Author Topic: Medieval castle & village project - Advice needed  (Read 3971 times)

August 18, 2012, 12:58:56 PM
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Hi, I've followed Fichtenfoo for many years but I'm new to the forums here. I come from a miniature figure painting background and I also have some experience making terrain and dioramas. My latest project got me to sign up here, though, as I could really benefit from some scale-modeling expert advice.

Here are a few examples of my work:

That was when I was doing commission work a few years back. These days I'm painting tons of vintage lead figures for D&D and other fantasy games strictly for my own benefit. With the kind of big-scale--big in scope; the minis are still really small ;) --projects I'm doing now the goals are different but my techniques are pretty similar. I don't need to pull out as many stops with each figure as it's the effect of the whole game in progress on the table or the whole collection shown off in the case that I'm mindful of. Like comparing painting a portrait of one person to painting a landscape filled with many dozens.

Anyway, the project is a castle and village. Here are a couple example pics of the models (and there are ton more where this came from):

These are Hudson & Allen models, nominally 25mm scale (but actually closer to 1/72), available from Vatican enterprises these days.

Here's a picture from the catalog of the whole castle

The main things about this are
1) If it would work I'd really like to let what I think is the really beautiful natural yellow-brown of the casting material of these models (a foam resin) show thorough in the final product. Previously I've always started from a solid primer layer. Reality check time so please don't hesitate to let me know if what I'm considering won't work.
2) I plan to make each model look great but each model is not going to get the TLC needed to make it an award winner. I'm looking for techniques that are extensible across the whole castle and surrounding village and I consider all the models together as one "piece."

Here is an illustration (by Gustaf Tenggren) that captures something like the feel I would like these models to have:

And here are some reference pics of "cotswold" stone buildings (also note the thatched roof):

An idea for a workflow (relying mainly on the airbrush):

  • Start by graying down the whole model in successive translucent layers. Like Tamiya smoke but with enamel. Am a little wary of enamels but I think it would probably be better if I'm going to skip a primer layer. However, I'm not sure as I only have experience with acrylic and oils.
  • Maybe use a salt technique here to get some spots on the stones
  • Dark gray-brown (charcoal?) enamel detailing with a brush
  • Before the enamel dries lightly buff the stones with cloth with mineral spirits to bring back more of the yellow.
  • Some saturation layers. I don't want to have to buy too many enamels, but if I started with enamels maybe these should also be enamels
  • Weathering pigments
  • Very soft drybrushing (please don't imagine the cack-handed drybrushing you typically see in the miniatures world :D ).
  • Some areas might need detailing in acrylic.
  • Some kind of enamel varnish?

My first thought was actually to use mainly oils directly on the bare stone. Really thin layers of gray done with a brush. Several problems could result, including problems with how to get rid of any sheen, it could be a big timesink working with a brush, it's probably a bad idea to paint acrylic over them even if I let them dry for a few weeks before hand. Maybe others I haven't thought of. But was considering using primarily oil paint and then weathering pigments. I now have serious reservations about whether it woudl be worth it to try this idea out on even a single building but please let me know if you think there's any value in perusing this.

I'm also really keen on the effects the guys at Bragdon enterprises ( get although their website escaped from the nineties and the pics are tiny tiny. Still, it looks like they stand behind their projects and their dry pigments look like a great value, especially for the kind of large scale project this one is. They are train guys. Essentially their method is to start with a white base, dust dry tempera over the white and then spray it down with water and when that dries use thin acrylic washes and round it off with their dry-adhesive pigments. If I ditched the notion to paint right over the resin I would probably go this route but with an added step of starting from a dark gray or black (dupli-color) base, spray lightly with white duplicolor and then start with the bragdon workflow from there. I've used this tempera method and had pretty good results although tempera is not waterproof and that always gives me some pause.

I'm also VERY interested in:
  • Links to relevant projects and/or tuts.
  • Thoughts about the above ideas.
  • Whether you think the idea of painting directly on the foam resin is a good or bad one.
  • Any life in the oil paint idea?
  • Whether you think I should reconsider the enamels idea and consider acrylic options like Tamiya. In this case I would probably need to give them a solid thick clear coat (rustoleum ultra-cover matte clear is my preferred right now) and then a dullcoat.
  • Specific advise about which paints and pigments and especially which brands or particular colors I will need. The hobby shop is a fair distance away and doesn't stock pigments so I will probably need to order at least some of my paints online. Right now I don't know much about enamels and the pigments I'm considering are Bragdon enterprises.

Ok, now I've gone on way to long, especially for someone who just signed up.  :embarrased:

« Last Edit: August 18, 2012, 12:59:24 PM by Spooktalker »

August 19, 2012, 05:10:30 AM
Reply #1

Will Vale

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I like the minis!

Plus I can see why you'd like to keep the resin colour, it's very pretty.

When I've done stonework before it's always been darker so I've tended to build colour up by drybrushing and stippling acrylic (mostly the thick GW foundations) over a black undercoat. I think with the light stone you might do well to follow the Bragdon suggestion of working back from a white undercoat instead, I think the washes will give nice luminous colours although I don't know if it'll give such a rich texture. You might also want to read what Dave Frary does to rocks since I think Joel Bragdon's approach is based on similar ideas.

This book is pretty good: Amazon link

Personally I'd avoid a varnish on this kind of thing since I think it'd kill some of the detail of whatever paint and powder work you do.

One thing I would definitely recommend adding to your list is some kind of mortar. I've used washes of MIG pigments for mortar, since they settle in the cracks and dry with a very dusty look. I did a whole load of tunnel portals and retaining walls which I thought came out quite well, although at 1/220 it's all a bit smaller than your project!

(Big version)

You can definitely see mortar in the close-up you posted, although the contrast is much lower.

HTH, but probably the best thing is to get a few bits of sacrificial wall and paint them up to see what happens :) That should show what paints you can use in what order and whether or not you can omit the primer.



August 19, 2012, 12:33:49 PM
Reply #2


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I have wanted to build a castle for a while, but money is tight right now. I like the figure dioramas that you have built, you did a great job with the base and the figures.

I came across this website many years ago, the author of the blog is building the castle and village of Clervaux in 1/35 scale, even tough the setting is different the techniques he is using can be helpful. Basically he is using construction foam both blue and white for the base of the terrain and the walls of the diorama, then they are covered over with stone, wood or other building materials. From what I understand, a master brick wall pattern was made, then dupicates were created and glued onto the walls of the castle and surfaces. But his construction technique changes for the construction of the town, check out the site below to learn about how the village is being built.

Here is the website:

The author is not as active on the model building forum Armorama any more, now that he has is own blog and portfolio site. the forum post still exist but many of the photos that are used to explain the concepts are long gone.

You can check out this post to get a idea on how the diorama was built.
Armorama forum post

Good luck on your project and keep up the great work.
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August 20, 2012, 06:56:31 PM
Reply #3


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Huge thanks for your suggestions, guys! :)

@Will: Really great work on the stones there. I agree the mortar looks fantastic. I will definitely need to figure out out to do that either with the weathering pigments or the techniques from the diorama-clervaux Clee-cm linked to. There he says he's using a mix of paster, fine sand and glue. Looking at the models I have I can defnitely see  there is room for the mortar to settle between the cobblestones and field stones. I've actually wondered how one could achieve the mortar look before but have never figured it out fully. With miniatures I tend to paint dark recesses to light exposed areas, and going back into the recesses with a light color seemed like trouble. I see the clervaux craftsman wiping the stones with a damp cloth. Ok, it sounds like more work but I think that settles it, I'm going to try the mortar on one of the buildings and see if I can figure it out.

Also, would you believe I have a copy of Frary's book? I do and think it's really fantastic. I'm making some hills right now using what I learned and will be sure to post the pics here. I've got a few pics taken already so they are in line to get shown. I went to find tips on stones in the book and did find a discussion of them but it was more tips on sculpting and what's available on the market rather than painting per se.

Overall I'm still on the fence about whether to keep the yellow. The classic gray stone castle has an equal or stronger appeal to me and while it might save one or two steps trying to work with the yellow showing through I might cause several extra steps and wind up in for more trouble over all. The light prime, wash and fade down technique is tested.

@clee-am: That tutorial is quite amazing!  :twitch: I've seen a few projects like that on armorama in the past and it cuts both ways because on the one hand they are incredibly inspirational but on the other I have to realize I'll never be able to put that kind of time into the projects I intend for the games table. Even in the tiny pics (why so tiny, it's a pity!! Also a shame so many of the photobucket pics on the armorama thread have been removed) it's obvious that's some of the best stone work I've ever seen. I went from start to finish on the blog and did find some great tips like that I mentioned above on what he uses for mortar, but would have loved more pics and more notes about the painting. Oh well, I'll take what I can get! :D Am considering getting the book.

btw for anyone interested here's a link to the clervaux post with tips about the mortar and stones:

Also, as I said I still have a lot to consider so if you have any thoughts or other castle projects to share.  :D