Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Star Wars BB-8 & R2-D2 - Bandai 1/12 Scale Model Kit [Unboxing and Pre-Assembly Review]

Known for its impressive details, the Bandai Star Wars product line did not disappoint in this regard when producing the BB-8 and R2-D2 model kits. Strangely enough, despite being a fan since the very beginning I've never owned any of collectible of the franchise's most iconic droids i.e. R2-D2 and C-3PO (and now BB-8 for the younger generation). They were either badly detailed or when done well, extremely expensive. It has taken me 40 years to get my hands on a R2-D2 model that is both appropriately priced and detailed. Granted I'll have to assemble and paint him but that's just gives me better control over the final piece. And then there is BB-8 ... pure icing on the cake. 

Bandai 1/12 scale plastic model kits of BB-8 and R2-D2
Box art and photos found on the sides of the packaging

Photos on the sides of the box packaging give a hint of the tremendous potential inherent in both model kits. It's so detailed that Bandai has even included arm extensions for BB-8 (e.g. the mini-blow torch arm and slot for memory drive) and R2-D2 (e.g. the computer interface arm, grasping arm, power charge arm, lubricant application arm, scanner antenna, buzz-saw arm and extendible auxiliary visual imaging system). This allows for numerous pose variations for those seeking to build a diorama. For now, I'll build vanilla versions of both droids that excludes the arm extensions.  

Bandai BB-8 and R2-D2 assembly and decal instructions, front and back cover
Part of the Japanese instructions for BB-8 and ...
... R2-D2 (both of which can be reasonably translated using the Google Translate app)

Both droids come with 'colour-moulded' parts for those of you who do not want to go through the trouble of painting them. That is okay if you are fine with a plasticky toy-like look as your end result. However if you are looking for a more realistic finish there is no avoiding weathering/painting the parts or at the very least coat them with a layer of semi-gloss or flat clear coat. 

Sprue A: R2-D2's blue and gold bits plus his all important primary photoreceptor lens
Sprue B1: R2-D2's main body and appendages
Sprue C1: R2-D2's metal parts and mini-gadgets

I could go on and on about the movie-accurate parts but actually one minor detail is what truly made this model kit's potential come alive as it were, i.e. the tinted plastic photoreceptor lenses. Bandai's own little touch of genius goes to show they have put serious thought into handing modellers the necessary building blocks from which to create a movie-accurate mini version of the real thing.      

Sprue E: BB-8's core and metal parts
Sprue D: BB-8's orange and white body shell, base, photoreceptor lens as well as mini-gadgets
Sprue SWB3: Bases for both BB-8 and R2-D2
Stickers (left) and water decals (right) for both BB-8 and R2-D2

Once finished, BB-8 is heading for the missus's office cubicle while R2-D2 will likely be destined for my personal collection. My first Star Wars droids. Can't wait to get started.

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Hasbro Princess Leia [Repaint Completed]

Eyes are the scariest part of the miniature painting process. Hours of hard work can be rendered immaterial if one botched up the painting of the eyes. That I have stopped using any form of magnification for my miniature painting sessions didn't help. But despite that I managed a trio of firsts in the painting of a miniature's eyes: a proper lens highlight, bottom eyelids (through subtle shading of light and dark) and the medial canthus (the pink section on the inside corner of both eyes).

Hasbro Princess Leia 3.75" action figure repaint project [Completed]
Reds of Leia's lips are vivid and bright mimicking the lipstick used by Fischer in A New Hope
Ironically though, I chose a more subtle eyebrow effect as seen in Empire Strikes Back 

I am not, however, under the impression that I have done all I can do in improving my techniques in painting the eye. Unfortunately the very things I believe I can improve on - the painting of a black pupil within a coloured iris (or at least the optical illusion of one) and the painting of eyelashes - can only be done using some form of magnification. Some Japanese painters I admire use what looks like telescopic visors to magnify the miniatures. I can't find those yet and my naked eyes can't quite cut it.

Hasbro Leia scale comparison when viewed next to a paperclip and a five sen coin
Hasbro Leia before she was repainted (left) and then after the repaint job (right)

While the size of the Hasbro Princess Leia isn't as small as some of the miniatures I'm used to working with, it's still small enough to make painting a challenge, especially her facial features. Her diplomatic gown is fairly straightforward and was painted with strong contrasts between the shadows on the folds/creases and the highlights of exposed fabric - all done in the style of comic book art.

Hasbro Princess Leia 3.75" action figure repaint project [Completed; full view]
Pose results from the gluing together of both Leia's legs and some putty to smoothen out the joints
Hasbro Princess Leia repainted and viewed from her right side

To differentiate Leia's white diplomatic gown, I had actually painted her belt and boots in ivory (as seen in the photographic references of the book Star Wars Costumes). But because the whites were a combination of beige, grey, ivory and white, the contrast achieved between her gown and belt/boots turned out to be too subtle and insignificant as to be unnoticeable in the photos shown here.

Contrast between shadows and highlights on Leia's diplomatic gown were high, in the style of a comic book
Leia's diplomatic gown had a lot of folds and creases on the back hence more shadows
Leia's hair was painted a dark reddish brown, made to look a lot darker by the black background

For a first attempt at repainting an action figure, I find myself pretty happy with the overall result. Sure I could've done better transitions on her gown; gotten more detail on her eyes; etc, etc, etc. [Breaks into song ... Gettin' to know you, Gettin' to know all about you. Gettin' to like you, Gettin' to hope you like me ... but I digress. And unless you like musicals you won't know what just happened]. But I'm still proud of this little repaint job of Princess Leia. She now awaits Han Solo to join her.  

Hasbro Princess Leia repainted and viewed from her left side
Subtle difference exists between the whites of Leia's gown and the ivory of her belt and shoes

Before the two action figure lovebirds can get together on my display shelf, there are some Bandai droid projects I need to complete first. One of them is for the missus and the other is of the allegedly primary point-of-view character or story narrator in all the Star Wars movies. More on the cute duo in my upcoming blogs. Until then, I wish you a happy and productive week ahead.

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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Hasbro Princess Leia [WIP - General Skin Tone]

With the Lunar New Year celebrations ongoing, it's that time of the year where I get to spent precious "us-time" with my family. An eagerly awaited holiday period when each family member's free time falls in sync with one another. Of course, it goes without saying that I haven't had the opportunity to do much painting during this time. Nonetheless, I did do enough to finish painting Hasbro Princess Leia's general skin tone as you can see below. A key step towards completing this repaint project. 

Hasbro Princess Leia repaint work-in-progress - general skin tone
General skin tones aside, Leia's facial features has yet to take shape ...
... as her lips, eyes and cheek blush needs to be painted on

Each and every attempt at painting skin tone has resulted in a better understanding of how acrylic paint can be manipulated to simulate skin. For me at least this has been the case. What I've learned is no amount of how-to videos or tutorial blogs can ultimately be of help unless you practice ... a lot. Pretty obvious one would think but harder to put into action especially if you procrastinate like me.

Of all Hasbro Princess Leia's features, her hands lack the most detail ...
... making it the hardest parts to paint well

This repaint project is turning out to be a tough challenge because of the very simplicity of the Hasbro Leia action figure. With just a simple white gown, skin and hair forming the main attributes of this figurine, there's simply no place to hide when you don't paint well. It's definitely the scariest project I've attempted so far. Chances of crashing and burning are ridiculously high.    

Hasbro Princess Leia is all set for her final makeover

In addition to Hasbro Leia's general skin tone, I also touched up the whites of her diplomatic gown. Just a bit here and there to smoothen out transitions. All done in final preparation before Leia's facial features - eyes, cheek blush, lips - are painted in. And then she will be finished ... by the next post.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Hasbro Princess Leia [WIP - Hair Buns]

Just a quick update on my Hasbro 3.75" Princess Leia action figure repaint project; her famous hair buns are done. For an action figure, Leia's hair was surprisingly well sculpted and that aided me in painting in the necessary details in order to achieve volume and depth to the hair.   

Hasbro Princess Leia action figure repaint work-in-progress: Hair buns

In terms of colour scheme, Leia's hair buns had a tinge of reddish brown in them on top of a black brown base. Laying on streaks of bright highlight on a dark foundation gave the illusion of volume to the hair. Of course, this was aided by the fantastic details found on Hasbro Leia's head of hair.

Leia's hair colour comprised reddish brown highlights ...
... on a black brown base to accentuate volume

Finding an exact screen-accurate colour of Princess Leia's hair was never going to be possible. At times her hair took on a reddish orange tinge while in others it became golden brown. Differences were likely due to studio lighting as well as ambient stage lights. In the end, I saw more of the former in A New Hope so I went with a reddish brown colour scheme. In later movies, especially Empire Strikes Back, Leia's hair looked a more soft golden brown. As for Return of the Jedi, Leia's slave outfit was too garish and loud making her hair less noticeable ... all said tongue in cheek of course. 

Top view of Hasbro Leia's iconic hair buns
Main photographic reference used for the painting of Hasbro Leia's hair buns

As I post this short update on Hasbro Leia's hair buns, I'm actually very near to completing the painting of her general skin tone. After that it will be the most important part of the whole project i.e. the painting of her eyes, cheek blush, faint hint of eyebrows, eyeliner and lips. In short, the part that will either make or break the whole project. But I'm getting ahead of myself. There's the general skin tone to finish first. And I'm nearly there as I said. Until then, be well and be happy!

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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Hasbro Princess Leia [WIP - Diplomatic Gown]

Nondescript yet elegant in its simplicity. That about sums up Princess Leia Organa's iconic white robes aka diplomatic gown in Star Wars A New Hope. Painting whites can be tricky because using just pure white results in a flat look lacking depth and volume. As the diplomatic gown is a major part of this repaint project - forming almost 80% of the action figure - it's a no-brainer that a considerable amount of time had to be set aside for the task. In the end, I think it took me at least 12 to 15 hours to paint/blend the warm whites of Princess Leia's diplomatic gown that you see below.  

Hasbro Princess Leia action figure repaint - work-in-progress of the white diplomatic gown
Princess Leia's knee-high boots and belt were painted in ivory with silver adornments for the latter 

With Leia's skin tone and hair yet to be painted, the whites of the gown has the potential to look even whiter. Confused? Well, it's like this. The way we perceive a colour tends to change based on what hues are next to it. As the darker hair and skin tones are painted in, the gown will start to look whiter. An optical illusion if you will. This allowed me to concentrate on creating depth and volume using warm white hues without having to worry too much about how white the gown looked at this stage.  

Pure white actually formed only about 55% of the hues painted on Leia's gown
With so many fabric folds on the back, the shadows assume prominence at this angle

Only one reference source was used for the painting of Princess Leia's gown namely Titan Book's Star Wars Costumes. If you want to paint Star Wars characters be they miniatures or action figures then this books is a must-have. The photographs in this book give an excellent view of the costumes used in the original trilogy. Most importantly, they provide an accurate colour reference for painting. 

For something that looks so simple, white sure takes a long time to paint
Whiteness of the gown is relative to hues next to it, so expect the gown to look whiter as skin tone and hair are painted 

Leia's knee-high boots and belt differed from the gown in that they had warmer tones akin to ivory. The belt also had some adornments which were painted in metallic silver and given a black brownish wash. Subtle the boots and belt may be but the differences are there and as screen accurate as I could possible make it. Both too are differences only a Star Wars fan would care about.

Star Wars Costumes (Titan Books) - Princess Leia Diplomatic Gown

To paint the whites of this Hasbro 3.75" action figure, I used the Vallejo Model Color Black & White acrylic set. It's a wonderful set that is a must-have, especially if you want to make your whites (and blacks) pop! The set also comes with an extremely useful step-by-step  painting guide. I would highly recommend it for painters who want to recreate whites with more depth and volume.

Vallejo Model Color Black and White painting set

Now that the whites of Leia's gown is finished, next up will be her famous hair buns. Those should be fun to paint. Thank you dear readers for following my progress on Leia so far. See you again soon.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Hasbro Princess Leia [WIP - Prepping and priming]

My tribute to Carrie Fisher begins with the prepping and priming of Hasbro's Princess Leia 3.75 inch action figure. I'm getting her ready for a complete repaint from head to toe. It's a project that's a long time coming as I slowly summoned up the courage to 'butcher' an action figure of which there are precious few in my collection  They say you have to first destroy before you can create. Destroying is the easy part. That I can do. It's the creating part I'm worried about. Oh well, on with the project ...

Hasbro Princess Leia - Primed with Tamiya Fine Surfrace Primer (Light Grey)

Prepping Hasbro Leia consisted of two simple tasks. Firstly, I glued her legs together as well as the joints in her hip section. Why? To restrict any movement from the waist downwards as well as to give the illusion of a continuously flowing robe. The latter goal was improved upon by the second task which was the addition of green putty to any cracks which showed up after the gluing process. With both tasks completed, Princess Leia the-action-figure-turned-sculpture was now ready for priming.  

Prep work (front): Gluing and adding putty to ensure a less 'action figure-like' look
Prep work (back): Super glue was the adhesive used while Citadel's green putty helped fill up the holes  

Originally, the Hasbro Princess Leia 3.75 inch action figure already looks exceptionally good for an action figure. I'm not really a fan of action figures as they tend to look plasticky and toy-like. But this particular Princess Leia action figure had a very well sculpted robe, hair and facial features. To me, she had tremendous potential as a repainting project. One that I hope to realise in the coming days.

Hasbro Princess Leia 3.75 inch action figure, original condition (front views)
Hasbro Princess Leia 3.75 inch action figure, original condition (back views)

Prior to priming, I didn't remove the existing paint job of Hasbro Leia as I did previously with a Merida repaint project. Weighing the risk of damaging the existing details (by removing the exisitng paint job) versus possibly losing some details (by adding a primer coat and further paint layers), I settled upon the latter. It was less work anyway and I want to get Hasbro Leia painted as fast as I can.

Hasbro Princess Leia 3.75 inch action figure - prepped and primed (Front view)
Hasbro Princess Leia 3.75 inch action figure - prepped and primed (Back view)

There were things I wish I did differently for this stage of the painting process. Chief among them was having the patience to properly smooth out the roughness of the green putty fillings. That mistake was compounded by me laying on a heavier than intended layer of primer coating to compensate. Both were rookie mistakes that I knew were wrong the moment I did them. Yet I couldn't help myself and can only hope these errors don't come back to haunt me. Going forward, there are four main parts to paint - Leia's white robe, hair buns, skin tone and face. Her paint job begins with the white robes and that's up in my very next blog post. See you then!

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