Monday, July 24, 2017

Painting Imperial Assault: Twin Shadows

I found a good deal on Imperial Assault: Twin Shadows and decided it was time to get back to painting some Star Wars figures. Fantasy Flight Games announced several months ago that they would be making a cooperative app similar to Road to Legend for Imperial Assault. Knowing how the Visions of Dawn expansion (painting report 1 & 2) added quite a bit of enjoyment to my family's playing Descent (painting report 1 & 2), it seemed like Twin Shadows could be a worthwhile acquisition.

Caution: No Boba Fett contained within.
I started out with the Heavy Storm Troopers:

There are four of them, and I distinguished the elite from the regular units by the coloration of the backpacks: two in blue, two in red. I spray primed the whole set with white Krylon, which especially simplified these guys. A wash brought out the details, and a few layers of white to bring up the highlights. The gun and backpack were done in a mix of gunmetal and dark grey, with black ink wash for shading and a light touch of highlights. No real tricks, but there's something satisfying about the iconic contrast of Storm Troopers.

Next up were the Tusken Raiders:

Tusken Raiders are also called "Sand People," but I think I will call these guys "Sepia people." I mixed a few similar khaki tones for the various parts of cloth and did all the shading with a sepia ink wash. I focused the highlights on the headwraps. Adequate tabletop quality, I say. I decided to distinguish the elite units by painting the heads and spike of their gaffe sticks in bronze. If that doesn't scan well at the table, I can always go over the whole weapon that way.

Next up is Saska Teft, the engineer:

She was done in a similar straightforward style: base coat on everything, colored ink washes for the various regions, brushed on highlights. The face is not great, and though I hate to blame my tools, it wasn't until I was done that I realized I was not using my good brush. I have two brushes with similar handles, and I had accidentally grabbed the wrong one; at the time, I was disappointed that my good brush had already lost its tip, but it wasn't the right brush at all.

I used a light blue glaze for some OSL coming from the screen she's carrying. I don't do a lot of OSL, but one of the important tips I applied here—I think from one of Ghool's tutorials, though I cannot remember specifically now—was to highlight the lit areas normally first. That is, on her right side, I applied faint highlighting in the "natural" colors, as if there were a white light source on the side. Then, the glaze tinted those highlights to give them the right color. Whatever video I watched or article I read, the author was right about the error mode: some of my earlier OSL, I simply tinted the areas I wanted to look like they were glowing, but that's not really how light works. I think it's a nice effect, subtle but noticeable.

Last figure in the expansion is Biv Bodhrik, the vengeful guerrilla:

He took a bit longer than Saska Teft for a few reasons, one being that he has more different pieces and colors, another being that paint around that massive weapon was tricky. Keeping in mind that the figure was primed white, and much of his outfit is a sort of khaki, my first step was to mix some different washes to tint and shade those areas. I don't think I had tried this before, but I think I was expecting it to be more dramatic than it was; it clearly still needed significant highlighting, or for the detail-light kneepads, repainting. I decided to try some two-brush blending on some of the larger parts, so I mixed up some deeper shades for the jacket, shirt, and kneepads. Turns out for the jacket in particular, I didn't have the tone quite right, mismatched brown and green. However, after I looked at it, this really gave it a weathered look I hadn't intended. I moved forward with a bit of clean-up work but kept the tonal variation. I know I've written about the idea of doing more tonal variation before, so here's my first real result—arising from a complete accident!

I wet-blended the orange shoulderpad for what I consider a good highlight, and the two rebel insignia were freehanded. Up close one can see the imperfections, especially in the small one on the weapon, but at the table I think they look fine. Also, in case you're curious, the card art has the shoulder insignia tilted and off-center, too, and that's why I painted mine that way.

I have not painted many figures with his shade of skin tone. My painting has a reddish hue that is not found in the card art, but I had trouble matching that sort of dark-chocolate tone. It will give me something to work on.

This leads me to my other trouble, that old bugaboo that I've been fighting with for years now: photographing miniatures. In my original set of photos, I maxed out the whites in post-processing, as in my Descent heroes post, for example. However, I did this post-processing in the Google Photos app on my Nexus 5X. When I opened the Web app, the cropping was saved but not the color level changes. Also, the Storm Troopers in particular looked awkward with the whites cranked up. On a lark, I also tried shooting on black background. Here are some examples:

Neither of these were subject to any post-processing. The Storm Trooper looks pretty good here, except for a bit of a "glow" (there's probably a photography term for that). The skin tone on Biv Bodhrik is much more accurate to life than the other picture, capturing that reddish hue I mentioned. Look at Saska Teft's vest, though: the line details are gone due to the glow of the light color.

Unsatisfied with both, I took a different approach and, in the Google Photos Web app, turned the whites up to 75% on all the white-background images above. This "works," and it certainly is more predictable than my old "photograph in front of a relatively clean piece of paper" approach, but I still find myself wishing that my online logs here had more color and brightness verisimilitude with the real painted miniatures.

That's it for Twin Shadows. It's been two years since I played the core Imperial Assault campaign, so perhaps I'll try to grab some friends or teach my boys to play through the Twin Shadows mini-campaign. It has the problem that, as the Imperial player, I still don't really want the Imperial player to win: I cannot shake my enthusiasm for the Rebellion nor my DM-style rooting for the players. In the mean time, back to Fall course planning!

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