Thursday, March 17, 2011

Modeling/Painting Tutorial: Super cheap objective markers, with crystals made from pieces of sprue.

Because Scott Adams is the man... and objectives
In this post I am going to show you the objective markers I am working on just finished.  They are very simple and dirt cheap to make.  All it takes is a few lava rocks or whatever kind you have lying around in the yard, some old sprue, some PVA/white glue, whatever paints you might need, a little bit of gorilla glue or equivalent, and the basic techniques I learned for making crystals and Gorilla Glue terrain pieces, which I will adapt and expand on.  I'll bore you with my ramblings and explanations at the end of the post, right now let's jump right in to creating our objective markers.

The finished product.

The first step is to select your rocks.  I chose ones that were roughly the same size and color, but this is completely up to your taste.  After you have your rocks, you will mount them in the gorilla glue bases.  You can mount them on regular bases if you want but the effect is not the same when youre rock is sitting on top of the ground instead of buried in it IMO.  Just take some of the standard formula gorilla glue, not the wood glue or super glue or anything fancy, and spread it around a bit on a piece of wax paper on a flat surface.  The glue needs some water to activate, but if you add too much it will puff up to an enormous size and will be unusable.  All it takes is a little sprinkle.  About half a spray from a standard spray bottle like most household cleaning products come in should do the trick.  If you have something that sprays a very fine mist like a spritzer or something similar, that's even better.  A thin layer of light mist is all you need.  An airbrush would probably work for this as well.  If you add too much you can help shape it while it's still semi-cured by pressing down on the parts that are rising up too much.  You can go for a look like the rock landed and made a crater by letting it puff up but more likely it will look like a tiny mount of earth with a rock sticking out of the top.  I did not worry about getting the glue laid down in any specific shape.  I just spread enough around to place the rocks in with a decent amount of space in between, added my water, stuck the rocks in there and let it dry.  It should be fairly dry (but still malleable) within a couple hours and it takes 24 hours to fully cure.  I don't have any pictures of this step, but the article on BoLS has one that should give you a pretty good idea of what to do.

Once the glue was fully cured, I cut out a circle around each rock.  Before taking the big blob of glue and rocks off your wax paper, turn it over and trace your circles on the bottom before you cut them out.  I used the lid to one of those huge bottles of Advil that comes with like 500 pills in it, but anything will work.  As you can see in the picture, it is slightly larger than a 40mm Terminator base, and are probably around 50mm in diameter.  These do not need to be any specific size, I basically let the size of the rocks dictate how large the bases would be.

Rocks on cut out bases.  Nothing to see here, move along.

Size comparison.  Also, some experimental recipes for metallic blue paint.

After the bases are cut out, then you need to add your sprue crystals.  You can use any type of sprue including the clear, transparent green, or whatever else you have laying around.  I wanted blue crystals so I will be using the standard gray sprue and painting them.  Find some nice straight, mostly smooth bits of sprue and cut it to whatever length you want.  Get creative with the shapes, and make each one unique or whatever suits your fancy.  Cut, sand, scrape, or file them down to whatever shape you want an get ready to paint them.  For added convenience, drill a hole in the bottom of each crystal and glue in a piece of paper clip or whatever else you normally use for pinning.  This gives you something to hold on to while cutting, shaping, filing, and painting them.  After all that is done, it also serves as something to pin the crystals to the base once they were ready to be attached for just a little extra security.  Adding the pins can be a lot of extra work if you are doing a lot of crystals at once, but I think in the long run it is worth it.  If you have an easier solution, please feel free to share.

Junk sprues used to make the crystals.

Crystals ready for painting.
Makeshift assembly line using a metal ruler and magnets.  A little glue will help keep the paper clips from becoming unruly.  Just make sure you can easily remove the glue from the magnets so you can use them for other projects.
I chose to paint them before attaching them to the base because I will have them practically rubbing right up next to the rocks and it would be nearly impossible to paint them, especially if I didn't want to color the rock as well.  Here is the method I used to paint the crystals:

1. Prime with black Gesso.  You can use whatever type of primer works for you.
2. Base color is Delta Ceramcoat "Opaque Blue" thinned with Daler Rowney "Rowney Blue" acrylic artist's ink.  Thinning with ink rather than water gives you the thinner paint but much more pigmented which is great for a base coat.  Click the link for More information on diluting paint with inks and other uses for inks.
3. Drybrush of Vallejo Model Color "Medium Blue."  I was fairly generous with this, and I aimed to mostly color the corners and more towards the top of the crystal, leaving the middle and bottom parts darker to give the appearance of more depth.  More advanced techniques like blending from darker at the bottom to lighter at the top and then highlighting the edges might look better, but I didn't even think about that until all my crystals were painted.  An airbrush would probably make that part a piece of cake.
3a. (optional) Second, more sparse drybrush of a lighter color focused on just the corners.  I tried this with Delta Ceramcoat Blue Heaven and thought it created an unrealistically high contrast that I didn't like. YMMV
4. Wash with LBurseley's wash recipe Blue Wash.  You can focus more on the parts that you want darker, in my case the center and bottom parts of the crystal.
5. Varnish with Future Floor Wax for a bright shiny finish.  If you don't want a shiny finish, use a less glossy varnish.

1. Black Gesso Primed - 2. Base coat - 3. 1st drybrush - 3a. 2nd drybrush - 4. blue wash.
The above picture should give a general idea of what each step looked like for the first crystal I painted to test the paint scheme.  Below is a comparison between the crystal with and without the second drybrush.

The crystal on the left was given the second optional drybrush.  All the other crystals were only drybrushed once.
Once the crystals are painted, clip off the long paper clip end but leave just a little bit to help pin it to the base.  If you used Gorilla Glue, just stick it in.  For more solid base materials you will have to drill holes if you want to pin them to the base.  I used super glue to attach the crystals, but most types of glue should be fine.  Just glue up the bottom and stick it in. (hehe that sounds kinda dirty)

Randomly distributed crystals.

Ready for basing

Once the crystals are attached, simply finish by basing your objective markers to match the rest of your army and you're done.  Since the glue bases form bubbles that will be exposed when you cut into it, you will not have a smooth surface on the bases.  I like the effect, but the standard "slap on some Elmer's/PVA and dump on sand/flock/whatever" does not work as well.  For this reason, I pre-mix the sand and glue to make kind of a slurry that I paint on to the base.  There isn't really an exact mixture here, I just eyeballed it and added stuff until I got the consistency I wanted.  Once I added the slurry, I also dunked the markers in my sand mixture just to make sure I got good coverage.

I use a mixture of two different types of sand.  The darker parts are a coarse sand that has a variety of colors.  The lighter part is fine grain light tan sand.  

Sand/Glue slurry close-up.

Once you have your basing materials glued on, you will want to add another layer of watered down elmer's glue (about 1:1) on top to keep them in place and protect them.

Almost complete.
So there you have it.  Mystery rocks with mystery crystals growing at the base containing mystery metals, relics, new strands of DNA, sexy pictures of a Sisters of Battle pillow fight, or whatever your army considers important enough to fight over.  It could even contain some gene seed from one of the two missing primarchs, who knows?  Whatever it is, both you and your enemy want it and are willing to fight to the death over it.  In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war... sometimes over mystery prizes in strange rocks!

Hillbilly Dwarves not included.  Or maybe they're Squats...

I originally started making these objective markers when my only army was Chaos.  I imagined there would be some sort of valuable ore inside the rocks or some kind of artifact or whatnot, with the crystals growing around them being a telltale sign of whatever made them significant.  When I decided I wanted to start a Tyranid army, I figured I would need to make a separate set of objective markers.  Then I started thinking "what if those rocks are meteors that contain some sort of alien DNA that the hive mind wants to absorb?  It seems perfectly feasible.  After all, scientists have found signs of bacteria frozen on the ice caps of Mars.  Or perhaps the crystals exude some sort of psychic signal that the Tyranids are drawn to the same way they are drawn to the Astronomicon.  Just goes to show that a little imagination can go a long way to making some of the oddities of the 40k universe seem more plausible.

Until next time, this is Chaosheade signing off.  Catch you on the flip side.

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