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Cleaning, Preparing (& Converting) Models


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#1
OwlandMoonGuy

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All: Here’s a quick article I’ve been working on intended for beginning modelers. Your impressions & feedback would be most appreciated.

-OMG


Cleaning, Preparing (& Converting) Models
A pre-painting primer

Introduction
The purpose of this article is to help beginning to intermediate modelers to improve their skills when it comes to preparing a model prior to painting. The prep work that goes into a modeling project, be it a single trooper, whole squad or a large vehicle, has a significant impact on the final result. By applying the steps following, finished models will possess a higher level of quality, taking on a more "polished" look. At the same time, these steps will hopefully open the door to some simple conversions as well.

To this end the following topics will be discussed in detail:

Planning before painting
Priming
Helpful tools
Removing plastic bits
Removing mold lines
Creating a uniform undercoat
Scoring joints
Planning and executing simple conversions
Magnetizing
Green Stuffing

Some Disclaimers
Many of the points discussed here are subject to personal taste in modeling techniques. Personally, I find I get the best results when working from a white base coat. Others commonly find working from a black base to be more effective. It's not the intention here to establish the absolute best way of doing things in all cases for all hobbyists. The goal here is to walk through a case study of model preparation prior to painting while discussing ways that I've found that have helped me improve my work. The reader is expected to relate these recommendations to their own modeling. Take what fits well and disregard the rest. If you read this article and feel that you've improved your models in any way then it's achieved its goal.

Problems with the "Direct Approach" (For Beginners)
Materials: Model kit, super glue

For many of us, the excitement of assembling a new model is such that we dive right in with little forethought other than the basic assembly of the kit. After taking a quick look at the enclosed instructions, (if you look at them at all) plastic parts are quickly snapped off the sprues and superglue applied until the completed kit comes together. As long as the end result looks something like an unpainted version of the box top then our preparations are complete.

If at this point we start applying paint a few issues may detract from the tabletop quality we'd like to see in our completed army:

"Taking" the Paint: Out-of-the-pot acrylic paints will adhere to the plastic but can rub off easily with handling even after they are thoroughly dry. Also, the releasing agents used to remove plastic sprues from their injection molding machines may leave "slick spots" that won't take paint at all.

Mold Lines: The injection process can leave a small ridge around plastic parts referred to as, "mold lines." This looks like a thin raised edge that encircles the model or at times expands out as bits of "flash" plastic; larger flat sections that spread outward from the mold lines. Also, based on how you remove the parts from the sprue, the contact points with the frame can leave some unwanted plastic on the model as well.

Grey Undercoat: The grey plastic can leave an unwanted undertone to the paint. Most acrylic paints are not 100% opaque so the color beneath them shows through and therefore augments how the color looks on the model. The end result can appear dingy or just not "pop" off the model as desired.

Painting within the lines: Many plastic kits are complicated which makes painting the assembled model difficult at best. Applying paint to certain parts before assembly can make the overall task much easier.

Care to convert?: Optionally, you may also want to add a personal touch to a model kit to add your own unique flair. Converting plastic parts prior to assembly again makes the task much easier to achieve.

Plan before you Paint
For the example project here, the kit is the Space Marine Landspeeder. It's a kit that's been around for some time and is well known for the fact that it takes some extra work to assemble correctly. There are a few joints that don't quite come together seamlessly and warping can make other parts not fit right without clamping or rubber bands to hold the model in place while it sets. That makes it an ideal case for taking some additional steps early on. Also, the model includes a highly detailed interior dashboard and pilot seats. These would be very hard to reach areas if the model were assembled ahead of painting.

I also want to include two small conversions with this project. I want to magnetize the connections between the model and its base, between the Heavy Bolter and the side gun mount and between the Assault Cannon and the hull. Doing so will allow me to transport the model easier and to swap out the weapon options for gaming purposes. I also would like to use an alternate model in the gunner's seat. Instead of using the plastic bits included I'm going to make the seat empty and then add a model with a standing pose in place of the seated one.

So the plan is fairly simple. It doesn't need to be written down or sketched out with hand drawn notes. With these considerations in mind, the interior area will receive the center of attention before the rest of the model. This would be the case even if there wasn't a conversion involved for ease of painting. After preparing the parts needed, the conversion for the gunner's seat need to be made. Likewise, magnets need to be placed in the hull and plastic hollowed out to allow contact with the opposing magnetized bits. That being decided, work can begin on the model itself.

Priming
Materials: Spray-on and/or brush-on primer of choice; available from any modeling store.

Model primer is a painting medium that makes plastic and metal models more apt to take acrylic paints. Once applied, other water based paints (like common acrylics) better adhere to the surface. This makes the end paint job much more durable for handling and much easier to paint as well.

The other benefit from priming is the establishment of an under- or basecoat color. Most modelers like to paint from either a white or black base before applying other colors. In any case, primers can be found in a variety of colors that can be used for this purpose.

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~ Plastic sprue's primed and ready to be removed from the frames ~

Option: Prime the sprues; Prime the assembly
Primer can be purchased in spray cans or pots for brush-on application. Sprays go on faster but may leave a "fuzzy" texture to the model (see below). This deters some modelers from using sprays altogether. The brush –on primers don't have this problem but are much more time consuming to apply. To combine the best of both I spray model bits on the sprue prior to assembly and then use brush-on primer to coat hard to reach areas or where mold lines have been filed away, etc.

How to avoid "fuzzy" primer results
By design, primers should be applied to the model in a thin layer that preserves the details. Multiple light coats are always better than thicker coats. At times, spray-on primer can leave a coarse or "fuzzy" texture to flat surfaces instead of going on smoothly. There are several causes for this problem. Foremost, spray primers need to be mixed thoroughly to function properly. Some cans even suggest a full minute of shaking prior to use. Likewise, when the can is running out of product, the mixture tends to get out of balance. It is very tempting to try to get the very last drop out of a can but it's hardly worth it. The fumes that come out at the end are no longer the needed mix and a fuzzy result may be the consequence.

Primer sprays are also confined to limitations in temperature and humidity. If it's too cold, the spray literally freezes as it leaves the nozzle. Droplets of spray stick together leaving that bumpy or fuzzy texture on the model. Likewise, high humidity can case the same problem. The spray picks up water droplets in the air prior to hitting the model again with similar unwanted results. Each spray can should include instructions on optimal use. They are well worth the read and equally worth following the recommendations. It's never worth ruining an expensive model kit with a coat of fuzzy primer.

Primer quality is also a factor in getting consistent results. Lower grade primers have a greater tendency for unbalanced mixtures. Ever after shaking the can vigorously for a full min. and using it in the utmost optimal environmental conditions a poor quality primer may still result in a fuzzy model. Experimenting with different products is the ultimate test but as a general rule, higher quality primers are easy to identify as they come with a higher price tag.

Note on resin models
When working with resin models, like those purchased from Forgeworld, a higher grade a primer is required. Primers range in various levels of adhesive properties. The primer required to stick to metal and plastic common to gaming models does not possess a high enough adhesive property to stick to resin. Lower grade primers will literally flake off a resin model after drying. After paying a premium for resin models and then putting hours into painting the last thing you want is to watch the paint flake off in sheets.

For such models, automotive grade primers are ideal. Not often found in hobby stores, most auto supply or retail stores with an automotive department will carry these products. Despite their added expense these primers are very high quality and easy to work with.

Helpful tools
There are a large number of tools at the modeler's disposal to assist with the task related to cleaning, prepping and converting models. A number of them are depicted below. This is by no means a comprehensive list. These were selected based on their common use for war game related modeling.

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Here is a list of items depicted below listed top-down and then from left to right.

Small ruler: Simple conversions are easy but you never lack for needed precision. Keeping a strait edge ruler handy allows you to make design marks on the models as needed. Example: When finding the midline for painting ½ ‘ed or ¼'ed schemes, etc.

Modeling saw: More of a time saver than anything for simple conversions. Some tasks are larger than what a modeling knife can achieve; or at least achieve quickly.

Even smaller, flexible ruler: For very fine detail tasks like painting safety stripes on chainswords, miniaturized rules can come in handy. This one was made by printing a digital ruler image, cutting it to size and then encasing it with a laminator. It's designed to be flexible enough to wrap around model edges as needed.

Side cutters: Any hand-held cutter or wire snips that can cut plastic at a sheer angle. In the section below, Removing plastic bits more detail will be added concerning the best way to remove parts from their sprue frames.

Pin vice: These tools are used to grip and hold various sized drill bits. There is a small chuck on each end used to grip a different size range of bits. This is a mandatory tool needed for drilling out holes in gun barrels, etc. and for "pinning" together model parts as well. Though not discussed at length in the article, weak joints between parts can be reinforced by pinning. By carefully boring out a small hole in each part, a short length of metal, often times cut from paper clips, can be inserted to strengthen the joint. Super glue is used to make the seal permanent but the added material makes the connection much more durable than using glue alone.

Modeling knife: Any knife that provides an angled razor edge for cutting metal and plastic parts. Often times referred to as "Xacto" knives based on the most widely known brand.

Straight edge & ½ curved files: The next two items depicted are various metal files. The larger has a more course grain, better for trimming down metal figures. The smaller one is flat on one side and convex on the other. This curved surface is ideal for removing mold lines and reaching into very small areas.

Mechanical pencil: Able to draw a line on almost anything under any condition even underwater or within the vacuum of space.

Tweezers: Very small parts require very small grips to hold securely; especially when they need to be glued together or picked out of the bottom of a bits box.

Gap-zapping super glue: There are several brands of super glue adhesive that have, "gap filling" properties; meaning that the glue will tend to fill-in the seam between adjoining parts. In many cases, this saves the need to use Green Stuff or modeling putty to fill-in these gaps. There are limits to the space it can fill but for small seams it works very well.

Portable cutting board: Every veteran modeler can proudly display the scars received after nasty incidents with razors, drills and other sharp, jagged, barbed and angled modeling tools. Many of these wounds could have been avoided if a few inches of wood were placed strategically between the sharp implement and exposed flesh. Such boards work flawlessly every time with little instructional time or assembly required.

Ott-lite: One of many portable light sources that concentrate adequate lighting over a modeling area. No matter what time of day or how much ambient light is available in the room, direct lighting is a must for miniature modeling projects. Barely visible on the opposite side is the second light that mirrors the one on the right. Ample lighting is integral in all cases, every time without exception. Improve your modeling and save your eyesight at the same time. If you are currently modeling without adequate lighting invest in a work light before buying your next model kit.

Other items present are self explanatory. Drop cloths, empty paint pots for mixing colors, WIP models, diet soda, etc. all find their place arranged in such a way as to make sense given each modeler's approach to the hobby.

Removing plastic bits
Materials: Side cutters or straight edge modeling knife, small file

Removing parts from their frames will ultimately leave a small amount of unwanted plastic where the part attaches to the frame. Side cutters make for the quick removal of parts but some care can go a long way in preserving the integrity and quality of the part. Whether parts are removed with cutters or a modeling knife either is preferable to using your fingers to tear off plastic parts. Doing so will leave a larger amount of frame plastic or worse will leave a hole in the part where the plastic gave way under the strain of being torn off. Always use a tool of some kind to remove parts from their frame.

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As shown in this picture, the side cutters are held at an angle consistent with the surface that attaches to the frame. By cutting flush with the part, it is removed with a minimal amount of excess plastic. In many cases, the part can be cut off without any need for additional trimming or filing.

This approach always works but isn't perfect. At times, a small part of frame is left attached to the bit. This can be removed with either the model knife or a small file, the ½ rounded file being ideal, till a smooth edge is achieved.


Removing mold lines
Materials: Straight-edged modeling knife, various files including the ½ round.

Visible mold lines tend to be one of the tell-tale signs of beginning modelers. If not removed, simple painting techniques like washes, stains & dry brushing can actually serve to emphasize the defect. What appears insignificant against a grey plastic background literally jumps out at the viewer after the model is painted.

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Since these parts have been primed prior to assembly, the undercoat already makes the flaw stand out.

Removing the line is fairly easy though at times they can be in hard to reach places. Modeling knives serve this purpose but the ½ round file works well also. The important point is to ensure that the entire line has been removed so the affected surface is perfectly smooth. As stated above, when paint is applied to the model what appears to be a very shallow ridge becomes an eye-catching detail given common painting techniques.

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Whatever tool is preferred, be sure that the entire line is removed. When you see that the plastic on both sides of the line has been filed down equally you know it's been thoroughly removed.

Creating a uniform undercoat
Materials: brush-on primer

Undercoating is a painting technique that attempts to leverage the general transparencies of paint media. Some colors are more transparent than others and any color can be made more transparent by adding more water to the mixture. Still, given the color in question, the even quality of the undercoat can have an effect on the final paint job.

In the simplest respect, darker colors will overcoat an area more so than lighter ones. Likewise, "Foundation" or paints with a greater concentration of pigment will be more opaque and therefore resist the effect of undercoating. If you know that there are surfaces on the model that will comprise of a dark color there is less a need for an even undercoat. If lighter colors will be employed an even undercoat becomes much more needed. In short, the more even your base the less time is needed to "build-up" to the target color when painting the model. Several coats of thinned, brush-on primer will serve to even out the undercoat as needed.

Given the approach presented in the example here, the model sprues have been primed first before the parts have been cleaned of excess plastic. Again, this is not an absolute best practice but used as a time saving measure. In order to achieve an even white undercoat, brush-on primer is used to go back over areas that need to be cleaned or didn't take the spray evenly for whatever reason.


Scoring joints
Materials: Coarse grained file

"Scoring" is a process by which two adjoining parts are readied to be glued together. Before gluing plastic parts together, use a fairly coarse file to rough-up both sides of the plastic along the glue-line. It's not the goal to remove much plastic while doing so. When applying glue, the rough surface is more appt to adhere and to effectively interlock with the opposing side. This creates a glue seal that's much stronger than two smooth surfaces being glued together.

As with parts being used in this example, the applied primer can actually serve to weaken glue joints. The bond between the primer and the plastic is weaker than bare plastic to super glue. If you glue two primed parts together they will more easily break apart, the primer actually giving way at the breaking point. Again, by filing the primer off, down to the bare plastic and then scoring the plastic itself will result in the stronger bond as described above.

Planning and executing simple conversions (Intermediate)
If your goal is to assemble a stock model kit then the usefulness of this article has come to an end. All of the points described above will hopefully serve to help improve the quality of your war gaming models. If you would also like to incorporate small conversions with your modeling, the following two sections may also serve. In context, the goal here is to show how simple conversions become easier with a little planning and working with the individual parts prior to assembly.

As stated above, the planning of small conversions doesn't take lots of elaborate design work beforehand. As long as you have a clear idea in mind, plastic kits are idea for making changes that add unique character to your army. As stated above, there are two conversions planned in the example project here: Magnetizing to create swappable weapon options and reposing the marine model used in the gunner's position.

Magnetizing
Materials: Modeling knife, rules, mechanical pencil, various sized magnets

Thankfully, small magnets can be purchased in many shapes and sizes. The selection of the magnets themselves becomes easy when comparing to the plastic parts in question. From an atheistic perspective, it's ideal if the magnets themselves are hidden from view when the parts are all assembled. The net result is a model that can dynamically adapt to several different weapon options. Also, magnets can serve to make the model more poseable. A classic example of which is Dreadnought arms. When using circular magnets of roughly the same size as the shoulder pin arm variants can be swapped out and reposed as desired.

In the case for this model I have three magnetized points, two of which will be shown here. There will be a magnet used to attach the model to its base and another to attach the Assault cannon to the nose of the speeder.

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Here's the view from inside the hull and the magnets being used to attach the model to the base. The long, cylindrical magnet will be inserted into the base while the wider disc will be glued into the hull. The hole has been cut out to perfectly fit the thin cylinder which will help to add stability when the speeder is attached to its base.

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The base on the left is the one intended for this speeder model. You can see the thin cylinder at the top of the City of Death bits used for the stand.

Next is the magnet required for the nose of the Speeder. The plastic bits include an "under carriage" that's used to mount the gun to the hull. This is an ideal part for a small cube shaped magnet. Some quick cuts of a modeling knife and the magnet fits securely into place. It has been set at a depth as to protrude from the plastic part by a couple of millimeters. This will allow the magnet to set into the hull just deep enough so that the undercarriage part fits flush when attached. The magnet itself will be completely concealed when the cannon assembly is attached.

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The hole cut in the hull is squared off to perfectly fit the size of the cubed magnet. Once the placement of the part is lined up correctly, simply trace around the magnet with a mechanical pencil so you know just where to carve out the hole.

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Inside the hull, a larger magnet is used to completely cap the holes and then superglued in place. Again, some pre-sizing is needed to ensure that other model parts will completely cover the magnets placed in the hull. In this case, the pilot seats fit perfectly over the magnet in the center and the speeder's hood will mask the one in the nose.

Green Stuffing
Materials: Green Stuff, straight-edged modeling knife, sculpting tools (if you have them), Plasticard (aka polystyrene), "Zap a Gap" super glue, common household scissors, files and brush-on primer.

Green Stuff (GS) is a common name for a two-part epoxy clay used for sculpting. Even professional sculptors use the very same material to create commercially sold models. The benefit of the medium is that it wont set until both parts have been combined (and therefore chemically activated) and then allowed to dry. Green Stuff is very durable and doesn't require any kind of a kiln or heat treatment to set thoroughly. GS is available at most any modeling store along with tools used for sculpting. In this example, only a minimum bit of sculpting is required so no uncommon tools are required.

Note also that there are a lot of alternates to using GS. Testors and similar modeling companies create other multi-part & single-part putties that also work well for this purpose.

The intent with this example is to remove the legs and lower torso of the marine on the right, posed to sit in the gunner's seat. By using side cutters, the legs are removed and kept aside (they'll be needed later for when the standing model gets put in place). A modeling knife and some filing is then used to remove the rest of the plastic parts from the seat. Once all the brutal cutting is complete, the final result looks like this:

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Note that a lot of filing was required to completely remove the unwanted plastic from the part. Even the central consol required a good deal of filing to return to a flat surface.

This bit is molded in such a way that a gap is now present in the seat itself. That will require some GS work to fill-in but before doing so, some added structure is required. GS is a solid medium when dry but not the strongest without some support. Sculpts made with GS are often times built on a wire frame for this same reason. To add some additional stability, a small bit of sheet styrene or "Plasticard" will be glued beneath the seat.

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By just using a pencil, the empty hole is traced out on a small section of Plasticard. Thinner sheets can be cut easily with common household scissors which were then used to cut the section shown here.

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I little super glue locks the cut-out piece in place.

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After the glue dries the model is ready for a little GS to fill in the rest of the seat cushion and complete the desired conversion. There are lots of tutorials on using GS and how to improve sculpting skills. As opposed to presenting a lengthy discussion here, there are many other sources that can serve to elaborate on the use of GS.

Here's a resource for GW's Web Site: Green Stuff, the secrets of sculpting

In summary, after the GS is mixed to an even green color, it's stretched out to roughly the shape needed for the seat cushion and pressed into the hole left in the model. With the Plasticard part in place, it's easy to get the GS to conform to the shape needed; i.e. filling in the gap left in the seat. This doesn't need to be absolutely perfect. According to the plan, there will be a model posed above the seat so the seat itself won't be all that visible to the onlooker. All that ‘s needed is a simple covering that follows the same lined pattern on the speeder seat.

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Any straight edged tool can be used to get the GS to conform to the plastic around it. A little water is required to create a smooth, even surface. GS is sticky on its own but water is a means by which GS can be shaped without sticking to the tool being used to shape it. After tracing straight lines across the seat the GS work is complete.

A little brush-on white primer restores even white undercoat:

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Though by no means perfect, once placed into the model and covered over by the standing marine these flaws won't detract from the final product.

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Some last words
Prepping a model before painting is hardly an exciting approach to war gaming. Most gamers target a, "table top" quality paint job; not award winning by any stretch but making for a much more enjoyable game when brought to the table. Beginning painters/models are more interested in finishing a fully painted army so cutting corners seems like a fast track toward doing so.

The tips shared here run contrary to that goal. With all the extra preparation you can expect that the time required to get your army to the battle may double or even triple depending on how meticulous you choose to be. These words of advice come for those wanting to elevate the end quality of your models. Steps like these help take your army, "to the next level." Do better painted armies also perform better on the table? That's certainly debatable but better looking armies do go a long way toward more enjoyable games.

Here's the finished speeder from the example above:
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...and another with the magnetized parts unassembled:
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Cheers, -OMG

Edited by OwlandMoonGuy, 25 March 2008 - 10:17 AM.
Added final pics

sP8d2kq.gif

"What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people's faces as unfinished as their minds?" -Eric Hoffer


#2
Hasoroth

Hasoroth

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Incredibly helpful for the beginner, where were you 8 years ago when I started? ;)

Some minor spelling errors, I'll mark em out for you after I wake up.

eguzgPS.jpg
 


#3
StratoKhan

StratoKhan

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Very high quality article, I'd say large parts of it are useful even for wargaming virgins - especially the mold lines part.

Good work.

Armies: Flaming Swords Chapter, Black Legion, Space Wolves

My Chapter, The Flaming Swords http://www.bolterand...flaming-swords/


#4
Ahmato

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Very well written, will print it off and have a look through tomorrow. Mind you, I've always been a black undercoat person myself, but to each their own I suppose.


#5
Hasoroth

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All: Here’s a quick article I’ve been working on intended for beginning modelers. Your impressions & feedback would be most appreciated.

-OMG


Cleaning, Preparing (& Converting) Models
A pre-painting primer

Introduction
The purpose of this article is to help beginning to intermediate modelers to improve their skills when it comes to preparing a model prior to painting. The prep work that goes into a modeling project, be it a single trooper, whole squad or a large vehicle, has a significant impact on the final result. By applying the steps following, finished models will possess a higher level of quality, taking on a more "polished" look. At the same time, these steps will hopefully open the door to some simple conversions as well.

To this end the following topics will be discussed in detail:

Planning before painting
Priming
Helpful tools
Removing plastic bits
Removing mold lines
Creating a uniform undercoat
Scoring joints
Planning and executing simple conversions
Magnetizing
Green Stuffing

Some Disclaimers
Many of the points discussed here are subject to personal taste in modeling techniques. Personally, I find I get the best results when working from a white base coat. Others commonly find working from a black base to be more effective. It's not the intention here to establish the absolute best way of doing things in all cases for all hobbyists. The goal here is to walk through a case study of model preparation prior to painting while discussing ways that I've found that have helped me improve my work. The reader is expected to relate these recommendations to their own modeling. Take what fits well and disregard the rest. If you read this article and feel that you've improved your models in any way then it's achieved its goal.

Problems with the "Direct Approach" (For Beginners)
Materials: Model kit, super glue

For many of us, the excitement of assembling a new model is such that we dive right in with little forethought other than the basic assembly of the kit. After taking a quick look at the enclosed instructions, (if you look at them at all) plastic parts are quickly snapped off the sprue's and super glued applied until the completed kit comes together. As long as the end result looks something like an unpainted version of the box top then our preparations are complete.

If at this point we start applying paint a few issues may detract from the tabletop quality we'd like to see in our completed army:

"Taking" the Paint: Out-of-the-pot acrylic paints will adhere to the plastic but can rub off easily with handling even after they are thoroughly dry. Also, the releasing agents used to remove plastic sprue's from their injection molding machines may leave "slick spots" that won't take paint at all.

Mold Lines: The injection process can leave a small ridge around plastic parts referred to as, "mold lines." This looks like a thin raised line that encircles the model or at times expands out as bits of "flash" plastic; larger flat sections that spread outward from the mold lines. Also, based on how you remove the parts from the sprue's, the contact points with the frame can leave some unwanted plastic on the model as well.

Grey Undercoat: The grey plastic can leave an unwanted undertone to the paint. Most acrylic paints are not 100% opaque so the color beneath them shows through and therefore augments how the color looks on the model. The end result can appear dingy or just not "pop" off the model as desired.

Painting within in lines: Many plastic kits are complicated which makes painting the assembled model difficult at best. Applying paint to certain parts before assembly can make the overall task much easier.

Care to convert?: Optionally, you may also want to add a personal touch to a model kit to add your own unique flair. Converting plastic parts prior to assembly again makes the task much easier to achieve.

Plan before you Paint
For the example project here, the kit is the Space Marine Landspeeder. It's a kit that's been around for some time and is well known for the fact that it takes some extra work to assemble correctly. There are a few joints that don't quite come together seamlessly and warping can make other parts not fit right without clamping or rubber bands to hold the model in place while it sets. That makes it an ideal case for taking some additional steps early on. Also, the model includes a highly detailed interior dashboard and pilot seats. These would be very hard to reach areas if the model were assembled ahead of painting.

I also want to include two small conversions with this project. I want to magnetize the connections between the model and its base, between the Heavy Bolter and the side gun mount and between the Assault Cannon and the hull. Doing so will allow me to transport the model easier and to swap out the weapon options for gaming purposes. I also would like to use an alternate model in the gunner's seat. Instead of using the plastic bits included I'm going to make the seat empty and then add a model with a standing pose in place of the seated one.

So the plan is fairly simple. It doesn't need to be written down or sketched out with hand drawn notes. With these considerations in mind, the interior area will receive the center of attention before the rest of the model. This would be the case even if there wasn't a conversion involved for ease of painting. After preparing the parts needed, the conversion for the gunner's seat need to be made. Likewise, the magnets need to be placed in the hull and plastic hollowed out to allow contact with the opposing magnetized bits. That being decided, work can begin on the model itself.

Priming
Materials: Spray-on and/or brush-on primer of choice; available from any modeling store.

Model primer is a painting medium that makes plastic and metal models more apt to take acrylic paints. Once applied, other water based paints (like common acrylics) better adhere to the surface. This makes the end paint job much more durable for handling and much easier to paint as well.

The other benefit from priming is the establishment of an under- or basecoat color. Most modelers like to paint from either a white or black base before applying other colors. In any case, primers can be found in a variety of colors that can be used for this purpose.

Posted Image
~ Plastic sprue's primed and ready to be removed from the frames ~

Option: Prime the sprue's; Prime the assembly
Primer can be purchased in spray cans or pots for brush-on application. Sprays go on faster but may leave a "fuzzy" texture to the model (see below). This deters some modelers from using sprays altogether. The brush –on primers don't have this problem but are much more time consuming to apply. To combine the best of both I spray model bits on the sprue prior to assembly and then use brush-on primer to coat hard to reach areas or where mold lines have been filed away, etc.

How to avoid "fuzzy" primer results
By design, primers should be applied to the model in a thin layer that preserves the detail s. Multiple light coats are always better than thicker coats. At times, spray-on primer can leave a coarse or "fuzzy" texture to flat surfaces instead of going on smoothly. There are several causes for this problem. Foremost, spray primers need to be mixed thoroughly to function properly. Some cans even suggest a full minute of shaking prior to use. Likewise, when the can is running out of product, the mixture tends to get out of balance. It is very tempting to try to get the very last drop out of a can but it's hardly worth it. The fumes that come out at the end are no longer the needed mix and a fuzzy result may be the consequence.

Primer sprays are also confined to limitations in temperature and humidity. If it's too cold, the spray literally freezes as it leaves the nozzle. Droplets of spray stick together leaving that bumpy or fuzzy texture on the model. Likewise, high humidity can case the same problem. The spray picks up water droplets in the air prior to hitting the model again with similar unwanted results. Each spray can should include instructions on optimal use. They are will worth the read and following the recommendations. It's never worth ruining an expensive model kit with a coat of fuzzy primer.

Primer quality is also a factor in getting consistent results. Lower grade primers have a greater tendency for unbalanced mixtures. Ever after shaking the can vigorously for a full min. and using it in the utmost optimal environmental conditions a poor quality primer may still result in a fuzzy model. Experimenting with different products is the ultimate test but as a general rule, higher quality primers are easy to identify as they come with a higher price tag.

Note on resin models
When working with resin models, like those purchased from Forgeworld, a higher grade a primer is required. Primers range in various levels of adhesive properties. The primer required to stick to metal and plastic common to gaming models does not possess a high enough adhesive property to stick to resin. Lower grade primers will literally flake off a resin model after drying. After paying a premium for resin models and then putting hours into painting the last thing you want is to watch the paint flake off in sheets.

For such models, automotive grade primers are ideal. Not often found in hobby stores, most auto supply or retail stores with an automotive department will carry these products. Despite their added expense these primers are very high quality and easy to work with.

Helpful tools
There are a large number of tools at the modeler's disposal to assist with the task related to cleaning, prepping and converting models. A number of them are depicted below. This is by no means a comprehensive list. These were selected based on their common use for war game related modeling.

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Here is a list of items depicted below listed top-down and then from left to right:

Small ruler: Simple conversions are easy but you never lack for needed precision. Keeping a strait edge ruler handy allows you to make design marks on the models as needed. Example: When finding the midline for painting ½ ‘ed or ¼'ed schemes, etc.

Modeling saw: More of a time saver than anything for simple conversions. Some tasks are larger than what a modeling knife can achieve; or at least achieve quickly.

Even smaller, flexible ruler: For very fine detail tasks like painting safety stripes on chainswords, miniaturized rules can come in handy. This one was made by printing a digital ruler image, cutting it to size and then encasing it with a laminator. It's designed to be flexible enough to wrap around model edges as needed.

Side cutters: Any hand-held cutter or wire snips that can cut plastic at a sheer angle. In the section below, Removing plastic bits more detail will be added concerning the best way to remove parts from their sprue frames.

Pin vice: These tools are used to grip and hold various sized drill bits. There is a small chuck on each end used to grip a different size range of bits. This is a mandatory tool needed for drilling out holes in gun barrels, etc. and for "pinning" together model parts as well. Though not discussed at length in the article, weak joints between parts can be reinforced by pinning. By carefully boring out a small hole in each part, a short length of metal, often times cut from paper clips, can be inserted to strengthen the joint. Super glue is used to make the seal permanent but the added material makes the connection much more durable than using glue alone.

Modeling knife: Any knife that provides an angled razor edge for cutting metal and plastic parts. Often times referred to as "Xacto" knives based on the most widely known brand.

Straight edge & ½ curved files: The next two items depicted are various metal files. The larger has a more course grain, better trimming down metal figures. The smaller one is flat on one side and convex on the other. This curved surface is ideal for removing mold lines and reaching into very small areas.

Mechanical pencil: Able to draw a line on almost anything under any condition even underwater or within the vacuum of space.

Tweezers: Very small parts require very small grips to hold securely; especially when they need to be glued together or picked out of the bottom of a bits box.

Gap-zapping super glue: There are several brands of super glue adhesive that have, "gap filling" properties; meaning that the glue will tend to fill-in the seam between adjoining parts. In many cases, this saves the need to use Green Stuff or modeling putty to fill-in these gaps. There are limits to the space it can fill but for small seams it works very well.

Portable cutting board: Every veteran modeler can proudly display the scars received after nasty incidents with razors, drills and other sharp, jagged, barbed and angled modeling tools. Many of these wounds could have been avoided if a few inches of wood were placed strategically between the sharp implement and exposed flesh. Such boards work flawlessly every time with little instructional time or assembly required.

Ott-lite: One of many portable light sources that concentrate adequate lighting over a modeling area. No matter what time of day or how much ambient light is available in the room, direct lighting is a must for miniature modeling projects. Barely visible on the opposite side is the second light that mirrors the one on the right. Ample lighting is integral in all cases, every time. Improve your modeling and save your eyesight at the same time. If you are currently modeling without adequate lighting invest in a work light before buying your next model kit.

Other items present are self explanatory. Drop cloths, empty paint pots for mixing colors, WIP models, diet soda, etc. all find their place arranged in such a way as to make sense given each modeler's approach to the hobby.

Removing plastic bits
Materials: Side cutters or straight edge modeling knife, small file

Removing parts from their frames will ultimately leave a small amount of unwanted plastic where the part attaches to the frame. Side cutters make for the quick removal of parts but some care can go a long way in preserving the integrity and quality of the part. Whether parts are removed with cutters or a modeling knife either is preferable to using your fingers to tear off plastic parts. Doing so will leave a larger amount of frame plastic or worse will leave a hole in the part where the plastic gave way under the strain of being torn off. Always use a tool of some kind to remove parts from their frame.

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As shown in this picture, the side cutters are held at an angle consistent with the surface that attaches to the frame. By cutting flush with the part, it is removed from the frame with a minimal amount of extra plastic. In many cases, the part is cut from the frame without any need for additional trimming or filing.

This approach always works but isn't perfect. At times, a small part of frame is left attached to the bit. This can be removed with either the model knife or a small file, the ½ rounded file being ideal, till a smooth edge is achieved.


Removing mold lines
Materials: Straight-edged modeling knife, various files including the ½ round.

Visible mold lines tend to be one of the tell-tale sign of beginning modelers. If not removed, simple painting techniques like washes, stains & dry brushing can actually serve to emphasize the defect. What appears insignificant against a grey plastic background literally jumps out at the viewer after the model is painted.

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Since these parts have been primed prior to assembly, the undercoat already makes the flaw stand out.

Removing the line is fairly easy though at times they can be in hard to reach places. Modeling knives serve this purpose but the ½ round file works well also. The important point is to ensure that the entire line has been removed so the affected surface is perfectly smooth. As stated above, as painting begins on the model what appears to be a very shallow ridge becomes an eye-catching detail given common painting techniques.

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Whatever tool is preferred, be sure that the entire line is removed. When you see that the plastic on both sides of the line has been filed down equally you know it's been thoroughly removed.

Creating a uniform undercoat
Materials: brush-on primer

Undercoating is a painting technique that attempts to leverage the general transparencies of paint media. Some colors are more transparent than others and any color can be made more transparent by adding more water to the mixture. Still, given the color in question, the even quality of the undercoat will have an effect on the final paint job.

In the simplest respect, darker colors will overcoat an area more so than lighter ones. Likewise, "Foundation" or paints with a greater concentration of pigment will be more opaque and therefore resist the effect of undercoating. If you know that there are surfaces on the model that will comprise of a dark color there is less a need for an even undercoat. If lighter colors will be employed an even undercoat becomes much more needed. In short, the more even your base the less time is needed to "build-up" to the target color when painting the model. Several coats of thinned, brush-on primer will serve to even out the undercoat as needed.

Given the approach presented in the example here, the model sprue's have been primed first before the parts have been cleaned of excess plastic. Again, this is not an absolute best practice but used as a time saving measure. In order to achieve an even white undercoat, brush-on primer is used to go back over areas that need to be cleaned or didn't take the spray evenly for whatever reason.


Scoring joints
Materials: Coarse grained file

"Scoring" is a process by which two adjoining parts are readied to be glued together. Before gluing plastic parts together, use a fairly coarse file to rough-up both sides of the plastic along the glue-line. It's not the goal to remove much plastic while doing so. When applying glue, the rough surface is more appt to adhere and to effectively interlock with the opposing side. This creates a glue seal that's much stronger than two smooth surfaces being glued together.

As with parts being used in this example, the applied primer can actually serve to weaken glue joints. The bond between the primer and the plastic is weaker than bare plastic to super glue. If you glue two primed parts together they will more easily break apart, the primer actually giving way at the breaking point. Again, by filing off the primer off, down to the bare plastic and then scoring the plastic itself will result in the stronger bond as described above.

Planning and executing simple conversions (Intermediate)
If your goal is to assemble a stock model kit then the usefulness of this article has come to an end. All of the points described above will hopefully serve to help improve the quality of your war gaming models. If you would also like to incorporate small conversions with your modeling, the following two sections may also serve. In context, the goal here is to show how simple conversions become easier with a little planning and working with the individual parts prior to assembly.

As stated above, the planning of small conversions doesn't take lots of elaborate design work beforehand. As long as you have a clear idea in mind, plastic kits are idea for making changes that add unique character to your army. As stated above, there are two conversions planned in the example project here: Magnetizing to create swappable weapon options and reposing the marine model used in the gunner's position.

Magnetizing
Materials: Modeling knife, rules, mechanical pencil, various sized magnets

Thankfully, small magnets can be purchased in many shapes and sizes. The selection of the magnets themselves becomes easy when comparing to the plastic parts in question. From an atheistic perspective, it's ideal if the magnets themselves are hidden from view when the parts are all assembled. The net result is a model that can adapt to several different weapon options. Also, magnets can serve to make the model more poseable. A classic example of which is Dreadnought arms. When using circular magnets of roughly the same size as the shoulder pin arm variants can be swapped out and reposed as desired.

In the case for this model I have three magnetized points, two of which will be shown here. There will be a magnet used to attach the model to its base and another to attach the Assault cannon to the nose of the speeder.

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Here's the view from inside the hull and the magnets being used to attach the model to the base. The long, cylindrical magnet will be inserted into the base while the wider disc will be glued into the hull. The hole has been cut out to perfectly fit the thin cylinder which will help to add stability when the speeder is attached to its base.

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The base on the left is the one intended for this speeder model. You can see the thin cylinder at the top of the City of Death bits used for the stand.

Next is the magnet required for the nose of the Speeder. The plastic bits include an "under carriage" that's used to mount the gun to the hull. This is an ideal part for the small cube magnet needed. Some quick cuts of a modeling knife and the square magnet fits securely into place. It has been set at a depth as to protrude from the plastic part by a couple of millimeters. This will allow the magnet to set into the hull just deep enough so that the undercarriage part fits flush when attached. The magnet itself with be completely concealed when assembled.

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The hole cut in the hull is squared off to perfectly fit the size of the cubed magnet. Once the placement of the part is lined up correctly, simply trace around the magnet with a mechanical pencil so you know just where to carve out the hole.

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Inside the hull, a larger magnet is used to completely cap the holes and then superglued in place. Again, some pre-sizing is needed to ensure that other model parts will completely cover the magnets placed in the hull. In this case, the pilot seats fit perfectly over the magnet in the center and the speeder's hood will mask the one in the nose.

Green Stuffing
Materials: Green Stuff, straight-edged modeling knife, sculpting tools (if you have them), Plasticard (aka ploy styrene), "Zap a Gap" super glue, common household scissors, files and brush-on primer.

Green Stuff (GS) is a common name for a two-part epoxy clay used for sculpting. Even professional sculptors use the very same material to create commercially sold models. The benefit of the medium is that it wont set until both parts have been combined (and therefore chemically activated) and then allowed to dry. Green Stuff is very durable and doesn't require any kind of a kiln or heat treatment to set thoroughly. GS is available at most any modeling store along with tools used for sculpting. In this example, only a minimum bit of sculpting is required so no uncommon tools are required.

Note also that there are a lot of alternates to using GS. Testors and similar modeling companies create other multi-part & single-part putties that also work well for this purpose.

The intent with this example is to remove the legs and lower torso of the marine on the right, posed to sit in the gunner's seat. By using side cutters, the legs are removed and kept aside (they'll be needed later for when the standing model gets put in place). A modeling knife and some filing is then used to remove the rest of the plastic parts from the seat. Once all the brutal cutting is complete, the final result looks like this:

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Note that a lot of filing was required to completely remove the unwanted plastic from the part. Even the central consol required a good deal of filing to return to a flat surface.

This bit is molded in such a way that a gap is now present in the seat itself. That will require some GS work to fill-in but before doing so, some added structure is required. GS is a solid medium when dry but not the strongest without some support. Sculpts made with GS are often times built on a wire frame for this same reason. To add some additional stability, a small bit of sheet styrene or "Plasticard" will be glued beneath the seat.

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By just using a pencil, the empty hole is traced out on a small section of Plasticard. Thinner sheets can be cut easily with common household scissors which were then used to cut the section shown here.

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I little super glue locks the cut-out piece in place.

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After the glue dries the model is ready for a little GS to fill in the rest of the seat cushion and complete the desired conversion. There are lots of tutorials on using GS and how to improve sculpting skills. As opposed to presenting a lengthy discussion here, there are many other sources that can serve to elaborate on the use of GS.

Here's a resource for GW's Web Site: Green Stuff, the secrets of sculpting

In summary, after the GS is mixed to an even green color, it's stretched out to roughly the shape needed for the seat cushion and pressed into the hole left in the model. With the Plasticard part in place, it's easy to get the GS to conform to the shape needed; filling in the gap left in the seat. This doesn't need to be absolutely perfect. According to the plan, there will be a model posed above the seat so the seat itself won't be all that visible to the onlooker. All that ‘s needed is a simple covering that follows the same lined pattern of the speeder seat.

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Any straight edged tool can be used to get the GS to conform to the plastic around it. A little water is required to create a smooth, even surface. GS is sticky on its own but water is a means by which GS can be shaped without sticking to the tool being used to shape it. After tracing straight lines across the seat the GS work is complete.

A little brush-on white primer restores even white undercoat:

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Though by no means perfect, once placed into the model and covered over by the standing marine these flaws won't detract from the final product.

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Some last words
Prepping a model before painting is hardly an exciting approach to war gaming. Most gamers target a, "table top" quality paint job; not award winning by any stretch but making for a much more enjoyable game when brought to the table. Beginning painters/models are more interested in finishing a fully painted army so cutting corners seems like a fast track toward doing so.

The tips shared here run contrary to that goal. With all the extra preparation you can expect that the time required to get your army to the battle may double or even triple depending on how meticulous you choose to be. These words of advice come for those wanting to elevate the end quality of your models. Steps like these help take your army, "to the next level." Do better painted armies also perform better on the table? That's certainly debatable but better looking armies do go a long way toward more enjoyable games.

Here's the finished speeder from the example above:
Image of the completed model (once it's completed to that is).

Cheers, -OMG


There, all minor mistakes fixed. Its great OMG.

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#6
OwlandMoonGuy

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Thanks for the proof H: Just what it needed. I found a few more typos while I was at it, “Ploy styrene” and other such. Updated version posted above.

-OMG

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#7
battle captain corpus

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@OwlandMoonGuy: Its very good brother. An article worth reading no matter what stage of the hobby your at. Informative and the pics are clear and sharp, which is always good! hahah! :)
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#8
crossfit

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Do you wash your sprues before priming? You mention getting the release stuff off the plastic before painting but don't mention any washing. I suppose that is okay if you don't do it but I find it makes a big difference for me, especially with metal models.

#9
OwlandMoonGuy

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I don't actually. I've never had a problem with priming over unwashed sprues. I may have to add that to my own model prep.

~ Final pics posted. I believe this is now finished.

Thanks again for your comments, -OMG

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"What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people's faces as unfinished as their minds?" -Eric Hoffer


#10
King_Pash

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Very good and helpful post. Really like the model conversions. I've had a look at your other army pics and i have to say that you have a very well-painted and presented army. Emperor's finest indeed! :)
"Give a man fire and he will be warm for a day; set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life."

Red Devils track record: 27 wins - 14 losses - 3 draws
Cheese Marines track record: 0 wins - 2 losses - 0 draws

Stop "Idiot-chat"!

#11
Age quod agis

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What do you use for sealing your models when you're finished painting them?
QUOTE (greatcrusade08 @ Oct 13 2010, 12:48 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
hes an ultramarine, he just shames the enemy into dying by his pure awesomeness


#12
OwlandMoonGuy

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I use one treatment of Testor’s Dull Coat. I know I really should gloss coat them first but I’ve become overconfident with the results I get from the Dull Coat. One day I may learn my lesson but not so far…

-OMG

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"What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people's faces as unfinished as their minds?" -Eric Hoffer


#13
ChaosDude

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Very Helpfull thanks for the topic ^^