Monday, March 30, 2015

Hands-on weathering pigments with Mr. Justin

Hands-on weathering pigments with Mr. Justin

While at Adepticon, I was able to take a number of classes. The first of which was a class on the use of weathering pigments. Now, like most painters, I've always painted on my weathering, like rust and maybe dabbled a bit in adding some medium to make mud. After this class, I picked up the entire set of Secret Weapon Miniatures (facebook) pigments. Let me tell you/show you why. 

Weather pigments  

Perhaps we should start with a bit of a primer on what exactly pigments are. We probably all have some experience with pigments be it from art history class or staring at women. Pigments are essentially chemical compounds that reflect certain wavelengths of light so that we see a specific color. These are found throughout nature in insects, rocks, and plants. Though the majority of painters purchase paint, a small community now still uses pigments to create paints. This was the standard in the past, before industrialization made paint purchase so easy and before the paint was so consistent. So what does all of this have to do with staring at women, well eye shadow and similar make-up is an incredibly fine pigment which is applied to the skin to create different tones. 

Now a little background on the Secret Weapon pigments. In the photo to the left, there are two pigment pots. The shorter is the Secret Weapon pigment. This is a graphite pigment and notice how the material is much more uniform and there is no static dispersion of the pigment. This is because it is a pure mineral pigment. Another component of the Secret Weapon pigments is the touch/feel of the pigments. These are so fine, much like make-up, that with a touch you may not know you have actually used the pigment. As Justin indicated, there are three pigments available to which he recommends. One is from Secret Weapon Miniatures, the other three are all from companies whose formulations come from Mig Jimenez (AMMO being the current). 

Pigment application

During the class we were able to learn the two methods, additive and subtractive, for applying pigment to a model, in this case a 50 mm Secret Weapon Miniatures sewer base. While, I'll show you what I was able to do during this class, make no mistakes learning about pigments and process is something better provided by Justin in one of his classes and of course by lots of practice. The picture to the right is what Justin was able to accomplish in about 10 seconds.

There are two sections which I'd like to cover with what Justin did. The first is the rusted sewer pipe. On this you can see there is a set of darker rust which works up with a lighter orange rust. Rust deepens in color depending on how old the rust is. The brighter yellower rust spots are where the newest rust is coming onto the pipe. As I've said this was incredibly quick but still gives you an idea of the texture that comes with pigments.

The second area is in the corner which was a demonstration of ash. This is a two color process where Justin loaded the brush then tapped onto the base, alternating colors to create this instant ash look. This was a sort of bonus as we were just really working on the pipe and the bricks.

Of course like a dolt, I didn't capture a picture of the weathered bricks that he did. Now let's discuss what I was able to accomplish in about 15 minutes of work. The picture above (left) is the base blank that was primed with an airbrush using primer from Badger Airbrush. All other color on the base comes from the pigments as you can see on the plate. Justin recommends using at least three colors of pigment to build up to the desired look. 

Additive method

The additive method is pretty much exactly as it sounds. You start with a finished piece, one that is painted to the end and where you have applied the clear coat (if you are into that sort of thing). Start by loading the pigment onto your brush. Make sure you are always using a dry brush or you will turn your pigment into mud. There are multiple ways to add the pigment to the piece which provide different effects. Brushing the pigment on will give you a smooth look, while stippling the pigment will give a more texture and give more depth. There are appropriate times to do both. If you take a look at what I have done, I tried to brush onto the pipe generally with the darker rust and the lighter rust. I was focused on a little divot in the middle top of the pipe. I loaded up the darker rust on the recesses where the pipe meets the brick and on the lip of the pipe end. I then used a oval sort of pattern to work out from the divot with the more orange rust. This was all brush work. I then stippled a little of the yellow into the divot. I think a little more of the yellow around the divot would have taken it a little further, but I was pretty happy in general.

 Now, I am sure you are asking about the mechanism to keep the pigment on the piece. To do this, there is a fixative material (fixer) which you will apply at the very end. This is easily applied by using a brush (not the same as you use to apply the pigment). Load the brush with some fixer, then just barely touch to where you need to fix the pigment. When the bristles barely touch, a capillary action will draw the fixer off and then gravity will let it settle. This will give you the appropriate amount of fixer without moving the pigment. The fixer will cure in 15-20 minutes. 

Subtractive method 

For the brick section we used a subtractive method. Again this is very suitably named and here's why. First we thinned the pigment using isopropyl alcohol. The final consistency will depend on what you are trying to accomplish. Load your brush and apply to the piece, being careful in how you apply as to heavy a stroke may remove the paint, you may wish to thin with matte medium instead. Again use the capillary effect to apply the pigment.

Once you have achieve the overall look you want, you will then use a Q-tip (either wet or dry) or similar tool to remove the excess. You can do this by either rolling the Q-tip over or dabbing onto the surface until you get the overall look you want. These will provide different looks depending on how you remove. I use a small piece of paper towel to rub off the excess. After this was done, I went back and added a little trail using a lighter, mud color as one might see with scurrying rats. I think I should have been a little heavier on that.

You can also finish by adding some mortar with an appropriate colored pigment between the bricks. This could be done with a very fine brush and stippling between the cracks. Then fix as described above.