Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thoughts on painting windows

A friend asked me why I always paint windows in vehicles (and often on buildings) a uniform very dark gray, so this seemed a good topic for this weekend's blog entry. 

I've seen lots of wargamers paint vehicle windows all varieties of blue, green, silver, and even white, and many use mixtures of several or all of those. But as you pass cars during your day, have you ever really looked at their windows and thought about it?  Probably not, but here's what you would see:
See how dark the windows appear?

"But wait!", I hear you cry. "Military vehicles are different!" Au contrair!

As you can see, vehicle windows very often look quite dark. Only as you approach the vehicle does the reflection of the sky make it appear lighter. 

Buildings are a somewhat different matter. Large office buildings, especially at a distance, often appear to have dark windows. Here's the AIG building, more than a mile distant:

Needless to say, buildings that have a mirrored surface look different, as they almost always reflect the sky and landscape and so always look light-colored: 

Smaller buildings can go either way, light windows:
Or dark ones:

Residential buildings can also go either way, lighter appearing due to shades or blinds inside the windows:
Or a darker appearance:
Or often, both:
As you can see, the above houses are a mixture of light and dark. So I paint my houses/apartment buildings as a mix. Some light, some dark, and some a mixture of both in the same building. I try to get my models to reflect reality. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

More next time. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thoughts on paint brushes and tank treads

Another Saturday at the hobby desk. I just got back from my local art supply store, Texas Art Supply, and a beautiful place it is too. The two paint brushes that I use most often have gotten to the "gotta throw them out" stage, so I got a couple of replacements. 

I know everyone has their favorite brush manufacturer. Some prefer to buy incredibly expensive brushes, the rationale being that they (supposedly) last longer. Others get the 10 for $1 Walmart brushes, figuring that since brushes don't last long anyway, you might as well go cheap. After trying both those methods and finding no real advantage to either, I feel that I've found a comfortable middle ground. 

Obviously, I have to choose a brush that is available to me without having to go to a lot of trouble to get it, hence my preference for the art supply store six blocks from my apartment. As all of my painting nowadays is microarmor (90% 3mm and 10% 6mm), I need mostly small, detail-type brushes. I actually use only three sizes: a size 3 for laying down a basic overall color (most Western Desert WWII and many early 80's NATO v WarPac vehicles were monocolored) and a couple of size 20/0 (a "spotter" and a "shader") for applying the few detail colors necessary. The company I've found that I like best is Royal & Langnickel. It's a brush that is a good quality and fairly durable, but still not overly pricey, i.e. about $3.00 each. They work very well with acrylics, enamels, and oils and I get 2+ months out of each before I'm forced to throw them out. Not a bad deal. 

Some thoughts on the subject of painting tank treads. Normally, when I'm doing NATO v WarPac vehicles, I paint the base color of my armored vehicle, then paint the treads light rust (for western made treads) or dark rusk (for Soviet bloc made treads) and highlight heavily with oily steel. Then, because I like the realistic "in the field" look, I apply a goodly amount of "mud" paint over the bottom half of the vehicle and then apply sepia wash inside the treads to simulate shadow and bring out the road wheels, idler wheels, sprockets, etc. but it has occurred to me that, given the liberal coat of mud, I might be able to completely omit the rust/steel step in the painting process. The same is true for leaving out painting the tires dark rubber on wheeled vehicles. 

So, let's experiment. I'll base coat one East German BTR-50PK (actually called SPW-50PK by the East Germans) and then paint the treads in my usual way and then I'll base coat another one without painting the treads at all. I'll weather both with "mud" and let's see if we can tell the difference. Here are the two vehicles base coated with Panzer Olivgrün:
And here are the treads of the one that has them painted:
As you can see, iPhones are pretty well totally useless for macro photography (or any other kind). Now let's paint the details and "muddy" the tracks. 

Here are both vehicles completed. The one without painted tracks is on the bottom:

I don't know about you, but I see no difference at all!  Once it's glued to a flocked base, it'll be impossible to say which is which. I think I can safely stop painting tracks for European-based gaming (Western desert is another matter, as there's obviously no mud there). Now I'll black wash and dry brush them and paint the few details that need picking out.

More next weekend!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Another weekend of painting

A small packet came from Picoarmor yesterday. BMP-1's, 100mm Soviet anti-tank guns, BTR-50PK's, and another pack of Soviet 120mm mortars with GAZ-66 trucks. 

Most of this order will become East Germans, but the 120mm mortars are the only modern ones O8 makes, so these will be paired with Unimog 1300L's and become a Danish unit. O8 minis do have enough detail to clearly identify these as Soviet, provided that you hold it nearly to the end of your nose, but at arm's length on the table, no one will ever know the difference.

As I've been a bit lazy the last two weekends (due in part to bone shatteringly cold weather), I'm going to try to finish an entire company of East German T-55's, including command and bases. I don't think I'll get it all done, but I'll get as far as I can. The really beautiful, warm weather outside is quite a distraction.
I should move to Alaska. I'd get a lot more hobby work done.

Monday night: I was right. I didn't get everything finished in one weekend. Not because it was too much to do, but solely due to sloth. Anyway, here's the completed East German T-55 company:

On to the next project!!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A new year, so let's take stock.

Being as it's a new year, it seems a good time to stop and look over what I'm doing, what I've done, and what I've still got to do. No "resolution" really, just a look at the state my hobby is in at the beginning of 2014 and maybe a bit of where I'd like to be for New Year 2015. 

Looking over the big bookcase where I keep most of my projects that are "in the process", there are three scales: 3mm, 6mm, and 1/2400. So, let's take them in turn. 

1/2400: I have over 700 WWII ships. Most all are assembled and primed, but very very few are painted. In 2013, this previously all-consuming project was pushed to the back of the pile and more or less off the pile. I've done virtually nothing with it over the past year and don't really feel any desire to get back to it, so it will sit and gather dust awaiting the time that my interest in it flares up again. Honestly, I need to sell them off, but I don't know anyone into 1/2400 and these things are far too fragile to try to ship. 

6mm: This scale has a number of different sub-projects, all of which have suffered from being semi-ignored this past year. 

Napoleonics: Another previously "all consuming" interest that has fallen off the radar. A large bag of unpainted lead and a number of completed battalions for the 1806 Prussian campaign stare forlornly at me from the back of a shelf, but like 1/2400, I feel no urgency to accomplish anything with them. Another thing I ought to sell, but again, fragility intervenes. 

Vietnam: This was a hot project in 2012 and early 2013, but in the second half of of the year, it slowed considerably. I'd like to find more time and interest for this in 2014. Quite a lot of vehicles, riverine craft, and infantry to get through. I bought the really excellent Charlie Don't Surf rules from Too Fat Lardies and I'd really like to try them out. 

Cold War 1981: The beginning of 2013 saw this interest wax and then wane, mostly because I duplicated it in 3mm. I've done very little with it for the last 6 months. 

Terrain: After producing quite a large amount of 6mm terrain for Western Europe suitable for 19th and 20th Centuries, as well as a whole lot of Vietnam terrain, I had to admit to myself that I really don't like GHQ's Terrain Maker. The versatility of the system is a fantastic idea, but the material they use and their quality control are really sub-standard. So, I called a halt and have yet to find anything to replace it. So this hangs in limbo for the moment. I also continue slow progress on 6mm buildings for Vietnam and Germany. Another "I ought to sell".

3mm: This became my new passion in 2013 and I foresee it continuing to be so in 2014. I began by trying to "downscale" my 6mm Vietnam project. After a short time, 3mm Vietnam got sidetracked by 3mm Cold War and WWII Western Desert. These continue to be what I devote 90% of my attention to. However, I'd like to add 1940 Battle of France, 1981 Cold War Greece & Turkey v Bulgaria & Romania, and American Civil War at some point. I also need to begin working more on 3mm terrain. Western Desert terrain is easy, undulating featureless sand barrens, but I need to do something about terrain for Cold War Germany. 

As always, my proliferation of interests has dramatically outstripped my available hobby funds, so everything moves much more slowly than I'd prefer and purchases have to be in penny packets. Minis, paints, bases, brushes, occassional tools, terrain supplies, etc, etc, etc. I have a year's worth of pre-planned Picoarmor purchases written down, but some how, a more urgent need always jumps the queue. 

After reading over the above, I'm certain that I have hobby ADD. Well, I'm too old to get treatment. By now, the infection has gone clear to the bone. As always, I welcome your observations, comments, or general commiserations.