Saturday, February 26, 2011

Field Test: Army Painter Quickshade

I've always been a bit skeptical of the minwax-type 'dips', especially with 'colourful subjects' like Napoleonic figures, as I find it often muddies the brighter colours and can give a jaundiced look to skintones.  Then a few months ago I came across the blog by Saxon Dog and was very impressed with his painting techniques, especially with Army Painter Quickshade. His approach to 'the dip' is a little different than most as he utilizes it merely as a step in the layering process. He blocks in the main colours, brushes with Quickshade and then goes over the highlights before the final matte spray. His results are quite nice, I think.

So I thought I'd give it a go to see if I could pull off a similar effect as I typically use a layering technique as well (though certainly not as nicely executed as Mr. Dog's). My thinking is if I can even take one step out of the process it might reduce my painting time by almost a third, which is no small feat in of itself as I am a fairly slow painter.

For castings, I chose eight 28mm Foundry Napoleonic Russians in greatcoats as I thought that the muted tones of the overcoats would help mitigate any potential disaster I might have with the Quickshade dip.

Here are the eight Russian infantrymen after being primed black and with the main colours blocked-in. I made an effort to spend no more than around five minutes on each figure while blocking-in the colours to see what the results would be like under 'speed painting' conditions (well, speedy for me). I also tried to keep a little blacklining visible in the deeper folds and creases as I was unsure how well (or dark) the dip would penetrate these spots. I found doing this stage really weird as I usually start with a darker basetone and 'lift up' from there. It sort of reminded me of when I first started painting figures as a kid, before I cared about things like shading and highlights. Kinda liberating actually!

I tried to pick base colour tones that were mid to high in brightness as I knew the Army Painter dip would darken them. This way I could use the same colour (or slightly higher) to do the highlights later.

Here they are (above) right after applying the Army Painter Strong Tone with a large brush. My application, for the most part, was fairly light as I was unsure of the results. It worked pretty well, but I think I'd go stronger for the next batch, perhaps even mixing the Strong Tone with a bit of the Dark Tone. Nonetheless, don't go overboard in brushing it on. This is basically varathane so it will build up and soften the casting's detail if you're not careful. Have a jar of thinner on hand to keep the brush supple and to thin out any blotchy areas. Otherwise the whole process moves along pretty quickly (perhaps five minutes application for this batch of eight). I then let the models dry overnight before continuing to the next stage...

The next day I matte sprayed half the figures an kept the others glossy to see how the highlighting would go. Again, I used basically the same colours that I used when blocking-in and I tried to move as fast as possible with the highlighting. I don't think I spent more than seven to ten minutes per figure on the highlighting. The highlighting actually worked pretty well on the glossy finish so I'm thinking I could save a step and only do a matte spray at the end of the process.  Below is a group shot of the batch of eight after the highlighting and with a final light spray of Dull Cote.

And here are separate shots of each figure to give an idea of how they turned out. So, what's your opinion of the results? Hmm, its a little subtle but the whites certainly benefited from the highlighting as otherwise they would look quite dull and muddy. The other colours also get a little more 'punch' from the highlighting. Nonetheless, all-in-all I think that by using the Army Painter dip I shaved approximately 30% off my time as it removed an entire 'stage' in my normal layer-painting routine. That's pretty significant. I'm thinking I'd see even greater benefits when doing cavalry as the horses could be basically done in two stages (basecoat and dip).

I must admit the required 12-hour drying time for the varnish is a little aggravating, as I often like to 'steam along' with my painting without pause, but this isn't really that big of a issue as it just means I will have to be more organized with my time.

I have some KGL Light Dragoons primed and on the table,  ready to go, so I think I'll try the Quickshade with them to see how it works with cavalry...