comparing, and getting hands on examples is way more useful and really makes things sink in.  Nothing helps you learn more than having Mathieu come round, look at your hard work and say “You know what would make that look a lot better, some SimpleGreen”.  I hope you can all take something away from these posts but the first thing is to try and find a class. See if you can get enough folks organized at your FLGS, call Mathieu and see if he’ll come teach a weekend class for you.  Most of the people in the class I attended agreed that doing the same class again in a year would be great.  That may be too much to hope for folks in smaller areas, but even then, arrange a painting evening with your friends, sit there and discuss what you are doing and why.

We started the class discussing a few basics. For one, there are big differences between tabletop and display painting.  This class was for display painting, and more specifically French style display painting.  Tabletop standard painting is done with different goals in mind.  Yeah you want nice looking minis, but you want 42 nice looking minis plus vehicles.  That means different methods unless you don’t plan on having your army finished until 2013.  The methods taught in the class still apply to tabletop, but you may only use them on character models or limited areas of each model. When painting a single character mini to display or competition standards you can expect to spend at least 20 hours.
French style, as opposed to English (or Games Workshop) style is more realistic with zenithal lighting.  Your aim with French style painting is to have a model that looks natural and normal (for an 8 foot tall chaos space marine).  The GW style tends to be more cartoony with bolder colors and transitions and more defined highlights.  Oh, and feel free to think of French style as Freedom style painting if you are a Republican and haven’t forgiven the France for the gulf war thing yet.  Mathieu is French Canadian though so that may confuse things more.
A lot of discussion went into paints.  This is for the most part opinion of course, but opinion that is based on a lot of experience and demonstrated knowledge.  Use Games Workshop paints for metallic and P3 paints for everything else. 
Oh wait, you want more detail?  The consensus was that P3 make the best paints (or Duplocolor as its apparently the same stuff) with GW a close second.  P3 use liquid pigments which make them more even and easy to control and blend.  When dry they have a slight satin sheen.  GW use dry pigments so don’t blend as well, but do make very high quality paints.  The best example here are the GW foundation paints which are very pigment rich but that means they dry quicker so are harder to blend with.  For the others, Vallejo were OK, just not as good as P3 or GW, Model Color have a huge range but are softer so wear off easier, and Reaper have poor quality control.
A couple of other thoughts for paint maintenance.  Don’t rehydrate your paints as it affects their quality.  Don’t use agitators as you end up mixing bad, settled out paint, back in.  If you switch to a wet palette or air brush you'll have the pots closed most of the time so this will be less of a problem.
The other big take away from the class are how to do a good job with wet blending and considerations on colors and shading.  Each of those is long enough that it will get its own post.

Hopefully this gave you a good start.  Basically, buy P3 paints and find a class and you will become more awesomer.



  1. I wish there was more event's like this on the east coast. Looks very cool.

  2. There is a degree of awesome in his blog that makes me want to cry. I only hope that through enough practice I will improve to half that standard!!!

    I'm looking forward to reading more about what you've learnt!