+ inload: Workflow and graphite metallics +

+ or, The Pencil Is Mightier Than The Sword +

+ Experimentation is generally a good idea in painting, in my experience. Rote painting can get very dull, and while it's more likely to result in a uniform appearance, that's not necessarily always a good thing. +

As my day job, I'm a book editor for an arts and crafts publisher, and I work with lots of fine artists – which is great for picking up ideas! One of the common themes of their advice is to simply use what's to hand. Of course this is balanced by their years of experience in knowing what's likely to work, but I really love the flow that this gives their work. Given how little time most hobbyists have for their painting, the workflow is an important part of making sure we make the most of things. +

+ Over the weekend, I sat back down and assembled some Infinity miniatures (see blog post below). While I was sitting back holding a model and waiting for the arms to glue on securely, I looked over a few primed Ultramarines huddled in one of the pigeonholes on my painting bureau, and decided to quickly add a little to them.+

+ Inspired by that, and with thoughts of pigments in my head (weathering pigments are essentially just ground-up pastels – or to put it another way, pure pigment), I picked up a nearby HB pencil and began rubbing the edge of it over some black base-coated areas of one of my marines. +

+ This rapidly built up into a lovely metallic effect, as seen above. I've simply rubbed the side of the pencil over the areas I wanted to colour – the shoulder pads, helmet grille, the sword, and the heat vents of the backpack. This must have taken aroound thirty seconds or so – very quick indeed. +

+ As you can see, it built into a burnished steel effect that reflects light well. The pictures below show the same figure being taken under the same lighting from the same angle, as I gently rotated him:

+ A nice simple trick that results in a lovely effect. +

+ I'm fairly sure this idea's been used for many years in military modelling for weathering; but I'm pleased it worked for more stylised figures. With that in mind, I used the same technique to add some weathering to my Contemptor, Strix:

+ Note the fine lines on the power fist and on top of the chassis. I also used it to add some smooth metallic effects to the heat-dispersing bits on the barrels of the melta cannon – compare the pencil shininess there to the duller metallics on the fuel canisters at the back, which were produced with metallic paint (boltgun metal and chainmail) washed with Badab Black. As you can see, it works quite nicely over painted areas, and having the point of the pencil meant I had more control than a brush. +

+ The downsides of this technique: pigments need to be fixed (there's no evaporating carrier like a paint to seal them), so if you do use this technique you'll need to either varnish them or simply be careful not to let them rub. I spent a bit of time really working the graphite in (which leads to the shiny, smooth effect), and found that it was fairly resistant – a fairly hard wipe over with a thumb didn't lift too much, but there was a residue of graphite on my thumb afterwards. + 

+ Secondly, while you have control over the point of a pencil, there's no flex to it like a brush, so any hard lines will show very starkly (like this cut I had made into the marine's helmet:

+ There's no way to get the pencil tip in there, and you will catch any sharp edges. Not necessarily a downside, as you can use this to avoid recesses (useful on things like the studded forehead area on the model above, where I wanted some natural shading), but worth bearing in mind. +

+ Thirdly, the pencil is quite hard, and this can scrape the paint back if you're too vigorous. I imagine this can be ameliorated by using a softer (B) pencil. +

+ Finally, you can't overpaint the graphite and retain the effect. I washed the areas with Gryphonne Sepia last night to see what I did, and ended up with an unattractive brown (presumably where the loose graphite pigment had prevented the wash spreading and adhering as usual). +

+ Fortunately, you can work straight back over with the pencil – compare the shoulder pad on the left-hand side of the picture, where I have quickly reapplied the graphite, with the right-hand (studded) one. +

+ So, overall a useful little tool to add to my repertoire – hope it helps you too. +

+ On a related note, I have been reading some excellent posts by the Modelling Magos Quinn over at the blog Pontifex +inload link http://theunderhivea.blogspot.co.uk/+, as I have plans for a new board and wanted to get some ideas from his excellent underhive terrain. +

This fantastic site is quickly becoming one of my absolute favourite blogs, which captures the aesthetic of 40k to a tee.  One of the things that struck me was how many found materials and techniques – ink, gesso, sand etc. – Quinn uses. I wonder what other lessons I can apply from my day job? +


  1. What an interesting technique. Thanks for sharing! I'm currently working on a beat-up, post-apocalypse vehicle. I'll have to try this out.

    Also, I wonder how it would look if you used graphite followed by a spray of matte varnish before going in with the washes...

  2. Very interesting, will defiantly give it ago. I also wonder what would happen if you applied the hairspray technique over the top.

  3. Great write-up and a very interesting technique :)
    Happy I found your blog as I missed seeing the PCRC updates on warseer. What's the status there btw, you guys getting into gear soon?

    As a last note. Seeing your epic stuff really made me want to get an epic army again, just with Orks but I'm struggling at getting a good source to buy or trade from...ebay was a tad expensive.

    Anyhoo, I'll be following your blog from now on ;)



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