Monday, 7 November 2016

Dropzone Commander: Painting the Post Human Republics Triton X

A little while ago I posted my first blogs that demonstrated the Tron-esque Post Human Republic army for Dropzone Commander that I had been promising for so long...

I was planning on publishing this one after the announcements for the September Painting Competition on Hawks forum but as they have set a new personal best in tardy timekeeping I thought I may as well just go ahead and post away...

After a ridiculously long build up period to me actually picking up a paintbrush (perhaps beaten only by my work up period for my DZC scenery projects) I finally managed to start churning out examples of what I had been rattling on about since the year dot...

They, and I am humbled to be able to say this, created such a stir that I had multiple hundreds of reactions to the work that I had done and more than a few people who asked me to go through the process that I had gone through to reach the finishing line. I should point out at this time that there is still a lot of room for improvement on these techniques that I use, although I have to admit that some of the techniques I wanted to use are totally beyond me at this time and will require some dedicated project time to see if I can ever conquer them!

After completing the batch that I wanted to get done to enter another Hawk painting competition I just couldn't face the hours and hours and hours that it was taking to do all of the remaining army (If somebody had told me whilst I was painting my UCM urban camouflage pattern vehicles that I would soon be undertaking an army that took three times as long to paint I would have laughed in the face of who told me!) miniatures. I just couldn't face doing any more for a while and so headed back to my Polish Flames of War project for some light relief...

Well, the dust has settled and Joe (Ljevid) has kept up his suggestions for a painting tutorial I decided that I would do one for all of you out there who are interested in seeing how its done.

This is a two part tutorial. In part one I paint a Medusa's Triton-X dropship whilst in the second tutorial I will paint the Medusa herself and show you how I go about doing the bases...

But for now... 

I give you...

The Triton-X dropship

Step 1
So, the Medusa's Triton X dropship, having been cleaned and built is given a coat of primer and an undercoat of matt black.  Now, I don't always use black primers and undercoats. I use the colours that the overall key of the paint will be. Flags for example will most likely have a white undercoat. My PHR however all has as deep a black as I can for two reasons.

The primary reason is that the overall colour of the Tron-esque PHR is black, although it does reflect the colours and shapes of their local environment (although this is abstracted to give a simpler painting process whilst also supporting the aesthetic being aimed for). No matter how much shapes and colours are added to the vehicles we want to do it in such a way so that the overall impression is of a black vehicle

The second reason is that at 10mm scale it is difficult to get right the range of light to dark on miniatures without having to use a 00000 brush on absolutely everything and right down to the fine levels. With a black undercoat on top of a primer the undercoat can also function as the deepest darkest shadows if necessary...

Step 2
The next step, and probably the most time consuming is to create the mosaic of reflections that create the texture of the miniature. If you look at any of my Tron miniatures you will notice that whilst the patterning has pretensions of being reflections of the local environment, in fact they are not. They almost look like a shattered glass jigsaw painted onto the miniatures.

One thing that I didn't like that I had seen others do was using the flowing lines of the vehicles to create the lighting areas on the vehicle. I had two problems with this. Firstly I felt that it didn't give the vehicles a hard edge enough feel and in fact made the PHR military feel softer to me, and secondly was the fact that in studying the concept art for the vehicles of the film Tron Legacy it is really REALLY clear that the curving panel lines are few and far between on the vehicles and none of them are back lit and therefore do not create the light on the vehicles. This light is all created by reflections and flat light designs on the skin of the vehicle. This is the reason why I opted for the mosaic.

The next major consideration is which way the mosaic panels should be oriented. I tried a couple of curved panels but wasn't sold on them and to be frank are a bit of a ball ache to wet blend properly. I decided to stick to the straight sided blocks. I'm not sure how to explain how I feel which way they should lean but essentially when I'm painting them I image how a skyscraper would be reflected in the vehicles surface from the direction which I am looking at the vehicles and I don't give a damn as to whether or not the edges of neighbouring blocks conflict with each other.

Step 2 - A top down view of the panel mosaic

The painting of the mosaic panels is a little complex but is actually quite easy when you are on a roll.

Each panel in the mosaic is essentially one graded shaded block which has deepest black on one side graded to an almost blue white on the other, with the other tones wet blended through, in between the limits.

Each panel area is painted with a coat of Games Workshops Abaddon Black. This is chosen due to the Gloss/ Satin cast of the paint. It is well watered down in order to facilitate the wet blending that will be used.

The first wet blend colour is applied with Lifecolors UA517 Dark Ocean Blue. These colours are quite fluid already so they don't require a lot of water added but you commence the wet blend from the intended light edge of the panel and are shaded right down to the other side leaving a margin at the far side a complete black.

The next colour which needs to be applied very soon after so that the panel is still moderately wet and can still be wet blended is Vallejo's 966 Turquoise. Again the blend is applied from what is intended to be the light edge of the panel this time terminating with a margin of the Deep Ocean Blue being left over leading into the black. I like to apply the Turquoise quite heavily as when it isn't the vehicles come out looking just a little too black and anyway,,, I like turquoise! :D

The last colour to be applied on the mosaic is Games Workshop Space Wolf Grey. This is the least heavily applied and is used really just to provide the hard edge of the mosaic tiles. Without it the reflective design looks a little flat but with it, the whole design feels complete. It should be watered down as well, although not too far this time and slightly blended into the Turquoise. Be careful here because if you blend too much Space Wolf Grey into the Turquoise it mutes the colours and leads to a flat looking panel. Less is definitely more here.

Once the blend is done on some of the panels where you feel it is necessary paint a hard edge line on the panel with the Space Wolf Grey.

Step 3
The next step (3) is to start preparing all of the areas of the miniature that will be sporting all of the white areas. We are not talking about the glowing panels here but rather the aesthetic counter punch to the black and turquoise. For me, I chose all of the mechanical and engine areas but I wanted something that wasn't your average engine oil and grease looking set up.

Step 3B
I decided to go with a palette that was more reminiscent of Sci Fi, AI films and all things digital and for this the overall effect just had to be white. Plain old white just wouldn't be enough however. I needed a colour that evoked a clean, hard edge, high key feel and therefore I chose a Games Workshop Ice Blue as a basecoat colour.

All areas to be raised up to white were painted with Ice Blue first, as shown in the above photographs.

Step 4
The next step is the application of the white on all mechanical and engine areas. These areas do not glow and are simply white machinery. Any white will do so long as the paint isn't too thick and you spend some time on the intricacies of your miniature.

This is a REALLY important step as its the intricacies of the painting on the engine and mechanical areas that lend complexity to the overall painting aesthetic. Take your time with this bit. It pays off!

Step 4B
By this point the majority of the vehicle is painted. You will probably be looking at it and thinking to yourself "Well, it looks OK but not very Tron-ish!"

And you would be right, and its the next couple of steps that caused me so much issue and delays in knocking some of this stuff out.

The thing that really makes a Tron vehicle a 'Tron' vehicle is the glowing sharp edged designs that cover them. These had to be contrived.

Step 5
The requirement for really sharp edged designs in this step is so critical to the final appearance of the vehicle that unless you are one serious don with a fine brush I would advise the use of an airbrush with stencils. 

After some lengthy research into Tron glyphs and icon designs I made a selection of my own stencils using Art Tool Ultra Mask and store them away for repeat use. The repeat use of the glyphs provides a continuity to the army whilst also alleviating the ball ache of continually cutting out tiny patterns and attempting to airbrush them all the time!

One down side is that repeat use of the glyphs means that they become covered in paint making it difficult to position them accurately on the vehicles.

Step 5B
Position the stencil designs that you have chosen to use on the vehicles masking off the rest of the vehicle and airbrush a straight up flat white  in a couple of light layers until the white areas are not translucent and are complete blocks of colour.

There will be no shading on these designs as these will be the externally glowing areas that so typify the Tron vehicles.

Step 6

A little bit of housekeeping comprises this step (6) and may not in fact be necessary to all of you. Because of the fact that the stencils that I have designed need to be used on vehicles of all sizes it is sometimes necessary to tidy them up, if they are a little canted, or thin some of the designs out if they are too dominant.

With this Triton X I needed to tidy AND thin. I separated the army icon (the bracketed sphere with triangle) from the white engine block and I thinned out all of the other glyphs using straight up Abaddon Black. Don't worry too much about using as this will all be painted over when applying the 'glow'

Step 7
The penultimate step is creating the glow... and it is THIS that caused me so much trouble. I tried everything!!!! Glazes, washes, flow retardant, airbrush, a ridiculous amount of watered down layers and a partridge in a pear tree!

What did I end up using? Just plain old wet blending again! LOL

So, the glow is created using Vallejo's 809 Royal Blue. Beginning with a hard edge of Royal Blue around the edge of the glyph and is blended outwards from the glyph. 

Due to the rapid variations in colour on the underlying surface it is impossible to wet blend into each of these colours and because of this I wet blend into an ink paint. I blend using Games Workshop's Badab Black ink.

Don't worry about obscuring some of the underlying detail when using this black ink as it ends up translucent anyway and creates a greater contrast between the glowing areas and the underlying reflective black body of the vehicle.

Step 7B
...and so here we are. We are almost at the end and should have some pretty flashy miniatures at this point. 

However, looking at them they should be rife with flaws in the painting that you can pick out. This is because of the heavy reliance on wet blending that is required using this painting methodology.

The final thing that I do to fully emulate the super slick sci fi feel of Tron Legacy is I provide all of my vehicles and infantry with a gloss coat of varnish! Mainly to accentuate the super reflective appearance of the Tron vehicles this varnish manages to integrate all of the layers beneath it into an organic whole.

Step 8
So, thats it.

Personally, I'm really happy with the way this stuff has turned out. It does take a lot of work and it is all relatively time consuming but I just cant argue with the results. This will most likely turn out to be one of those long term projects as I'm going to need to keep moving away from this army and coming back to it but it would be really great if you guys took a stab at this and shared your results...

All comments are welcome! :D

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