Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tablescapes Display Board Paint Test and Tutorial

Secret Weapon Miniatures' Tablescapes finally arrived and before batch painting all the display board tiles I thought I would paint a test tile first. Normally most of my terrain painting and weathering is limited to the bases so I wanted to test whether the jump to a 12"x12" format worked well, or if there was a need to do something different to make it tick. I was especially worried about avoiding the monotony of colours and textures. A separate worry was the amount of time I would need to dedicate to each tile, as there are 35 more to paint and I am definetely not the faster of painters.

The tile is from the Forgotten City theme, which essentially are broken tiles and boulders with some soil. I wanted the floor to be grey, the soilto be yellow-ish and link both areas with browns; essentially take advantage of those many cracks to fill them with dirt.

I also added a few flowers and bushes here and there to help break the monotony. Keep in mind this tile is part of  a display board and usually will be covered in miniatures - and perhaps a small terrain element - so there will be a lot less open space than in the pictures.

Fire Dragons about to be in a world o'hurt


Let me preface  by saying that an airbrush and weathering pigments are required to achieve a similar look to the pictures. It's not to say you need those to paint the tiles - in fact you can just use a large brush like in GW's tutorial - but they will make your like easier and make the tiles look better.

With that out of the way, I started priming the tile in grey. The primer color is an important decision as it will have a great influence on the look of the finished tile. In this case grey is the most neutral color, as it is neither too dark or clear, and it is similar to the color most of the tile will be covered with. Once the primer was dry, I airbrused dark grey in the spaces between tales, and also around the outline of the soil parts. The purpose is dual: darken the cracks and spaces that are naturally dark, and also provide some color graduation once the final colors are applied. Indeed, the grey will look clearer in the center of the tiles and darker around the edges where the dark grey is; this is why I deliberately allowed some dark grey outside of the cracks.

Next step is applying the base colors, grey and dust yellow. The important thing to keep in mind is to not spray the color all over the place, but paint each tile individually. By doing this we will achieve a better color graduation in each tile (as you are spraying at center) and also keep the edges more or less dark.

Adding more depth to the tile

For the grey tiles, I painted the edges with a lighter grey. I used an old Citadel large dry brush, which is flat and  about 1.5cm wide. I did not really drybrush anything, just applied gently a bit of paint through the edges. 

For the soil part, I applied some darker brown on the recesses and depressions of the areas; this will help define the volumes as the soil is indeed not sculpted flat, but has some nice variation. 

In the space between tiles and along all the many cracks this tile has, I applied a dark brown wash. Again, this is a gently application of color with a brush directy on the cracks/lines and not covering the tile in it. I used Mig Productions' Dark Wash, which is a very interesting product that behaves differently from Citadel's washes. This particular wash has a very strong capillary motion, meaning if you apply a little bit tin the intersection of 4 tiles (i.e. in the cross in between), the wash will flow its way through the four directions as a result of this motion. The idea is therefore to make small applications in selected areas, then use a fine brush to extend the wash if needed.

One small downside of this type of washes is that they are slow to dry, so take it easy and let it rest :)

Once the wash was completely dry -don't try anything whislt is still wet or it will ruin your work - I painted again the areas in which the wash had overspilled.

Pigments and bushes

Now it's time to dust out your pigments (you got it?) and again make gentle, controlled applications. In this case I applied a brown/red dust color in the cracks and between the tiles, and also in some interesting spots in the soil parts. It is difficult to explain with words but suffice to say there are interesting textures in these tiles where it becomes apparent a pigment might look interesting. Just give it a try and you'll see what I  mean :)

I also added some green pigment around the raised tiles, simulating the effect of water/humidity.

How were the pigments applied? for the most part I used an old brush and picked up very small amounts of pigment every time. The pigment was deposited in a crack or depression, and was extended with the brush or even with the thumb.
Note the subtle grey around the tiles and small color variations in the tiles that break the monotony
Once I was happy with the result I applied a coat of satin varnish. Because most of the pigments were in the cracks that was OK but in other situations you might need to apply a pigment fixer or the spray will take a away the pigments.

Now for the final touch - adding some flowers and bushes. I used Army Painter's Meadow Flowers, which you can see in the picture below. For about 4€ you get this strip with white and yellow flowers. Simply use the tweezers to get a small amount and glue it in place.

I also added a few bushes from Citadel's Mordheim bushes set.

Colors and pigments used

Please just take this as a reference of the colors that I used. You can make your own selection and most probably use whatever you already have.

  • Primer: Vallejo Surface Primer Grey.
  • Tiles: Vallejo Model Air Dark Sea Grey, Medium Grey and Citadel Administratum Grey.
  • Soil: Vallejo Model Air Brown and Burnt Umber.
  • Wash: Mig Productions Dark Wash.
  • Pigments: Secret Weapon Miniatures Terracota Earth, Dark Earth and Sewage Muck.
  • Vallejo Satin Varnish.
  • Citadel Mordheim bushes and Army Painter Meadow Flowers.
  • Plus an undetermined number of Moritz 25cl beers.

Hope you liked the tutorial and feel free to post any questions or comments!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tablescapes Display Board unboxing

The much anticipated Tablescapes kickstarter finally arrived home and boy, the wait was well worth it! I ordered a full set of Urban tiles, with a mix of clean and damaged streets, and a smaller display board with a temple ruins theme. Today I'm going to show the unboxing of the display board.

The concept

The Tablescapes system was funded more than a year and half ago, and it's been fighting his way through a myriad of technical and logistical problems. The idea is to make a modular game system designed around 12"x 12" tiles that can be combined in any way, so you could refresh your gaming table every night if you wanted to. I'm personally considering to assemble them fixed in a board but we'll see. A side product of this project are the display boards, which are essentially 4 12"x 12" tiles plus a frame.


The product comes neatly packaged in a 4C Gift Box with a handle, so not only you can keep it stored there, but you can also take it with you comfortably to the game venue.

The 4 tiles of this board, which can be combined in any position

Inside the box we found 2 bags, one with the tiles and the other with the frame parts. Each tile has been individually sealed within a plastic bag, then put all together inside another plastic bag! While I normally despise excessive packaging, I think this product warrants it as you will want to store the tiles in the plastic bags for transportation.
Frame parts in the left, four gorgeous tiles in the right

Each tile is neatly packaged

The frame has 8 parts, plus the neat detail of  a plaque for the army name.

The assembly is easy, using some compression clips on the edges of the tiles. Once it's assembled, the whole thing is pretty sturdy and can be moved around safely.
Notice the rings at the bottom make the tile very solid

What about the detail?

The level of detail is surprisingly good for a plastic, CAD model. There are different heights, the stones are full of small cracks and there is more than enough variety to make it look interesting. To be clear, it is not comparable to the level of detail you would get from a manually crafted terrain, and for instance Secret Weapon Miniatures' bases are much more detailed. Is this disappointing? I think not; a full table with that level of detail would have been much more costly to produce, and I very much prefer a balanced level of quality and cost. Don't get me wrong: the tiles look great, and will look much better once fully painted and weathered.

Details are clear and convincing

At this point I couldn't help myself to just put an army on top, so I unpacked part of my Ulthwé Eldar army whose bases have a temple theme. I think it looks great!
Looks like they like it there

So what next?

I'll start painting a single tile of this set first to test the colors. An airbrush and weathering powders are absolute must have to paint these. I'm also tempted to add a few details of my own - the ubiquotous skull here and there, a few large boulders, some helmets perhaps. I'll be posting results tuned. Stay tuned and for those still awaiting their tablescape -  don't despair, will get to you soon!

Take care!
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