Monday, 29 February 2016

Using a Pencil Topper for technique practice - testing out Mr.Hobby Top Coat, Tamiya Weathering Master and Panel Line Accent Color

Testing out new techniques under a limited budget can be an extremely frustrating exercise. Not only are our model kits too precious to be experimented on but expensive supplies mean there is little we can spare for use on things other than the actual project itself. However, to plough ahead without knowing what we're doing can ruin the costly model kit, which brings you back to square one. My solution is to use a spare/optional model kit part that hasn't been earmarked for any future kitbash projects or to simply use free stuff that's suitably sized so that no overuse of supplies will occur.    

FN-2187 pencil topper, completed with weathering and paints

For my first experiences with the acrylic-based Mr.Hobby Flat/Matt Top Coat spray can, the Tamiya Weathering Master kits and enamel-based Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color paint, I turned to a cereal box freebie in the form of a pencil topper shaped to resemble a bust of a Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper. I was surprised by the relatively well sculpted proportions of the pencil topper and the fact it was plastic made it ideal for use as a test piece for the supplies I was testing out.

Star Wars-themed Pencil Topper that came free in a cereal box

Straight out of the box, the piece had glossy black paint on relevant sections. But the paint job wasn't very clean and neat (as to be expected) and some panel lines required shading to create more depth.

First Order Stormtrooper Pencil Topper, as it looks straight-out-of-the-box

To spruce things up and make things look a little bit more tidy, I proceeded to repaint the blacks using Citadel's matt black acrylic paint and added a touch of enamel-based panel lining paint - specifically grey to the tube stripes and black to an indentation on the upper chest area, right below the chin. Both products - the Citadel Abbadon Black and the Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color (grey/black) - were well suited for use on a piece of unprimed white plastic. 

Citadel matt black paint and Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color (black and grey)
Piece with black parts repainted, and some grey/black panel liners added for greater depth

This was followed by several thin layers of an acrylic flat/matt clear coating. The aim was to remove the toy-like plastic sheen from the pencil topper and provide a strong as well as rough enough surface for the weathering material to take hold. If this had been a display piece, I would've left it as it is at this stage because I loved the look of an unweathered First Order Stormtrooper bust. But a key reason for this session was to try using the Tamiya Weathering Master kit so on it went to the next stage.

Mr.Hobby Top Coat Flat/Matt acrylic-based spray can
At this stage, the piece took on a dull flat/matt appearance

Side note: when observing the piece closely I noticed that the application of the clear flat/matt coat may have left some tiny white spots on the surface of the googles. This could be the result of the hot and humid weather in which the clear coat was applied or due to dust being trapped inside the clear coat. While the spots were not noticeably in this rather large piece, it could potentially look terrible in a smaller scaled miniature. More experimenting with the Mr.Hobby Top Coat will be needed e.g. spraying at varying distances from the miniature as well as in different weather conditions, before I can say for sure if this will be a problem, especially if used as a final sealing coat.

Tiny white spots were barely visible here but on a smaller scale piece it could be a deal breaker

Finally, some weathering and blood effects were applied on the pencil topper to simulate the character FN-2187 aka Finn from The Force Awakens. The latter effect was a tried-and-true paint recipe I had used before - Tamiya Clear X-27, Citadel Scorched Brown and Abaddon Black -  while the former was done using a weathering kit I was new to - the Tamiya Weathering Master. The clear flat/matt coat had provided a strong enough base for the semi-wet weathering pastels (as least that's what I think they are) to adhere to. And the final touch was to apply a gloss varnish to the googles of the First Order Stormtrooper to simulate the reflective material it's supposed to be made from.

Tools used to achieve weathering, blood and gloss effects
Blood effects and weathering to mimic FN-2187 on the First Order Stormtrooper Pencil Topper
FN-2187, First Order Stormtrooper Pencil Topper (front view)
Better lining on the helmet could've given the piece more depth
FN-2187, First Order Stormtrooper Pencil Topper (back view)

Overall, the final piece didn't turn out as well as I wanted it to. But I'm not complaining too much as I wasn't familiar with more than half the stuff I was using. Conclusions I drew from this simple technique practice session include:

1. Tamiya's enamel-based Panel Line Accent Colors works well through capillary action on the smooth surface of an unprimed plastic model;  
2. A few thin layers of Mr.Hobby Top Coat Flat/Matt on top of an unprimed plastic model provided a strong and rough enough base for weathering purposes;
3. Used in tandem with dark brown and black acrylic paints, the Tamiya Clear Red X-27 is - in my honest opinion - the de facto standard for realistic blood;
4. Against a pure white background, even the grey Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color turned out to be too dark hence possibly necessitating the use of Citadel's acrylic-based washes or Reaper's grey liners as alternatives in future projects; and finally ...
5. White spots formed during the spraying of the acrylic clear flat/matt coat could have been caused by the hot and humid weather or by dust being trapped in the coating. Further experimenting with the clear coat being sprayed at varying distances and weather conditions will have to be conducted.

Thanks for checking out my little experiment on a plastic pencil topper. Experiences gained from this session should stand me in good stead when I tackle the Bandai 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper. I'm just glad I stumbled on this great freebie to work on before the real thing comes along. Until next time, have yourself a great week ahead!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Nurgle Chaos Chosen [WIP - Demonic flesh & loincloth]

Being the squeamish sort, I couldn't help but feel slightly ill while painting the skin tone of the Demonic face seeking to consume the Nurgle Chaos Chosen's right shin. Perhaps that was a sign I could be getting the hues for the supernatural flesh spot on, at least I would like to think so. There was something about the sickly skin tone atop a yellowish green background that just rubbed me the wrong way. The combination of colours, all round, seemed off and yet so right for the piece.

Demonic face on the Nurgle Chaos Chosen's right shin

To mitigate these effects, I tried to put some bright pastel cheer back into the miniature without turning it into a Hello Kitty moment. For that, I chose a light purplish fleshy hue for the loincloth. I meant to simulate necrotic flesh but in a more cheerful kind of way. Not making much sense am I? Well, to put it another way, I wanted the hues of decaying flesh without inducing a vomit reaction.  

Nurgle Chaos Chosen, work-in-progress at about 65% (or less) completion
Yet to be lit up, his eyes will need to be of a colour that stands out and blends in - an oxymoronic hue if you will
Right pauldron is in need of a symbol ... no idea yet what it'll be at this moment

Meanwhile, more demonic fleshy bits were added to the bolter on the Chosen one's left hand. To harmonise with the existing hues, the colour scheme for this flesh-on-weapon fell between the sickly green of the face and the purples of necrotised flesh. The best (or worst) of both worlds.

Demonic flesh is also corrupting the Chaos Chosen's bolter

As a scale comparison, I placed a standard 31 mm paperclip next to the Nurgle Chaos Chosen miniature. Individually, both the demonic face and loincloth barely came to one third of the paperclip while the flesh on the bolter was even smaller. At this scale, getting the right hue was a real pain.

Scale comparison between the Nurgle Chaos Chosen and a standard 31-mm paperclip

Even at this fairly advanced stage of completion, I have so far managed to resist the urge to randomly splash washes and technical paints such as Nurgle's Rot to 'dirty up' the model. Currently, the most I plan to do is to introduce rust to inject some orangey hues into the overall scheme. Hopefully, I will be able to stick to my original plan of making him look 'eewwy' without the 'gooey' stuff. Easier said than done but hopes springs eternal. Hope and Nurgle, now that's a laugh and a half.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Star Wars Stormtrooper - Bandai 1/12 Scale Model Kit [Review: Part 3 of 3 - Poses, weapons & final thoughts]

In this final part of the Stormtrooper model kit review, I tested the flexibility of its joints as reflected in the poses he can adopt as well as painted some of his weapons to increase realism. Once completed, the Bandai Star Wars Stormtrooper 1/12 scale plastic model kit looks great and will easily take a place of pride in any collector's display area. Here then is Part 3 of the review.      

Bandai Star Wars Stormtrooper, 1/12 scale plastic model kit [Completed]

To bring out the details in the weapons, I painted the E-11 blaster and DLT-19 rifle with a combo of black and metallic paint, topped off with a black wash. Nothing too fancy as per details that I could glean from the original trilogy. I left the smaller SE-14r light repeating blaster alone in its original plasticky glossy black state as most of the pistol-like weapons looked like that in the movies.  

Painting the E-11 blaster and DLT-19 Assault Rifle
Comparison between the painted E-11 blaster and the original gloss back plastic (left hand)

Firstly, I tried a few standard poses with the weapons. There are options to place the weapons on either his left or right hand with the index finger on the trigger. In the poses below, I placed the SE-14r on his right hand while the iconic E-11 on his left. But it should be noted that you can place any weapon on any trigger hand, based on your preference. I chose the left-handed option for the E-11 blaster as there seemed to be a disproportionate number of lefties in the Empire. Don't believe me? Go watch all three movies in the original trilogy. So if you're a lefty, the Empire needs you.  

There seems to be a disproportionate number of lefties in the Empire ...
... as seen here in a scene from Empire Strikes Back, and in many others throughout the original trilogy
Halt! Who goes there?
A Lion King moment ... that song is in your head now isn't it?

In addition to the pair of hands holding weapons (trigger finger hands), the model kit came with an additional two pair of hands namely two in an open palmed position (left and right hands), a pointy finger (left hand) and a clenched fist (right hand). These non-weaponised hands allowed me to pull off quite a few dance moves from 70s and 80s. Flexibility of the joints were great, limited only by the armour design. This gave me a new sense of appreciation for the Stormtroopers' movement in the original trilogy - that almost clumsy-like gait which I'm sure was due to both the helmet's limited viewing angle as well as inflexible armour design. At times, they seemed to waddle into battle.

Dance Move 1: Saturday Night Fever
Dance Move 2: Break dance
Dance Move 3: The Robot
Dance Move 4: The MJ Crotch Grab

Overall this was a simple yet extremely fun kit to put together. For the amazing end result, the assembly process was surprising easy. As a display piece, this model has tremendous potential with its myriad of possible poses. Moreover, the simple two-piece base firmly anchors the Stormtrooper thus allowing for complicated poses such as the first one seen in this blog post. As I've said before, I simply love this model kit. So much so I'm tempted to get a few more of these Bandai Stormtroopers together with Lord Vader himself - budget willing of course - to do a mini diorama. 

You have failed me for the last time TK-421

While Bandai provides both stickers and water decals to spruce up the model, I would recommend using a combination of water decals and paint for this purpose. Some parts are tiny enough that you would be better served painting it while in others a water decal looks just as good as a paint job and with less work too. For which parts I painted and which I used decals, you might want to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the review. If you are going for a realistic look, stickers are definitely out as they have the tendency to come off after a while, especially in warm weather. And as for how Vader felt about an elite soldier of the Empire pulling of dance moves, well that last shot says it all.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Star Wars Stormtrooper - Bandai 1/12 Scale Model Kit [Review: Part 2 of 3 - Assembly, decals and paints]

With a much welcomed short break for the lunar new year holidays and missus's birthday behind me, it was time to get back to assembling Bandai's 1/12 scale Star Wars Stormtrooper plastic model kit. Picking up from where I last left-off, work continued with the assembly of the stormtrooper's legs.  

Step 6: Assembling the right leg
Steps 7 & 8: Left leg assembled in similar fashion to step six and attachment of both legs to the groin area

Time and time again, I was impressed by how simple it was to put the various parts together. Apart from minor clean up of the parts after they are cut from the sprue, there isn't much to worry about as the parts all fit as they are suppose to ... and repeated ad nauseam .. with consummate ease. There are modellers who sneer at snap-fit kits as being 'too easy' and 'unworthy of a true modeller's efforts'. But I'm not one of them. As long as a model kit is fun, I say have at it and enjoy yourself. 

Step 9: Assembling the holster and side ammo pouches
Step 10: Putting on the ammo/utility belt (front) and canister (back)

Following attachment of the Stormtrooper's ammo/utility belt (see above) was the simple (there's that word again) process of assembling both his - or her as the Empire is an equal opportunity employer - arms and hands. Upon securing both arms into the shoulder sockets, I became aware of the great potential for many interesting poses made possible by the well thought out points of articulation. More of that in the final part of the review (Part 3 of 3). For now, it's on with the assembly.  

Step 11: Assembling the right arm and hands
Step 11, 12 & 13: Assembly of both arms/hands completed and then attached to the upper torso

Weapons in the Stormtrooper's arsenal, increasing in size, include a pistol, the E11 blaster and DLT-19 assault rifle. As is, they are too glossy. I plan to give some of the weapons a basecoat of matte black followed by metallics using wet paint and/or dry brush techniques. Options are available in the model kit which allow the weapons to be either carried or placed in holsters. At the end of the day, this adds to the many possible poses that the Stormtrooper can strike up.

Step 14a: Assembling the weapons - a pistol, the E11 blaster and DLT-19 assault rifle
Steps 14b & 15: Weapons can be placed either in the Stormtrooper's hands or the holster

At this stage, the Stormtrooper was more or less done. Quick decal work on the back canister and several spots of paint (primarily grey and blue) on the midriff provided a 'cheerier' look to the overall colour scheme. Not by much, admittedly, but anything is better than plain black and white. 

Grey markings on the back canister, laid on using pieces of water decal
Spots of grey and blue on the midriff section, painted on with acrylics

Finally, all that was left to do was to put the base together and place the Stormtrooper on it (see below). In this post, he is striking just a basic pose. I'll explore the degree of movement allowed by the model's various points of articulation in a future post i.e. the last part of the review.   

Step 16: Assembling the base
Star Wars Stormtrooper (Bandai 1/12 Scale Model Kit); basic pose after assembly

Part 3 of the review is going to be the fun part for me as I put the Bandai Stormtrooper through its paces. Hopefully, he will turn out to be as flexible as I expect him to be, within limits of course. I guess seeing how many dance moves he can pull off is out of the question ... or is it?

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Star Wars Stormtrooper - Bandai 1/12 Scale Model Kit [Review: Part 1 of 3 - Unboxing and initial assembly]

With paint supplies for my Millennium Falcon project not forthcoming, I turned my attention to another Bandai Star Wars plastic model kit - the 1/12 Stormtrooper. Paint-wise, I have what's needed so it's a no-brainer to put the Falcon on hold and proceed instead with this elite soldier of the Empire. The review has been split into three parts starting with the unboxing and initial assembly; followed by completion of the assembly and further painting/decaling; before finally ending with the final paint details as well as poses to showcase the Stormtrooper's impressive articulation points/joints. 

Bandai Star Wars Stormtrooper 1/12 Scale Model Plastic Kit
Side views of the Bandai Star Wars Stormtrooper
Sprues were all neatly packaged in clear plastic - what I feel should be the industry norm

Instructions is the usual Japanese language only version but assembly is sufficiently simple and straightforward that translation into English, in my opinion, not needed at all. Just be aware of the orientation of the parts when putting them together and also be careful when cutting parts from the sprue so as not to cut off an essential joint ... and you should be just fine. 

Simple to understand diagrammatic instructions meant translations into English weren't needed

An early indication of this model kit being an easy one to build up can be seen in the number of sprues accompanying the kit - two large, two small - for a modest total count of parts.  

Sprue A: Weapons, interior body parts, hands, feet, etc
Srpue B: External armour, etc
Clockwise: Sprue PCF-6 (articulation joints), SWB-3 (base), water decals and stickers

Assembly began with the iconic Stormtroopers helmet, which is a simple process of snap-fitting all the parts together. With the exception of the helmet's tube stripes and aerator/mic tips, everything else was detailed using Bandai's water decals. In the end, I was pleased with how both turned out.     

Stormtrooper helmet parts herald the start of assembly, Step 1
Stormtrooper helmet: After assembly; then before and after decal/paints

Getting the torso together was equally quick and left me mightily impressed with Bandai's model engineers. All the separate parts fit snugly together with no glue needed at all and seems to be designed with the intention of allowing a maximum range of movement between the joints.

Step 2a: Assembly of the Stormtrooper's upper torso
Step 2b: Assembly of the : Stormtrooper's lower torso
Step 3 involved snap-fitting the helmet onto the torso

Although no glue is needed, you can if you choose to, glue two parts together in areas where lined spaces are showing. That requires an extra thin glue that experienced modellers would be familiar with. But it was new to me hence my enthusiasm for the product - it has become my favourite glue for plastic parts. More on this in a future video tutorial once this model is completed.   

Step 4: Assembly of groin area and articulation joints for the legs
Step 5: Head, torso and groin connected ... appendages and weapons await

Up till now, it has been great fun putting the Stormtrooper together. I'm itching to get the whole assembly completed as quick as I can so I hope to have Part 2 of this review up soon. In between then and now, the Lunar New Year will be upon us and I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a healthy and prosperous new year. May the Year of the Monkey be your happiest yet!
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