Wh39kBuildings (13)

Object Source Lighting

Wh39kBuildings (46)Object Source Lighting, or “OSL,” is the practice where you paint part of a model as if it’s being affected by a light source (most often on the model itself).  Generally speaking, something on the model that would normally emit a light (torches, lamps, plasma weapons, etc.) is and the surrounding area is painted so that it appears to actually be glowing.

There are plenty of tutorials online that can demonstrate how to do this far better than I can, so I’m going to refrain from posting a step-by-step tutorial as to how to create the effect.  Instead, I figured I’d go through a high-level overview of what went into it, what I think went right, and what I’d like to improve upon for future endeavors.

I should first make a disclaimer that this isn’t the first time I’ve attempted this effect.  Years ago, this style took over professional painters everywhere (Coolminiornot has OSL examples as far back as 2002).  I did try back around that time on a few models from my Descent boxed set with very mild success.  I should probably dig them out to take a picture.  Suffice it to say, they don’t look nearly as effective, which I chalk up in part to 10 years of painting, but most likely due to the fact that I didn’t have an airbrush.

Wh39kBuildings (10)So yeah, I haven’t had an airbrush for very long (which is an outright lie–since I’ve had one since not long after high school), but I haven’t really used it much.  I had very little success with anything remotely detailed, and have only used it for basecoating for the most part.  My recent terrain experiment was the first time I really used the airbrush on models.  So, when I had the buildings all painted up, I decided to have a go at OSL.

Part of the reason why I never had much success with the airbrush is that I didn’t really have the right paints.  This summer, Simon wound up buying a set of badger minitaire paints and he liked them so much that I bought them based upon his recommendation alone.  I wanted to paint up the terrain, so that would help, but I really bit off more than I could chew with those paints.  I had so many spare colors laying around, so why not throw in some extra colors on the terrain?

I started off with the blue lights and wound up using three different colors: Dark blue, light blue, and white.  As for technique, I didn’t do anything official, just a quick and dirty spray.  I tried to spray around the light and surrounding areas with the dark blue, and then gradually added smaller amounts of each of the lighter hues.  The white was saved for the center of the light and areas that the light fell directly upon (like a little spot right below the light).

Wh39kBuildings (13)Loading the brush three times for the buildings was a little tedious, so I wound up using blue lights for virtually every building (the only exception being the torches in a couple of buildings, which only got two colors: Orange & Yellow).

For those that are interested, the specific colors I used are as follows (all are Badger Minitaire colors):

Blue Lights:

  1. D6-148 Lagoon Blue
  2. D6-144 Sky Blue
  3. D6-104 Skull White


  1. D6-126 Pumpkin (orange)
  2. D6-122 Craven (yellow)

Wh39kBuildings (14)For the torches, I think I didn’t do a good enough job cleaning the water out of the brush before spraying, and the result was sort of a washed out color.  I really like the effect though, as it reminds me of flickering fire-light.  Sadly, the effect is more prominent on the side that I didn’t take pictures of.

So I know this wasn’t a tutorial, but I wanted to get it out there so that I remember how I did it, as well as how easy it was to do.  Hopefully someone who was on the fence about using this effect can be pushed over the edge and try it.  Trust me, it was really simple to do.

When I tackled this, I’d been using my airbrush for about two weeks total, and the only things I’d painted at all were these buildings.  So it really doesn’t take an exceptionally deft hand.  The whole process, including cleaning of the brush between colors took less than an hour to repeat this effect across all of my 14+ buildings.  It’s a really simple effect that I think helps make the buildings stand out.  Granted, I’m not going to win any golden demons with these pieces, but the extra effect helps make the table top really pop.

For people looking for more information on the subject, I’ve collected a few links you might want to check out:

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Stained Glass Windows

So one painfully obvious terrain feature that I’ve never implemented is stained glass.  I’d love to think that I’m the creative sort that pioneered the idea, but that’s obviously not the case.  Heck, Dwez over at 40k addict did something with stained glass just last year, so perhaps part of my subconscious was just trying to emulate some of his work?

But I’d like to think that it’s been a thought of mine for much longer than a year. I know that GW used to sell a kit called the Chapel of Sanctity (you can see pictures over at Grailslair) which had stained glass incorporated into the piece directly.   Realistically, GW’s “grim dark” feel certainly lends itself to stained glass, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Shrine of the Aquila terrain kit.

wh39kStainedGlass (5)Those massive windows just scream for stained glass behind them. And again, I’m not the first to think of that—there are several links to people that have tried to create the effect to varying degrees of success (including some amazing stained glass window art by Rlyons. I really wanted to steal a template from someone, but try as I might, I couldn’t seem to find one, and though I wanted to use existing art, the best stuff (including Rlyon’s work) wasn’t the right form factor for these particular windows and looked a bit misshapen when I distorted it to fit. Alas, this meant that I was going to have to create my own.

But how do you create stained glass? That was my dilemma. Obviously, I wasn’t going to make actual stained glass, and printing on paper might make pretty art, but it wouldn’t give me that feel of translucent glass. I wound up searching for transparency paper online, but I had trouble finding paper that would work with the high quality printers we have at work (and didn’t want to settle for inkjet quality from home).   So, I wound up calling the local Canon dealer in town, as my office’s copiers are all canons and found out that they do make a special transparency that works specifically in Canon photocopiers. Apparently, the additional heat involved in laser printing requires special plastic so that it doesn’t warp and melt inside the machine.

wh39kStainedGlass (1)Good to know.

The good news is that it was just $.60 per page, but the bad news is that it’s sold in bundles of 100. Frankly, I can’t envision doing enough windows to justify $60 in pages, so I looked for other solutions online, and found a vendor selling one on Amazon for $15 (shipped). While I’m a big fan of buying local, I just can’t justify leaving that much money on the table, so I bit the bullet and ordered online.

When the packet came, they were surprisingly thin (I had hoped for something much thicker/sturdier, but apparently transparencies for Canons only come in one size. While I could’ve bought print-on stickers and then adhered it to some sort of vellum, I thought this would wind up being the better long term solution.

So, now I had an idea, and the “paper,” but just not the artwork.

That left me to scrounge Google for some nice stained glass. Naturally, if you do a search on Google images for stained glass, you’ll come up with a lot of great content, but most of it is the wrong content and all of it is sized wrong. As a side note, it did turn up this fantastic Sisters-of-Battle-esque costume of a woman covered in stained glass. But, I didn’t find anything that was specifically suited to my needs, which meant that I was going to actually have to do work.

Now, I consider myself mildly artistic (some might even say “high functioning artistic”), but I don’t consider myself an artist. I recognize that I have a natural aptitude towards art, and when compared with an average Joe, one might say I’m pretty good—but I don’t think I’m good enough to actually make a living at it. So, while I knew that I could draw something if I had to, I didn’t really want to go through the effort and besides, I was under a bit of a time crunch to get the terrain done for the (then) upcoming Apoc game.

So that begs the question: where do you get a piece of stained glass if it doesn’t already exist and you don’t want to draw it yourself? The answer was simple: figure out how to convert existing art to look like stained glass.

Back to Google, this time to search how to convert existing images to look like stained glass.

At first, I was happy to see that photoshop has an innate filter called “stained glass,” but sadly that just breaks the image into a bunch of like-sized shapes with black outlines. In effect, it pixelates the drawing in very similarly sized shapes, and doesn’t look very convincing to me.

wh39kStainedGlass (4)Next, I dug a little deeper and found a couple of articles that helped me get to my final result.  The first was a page from Digital Arts Online that tried to convert an image of mushrooms into stained glass. He did pretty good work, but even the end result doesn’t really look like stained glass to me. I’m not sure if that’s the colors used in the image, or just the way he drew his lines (stained glass rarely has curved pieces as they’re much harder to cut, and his lines are very organic and not straight like we’re used to seeing).   I did wind up using the Gaussian Blur option a bit in my final art though, as well as the fundamental concept of black-lining, and I wanted to preserve the link for others that might take more from this particular article than I.

By the way, I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but I had zero photoshop experience when I started this. I wound up getting a trial from a friend to work on this. Because of my lack of experience, many of the non-challant references in the previous article sailed above my head. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t take all that much from it?

The “article” that really helped me was actually this youtube video. Granted, he was using abstract lines to make this work, so you can basically skip the first minute of the video.

After he gets his baseline, at 1:16, he starts using some of the effects. The first he uses is one called “Poster Edges” (found under FILTER > ARTISTIC > POSTER EDGES. There are so many better articles online that delve into what this filter is and the subtle nuances behind it, but essentially, the filter seems to make things look a little more comic book like, making stronger/bolder lines between color variations.

The next trick he used is at 1:40 in the video where he uses a filter called “Oil Paint,” which is apparently a great fitler that comes packaged with Photoshop CS6. Unfortunately, I had CS5 so I had to dig around the interwebs to figure how how to install it for me. The good news is that it comes free with the Pixel Bender plugin for CS5 (And CS4 apparently) and can be downloaded from this page.

And that’s where the magic happened. The filter allows you to vary your brush stroke, intensity, etc. and for each graphic, I played around with the options so that it looked best for each picture. In short, no two settings were the same.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sure, I applied these filters, but to do that, I had to have art (and art that was the right size, too).

So what I did first was to make a rough size of each of the windows for the Shrine (well, one template for the larger windows and one for the smaller one), and then scanned them into my computer (I think I still have them somewhere if someone needs them, but then again, you can always steal my finished .PNG files if you just wanted to know the sizing).

wh39kStainedGlass (2)After that, I started looking for photos that would work nicely. My first pic was the battle between Uriel Ventris and a Tyranid Warrior (pictured at right). It looked suitably iconic, and fit the theme of Ultramarines and, best yet, it looked good after coloring it (for the record, I did wind up going through A LOT of photos that just didn’t look right after going through the effects, but I never found a simple litmus test to determine whether a photo would make a nice stained glass aside from actually going through the motions.

To recap, those motions were:

  1. Identify the photo. I wound up saving the photo and then placing it as a new layer in my drawing to get an idea of sizing, aspect ratio, and where the bars would line up on the image.
  2. Black-line the photo. In this step, I drew individual black lines all around the image to denote the edges of the pieces of glass. In general, I drew lines wherever there were distinct differences in color, and occasionally, extra lines if the “pieces of glass” were getting too big.
  3. Poster-Edge the drawing. This made the black lines stand out more and blended the other parts of the drawing a little bit extra.
  4. Oil-Paint the drawing. This essentially was the last step.

Another step that I wound up taking on more than one picture was to colorize parts of the image. You can see this is particularly true in the image of Roboute Guilliman (the ultramarine with “Mars” in the background). I found the art online, but then quickly learned that white was going to be a problem when printing on transparencies. This is because standard printers can’t print white (they don’t typically need to as they’re most often printing on white paper). The result is that any areas that are white in a drawing are simply left blank.

That’s fine and dandy on white paper, but on clear paper, “white” simply is transparent. To avoid this, I tried to clear out the white sections of drawings as much as possible. So, with the Roboute drawing, I wound up colorizing his shoulderpad and some of his trinkets to be more in line with the 2nd company (Which is the color of my army anyway). While I was monkeying around with the color anyway, I opted to change up the background as well. The background I wound up using was just a night sky, which distorted fantastically with the “oil paint” effect. And to break up the monotony, I positioned a red planet to line up with the center of the window. In hind sight, I almost wish I’d used a different plant so that I could use Mars with the techmarine drawing from later, but them’s the breaks.

With two Ultramarine Icons in place, I decided to use the Emperor as one of my other windows. The tricky part there was trying to find a suitable image of him that would translate well to the stained glass effect. Like the rest of the drawings, I started at a Google image search, but then I eventually dove into Deviant Art to find some selections. I wound up using a pretty generic picture for the window—after trying many other options. The background was rather plain, so I photoshopped in a picture of the eye of terror instead.

wh39kStainedGlass (3)The eye itself was a little amorphous and doesn’t lend itself to stark lines, but I think the end result worked out decently. There was a rather large blob of white in it that I tried to get rid of, but it just never looked right when I colorized it.

For the last big window, I just wound up searching based upon color. I’d already had predominately yellow, blue and purple windows, so I wanted another color from the other side of the spectrum. For this, I did some searches for green 40k artwork and came up with this. His background was rather short, so I wound up extending it and using that Gaussian blur filter to make it look right (keeping in mind that I didn’t have to make it look perfect, as the other effects I would be applying would help smooth the transitions. Granted, it was a bit busier of a piece, but I think it works. I wound up adding a thunderhawk to the sky to give it a little extra color, and a focal point for the circle at the top of the window (but I’d later cut it out almost completely from the finished piece).

With the last window, I wound up going with a Calgar picture that everyone probably knows by now. I went ahead and colorized his shoulders/buckle to be the old-school yellow and his “cinculum militaire” in a more purple scheme.

For those of you wondering, a cinculum militaire is his studded leather belt with the hanging leather strips. I know this because it was on some website I came up with when I searched for “Roman dangling leather.” I’ve used the internet to make me seem smarter than I am, and then immediately pulled back the curtain to ensure you know how dumb I really am.

But I digress…

So, after coming up with all of the images, I printed them on the transparency paper I’d purchased.  The good news was that they came out looking rather well, but the bad news was that the paper looks different from either side.  Like many photo paper, it had a glossy side and a dull side, and I preferred the glossy side.  In addition, the colors look washed out on the transparency (which was due to the fact that the colors didn’t have that vibrant white background behind them).

At that point, I tried to come up with a solution to make the white stand out.  My first attempt involved thinning down some white paint into a wash-like consistency and then painting that on the back of the window.  It helped the colors pop tremendously, but the brush strokes stood out in the background.  It should be noted that it wasn’t an altogether unpleasant effect though.  The brush strokes gave some texture to the windows and might have passed for just part of the stained glass effect, but I kept trying.

Another test I tried was to simply print out two version of each window (with the images reversed on one).  That would help me with the glossy/matt issue, and it ultimately wound up being the solution to the white issue as well.  I guess the build-up of sheets of plastic (along with a coat of clear crafting glue to keep them stuck together) was enough to help make those clear areas appear white.  You can get a good idea of this by looking at the pictures, particularly of the whites in Marneus Calgar’s photo and a bit in the Emperor’s Eye of Chaos background.

Wh39kBuildings (32)So yeah, I wound up printing them out at full scale and gluing them together with some leftover craft glue from Michael’s.  The important part here was to use glue that not only dries clear, but also goes on clear–that way I could properly line up both sides of the same image.  I then let them dry by taping them up to a window in one of the last waning days of the Alaskan sunlight.

After they “dried” (and I use the term loosely because they still shifted relatively easily against each other), I cut them out with a pair of sharp scissors and then lined them up against the windows to see how they’d look.  At that point, I toyed around with layout, deciding on the final window configuration based upon a series of factors including:

  • Aesthetics of the figures next to each other
  • The mix of colors featured in each window
  • The position of each figure in the given window (knowing that I would be cutting some of the picture out of at least two windows)

Once I had that determined, I taped then in place with blue tape to confirm that it looked good, and when I was finally pleased with the layout, I set to cutting up the windows with an exacto blade so that they would appear broken.  At first, I just did the two windows on the edges whose frames had clearly been broken, but I also wound up “breaking” all of the windows (except Calgar’s), by cutting spider-web patterned holes in them–though I kept those holes to a minimum, since my plan was to use this as a predominantly LoS blocking piece of terrain.

Wh39kBuildings (33)As a final step, I took some of the scraps I had cut out and glued them around the floor beneath the window to make it a little more realistic and extend that “broken glass” effect into the rest of the model.  It’s rather subtle (because it didn’t stick all that well to the plastic of the model, and I didn’t want it to prevent people from actually placing models).

I’m really pleased with the end result.  I’ve gotten a few compliments on it as well, so that makes me think that my pride isn’t altogether unfounded.  Hopefully my trials in this process can prove helpful to someone else that’s looking to incorporate some stained glass into their Warhammer 40,000 terrain project.

Oh, and if you’re interested in the original PNG files I was working with, I’m posting them below for your use.  Feel free to use/change them as you want.  If you’d like, you can thank me by linking to this post, but it’s not strictly necessary.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

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Wh39kBuildings (25)I wanted to come up with a snappier title than that—I truly did. But whenever I hear the word, I immediately think of Jack Johnson’s song by the name and I got lost bopping around to the music in my head. For those of you who haven’t had the privilege, you can find a link to the song on youtube here.

But the intent of this post isn’t to focus so much on the smooth acoustic stylings of Big Hats, but rather to talk about posters in 40k.

I’m not referring to full size posters that you might hang in your garage or your bedroom or 40k motivational posters, though those might also be cool to have. Rather, I’m talking about miniature sized posters scaled down for use in terrain.

If you can’t tell, this is a continuation of my terrain theme that I’ve been on as of late where I go over the buildings I completed recently.

Wh39kBuildings (4)Years ago, I stumbled upon some clever ideas for posters to be used in building terrain and wound up saving them off to a folder on my computer that I use for inspiration for future projects. Honestly, I have no idea how long these have been collecting dust in that folder, but I’d say it’s easily been a decade—as I’ve long since dreamed about owning nice terrain, but I only recently got off my arse and did something about it.

So, when I did finally get my terrain assembled and painted, I went right to that folder and dug up the posters. Sadly, I didn’t have as many as I thought I’d did, but lucky for me Google has grown by leaps and bounds since I originally saved them, and a search for 40k scale posters came up with some great ones. I won’t bother collecting them all and posting them here for fear of claims of copyright infringement, but I have all of the ones I managed to find saved in an email for future use should they somehow disappear off the interwebz one day.

It looks like the posters break down into a few categories:

  1. WW1/WW2 era posters reimagined for the 41st millennium
  2. Generic safety/caution signs (eg. “Bomb shelter)
  3. Imperial notices/proclaimations
  4. Humorous Notices (not to say the ones above can’t be humorous, but this includes references to completely other genres of games or pop culture)

Wh39kBuildings (54)I tried to include all these different facets in my posts. Sadly, there are far too many good posters available on the Internet for me to use them all without covering my models in them. So, I wound up using them sparingly so that they added a little effect, but not so much that they dominated the terrain.

As a whole, I find that I prefer the WW2 propaganda style posters the best. Not the ones where they’ve simply scaled down the original posters, but the ones where they tweak them a bit to work in the grimdark universe that is 40k. Things like “Farm scrap builds DESTROYERS” or “He fights for Mcragge!”

Damn, even now I’m finding pictures that I would’ve loved to have used. Recruitment posters for the “Brotherhood of Ymgarl,” man that’s genius! I may have to go back and add some of these to my buildings.

But I digress…

Wh39kBuildings (56)I did wind up throwing a few purely humorous images in the terrain. The ones I can think of offhand were:

  • A recruitment poster for COBRA (featuring a hooded commander in the classic “Uncle Sam” pose with the phrase “COBRA wants you!”)
  • An advertisement for the real-life Ultramarines movie (though I’m not sure this made the final cut)
  • An advertisement for Rekall (The futuristic “vacation” provider from the movie Total Recall)
  • A recruitment poster for the forces of NOD (which is probably lost to any of you whippersnappers out there, but in the original versions of the video game “Command & Conquer, NOD was the name of the bad guys—before we decided to just call them Russians).
  • Some Gork/Mork ’08 campaign bumper stickers

Once I had the posters I wanted identified, the process was rather simple. I just sized them up within a Word document and printed them out. One thing I noticed was that if I printed them on photo paper, they came out looking a bit nicer and I’m hoping that they’ll hold up a little better to the abuse that terrain will inevitably face.

Wh39kBuildings (58)When they were printed, I went ahead and loaded my airbrush with black paint and went over the edges of most of the posters to give them the effect of wear. Now, many of the posters you’ll find online already have this effect applied, so I don’t know how necessary this step really is, but it did help on the finished product. Part of why I did this was that I avoided many of the pre-weathered posters because they had rips and tears (or burn-marks in them) which would’ve made cutting them out all the more difficult—and, in some cases, it might look weird to see the weathering on the posters but not in the surrounding area of the building (particularly in the case of blood or spray paint).

I let those dry and then cut them out and sorted them into categories from “these must be included” to “not a chance.” And then I started affixing them (with super glue). When possible I took from the more desirable piles, but substituted in more appropriately shaped posters for tight fits later.

Like I said, I was quite happy with the overall effect, though I may still go back and add a few more. There’s got to be some spaces there that I can squeeze some more into without getting things too cluttered…



Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

So, this post is meant to be a follow-up to the Outstanding Status Effect Marker post I did earlier this year.  In that post, I talked about the buttons that I’d forgotten to make when I had the original batch done.  To recap, in my brainstorming, the ones that I had left to make were:

  1. Vehicle Damage Markers
  2. Blind
  3. Concussive
  4. Soul Blaze


And that pretty much summed up the ones that I wound up printing when I got around to it.  I didn’t wind up making a concussed token (figuring that it doesn’t happen much and it generally goes away immediately, so what’s the use of having a status marker), but I did come up with a couple more tokens to use:

  1. Tervigon “Spawned Out” marker (a brilliant suggestion from Dwez over at 40k Addict)
  2. Ultramarine Chapter Tactics markers (three tokens that I can keep on my side of the board to remind me to actually use these abilities)
  3. Objectives for our Apocalypse game: The Fall of Morrsleb

I had originally planned on using green glass beads for the objective markers, but then thought that if I was doing an order already, it would be nice to make sets of objective markers for the participants.  So, using my template from the previous objective markers, I did up a set of green-tinted objectives with a picture of cultists surrounding a large block of warpstone (as that was sort of the theme of the battle.  Hint: the moon in the WHFB universe is called “Morrsleb.”)  So, yeah, I printed up sets of objectives for all of the participants and I also gave a set of objectives to Brandon for all of the help he put in to get the terrain ready for the battle.

Of the other buttons, I’m particularly happy with the vehicle damage markers, and the soul blaze icon is a pretty unique take on the buttons as well (As most of them I’ve created to date have some sort of border around it).  I figured this would need some sort of flame in the picture and, since it was supposed to be magical flame, why not make them pink.  A quick Google search lead me to that photo, and voila!

Blind is a little hard to read and I’m not thrilled with the spawned out icon, but hopefully I don’t have to use either of them too much. ;)

With that said, I think this will probably conclude my posts on buttons for a while (at least until the next bug book is released).  Like I said earlier, I do have the templates and the contact information for the gal that presses these for me, and they only cost about a quarter each, so if anyone wants either, please let me know.


WIP: Fortress of Redemption

wh39kFoRWIPThis week I was going to start a smallish series of posts about how I did up the terrain that we used in our latest Apocalypse game: The Fall of Morrsleb, when I discovered this half started post languishing in the corner of my blog.  So, rather than wait on this any longer, I figured I’d get the old out of the way before moving on to other terrain posts.

I was on a terrain kick earlier this year so, after finishing my second set of Vengeance Weapon Batteries, I moved on to the Fortress of Redemption.  Though it was a large piece, and I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to proceed with it.

I had started by doing some research online as to how others had painted the model, and I wanted to incorporate some of their themes while still keeping true to the “OMG THAT’S HORRENDOUSLY BRIGHT” scheme I’d set forth in such pieces as my Aegis Defense Line & my Bastion.  I’m well aware that the scheme isn’t for everyone (hence, the tongue in cheek comments above), but I’ve committed to a 2nd edition Ultramarine scheme and I’m rather fond of it, so why not continue it to the buildings.

I did read some comments that buildings shouldn’t be painted extravagantly so that they blend into the background and make the true focus on your army.  While I subscribe to that, I also believe that fortifications are actually part of the army, and should be painted to a similar standard as the rest of the units.

Anywho, since I decided to keep to the theme, I knew that there would be a significant amount of blue with yellow trim (though I originally expected less yellow–damn my fickle paintbrush).  The big questions were really about how to paint the angel and his wings.  Part of me wanted to paint the robes bleached bone (to match the robes of most of my characters), but another part wanted to recognize that it’s a piece of terrain and would’ve probably been made with stone or some other material.  Eventually, the latter side won the argument and I wound up painting it in a mixture of white and black marble first attempted in the various statues I’d painted earlier this year.

As for why I started with the big part first, well, it seems liked the most logical starting point.  The biggest questions I had were all to deal with the angel, so why not tackle that first and let that set the tone for the rest of the piece?

I realize that I don’t do many “work in progress (WIP)” posts, but this wound up taking me a few days (likely spanning over the course of a few weeks) to get this far, so why not make a post about it.  In all actuality, this progress was made far earlier in the year, and I’ve gotten so far as to have finished this one building of the complex (and even started two of the other buildings), but the whole thing isn’t yet finished.  One day I’ll figure out how to dilute the blue paint enough to make it work with the airbrush, and I’ll finally finish all of these outstanding buildings.

Yeah right…