Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting

There’s a saying, which is often said to be a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times”. Whether it’s a true Chinese curse or not, it doesn’t matter. But one thing is sure – we’re living in interesting times, indeed. Many new technologies made it to our lives and hobbies. Digital sculpting is one of them…

Many people are sceptical to innovations and refuse to treat them on par with the old methods.

Just like with most new technologies, there are as many people fascinated with the new possibilities as others – criticizing it. Not only being critical and sceptical about it, but also refusing to treat it on par with traditional sculpting. And we’ve had an interesting discussion about digitally sculpted miniatures on our miniature painting forum, but let’s start from the very basics.

What is digital sculpting?

You surely know what traditional sculpting is: The sculptor takes a lump of putty or clay and shapes it with his hands and/or sculpting tools. You know the kind of tools used for sculpting, right? You surely do.

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
Traditional sculpting tools

Now with digital sculpting, the artist forgoes his “physical” sculpting and tools to use a computer and create a “virtual model” with it. You must have heard about 3d modeling – you can see digital 3d models everywhere: in movies, in computer games, on digital artwork, on posters, in advertisements… Often it’s difficult to tell if the object or person was a real one or is it only a virtual creation.

Now one can create such a 3-dimensional model and then “print” it, using one of many 3-d printing services. Or maybe create a mold and produce copies of it. It doesn’t really matter – the clue is that a virtual creation is turned into a physical, tangible object. In our case: a miniature. That’s what digital sculpting of miniatures is all about.

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
ZBrush – One of digital sculpting tools

I bet you see the difference: “Traditional sculpting” creates a physical object from the beginning, and “digital sculpting” creates a virtual model first, which is given a physical form in the next step(s). And what are the consequences of this difference?

Traditional vs digital sculpting

Digital sculpting can use many benefits of working on a virtual object, many that we know from inage editing software – like “undo”, “copy-paste”, easy texturing, etc. When a sculptor makes a mistake, he can press “undo” and correct his mistake easily. When he wants to create another arm, sword, head, etc. – he can use “copy/paste” and modify the newly created copy. He can also “stamp” textures onto surfaces of his models. There are many many other options in popular 3-d modeling software, but I only wanted to give you a quick insight into the choice of tools the sculptor may use in his digital sculpting.

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
Copy – Paste: the digital way and the traditional way

On the other hand, traditional sculptors have similar options, but they’re not as easy to use as in digital sculpting. Sure, he can “undo” his mistakes – by cutting off, sanding off, or scratching off the parts he’s not satisfied with. It takes more work than pressing a button, but can be done. Of course, he can “copy and paste” an element he sculpted: he can create a mold and cast a few copies, or maybe create a quick print in greenstuff… But it’s more difficult and time consuming than pressing Control+C Control+V. And yes, he can also stamp textures: create a small textured “stamp” and press it against surfaces before they’re cured. But it’s not as easy and convenient as doing it the digital way.

So what? Does it make a traditional sculptor a better artist (or craftsman) than a digital sculptor?

Text processor vs pen

Is a miniature good because of its creative concept or the tools chosen by the sculptor?

Let’s think about a poet who writes a poem, or a novellist writing a book. Many of them moved on to using computers and text processing tools now. But doesn’t it make their art less impressive? They can use copy-paste, undo, and spellcheckers now. Their friends using pens or pencils do the same, but do it the harder way. Does it make their art better because they had to put more effort into it.

Or is it more about creativity than the choice of tools?

Wait, there’s another example, because the first one was a bit too controversial. Let’s take a painter with oil paints and canvas, another one with a photo camera and traditional darkroom plus a choice of retouching tools (traditional, not digital), and another one with photoshop and computer. They all create images, visual art. They all can create pictures of landscapes.

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
Was H.R. Giger a worse kind of artist because he used an airbrush?

But is the painter more of an artist than the photographer? And the digital artist less of an artist than the painter?
Or do they create different kinds of art? Although they are all kinds of visual art, they’re all pictures, they’re difficult to compare at all…

Errare humanum est

Or: “To err is human”. Errors and mistakes are a part of our lives and also of our creations. Some say, that imperfections make works of art even more impressive and admirable. You must have read many comments that digital sculpting creates sculpts which are too perfect, too clean, too artificial. That they lack the human touch, the personal touch of the sculptor, which is given by traditional sculptors to their works. Do you agree with this opinion?

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
Digital model vs. actual casting – Ivanka Kurganova from Raging Heroes

When you take a look at traditionally sculpted miniatures, many of them bear marks of some sculpting imperfections. Sometimes surfaces are not perfectly smooth, details not perfectly symmetrical, and shapes not perfectly modeled. And that makes them special, that makes them unique and gives them the magic touch of the sculptor.

Is it the same with digital sculpting? If people complain it lacks the imperfections of traditional sculpting by the sculptor’s hands, maybe it is the case? Or maybe it’s simply the lack of mastery of digital sculptors? Maybe there are many great traditional sculptors already, because this art (or craft) has many years of tradition already, but digital sculpting is fairly new and people use it not because of the possibilities of creating great sculpts it offers but because of the benefit of saving time and thus increasing productivity? And when time is your priority, it’s difficult to pay more attention to quality.

It’s just a tool

So is digital sculpting a completely different kind of art/craft, or is it only a different tool for sculptors to use. If it wasn’t for progress and innovations we might be still sculpting our miniatures in clay or chiselling them from stone. But now we have many kinds of putties, all with different properties. We have modern casting facilities, we have precise sculpting tools. So maybe digital sculpting is the next step on the same path? Some will move on, some will stay with the techniques they’re more familiar with.

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
Progress is unavoidable

Just think about painters. Some are still painting their paintings with brushes, some moved on to airbrushing. I bet it was simiar when somebody invented a brush. Some traditionalists must have complained that painting with brushes is not real art, because it’s taking a shortcut, and they kept painting with their fingers or wooden sticks. 😉

Just like every tool, digital sculpting has its disadvantages, too.

And just like with every tool – digital sculpting has its disadvantages, too. You only get to see the physical object when it’s printed. Until then you only see a virtual image of your sculpt. And you see it on a 2-dimensional screen. Now recall all the complaints that there’s no way of depicting a 3-dimensional painted miniature on a computer screen and a flat image. Translate it to sculpting and you know what I am talking about.

Then there’s the frequent complaint about lack of sharpness of digitally sculpted miniatures. Is it a matter of the sculpting or the printing process? I don’t know, but it seems many companies fail to get it done properly for any reason. So as you can see digital sculpting is not the perfect solution to every sculptor’s woes.

Next generation or degeneration?

Will the transition to digital sculpting result in decrease of sculpting skills?

If we think about digital sculpting along the lines of “next generation of sculpting tools”, we may start to worry if it won’t start a process of degeneration of sculpting skills of sculptors who move on to the new tool. Just like many airbrush painters wouldn’t be able to achieve smooth blending on their canvas using only traditional brushes. And just like many photographers would be unable to create a realistic portrait in the way artists of old did it – drawing or painting it. But do they have to?

Do photographers really have to prove they’re skilled painters? Do people who create great art using airbrushes really have to prove their skills with brushes? And do digital sculptors really have to prove their skills with traditional tools and putties?

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
Does he really have to prove his acting skills? Or better not…

I say: no, they don’t have to, but their art shouldn’t really be compared with traditional art as far as technical perfection goes. When you compare creativity – feel free to do so, but technical aspects are hardly comparable…

Clash of the titans

I am yet to see a digitally sculpted miniature which will impress me more than some traditional miniatures did.

Now there’s a good question: If we compared a great digital sculptor with a great traditional sculptor, would they be able to create comparable works? I mean: equally impressive and appealing to us, miniature painters? I must say I am yet to see a digitally sculpted miniature which will impress me more than the best miniatures sculpted in the traditional way.

There are many great sculptors, who work in the traditional way. Many that I really admire. Kev White with his characterful models and realistic proportions, Tom Meier with his unbelievable skills at detailing his sculpts, Raul Garcia Latorre with his recognizable style, and many more…

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
Tom Meier – master of detailing. Just look at the decorative patterns he sculpted on a 30mm scale model! No digital sculpting here…

I have seen many great digital 3-d models (many were really awesome!), but I don’t know of any digitally sculpted miniature which would make me go “wow” as much as many traditional sculpts did. But maybe you have seen such miniatures?

Time will tell…

Now we don’t know which way it’s going to go in future. But we can be sure we’re witnessing and experiencing beginnings of a new trend in our hobby. Digital sculpting made achieving many results so much easier, that it’s going to be pursued for many years to come. But will it completely take the place of traditional sculpting in our hobby?

It is quite natural to look for more optimal tools, ones which will allow you to improve your creations and which suit your needs and style better. It’s a natural process, and it can’t be avoided. But let’s think: should it?

Photo: Digital sculpting vs. traditional sculpting
It’s natural to look for more optimal tools

I am really curious what you think about the “digital sculpting vs traditional sculpting” subject. Why don’t you share your comments with us. I am sure they will add many new facts to the topic. Thanks in advance!

— Mahon

Between the Lines – Episode 4

End of the year… again. Maybe it’s the last one, if the Mayans and some prophets were right. Anyway, it’s usually this period when we think about passing time and another year coming.

Ah yes, we also think of our age around birthdays. We celebrate the day we were brought to this world, but we also try sometimes to forget how long ago it happened.

Now, miniatures are quite different when it comes to their age. They take pride in being “oldschool”, OOP, not available anymore…

WHO’S OLDER?

PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT CONTENT

 Between the Lines #4 - Miniature painting cartoon: Who's older

These two fine gentlemen were painted by our own zombie, master of rust and disease, Demi_morgana. It’s hard to beat his love to anything old and/or dead in the miniatures world, you know.

— Nameless

“Somewhere in Europe… 1944” – Review

It is time for yet another review of historical models in 1/35 scale. I’m gonna cover Master Box LTD company of Ukraine, and their “Somewhere in Europe… 1944” set.

Introduction

I found these models by accident while searching for horses. This box includes two nags, two Germans, grandpa with granddaughter and a cart. Germans are also available separately in the “Supplies, at last!” box, and the cart in the “Farmers Cart” box, Europe, WWII Era.

4 human models, 2 horses and the cart were very cheap, so I didn’t hesitate to buy that set.

Photo: Somewhere in Europe... 1944 - Review

Models

These multi-part models are made of plastic and come in sprues. I know quality and precision some companies provide for models cast in plastic, so I was quite scared… horse is made of 5 elements, but there are about 23 pieces for a soldier. Frankly speaking you don’t have to use all these bits, but you need about 12 bits to make a soldier without the equipment. I was then really surprised, because elements could be removed from sprues easily, and mould lines disappeared after short sanding. I also found that the manufacturer provided additional bits, so we can personalize their models, e.g. there are 2 different headgears or water bottles in excess.

Photo: Somewhere in Europe... 1944 - Review

Photo: Somewhere in Europe... 1944 - Review

Gluing

The best glue for these models is glue for plastic elements. Standard cyanoacrylate super glues should be avoided.

Seriously, both material and parts were meant to be glued with the glue for plastic elements. Bits have excessive material which gets melted by glue. This automatically fills gap between two parts. That was another big surprise. Some of the bits looked unfriendly in sprues, even worse after removal. Nevertheless, after gluing almost all pieces fit perfectly! If there was something wrong it was usually because I’d forgotten about few pieces (like haversack or pouches).

Photo: Somewhere in Europe... 1944 - Review

Details

The general level of details is pretty good, especially considering the material. Of course, details are not as deep as in resin models. Also, newer models have more details sculpted. I was able to check contents of few more boxes. Those released in the past are pretty simple, while new sculpts are looking much better and have lot of details. The set I purchased is somewhere in between when it comes to details and sculpt quality. By the way, there are no nails sculpted on fingers, I think all historical models have the same issue.

Photo: Somewhere in Europe... 1944 - Review

Photo: Somewhere in Europe... 1944 - Review

Cons

  • plastic, not resin – quality of details,
  • be careful while cleaning the model. Material is quite soft, you can easily scrape details off.

Pros

  • price!!
  • general quality,
  • range (see below).

Range (a.k.a. what I have seen)

Models in 1/35 scale are usually not to my liking due to very stiff poses. Soldiers stand at attention, point a finger at something, shoot from the hip or crawl – all of that like they had a long and stiff stick in their… well, you know where.

I was therefore even more surprised to see that soldier with a bin assuming a very easy stance; his mate also looks like an easy fellow. This made me check other products released by that company. It looks like there is more “easy” sculpts and several very dynamic ones. I recommend taking a closer look at:

  • “Frontier fight of summer 1941, hand to hand combat (4 fig.)” – hand to hand combat with helmets and shovels??
  • “Skatspieler” – soldiers playing cards.
  • “Casualty Evacuation”, German Infantry, Stalingrad, Summer 1942 – rarely seen scene with wounded/killed soldiers
  • “Deutsches Afrika Korps, WWII Era” – repair workshop.

There is more of that; and some civilians too.

I also suggest you find the diorama produced by Kenichiro Hebitsuka from Japan on the manufacturer’s website – it clearly shows what you can make out of these models.

Painting

I haven’t observed any bad reaction between the material and spray primer or any signs of wearing.

I painted mine for the 5th Chest of Colors Miniature Exchange and painting process was fun and quick. I’d love to use oils for few elements, but lifted that idea due to time constraints. Anyway, these models surely can be painted with oils. The only lacking thing were deeper details characteristic for resin models. Newer models are much better with regards to details though.

True historical colour scheme is shown on the box with reference to specific paints given (Vallejo, Tamiya, Lifecolor, Humbrol, Agama). Of course, you can always check available publications (e.g. Osprey books) by yourself or paint a model as you wish.

Photo: Somewhere in Europe - Review
My paintjob for Chest of Colors Miniature Exchange

Verdict

I don’t think you will find a better quality/price ration within this price range. The casting quality is not as good as in case of resin models, but many of these models would look better than standard resin models, especially “top sets” like “US Check Point in Iraq /3591/”. A box with 2 – 5 models with loads of equipment will cost 15 – 45 PLN (4 – 10€, 5 – 15 $), and “MB 3560 German Motorcycle Repair Crew (1:35)” set comprising a full diorama with 4 soldiers, table and motorcycle stripped to pieces costs about 60 PLN (14 €, 18 $).

My opinion is that this is a very good offer for people who want to try a new scale or new techniques (oils, anyone?). You will not despair if something goes wrong due to low prices. Of course, advanced painters could easily make a masterpiece of these models like Kenichiro Hebitsuka did.

— Maru

Miniature painting Christmas is coming!

Christmas period is coming! Holidays, free time, good food… and GIFTS!

Hey, call me immature, but I love that part of Christmas. Decorated tree, family around it, packages under it… and all these surprises waiting for you… Socks, ties, books you’ve already read, CDs you’ve already bought…

Miniature painter’s Christmas tree

No, wait. Let’s imagine something better. The hobby Christmas tree. True paradise for every painter in the world. A place, where every one of us will find a gift we actually want and need. First things first though – we need to decorate our tree.

Reaper Miniatures and Scibor Monstrous Miniatures were kind enough this year to provide us with some nice decorations.

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

Miniatures

Right, I believe we can now pick our first presents! I’m pretty sure many of us would love to get something really big and impressive… Cang the Implacable from CMON Miniatures maybe?

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

Of course, a standard size mini would be cool, too! Fantasy, like Studio McVey Azumi

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

 …or SF model like this Dragao from the Infinity game, it doesn’t matter at all!

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

However, we could use our tree to make someone leave his or hers comfort zone. A larger scale historical model, like this Pegaso Models Templar Knight might be interesting, don’t you think?

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

We don’t paint busts frequently, which is kind of shame, as they are often such a great sculpts. Young Miniatures have many of them in their range.

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

 We also can’t forget about gamers among us! Why don’t you surprise someone with minis they can use for gaming, maybe even released by a different company? Every gamer should appreciate these dwarfs from Avatars of War. Variety is the key to a nice army.

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

Paints

Of course, we all need additional stuff to paint all these minis under our tree. What paints do you use? Maybe it’s about time to try other brands and compare them? There are so many paints on the market, find the one that suits you best. Relatively new Foundation Paints from GW

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

Privateer Press P3 paints….

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

…. or maybe one of these nice sets of Andrea Miniatures paints?

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

Brushes

What else could we put under the Christmas tree? Good quality brushes seem like a nice choice for any painter. Famous W&N 7 series…

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

… or maybe less-known but at least equally good Raphaël brushes?

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

Miniature painting DVDs

For those wishing to learn new tricks there are many instructional DVDs out there. This one released by Darksword Miniatures showcases a great female tag-team of Jen Haley and Anne Foerster.

Photo: Miniature painting Christmas is coming

So many products to choose from… not an easy task, I tell you.

What about you?

What would you like to find under your hobby Christmas tree? What would you like to give to your fellow painters? Tell us, we are all eager to hear that… and maybe someone will actually follow your request.

Happy Christmas everybody!

Between the Lines – Episode 3

Last words… Eventually, every single one of us will say these.

People say very surprising things when the time comes. Some are very serious:

“…it’s better to burn out than to fade away”

Others, not so:

“These curtains are killing me, one of us has got to go”

Some are still in a good mood:

“I’ve never felt better”

However, others may get quite upset at this stage:

“Get these fucking nuns away from me”

Yes, majority is definitely angry. This trampled Chaos Lord surely was…

Famous Last Words

Bohun's Dreadnought - Between the Lines #3

 

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: yes, it is a model painted by Bohun, but unlike one other dreadnought, this one was used WITH Bohun’s permission.

Oh, quoted last words are true and were used without any consent. I had a hard time to contact authors.