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Working With Multi-Part Models: A Dragon

Shadow Dragon
Product #
Suggested Retail Price
$29.99 USD

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Vatutin writes:

Yes, as much advice on pinning as possible please. Another way of marking the second hole is to put a small piece of poster putty on that part, present the first part with the pin and then drill down through the the hole created in the putty.

Revision Log
17 July 2015page first published

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Cathy Hamaker of White Ape Painting writes:

This is a step-­by-­step tutorial for beginners on painting a Sandy Garrity Dragon from Reaper. Nothing too scary or groundbreaking, but a good basic tutorial on how to do a multi­-part model.

Here's the Dragon straight out of the package. It's a five-part model – body, wings, tail, head – and quite a nice casting, I didn't have to do much modification on it to put it together. With a knife and a file, I carefully cleaned off as many molding lines and bits of flashing as I could.

RD pieces

Even though the pieces fit together well, glue can be brittle, and I wanted this to survive shipping, as it was a gift for a friend of mine. One way to add support to a joint is to drill a small hole in both pieces and insert a pin (here made of a bit of paper clip). I pinned the tail and both wings; the head didn't have a good surface for drilling.

RD pinning

The pieces are glued together with a gap­-filling glue (I use Zap-a-Gap). But the edges between pieces still show, so I smoothed out those gaps with a bit of epoxy putty (green stuff). I crammed it into the gaps, then smoothed it out with tools (my fingers and a wooden coffee stirrer). If you keep the tools a little bit wet, the putty won't stick to them, and you can get a nice, smooth finish.

RD glued

After assembly, the model needs a primer coat. I use Floquil black spray-primer, as I've never had a bad gunking­-up experience with it. I've used other primers in the past, but Floquil seems to me to have the best consistency of performance.

For paint, I use mostly Vallejo colors, though I also use Liquitex acrylics and Reaper paints in selected colors.

RD primer

I debated the color; I thought at first to make it a green Dragon, but somehow it just didn't seem right for this model – it wanted to be dark and intense. So I decided on midnight blue, with a red crest. Here, I worked out the basic color scheme, but still haven't decided on the color of the belly scales or wings.

Base color

Once the dark blue and dark red were laid down, I went back with a lighter blue and painted all the high spots on the muscles, etc. This blocks out where I'm going to blend the colors up and down for shading and highlighting effects. I also painted the belly scales in the lighter blue to see how it looked. Not bad, but needs work.

RD Color layout

Next, I started blending the colors on the crest and body. There are different ways to do this; I used a technique called wet­blending, where I'm actually mixing two colors directly on the surface of the model. I apply the two base colors, dark and light, then blur them together with a moist brush. Sometimes this looks great, and sometimes it's utter crap… Here also, I decided to try painting the wing membrane with the lighter blue color to see how it looked.

RD Blue Wing

I wasn't happy with the blue under­wing – too bland. So, I flipped the model around and tried the other wing in deep red. Much more dramatic! So red it is. Often, I'll completely finish one side of a symmetrical model like this one before going on and doing the other side; this lets me test out the look of the thing without wasting time on stuff that I'll just end up redoing.

RD Red Wing

For some reason, I had trouble getting the scales on the chest to blend smoothly and look good. It's traditional at this point to start blaming the sculptor for any problems I'm having – "Well, if this model didn't suck, then my painting would look great." However, in this case the sculptor was Sandra Garrity. I've always loved her sculpts; I can't dog on Sandy. It must be my own fault.

RD Blue Scales

Aha! There's my problem, it's that light blue again. It's just coming across as bland, and it's not blending well. Another color might do the trick – though this is getting a little bit rainbow­ey, I think one more color on the palette won't kill it. Probably. So, I pulled out the purple/violet/pink drawer and played around with it a bit.

RD Purple scales

Now comes the base. This is something many better painters would do first, get the thing on a base so they wouldn't have to worry about handling the painted surfaces. But it's my least favorite part of the whole process, and I'm not very good at it – as I said before, green stuff and I aren't the best of friends, and it's all I can do to smooth out the edges of the figure's base and add a few rocks here and there. If you build up some green stuff around the base of your rocks, then they will look more a part of the landscape and less stuck­-on.

RD Base green stuff

As this was a gift and not intended to be used in a game, I wanted the figure to have some context. This is the key to good diorama work; you need to be telling a story with your figures. This is a pretty basic story – knight fights Dragon – but as I love Tom Meier's Arthurian knights, adding one of them to the base seemed like a no-­brainer.

Finished model

Finished model right

Making the knight green seemed like a good way of getting a little more brightness to the whole model, as the Dragon is still very dark. Remember that while dark is cool-­looking, if you don't have something light or bright for contrast somewhere on a model, the dark can just look kind of muddy. This is one reason for popping the claws, teeth, and spurs in that bone-ivory color here – even as a stand­-alone model, this gives the Dragon some points that catch the eye against the dark blues and reds.

The base is painted with brown, and then Woodland Scenics sand and flock has been white­-glued on.

Article set up by Editor Hebber.