Red 5 Standing By - Something a little different

Obviously, the vast majority of the work that I do is game-related. Not ALL of it but 95% at least. When I get a project that falls outside of that standard I'm always a little excited. When I was asked to do a build-up of the Bandai 1/72 scale X-Wing I was thrilled!

Bandai 1/72 scale X-Wing

If you're unfamiliar with Bandai, you've probably see their stuff before. They're mostly known for their vast array of Gundam models, though that's not the only thing they do. They've been doing models for a very long time and they're are known for their detail and the cleverness of their designs. That is all on display with this kit.

This kit goes together brilliantly. It's essentially a snap-kit. That is, you could, if you wanted, put the whole thing together without the use of glue. I wouldn't recommend it but it's clear as you build it that it's possible. On top of that you are given options to build this specifically as Luke's "Red 5" or some of the other craft featured in Star Wars. The physical differences between the different versions are so small that only a real super-fan would be able to tell the difference (I wouldn't be able to) once it was painted but still the variant parts are there if you want them.

Another thing of note in this kit is the markings set. There are actually two sets. One is a standard water-slide decal set. The other is an adhesive "sticker" set. To be quite honest I have no idea why they bother with the stickers. They might work for flat surfaces, but I actually experimented with some of the smaller ones on curved surfaces (I was curious) and they just do not work. At all. But you can just throw those out and go with the others. They are nicely printed graphics. Perhaps a BIT thicker than I might like. The only problem with them is that they take a lot of effort to conform to the details (panel lines, etc). They will conform, though as long as you have some Micro-Sol on hand.

There are decals for everything, too. I expected to have the red markings and maybe the yellow and blue ones but they also include decals for some of the areas where the panels are a slightly different color than the hull. There's a decal for the canopy color! I suppose if you're using the clear piece that keeps you from having to mask it (I used to non-clear canopy) so that's a nice addition. I actually tried it and it's... ok. Painting will look better but if you wanted the clear piece and weren't up to it then you'll probably appreciate it. The helmet decals for the pilot are nice as well and they include a lot of extras because working on things that tiny is tough. I managed to only screw up one of those.

Painting this was really fun. I started with a black basecoat and then painted the hull with the airbrush using white paint and focusing on individual panels starting in the center and working outwards. I use this technique a lot for surfaces that I want to appear aged as this gives you a starting point where the paint looks faded and dirty. Plus, there's really no way to do each panel exactly the same every time so you get a really good realistically varied look to it.

I did work a bit from reference photos of the studio models to make sure that I got the right overall feel from the paint job, but I also put a lot of my own style into it as well. For example,  the kit recommended a mix of white with a small amount of Light Ghost Gray to get the hull color. I started with white, then used Warcolors Warm Grey 2 lightly sprayed over the whole thing to reduce the contrast of the panel lines and to add some warmth to the color. Weathering is something that you just have to play with slowly and build it up until you're happy with it. Warcolors Transparent Black came in handy here. I used it to provide some subtly shadowed areas as well as some of the more dirty and blasted areas. What I didn't do on this kit were any washes. None. That's weird for me, but as I was working on it I didn't think that they would work well with the look I was trying to achieve.

I definitely could have done more with this, but eventually you reach the point of diminishing returns, or worse, you start making it worse. I think this was a good stopping point. Now I'm wondering if I need a 1/48 scale Fine Molds X-Wing.

Living with Warcolours Paints

At this point I have just placed my fourth or fifth order with Warcolours. When that order arrives, not only will I have the entire current range of paints, I will also have purchased backups for paints that I know I will be out of shortly. With that in mind, I thought I'd give some more thoughts on the paints now that I've been living with them for more than six months. Especially given that I continue to get questions about them in my YouTube video comments from people who see me using them even though I did a review of them back in June.

First off, let me say that Warcolours Paints did not replace my other paints. At least, not entirely. All paints seem to have their niche for me. What Warcolours does really well is layering and blending. All of the colors tend toward the transparent side (even those marked as "opaque") which makes them ideal in this task. But this also means that if you want to get a quick base coat of a lighter color they are not going to be the paints that I reach for. On the other hand, if I want to build from dark to light they work great. I've really come to depend on their Red range in this capacity. Want a really dark red? Start with a black base (usually primer black for me) then work from Red 5 to Red 3 as your core colors and maybe add some paint highlights with the lighter reds. Works great! But if you want to have a brighter red with less work you might want to base with something from the Citadel base range as that will get you to that core red faster than Warcolour's Red 3 will. Unless you're using an airbrush, of course. Airbrushing the colors on pretty much negates this issue.

One thing I recently tried out was some of the metallic colors. I was a little concerned because the metallic flake in the bottles was fairly apparent which made me think that it was going to look "glittery" on the models. My favorite metallic paints are those with fine metal flake (Citadel and Vallejo both do well in this regard). Still, I tried them out and after some initial trepidation, I found that once you have a couple of light coats on the surface smoothed out and you get a good result. 

 Artoo's silver is Warcolour's Pewter highlighted with their Silver. Threepio is Warcolour's Gold and Pale Gold (shaded with Citadel Agrax Eathshade and Seraphim Sepia)

Artoo's silver is Warcolour's Pewter highlighted with their Silver. Threepio is Warcolour's Gold and Pale Gold (shaded with Citadel Agrax Eathshade and Seraphim Sepia)

Not every experience with the metallic paints was super positive. I tried out the Black Copper paint and found it to be slightly darker than the standard copper when I was obviously expecting something much darker. Now, that could be on me. I did thin it some when I was using it and that might have changed how it performed which is something that I've noticed about all metallic paints - they don't seem to like being thinned much - but still, not what I was expecting in terms of results.

As you might imagine, I'm not finding a lot of circumstances where I need the transparent range. When I've used them, I've loved them. When I did my Halo Covenant ships the Violet and Purple over silver worked wonderfully and transparent paints are the only way I could have imagined getting that effect. But these kinds of things don't come up that often so, as with all of my other transparent paints - Badger, Tamiya, they mostly just sit unused).

 These types of "candyapple" colors are done by applying a metallic base coat with a transparent color over the top of them.

These types of "candyapple" colors are done by applying a metallic base coat with a transparent color over the top of them.

As for the florescent paint and the glazes... I keep forgetting to experiment with them. So at this point I have no opinion.

I'll continue to provide more thoughts on the color range as I continue to work with the paints. Suffice it to say that I really am enjoying working with the paints even if they don't replace every other paints I own.



Review: Liquitex Professional Matte Spray Varnish

Like most miniature painters, I have a love/hate relationship with matte spray varnishes. They are temperamental, inconsistent, and can sometimes ruin a perfectly good project. It is for this reason that I pretty much stopped using canned matte varnishes altogether. I've switched to airbrushing Vallejo's line of varnishes. In fact, if you use an airbrush, I highly recommend them. 

This month  was different, though. This month I ended up painting more than 140 miniatures for the boardgame "Myth". If I had used the airbrushing method it would have added a lot of time and effort to doing that final step. The problem is that the soft plastic boardgame pieces tend to fare poorly with most spray varnishes. The chemicals in the varnish will react to the plastic underneath causing the varnish to never fully cure. This will leave the minis tacky - which is not a desirable end result. It is because of this that I decided to order a can of Liquitex's Professional Matte Spray Varnish.

Like pretty much everything from Liquitex, this is a water-based acrylic product. This is why I wanted it for this project. No problems with tacky minis. My first quick test on one of the pieces confirmed this fact. Some other things I noticed right away about the varnish were:

  • It really is matte! This is one of those hit and miss things about matte varnishes. One man's matte is another man's semi-gloss. In this case, you get true matte or flat. 
  • It dries pretty quickly. Honestly, it's about the same as other matte sprays I've used so at least there's no extra wait time. 20 minutes to a half hour after painting (on a somewhat humid day) and I could handle the minis.
  • It smells like house paint. Liquitex calls it "low odor" but to that I have to ask, "compared to what?" It's not the odor one expects from a varnish. Instead, it reeks of fresh latex house paint. You won't be using this in the house.

I went ahead and coated the entire run of minis with this and I couldn't have been happier with the results. Well, I suppose I could have. With this style of mini I don't mind just a bit of gloss, but that's neither here nor there. The truth is that the varnish performed as well as I could have hoped and better than I expected. In the past my favorite spray varnishes have been Floquil's (now extinct) "Figure Flat" and Testors Dullcote (and sadly Dullcote hasn't been the same in recent years). I think that there's a good chance that this varnish is going to end up on the top of the list. Now I just need to try out the gloss and semi-gloss versions.