Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Star Wars AT-ST [WIP - Phase Tthree of the Hull, Drive Engine & Gyro System; Micro Paint Chips]

Painting micro paint chips has been one of the biggest tests of patience I've ever encountered in this hobby. While it's not as difficult as painting eyes on a miniature figurine, the task of micro paint chipping is extremely laborious in its own right due to the sheer amount of tiny chips of paint that needs to brushed onto a model kit of this scale. During this phase it was so easy to grow impatient, lose focus and start painting chips that were either too big in size or too few in quantity.        

Star Wars AT-ST work-in-progress: micro paint chipping

My reasoning for the existence of micro paint chips is based on what an AT-ST would face when trudging through the Forest Moon of Endor. Its hull would be constantly buffeted by tree branches which would eventually result in micro paint chips. To recreate this effect, I used a combination of Vallejo Model Color German Camouflage Black Brown acrylic paint and a 3/0 Kolinsky Sable brush. In my experience, the latter is an indispensable component of this technique. This is because only a brush that can hold a good point will be able to paint realistic looking micro paint chips. 

An essential tool in the micro paint chipping process i.e. a Kolinsky Sable brush

One should tread cautiously when attempting micro paint chipping on an operational vehicle, fictional or otherwise, so as to not overdo it. Location of the chips is also an important consideration. In the case of the AT-ST, chips were placed primarily on edges and on areas where rust stains were prominent. Another area where micro paint chips would exist is in between parts that rub against each other thus experiencing frictional force. That was the logic I used for micro paint chip placement.   

Micro paint chips on the most iconic and recognizable part of the AT-ST
Micro paint chips on the flat hull panels make for a more aesthetically realistic look
Weirdly enough, it was much easier to overdo the micro paint chipping on smaller parts
Back of the AT-ST received its fair share of micro paint chips to up the level of realism

Weathering for the AT-ST, at least from the mid-section upwards, is essentially complete. The rest of the Imperial scout walker namely its legs will be weathered in the mostly same way as the hull, drive engine and gyro system. But in addition to that, the walker's footpads will also receive mud weathering to complement the panel lining, washes, oil filters and micro paint chips.     

Drive engine of the AT-ST completed with the addition of micro paint chips
Bottom view of the AT-ST's drive engine aka mid-section
Rear view of the AT-ST's drive engine aka mid-section

Curved surfaces on the AT-ST namely the two round side panels on the upper hull and the gyro system received micro paint chips only on the outermost surface areas. This self-imposed condition is perhaps more relevant for the gyro system than the two round side panels as the latter is much flatter in shape. This exposes more of its surface area to stray branches in the Forest Moon of Endor.  

No edges on the gyro system but I figured there would still be micro paint chips on the outermost areas

Whereas micro paint chipping was kept minimal throughout the AT-ST, this restriction was eased somewhat for the hatch and the rim/hatch ring surrounding it. I theorized that an Imperial scout walker operating in a forest environment would constantly have its hatch open and closed thus causing paint to chip. Let me explain. Visibility through the small command viewports would be relatively poor in a thick forest environment. Moreover as far as I know there are no exterior cameras feeding visuals into the cockpit. Both factors combined would mean the AT-ST commander would've to repeatedly open the hatch and peek over the rim/hatch ring in order to gain better visibility.   

On the top section, paint chips were most prominent on the edges of the hatch ...
... as well as around the rim/hatch ring due to frictional forces caused by frequent opening and closing
On the bottom section of the AT-ST's upper hull, micro paint chipping was confined to sharp edges only

By the next post, the upper half of the AT-ST (right up to its mid-section) should already be fully assembled. For that to happen I also plan to finish assembling and painting the scout walker's weapons. Once that's done I'll put up the photos and a more recognizable AT-ST will start to take shape. No more boring work-in-progress bit part photos of separate pieces! Anyway, the week is just beginning so hang in there as the weekend is only three days away. Cheers!


Thursday, 17 May 2018

HQ12-02 Race Queen [WIP - Prep, Pinning & Priming]

HQ12-02 Race Queen aka the 1/12 scale resin figurine from atelier iT will have the dubious honor of being my first miniature figurine project to involve considerable use of an airbrush. As is always the case, before the Race Queen receives any paint she first has to undergo preparatory steps. What's different this time is the effort that went into the prep work. Usually all it took was just a quick wash of the resin miniature followed by removal of mould lines and ending with a coat of primer. Now however, I believe changes to the work flow are needed if I'm going to improve on final results.  

1/12 scale atelier iT Race Queen work-in-progress: final primer coat
First primer coat highlighted areas that still needed prep work

Changes to my work flow actually translated into the addition of two major steps to the preparatory process. Firstly to strengthen the bond between joints of separate parts, a 'resin pinning' step was put in. As can be seen in the immediate photos below, resin pinning essentially involves drilling holes into the parts to be attached and inserting a brass rod to strengthen the connection. This step becomes more essential the bigger the scale of the miniature figurine you're working with.

Pinning Step 01: drill holes into the center of the joints
Pinning Step 02: Insert brass tubes into the holes and cut them down to size
Pinning Step 03: Matching holes are drilled into leg parts that will be attached to the torso
Pinning allows the legs to be attached more securely to the torso
A misalignment caused the drill to pierce through the resin; seen here patched with green putty
Resin parts after the pinning process; seen here before the brass rods were cut down to size

In the other deviation from my usual practice, I undertook the mould line removal process twice. The first time the mould line was removed was before the initial primer coat while the second time occurred right after the initial primer coat. For this to work, the initial primer coat was applied lightly to highlight mould lines and other imperfections (e.g. holes in the resin miniature) I might've missed. After these issues had been fixed, the second and final primer coat was then applied.

First primer coating highlight areas which need further prep work such as the mould line above 
After sanding down the mould line, a second coat of primer was applied in preparation for painting

So the Race Queen is now fully primed, and ready to receive her first coat of paint. I plan to start with her skin tone using lacquer paints. And depending on the level of highlights, mid-tones and shadows I can achieve with an airbrush, her skin tone may or may not need additional work. If it does then there are three non-acrylic routes I can take namely oil paints, enamel paints or pastel shading. Why non-acrylic? Well it's because I don;t intend to use the same old same old techniques for painting flesh. I'm after the one which produces the most realistic skin effects and that requires experimentation.  

Front view of the Race Queen's torso, head and legs after the final primer coat
Back view of the Race Queen's torso, head and legs after the final primer coat
Both arms after the additional prep work and the final primer coat
View of both the Race Queen's arms from a slightly different angle

As with every project involving the first time use of a particular technique, there is every chance final results are going to be less than optimal. To minimize this, I'll be layering skin tone shadows, mid-tones and highlights onto some plastic spoons to get the hang of working with lacquer paints and an airbrush. Of course this is far from an ideal way to practice airbrushing lacquer paints due to the differences between the contours of a simple spoon versus the human body. However it's the most cost effective method of practicing I can think of. And it'll have to do. For now.

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Friday, 11 May 2018

Star Wars AT-ST [WIP - Phase Two of the Hull, Drive Engine & Gyro System; Oil Dot Filter Weathering]

As a work-in-progress update it's pretty hard to distinguish between Phase One and Phase Two of the weathering process. Firstly there the technical issue with photography which I'll get into in more detail later. And secondly there's the slightly overenthusiastic way I had approached Phase One which resulted in certain sections having a more pronounced rust stains than I had originally wanted. This had an undesired effect of rendering subsequent layers oil dot filter weathering to become almost imperceptible. But thankfully this only occurred in areas of the AT-ST with too much rust stains. 

Chromatic variation is most apparent in the AT-ST's gyro system ...
... but on the walker's side panels the rust stains seem to have overwhelmed all other filtered hues

Materials used for this weathering technique comprised oil paints from two brands namely Winsor & Newton and Abteilung 502 as well as Artists' White Spirit from the former. Differences between oil paints from the two brands, at least from what I've observed when working with them, is as follows:

   (a) It has been said that being Winsor & Newton's mid-range offering, the Winton oil colors have a lower pigment load/density compared with Abteilung 502 oils which were specially formulated for modelers. This seemed to be the case as the latter had better surface adhesion and didn't wash away so readily when blended with white spirit. In terms of pigment load/density, Abteilung 502 oils are allegedly closer to Winsor & Newton's premium range i.e. Artists' Oil Colour.
   (b) There was far less linseed oil medium in the Abteilung 502 oil paints compared with the Winton oil colors. As such, the former doesn't have to be placed as long on the cardboard palette during the linseed oil leaching process. This particular property could also have contributed to (a) above in that the Abteilung 502 oil paint dried out more making it harder to blend into a filter. It's just an educated guess mind you as I didn't set up any control experiments.     

Winsor & Newton Winton and Abteilung 502 oil paints were used for the oil dot filter weathering technique 
Linseed oil inside the paints was leached out onto a cardboard palette ...
... overnight in an enclosed plastic container
Oil paints had a more matt look to them the next day

After the oil dot filter weathering process, I had applied another protective clear coat for subsequent weathering steps. And here I caught a lucky break for, you see, I had sprayed on a lacquer clear coat over the oil paints. Technically this is a no-no because the solvent inherent in a lacquer paints can potentially dissolve the oil paints and cause a horrible mess. But none of this happened. My guess is that three factors had come into play: (1) Sufficient time was allowed for the oil paints to dry and cure; (2) Being applied as a filter meant low amounts of oil paint was left on the surface, which incidentally allowed them to dry faster too; and (3) In relatively hot weather, a significant amount of solvent had evaporated when the lacquer clear coat was sprayed onto the surface area.  

A clear lacquer coat was used to seal in the oil dot filter effects (see post for caveats to this step)

That being said it is still advisable to use acrylic clear coats as the preferred method of protecting an underlying oil-based layer. In cases whereby a substantial amount of oil paints have been used in the previous step (e.g. using oil paints to paint skin tone) it would be suicidal to believe the underlying layer of oil paints won't be affected in any way by a lacquer coat on top of it. Results of the oil dot filter weathering process on surface areas basecoated in light grey can be seen in the photos below. 

Most recognizable piece of hull of the AT-ST, it being the front-end and all
Closeup of the front-end of the hull better reveals the chromatic variations
A clearer view of the chromatic variations introduced by the oil dot filter technique

Compared to what can be seen with the naked eye, the resulting chromatic variations achieved using the oil dot filter weathering technique become relatively poor visuals when viewed through these photos. This is largely caused by my struggle to obtain an optimal level of white balance during the photography session. White balance is a critical component of photography that can affect how the hues look like in the display screen of a viewer's electronic device. Moreover white balance is especially vital when dealing with predominantly monotone hues, which is the case for the AT-ST.    

Look closely enough and you'll see hints of blue green/white/grey/blue mixed in with the rust stains
It's almost imperceptible but the monotone light grey hues is now more varied chromatically
AT-ST side panels with the rust stains and oil dot filter weathering

One key thing I noticed was a slightly greenish tint in the photos that became very pronounced on certain brands of electrical devices. To counter this I tried to adjust the white balance of the final photos by using the plain manila Microsoft Picture Manager. So all I could effectively do was try to fix the greenish tint by adjusting the overall colors towards the magenta spectrum. It's extremely frustrating when you realize that it's mostly out of your hands how observers view your photos, color-wise. Because I cannot possibly account for every type of display in the market I tend to concentrate on making the colors looks as accurate as possible only on Windows and Apple devices.

Yet another section in which I might've overdone the rust stain weathering
Ditto for the underside of this section because the rust hues have overwhelmed the other colors
Although other filter hues are present, one tends to notice the bluish green tints more as they complement the rust hues
I'm thinking of either leaving the flexible steel pipes nonmetallic or just drybrush a light coating of metallics   
Gyro system of the AT-ST after being weathered with rust stains and oil dot filters
Even the command viewport hatches and smaller side panels are not spared from oil dot filter weathering

Phase Three of the weathering process is coming up and it's one in which the changes in between phases are drastic enough to be easily noticeable. This phase, which involves painting micro paint chips, is a tricky and time consuming process. But once it's done, the level of realism on the AT-ST walker should ratchet up exponentially. That's something to look forward to after a fairly boring transition from Phase One to Phase Two. Thanks for reading this post anyway though!

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Thursday, 3 May 2018

What's in store from my project pipeline, optimistically speaking, in the coming months of 2018

It was nearly three years ago when I last did a project pipeline update. As is my wont, other projects soon crept into the pipeline (i.e. Katana, a Snowspeeder, C-3PO, R2-D2, BB-8, Princess Leia, a T-55A tank, a Nurgle Rhino, a Bodhisattva, a Star Destroyer, Darth Vader, a pair of TIE Fighters and a Stormtrooper) resulting in a poor 38% completion rate of the original to-do list. So it's not without a little trepidation that I catalogue yet more potential projects for the coming months. But my apprehensions aside, one common theme running through the projects will be "pairings". 

Bandai 1/100 scale RX-8-2 Gundam paired with 1/8 scale Sayla Mass
Bandai 1/500 scale Space Battleship Yamato 2199 paired with E2046 1/8 scale Yurisha Iscandar

Up until now I've always did projects in isolation. But as a change of pace I've decided to pair two different model kits under a common subject matter for my upcoming projects. Firstly there is the non-similar scale pairings. These will comprise kits relating to two classic anime in the 70's namely Mobile Suit Gundam (the RX-78-2 Gundam with Sayla Mass) and Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Yamato Cosmo Reverse Version with Yurisha Iscandar). Then there are the similar 1/12 scale pairings for a special Star Wars project involving a Scout Trooper/Bike with a Race Queen and a Shoretrooper with Girl in Swimwear). Details to follow as each individual project gets underway.

Bandai Star Wars Scout Trooper plus bike paired with Atelier iT HQ12-02 Race Queen [both 1/12 scale]
Bandai Star Wars Shoretrooper paired with Atelier iT HQ12-04 Girl with Spear [both 1/12 scale]

Meanwhile, seeing that an unusually large proportion of my figurine collection consists of 1/12 scale figure model kits (both plastic and resin) as well as 1/12 scale figurine accessories, it stands to reason I should do something about this peculiarity. And where else better than to pair 1/12 scale musical instruments by F-Toys with the Bandai Star Wars figurine plastic kits. It should make for far more interesting poses for the eventual photography shoot of the completed projects. 

F-Toys Band Mono 1/12 scale musical instruments
Bandai Star Wars 1/12 Scale First Order Stormtrooper

Then there is the requisite 1/35 scale AFV scale model kit has already become a permanent part of  my project pipeline. Working on AFVs is a great way to learn weathering techniques and it's bonus that I've more than a passing interest in military vehicles either modern or historical. My next AFV will be the World War II German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger (Henschel Turret) by MENG. Scale model kits by this China-based company are known for their complexity and high part counts. To dip my toes in the water I plan on starting with one of their easier kits i.e. the King Tiger.

Meng German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger (Henschel Turret)

Of all the projects mothballed since 2015, currently only those fulfilling two conditions stand any chance of resuming in the near future. One, they should already be prepped and primed. And two, they should at least be 70 mm (or 1/28) in scale i.e. fairly large in size. That leaves only Knight Models Loki and Nocturna Models Battle Chick in contention. Regardless of whether either make it back to my work table, the next project will definitely come from the 2018 project list above. Until then I had best get back to Phase Two of the AT-ST weathering process. Cheers!

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