Plastic pirates

I’m a little shocked at how many figures in my backlog fall into the “pirates and swashbucklers” category. Doing another sweep I remembered I still had 20+ plastic pirate crew from the “Weapons & Warriors” game, 10 or so dwarves with guns and horned helmets that seemed seaworthy, and about a dozen Landsknechte (who technically would be a little early and landlocked for Age of Sail gaming but who are a) flashy, b) mostly unarmored, and c) armed with guns or Zweihanders, so they really fit in better here than Medieval fantasy or Modern/Sci-fi which are the other two categories I tend to put RPG minis into).

The plastic pirates were a challenge because there are so many and they ought to be non-uniform. What I ended up doing was limiting them to 20 and breaking them up into groups of five, each of these four groups getting a single color for their shirts and trousers. Then I chose five different colors for their bandannas and sashes, and used them on up to 1 from each group of four. Lastly I used dark brown on half and black on half for their vests and shoes. So, no two are exactly alike but I can easily form groups of various sizes (4 blue bandannas, or 5 blue shirts, or 8 blue anything, or 10 black vests, etc.). I will probably number their bases too.

I used a lazy but fast shading technique that I’ve been experimenting with a bit: a black wash (which I used to do back when I started painting, knowing no better) but with some Future Floor Finish mixed in to greatly reduce the surface tension and allow better pooling into crevasses than plain paint and water would. This basically creates an effect like black lining (which is very tedious) and adds a simple shading in one step. I’ve tried Minwax “Polyshades”for the same purpose (with has the added benefit of being a polyurethane varnish too) but it tends to make things look too dirty, like a regular black wash. The new wash mix is not perfect, especially on the orange and yellows, but pirates should be dirty so I’m OK with it. I can’t imagine getting 20 pirates done in three 1 hour painting sessions otherwise!

At some point I may add eye patches (to the ones with the sloppiest eyes) and mustaches (the figures look like they either have bushy mustaches or really heavy sneering lips). I might also go back and give half of them darker skin tones, since historically pirates could be from anywhere.

They all seem to have a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other, with what might be a knife tucked into their sash. (One detail that I like is that the swords are manifestly NOT cutlasses, which only became common in the early 19th century. In the golden age of piracy, the swords might be anything, and the short hangers they have look right).

Published in: on April 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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A few of my favorite things

A freind asked me recently what my favorite miniature was and of course I couldn’t even begin to answer. I usually think of my Grenadier AD&D “Dragon’s Lair,” but while I’m certainly proud of it, I don’t really have a lot memories associated with and painting it was more of a duty than enjoyable. I might also think of my orcs, which I have a lot of, or my skeleton army, which I really like too, but most of them were painted without a lot of care and only really look good as an army. After a little thought though I realized my favorites must be the figures that always end up on display on the wally. I have an old “printer’s drawer” that can hold a lot of minis, but it is an antique and I always worry about overloading in. More recently I picked up a small display that I imagine was made for thimbles or shot glasses at a rummage sale. Some of my favorite adventurers, and a few monsters, are displayed prominently on it in my gaming area.

The red velvet backing and arches really class it up, huh?

L to R, top: Citadel dwarf (one of my all-time favorite dwarfs), Grenadier hireling, Reaper fighter or paladin; bottom: Citadel knight Templar, Grenadier archer, Grenadier gnome illusionist.

L ro R, top: Heritage knight, Minstril from Groo the Wanderer (Dark Horse), bottom:  Heritage elf, Heritage knight, TSR fighter.

Grenadier thief, Grenadier halfling lookouts, Ral Partha gnome, Reaper mushroom king, Grenadier fighter, Grenadier efreet.

Grenadier halfling, Grenadier thief, Grenadier magic-user, Citadel chaos warrior, Grenadier goblin hero, Heritage sorcerer.

Some of these are pretty well painted in my humble opinion, though some are pretty crude. The chaos warrior actually placed in painting competition at a convention in the late 1980s, though I knew he was not up to snuff compared to what I was seeing in White Dwarf. He’s served as a half-orc fighter many times since, as has the goblin next to him. Apart from those two, I believe the rest of the paint jobs are less than 10 years old. I’d say I’ve gotten a lost faster, and perhaps more garish in my colors and contrast, but I’m not sure I’ve gotten much better. But I’m on track to at least finish painting all my figures before I go blind, so there’s that…

Published in: on March 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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A cautionary tale

Since it’s too cold to take anything outside to spray with a sealer, in the winter I use a brush-on acrylic sealer (the floor polish formerly sold as “Future” floor finish). It’s really glossy but dries quickly and is a very good protector. I decided to kill the gloss with some matte varnish sold as “Aileene’s” — a house brand at Jo-Ann’s craft stores. It created a horrific, dusty-looking mess of my figures.



However I noticed that brushing on some water restored the original look, at least as long as it was wet, so m next idea was to scrub off as much of the varnish as I could and re-apply the Future finish, since it leaves a “wet” look.


Not quite where I hoped, but a little better.

You’d think I would know by now to test this kind of thing out before applying to 20-30 minis. Fuuuuuuck.

I may try scrubbing them a nit more with water to see how much of the matte varnish will come off the Future finish, but it’s encouraging that the worst of it can be fixed. Will I never learn?


Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 10:31 pm  Comments (4)  

Heritage paints, part two

So I was on such a roll painting this weekend that I forgot to stop and take WIP pictures, but here are the Tiki Golem and centipede finished.

The Tiki Golem, in hindsight, probably should have had darker, redder tint to the body; more like the wood of his weapon.  Still he looks ok.  I did minimal highlighting with a mix of ivory and the Heritage brown.  The other colors are all regular craft paints.

tikigolemOne really nice touch on this figure is a little nest in the golem’s back.  I can’t really be sure what the animal is meant to be but I thought it was maybe some kind of possum or primate?  Porcupine? No idea.  I just painted him grey with a pink snoot.


Click to embiggen. What is that critter?

The centipede had a problem when I applied the sealer (in this case, Pledge Tile & Vinyl Floor Finish, which is the new brand used for the Future Floor Finish formula).  The Heritage paint dissolved into the finish!  This did not happen with the brown on the golem, so it must be something specific to the red paint.  Arg.

centipede-1This muddied the overall look of the figure, but it’s so small it doesn’t matter all that much.  Next time I’ll use a spray-on sealer, because the brushwork with the floor finish smeared the paint.

FWIW, I began trying the Future Floor Finish because I learned that spray-on sealers interact with polymer clay and leave a tacky finish, but the Future formula (basically acrylic) does not interact with polymer clay like Sculpey.  I am using it on metal now too because it is much to cold to use spray sealers right now, and the floor finish has no toxic fumes.

Anyway, this does leave me with some questions about the formula for Heritage Colors.  I’d heard somewhere that Heritage contracted with a paint company that also sold house paints and other industrial grade paints.  The plot thickens…

Published in: on February 17, 2014 at 8:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Heritage paints, part one

Some time ago one of the guys who used to make molds for Heritage Models sent me some pots of paint from Heritage’s paint line.  Many of them were dried out beyond recovery, but a few were still usable.  He’d added some water to them before he sent them, and they seem a bit thinner than the paints which came in the Paint & Play sets (which were the only Heritage paints I had back in the day).  However, for my purposes that works fine, as I wanted to try out the “stain painting” method described in the painting guides Heritage published back in the day*, which call for watered down paint applied directly over the white primer they sold (& which I am 90% certain was just white gesso).  So here are a couple of shots of my first step, applying the watery but still very intensely pigmented paints to a couple of Reaper minis.

A wood golem, or animated Tiki; behind it a bottle of 30+ year old paint and a bottle of new gesso.

A wood golem, or animated Tiki; behind it a bottle of 30+ year old paint and a bottle of new gesso.

You can see that the paint settled in like a very dark wash.  The next is a giant(ish) centipede, also by Reaper, painted with some crimson paint from the same line.  I see now that a couple of spots were missed.

heritage-crimsonThe idea is that crevices and relief get slightly different densities of paint, darker in the recess and lighter on the higher ground.  The next steps will be to add details in other colors and black line the borders.  I’ll post more WIP pictures as I continue.  Drybrushing and additional washes for shading are also recommended, but for a base coat, this is isn’t bad and I can see skipping those steps if you’re painting an army.

My impression so far of the Heritage paints though is that they are very good — the pigment seems extremely finely ground, the colors are very intense, and as thinned as they are, they remain fairly opaque.  It could be that the crappy craft paints I use have just set the bar really low, but I remember using PollyS and Armory paints back in the day and these seem to be as good or better.


*The stain painting method was promoted, and probably invented, by Duke Siefried though Heritage staff artist Dave Helber wrote some of the guides and maybe added some additional tips.

Published in: on February 16, 2014 at 8:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heritage paints

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m involved in the OSFMapa and so far I’ve written a couple of articles for it.  Some of the other guys’ articles are amazing showcases of old, rare, and/or finely painted miniatures.  I don’t have very good photography skills, and although some of my minis are quite old, I don’t think I have many rarities.  So instead I’ve written about painting guides from the 70s and 80s, and last time I focused on Heritage USA’s paints and painting guides.   Actually I didn’t have a lot to say about the paints, I mostly did what I could to find out what Heritage’s signature primer was (spoiler: it almost certainly gesso, although one source insists it was house paint base…).  Anyway my research into Heritage couldn’t be complete without asking Willard Dennis a lot of questions, and honestly he’s the main source of info in that article. Willard is familiar to anyone who delves into Heritage and its history, because he is very generous with his time, answer all kinds of questions about the company.  He worked as a mold maker for Heritage and unlike some of the former employees, he is willing to talk!  If you poke around the two Yahoo! groups devoted to Heritage Models, you’ll find that he answers a lot of the questions with no nonsense.

Anyway since I started asking him about Heritage paints, he remembered that he had some bottles somewhere, and even offered to send them to me if I’d cover the postage!  Who could turn that down?  30+ year old miniatures paint, some of it still salvageable!

Opening the bottles, I found that about half of them were beyond saving, but the other half were in pretty good shape.  Willard had mixed water into all the bottles, and I’ve since read that maybe adding water to old acrylics is not the best way to restore them (it introduces bacteria and/or fungal spores which can grow in the paint, and too much water can mess up the polymer emulsion of the paint base), but they actually seem quite useable.  The pigment is intense, and the paints seem to dry rather quickly (I had a small spill when I opened the package!).

The paints included several ‘specialties’ from Heritage’s sci-fi and fantasy lines, including a ‘phosphor’ (glow-in-the-dark) that looks like it is still good.  There were also a fluorescent ‘laser’ paint that is dried up, but which reminded me of the short-lived attempt I made to paint some minis in fluorescent Polly-S paints for use under black lights (no, really!).  Finally there was a ‘ground work’ paint which Willard explained was basically dark green/brown paint with flocking mixed in.  Heritage offered other interesting specialty paints, that I don’t think any other company tried: ‘crackle’ paint, ‘mithril’ which was apparently metallic flacks in a clear base, and more.  They certainly weren’t afraid to experiment.  I don’t quite have a complete palette of Heritage paints, but I’ll try to use them to paint up some old Heritage minis I have.  Of course I’ll try to use the ‘stain painting’ method Heritage developed. 🙂

The catalogs I’ve found don’t list the large bottles except for a few utility colors (including primers, varnishes, and ‘ground work’) — I’m not sure if the large bottles of other colors, with the fantasy/sci-fi labels, were actually sold in stores or just something Willard got as an employee.  I forgot to ask about that.

Here’s a shot of the label on the Sci-fi/Fantasy paints:

Opposite the wizard is a space-suit wearing sci-fi character.

I think the paint survived so long in part because they’d been left closed for most of the 30 or so years they were in Willard’s possession — he admits that he was not all that into painting.  I also noticed that the lids, which are metal, have a small rubber dome inside them, which must have served as a gasket to give the jars a great seal.  The large bottles are soft plastic and the small jars are a hard plastic.  I used to get Polly-S paints in similar jars to the small ones and they always had problems with drying out.  Pretty much every other paint from back then just had flat pieces of glossy cardboard under the lids, and they always absorbed paint, tore, and lost the ability to form a good seal.  The Heritage paints, with their built-in rubber gaskets, were perfectly designed to keep paint from drying out.  I will re-use the jars that I can’t save for that reason.

The bottles all smelled a bit like bong water to me, but it could just be old cigarette smoke or other garage smells.  I hesitate to wash them off though because I’d hate to ruin the original labels.

Published in: on July 14, 2012 at 8:00 am  Comments (3)  
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Reuse CDs as paint pallettes

If you’re a hoarder ecologically conscious like me, you feel bad about throwing away CDs that you don’t need and noone wants — AOL junkmail, old driver software for equipment you don’t use or even have any more, freebies from magazines, that sort of thing.  One way I get a lot of extra uses out old CDs is to use them paint palettes.

I paint mostly with craft paints and mix a lot when I’m doing minis so a small palette is great to have.  You could buy something to use as a palette, or use foil, wax paper, or other disposable things.  But I think you should use what you have and avoid creating waste that will go to a landfill.

Step 1. Have a CD you were going to throw away

Step 2. Turn it over and use as a palette.  Remove dry paint every few painting sessions by peeling or scraping off dry paint.  Once in a while a CD will be so heavily coated with paint and glue that I finally tossed it.  But I have found that CDs make good terrain bases too, since they will not warp from exposure to dampness or glue.

My daughter also uses CDs in craft projects.  This is one incorporates a quarter of a chestnut shell, a synthetic cork with an animal print on it, and a bunch of glass beads.

I could probably work this into D&D.  Ley node, alien monolith, something like that.

That dwarf is plastic; he’s from the Milton Bradley HeroQuest game.

Published in: on October 9, 2011 at 9:55 pm  Comments (6)  
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