I’m kind of excited to be painting these Rakshasas. They were originally produced in the Ral Partha “The Adventurers” line, a series of small boxed sets. The second monster set had these two poses of an armored gnoll — one with a scimitar and one with a spear. This was the first RP boxed set I bought, largely on the strength of the fact that it listed two skeletons and a minotaur as well. I painted my original pair as gnolls, although they looked a bit small and more feline than hyena-ish; moreover they are kind of short for gnolls, who should stand around 7′ tall, while these are the height of an average human in scale.

Anyway Ral Partha Legacy is setting the record straight and re-releasing these as Rakshasas. D&D players know Rakshasas as supernatural, man-eating monsters. The AD&D Monster Manual does not describe their appearance, but the accompanying illustration of a tiger-headed man has mostly stuck into later editions. I can see some tiger-like qualities to their faces.

I feel honored to have been trusted to paint this set for RPL (full disclosure, volunteer painters get a free set of the same models they paint for the catalog/conventions). They came with halberds for the spearmen rather than the standard piano wire spears that the original had. I like this change. If Ral Partha Legacy is satisfied with these, I’d be happy to try something else for them.

Here’s the progression of how it went.

Bare metal glues to cardboard for painting. That is how I painted units for wargaming when I had my wargaming jag, although these will get more careful detailing and shading than I would normally use for wargames armies.

rakshasas, unpainted

First I primed them black, as requested, and blocked in the steel for their armor (dry-brushing) and the brown weapon hafts and shield backs.

rakshasas, primed and metal

Then I added a dark blue for their shield faces and pants. I decided to paint the boots the same color to suggest a uniform, as they are all standing in a very disciplined pose. Gold details on the armor and maroon straps and belts add some more color.

colors blocked in

Then I applied a dark wash over their armor, some highlighting on the blue clothes, and painted the exposed fur orange. For the fur I painted the areas ivory/white, then applied a thick orange wash.

more color added

Finally I detailed the tiger pattern on their faces (white chin, snoot, cheeks, and “eyebrows”) and added yellow-dotted eyes. Their paws got some white detailing too. There wasn’t really much exposed fur that would have black stripes, but I did add them to their forearms.

back of a rakshasa

Finally I took them off the carboard bases I was using to hold them and touched up any areas I’d missed. Then they got a light coat of Dullcote, as requested. I would normally use a few heavier coats of matte sealer but Ral Partha Legacy will want to base them according to their standards,  which makes a lot of sense as that will help blend all the different painting styles of the volunteers doing their armies. I assume they’ll add another layer of Dullcote after that.

Here is what I’m sending in:

Not the best photo but I hope they’ll approve.

Published in: on February 15, 2021 at 8:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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Beastmen and goatkin

No telling if I’ll be able to follow through with this, but my master plan is to start getting the vast backlog of unpainted miniatures painted by tackling one type at a time. Here is the result of trying to get all my “beastmen” finished. (I do have a bunch of other animal/human hybrids yet to do, but the beastmen are all vaguely goat- or bull- headed humanoids.)

All images are clickable to enlarge.


First up: some beastmen from the Battle Masters game (jointly produced by Milton Bradley and Games Workshop back in the early 1990s). The guy on the far left was one I painted years ago. The others were languishing unpainted until I got more inspired and swapped out some of their weapons.

I used a variety of thinned down paints, including some GW “contrast” paints. The idea was to just prime everything white and paint in thinned colors using the old Heritage Models idea of “stain painting.” The GW Contrast paints are simply paints thinned down with some kind of flow enhancer added to help the pigment pool in the recesses of a sculpture and form “shadows” of more intense color, so that you don’t need to shade or highlight. It really speeds things up. Mixing my own cheap craft paints with some water and a couple of drops of Liquitex flow aid gets similar results. I used the stickers that came with the Battle Masters game for their shields.

The next group are Grenadier “goatkin warriors”. They were sculpted by John Dennett, who did some of the best monsters Grenadier produced in my opinion. The white ones were painted at least twenty years ago, so I touched them up a bit to cover spots where the paint had worn off, and also to correct some sloppiness.

The last group are a random collection: a figure from the Descent board game, a satyr (a WizKids recast, for MageKnight, of a Ral Partha design), and a Citadel “ogre.” The citadel model was another I’d painted many years ago, and touched up. I bought him through Wargames West, an mail-order service from the pre-internet days that published huge newsprint catalogs. I bought several figures through them, even though they did not have illustrations, so it was a bit of a surprise.

Finally, another Citadel figure, meant to represent a beastman champion. He came out a little better than this blurry photo suggests.

And here’s the whole set (including a figure I did not photograph separately because he was done a long time ago and needed no work).

I used a lot of beastmen in the D&D campaign I ran a while back, because I wanted something a little different from the usual orcs. More recently they have been standing in for gnolls in a game I play in. I do have a box of gnolls to paint some day too…

Bonus: another Dennett sculpt, the Vi-Perdon!
I like the animation in this one.

Published in: on October 6, 2019 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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These are probably the only minis from Eureka that I own. I picked them up quite a while ago, partly because skeletons are among my favorite subjects and partly because they were super cheap affordable. It took me a while to get around to assembling them — the have separately cast arms. While I admire the flexibility of poses, I couldn’t help noticing how incredibly thin the arms and legs are. For the arms, I made sure their weapons or shields had some point in contact with the base or the figure itself, but the for the legs I couldn’t imagine them withstanding even gentle handling so I added a metal post running from the base up their “skirts.” I’ve done this to repair other figures over the years, especially skeletons. It’s not ideal, aesthetically, but it does make for a fairly solid repair.

The equipment is recognizably Egyptian in style, though not necessarily strictly historical. The sickles are certainly fantasy, and the scale armor (which might in fairness also have been leather rather than bronze) would be unusual but not unknown. The spearmen have typical “kilts” with a a heavy fold in the front that at least some sources claim served as groin protection, and the padded head dresses would offer some protection at least from cuts. Their main defense would be the shield of course. Their spears seem reasonable to me, and the shields look right for later periods (earlier Egyptian troops would have larger cowhide shields; these rimmed shields would be later, lie the “New Kingdom” period. All in all, I would have rather seen swords (kopesh or straight) or axes (either the narrow hatchet type or larger mace-axes) instead of the sickles. I do dig the Powerslave vibe their skull faces give though. I tried to freehand an “eye of Horus” on their shields.

About the same time as I painted these, I painted a few other skeleton types that were gathering dust.

Oh, hello Mr. Bones, I dropped by to pick up a reason

“Mr. Bones,” was part of a Reaper Kickstarter. I didn’t contribute to it, but a friend sent me some of the minis from it he wasn’t planning to use. He could be a good addition to the Skeleton Recruiting Party, or just serve as a “crypt thing” out of the Fiend Folio.

This poor soul was also a gifted miniature I got several years back from a guy I don’t even know but who was moved to find a good home for his neglected minis (The Galloway Memorial Home for Wayward and Neglected Miniatures is accepting lodgers BTW). I had one copy of this that broke many years ago (though he is based lying down for use as dungeon dressing). It’s a fun miniature, and oddly enough Ral Partha also released a skeleton “casualty” around the same time. It’s a pretty simple figure but the pose is good and the detail is sufficient. The flash on my phone at this range really washed out the shadows though.

Thirdly, this lich was always one of my favorite minis, probably because my original copy was stolen long, long ago. Another online friend sent me this — I can’t remember if we’d traded something or this was just a gratuitous gift. I was reluctant to paint him, but finally went ahead and he came out a little more colorful than my original plan, but as I painted him and touched up some other liches, I decided that they should be relatively fancy, considering they were once wizards or high priests. I always thought the medallion he’s wearing looks like a nose, and was tempted to paint it flesh tone. But maybe it’s a gilt false nose like Tycho Brahe wore?  I also tried to put a crown on his bag, because there was no way I could write out “Crown Royal” at this scale.

And here he is with three other Grenadier liches I touched up. I have a few more that still need some work. The second from the left was painted by someone else a long time ago, and had no shading, so while I kept the color scheme for most part (adding blond hair since the original paint job had his hair and the fur on his cape all one color) I added a lot of shading with a wash. The one to his left had the bones left primer grey, so he’d look more like a dusty, desiccated corpse.

I couldn’t help but re-evaluate some of my older skeleton minis while I was at this and decided to touch several of them up too. Many were painted in my “everything gets a heavy black wash and no highlighting” phase so they mostly needed highlights added, which was also convenient because the same areas were most prone to having had the paint rub off over the years anyway. The guy on the far right just had his face and horns painted white but is otherwise I painted him in the late 1980s. I’d just discovered that the Polly-S “Oily black” paint, if left unmixed, was a great black wash and over-used it on tons of minis. There are a bunch of Grenadiers, and a couple of Denizen (the only Denizen minis in my collection AFAIK — but I just found out they’re still in production!), as well as a couple of Ral Partha. The halberdier and the short guy both have wire reinforcement between their legs, like the Eureka mins above, because they broke off at the ankles long ago. Shorty also has a new arm made of a scrap of lead sprue with an axe made from the axehead from another broken mini and sliver of toothpick. Although he’s been touched up many times over the years, he deserves recognition as the VERY FIRST mini I ever painted, maybe in 1982. His mail still has some blue visible (I painted steel blue and gold yellow because I didn’t have metallic paints — I’d later leave metal bare  of swords and armor for many years as I slowly accumulated paints). Anyway I decided to try painting him because he looked easy (his arm was originally aloft with a short sword) and he turned out well enough for me to decide I wasn’t “ruining” my minis by painting them. Though that’s still debatable. 🙂

Published in: on September 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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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 it, 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 wall. 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 lot 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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