Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Banners Made Easy

Ever look at the photos in a Warhammer codex and lament your own fine motor dexterity?

There's an amazing site that has three pages of Space Marine banners, all of which are tiny and detailed- WH40K: Banners & Badges- I found the site inspiring.
You can also find sites explaining how to use a painting program and high quality printer and plenty of tips about scanning images and sizing them properly before printing.
Battlereporter, here on Blogspot, has a good assortment of fantasy banner bases.
Games Workshop includes printables of their own- here's the link for a black and white Skaven banner.

Here's an article on cardstock banners that has sizing tips that may assist you with my methods also.  As you can see, if you have the artistic skill, the result is amazing (I realize that the author says you just color between the lines, but I also realize that there are those who find this daunting at such a scale.

So, how do I make banners quickly and easily?  There are a few answers to this question- stickers, transfers, and shrink plastic (yes, like "Shrinky Dinks").  When use each and what do the results look like?

Regardless, you'll need to know what you want the finished banner to look like.
Here's the print out used for this article:
Ultramarine images and one Dark Angels image; unpainted Space Marine figure for scale.

Now, to review the methods and reasons to select them.
Let's start with some bits:

Method and Situation 1 :
If you have an empty, blank, plastic banner,and you just want some detail, try transfers.
I'm sure you've got some if you play 40K- they seem to come in most kits- a nice sheet with large selection.
 Here's an example of what you can accomplish in less than five minutes work time (of course paint needs to dry)- the more time and thought you spend, the more impressive the banner, but as an example of just how fast it can be...
Prime the banner in the background color of your choice.  May take two coats.

As per instructions on the back of the transfer sheet, cut, soak, and apply the transfer(s).

Here's the banner, with some splotches of red paint and three transfers... If I cared to take the time, I'd have centered the Blood Angels winged droplet, but all I'd add for a quick banner is a company number.

 Method and Situation 2:
If you have a blank teeny plastic banner and you want tons of detail, my suggestion is to make yourself a sticker.  It will be re-positionable, unlike paper on super glue.

There are a few options, but this is my favorite, as it can turn tons of things into stickers (good for things like personalized envelopes, gift tags and the like).  Here is the XYRON product home.  There are multiple sticker-creating options within this company, but for $15 or less you can make something like 100 stickers. (Refills are usually around $6, but many craft stores offer sales and coupons regularly for scrap-booking products, usually including these; try Michaels, AC Moore, or Jo-AnnFabrics.)
Print out an image- the neat thing is that you can use a thumbnail- of  the banner you would like to make.  You may want to use MSWord for the ruler along the frame of the window to make sure that the image is the size you want.
Cut out the banner image without leaving any white around the edges.

All you do is drop the cut-out into the space between the rolls...

Pull the tape to apply the adhesive...

Rub to smooth out the image and ensure even coverage.
(This is true for a number of sheet products available as well.)

Peal and stick!  Here's the sticker on the Space Marine we used for scale above.  Since the sticker is paper, it bends along the plastic frame.  Use a clear lacquer or even a layer of decoupage glue to seal the banner, and you're done!

Method 3, situations three, four, and five:
Shrink plastic.
This brand, "Grafix," has several types, including one that can be used in a home printer.
(When using the printer, the image should be 50% larger than the finished size.)
If you wish to paint or use colored pencils or markers, you'll need to sand the shrink plastic with 300-400 grit sandpaper.  You may freehand or print out an image to use as a guide- see below.

Situation 3-
You would like to have a large banner that you will attach to a sprue for your standard bearer.  You can create a banner as tall as your Space Marine (or knight) by sizing the pre-shrunk image at about double the dimensions of the finished product.
Here are some Dark Angels banners that we made some time back; my husband is modifying them for his Ravenwing bikes, but originally one was held by a Marine in terminator armor, the other by a Watcher.
Situation 4- you have bits that you would like to incorporate into a banner or customized armor plating (similar to situation 5).
With long strokes if you wish to mimic the folds of cloth, paint a background.

Add any details you'd want to be part of the fabric- I added a Roman Numeral X.
Cut out the background and bake in the oven according to manufacturer's instructions  (usually on parchment, around 300 degrees F for no more than two minutes and as little as 30 seconds depending on the plastic being used).

Paint whichever bit (or bits) you wish to include and adhere with super glue- that's it!

Situation 5- You want a small, detailed, and strong banner for a tank, dreadnought, the back of an armored figure...

I like to lay the plastic over an existing image and try for a paint-by-number effect.
Since the plastic will shrink, it doesn't have to be perfect.  If you're worried about getting lettering accurate, try a gel pen over a painted surface.

Carefully cut out the plastic- as you can see, the entire under image was covered by paint.

Bake- these curl up as they shrink, so keep them away from one another and consider placing parchment on top or quickly pulling them out of the oven to modify with pliers.  You may want to bake a test piece first.

A failed attempt at enlarging a photo of the shrunk banner... I still posted it because I think that it is possible to see the level of detail against the scale of the paper (lines are 1 cm apart).

That's it!  Five situations and three methods for making your wargame flags and banners.
Range of banners with flag-bearing Space Marine for scale.

The samples created for this article.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Aquarium Additions- The conclusion

In this final installment, we'll look at a large piece and how it can be modified multiple ways according to the armies being used.  Ideally this will serve as inspiration for you to select your own large piece and modify it as best serves your wargaming.

The piece in question is a large fake section of driftwood from Petco.
First- as a large tree fit for a Xenos nest
Second- s a base of operations for Forest Elves, Forest Goblins, or, in my case, Orks.

One side of the tree, complete with a Tyranid for size comparison.

The other side of the "tree"
Top view of unaltered "tree"

First Option- Making the plastic driftwood look more like a real plant:

Step 1- Add darker brown on the tan highlights, a wash, and paint on the inside of the "tree" where it may show.

This was taken when the wash was still wet; the shine leaves once dry, but this also makes it more difficult to see the difference in shading from photo to photo.

Here's the other side, dry.
 Step 2- Fill the largest holes with florists' foam or housing insulation foam- cut with a craft knife and glue with hot glue (low, since high melts the foam).
Step 3- Insert greenery, which may be painted as in earlier Aquarium Add-Ins, again, use hot glue.

 Here is the finished tree, version 1- beware the giant xenos enemy!
Front view

Top view

Rear view
 Second Project- Giant Tree Fort/Tree Base
The first steps are the same, adding shading, filling in at least some of the holes, and adding moss or plastic greenery.  I made a point of selecting four of the eight openings as being places for horizontal platforms.  Using thick foam makes it easy to create a stable base- just be sure to work from the top down so that you can reach up inside the structure.
Next, (Step 4 if you're counting) I gathered craft sticks and wooden shapes (usually sold under the name of "Woodle" or "Woodsie" and began layering them on the foam platforms.  I also created walls and doors for the remaining openings.

A close up, top down, showing the largest of the foam platforms and a small circular (and wooden) platform making up my smallest "decking."

A number of "Woodsies" and some moss make up a platform and hatch at the very top of the fortress.

Here's a hole at the base of the fortress that I elected to cover rather than treat it as an entry port.

Here's the backside of the craft sticks seen painted in the previous photo.  As long as you are careful about the order of your work, it's possible to get both the glue gun and at least one of your hands into the space (at least if the piece is as large as this one) to secure everything well.

This is the foam background used to support the main entry to the fortress.

Here is a platform of craft sticks that cantilevers out of the large opening in the back of the fortress.  I was sure to add a craft stick that seems to support the decking (left side of this view).
Step 5- trim craft sticks, chopsticks, or other sources- including the plastic your model came on- to create railings and details. Hot glue is probably still your best bet.
Step 6- paint all of that light colored wood!  Try a few shades of brown, and possibly a wash.
I play Orks in 40k and Goblins in Fantasy, so I like to leave things looking "rustic" and "ramshackle."  Using balsa and toothpicks can create a more refined look for elves.
The finished fortress, front view- Two Nobz guard the main gate.

Top view- There's a gretchin in the small lookout, and Boyz with some dakka in the main crows' nest.

Rear view- Black Ork Nob conversion with banner keeping watch on the main deck...

Close up of the Gretchin and a Boy helping to hold the main gate from the second largest platform.

(Please pardon the resolution.)
Here's the wall and platform in the back, completed, so that you can see the details mentioned in Step 4.

You may notice that the shading here is different from the shots with the Tyranids.  I sponged over the entire surface with a lighter brown to help make the bark and craft wood blend a bit better.

There are several different plastic versions of driftwood available, and, of course it's possible to acquire real driftwood as well.  Since driftwood can seem alien in shape and tends to have interesting curves and hollows, it is an excellent base for terrain conversion.

Please consider posting pictures of your own work- the possibilities seem endless!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Aquarium Additions- Personalization, Part II

If you've read the first half on plastic aquarium plants, then you know that this section of the Blog will address painting tips to transform an underwater ruin into a battlefield ruin.

 The key with personalizing pet-store terrain is to have selected terrain that is the right scale and overall look, without having worried about color at the time of purchase.  By thinking about your armies and campaigns, you can modify the store-bought terrain to the proper color-scheme with relative ease.  (None of the projects here took more than a half an hour of actual painting time.)
Be creative and have fun- your tabletop battlefield will quickly become more interesting and detailed. 
Here are three projects based on my most recent trip to Petco for terrain.  (Grecian ruins, sunken tank, and ruined farmhouse.)     {I do not know when and if these products will no longer be carried; as of the writing of this blog, these links are working/accurate.}

IIA- Modifying Grecian Ruins
     The pillars that I purchased look eroded by water.  They are a light color with white highlights.  There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but in the universe we play in, things tend to be dark.  There are a lot of washes available.
Here is the single pillar that is available.

Here is the difference after a coat of Devlan Mud Wash (from Citadel)

The larger ruin is getting a different, more detailed, look:
First, a near uniform coat of a deep tan to darken the overall coloring and look.

Then a coat of wash on one side of the pillars, and some ivory highlighting on the other side.
(there are now three colors on the piece)
I also added some flocking to represent moss that had grown over time.

IIB- Modifying a sunken tank
The first thing that I did was try to decide if it should be the wreck of an alien or Imperial tank.  I decided to try for an older version of an Imperial tank, perhaps from the time of the Great Crusade.
The tank as it was purchased.

Everything except the treads gets a coat of dark green.

The treads get a coat of tan with dry-brushed highlighting to simulate both rust and dirt.

The "grass" at the base and some indentations on the tank are flocked to represent moss and other plant growth.

Finally, some metallic additions that represent both signs of former glory and changes in the metal over years of exposure to the elements.

IIC- Modifying a ruined farmhouse
  When I saw this farmhouse, my initial thought was to try and "save" it, but then I realized that it already looked as though it might have been through a fire, perhaps even an explosion.  There was a huge hole in the back, destroyed windows and doors and ragged holes in the roof..
As purchased.  The green roof didn't remind be of thatch.

A basecoat of vibrant yellow.

Highlighting with what Citadel calls "Bleached Bone"

Some brown and flocking town down the walls and ground and finally make the roof thatch colored.

Grey adds some depth to the rocks and walls and provides a lighter base for the chimney.

Black brushed over some rocks, the chimney, and all of the openings show the soot of a major fire.
(A view of the back and the holes that inspired me by reminding me of an explosion.)