Saturday, 23 February 2019

Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper [WIP - Appendages & Waist Equipment]

Feeling pleased with myself, I had no idea this seemingly stroll-in-the-park-project was about to become an excruciatingly frustrating one. But more on that later. First I'll take the easy wins which up until now include the assembly/painting of the First Order Stormtrooper's appendages and waist equipment. So far, putting things together have been a pleasure (i.e. easy and non- problematic) while painting has been a breeze (i.e. just sprayed on a flat black coat). It's a testament to Bandai's design and engineering team that the kit is coming together so effortlessly, for the large part anyway.  

First Order Stormtrooper work-in-progress: Assembly and painting of the appendages/waist equipment

Bandai's model kits tend to be modular in nature (see next six photos below). For someone with borderline OCD behavior, this is a welcome design choice because it makes assembly an extremely structured, orderly and fast process. From a scientific perspective, this design choice makes sense. Our mind is being conditioned to feel a sense of achievement, and quickly too with every completed part. Dopamine is likely being produced in our brains to reward our 'accomplishments' thus feeding our addiction to Bandai model kits and to the hobby in general. Well, that's my theory anyway.    

Bandai's modular concept meant the appendages could be individually assembled piecemeal
Keeping it simple: any parts that had to be painted black received a spray of Citadel Chaos Black
First Order Stormtrooper arms/hand options assembled with a partially complete paint job

As it was with the arms/hands (see above), putting together the legs/feet was easy, almost to the point of being effortless. To avoid a plasticky toy-like look on the appendages, I carried out a series of steps of my own. Firstly, I sprayed the black parts with a matte black acrylic paint. Secondly, I used an extra thin liquid plastic glue to join the white armor parts together to reduce any visibility of line gaps. And thirdly, I was extra careful when removing the white armor parts from the sprue. If damage couldn't be avoided, I mitigated the resulting imperfections with a semi-gloss clear coat.      

Pieces of the left and right leg were assembled, painted and bagged up while awaiting the next step
Similar to the arm/hands, any leg parts that had to be painted black received a spray of Citadel Chaos Black
First Order Stormtrooper legs/feet assembled and paint job completed

Only after the legs had been attached could the waist equipment be fixed onto the belt (see next five photos below). Results are nothing to shout about but they do fill up the waist area and make it look less sparse. It makes sense anyway for the stormtrooper to have equipment attached to the waist. 

Waist equipment is simplistic in nature with the blacks kept to a simple flat matte black
First Order Stormtrooper head, body and waist with the waist equipment laid out in a semi-circle
So before the waist equipment could be fixed to the belt, the legs had to be attached first
First Order Stromtrooper with his/her legs and waist equipment (left side) sans arms
First Order Stromtrooper with his/her legs and waist equipment (right side) sans arms

If you are a Star Wars fan then you would have noticed a major discrepancy between the 1/12 scale figurine so far and the real thing. In fact I didn't notice it at first as I'm more a Star Trek fan myself. Hint: look at the stormtrooper's hands. See it yet? A significant portion of both hands should actually be white in color, especially palm-side. While it has been ages since I painted white by hand, I haven't forgotten how much I detest doing so. I mean really hate, hate. Throw the hand brush to the wall kind of loathing. Turn hulk-green and run amok kind of disgust. Well, you get the idea.

A much belated lunar new year greeting; an example of the figurine's joint articulation
Close up of the First Order Stromtrooper's legs/feet
I shall removeth these restraints and leaveth this cell with the doth'r ope.

And i'll dropeth mine own weapon.

So from here on out things are going to get a bit dicey. Okay maybe I'm exaggerating a bit but it's still not going to be a fun process for me. Contemplating what I have to do in the coming weeks namely paint white by hand sends a chill down my spine. To make things worse, it's not just his/her hands. In fact painting white on the hands is the easy part. Painting white on the weapons is a whole other level of arghhhhh. Why didn't I notice the need for painting white in the first place I'll never know. I was probably caught up in the fantasy of a quick and easy build. Hah! So much for that dream. Pfft!

Friday, 15 February 2019

Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper [WIP - Assembly and Painting of the Head, Body & Waist]

Sometimes it's refreshing to work on a scale model kit that doesn't demand much from you. And the Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper is just such a kit. So far it has been a real pleasure putting the head, body and waist together. The fit has been excellent and with minimal painting the figurine already looks pretty darn good. As such, this project is off to a great start. 

Bandai Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper work-in-progress: Head, Body & Waist
Back view of the First Order Stormtrooper's head, body and waist after assembly and paint

Painting on bare plastic isn't recommended for good reason. Without a primer coat, it's hard for paint to find purchase on glossy, slippery surfaces. But black acrylic paint (Citadel) from Games Workshop has traditionally provided great coverage and acted as a pseudo-primer and/or basecoat upon which additional layers of paint were applied. Previously, this black acrylic paint was know as Chaos Black. Now its name has been changed to Abbadon Black. Because it's not a primer, the paint will come off if you scratch at it hard enough. But for minor paint work as is the case here, it works well enough. 

Assembly instructions for the First Order Stormtrooper's head, body and waist
Paints and washes used on the black and metallic parts of the head, body and waist

More often than not, Bandai's Star Wars scale model kit line hasn't disappointed in terms of how closely and realistically it mimics its subject matter. And at this early stage of its assembly and painting process, the First Order Stormtrooper is living up to my expectations.

Bandai First Order Stormtrooper with its head, body and waist assembled
Glossy white armor looks like the real thing hence it was left as is i.e. unpainted
Not all black parts were painted e.g. the female/male joints for attaching the arms and legs
Black areas on the tube-like equipment on his lower back were painted with Citadel Abbadon Black

For now at least, the painted blacks have been fairly straight forward without any need for tonal variation. What matters most is the differentiation between glossy blacks of the eye lens and the flat blacks of almost every other black part. It might seem trivial but these subtle differences of the black surfaces greatly reduces the plasticky look of the scale model. That's critical for achieving realism.

Another black part left unpainted was the round spot on his back as the original texture looked matte enough
Black belt was actually painted with an old spray can of Citadel Chaos Black
Seam lines on the armor were almost unnoticeable after being glued together by Mr.Cement S
Eye lenses were left untouched in their original out-of-the-box clear glossy black state
To further differentiate among the black hues, a black wash was added to the honeycombed strip on the helmet (stretching from the corner of the lenses, downwards and across the cheeks/upper lip). This gave it a slightly different look from the rest of the black sections, at least texture wise. The mixture of clear, glossy, matte and washed black surfaces should provide subtle visual differentiation to an otherwise straightforward and boring two tone color scheme of black and white.

Tube stripes were 'painted' using the Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color

Down the line, the blacks that need to be painted will largely fall under the same categorizations as above namely clear gloss, gloss, matte, and finally matte with wash. Simple yes, but hopefully it results in a monotone color that's differentiated enough to makes things interesting. Coming up are the stormtrooper's appendages and waist equipment. Until then have a great weekend!

Sunday, 10 February 2019

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger [WIP - Pin Wash / Outlining of Tank Turret and Road Wheels]

Fresh from my relative success working with oils, I decided to take a step further by using oil paints to create a pin wash for the outlining process of the King Tiger. My usual go-to pin wash have been either Tamiya's enamel-based Panel Line Accent Color or Mr.Hobby's oil-based Mr.Weathering Color paints. Now don't get me wrong as both work great with their inherent pros and cons, and I don't intend to abandon either as a weathering tool. But being already knee-deep in oil paints, I thought this would be a good time as any to try out a self-mixed wash using said oil paints and white spirit.        

Pin wash hue comprised a mix of Raw Umber and Lamp Black from the Winton oil paints
Tin tray containing oil paints and white spirit was placed on an IKEA candle holder for extra stability
In a nutshell, the pin wash / outlining process creates depth by bringing out the details

Using an oil wash actually provides two advantages - one each over acrylic and enamel washes. My acrylic wash pet peeve is its quick drying time, and the difficulty in removing it once dry. In contrast, an oil wash dries slowly and during that time it can be easily removed with white spirit. This allows for a more controlled shaping of the shadows and depth by eliminating washes from places that it had unintentionally flowed into e.g. raised (or the highlight) areas of a surface. And while enamel washes can be wiped off, the thinners used to do this can be too aggressive on the scale model kit plastic or on the basecoat paint layer. Thus far, white spirit seems to be much kinder to plastic and paint.      

King Tiger road wheels within the tank tracks BEFORE the pin wash / outlining process
King Tiger road wheels within the tank tracks AFTER the pin wash / outlining process

While the effects of a pin wash or outlining are clear cut on the road wheels, it's more subtle for the tank turret. Pin wash was applied on the grooves of the gun barrel and mantlet; on the weld lines; on the innards of the top hatch; on parts of the zimmerit; and on every nook and cranny on the turret. In the end, the overall effect saw the turret take on more depth and its details brought out.

Tank turret is now better defined after the pin wash / outlining process
Details are brought out in subtle ways like in the darkened grooves of the gun barrel and mantlet
Care was taken not to let the pin wash pool on the tank turret's zimmerit layer

One challenge I did face when outlining was to prevent the wash from pooling too much within the zimmerit layer. Too much wash accumulating in the crevices of the zimmerit layer and the tank turret would have become too dark. Moreover, it would have also looked too dirty but the wrong kind of dirty. While plans for the dust and dirt weathering have not been finalized, the idea is to layer on more buff and/or ochre hues as opposed to the black browns of the existing oil wash.   

Weld lines as well as every nook and cranny on the turret roof were given a subtle application of pin wash
Wash further 'dirties up' the tank number decals giving them a more realistic look
Pin wash does a great job of bringing out the details of the turret hatch
Faded look of the gun barrel/mantlet becomes more prominent given the contrast provided by the pin wash

The pin wash and outlining process will be repeated on the hull after the pioneer tools (engineering equipment) attached to it has been painted up. So the next step will involve painting small details; something I haven't done in a long time. The irony is that I'll be doing it on a 1/35 scale kit rather than resin figurines as I'm wont to do. But it's all good as it might just wet my appetite to jump start my miniature figurine projects again. Speaking of which I had better find the inspiration to resume work on the 1/12 scale Race Queen figurine again. And then there's the Tamiya Volkswagen Beetle and Bandai First Order Stormtrooper that has yet to start. So much to do, so little time.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper - Bandai 1/12 Scale Model Kit [Unboxing and Pre-Assembly Review]

With three projects on my plate including a recent unboxing of the VW Beetle, I wasn't looking to add to the worktable let alone do another unboxing so soon. But with all said projects being long term ones, I just felt the need for a quick pick-me-up project that didn't require too much thought in the execution of its assembly and painting process. Cue entry of the Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper model kit of an elite infantry soldier as seen in Episodes VII and VIII of the Disney/Lucasfilm mega-franchise i.e. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi respectively.  

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper
Side box art of the Bandai First Order Stormtrooper from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

At a quick glance, this particular Bandai Star Wars scale model kit looks much less daunting than your average military armored fighting vehicle (AFV) or sci-fi Gundam equivalent. Parts count is fairly low, spread out over six sprues of varying sizes. Moreover, the instructions seem to point to a relatively straightforward build coupled with what I expect to be minimal painting requirements.

At a glance, this model kit doesn't look as daunting as say an AFV or Gundam kit
Pictures showing the potential of how the First Order Stormtrooper can or should look like
Assembly guide for the Bandai 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper

All parts come molded in only two colors - black and white. And with the exception of metallic grey, that's really all the colors the First Order Stormtrooper needs in its paint job. If one is not so inclined to paint the kit once it's build, there's always the alternative in the form of either metallic grey decals or stickers. Neither option appeals to me so any metal parts will be painted. The only other parts that I foresee will need painting would be the black ones to differentiate between glossy and matt surfaces.

Sprue A1: Weapons, interior armor, hands, soles of boot, etc.
Sprue A2: More weapons, interior armor, parts of display base, etc.

Meanwhile, the glossy white parts which largely constitute the First Order Stormtrooper's armor will be left in its original plastic state. The reason for this is two-fold. One, even left untouched the armor already looks a lot like its real life equivalent. And two, I do not intend to weather the armor with dirt, dust, mud or stains with the stormtrooper to be displayed with the armor in pristine condition. But an intention to weather the piece would necessitate the priming, painting and clear coating to protect the plastic from thinners that would likely render the plastic brittle and cause it to crack.  

Sprue B1: External armor pieces for the First Order Stormtrooper
Sprue B2: More external armor pieces and the shield

Parts count is completed by sprues for the base as well as polycaps and joint parts to facilitate appendage movement and articulation. Hopefully the First Order Stormtrooper can be posed just as well if not better than the original Stormtrooper I had built and painted earlier.

Sprue SWB3: Display base & Sprue PCF-6AC: Polycaps and joint parts for articulation

In keeping with Bandai's Star Wars product line, their scale model kits tend to come with a decal sheet as well as stickers (see below). These accessories are meant for modelers who haven't the time nor inclination to paint their scale model kits. Stickers are easier to apply but decals look more realistic. While I haven't ruled out using decals in certain areas, it's likely I will paint if I can.  

Water slide decals (above) and stickers (below) for the Bandai 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper

The design of the First Order Stormtrooper lends itself easily to a scale model kit version. So much so that this is one of few scale model kits which can be built sans any painting or weathering and still look good. Because of this, I frequently see modelers overcompensate by slopping on way too much weathering. Perhaps it's an artist's way to stamp his signature over a piece. I too am no stranger to such temptations. But certain pieces need to be left alone as much as possible in order to look .... well, right ... if that makes any sense. And Bandai's First Order Stormtrooper is one such piece.

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