Tread softy and carry a big spraygun

After what seems like an eternity of casting and assembly, the first Sedition Wars board sections is finally complete and on the workbench for painting. By far and away the largest Hirst Arts room assembly I have done as a single piece, the board section weighs a rather burly 2.5 kg and is 14” x 13.5” in dimension. To be fair, this is actually less than I thought it would be, using extruded foam for the base definitely helped keep the weight to the minimum it could be considering the construction medium. On the plus side, it sure doesn’t move around much on the table!

If you have been following this project from the beginning you will know that the Engine Control Section is one of ten gaming tiles included in the Battle for Alabaster boxed set and the first I chose to replicate in 3D form. With a nice mix of simple geometries, open space and sectioned off rooms I felt it would be a good candidate to set the theme and cut my teeth on. The pipes and ducting in particular were a lot of fun to include and seeing the model steadily move from Sketch-Up design into a physical board tile I could pick up and interact with have made all of the time spent casting worthwhile.

Now that all the sub-sections are built, I thought I would talk a bit about the painting process. Keeping in mind that I intend to game on this and it is not supposed to be a diorama, a simple, but effective painting approach is needed. It is very easy to get caught up in the moment with the 3D tiles and ‘over-paint’ them, adding layers of detail that are really unnecessary. At the end of the day, this is neither another miniature, nor a display base and to paint it as such would probably be overkill. The sections I did for Space Hulk were about the blend of the two. Simple enough to be painted quickly, but with enough variety of detail to be pleasing to the eye. As I also secretly harbour a plan to re-use the Hulk corridors as a way of linking up board sections for Alabaster that is another good reason for sticking with a complimentary colour palette.

The painting falls into five broad stages.

  • Basic base colours
  • Staining
  • Dry Brushing
  • Detailing and Weathering
  • Varnishing and final assembly.

Before I started anything however, I painted the foam base with a couple of coats of black acrylic to protect it from any spraying later. This is necessary if you intend to use any spray cans or thinners and such like as they will quite literally ‘melt’ any unprotected exposed foam.

It also gives the boards a neat finish to the edging as well.

Stage 1: Basic colours

For this stage, the big brushes came out and the floor tiles were generously and speedily given a basic coat of Boltgun Metal mixed with Charadon Granite. Frankly any dark grey or metallic colour will do, I just happen to like this mix and use it a lot on other projects. The pipework and ducting was then picked out in Iyanden Darksun for contrast and to make it stand out against the decking. For the walls a thinned down dark grey was generously washed into all the nooks and crannies and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with an airbrush for speed. I wasn’t too neat about this and didn’t really care too much if the coverage was patchy as it would all help to give the boards an atmospheric and varied finish.

Once the whole lot had dried fully (Mr purple hair dryer was put to work to help speed the process along), I went back over the wall sections and picked out any piping or metal sections in either the yellow, or a mix of Tin Bitz and Scorched Brown. These metal areas were also given a very quick and dirty dry brush of Boltgun just to give them a little contrast.

Finally, the whole lot was given a generous coat of Klear to protect the paint and seal it for the next stage. Any water-based acrylic varnish will be fine, it doesn’t have to be Klear.

Stage 2: Staining

Using shoe polish to stain and shade the blocks is a tip I picked up from the Hirst Arts website and highly recommend exploiting it as it works a treat. Black KIWI shoe stain is liberally painted onto the blocks and before it gets a chance to dry, is wiped off again using a piece of kitchen roll. This lightly stains the blocks giving them some contrast, but more importantly it leaves darker stain behind in the recesses and texture making the detail ‘pop’. This is where the coat of Klear came into play as it created a satin surface over the porous plaster to retard the stain from absorbing into the bricks too much. With a bit of practice you can cover large areas quickly and effectively. The same stain was applied to both the floor and wall sections.

Wearing a pair of disposable or silicon gloves for this task is a must. Unless of course you want black stained but delightfully waterproof monkey-paws?

Stage 3: Dry-brushing

At this stage I took a bit of a break. The shoe polish needed time to dry before moving onto the dry-brushing stage, but more importantly I needed to take a break for a stretch and a cuppa. Not wanting to be all Mr Health and Safety here, but I am not as young as I used to be and it seems as good a time as any to remind that it really is important to put breaks into long projects. It is easy to get so absorbed in whatever is on the workbench that you lose all track of time and don’t give yourself a chance to stretch and rest the eyes and muscles. A good break discipline will contribute more to projects reaching their goal than anything else. Trust me, I know.

Suitably refreshed and with the pieces now dry to the touch, the dry-brushing stage is exactly as described; three layers of progressive dry-brushing om the wall sections. I start with a 50/50 mix of Shadow Grey and Graveyard Earth. Both sadly discontinued, but to be honest any good slate blue grey plus khaki brown combination will achieve the same result. This was followed up by the same mix, but with Rotting Flesh added.

25 (Shadow Grey) + 25 (Graveyard Earth) + 50 (Rotting Flesh)

This gives the slight off green tint to the walls. Finally a very light dry brush of Fortress Grey pulls it all together. For the flooring a simple light dry-brush of silver to pick out the texture of the diamond pattern plate is all it needs.

Stage 3 was probably the most work intensive, so I didn’t try to do it all in one sitting, but spread it over a couple of evenings whilst doing a few other tasks (like casting more bricks!)

Stage 4: Detailing and Weathering

To be quite honest, this stage is superfluous as after the first two stages the board was ready to be gamed one. However, I did want to add a few details and markings such as pipe numbering, rust patches and oil stains to give a few simple points of interest for the eyes to latch onto. Nothing really much more I can say about this stage other than do as little or as much as takes your fancy really.

I picked out a few areas for extra highlighting to make them stand out and added some chipping style weathering to pipes and corners using pieces of torn sponge. The rust patches were a mix of weathering pigments and ground up pastels which I fixed in place with turpentine. I also thinned some oil paints with white spirit and flooded them into a few areas where pipes joined to add an overall oily finish. Ventilation is recommended at this stage.

For the lettering and numbering, I used a selection of rub-on dry lettering similar to Letraset. This was rubbed into position with a soft pencil and then chipped back with paint. Finally to protect it a coat of matte varnish was painted over the top.

Stage 5: Varnishing and Final Assembly

Nearly there! Before joining up walls with floor, I gave the entire lot a couple of light coats of GW Purity Seal and Testors to homogenise and protect the paint as much as possible. The walls were then glued in place with Gorilla Glue, which I prefer to PVA for this task. PVA is fine for the flooring, however I find it too flexible to hold all those walls vertically in place with such a large board. A word of caution if you use Gorilla glue; it expands, so be careful about it oozing out from the edges and spoiling the final appearance.

At this point I still feel the board is a bit spartan. Partially this is down to all of the internal doors missing, which is at the top of next weeks “to do” list whilst the casting gets underway again. But also there are a few tiles on the reference image which clearly block line of sight with pipes or terminals and such like. These I can add separately as individual pieces so as not to over-garnish the playing area. They will eventually be stuck down, but at least this way I can try them out first and see how much they interfere with the miniatures and their bases. I feel that this project is almost certain to evolve from my original plans as I change elements, incorporate new ones, or find some things just don’t work.

Well, that about wraps up the weekend for me. I am really quite pleased (and not a little surprised) I stayed on schedule, although doing so involved burning a few late night candles. As this is going to be a very long terrain project I am going to have to look at pacing it to be sustainable, or sharing the time across other projects to keep it fresh without losing the momentum. On the subject of other projects, there is the small matter of Dropzone Commander arriving in a few weeks time. I am pretty much sure I can deliver at least one, if not two more boards before then though.

One down, nine more to go.

More detailed photos in a few days. Until then though, have a great week.

CW


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