Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Matt's Tutorial on Making Ancients and Cloaks

Hello Everyone [Matt here],

Dale was nice enough to invite me to submit a guest entry on his Wooden Warriors blog. I was more than happy to do so. At first he asked that I do a tutorial on how I make the cloaks for my ancients figures. I thought I would do that as well as highlight the general process I go through, from idea to production, for the wooden warriors that I do.

I have focused mainly on making figures for the ancients period, especially for the Greek, Macedonian, and Persian armies of the early and late Classical period. So I thought for this guest spot, it would be best to focus on my strength and do one of those figures.

I have been putting together armies for some games involving the Wars of the Successors that followed the death of Alexander the Great. One of the interesting troops that is mentioned as serving in several of the armies of the Successors are Lykian (sometimes spelled Lycian) infantry. I decided that I needed a unit of these fellows for my Antigonus army, so I committed to make at least one unit of these interesting soldiers.

Step 1: Finding an Illustration

The first step that I take when making a Wooden Warrior is always to find a good illustration. Osprey titles are usually a good way to go, but the illustration I found of a Lykian infantrymen is from classic book by Duncan Head, The Achaemenid Persian Army, is what I used. I have included a scan of the image below. He’s the fellow standing on the far left of the picture.

After finding a good image, I carefully look at it. With Wooden Warriors at the scale I am doing them (they are about 1" tall or roughly equivalent in height to a 25mm standard figure) it is best to focus on the two or three most defining features of the soldier on the Wooden Warrior. You cannot get all the details onto the figure, so it is best to include those that will have people saying, "hey, that’s a ______" when they see your Wooden Warriors on the table at a convention. For the Lykian infantrymen, the cloak, shield, and leg covering, along with the lack of a helmet, are the most defining features. These are easy to do on a Wooden Warrior except for the leg covering. As you’ll see later, I had to compromise a bit.

Step 2: Construction

The next step is to actually make the Wooden Warrior. Although it would seem that the most important step is painting it, the actual construction is a very important step. There are many possible combinations of caps, spools, and other wooden pieces that can be used to create a Wooden Warrior, and not all of these combinations will represent the actual soldier equally well.

I like the look of a "squatting" heavy infantrymen at the ready, so I use a single 5/8" by 1/2" spool as the upper and lower body of the soldier. For the head, given that the Lykian in the illustration is shown without a helmet, I chose to use a 1/2" end cap. I glue the end cap onto the spool first, and then glue the arms on after the cap has dried.

For arms I use the tips of a 1/8" tile spacer. You can get four arms per tile spacer, so it is pretty inexpensive. The flat side of the spacer is good for the end of the arm where the hand will be. The rounded side of the spacer makes a good shoulder or elbow.

I vary the position of the arms to give the unit visual interest. Do not worry too much about the position of the shield arm as it will be covered up by a large hoplon-like shield in the finished picture.

The final version of the figure will have a spear made from a round toothpick and a hoplon-like shield, made from a scrapbooking brad. Also a cloak made of felt will round out the figure. However, it is easier to paint the figure completely and then add these details at the end. It’s not easy to see in the picture to the left but the flat sides of the tile spacer arms are towards you.

Step 3: Painting

I generally paint all the base colors onto the figure, and then go back and paint them all again. The first benefit of two coats is that the wood will absorb the paint of the first coat quite readily. While this is great as far as making it hard for you to chip the paint job on your figure, this also makes the paint color look faded and irregular. The second benefit that painting two coats gives you is it allows you to neaten up the lines between the colors, making them crisp and distinct.

The picture below is of a figure on the left that has two coats and one on the right that has one coat. It is easy to se the benefit as far as color brightness and consistency that two coats gives over one. This seems like it would add a lot of time to doing the figure, but it really doesn’t and it greatly improves the overall look of the figure at the end, so it is a step that is definitely worth it in my opinion.

When doing Wooden Warriors at this scale the more simple you can make the paint job the better. As you can see I do one color for the flesh tones, one color for the tunic, etc. Below is a picture of the final painting of the figures flesh and clothing. As you can see I added a feature at the bottom to represent the interesting leg covering the Lykian is portrayed as wearing in the illustration.

Eyes and hair are very simple and added later. I only paint the eyes once, but the hair I paint twice just like the other parts of the figure. The type and size of eyes is very much left up to you as some people like a larger eye while others like a smaller one. Taste in hair is also very individual but I do recommend with this figure since the beard is such a prominent part of it that it take up a large area on the figure. As can be seen in the picture below I carried the painting of the beard down onto the spool itself to give it prominence. I would also paint a belt onto the figure at this point if you plan on the figure having one. The painting phase is more or less finished at this point. I added some "fingers" by using a lighter flesh tone on the hand holding the shield as well.

Step 4: Making the Cloak

Waiting to glue the spear and the shield on until the last step is a good idea because if you do not do this, adding in the cloak will be unnecessarily challenging.

The method I use to make a cloak is very simple. To get a good mental picture of what I am trying to do, I always think of the cloak as having a middle section and two "wings" corresponding to the arms of the figure. The middle section is sort of the back drop and the wings overlap the middle section. This gives the cloak a look of depth.

The middle section is a simple square or rectangular piece of felt. The wings are actually made with one piece of felt cut into roughly a "U" shape. The bend in the "U" goes around the neck of the figure and the two "tails" of the "U" fall over the arms and down the back of the figure.

The first step in making the cloak is to glue the middle section to the figure. I do not have precise measurements for this and in fact sometimes go back and trim the cloak after I’ve glued it to the figure. For the Lykians, I decided that I wanted the cloak to be not quite to the bottom of the figure. The width of the middle section is somewhat more specific. It should be the same width as the area on the back of the figure between the arms. If you do make a mistake in width of the middle piece, it is better to be too wide than too narrow as a "bubble" in the middle section will not interfere with the appearance of the finished cloak and, in some cases, can actually give it a little more character.

The picture below is of one of the Lykian figures with the middle section of the cloak glued into place. I use a superglue to glue the cloak to the figure because it needs to dry quickly in place. I put a dot on the spool where it meets each arm and a dot in the middle of the spool and press the felt into place.

Making the middle section of the cloak is very easy. The trickier part is the "U" shaped piece that will be the front and wings of the cloak.

The picture below takes you through the three-step process in making this second piece of the cloak. Begin with a rectangular piece of felt that is roughly the same width as the figure is from arm to arm, and long enough so that it will go from under the "neck" of the figure over the arms and down the back. Again, I do not measure this exactly. Instead I make it a little too long and then once I glue it to the figure I trim it to fit.

After you have the rectangular piece in hand, start in the middle of what will be the back or bottom of the cloak. Cut a teardrop shape out of the rectangular piece. Alternatively you could literally cut a "U" instead, but I like the angle created at the back of the cloak if a teardrop shape is cut rather than a simple linear "U" shape.

After the teardrop shape has been cut and removed, go back and trim off the squared edges, making them round. As a visual aid, in the picture the top part of the piece will be under the face and across the shoulders of the figure, so you want this to be as rounded and as thin as possible. Be careful: craft felt can be much weaker than it looks and if you cut it too thin it will tear in half.

Now that the second piece of felt has been cut you can glue it to the figure. Put a drop of superglue on the front of the figure where the spool sticks out but not all the way up on the face of the figure. Carefully place the second piece of felt so that the middle of the rounded part of the "U" shape is on the glue. Push down on the felt where it meets the glue so that it is glued flat onto the figure rather than having it stick straight out. Take a look at the first picture below to see what I mean. The rounded part of the felt lays down flat and looks like it is under his chin.

Once the glue dries put a drop of glue on one of the shoulders of the figure. Pull the wing of the felt piece fairly tightly over the shoulder of the figure on that side and push down on the felt where the glue is. Do not pull too firmly, though, or you will tear the felt. In the next picture below you can see what I mean. The cloak looks like it is resting on the figures left shoulder. You can also see in this picture that I scraped some of the paint off the arm on this side. That is so the shield will more permanently glue to the figure when I get to that step. When the glue dries repeat this step for the other shoulder of the figure.

Finally it’s time to glue the ends of each of the wings to the middle section of the cloak. In the next picture below you can see what I meant before about how cutting a teardrop shape rather than a simple "U" shape creates a more visually interesting back to the cloak. Put a drop of glue on the middle part of the cloak on one side and pull the wing section on that side done and touch it to the superglue. Do the same thing for the other side. Once it dries, if you think the cloak is too long it is very easy to trim it if need be.

Step 5: Accessories and Weapons

The final step is to glue the shield and spear onto the figure. I suggest you glue the shield on first.

The shield that I use is actually a brad. You can get one at a scrapbooking store. They are used to hold pieces of paper together, so they have these flexible sharp-ended arms on each side of the piece that will serve as the shield. See the picture below.

These arms are very easy to remove. I use a pair of needle nose pliers and grab each of the arms at the point where it meets the round part of the brad and bend it back and forth until it breaks off. On the larger brads like this one, though, you can actually use your fingers. The brad on the left in the picture still has its arms. The brad on the right has had its arms removed by the above method.

Just put a drop of superglue on the part of the left arm of the figure where either you did not put any paint or you scraped off any paint that got onto the figure. The brad will join very well to the naked Teflon of the tile spacer arm. It will also glue onto paint, but the paint readily breaks away from the tile spacer arm if any pressure is put on the shield. So it is best to have no paint on the area of the arm where the shield is attached via the superglue.

For the spear, take a regular round toothpick and cut it in half giving you two spears. Take one of them and trim the end that is not pointy so make the spear as long as you want. For hoplites, I usually don’t alter the length at all. But for javelins and the shorter spears like those carried by the Lykians I shorten them a bit. Paint the spear and then put a drop of regular white or other slow drying glue to the squared end of the other arm and put the spear into place.

Once the glue dries take your flesh color and paint over the spear roughly where the figure’s hand would be. This will give the appearance that the figure is holding the spear. You can even use a lighter flesh tone and paint fingers on after the flesh tone has dried. You can see this in the pictures below.

The picture below is an "action shot" of my completed unit of Lykian heavy infantry, ready to fight for Antigonus. Compare them to the scan from Duncan Head’s book that I included below. You be the judge!

[Dale here]

Thanks Matt for that great tutorial. If there is anyone else out there that would like to submit a tutorial for publication on this blog, please let me know through email or through comments to the blog. I like to focus on soldiers made from wood, but will consider any Do-It-Yourself material or method.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tutorial on Painting the French Ligne - Part 4

Now it is time to start working on the face and hair. After that is complete, I will do the hats (shakos and bearskins) and muskets then do the final touches.

First, don't limit yourself to a single flesh color. Games Workshop has at least four different ones and I am sure that Foundry and Reaper have more. I also found a very pale pink flesh called "Santa's Flesh" which really looks nice.

Start by painting the head a solid flesh color. I gave the fusiliers a mix, while the grenadiers tended towards the paler colors (taller northern stock) and the voltigeurs tended towards the darker colors (more tanned and shorter southern stock).

With the blank head done you can now work on the face. I find it easier to draw it on with a pen and then use paint to fill in the areas. At this point I only draw the outline of the ear and where the hair line is.

Again, as with the uniform, don't draw little clones. Making them exactly the same is next to impossible anyway, so use that to your benefit and make them different. Look at hair styles, ear shapes and so on.

As you can see with the above, I have a bald guy and one going balding. Part on the left; parts on the right; block cuts, waves. Go crazy with it. Once you are done with that, paint in the hair using every shade of hair color you have in your paint set.

We are making progress. Time to start working on the face (eyes and nose).

Tutorial on Painting the French Ligne - Part 3

When I left off I had a basic uniform for my figure, but still lacking detail, save for the cuffs and lapel piping. This is the point where you need to make some hard decisions. The more detail you paint, the longer it will take to get done. In this case you have details like:

  • Buttons on the lapels
  • Buttons on the turnbacks
  • Buttons on the cuff flaps
  • Pockets on the jacket (with its own piping, no less)
  • "Easy access" flap in the trousers
  • Cross-belts
  • Cartridge box
  • Backpack and/or blanket roll
  • Bayonet sheath
  • Sword, scabbard, and sword knot (for NCOs, officers, and grenadiers)
The list goes on and on. I decided to add only three: the buttons on the cuff flaps, turnbacks, and lapels. For the buttons on the cuff flaps, I simply painted three mustard-yellow dots on the blue flap. The yellow on blue has enough contrast that you don't need any highlighting. The grenadier cuff flaps, however, are red, and the contrast of yellow on red is not as great. Nonetheless, I did not change how I painted them.

For the buttons on the turnbacks and lapels, it is mustard-yellow on white, so more contrast is needed. I used my Micron black pen and drew a small dot of black where the buttons should go before painting the mustard-yellow on top (leaving a little black showing). This gives a shadow effect.

Don't worry if you don't get it perfect. It will look fine at "arm's length" viewing distance. Some of my figures don't even have the same sized buttons or the same number. Trust me, it gives the figure character. : )

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tutorial on Painting the French Ligne - Part 2

I left off with the basic uniform drawn on the figure. Now it is time to paint the colors in.

I start with the lapels on the front. I paint a thick red line for the lapel piping trying to make the inside edge (towards the centerline) as straight as possible. I don't worry so much about the outer edge because, as you can see in the next picture, I "edge" the blue up to the red.

Edging is a big part of my painting style for these types of figures. Simply put, it is painting one color and then slowly and carefully edging another color up to it. This was the original color does not need to be a perfectly straight line. The second color must be done with care, but you can essentially paint thin straight lines using this method. Just lay down the second color is smaller strokes, taking your time.

Moving to the back side, do the same. Edge up the blue to the lines you've drawn defining where the coat is not turned back. Once you have completed the finer work, block paint the blue over the rest of the jacket and most of the arms.

Now that the basic coat is done, it is time to focus on the details: I will start with the cuffs. First, take you pencil and draw the line where the hand should be. The space between the hand and the blue in the jacket is the cuff.

Paint a white rectangle for the cuff flap. Don't worry about making it perfect as it is just to help the red show up. (Painting red over dark blue usually requires too many coats and it still looks purplish.) Next paint a red stripe at the top of the cuff flap and at the back. (The back of the cuff flap is the side towards the rear. The left side for the right hand and the right side for the left hand.) Again, don't worry about it being perfect, but make the top and back edges as straight as possible so you do not have to do any cleanup.

With the red piping painted, carefully paint two rectangles of red on the cuff as shown. Note that there is white piping at the top of the cuff and between the cuff and the flap. (I've never understood the latter piping, but it is what it is.) Be careful with your edges facing the white piping. Don't worry about slop down towards the hand.

Now paint the cuff flap blue. This is a very delicate operation as you are edging up to the red on top and to the back while edging up to the white to the front while keeping a basic rectangular shape. I use the Army Painter paint brush called Wargamer: Insane Detail. I really like that brush. (I also use the Hobby: Basecoating brush.)

With that done you can paint the flesh of the hand, edging up to the cuff and straightening the line. Finally, I take a little mustard yellow paint and put three dots on for the buttons on the cuff flaps.

Just a side note: I tend not to like metallic paints, preferring to paint using grays and yellow-browns for the silvers and golds.

Next, we convert all the remaining pencil lines to nice black lines. I use an Archival Ink pen by Pigma. This one is an 05 size (0.5mm), but I also use a 0.05mm pen. They are available in a variety of colors. Note that although they are water resistant, they are not proof against smudging and lots of liquid. It can be painted over with acrylics, but don't expect to do it in one coat; it will bleed slightly, especially to white.

Using the pen, draw the remaining lines out carefully. The only ones visible should be those separating white areas. Once you are done, don't forget to paint the collar red.

The final step in completing the basic uniform is to use you Insane brush and clean up. I did red, then white, and finally blue. At this point, you can add the buttons on the lapels and turnbacks. I'll leave that to next time (I didn't take the picture yet).

As you can see, we have a basic French line infantry uniform - one of the many variations - and we are now ready to start working on the faces.

Tutorial on Painting the French Ligne - Part 1

Finally, the tutorial on how to paint the French Ligne that I showed you how to build (starting here).

So, the previous blog entries left us off with a basic infantryman with feet and arms. Now we need to do a "painting conversion" and put in all of the details that make it into a French Napoleonic ligne (line) infantry unit.

We by painting the figure white. If you don't want to paint it completely white, just do it to the areas that need to be.

In order to paint the details freehand it is best to draw out where the major features will be. I use a simple mechanical pencil, but need to consider another source for the future, as the graphite tends to bleed through the light colored paint.

Start by drawing the centerline on the chest and trousers. Add a "V" to the top of the trouser line to represent the wrinkles in the fabric around the crotch. Do the same at the back of the figure for the trousers. The "V" represents the wrinkles in the fabric around the buttocks here. Make sure the centerlines front and back are on opposite sides as best as you can so the other details will be as symmetrical as possible.

Now we can start blocking out the detail on the jacket. I start with drawing a line where the bottom of the lapels will be. Next, I draw the lapels out as evenly as possible from the centerline I drew. Notice the lapels flare at the top.

With the basic front of the jacket done, we can work on the tails. See my earlier blog entry on uniform variations. This is just one type of jacket used by the French. In this case a closed lapel with no waistcoat and  longer tails with complete turnbacks.

Start by drawing an inverted "V" for the tails. Then round out the bottom where the tails end and sweep towards the front. There will be some distortion in the drawing due to the figure being perfectly round, rather than shaped like a normal human. Don't worry about it, it will look fine.

Now that we have the basic shape, we need to fill in the details for the actual turnbacks on the tails. I start by drawing two triangles. This is the area that is blue (the jacket color) where the jacket is not turned back. Next draw the lines defining where the jacket is turned back (second and third pictures below). I've shown two different version of turnbacks here. Don't worry about them being perfectly uniform. Different people are different sizes, plus refer back to my blog entry on uniform variation.

With the front and back done it is simply a matter of connecting the lines on the sides of the figure.

Now that we have the shapes drawn out it is time to start applying paint. That will be continued on the next blog entry.



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