Daniel Gelon continues the painting process of Gale Force Nine’s earth myrmidon.
In celebration of the Elemental Evil storyline, I’m going to be painting Gale Force Nine’s earth, air, water, and fire myrmidons. Each of these miniatures is going to offer some unique challenges and employ a variety of techniques.
The elemental myrmidon miniatures all represent elementals wearing heavy armor, based on illustrations by Filip Burburan that I had the pleasure of art directing. Since I have a connection to these creatures, I want to keep the color themes close to those in the original painting. The earth myrmidon seems like it’ll be the easiest, so I’ll start with that.
Earth Myrmidon Part 3: Armor/Base
Art Director Daniel Gelon details the next stage in the Earth Myrmidon painting process. In this segment, we see dramatic results as Daniel paints the armor and base. Watch the step-by-step now.
Earth Myrmidon Part 2: Dry Brushing
Art Director Daniel Gelon details the next stage in the Earth Myrmidon painting process. In this segment, Daniel dry brushes the body of the myrmidons and offers more great tips and tricks for those who wish to try this at home.
Earth Myrmidon Part 1: Preparation
I’m going to explore the process of painting the elemental myrmidon miniatures over the course of a number of articles. In this installment, I’ll talk about the all-important preparations for painting.
Prepping the Miniature
The earth myrmidon comes in five parts, all cast in resin—base, stone on base, body, right arm, and hands holding a club. Before painting can start, the model has to be prepped and assembled, and the first step is to remove the sprues. Mold making has a few technical terms—sprue, runner, and gates—to describe the channels in the molds where resin is poured in to form the model. I’m using the term “sprue” to describe the excess resin that is not part of the finished model. On this model, the sprues all look like cylinders attached to the pieces.
Dremel tools, a retractable blade, files, and sandpaper are all common tools used to remove excess resin. The Dremel is a miniature-sized power drill used in hobbies. Mine is cordless and rechargeable, with a pistol grip and (most importantly) variable speeds. With a cutting wheel attached and using a low speed (so as to not melt the resin), I begin trimming off the sprues, usually leaving a little stump about a millimeter or two high. If the surface is going to be hidden, I might just cut a sprue all the way down with the Dremel. That way, if I have an accident and score the resin, it’s not in a critical or visible location. This process kicks up a surprising amount of resin dust, so it needs to be done in a well-ventilated area. Always use a filter mask and safety glasses.
I continue this process for all the pieces.
The next step is to remove those little nubs. Some resins are very hard, and require metal files to remove them. The Gale Force Nine resin is a joy to work with and very easy to carve. I can use a retractable hobby blade to scrape the nubs off in several passes.
After all the excess sprue resin is removed, the next step is assembling the parts. Sometimes there are seam lines left behind from the molding process that have to be scraped off or cleaned up as well, but these castings are incredibly clean and ready to go.
Assembling the Miniature (Sub Assemblies and Pinning)
When painting, the goal is to have all the model’s areas as accessible to the brush as possible, so a little thinking needs to happen at this stage about how to make the job easier. When I test fit the mini, I feel that if I leave the hands and the right arm off—painting them separately and attaching them at the end—I’ll have a much easier time reaching the armor on the inside of the myrmidon’s arms and around his head. The mini is designed extremely well and there are natural separations between the stone and the armor, so I won’t have to worry about puttying or painting over seams. I hate using putty (though I already know I’m going to have to when I paint the air myrmidon after the earth myrmidon is done).
Before I glue the parts together, I’m going to pin them. Pinning is the process of drilling little holes in the parts and connecting them with metal posts or pins. I’m going to use sections of paper clips as my pins. The model already has posts and holes that lock together, but pinning strengthens the joints. I pin around 80 percent of my model parts, even ones with resin posts and holes. If a model is handled a lot—and especially if it’s accidentally dropped—those connection points can break. Pinning doesn’t take that much time, and it gives me some extra insurance that those pieces aren’t going to break off. To pin, I need a mechanical pencil, a rubber band to hold pieces together, some paper clips, a pin vise (which is a tiny handheld drill), and of course, the Dremel.
With the mechanical pencil, I mark an “X” from corner to corner on the tops of the posts and in the base of the holes on the arm and hand connection points. I choose a drill bit smaller than the diameter of the paper clip post, then drill little pilot holes in the center of the X’s with the pin vise. I could drill these holes to the correct depth with the pin vise, but it’s very slow going and a pain to use (pushing and twisting by hand). Unless the part is extremely thin or delicate, I prefer to switch over to the Dremel once the pilot holes are drilled.
In the Dremel, I place a bit that is just slightly larger than the paper clip. I want a little wiggle room if the holes aren’t perfectly aligned, and I want some space for the glue in the hole as well.
With the base and the body, I’m going to do something a little different. I wrap a rubber band around the parts to keep them steady. Then, bearing in mind the angle of the legs, I drill through the bottom of the base and deep into the legs to get a long, perfectly straight pin placement.
I now have all the holes drilled, but I’m not ready to glue the pins in and assemble the models just yet. First the pieces need a bath! When the resin is poured into the mold, the mold is coated in a mold release so that the parts don’t stick to the mold. This mold release might stop paints and primers from sticking to the parts, so the pieces need a little soaking in soapy warm water. I use just a bit of regular liquid dish soap. The pieces are then rinsed off with clean water before scrubbing them with a soft brush. (I use a funky wide toothbrush that I found at the local drug store.) After shaking off most of the water, the pieces are left to dry.
I cut the pins with some snips, making sure they’re not too long for the holes. On the arm and hand pieces, I don’t snip the pins because I’m going to place them into corks that I use as painting stands.
Now I’m ready to glue the pieces together. I use a type of fast-acting cyanoacrylate glue—the kind of glue most people know as Krazy Glue or Super Glue. However, the glue I use has micro particles of rubber in it. Krazy Glue and Super Glue have a tendency to get brittle with time, and dropping a miniature will often break a glue bond. The little rubber particles add a bit of shock absorption. I glue the surfaces and the pin holes. I then add the pins and hold the parts together for several seconds until the glue bonds.
With everything glued, I’m almost ready for priming. However, because I want the best bond I can get when I eventually glue the arms and hand to the body, I want to stick the body onto a stand so I don’t have to touch the mini and get finger oils on it while painting. Poster putty to the rescue.
First, I stick the body to an old tub of paint, covering the posts and holes where I’ll want to glue parts together later on.
Finally, the parts are ready for priming!
Priming the Miniature
There are many different primers on the market. Some painters swear by certain brands, but I find that they all work equally well. The main distinction I make is whether the primer is light or dark. Dark primer tends to mute color painted over it, while light primer tends to brighten colors painted over it. I know I want deep earth tones and metals as well as black recesses on the rocks of the earth myrmidon, so I decide to prime with Citadel’s Chaos Black primer.
I usually prime out of doors (though I occasionally use a spray box). I find that holding the mini allows me to get into the nooks a bit better. Plus, I can prime the front and the back of the mini at the same time. Once again, always use a filter mask when you’re priming. There are a lot of scary-looking warnings on that label.
When the earth myrmidon is primed, it’s finally ready for painting. I’ll talk about that in the next installment.