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Subject: The Reluctant Painter's Guide to Painting your BSG Ships rss

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Mark Farr
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The Reluctant Painter's Guide to Painting your BSG Ships



Introduction
Back in 2004, I was drawn to the range of Lord of the Rings miniatures from Games Workshop. I plunged eagerly into the world of the miniature painter. It took me a while to realise that I was not an artist. I did not have the ability to paint gorgeous freehand designs on my miniatures, nor create fantastic shading purely by instinct (or by any other means). To compensate for lack of talent, I sought out techniques that anyone (myself included) could apply that produced acceptable results.

When I heard about Battlestar Galactica being released, I decided to read up on it. The reviews were favourable, for the most part, and it sounded like fun. After purchasing the game, I developed an interest in the TV series and, before long, I had all the DVDs I could get my hands on. This amounted to the pilot episode/mini-series/film, seasons 1 through 4 (well, the first 10 episodes) and the full-length feature, Razor. The production quality in Battlestar Galactica is fantastic, but I felt that there were two problems with the plastic ships. The detail didn't stand out (a shame, as it's pretty good), and they weren't all that easy for new players, unfamiliar with the series, to distinguish from one another. I decided that I had to paint them.

I was initially reluctant, for fear of making a hash of it. The fantastic results that can be seen here on BGG from people with real talent inspired me to try. I wish I could say that people have asked me how I painted them, but this is the first time I am posting pictures of the results. I'm not sure why I decided to post this, much less take all the photographs. It all feels rather pretentious, but I wanted to show people who might be as reluctant a painter as I am that you can make your ships (and other game components) look a little better with very little effort and no artistic talent at all.


The Basics
Before painting any miniature, it's a good idea to prime it. I favour spraypaint for this task, but there are those who find that using watered down paint and a brush works just as well, if not better. Some do this anyway, after spraying, to cover any areas that might have been missed. I washed all the ships in warm, soapy water first, before rinsing them off and drying them. Again, many don't bother with this step, but it's quick and easy, so you might as well.

When spraying, I like to have the parts to be sprayed secured to a spare box or piece of card, so that they don't move around, and also so that you can position them at any time without having to touch them. I use a product called Prestik to hold the ships in place. I believe something called Blu-Tac is the equivalent in the US. It's a sticky substance, not unlike bubblegum, but it comes off most surfaces (but not hair) rather easily.



Yes, that is a Carcassonne expansion box that I am ruining in the picture above. Normally, I would find such a practice abhorent, but I have the expansion safely inside the main box and really don't need the old box anymore. I opted to use Games Workshop's Chaos Black spray as a primer, but you could use any black paint you fancy. Just spray back and forth, careful not to put on too much. There's nothing to it.



The small water droplets that you might be able to see on the box above are simply raindrops. It's not a good idea to prime your figures in the rain, but I was eager to get on with it.


Drybrushing
Drybrushing is the only technique you need for this task. It is a method that involves wiping most of the paint off your paintbrush, by wiping it on some tissue or kitchen towel, and then lightly flicking it back and forth over the miniature you are painting. The paint will catch on the raised areas, bringing out the detail. In my experience, people new to this invariably have too much paint on their brush. Rather have too little than too much. You can always apply more coats.



Raiders
I decided to use Games Workshop's Boltgun Metal, a metallic paint, for the raiders. Below, you can see the detail starting to appear after just a few brush strokes. The picture makes it look a little green, due to the lighting (and my poor photographic skills), but it conveys the idea, I hope.



Just keep on flicking the brush lightly back and forth, taking up more paint when you need to (brushing most of it off again, of course), until the level of coverage appeals to you. Below, you can see the progression from original to primed to complete.



Heavy Raiders
For the heavy raiders, I applied exactly the same technique and colours.



Raptors
The raptors often looked to be a golden/bronze colour. I liked this colour and went with it. I mixed some Desert Yellow with Shining Gold (again, Games Workshop paints) and applied it the same way (drybrushing over black primer).



Vipers
I know that the vipers are a cream/white colour in the series, and that the markings are quite clear and easy to recognize, but that presented a problem for me. Firstly, white is not the easiest colour to paint, especially when you want to get depth. Secondly, as mentioned above, I have no talent for freehand work, which is required to get the markings correct. In addition, by now I had developed a fondness for the metallic look of the other ships, making them look like metal miniatures, and I wanted to preserve that continuity. The raised areas on the wings of the vipers made for a natural area to paint red, even though it does not conform to the actual markings. I drybrushed the vipers a lighter metal colour (Games Workshop's Chainmail) and applied Red Ink (Games Workshop again) on select areas, all of them neatly marked on the model itself so that I didn't have to have such a steady hand. The Red Ink is transparent, allowing the silver underneath to show through, making for a metallic red. I know this is not at all accurate, and creates more of a hot rod look, but it does tie them in with the other ships and they look better than they would have if I had a go at freehand markings.



Conclusion
This simple technique makes the ships stand out a little more. Even if you just prime them all black and then drybrush them all the same colour, the detail will come out more. If you take the trouble to add a little more, players unfamiliar with the game/series should have no trouble at all in telling the ships apart.



Happy painting and, more importantly, happy gaming!
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Will
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Tobold wrote:
The Reluctant Painter's Guide to Painting your BSG Ships


The production quality in Battlestar Galactica is fantastic, but I felt that there were two problems with the plastic ships. The detail didn't stand out (a shame, as it's pretty good)

Holy crap does that look nice. And you are right, the detail really DOES stand out.

Tobold wrote:

It all feels rather pretentious, but I wanted to show people who might be as reluctant a painter as I am that you can make your ships (and other game components) look a little better with very little effort and no artistic talent at all.

Naw, this is the kinda thing that makes BGG great. People showing how cool thier game sets look like and inspiring people to do even better. Thank you very much for posting this!

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Paul Edgar
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Excellent post Tobold,

thanks for sharing. I've been eyeing the miniatures off with a view to painting them up for some time. Thanks for the inspiration!
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Matt Epp
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Frakkin' beautiful!
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Cory C
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Very nice job - might want to consider clearcoating them as well to protect them a bit from greasy hands.
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Jur dj
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I'm firmly with you in the Bob Ross school of painting: minimum difficulty and maximum effect. Highlighting is a perfect technique for that, because it is easy to learn, has low risk of spills and is fast.

This is even more true if you use miniatures in masses, like wargamers do, because individual miniatures don't have to stand out (they shouldn't!). Unless you want to sell your stuff or win prizes, the quick and dirty method works best.

Also, screw 'historical' acuracy if you think your way looks better. The vipers look better this way.

Normally, I don't see much point in painting figures with board games, but I can understand why you wouldin this case, as well as for example with the minis in Last Night On Earth.

keep it up!
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Mark Farr
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Thank you for all the positive comments, guys. I really appreciate your taking the time to post something.

I will probably coat them with a clear enamel. I usually do.

Jur dj, I mentioned the ships being a little tricky to tell apart for new/casual players, unfamiliar with the TV series, but it was probably more because I got really into the series and wanted more colour and detail on the ships. I normally don't paint my board game components either. I painted the lore goblets in BattleLore and the sandbags and hedgehogs in Memoir '44, but I think that's about it. Thank you for the encouragement!

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May I suggest a glossy coat of miniature sealent versus using an enamal? From the sounds of it, you have access to a store that sells minature sealent which applies a protective coat that's thinner.

You can also try a matte sealent in case you don't want your mini's looking "shiny"
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Mark Farr
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Thanks Tegre. I have experimented with all sorts of protective coatings over the years. For display miniatures, I prefer Testors DullCote, hands down.

For this sort of thing (minis that will be handled a fair bit), I have had great success with an ordinary hardware store clear matte lacquer spray paint (the horror, I know). I have used it on my Games Workshop miniatures and on the components I painted from BattleLore and Memoir '44. It adds a little sheen (not as matte as the Testors, of course, but then few are), but it provides great protection.

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Patrick Calahan
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Quote:
I have no talent for freehand work


Sorry for the noob question, but what does freehand mean? Didn't you paint these freehand?

They look very nice, BTW!
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Mark Farr
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pcal wrote:
Quote:
I have no talent for freehand work


Sorry for the noob question, but what does freehand mean? Didn't you paint these freehand?

They look very nice, BTW!


Thanks, Patrick.

With miniature painting, freehand is the term used to denote the activity of painting detail on the figure that is not sculpted, not already there. So, for example, painting a design on a cloak, an emblem on a shield, or the markings on a viper. The part of the wings that I painted red are raised, making it fairly easy to drag the brush along them without straying. It guides you, much like "paint by numbers". To do the markings as they appear in the TV series would require that you draw your brush down in straight lines, over raised areas, and requires a steady hand and a good eye, as you need to have it firmly in your mind where the line needs to go. I don't fancy that. If I were to try it, I would probably mark it out first, perhaps even scoring the plastic with a fine blade so as to provide guidelines for the brush. It was simpler for me to just paint the raised area on the wing. If I thought I could get away with it, I would have gone for the authentic markings.
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Mark Farr
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Avenell wrote:
Great work sir,

Might I just add a suggestion as to why those vipers look so dang good even if they aren't exactly "canon".

The colours you have painted them remind me a lot of the paint job on X-wings in Star Wars. Does that strike anyone else?

Quick request: could you please estimate exactly how much this cost you? Give us the cost o' the paint, then the cost of the other equip for those completely unsetup. Cheers


Thanks, Josh. I suppose I could well have been thinking of X-wings, as I grew up with Star Wars. It consumed me for many years.

The cost is difficult to estimate, with the different exchange rates, and because I purchased the paint and brushes some time back. I'll take a stab at it though, based on the price I paid at the time, and the current exchange rate.

The paint:

1 x Games Workshop Chaos Black Spray Paint - $11 (AU)
1 x Games Workshop Boltgun Metal - $4 (AU)
1 x Games Workshop Shining Gold - $4 (AU)
1 x Games Workshop Desert Yellow - $4 (AU)
1 x Games Workshop Red Ink - $4 (AU)

The brush shown in the picture is not the best for the job. You should try to get hold of a brush with a flat tip, not a pointed one, but almost any brush can be used for drybrushing. People often use an old brush, cutting the tip off to allow for more coverage. Even now, I could find a suitable brush for around $5 (AU).

So, it cost me around $32 (AU) in total. Of course, it's hardly ever that simple, as you might well pay more in your country, but perhaps less. To save more, you could substitute a pot of paint for the spray paint and prime the figures using the brush.

In any event, the paint should last you some time. The paint I used is over a year old already, including the spray paint. If you don't plan to paint anything else though, it might be more tempting to purchase another game instead.

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Josh Look
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These look great. Probably going to try it myself.

BTW, I like how you use a Carcassonne Princess and the Dragon box to prime on.
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Oliver Graf
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Very good instructions!

Thats exactly the 'lazy painters' method I normally use (cause my talents do not reside in the same area as yours do not -- uh double negative -- I'm no artist, too). Its really cool to see great results with only a minimum of work, and its one of the best ways to paint (epic) armies (whaarg!) where you can't seem to get to an end (I'm to old for the modern ways like dipping).

Way to go!
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Wolfgang Zelller
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Great guide!

Though for the drybrushing technique, I would recommend other brushes than the one depicted above.

Now if you want to paint fast, I highly recommend using a much bigger brush. Especially if you want to drybrush the whole model, you can use a "huge" brush (in miniature terms...).

For the ships, I would start out with a #4 or even #6. With the flat brushes I use, that would mean that the tip is about 5mm wide.

Of course if you want to drybrush only a little part of the model, you will have to use a small brush again...

Drybrushing is a good technique to recycle old brushes (from your kids, maybe...) as this will ruin the brush for other techniques anyway.

I have been using such old brushes with their tip cut off, but lately I prefer cheap brushes with a flat tip and soft bristles (I don't know if they are available elsewhere, here in Germany they are named: Marabu-Universal). These here are my 2 brushes for drybrushing right now (sorry, not very sharp...):



Of course the special "drybrush" brushes that Games Workshop offers, are working very well too, very expensive though (I get 3 brushes of my new brand for the price of one of the GW ones). Just be sure to choose a *big* brush if you want to go fast. For GW brushes this would be the "tank size".

Edit: Typo, grammar
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Mark Farr
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Excellent Wolfgang!

That is the sort of brush I was referring to when trying to provide pricing above, only I was at work at the time and could not photograph mine. I used the one in the photograph above initially, because I had misplaced my flat brush (I was using it to dust off some electronic equipment and left it there).

When using a flat brush as you have pictured, one of these ships is done in no time (well, in less than a minute).

Thank you for the compliment, and for setting the choice of brush straight. I must concur, a flat brush works like a charm.
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browncoat2814 wrote:
These look great. Probably going to try it myself.

BTW, I like how you use a Carcassonne Princess and the Dragon box to prime on.


Couldn't agree more. Having a Carcassonne box defiled makes the whole project even more awesome!
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Mike Grogan, Jr
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Great job!
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Marshall Miller
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I used to be able to get that same effect by mixing silver metallic paint (or other metalic color) with matte black and then doing an ink wash afterward. Nice job!
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Mark Farr
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Thanks Marshall. I have used the ink wash for metallics a lot myself, similar to what you describe. It does work well. I especially like it when going for a real world look, such as on orc or uruk weapons on Lord of the Rings miniatures, as it tones down the shine and creates a flat, well worn and aged look. In such cases though, the ink works better when diluted, as straight ink can create a bit of a sheen.


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Thanks for the guide, I (Another non-but-somewhat-aspiring painter) am tempted to give mine this treatment as well. I'll probably make a few uniquely colored Vipers to be used by the Pilot characters, and for use with the Blackbird mod perhaps.
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Mark Farr
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ArcanaGamer wrote:
Thanks for the guide, I (Another non-but-somewhat-aspiring painter) am tempted to give mine this treatment as well. I'll probably make a few uniquely colored Vipers to be used by the Pilot characters, and for use with the Blackbird mod perhaps.


Go for it! It is definitely worth it. I initially had misgivings about painting the vipers in a different way, but I knew I couldn't get the effect of the TV series properly. I then realised that the ships are all silver out the box anyway, so even if you don't paint them, they're non-standard. I would be interested to see the results.
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James White
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Kudos for a great idea. As an ex-warhammer player, I know the techniques and have the tools just lying around, but havent put them to use in awhile. Very nice work and thinking outside the box!
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Sean McKitrick
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I've been having trouble telling the ships apart in the reserves pile myself, so this seems like an excellent idea. I ran into a problem though, I haven't been able to get the paint (primer coat) to stick properly. I went with the paint pot (in Chaos Black from Games Workshop) suggestion rather than the spray paint (because it was handy). After watering it down, the paint wasn't sticking at all, and it was only marginally better when I tried using the black paint straight. I even washed the ships in soapy water first (and rinsed them).

Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Mark Farr
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Hi Sean,

I have found that getting paint to stick to plastic like this is a fair bity harder when brushing it on. The spray works far better. However, if you're stuck with brushing it on, just be patient. Is it pooling on the plastic, looking like water on oil, or on the proverbial "duck's back", I know what that's like. If your paint is thin, just wait. It should dry and gradually build up a surface you can work with.

Good luck!
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