Hobby Process Improvement #1: Picture Lightbox!

Ok all, so if you follow my blog then you’ll know that I’m constantly posting pictures about my many ongoing gaming projects… you’ve probably also noticed that I’m constantly asking you to forgive the bad pictures that I take of my stuff. I have been having lots of problems when it comes to taking pics of my minis and I always get some decent pictures, but mostly bad pictures with several bad lighting angles.. So anyways, I had finally gotten to the point where I am tired of it and, after perusing the several other blogs that I frequent, I found a lot of inspiration to make a lightbox that will help me to better capture the true image of the miniatures I’m trying to photograph.

Here's the method I have been using...

I set out to Wal-Mart and picked up everything I needed for under $10 and the total time it took me to complete this project was just under 45 minutes – that’s start to finish. So if you take pics and post them to your blog or forums then I’d recommend taking the time to do this as I have found there’s a drastic difference in the quality of the photos. Anyways, here’s the items I used in the making of the lightbox:

Not pictured: Tape.

First, you can make your box as big or small as you need to but I figured that about a square foot would be perfect… it’ll be able to capture everything from a single miniature up to a full sized squad. So it’ll get the job done. So I measure 4 sections of the foam board to be 12″ x 12″ and cut them out. Two of those cutouts need to have a square cut out of them as well, this is the opening that will allow more light to come in. Once you have these 4 cut out and the 2 inner squares cut out, you’ll need a small strip to place across the top (more to come on that in a minute). So here’s what you should have so far:

In other blogs, I found that people used toothpicks to keep their light box together, and that will work if you don’t have a glue gun. But since I do have a glue gun, that’s what I used on this one. So I had it plugged in from the get go so that it’d be nice and hot by the time I was ready to use it. First thing to do is put some hot glue on one edge so that it doesn’t dry out by the time you get the pieces together. I have found that if you just do the edges and then work your way across you’ll have a nice, clean join with no gaps from already-dried glue. After you glue two sides together then work on adding the other side to it, using the same gluing technique. Finally, add the backdrop (this is the full, un-cut piece) and glue it all together. So what you should have at this point is the two pieces with cutouts facing each other, and it should start to look like a box. Now, you could leave it at this point if you wanted, but I thought for a little extra support I’d use the small piece that we cut out earlier. Remember that piece? Yep, just glue both edges and put it on the front. This will add some extra support for the box and will help to make it more durable. So here’s what you should have so far:

Next is the wax paper. You will just need two small squares worth of this stuff. All you need it for is to cover the cutouts that you made on the sides of the box. This will help do drown out some of the light that you’ll have coming in from the sides so that it won’t make appear too bright. Once I cut the pieces of wax paper I simply taped them to the sides and then voila! It’s done. So here’s where we’re at:

Simple, yet effective!

Now that the box is pretty much completed it’s time to add the backdrop. For this, I used “Fun Foam” that you can get at Michael’s or Wal-Mart. It costs about $1.50 for a piece that measures 12″ x 18″. I chose to go with blue but you can use any color you want. Blue seems to be the standard for a backdrop in pictures so it’s what I went with… To install, I simply glued the top portion and then let it hang down so that it is at a curve, instead of down to the edges. In my son’s words, make it look “like a skateboard park”… Here’s what it should look like now:

Notice the "skateboard park" look...

So now we should be all done with the new lightbox. Here’s a few more pics to show what I had been doing and what I’ll now be doing with the addition of the new lightbox. Again, if you take pics as much as me and post to your blog or forums I’d highly recommend taking the time to create your own lightbox. Here’s what it will look like from now on when I take pics and post them to my blog:

So to drive home the point I’m trying to make, here’s before and after pics of the previous method I’d been using (2 pieces of white paper as a backdrop and a fluorescent light) and the lightbox method (extra light added to the side). Hope you learned a thing or two and, from now on, you’ll be seeing some better quality pics from me! Thanks for reading and let me know what you think! Thanks!

Before the lightbox.

With the lightbox.

So now what (Army)?

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I’m finally complete with my entire Lizardmen army. Looking back over the last year or so I’ve added a considerable amount to it after 8th edition came out. So, after a quick overview it appears that I have about 5,000 points of Lizardmen… painted. If you’ve been following my blog you’ve noticed the new units that are now part of the army and have seen some familiar units get some much needed touch-ups. In all, here’s what I have for my Lizardmen army:

– Oldblood on Carnosaur

– Oldblood / Scar-vet on foot

– (Another) Oldblood / Scar-vet on foot

– Slann Mage Priest

– Skink Priest on foot

– (Another) Skink Priest on foot

– Saurus Scar-vet on Cold One

– Skink Priest on Engine of the Gods

– 30 Saurus Warriors with Hand Weapons

– 25 Saurus Warriors with Hand Weapons

– 28 Saurus Warriors with Spears

– 30 Skink Skirmishers

– 16 Skinks w/Javelins and 2 Kroxigors

– 10 Chameleon Skinks

– 4 Terradons

– 5 Cold One Riders

– 20 Temple Guard

– Ancient Stegadon

– 2 Salamanders

– 2 Razordons

And various others that are either close to being done or not yet primed. I’ll get to them someday. For now, I’m done with Lizardmen. And the truth be told, I’m tired of painting on them… I’m ready for something else… So now that they are all complete it’s time for me to shift my attention to something else. I’m going to get back into 40k (meh…) so I have a Deathwing army in the works. It is all put together except for one Land Raider, which will be done over the weekend, and then it’s on to painting it. I’ve always been a fan of the Deathwing army and the fact that you can fit it into one small Army Transport case makes it even more appealing to me. I’m not a huge fan of 40k but it seems to be the more popular game (for some reason) so I figured if you can’t be ’em, join ’em.

Then after the Deathwing I’ll probably go in and out on a Salamanders army. I’ve always liked the look of that army as well so that will be sprinkled somewhere in there. I also have a Dwarf army that I’m excited about and then some Beastmen. I think that should keep me busy for a while and since I won’t be attending anymore tounaments for the next several months I figure it gives me plenty of time to knock some of this stuff out so I can be ready when the time to play actually does come around.

So that’s it for now. It’s onwards and upwards for Iggy Koopa! I’m ready for something new. So make sure to check back as I’ll be posting progress and much more of my new armies over the next several months. And make sure to visit the Look Out Sir! Forums and get in on all the juicy debates we have going on. As always, thanks for reading and keep the paint brushes going.

The Road to Games Day 2011: Saurus Spear Unit Filler Complete!

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So it took some doing but I finally got around to finishing off my Unit Filler for my Saurus Warriors with spears. I know I’ve been saying for a while that I plan on having it done earlier and all that good stuff but I have had a lot of things (literally) pop up in front of me that took precedence. Anyways, I was determined to get this thing done prior to leaving for Games Day 2011 (which will be in approximately 5 hours from the typing of this…) I must say that although I like the way that it turned out I’m not too impressed with how the painting came out on it. I mean, it looks good (IMO) but it feels rushed. I guess it’s my fault for constantly procrastinating and then trying to finish it up at the last minute… At any rate, I finished it off yesterday and glued all the pieces on and now it serves as the Unit Filler for my Saurus Warriors.

I was a little concerned with people not knowing what’s going on when you look at it so I decided to give it the “wife test”. I showed my wife and didn’t let her say anything… and then I told her, “Ok… take a look at this piece, just think to yourself, take a few minutes, let it marinate in your head… and then tell me what you believe is going on in this diorama…” After a few moments (which seemed like an eternity) of moving it around and getting different views of the models on the base she sits up and says, “It looks like they found some eggs and they are going to pick them up.” Score! I was relieved that she said that. So it proves (to me, at least) that even somebody who knows nothing about the hobby can get what I was going for in this piece. So, I think I did my job well on this one.

So the plan is to pack this unit up and take it with me to enter into the Golden Demon competition. Again, I KNOW it’s not painted well enough to compete with the type of painters that will surely be there but it helps me to know that I put my mind to something, completed it, and put it into the painting competition. If I can get a few guys to say “Wow, cool conversion!” or something along those lines then that’s a win in my book. I’ll have an update and plenty of pics from this weekend on Monday.

Let me know your thoughts and tell me if you can see additions or deletions… or anything that seems out of place. I’m open to the criticism and will gladly make changes if they help to better the model. Thanks for looking and I’ll be back on Monday with an update from Games Day 2011!

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The Road to Games Day 2011: Work-in-progress Spear Saurus Unit Filler (Update #2)…

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I finally got around to doing some work on this Saurus Spear Unit Filler today… I was gone last weekend visiting the fam and was still recovering this entire week at work because of all the the fun we had when we were together. So this morning I woke up and was determined to get some more progress done on this unit. If you’ll recall, I plan on putting this unit into the Golden Demon painting competition at this year’s Games Day (See previous post about me getting my ticket in the mail, woot!) Well I was able to get some work done on it and time got the best of me as we had to make a mandatory trip to the pool then are going out with some friends tonight. So, I will hopefully finish it up tomorrow morning when I wake up and then go back through the entire unit and make the finishing touches to it all.

So anyways, I went back and sculpted some vines to literally wrap all around the pillars and even the dead log that lies to the right of the piece. I put some small leaves coming out of each of the vines to give it a better appearance and, even though vines are simple to do, I was pleased with the way it looks. The pics that I have now are the vines unpainted, so I’ll get those done tomorrow. I went with an old, weathered look on the pillars to give an appearance as though they have been around since the beginning of time, when the Old Ones willed the Saurus to build them at their feet. I think the overgrowth of vines shows that they’ve been around for several milennia as well.

The Saurus that you see in the picture is going to be the only soldier on the “diorama”. Since last working on this I’ve come up with a few other ideas on how to finish this. What I think I’m going to show is the Saurus Warrior on the steps, in defense position and a nest of Cold One eggs where the old log is… I would like to have a few Skinks shown carrying off one of the eggs, taking it back to their temples to raise it from birth to be the cold blooded killing machines that they are in battle. I have a few skinks laying around and I thought it’d be a good idea, showing the Saurus prodding the skinks to take the egg away as he looks around to ensure that the mother of the Cold One eggs is nowhere near… It may be hard to envision but I’ll have more tomorrow so you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about. Anyways, here’s what’s done so far… try to imagine it if you can… thanks and make sure to check back tomorrow, I’m determined to finish it up.

The Road to Games Day 2011: Work-in-progress Spear Saurus Unit Filler…

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Ok, so here’s the deal. If you read my last post about Games Day 2011 you’ll remember that I plan on attending this year and also participating in a few of their events, including the Golden Demon painting competition. I was on the fence about the Armies on Parade, based purely on the fact that I have about a month to do both of those things… and even less time when you take out the traveling I’ll be doing within that time. So, I have decided to focus my efforts specifically on the Golden Demon painting competition and will be working on a unit of Spear Saurus. This has always been my favorite unit (in terms of a paint job) and so I figured this would be a good opportunity to improve even more on what I have already done with this unit. Here’s the plan:

The unit right now is 20 strong… but I have plans to make it up to 30 (which will be better in gaming terms). Instead of having to paint 6 extra Saurus Warriors I will instead incorporate the use of a Unit Filler. If you look at an older post, you’ll notice that I have already done that for this unit. But this time, I am going to upgrade the unit filler and put it on a chariot base, thus making it count as 8 models. I will then only have to paint 2 extra Saurus in order to reach my goal of 30. I plan on making this an elaborate “counts as” unit filler… and it will include a column that’s reminiscent of ancient ruines (Thanks, Petco!), a few Saurus Warriors, a Skink sitting along the top, and plenty of vines and dangerous looking plants to fit in with the theme that I already have going with my army. I have this grand image in my head of what I want it to look like and you may not be able to see what I see once you look at the pics below… but bear with me, the progress is being made and I hope to have it completed within the next few weeks so that I can coast getting ready to go into Games Day.

I have already begun with the magnetizing of the actual base and started sculpting some stone to make the column not stand alone. Once it dries, I plan on marking it up, making chip marks to give it a weathered look. I also cut out some random pieces to look like bricks (kinda hard to tell in the pics) randomly scattered across the ground and once it’s all painted, I will sculpt vines to look as though they are overgrowing throughout this diorama. I plan on putting the water effects that I have going throughout my army onto this base as well. I’m still trying to located a good tree to put on the right hand side of the column… no luck with that yet but it’s nothing a good walk around the neighborhood can’t fix! Lastly, I want to have a lone Skink somewhere on the columns, to appear as though he is “scouting” for the Saurus Warriors below, letting them know of invaders that are headed their way. Anyways, here’s where I got to as of yesterday… it’s still very much a work-in-progress but it gives me some hope. I’m almost there. I’ll be able to dedicate a little more time to it next week since I’m outta town this weekend. I’ll get there though… eventually.

Once all of this is completed and painted, I’m going to go back over all the Saurus Warriors in the unit and pay extra close attention to missed spots, touch ups, and highlights. Keep checking back… this is going to grow over the next few weeks until the Games Day arrives. Thanks for checking! Enjoy!

The Road to Games Day 2011: A Thought turned into Reality…

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So after a brief conversation with the wife we have decided that this year’s Games Day 2011, which will be held in Chicago, Illinois, will be the first one that I get the opportunity to attend! It just so happens that we have very good friends of ours that live there and since we haven’t visited in a while it didn’t take much convincing to get her to agree. So we’ll pack up, take the 2 hour flight to Chicago, visit some old friends and I’ll get the opportunity to attend my first ever Games Day!

After perusing the GW website and gaining some knowledge about all of the things that will be going on that weekend, I have decided to start working on some things in preparation for attending the weekend event. Now I know that I’m not as good of a painter as a lot of those guys that will be participating in the Golden Demon painting competition, but I do have SOME skills and will be putting them to use. There are two events that I have decided I’m going to enter while in attendance: 1) I’m going to enter a unit of Saurus Warriors into the “Best Fantasy Regiment” portion of the Golden Demon competition and, 2) submit my entire army into the “Armies on Parade” event that will be judged on and resolved that day!

The first one – the Best Regiment – I’m going to start on a mini-series of sorts that shows my progression of a now painted Saurus Warrior Regiment and how it (hopefully) evolves into Golden Demon quality. I’m going to pull out all of the stops and work hard on this unit, hopefully getting it to a very high quality and get it ready to be judged in Chicago! I believe I am a good painter but this will test my skill to the limit, so it’s going to be interesting. I’ll have both before and after pictures and share some techinques along the way, all the while hoping to get some input from you guys on things that you may recommend / comment on / etc.

The second one – Armies on Parade – is a competition that GW is going to be holding during the weekend that will bring winners from other hobby centers and put them all against each other. You basically have to create a display board and put your entire army on display, no bigger than a 2×2 board, and show it off. All of the finalists in attendance will then vote on the best and GW will reveal the winners based off of those votes. I am also going to be creating a new display board in that time and show start to finish pictures along the way….

So as you can tell, I have a lot to do in about a month’s time. Games Day Chicago is held on Saturday, July 30th, so it gives me roughly a month to complete the things that I want to. I will be updating this blog with all the stuff related to this event and show you how I’m doing along the way. For right now, I first have to actually purchase the plane tickets and the Games Day ticket! I should be able to do that this week so once that’s done it will be a done deal. Make sure to check back, there’s going to be a lot of activity in the next month! I gotta get started!

40K Chronicles: WIP Deathwing Terminator.

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Welp… It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to make a post… There’s been so much going on with me and the fam lately… Where to begin? I was sent to Washington D.C. for two weeks and, needless to say, I didn’t have any Warhammer stuff with me; I was too busy working the entire time so it would have been pointless anyways. So I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t drag some stuff with me all the way across the entire country. I’ve had very little time lately to do anything… I’m in the process of moving (to D.C.) and have been working on finding a new place to stay, trying to start packing some things up, and working with the relocation folks that it has literally taken all of my time to do anything… But today I was intent on getting some painting in… First, If you have been following my blog I want to apologize since it’s been a few weeks since I had an update and about a month or so since I actually had an update that was worthwhile. Sadly, I must admit that I won’t be updating as much as I’d like over the next month until all gets settled and I’m set up and ready to go… The good news, however, is that I’ll have my own “Man Cave” when I get to my new dwelling so no more makeshift paint station. I’m excited to get my own room again and I’ll definitely be looking forward to setting up my work station and getting it all situated. It’ll be good to finish working on something and just close the paint, dry off the paint brush, and then walk off to another room… I can’t wait! (Currently I have to clean up my work area, put up all the paint and paintbrushes, pick up the mini’s, put it all in a big box, break down the table and chair, and then store it in the closet…. only to take it out all over again when I want to paint…) So, as you can imagine, it’s long overdue and I can’t wait to get it set up the way I want.

So tonight’s menu included the start of my Deathwing army. Yes, yes… I know… it’s Warhammer 40K… If you’ve seen my last few posts you’ll know that I’m starting on my O&G army since my LM are all finished up (less a few tweaks here and there). But, before I go deep into the Greenskin realm I want to finish my Deathwing army so I can have an army for each game system. Back in the day, I played both Fantasy and 40K religiously… but in recent years I have found that Fantasy is just a much better game (IMO anyways) and eventually found myself getting rid of all my 40K armies and sticking solely to Fantasy. I’ve always loved the models in 40K and really enjoy the futuristic / tank-y / robot feel that is a huge part of the 40K world. I knew that I would eventually go back to 40K and that it was just a matter of time. So, I acquired a Deathwing army (Thanks, Khorne53!) and have now decided to get to work. I wanted to paint a prototype of this army and that’s exactly what this guy is… I’m trying some new painting techniques on this army and want to try it out on one model instead of going to town on the entire army (all 24 models, LOL!) So, here’s a few pics so that you can see what I got going on. It’s still a WIP so there’s gonna be some changes / additions to it but it’s the best I could do with 1.5 hours of free time (less 20ish minutes for set up / teardown time of my painting station). More to come soon.

Once this guy is complete, I plan on having Belial, either a Librarian or Chaplain (I have both), 4 units of Deathwing Terminators, 2 Land Raider Crusaders, and a Dreadnought. I’ve always enjoyed the Deathwing army and how they are a small, assault army. Plus, it gives me a chance to spend more time on each model and really pay attention to detail. I have some cool conversions in mind also. Anyways, check out what I got so far and let me know what you think. Peace!