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Color Spray: Fur-ocious

Today we color spray the Nexu from Imperial Assault! We’ll also talk about painting free hand, flow aid and starting over when things go horribly wrong!

Ah… Nexu… The bad kitties of the galaxy… Who doesn’t love those adorable, little fuzzballs of death? Personally, I will never be able to rest peacefully until I’ve had a Wookiee beast master with a Nexu mount. And I’m certain that @Deuteriumice, my kind and generous GM, is only waiting for the perfect moment to introduce my Wookiee to his new furry pal. I just know it! Did I mention that my birthday is this week, @Deuteriumice?

Anyway, as the arrival of my Nexu is undoubtedly imminent, I should get painting!

Or maybe I shouldn’t have. Because it didn’t go well. You see, I pulled an all nighter at work, and was forcing myself to stay awake until the following evening. So I thought I’d paint!

Pro-Tip: Don’t do that.

Long story short, it didn’t go well. I thought I’d base coat brown with Vallejo Flat Earth. Then the plan was to dry brush a few layers up to the Nexu’s creamy light tan color.

Yeah… Not so much. The fur on the model is too shallow for that sort of thing. It required a lot of dry brushing to highlight up to a tone anywhere near what I was looking for. I knew almost immediately that I was in trouble… But I pushed ahead for a while to see if I could get anything passable. This is where I ended up when I finally threw in the towel. Yuck…

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And so… I have failed you, dear reader. It didn’t come out perfectly on my first try. Therefore I have tossed all of my painting supplies into the fire… which was a bad idea as all the cans exploded…. burned down the neighborhood and landed me in jail. Off I go to begin my new life of incarceration… Farewell cruel world!

Or not.

This actually happens all the time. It’ll happen to you too! If you have a low tolerance for things going wrong from time to time, this probably isn’t the hobby for you. So! That means you need to know how to fix it when it happens! And, I do believe I volunteered to write about such things. So, let’s get to it!

Happily, stripping miniatures is very simple. However, be aware that these instructions are for hard plastic and metal minis. If you have models from some cheap-o board game, you’ll want to do some research and testing beforehand.

My product of choice for stripping is Castrol Super Clean. It’s cheap, it’s biodegradable, and it works great!

Important safety tip: You absolutely must wear Nitrile rubber gloves when working with this stuff. It’ll burn you if you get it on yourself. I got a pack of disposables for like $2 at the local mega-mart.  Also be aware that it strips glue as well, so any minis assembled with super glue will need to be reassembled.

Beyond that, it couldn’t be easier. Simply put some Super Clean in a container with a tight fitting lid (I call my container the “Spice Mines of Kessel”) and let it soak overnight. Freshly applied paint will usually just rinse off the next day. If not, it’ll just take a little scrubbing with a soft brush.

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And, there we go! Good as new!

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Well, almost. You’ll notice that the tail did not get stripped. That is because I was playing around with an ink on it, so the tail was actually dyed. That’s just how inks work. However inks also don’t leave any gunk behind to plug up detail. So when I hit the model with primer once again, all will be well.

The take away from all this? Don’t be afraid to experiment! Getting back to square one is as easy as could be. When things go wrong, don’t stress about it. Just start over. Simple as that.

Pro-Tip: eBay always has tons of horribly painted miniatures up for sale. You can save some money buying them up and stripping them.

All righty! With that taken care of, let’s head into round two with my future mount!

Since I still want that light cream color, I primed them white to keep the tone light. This time I went with the following for the base coat:

Fur:  Vallejo Model Color Iraqi Sand
Spikes & Claws: Equal parts Vallejo Model Color Dark Grey and Neutral Grey
Tail, Mouth & Gums: Vallejo Model Color Red
Teeth Vallejo Model Color Off White

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Yes… That is looking like the right direction this time. But he is clearly missing something… and that something is stripes! He (and this model is demonstrably a “he”) needs stripes on his fur.

Now, fur is something you can spend all kinds of time on. There are entire classes taught on this single subject at ReaperCon. When you add stripes on top of the fur, you could write a thesis. But we are speed painting here, which means we want it to look good and not take dozens of hours.

I decided on my stripe color. I used two parts Vallejo Model Color Chocolate Brown and one part Neutral Grey. We’re going to be applying the stripes free hand.  When I free hand, I use a super thin paint. I thin it down using roughly the same ratios as I would for a wash. If you need a refresher on mixing washes, check out the On Your Guard article. However, for free hand, I use flow aid in the place of water in the formula.

Flow aid, also known as flow improver, is interesting stuff. When used as a medium, it thins the paint slightly differently than water. With straight water the pigment tends to sink, whereas flow aid suspends it closer to the surface. In the wash, we want it to sink. But for free hand, we want the colors a little more even, as were drawing a picture rather than shading recesses. Flow aid also messes with the surface tension of the paint, making it flow off of the brush easier. This is especially important when you are drawing on a mini.

There are plenty of companies that will happily sell you little dropper bottles of flow aid, and that is fine. However this is another one of those cases where a few extra dollars at the local art supply super store will stock you up for many years.

The flow aid you buy at the art store will be a concentrate. However, it is easy to mix. The brand I buy recommends a mix of twenty parts water to one part flow aid. So I mix up a big batch in a squeeze bottle, and use that to refill a dropper bottle I got from Reaper. I mix it using our digital kitchen scale, adding 300 grams of water to the squeeze bottle and then 15 grams of flow aid.

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I paid $8 for the bottle of concentrate from the art store. It will refill my big squeeze bottle 7.5 times, or my dropper bottle 155 times. In contrast, I paid $3 for the bottle of premixed flow aid from Reaper.

So, my free hand stripe paint is two drops chocolate brown, one drop neutral grey, nine drops flow aid and nine drops matt medium.

The first thing I want to do is to block out where I want the stripes. In miniature painting lingo, blocking out just means to establish the boundaries for where you want the paint to go. Using my thinned paint, I traced out where I want the stripes.

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Ok… Seems kinda-sorta reasonable. Not terribly inspired, but it works for me. Next I applied more layers to the stripes, making them darker by allowing the layers to build up. I concentrated on getting the paint in the center of the stripe as much as possible. I want the edges to be a bit fuzzier, so they blend with the fur base coat color a bit.

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With that done, I want to narrow the stripes. So I used the Iraqi Sand base coat color to clean up the edges of the stripes. I don’t want the edges of the stripes to be too straight, so I applied the Iraqi Sand in a dabbing motion, to create lovely crinkly edges… like little fjords…

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Ok! Now we wash! I mixed a wash with Vallejo Model Color Khaki and my Iraqi Sand base coat color. The wash will mute the stripes a bit. We want this. Do not panic.

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Next I mixed up some more stripe color, chocolate brown and neutral grey, but only thinned it down to base coat consistency. Then, with a detail brush, I traced a line down the center of each stripe on the raised surfaces. This was mostly where the stripe went over a bulging muscle or on a part of the mini which would catch the light. I left the stripes shaded where they dipped into a recessed area. I also applied my Iraqi Sand base coat color to the fur on the raised areas, such as muscle, the ridges of the eyes, the ridge of the claws and any fur that sticks up a bit.

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Getting there! Now for some fiddling… The Nexu has this rather disturbing pink rat tail. I mixed up a glaze with Reaper Fair Skin and applied three coats to the tail and the tongue. I thought that the tail was a bit much, so I applied a red wash to it, which toned it down nicely. Be careful tho. The shape of the tail can make the brush snap, so you could end up splashing little droplets on the fur if you aren’t careful. Actually, next time I would just finish the tail first. I also added a single coat of the skin wash to the gums in the mouth. With that done, I painted the teeth with off white.

Next I mixed up a highlight, for the spikes and claws, of one part dark grey and one part neutral grey, and highlighted the edges and pointy parts. I gave the eyes a coat of dark grey and each got a single dot of khaki. Then I painted the base black, and gave the whole thing a spray of Testor’s Dull Coat. As a final step, I hit each eye with some Vallejo Gloss Varnish to make them shine.

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Then I called it done!

In retrospect, I’m not sure where my Wookiee’s saddle is going to go… But we have a clever engineer on the team, I’m sure she’ll figure it out.

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Now, you have been color sprayed! Save vs. paralysis!

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