Bolt from the Blue

I recently posted about my Lightning Division’s ill-fated debut on the tabletop and their defeat at the hands of the Zaporoskiye Regiment. Regardless of their performance (and believe me, they’re out for revenge) they look striking in their blue/grey/yellow camouflage, so I thought it was time for a photo parade now that the wrecks have been recovered from the battlefield, the damage repaired and the shell marks polished out.

The two detachments, one tank and one infantry, each consist of ten TUs (tactical units – a vehicle or an infantry team), totalling fifteen vehicles and five infantry teams. I actually painted sixteen vehicles so that I had the option of either a mortar jeep or tracked mortar carrier in the infantry detachment.

The LD vehicles are mostly blowers, or high-powered hovercraft. They’re relatively easy to assemble with few parts – the crew cars just have a rear hatch and two small turrets to be attached to the resin hull. I added plenty of stowage, including some of our etched-brass turret baskets.

The next step was a grey basecoat using Halfords automotive primer from a spray can, which would also serve as the first of the three camouflage colours. Once this has dried I drybrushed the vehicles all over with Citadel Longbeard Grey.

The camouflage colours were laid down with an airbrush – Vallejo French Blue followed by Tamiya XF-4 Yellow-Green. I drybrushed the camouflage stripes, again with Citadel dry paints – Skunk Blue and Hexos Palesun respectively. At this point the vehicles look fairly bright, but this would be dulled down in a bit.

I spent a while picking out details – stowage, sensor blisters and lenses, gun barrels etc in various colours, including some shading and highlighting. One blower hull had a slight mis-cast at the rear (I filed it in the ‘not good enough for resale, but too good to just throw away’ category) which I tried to make look like battle damage with rust and silver wear marks. The next stage was an overall coat of Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade, which is a stain-like varnish that dries to a glossy and very tough finish.

I added some Lightning Division decals from our range (which will be available again soon, promise!) which go nicely over the glossy finish of the quickshade. I then varnished them with Tamiya Flat Clear from my airbrush, at which point disaster struck…

A slightly damp day resulted in every wargamer’s nightmare, varnish fogging, with my Lightning Division looking like they’d driven through a snowstorm. The temptation at this point was to launch them into the bin, but I needed them on table the following week! So I launched instead into an emergency repair programme to try and sort out the fogging. I started by putting an abrasive polishing bit in my mini-drill and gently tried to buff away the affected areas. The Tamiya coat was very thin while the underlying Army Painter is pretty tough, so I was hoping to be able to remove one without damaging the other. By and large this was successful, although there were one or two places where I wore away the paint and went through to the base resin or metal – and of course my decals were utterly destroyed by this process. The abrasive head couldn’t reach into corners or panel lines either, so I needed a different solution for those areas. I had to repaint some damaged and very badly fogged areas – bits of camouflage, gun barrels, sensor blisters – and I then used a wash of Citadel Agrax Earthshade which filled in any panel lines that were still white. The overall results weren’t perfect, but a thousand times better than they might have been. They were at least in a usable state and could make their combat debut.

After the game I went back and reapplied a new batch of decals, and a fresh coat of varnish – fortunately trouble-free this time – and finally I could declare them finished.

Medieval Metropolis

Australian customer Pas recently sent us some great photos of his two 2mm scale projects recently. The first is his Roman walled town which we featured yesterday, and the second is a European walled town. Over to Pas…

Attached is my new town using only your models : Roman fort with left over sections from Hadrian’s Wall, 2 packs of English village houses, English town shops, English detached houses, English civic buildings, Normandy village (except for 4 houses which I added to my Roman town) and Normandy Churches.

I made the trees from a pack of 4 3” trees purchased from a Hobby store and cut up to make small trees.

City of the Caesars

A while back we featured pictures of a superb 2mm Roman town by Australian customer Pas Capetta. He’s recently sent us updated photos including some of our new items such as the Roman Arches and Obelisks, so without further ado, here they are…

Getting Inked

When we recently released the new counter sets for Imperial Skies, I mentioned that I’d post about a simple method for colouring in the etched markings on those and the turn rulers. This technique was passed on to me by James at Beadspoke Designs, who do the acrylic cutting for us – I take no credit for it.

What I’ll do is take you through the marking of a turn ruler step-by-step. You’ll need the following items: your turn ruler, a POSCA acrylic paint pen (or similar) and (wait for it) a wooden clothes peg. POSCA pens can be bought in the UK in hobbycraft and other art shops, although mine came from eBay (I bought several sizes as I wasn’t sure what I would need). They aren’t expensive – I bought four for a tenner or so. You can choose your colour – I went for white on an orange set of rulers, but yellow would work just as well. Make sure you have a work surface that doesn’t matter if you get some paint on it – the pens can spatter splightly.

Peel off the backing sheet from the turn ruler (if it’s still on there) and then make sure it has no traces of finger grease or other contaminants. I gave it a quick clean with a kitchen wet-wipe, then dried it on kitchen roll.

Once it’s dry, give the pen a thorough shake, then test it on some scrap paper or card to make sure the paint is flowing. Then carefully ink in the ruler ID letter, the numbers and the lines that mark each point of movement. The lines may take a bit more effort to fill in as they’re etched a bit deeper. You should find that the paint adheres well to the rougher surface of the etched areas. You don’t need to be super-neat, but ensure that the etched areas are fully covered in paint, even if you go over the edges a bit – we’ll tidy this up later.

Now leave this for a few minutes until the paint is touch dry. In the meantime, dismantle your clothes peg – a quick twist will separate the two halves, and the spring can go in the recycling.

Once the paint is dry, we get on to the clever bit. Using the end of one half of the clothes peg, carefully rub away any paint that has gone over the edges of the etched areas. The soft wood won’t mark the shiny surface of the plastic but will remove any overspill, and the paint should stay in the recessed areas. If you get this right, you should be left with a neat set of etched markings on your turn ruler. If it isn’t quite perfect, just repaint and repeat.

It’s not a long process – I did a full set of five turn rulers in an hour, which included taking the photos and writing this up !

Do You Want Fries with That?

Last weekend I finally managed to try out Rogue Stars, Osprey Publishing’s SF skirmish ruleset (well, they’re a sort of RPG-lite with squads of five characters who can progress between missions). I played a couple of games with fellow members of Maidstone Wargames Society using various 15mm figures (the rules are intended for 28mm but we kept the same distances and ranges but just used smaller figures and scenery).

I managed to find time to make a new piece of scenery for the game – a fast food restaurant built from one of our Advanced Buildings. I used a piece of 3mm acrylic sheet as the base (I have a distrust of plywood, MDF and hardboard as they all seem to warp when painted) – I found a load of largish scrap pieces in a skip near the workshop a while back, offcuts left there by one of the other businesses on the farm where we’re based. This was cut to shape then the surface sanded to provide a key for painting. I had a self-adhesive model railway car park (from a German company called Busch) which I stuck on the acrylic to make a customer parking area, put an offcut of roadway at one end for the entrance and then textured the edges using brown acrylic caulk and sand. The building was painted in the red and white colours of the fast food establishment, and I added an awning over the door made from the splinter screen of a Mantra combat car supported by two of the triangular girder structures from our 2mm Airship Shed. The cunning part was the restaurant’s name and logo, which came from a very old branded plastic coffee stirrer which I’d been hoarding for just such a purpose since the early 1990s! Sadly, although I thought I had several of these I could only find the one.

I used our 15mm Street Furniture set to provide entrance billboards, flower planters around the car park, an automated order point and several sets of seating. The tables were made from scribed plastic card supported by the legs of the aforementioned Mantra’s splinter screen. Two large rubbish bins came from our Skips and Bins set (one blue for normal rubbish, and a green one for recyclables).

The finishing touches were provided by assorted flock and vegetation (Games Workshop and Woodland Scenics) and some signs and posters printed off onto sticky labels.

Building a City

Our newly released City Block buildings from the Small Scale Scenery range seem to have struck a chord with many people. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’re able to do with the models – especially the one customer who bought over forty sets!

In the meantime, here are a few I made earlier. I based them on two sandwiched rectangles of plasticard, one 5mm larger than the other, to create a road and pavement around each block. In the central courtyards I added flock, trees and bushes, and in one case a car park. Next to one block I created a park with a statue made from a 6mm figure on a plinth of square plastic rod.

The paint job is quite simple – a grey basecoat followed by a lighter drybrush then a black wash. The roofs are terracotta red with a brown wash. I didn’t attempt to paint the windows, there are literally thousands of them, I just let the wash pick them out.

The idea is that the blocks can be rearranged into different layouts, and I can also add further blocks with parks, churches, shopping areas etc on the same footprint.

Soviet Colours

I’ve recently been putting together a small force of our new Neo-Soviet tanks (and some of the older ones as well). Up ’til now I’ve only been able to paint a sample of each model for the website and display stand, so I was looking forward to assembling a larger army and getting them on table.

Altogether I’ve started with a dozen vehicles (you might spot more than that in the photos – I painted two extra assault guns to use on the stand at the same time). My force consists of three Bars tanks, two Vombats, two Terminators, one each of the new assault guns and a recce section of one Rosomakha and two Laska tankettes.

I’ve based the camouflage scheme on the sample models I painted before Salute, using the excellent Anarchy Models airbrush stencils, but with a slight difference. Whereas my first models had a three colour scheme with two layers of stencils, the main force was painted with a two-colour grey-green utilising the Mini Digi Camo sheet (basically lots of tiny squares arranged in random patterns). This was simply to save time, as two layers of stencils on a dozen vehicles would have taken ages.

I won’t go through the full step-by-step process this time – you can read my previous article for that. However, as a quick summary, the process was:

  • Spray with grey automotive primer (Halfords)
  • Drybrush primer light grey
  • Apply stencils
  • Airbrush Vallejo Russian green over entire vehicle
  • Drybrush whole vehicle light green
  • Remove stencils (be thorough here – it’s easy to lose some of the stencils)
  • Touch up any areas where the stencils have pulled up the primer or green has leaked under the stencils with a small brush
  • Brush paint in remaining details – guns, crew, stowage, tracks, lights, sensor lenses
  • Brush coat entire vehicle in Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade
  • Leave 24 hours (minimum) to dry
  • Apply decals – the glossy Quickshade is deal for this
  • Airbrush acrylic matt varnish (Tamiya Flat Clear) – DO NOT use Army Painter’s own aerosol varnish, it reacts with the Quickshade and will ruin your hard work

This is the first half of my army – the next stage will be the infantry and APCs (if you’ve read this month’s Miniature Wargames, you might have seen a preview…).

2mm Wonders

One of the best things about selling our models is seeing what people do with them, the way they’re painted and used in either games or modelling projects. We’ve recently been sent some photos of two diverse scenic models made using our Small Scale Scenery range and we thought it would be great to show them off.

The first is a Roman town by Pas Capetta in Australia. He’s used a combination of our Roman buildings (metal and resin) and the Hadrian’s Wall and Roman Fort packs to create a superb walled town. They’ve been coloured using artists paint markers rather than conventional brush paints, and some of the trees are rather cleverly made from offcuts of an artificial Christmas tree.

Ian Maun on the other hand is putting together a large English coastal diorama, starting with the town of Market Hampton, which will sit slightly inland from the harbour. The whole piece is being made in sections which should all eventually fit together to form a single large terrain area. In case anyone was wondering, the castle isn’t ours – it’s from Langton Miniatures.

Anarchy in the UK

In preparation for the release of our new 15mm Neo-Soviet tanks, the Vombat and the Bars, I wanted to paint up some samples for the website. Inspired by an article written by the editor in the February issue of Miniature Wargames I thought I might try out the airbrush stencils made by Anarchy Models. I came across them at Salute last year and picked up a leaflet, but hadn’t got round to ordering any. I decided, perhaps over-ambitiously (you decide), to go for a three-colour ‘urban’ camouflage scheme using the Digi Camo stencil set. An A4 sheet cost £8.99 with postage at a fixed £2.50, so at the same time I ordered some other sets (which I’m sure will be appearing in future painting blog posts).

The painting process was done over several days, indoors and out and in different lighting conditions, so you’ll find the photos vary in colour and lighting (and quality – a couple aren’t as well focused as I would like). I tend to take photos of step-by-step articles like this on my smartphone, rather than having the proper camera setup on the tripod – it just gets in the way.

Assembly is straightforward enough – the hull of each tank is in three resin parts (hull and two track units), with a metal turret and main gun, two-part secondary gatling and hatches. After assembly with superglue I gave them a coat of Halfords grey primer which was also to act as one of the three colours in the camouflage scheme. I had decided to drybrush each colour as I went along rather than attempting to highlight each colour at the end, so the first highlight stage was a drybrush of Citadel Longbeard Grey over the whole model – drybrushing works very well on the hard-edged panels of the tanks.

So now it’s time to apply the first set of stencils. They come as a single self-adhesive sheet which has been rather cleverly pre-cut into multiple small pieces. The Digi Camo scheme utilises lots of little squares joined together into panels of varying size. They come off the sheet by bending the backing paper and peeling them off, just like a sticky label. I used to point of a scalpel to position them on the model then pushed them down with a finger. I tried to align them with the model, rather than laying them down at random angles. I found that it was possible to make them stick when bent round corners, as long as it wasn’t too sharp an angle. I also had to remember that this was just the first layer of camouflage, so I had to think ahead about where the next layer was going to be positioned and leave spaces. You can just about see the stencils stuck on the models on the image below.

The first airbrush coat (the second camo’ colour) was a Vallejo paint, Desert Sand, which went all over the model. Once dry, everything was drybrushed with Citadel Dry Terminatus Stone (barely visible below, but it is there !)

I then started to put on the next layer of stencils. I hit two small snags – the first was that the stencils didn’t seem to want to adhere to the new layer of paint quite as well, so getting them to go round corners (such as the edge of the trackguards) became a problem. I have no idea why this was the case, but I simply tried to place them on flat areas and avoided the issue. The second, much more minor point was that the pre-cut decal pieces were in many cases too large, especially for a 15mm model, but this was easily solved by cutting them into small pieces with a sharp scalpel and steel ruler. Again, they are just about visible in the picture below as darker areas.

So now it was time for the second airbrush layer, the top coat of Russian Green (appropriately enough). Once dry this was drybrushed with Citadel Dry Nurgling Green

So now for the exciting bit – removing the stencils. They came off using the tip of a scalpel, but unfortunately I managed to scratch the paintwork in one or two places, especially on the metal parts, so I’m wondering if there’s a better way. It also very annoyingly pulled up some of the paint, but only from metal areas – there was no problem on the ones stuck to resin surfaces. You can see in the photo below where the sides of the turrets have bare patches, and it happened on the Vombat’s rear ramp as well.

I had to go round and patch these areas by brush (Tamiya Light Grey is a reasonable match for the Halfords primer), and also tidy up one or two patches where the spray had leaked under the edges of the stencils – in places I obviously hadn’t pressed the stencils down firmly enough.

It was then a case of painting in details such as the crewman, tracks, gatling barrels, rear lights and so on. In case you’re wondering, the tanks are sitting on the grill from an old microwave – I use this when painting models all over in Army Painter Quickshade, if left on a normal flat surface they’d stick but the grill leaves little surface area for them to stick to – it’s also good for spraying on.

Decals (stars from Dom’s Decals, numbers from (I think) Flames of War WW2 Soviets) go on the Quickshade before the matt varnish – they adhere nicely to the shiny surface.

Then it’s an airbrush coat of Tamiya Flat Clear – as I try to mention every time I write one of these, I’ve had persistent problems with Army Painter’s own matt varnish over their dips – it blisters and crazes on flat surfaces, so I reserve it for models that haven’t been Quickshaded.

So that’s it. Despite a couple of minor problems (due mainly to user error rather than any technical problems with the product), I’m very happy with the result. I’m planning to do a full unit using the stencils, although I think I’ll probably only do a two-colour scheme for speed if I’m painting a dozen or more tanks.

2mm Terrain

We have a bit of small-scale eye candy this afternoon. Jonas Dahlberg has sent us some pictures of his impressive 2mm WW2 layouts, featuring the Battle of the Bulge, D-Day landings and a really nice pacific island – I especially love the snow-covered industrial zone. Enjoy !