Conan is still a work in progress. For that matter, so am I, in terms of using the airbrush. My Badger Anthem 155 is by all accounts a great beginner’s airbrush, but I’m not a great beginner. More like fair to middling. Until recently, airbrushing has just been a means of doing a base coat/color before dry brushing. Working on Moebius’ Conan The Barbarian has been groundbreaking for me. This time, I’m learning to draw details… sort of details… with it.
My first attempt was to try shading on the muscles. Laid down a medium flesh tone over the whole body, then started airbrushing the shadows in the creases of the muscles. It was a big improvement, and I thought maybe that was good enough. Until a good friend told me to try detailing the highlights as well as the shaded areas.
I had some doubts about my ability, but gave it a try. Airbrushing the darker shaded areas had been very successful. Airbrushing the highlights was even better – the contrast makes the muscles stand out. Everywhere the light should hit received detailing with a very light skin tone.
Final result? Some of the best skin shading I’ve ever done. Lots of interesting brights and darks. For some reason, this kit has been super-tough to photograph. The flesh color and the shading just don’t show up true in a picture. Tonight was about the best pictures so far. It comes close to showing the trued color and detail. Still a little off, though.
Learned an amazing new technique to use in future model-building. Eventually, maybe I’ll get really good at detailing with an airbrush. It’s going to take lots of practice, but even as a beginner I can see a huge improvement. Glenn, if you’re reading this – Thanks!
As a final note, the mouth and eyes have really turned out well also. The mouth has an actual gum-line between the teeth and mouth. The eyes are really adding character. The flesh of the face was airbrushed, but the features (eye, mouth) are brush-painted. I’m very pleased with the result so far.
Been having a lot of fun with Conan. He’s a great kit to work with. Recently, I’ve been focused on doing the flesh tones. At one point, the colors were very satisfactory, and I thought it was a good stopping point for the body. But Monique (my Devil’s Advocate and quality control monitor) pointed out that professional model-builders do a lot more in terms of shading. I’ve dry-brushed for years, and am learning on the airbrush. It had seemed enough to me, but after her nudge I rethought it. Without trying new techniques and stretching past my current abilities, there would be no improvement. So, back out with the airbrush and the flesh tones.
After lots of practice and different attempts, I’m pretty happy with it. Learned a few new things. One very big one… thin my paints more. Then more. And a bit more. As a newbie with the airbrush, it caused a lot of aggravation when the paint would stick and spatter, even after a thorough cleaning. It finally hit me. Tiny tiny amounts of paint; then about 4 times the volume with thinner. We both use blue window cleaner to thin our paints. Now my paints are finally spraying smooth and not clogging. It may sound too easy, but it was a big deal to me!
The other thing was more of a progression. Bit by bit, and with lots of stops and starts, I’m actually learning to use the airbrush. In this case, detailing the shaded areas of muscle around Conan’s torso and legs. It took lots of attempts, but at this point the result makes me pretty happy.
I’ve tried to take pictures to show exactly what I mean. It’s a great camera, but for some reason, it’s just not capturing the fine detail of shading and flesh tones. When you’re looking at these pics, bear in mind it looks much better in person. If I can figure out what’s wrong with the pics, I’ll post better ones. But for now, hopefully you can still see what I mean. It’s my first time to ever attempt detail work with the airbrush. And hopefully, just one more step along the way get learning how to use it well.
It’s been about a month since my last post. Beginning on a new model, Conan the Barbarian, a resin kit by Moebius. You may have wondered what progress I’ve made since then. Well, here it is. This… Conan’s hat.
Okay, it’s his helmet. And I’ve been stuck on it for weeks. Not all my fault, I’m not innocent either. To begin with, I’m new (skill-wise) to the airbrush. Figured, it’s a helmet. Two basic colors. Some shading. Great opportunity for some simple practice. Boy, was I wrong. Actually, not so much about the airbrushing, but about having a clean edge where the two colors meet. I’ve tried taping the edges, but there was bleed. Tried mold-builder as a paintable frisket… that stuff always peels the paint up with it. Eventually, I knew I’d have to just paint it with a brush.
In the middle of me being stubborn with the helmet, I dropped a part of my airbrush down the sink. Not the first time, and it’s always a major hassle re-sealing the drain trap. So this time, just wasn’t in the mood. Went online, and ordered a bunch of replacement parts for the airbrush in general. And a drain trap meant for salons. It has an escape lid, with a hair-catcher. I guess that’s important for hair salons, but it seemed like a pretty good solution for me, too. Next time something important gets stuck in the trap, just pop open the lid and pull out the gunk.
When it arrived, I installed it, rescued the airbrush part, and set everything aside for the moment. When the replacement parts arrived, they got stored for the next emergency. Which was today, the first day I tried to airbrush again. Cleaned the airbrush, took it to my desk for reassembly. Not gonna drop anything down the sink from there! Instead, a (different) piece hit the floor, bounced, and disappeared. This wasn’t one of the spares, it had to be a completely unique part. No simple replacement. Monique and I hunted for maybe half an hour. Finally, at the most extreme part of our search, I pulled the piano away to make room to pull the desk out, and shined the flash on the floor in back.
There it was. Not just all the way back. Not only was it up against the baseboard, it was as far against the baseboard as it could get, and then LEANING on the baseboard! As if it was trying to climb the wall to get away from us. We reassembled everything, including the airbrush, desk, and piano. I told Monique I wasn’t in the mood to airbrush any more.
As a matter of fact, I’m moving forward. The helmet is done. Maybe it needs a bit more touch-up, but that’s not going to happen. What you see here is the result of my work today, and I’m afraid to try any more. Who knows WHAT catastrophe would happen if I tried to paint it again? So, I hope it’s good enough because that’s my final decision. Until next week.
While I’ve been working on the hat with the two pointy horns, Monique has knocked out a fabulous job on Moebius’ Dracula and victim. And obtained her holy grail of models, Janus’ Man of 1000 Faces (Lon Chaney). And started her first resin model, Devonian Encounter.
Looks like I’ll be busy writing up her adventures for a while.
After finishing Captain America: Ultimate Soldier, I took the obligatory few days off from model-building. Cleaned up the workspace, washed out the paint bottles. Time to clear my head. There are a number of models waiting to be built. In particular I have a Galaxy Quest NTE-3120 N.S.E.A. Protector that’s been calling my name. I’m a bit scared of it, because it needs custom lighting. But the time is coming.
For the moment though, it’s going to be Moebius’ Conan the Barbarian resin model kit. First impression is that the box it came in is gigantic! The model is large, standing an impressive 12 inches tall, but the main reason the box is so large is the packaging. The model is held in two layers of form-fitted styrofoam, carved to hold each piece securely. I’ve never bought a model so safely packaged before!
With over 20 pieces, I categorized them as Conan, Girl, and Base. In broad scope, that’s the order they’ll be done. The base makes a wonderful stand to hold Conan while I work on him. Seems obvious, but not every kit has such a good working mount. While gluing and painting, Conan was mostly stable, but he wobbled a bit. A toothpick wedged uder the offending foot took care of it.
Piece by piece, they look good. The seams fit great. I like when a model is sculpted to join on obvious seams. Makes the painting so much easier. The detailing is very clean. I did some small touch-ups, but mainly running a polisher with a rotary device was sufficient. The biggest visible problem is the thumb on his sword hand. The sword itself need a tiny bit of rebuilding. Not much, just to cover a small missing chunk near the guard. But his thumb… seemed to be missing a lot of ‘meat’. It took several layers of Bondo (makes a good contour putty) applied with a toothpick in the crevice between hand and sword grip.
You can see the blemishes, but you have to be pretty close to tell. This is after I rebuilt the thumb.
After applying a light gray base coat, a number of smaller blemishes became visible. I could have simply ignored them, but decided to smooth down as much as possible. Spent this evening just smoothing down the minor rough spots. I’ve read that this kit was originally slated to be a styrene kit like the majority of Moebius model kits. In midstream they switched to resin. Just to address the question, a couple of reviews state that the detailing suffered because of the change. One reviewer mentioned a lack of fingernails and toenails. There’s some truth to the loss of detail, though I couldn’t really tell until working with a magnifier on the small blemishes. But my kit, at least, came with fingernails and toenails properly sculpted.
The proportions are good. Very appropriate to the source material, which is a comic book cover. Conan #1, from the 1970’s series. I’ve worked on models with crisper detail, and models with softer detail. You’ll have to determine for yourself what’s acceptable and what’s not. As for myself, I like the work. It looks like Conan, the art is strong and dynamic, and it’s a good match for the original artwork he’s based on. As typical with Moebius, there’s a very nice color instruction sheet. Going to enjoy this model kit.
Moebius is the only company I know that provides full-color instruction sheets!
He’s finally done – depending on how you count the time, he took either a year and a half… or three months. Guess I shouldn’t count the year+ that I didn’t do any model-building. :^)
Anyway, that last bit went fairly well, once I gave up trying to use mold-builder as a paint mask. That makes twice trying to use it, and both times didn’t turn out well. I think that’s about it for mold-builder. Great idea, and would be cool if it worked, but my luck with it hasn’t been running too well. The first time was on the overal body paint for Cap. While the mold-builder worked in general, it peeled up some very sloppy edges. Learning from that experience, I tried to do a better job on the shield, and it still just didn’t work cleanly. Had to resort to older techniques.
I wanted Captain America to look a little field-worn, like he’d been out there for a while. With his shield, I wanted the opposite. It needs to shine bright and clean. To get the look, I used metallic paints. First airbrushed a black base coat, then a really thick coat of Metallic white mixed with a dab of glossy white. The rest was painted by hand, using metallic blue and red. Not as smooth as the airbrush would have done, but it worked.
On back of the shield, a black base coat with a misting of silver to give it kind of a pewter look (just because that’s a cool color). Then a misting of black around the outer edge, for a nice shading effect. (You can really see it in the picture with the white background.)
The last step was to make straps for the arm. It doesn’t make sense to just glue the shield on Cap’s arm. It needed something. After looking online, I found where someone else had the same thought. They used leather straps, and it looked pretty good. While discussing possibilities with Monique, she realized she had… wait for it… a spool of rawhide! Who just keeps that stuff in the house?
It looked like heavy-duty shoelaces in width, light tan in color. With a bit of painting to match his gloves, the strips worked like a charm. Perfect fit for the strap braces on back of the shield. While I did consider attempting to fashion rivets for the leather, that seemed like going a bit too far. Even without the rivet look, I’m very happy with everything about Cap.
My final task was to write a big “Thank you” to Mad Dog Resin. Great sculpt, excellent details, and a lot of fun. ‘Captain America – Ultimate Soldier’ takes a place of pride on my shelves!
While I’m starting my next model, here’s some random pics from Captain Americal: Ultimate Soldier:
It’s a subtle look, but a good place to see the chalk is just under the pocket on the side of his leg
Just a little interim progress to report today. I was nearly done with Ultimate Cap, and Monique convinced me to experiment with Pastel Chalk shading. I’ve never tried it before, but this was a good opportunity – I liked my shading, but it needed a little more. With chalks, you scrub a bit into powder on a small piece of fine sandpaper. Or at least, that’s what we use. Since I’ve never done this before and only wanted to enhance the dark areas in the creases, I just used black with a tiny bit of white. The idea was to darken the areas just under any highlights, to make the highlights stand out better.
First, the white areas… boy, that’s cool. Great effect, easy to apply. Next, tried the blue areas. Wow, just awesome. Really made it ‘POP’. Heady with newbie success, I decided to darken the nostrils and put a little shading on the ears. This is where I really messed up. The shade was too dark. I tried to wash the chalk off, but it wasn’t cleaning up. Wound up repainting those areas and trying to match the shading that was already there. It took a long time, and I really regret getting overconfident.
So, lesson learned. To shade flesh tones, match the colors better. One last thing; when trying desperately to fix the nose and ears, I inadvertently smudged some chalk on the white and blue. Lucky me, it accidentally turned out quite well. Part of my intention was for him to look like he was out in the field. Not pristine and untried. My Cap is battle-hardened, a seasoned veteran through and through. So the smudges actually worked in my favor.
To be fair, the chalk is pretty subtle. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but the total effect is very nice. Finally though, Cap is done. Not doing any more. The base has been done for a long time. All that’s left is the shield, and it got a coat of black last night. Hope to have it wrapped up soon!
My Captain America resin model kit hit a turning point yesterday. Last night I airbrushed the final color. All the blue areas on Captain America’s uniform. Started with a basecoat of black, then a midnight blue. Shaded it with True Blue, then mixed a bit of Titanium White into the True Blue for highlights. The colors worked really well. After waiting a few hours to dry, it was finally do or die time. All those layers of colors, each protected with Mold Builder. Time to peel off the Mold Builder.
I’d done a test peel on a small piece, but this was an entire model kit, over a couple of weeks. Didn’t know if it would work, or not. I expected Cap to either look great, or be a complete wreck. Instead, it was somewhere in the middle. In concept, the mold builder worked wonderfully. The colors were still there under all the layers. Some of the edges worked out very nicely. But some of the edges peeled too far. The acrylic paint didn’t stop where the mold builder did. In many places, it just kept peeling.
There were also numerous tiny dots within the area that came off. And in one massive area on his boot, a large part of the surface just came right off with it. Those, I pretty much expected. Some sloppy edges, also expected. What really caught me off guard was the paint’s tendency to continue peeling beyond the edges. It left a really sloppy look, and will probably take a lot of work to smooth out, secure, and match the shades back up.
Last night, that really bothered me. This morning, the answer was in my mind when the alarm rang.
In between each color, I’ve been spraying matte varnish(?) to seal and protect the layers. Then brushed the mold builder on. It was an ‘additive’ process, done layer after layer without removing the previous ones until the end. The next time, I would do the entire process on a color by color basis.
For instance, paint the boots and gloves brown, spray them, then coat them with mold builder. Paint the white segments, and anywhere the white came in contact with the brown, peel off the mold builder. Touch it up as needed, spray matte over both colors, then re-coat with mold builder.
Continue the process with each added color receiving a full peel and re-work. In essence, by the time it gets to the blue, all the rest of Cap will be covered in one, single, fresh layer of mold builder. Hopefully, this would be easier to peel off, and do less damage as it goes.
Secondly, I would peel the covering off slower, with an exacto knife to carefully trim the edges where the paint should stop peeling. This was a beginner’s mistake for me. When peeling off the covering, I didn’t realize the paint would come off in sheets like that. Now I know.
Overall, my first try went pretty well. I’m going to take my time and try to salvage the work already done. If it doesn’t repair to my satisfaction, I’ll strip the paint off and start over. It would be very interesting to start over and see how much better Cap came out the next time. So either way, I’m pleased. Learned a lot through all this. My airbrushing and use of the mold builder will be that much better for all the practice.
Aside from all that, my Captain America Ultimate Soldier model is going very well. When painting the red on, it kept looking pink. Once all the colors were visible together, it looked like a very nice vivid shade of red. The flesh tones turned out excellent.
And finally, the colors came together on Cap’s uniform in a way that blended the highlights into one cohesive whole. That, more than anything, was what I was hoping for from this entire process. Painting each part by hand might have given it a patchwork look. This way, the color flowed smoothly across the entire model, with the highlights all matching.
I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to use the mold builder and airbrush technique. Can’t wait to apply all this new knowledge.
In the meantime, Cap’s got a lot of detail work now. Going to take some time to get everything looking right.
This was a good weekend. Monique finished her Elvira model kit. I made lots of progress on my Captain America resin kit. Ultimate Soldier has been a real experiment for me. First project to use an airbrush on (a Badger Anthem 155), and the first time I’ve ever used Mold Builder to mask paint off.
Speaking of airbrushing, our compressor has been doing a great job, but it shakes the table like an earthquake, and travels as it goes, knocking down everything in its path. We’ve been getting around it by ‘catching’ the compressor as it travels, and pushing it back where it belongs. Can’t set it on the floor, because neither one of us could reach it then. It also gets very hot, so it can’t go in an enclosed place. Can’t be anywhere it would ‘travel’ into something flammable. This weekend we found the solution. I was going to build a small wooden platform with a raised lip, then mount that on the table with small c-clamps. Then I thought… why get complicated? So I c-clamped two of the compressor’s legs to the table. Problem solved! It’s been working great ever since.
As of last Friday, Cap was off to a good start, with the boots, gloves, and belt packs painted. Then Mold Builder brushed over the painted areas. Once those were protected, white came next. That one was a bit trickier to paint over with Mold Builder. More detail, with the helmet wings and Capital ‘A’. Not to mention the two big stars, and the white vertical bars of his shirt.
For the flesh, I mixed up a new batch, and thinned it down for airbrushing. Titanium White, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna in even amounts gives a nice flesh tone. The only places that needed it were on the head. Chin and nose, ears, and back around the eye sockets. At this point, the level of detail required to protect the paint necessitated using my magnifying lenses. Had to double them up to get high enough detail for me to see.
I thought the red would be easy. Spray it, cover it, and move on. Should have remembered, any time something looks easy, there’s always some way to complicate it. My red kept looking pink. I finally used a bright red base, airbrushed a light coating of black over it, and then layered reds over the black until it looked kind of ‘crimson’. Did a couple of lighter coats at an angle to highlight it. Won’t know for sure if I like it until all the Mold Builder comes off.
I can’t tell yet if this is a good red. Won’t know until all the Mold Builder gets peeled off.
I’m not even sure if the mold builder will work. Did a sample peel with the browns, and it worked fine. But now it’s getting layer after layer, and has been on for days. On top of that, the boots kept getting the protection peeled off. Picking up the model kit to reposition, holding at different painting angles, I kept rubbing off the mold builder on the feet. So I put it on really thick. Now it’s kind of hard. I don’t know if it will peel off without harming the paint or not.
Either way, I’m going forward with it. All the way. Not going to peel the coating off Cap until the entire model kit has been painted. The next step should be to spray on the blue, do a bit of detailing… and then we’ll see how it comes out. With any luck, the colors will be exactly as they went on, safe and protected under the layers of mold builder.
It will probably need some touch up along the edges between the colors. Plus a spot or two where the paint will try to stick on the sealer. Keeping my fingers crossed.
I’ve been stuck in one place on Cap for a long time. Been trying to get my seams in right, but every time I re-prime the model, it always turns out I’ve missed a spot, or it was rough, or not shaped right. It always looks good until it gets a new base coat. Bear in mind, this isn’t the actual model that I’m talking about. I’m referring to my own work where the arms and legs join the body. After gluing and puttying, it just took a lot of work to finally call it done. It may not be perfect, but it’s the best I can manage.
So finally, a chance to paint! Working with my Badger Anthem (I’m really new to the airbrush thing) I started on the extremities. Gloves, boots, and belt packs. Wanted them all in brown leather. This model kit is resin, titled Captain America: the Ultimate Soldier. It’s done in an old costume design, during Cap’s time in World War II. As such, his costume really lends itself to a grittier, more realistic color scheme. I’ve seen other hobbyists work with brown, and with red gloves, and the brown just really looks good. Natural dark leather.
My first attempt, using the Badger, went really well. Except for the final brush-painted layer. In trying to achieve a highlight, I went with a too-light color of brown for the dry brushing. Took it back to that comic-book feel. This is where the airbrush really stood out. Rather than start over, I loaded up his base color (a mix of Espresso and Black), thinned it down, and sprayed a light wash over everything until the tones were shaded back down. Then I used a much more appropriate mix of Espresso/brown/antique white and drybrushed again. Came out far better!
Click to see this at Amazon
After that, a touch of black leather for the boot soles, and that part was done. Next up was something completely new for me. Monique and I’ve been watching Phil Lister and David Fisher’s video modeling series of videos. We’ve learned a ton from both videos, but in Model Mania (David Fisher’s dvd) he recommended protecting finished areas with Mold Builder. Monique already tried it with her Elvira kit, and was very happy. So now the Mold Builder is going all over Cap’s shoes, gloves, and leather packs. When it’s finished, I can paint the rest of the model without worrying about messing up previous work.
Just to clear it up a bit, Mold Building is not intrinsically meant for protecting paint from being painted over. It’s actual purpose is during the making of a mold from an original sculpt or carving. Multiple layers over time create a kind of rubbery encasement, and when it’s peeled off, you have a mold of the original. I’ve never learned much about sculpting and creating molds, so I couldn’t tell you what happens beyond that. For me, it’s enough to know it can be used to help me paint my resin model kit. When I’m done with it, the rubbery texture can be very carefully peeled off, leaving my paint safe and pristine. In theory. I’ll find out soon enough!
He’s got one more boot to go, but it’s too late tonight to finish. Tomorrow’s Friday, with any luck the boot will be done and dry tomorrow, and the weekend will be a great time to start on the next major colors!
Finally satisfied with the base for my Captain America resin model kit. Now it’s time to start on Cap. To begin, I wanted to use the base to hold him up while airbrushing. Wasn’t sure of a good way to protect it, and finally settled on laying Saran Wrap on top, then tucking the edges in. Not entirely sure it won’t stick to the paint, but it was the best idea I could come up with.
Now he’s standing upright on his base, on a rotating pedestal. Every angle can be airbrushed easily except for some under-side parts, like the bottoms of his gloves. It’s a lot easier than just laying him flat and painting in stages.
The base coat looks pretty decent, but at the moment it’s main purpose is to show me where the seams need to be improved. I knew Cap would need some work. This is a fabulous model kit, but I had was experimenting with Bondo for the putty for the first time. It looked good to the eye until I got some paint on him.
There are 3 seams, all of which need some touch-ups. Both arms had some rough spots. The right leg joined at the hip was probably the worst problem area. Going to let the paint dry thoroughly, then try to smooth the seams out more.
Still getting the hang of the air brush (a Badger Anthem 155), but really like the convenience of it. Plus the smooth overall coverage is nice. With practice, maybe I’ll be able to detail with it. For now, it’s main use is covering broad areas, and some general shading. Monique has picked up on the Anthem faster and better than I have. She was giving me some pointers while Cap was getting his gray base coat. Can’t wait to see her finished Elvira model. She’s making rapid progress now, probably won’t be long until she’s finished.
As for me, Cap’s still got a long way to go. But he’s looking great!