About driving and contrasts in miniature painting

What can driving teach you about painting miniatures and improving contrast in your paintjobs? Let me tell you about an interesting experiment that I read about:

The experiment

Drivers were asked to drive at a constant speed of, let’s say, 60 km/h. Then they were supposed to speed up quite much – to 150 km/h, and then to slow down to 60 km/h again but without looking at the dashboard. Now what was the result?

About driving and contrast

Most drivers slowed down only to 80-90 km/h, yet they felt they were driving at 60 km/h already. Their senses got so accustomed to higher speeds, that their perceived level of “normal speed” increased.

I had a very similar feeling today. After driving fast for some time I had to slow down to 50 km/h and when I checked the dials of my car, I noticed it was not 50 but 70 km/h. You must know the feeling too…

But how to apply it to miniature painting?

The common complaint

When you browse dozens and hundreds of miniatures presented by painters looking for feedback, you will surely notice that a common problem is that their paintjobs look boring, monotoneous. So the commonly offered piece of advice is “more contrast!”. But what you hear in return is “the paintjob is contrasted enough already”.

So what’s the deal? Is it that the painter doesn’t want to hear criticism and advice, or maybe they cannot see what’s wrong?
Usually it’s the latter. But there’s an easy trick to make them see!

Pandadosmares’ story

You surely recognize Pandadosmares from our miniature painting forum. This Portuguese painter kept receiving the same advice and no matter how he tried, he couldn’t get it right. And then he came to Poland to Hussar 2010. This gave him a chance to see works of other miniature painters and what he realized was that regardless of his previous convictions, the contrast of his works was still insufficient.

This live demonstration allowed him to make progress in his hobby again, after some time of experiencing a problem with making any improvements. One of his repeating comments after the contest was that he was surprised how strong contrasts were used by better painters. And the kind of contrast we mean here is not using contrasting colors, but strong chiaroscuro – deep shadows and strong highlights. And no, the contrast doesn’t have to be abrupt, it can be smooth – it just helps emphasize the sculpt.

Sculpting with light

One phrase I picked up from Ana is that painting is a lot like sculpting with light. And this is true: miniatures are small, so natural chiaroscuro is not very intense. If you exaggerate it a bit with your painting of lights and shadows, you will make the miniature more dramatic, more interesting and more eye catching.

Now think, which version of this paintjob looks more eye catching? Not realistic, but more interesting:

How to increase contrast
No, these are not to different paintjobs on the same model. It’s a digital simulation only, but it gives some idea, doesn’t it?

I used a picture of one of my older works. Now imagine you see them both on a gaming tabletop or in a display cabinet. Which one catches your attention easier? And on the second look, you pay attention for quality of the paintjob, but that’s another story…

So you want to do a little exercise?

Speed up and then slow down!

Remember the experiment from the beginning of this article? After driving at high speed for some time, drivers had altered perception of what normal speed was. When they slowed down, they thought they were actually driving slower than they really did. Why not try it with miniature painting?

So do it in a few simple steps:

  1. Assume that the level of contrast you actually use is your normal contrast level.
  2. Take a new miniature. Not necessarily a valuable one, it can be something as common as a simple plastic goblin. It’s just a subject for the exercise.
  3. Now paint it with extreme contrast, and by saying extreme I really mean it. When shading – shade to black. When highlighting – go up to white. As I said before, no need to do it abruptly – if you enjoy smooth blending, keep your style. Just be extreme with your highlighting and shading.
  4. The miniature is painted. It looks exaggerated and cartoonish, doesn’t it? Probably not very realistic, but when placed in a display cabinet it would attract attention, at least from distance, wouldn’t it? Now you’re driving at high speed, so to say…
  5. Do you feel comfortable with the “speed” already? If you do, move on to the next step. If not – maybe you should practise a bit more, paint another miniature this way? You’re not doing this exercise for us, but for yourself!
  6. Now slow down and return to your normal speed. Oh wait, I didn’t really mean driving but painting 😉 I meant returning to your normal level of contrast. Paint a miniature with your normal level of contrast now.

And what do you think? Did your perceived level of contrast you were comfortable with shift, just like the level of speed shifted for the drivers?

How to increase contrast
And again I used my old paintjob to depict what the whole exercise is about…

The exercise can be repeated once in a while. Whenever you feel you would like to push yourself a bit further – give it another go.

Results? Shifted “normal” contrast level

I am curious if this method worked for you. Why don’t you share your results with us and discuss the method in the comments or on our forum?

No, we’re not saying you should be only painting exaggerated highly contrasted paintjobs now, not really. It was only a tool to solve the situation of being unable to push your contrast that one step further and becoming comfortable with it. Just another tool in your miniature painting toolbox.

I hope this post was helpful or at least inspiring for you. 🙂

— Mahon

New releases: Hand-picked miniatures of May 2012

My has been a month full of new releases in so many domains that it was really hard to choose. When we did our first article for the releases of March-April, there were already lots of minis but this month, it’s even more. Don’t get me wrong, this is great; it just makes it hard to pick some good samples from those domains to try to cover most of the manufacturers. Anyway, enough of “moaning”, let’s see what Sea.man and I have selected for you guys. Hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂

Hero scale (heroic or sci-fi):

Sea.man: Antenociti’s Workshop did those great looking vehicles and must see how well detailed they are.

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Hellspawn: Those vehicles looks nice yeah, they look good and would nicely suit any futuristic army. I stayed simple on my choice for a Sci-Fi release and went for a well known manufacturer, ie Forge World. This month, the version they released of the Terminator is really great imo, I really like those mini Contemptors. 🙂

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Sea.man: Check this great and majestic pirate from Tale of War, he is cool, well sculpted and has lots of character. I really that such sculpts really will make this company more popular. We all like pirates don’t we?

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Sea.man: Bushido is well known for their Far East style miniatures. This ninja looks really cool and very dynamic, or Hellspawn do you recommend something different?

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Hellspawn: Well, not everyone loves pirates or ninjas hehehe, and my choice this month goes for the re-release of the Forsaker from Kingdom Death. And I must admit that I was weak cause I ordered this guy from Cool Mini or Not already 😛

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Sea.man: Puppet Wars are quite known for going with the flow of Games Workshop releases. Good for us, we have more to choose from. 😀

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Sea.man: Willy Miniatures did some great looking mummies for any fantasy football game. Those mummies look scary and surely will spread terror on the pitch.

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Hellspawn: Those are cool indeed, but look at what our friend Scibor from Scibor Monstrous Miniatures made:

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This dwarf would make a really nice general for a dwarf army, wouldn’t he?

Conversions parts/Accessories:

Sea.man: Hasslefree Miniatures did those cool bits, not only they make sculpting easier, but can also be great bits to put on diorama.

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Hellspawn: Those are nice, even to use when you want to convert your army. As for the sculpting part, I really like what Masquerade Miniatures made this month. Check this out:

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They released previously some similar stuff to sculpt wires etc. but now, they keep going with fur. You’re gonna say, “Fur is easy to sculpt” but even if it’s easy, this tool will save you some precious time.


Sea.man: Yet another month we are getting an interesting bust, this time it is a commissar from Castle Miniatures. You might say that it is a Games Workshop rip-off, but I prefer to call it just an inspiration.

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Sea.man: And it’s another month that Knight Models keeps releasing something great. As much as I like bigger scale models, this time I couldn’t find any that I would like to have as much as this Iron Man bust:

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Hellspawn: if you read our article from last month you already know that I’m not the bust type of guy, but I must admit that this version of Iron Man is nice.

Large scale (54mm or above):

Hellspawn: There are so many releases in the scale of 54mm and above that it was hard to choose. But this month my vote goes for this Praetorian Guard from Scale 75

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Not only he’s nice, but Scale 75 is providing extras to go with that let you personalize it and it’s a nice move I think because you can either make him a Praetorian Guard or a Gladiator. Really cool uh?

Worst miniature:

Hellspawn: Some time ago BaneBeasts/BaneLegion used to surprise us with lots of awesome releases and incredible paintjobs.This month, though, one of the minis they released is just ugly. Check this out:

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The pose is ugly, and her boobs are sooo oversized that they look like missiles, and what is she leaning on? Invisible wall? This mini is IMO a complete waste of resin.

Though with boobs like that, maybe Maelstrom wanted to have her competing in our next category, the boobs of the month? Too bad she ended in the previous one. 😀

Boobs of the month:

Sea.man: Another release from Tale of War, this time it is Ana the Rodrigo and her dog for me it means that company is the biggest winner for this month, with second nomination in this compilation.

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Hellspawn: Well, I’m sorry to tell you but regarding the boobies contest, she’s gonna lose cause the guys from Studio McVey released a lady with serious assets.

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Interesting to come:

Sea.man: Great white shark from Yedraho Models looks very interesting. You don’t always have to paint something for an army, and this one could be very relaxing to paint.

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Hellspawn: In the interesting thing to come topic, there is soooo much to say this month that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I think that we can’t pass on the awesome miniatures that Hawk Wargames will be releasing next month for their game: Dropzone Commander. Those minis will be available next month but they’re already available as preorders.

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The other awesome thing is something from Tabletop-Art. At the RPC Germany festival they showed what they’ll be releasing for conversions of Games Workshop vehicles and I must admit, I’m a big fan. Can’t wait to see those in shops. 🙂

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So this is it

Our selection for this month is now complete.
Don’t forget that this is a hand selection of what we (Sea.man and I) think are the best ones, but of course, there are plenty of others and we’ll be happy to discuss those with you on our forum in the manufacturers thread. It has lots of topic from most of the manufacturers. Feel free to pop in and say hi and have a chat with us in there.

— Hellspawn & Sea.man

How to make a ‘Scavvy bunker’ photography background

Hello all!
It’s been a while since I managed to prepare something worthy publishing but sadly when life issues strike – there’s no other way than face them. Fortunately I had a short break from the life recently during which I managed to slap paint over some minis, play some Necromunda matches and of course: write this short walkthrough explaining how to build a Scavvy bunker which I use as my photography background.

Crucial question: What for?

The first question about the project should be: what for?
After ~15 years in the miniature wargaming I realised that although fancy studio pictures of miniatures are very nice what REALLY makes me want to get some new toys is watching the precious models in the action. Nicely painted models placed on nicely prepared battlefield is something just stunning. I still can see beautiful Warhammer Fantasy armies from the battle book and Warzone corporations from Mutant Chronicles zine.

Therefore last year I started building modular gaming board worthy of our miniatures (and Necromunda campaign of course) but because my hobby time is limited and the table is rather big (work in progress aerial pic below) the decision was made to prepare small piece of terrain and paint it the way I want to see the battlefield one day. I was bored using printed backgrounds for taking photos so this small display piece should fix my problem.

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The base was planned big enough for about dozen miniatures. I grabbed thick PVC sheet and cut ~5″ x 11″ sheet. As for the back wall – it’s height was determined by size of the gate (about 4″) and spare space in my glass case.

The gate

It was cast using Hirst Arts molds – instead of recommended clay I used resin with solid amount of filler. This stuff makes casts “crunchy” and much more fragile (bad idea for mass production) but also easier to work with when it comes do sandpapering or drilling. Of course using clay will also work – just there’ll be a bit more mess on the hobby station.

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And here’s the assembled gate. All the edges were treated with sandpaper so it’s easier to install into the frame.

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Once again I used molds to cast the frame – not much more to write about here.
The green slime is test of colors I was going to use for tox bombs – never let Scavvy boss out into the combat zone without supply of this nastiness!

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And here’s the gate confronted with the back wall. As you can see there’s another frame around the gate. If I remember correctly all these cool parts can be found in the single sci – fi mold.

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The entrance is done and inserted into the hole cut in the wall. The excessive bottom will be cut off and smoothed so it can be pinned and attached to the base.

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And here’s the general idea of some bits to be added: some floor tiles and some vents (made of headphones broken by one of my cats – thanks a lot Cruiser, you bastard…)

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More bits!

The tiles have been placed into the prepared holes (don’t worry: wallpaper knife deals very easy with PCV sheet, almost as easy as blessed chainsword with heretic’s throat) and also some windows were added. To make the job as easy as possible I simply cut long rectangle shaped hole, covered it with thin PVC frame simulating windows (2mm PVC can be cut with scissors) and added some nails so I can paint rust around them in later stage. Bright rust should work as nice eye catcher especially on dark metallics.

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Another step was adding mesh into the windows – I really like such additions especially it looks really decent even if only slightly drybrushed and hit with some brown washes. The mesh was pain in the ass to work with and I had to use special shears to get desired shape. Hobby clippers definitely weren’t enough.

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Some more bits added to the junkyard.
Also I attached another sheet of PVC to the back so you cannot see through the windows. Some metallics were painted as well (boltgun + black) – do it as fast and easy as you can, it’s just terrain piece so doesn’t need as much attention as models.

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And more bits – this time it’s the final re-arranging.

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Rusting!!! I meant painting…

Like I wrote the piece was made to fit the battlefield concept: the gaming board is desert area (something inspired by Necromunda Ash Wastes) with some ruins and abandoned, corroded installations. This brings my fav way of painting (easy and effective that is): painting sand is almost pure drybrush while with a bit of practice you can paint huge chunks of rust really fast.

The natural decision was to start with the rust because I didn’t want to see the mess on the sand. After whole metallics were painted I simply glazed them with different colors: browns, sepia, orange. Once the paints dried some chipped paint was added and also some shading. Details will be added later.

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The desert

Base was covered with white glue (the stuff you use for wood or static grass) and sprinkled with sand and some gravel. I use the same sand and gravel on bases of my gangers so everything fits nicely. As for the colors – once again I decided to make my life as easy as possible. Sand was glazed with some heavily diluted brown / sepia just to give it some hue and enhance shadows. After that there was a bleached bone / white drybrush and some chalks for the final. I sprayed varnish over the base to attach chalk to the base. Turps also works fine but it’s pretty stinky and flammable so be careful with that stuff!

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The material I used to cover the back wall was the filler which I used for casting. It’s something like very fine sand. I didn’t use the same sand as for the base because I wanted to achieve different texture: more like concrete than sand or rock. Again: layer of white glue, layer of filler and voila!

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Painting the Scavvy bunker

Painting wall was similar to painting base: glaze, drybrush and pigments. Also color choice was similar to keep whole thing coherent.

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Some scale shot – still work in progress…

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And the final: PVC edges were painted black, some more details added: turrets lenses, rust here and there, arch-villain posters, oil leaking from the barrels, blood splats. It’s a piece of battlefield, not some sort of Xmas tree so try not to get carried away.

Finished photography background

I must say I am really satisfied how the thing came out – I used similar colors on the Scavvies so these nasty bastards fit the base just fine. And if I ever get bored but this scenery I will just paint some oldie sci fi models (like Cartel agents from good ol’ Warzone), pin them into the base and put in the proper shelf in the display case.

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Hope you like it. For more of my stuff – just visit my blog or wait pariently for another text to be spawned.

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— Demi_morgana

Miniature of the month: May 2012

Like every month, this time we also bring you some 23 cool looking and very well painted miniatures. It is not much when you compare it to other months, but I still hope you will find 3 cool looking miniatures and leave your votes for the Miniature of the month May here.

Have fun, enjoy watching the miniatures and remember that you can always give feedback to the authors at the forum!

Authors say

Here’s what a few painters of this month’s entries said about their works:

Well, I managed to get painted 6 mechthralls each one took me about 1.5 hours each, not bad for tabletop but decent quality. Another 6 more of these guys to go and I still have a huge amount of Cryx to paint.
— Arctica

So this time something special, Grim from Pulp City – a yet unreleased mini made for special exchange thanks to generosity of Morf. It is about 19~20 mm tall.
— Maru

I think the proportions of the base somehow turned out weird and not fitting. Guess I should have tested putting Brahyn on the plinth before glueing, priming and painting everything. 😀 … A lesson well learned but I still hope it looks ok!
— P1per

Miniatures of the month May

Rules and voting

Everybody can vote for 3 miniatures of their choice. There will be one Miniature of the Month (the winner) and up to two honorable mentions. The number of honorable mentions will be reduced if two miniatures tie for the title of the Miniature of the Month, so the maximum number of awarded entries is 3.

OK, so now you should be ready to vote:


The poll is open until the end of June. The results will be posted after the poll is closed and the winner will receive a honorary badge to display in his profile on our miniature painting forum. In case of a tie, the badge will be awarded to the winners. Up to two models will also receive honorary mentions.

We encourage you to comment on this month’s entries, explain your votes or even discuss votes of other users – we’ll be happy to read what you have to say. So don’t be shy and share your opinion with us. Thanks a lot!


UPDATE: This time the winner is Flameon, whose entry beat its opponents by a large margin. Well done, Flameon! Honorable mentions go to JerzyK and CTan. Thanks for your interest and congratulations!

Snow base in 10 simple steps – Tutorial

Snow on bases! Yes, it’s great idea… but wait, I don’t have any “modeling snow” or anything like that. It’s not a problem for us. We can make a simple snow base in only 10 steps. Let’s go!

What do we need?

  • cork
  • base
  • static grass
  • baking soda
  • vicol glue (PVA glue)
  • super glue
  • water
  • paints: Black (VGC), Wolf Grey (VGC), Skull White (GW)
  • old brush

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Step 1

Glue a piece of cork to your base using super glue.

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Step 2

Paint the whole cork Black. I used a brush for painting this one, but if you want to make more bases you can use an airbrush.

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Step 3

Use the old brush.

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Drybrush your base with Wolf Grey.

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Step 4

Drybrush your base with Skull White.

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Step 5

Use static grass and glue it with super glue.

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Step 6

Now we have to make the snow. Put some vicol (PVA) glue on the plastic pad.

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Step 7

Add a few drops of water and mix it. You should have something with consistency of sour cream.

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Step 8

Add some baking soda and mix it. If you are not satisfied, you can add more baking soda. Now you should have consistency of porridge for children. Add some skull white to gain brighter snow.

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Step 9

Put your snow on the base.

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Step 10

Wait until the snow is dry. You can put the base under a source of light, for example a lamp on the desk. After a few minutes the snow is dry and you can put a mini on your snow base.

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Finished snow base

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Simple, wasn’t it? And how do you make snow for your bases? Do you have any tips you would like to share in comments?

— Rentall