Ink Wash Comparison

Devlan Mud is Dead! Long Live Devlan Mud!

Games Workshop’s Devlan Mud wash has been a commonly used weapon in my painting arsenal since I got back into painting miniatures 3 years ago.  It works well straight out of the bottle, and produces reasonable results in areas where I’m not that interested in painting in highlights and shadows, but when I also don’t want to dip the whole figure.

Unfortuantely, Devlan Mud is no longer available, since Games Workshop recently completely revamped their paint line.  When I was at Legions for Stoogecon, I picked up 3 possible replacements to try out:

  • Games Workshop’s Agrax Earthshade wash, which seems to be their replacement for Devlan Mud
  • Army Painter Dark Tone Ink (not the Quickshade dip)
  • Reaper Master Series Paints Brown Wash

I meant to get Army Painter’s Strong Tone Ink for a better direct comparison with the Quickshade.  Oops! That will have to wait for now.

I was painting a DBA Early Egyptian army, so on one stick of archers, I painted all of the figures identically but applied different washes to each.  On another stick, I used Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade.  These figures are almost entirely flesh and white.  I liked this for comparison purposes because white is notoriously difficult to shade well, and it doesn’t disguise the color of the ink wash at all.

I also used these inks and washes that I had on hand for more comparison:

  • Didi’s Magic Ink, Brown
  • Games Workshop Gryphone Sepia wash
  • Games Workshop Ogryn Flesh wash
  • An old Reaper flesh ink with water added

Here is a comparison shot detailing the results.

Ink Wasy Comparison: Essex Early Egyptians. Army Painter Strong Quickshade on top, washes below.

And here are the results, left to right.

First, a comparison between Devlan Mud and Agrax Earthshade.  I think Devlan Mud is a bit less red/orange than Agrax Earthshade, but they’re both very neutral.  My Devlan Mud was old, and probably doesn’t work as well as it did when it was new, but the Agrax is doing a better job of staying in the cracks and not coloring the high spots and flat surfaces as much.  As seen on the red feathers, the overall tone of the Agrax-shaded figure is lighter than the Devlan-shaded figure.

Agrax Earthshade is also a much better direct replacement for the Army Painter Strong Tone Quickshade dip.  Overall, if it were my only choice, I’d be happy to replace Devlan Mud with Agrax.

Unfortunately, some of Devlan Mud’s flaws are still apparent in Agrax Earthshade.  It still smells like a combination of distilled bong water and moldy coffee grounds.  It’s still really expensive and comes in tiny bottles that let the liquid evaporate too much.  I’ve also found that all of the GW washes behave badly if they either dry out, or if you add water or just about anything else to them to thin them out.  This shortens their effective shelf life even further.

The new bottles prevent your local store’s in-house painters from using the wash and then putting it back on the shelf, but I didn’t find the new “keep your lid open” feature any better than their previous attempt several bottle designs ago.

Army Painter’s Dark Tone Ink seems to work as well as their Quickshade does, but I bought the wrong color so I can’t effectively compare colors with the Agrax.

The Reaper Brown Wash seems closer to the old Reaper inks than to GW’s washes.  It looks more opaque in the bottle, and doesn’t stay in the cracks as well as the other modern Wash products do.

I’ve been using Didi’s Magic Ink for almost as long as the GW washes. It has two major benefits over the GW products: it comes in much larger, less expensive dropper bottles, and it smells nice.  Brown is a very good direct replacement for GW’s Gryphone Sepia, but it’s too light to replace Devlan/Agrax.  Didi’s ink is much thinner than the GW washes, more of the consistency of water.  It stays in the cracks well, but it is hard to get it to darken things as much as you might like to.

Games Workshop’s Gryphone Sepia and Ogryn Flesh wash are also no longer available in GW’s new paint line.  They work just like Devlan Mud and Agrax Earthshade, but they’re different colors.  I would be interested in testing their new replacement versions, but I haven’t had a chance to do this yet, and I might not since I don’t run out of these colors as quickly.

The old Reaper Flesh Ink is not a modern wash.  My bottle is probably about 10 years old, and may not be available anymore, I’m not sure.  It requires thinning with water and your favorite additives to flow properly and fill in the cracks.  Here, I applied it using only water to thin it out, and it worked fairly well.  However, at this point I wouldn’t bother using this product unless I was doing something like airbrushing.

Overall, Agrax Earthshade is the clear winner of this exercise, with one caveat.  If Army Painter Strong Tone Ink works as well as the Dark Tone, I would probably prefer it due to its superior dropper bottle and price point.

I hope this helps someone else in the market for a replacement for their precious supply of Devlan Mud.  In the future, I’ll try to do some more comparisons including Army Painter Strong Tone, as well as various black/almost-black washes.

DBA Army IV/59: Post-Mongol Samurai

I traded my Baueda Emishi army pack for a Post-Mongol Samurai army pack from Jeff Franz.  I didn’t think I’d ever get around to painting the Samurai, but then the Stooges planned a Horde Wars event at Cold Wars 2012.  Samurai were the only way I could get 4 elements of horde on one army, so I painted it quickly and brought it to the convention.

DBA IV/59: Post-Mongol Samurai; Essex Miniatures.

The figures are by Essex Miniatures.  The Essex Samurai range is quite odd, I’ve found.  They sell Ashigaru and horde/peasant figures that are only appropriate for the later (Post-Mongol) periods, but their mounted and foot Samurai seem to be using early Samurai armor and equipment.  I’m not that happy with the accuracy of the figures for this period, based on my limited knowledge.

The sculpting is also a bit of a mixed bag.  The armor has small details that are finely carved, which makes it difficult to paint effectively using either highlighting or ink washes.  Jeff traded these away because they were a pain in the butt to paint, and I see what he means.

4 Hordes. Washed with Army Painter strong tone dip.

I did a bit of a rush job on the painting, but the figures really didn’t inspire me very much.  The greatest inspiration I had was to get better Samurai figures to paint a second army with. Unfortunately this would force me to paint a third army for BBDBA, because what can you do with only 2 armies?

2x3Sp.  These are Light Spear in DBA 2.2+.

This army has three optional sections: 4x3Sp, 4x5Wb, or 4x7Hd.  15 figures for each of 4 stands?  Ugh!  That’s like 2 armies worth of figures right there.   Luckily, Jeff had already painted the warbands, so I was off the hook for those.  The only reason I was painting the army was to get the hordes, so I decided on a very basic color scheme and technique for these four elements.  I just flat painted them using a limited palette, and dipped them all using Army Painter strong tone.  It’s a very utilitarian look, with any variety and visual interest coming from the large number of guys rather than their paint job.

I painted the one mandatory 3Sp element, and one additional element that I primed along with it. I like the way the back flags look.  The Triforce symbol was used by the Late Hōjō Clan in the 15-16th century long before it was used by Nintendo in the Legend of Zelda series.

Cavalry and Cavalry general. Essex miniatures.

Although I like the way these flags look, I hate them!  What a nuisance.  They’re molded separately and need to be glued to the figures, with a tiny surface area for gluing and no room to add pins.  Two of the flags came off before I even had a chance to photograph the elements, and two more fell off during the first tournament I used the elements in.  Back flags are the one thing that would prevent me from getting a second PMS army, because an accurate later Samurai force would have far more flags than this army does.

6x4Bd, Essex Miniatures.

To paint the Samurai armor, I decided on another simple but somewhat effective technique.  I flat painted the armor, added a few contrasting stripes on the lacing, and then used a thin, black ink (Didi’s Magic Ink) to darken the armor between the raised lacing pattern.  Unfortunately, the carving is shallow enough that it didn’t work as well as I had hoped.  It looks better than flat colors without shading, and it’s far easier than painting highlights, but it didn’t turn out as well as I think it would with more deeply carved figures.  It’s good enough, but not great.

The cloth was all painted with brushed-on highlights.  I didn’t use any patterns on the cloth except on one figure, though I expect technically there should be more.

This is not one of my better painted armies, but at least it’s not in the “unpainted” pile anymore.  I still have 3x3Sp to paint, as well as a camp, but those will have to wait until I have another opportunity to play with the army again. Maybe next year at Cold Wars?

I really like the look of Samurai and their armies, but DBA just isn’t very nice to them.  It’s a difficult army use out of its historical period.

A Few Dwarfs

Here are a few Dwarfs that Martine painted.  It’s a fine job for an 8 year old just learning to paint.  They’re comparable quality to some I bought already painted at Legions.  It was a good lesson in dry brushing.  The fact that she got them done in one night is a bonus.

Eventually I’ll base them for Hordes of the Things.  Maybe she’ll want to paint the rest of the army as well.

GW Dwarfs painted by Martine

Endor Bunker

I needed a stronghold for my Battle of Endor matched pair of armies for Hordes of the Things, so I made the obvious choice: the bunker that the rebels assaulted and then defended from an Imperial counterattack.  With a bit of imagination it’s usable by both sides, and it’s pretty much the only thing attached to the surface of Endor that isn’t a tree.

Here’s a Work in Progress shot showing the basic construction.  The main building is cut on the band saw from white foam.  I cut three pieces at the right angles, and glued them back together.  The roof is two pieces of foam core, and it’s on a masonite base.

Next, I cut the door and vent-like shapes out of cardstock and glued them to the foam.  On the roof I added some details made of some washers and bases I had lying around.

I measured a toy playset to get the dimensions of this, which may have been a bit of a mistake.  The actual bunker had side walls that angled back into the hillside instead of a 90 degree angle.  So, this isn’t perfect, but it’s easier to transport.

Also of note: stacking heavy books on foam squishes it.  Who knew.  It’s a bit lopsided because of this, but the more obvious defects problems where the cardstock details buckled.

DBA III/78: Early Russians; German Knights

German knights for III/78: Early Russians; Essex Miniatures, 15mm

When I first painted my Early Russian DBA army, I didn’t finish the knight element.  This is a “3/6Kn” which represents German knights fighting for the Russians.  3Kn would be a bit earlier, and 6Kn a bit later.

I came so very close to basing a 6Kn element, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, when 2x3Kn elements are so much more useful.

For heraldry or shield designs, I looked in the Zurich Roll for some authentic German heraldic designs that caught my eye as looking at home in the East.  They are totally anachronistic for knights of this period; I’d hardly expect heraldry on kite shields.  And I have no evidence that these particular people were ever in Russia, let alone in the 12-13th century.

However, they look really good and fit with the rest of the Russian army, which are my main goals.

These are Essex figures from the III/78 army pack.

DBA Army IV/61: Italian Condotta

Here is my most recently completed DBA army: Italian Condotta, IV/61.

The army arrayed: DBA IV/61: Italian Condotta. Mirliton Figures.

The figures are Mirliton, 15mm. Most are from the DBA army box, but I supplemented this with extra packs for dismounted knights and gunners. The flags are also from Mirliton.

Condotta Knight general and four other knights.

25 stands for only one army, and I still don’t have the 3Bd and 4Ax stands done? Crazy talk.

JM and I decided the halberdiers provided by Mirliton weren’t appropriate for the Bd/Ax, so we bought sword-and-buckler men by Essex.  However, they arrived after most of the rest of my figures were painted, so I haven’t started them yet.

I’ve painted this army for the Two Davids campaign event at Cold Wars 2012: Condotta Chaos. I’ll be playing Verona in a series of battles stretching across Italy and beyond.  The red flag with white cross is Verona’s (among others), and the rest are Condotta banners.

Light Horse: mounted crossbows and light cavalry. 

The DBA army list has many options: 1x3Kn (Gen), 4x3Kn, 1x2LH, 2x8Cb or 2Ps, 2x4Sp or 4Pk, 1x4Cb or 4Ax or 3Bd or 2LH, 1x2Ps or Art.  In addition, the campaign allows all knights to dismount, requiring another 5x4Bd.   But there’s also a DBA-RRR event at Cold Wars, which I didn’t have a good army for, so I picked up 2x4Sh for that as well.

These are very nice figures, but they did require a bit more cleaning than I’m used to doing.  Some of the crossbowmen and hand gunners ended up with unsightly blemishes on their faces, but I’ll just blame the rats.

Pavisiers.

I chose red and white or red and yellow for militia forces, and green and yellow for Condotta troops (if they needed any color at all).  The army has color, but it doesn’t dominate over the neutral colored armor.  I much prefer the look of this period over earlier gaudy tabards and caparisons.

Before the campaign was announced, I knew nothing about the Condotta, and wasn’t very interested in the period. The first thing that triggered my interest was an opportunity to play with the new Pavisier rules the Davids came up with.  In DBA 2.2, these are treated identically to other bows, so it never seemed worth painting 6-8 figures when 3-4 would do.  But with different rules, I’d have to paint the larger element to try the rules, so why not now?

Condotta Artillery, manned by Curly, Larry, and Moe.

In playtesting play by e-mail games, I have enjoyed Pavisiers.  Their combat factors and combat results make them very different than other bows.  They’re more resilient in close combat, and actively want to close the ground when in a shoot out with ordinary bows.  They are also quite large and a bit cumbersome: they advance slowly if they’ve been forced to recoil in a previous combat.

Crossbowmen and gunners.

As usual, as I started to learn more about the Condotta in order to paint them, I became more interested in them. During the 14-16th centuries, Italy was in a very interesting military situation.  They disarmed the civilian population to reduce violence, and instead, every city-state hired its own mercenary army to supplement the local militias.  “Condotta” means “contract,” and refers to the complex binding contracts these mercenary forces engaged in when providing services.

Armies are expensive to hire and require a lot of food to maintain.  They also have a tendency to bother the local population.  All of the economic and social incentives at the time pushed Lords to keep their armies on campaign in enemy territory, so they ate the enemy’s food and fathered the enemy’s children.  This made for a long period of fighting between the Italian city states.

Psiloi: gunners and archers.

The colors aren’t based on any particular historical evidence, but choosing colors ahead of time was crucial to allowing me to finish the project at all.  Paints are all my standard selection: primarily Vallejo, with some GW for metals and Snakebite Leather, along with a few craft paints.

I’m glad I’ve finished with this army.  It was fun to paint, but the sense of  accomplishment that comes from completing a project definitely helps start the next one.  At this point, all the rest of my armies look small and easy, so I’m hoping to tackle Post-Mongol Samurai without butchering them too badly.

Italian Militia Pikes

Italian Militia Spears
Condotta Dismounted Knights (Blades)

DBA Army III/78: Early Russians

Here is my most recently completed DBA army: Early Russians, III/78.  This is an Essex army pack. I haven’t finished the Knight option yet, and may not paint the Horde at all.

Essex Early Russians: 3Cv(gen), 3Cv

Inspiration for shield patterns and clothing colors came primarily from Osprey titles and some creativity.  My goal was to use a variety of bold colors without looking too bright or gaudy.  I’ve also tried to keep trying new colors instead of getting stuck in a rut.

Essex Early Russians: 2x3Cv

The figures are quite nice. Not all Essex figures are sculpted very well, but these have nice sculpting and a good variety of poses.

Essex Early Russians: 3Cv

Unfortunately, there is a bit of hazing from CA glue on the horses from gluing the grass onto the bases.  This has cleared up a bit after I took the pictures, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem in the long run.

Essex Early Russians: 2x4Sp
Essex Early Russians: 2x2Ps
Essex Early Russians: 2x2LH
Essex Early Russians: 3Ax

Hordes of the Things army: Die in a Fire

David Kuijt and Dave Schlanger threw down the gauntlet before Fall-In: Paint up 48 points of Hordes of the Things in time for Cold Wars, and they’ll have a matched enemy to fight against it. 

Well, I already had a bunch of prepainted D&D fire elemental (and related) figures I planned to build into a HOTT army, so why not do that?  At Cold Wars we played a 72 point Fire vs. Ice battle, and lost, so this project has turned into a grudge match.

Here is the army so far.  I may augment it if I get additional figures for Christmas, which would push it up to 72 points.

The bases are laser cut masonite, with chunks of broken plaster attached using paintable transparent silicone caulk. I built up enough caulk to swirl into a lava texture, and placed the rocks so that on each base, the miniatures would be appropriately either standing on a rock or emerging from the lava.

The lava colors were painted starting with white, then yellow, wet brushed orange and dark orange, and then over the black I applied dark red and grey on top.  Fire is brighter where it’s hotter, in the center, and darker at the edges where it’s cooler, so you end up using the reverse order for shading.  Adding a lighter color over the black can make it lit from below in some places.

The only concern I have about this army is its durability.  The figures mounted on lava are likely to pull the paint off and break off, because I didn’t strengthen the plaster with anything before I painted it.  I’ll just bring lots of superglue and touch them up when I’m finished.

In the center is a Fire Titan (behemoth).  On the right, a magician, and on the left is an Immoleth, which I’ll use either as a God or deep warband (using WADBAG’s excellent variant rules for deep spear and deep warband).

All of the figures shown here are D&D miniatures, except for the Mage Knight figures shown here and the dragon below. There would be a lot more army potential in MK figures if more of them were as good as these.  On the left and right are blades and in the center is an aerial hero.  It’s not very visible from this perspective, but the flame guys on the left are flaming skeletons.

The fire elementals on the left are warbands, and the Azer Fighters and Raiders on the right are blades.  Some of the Azers are repaints of ther crappy model, done to match the not-crappy Azer.

The Magmins on the left and right are lurkers.  The Flame Salamander will be either a beast or a deep warband (they have the same depth).  

 Here are two fliers on the ends, and either a flier or an aerial hero in the center.  As you can see, when I originally purchased my figures I didn’t consider how I was going to base them, so I have a few mismatched bases that I don’t prefer.  Clearly it means I just need more figures…

In the center is the impetus for building this army in the first place: a phoenix I bought at Michael’s crafts.  It’ll be a dragon in HOTT.  On the ends are large flame elementals, deep warbands.

Miniatures: D&D Characters

I’m planning to start playing some D&D 4E with my daughter, her friend, and his dad. I’ve sent them all through the new red box “build a character” section, but we haven’t gotten all four of us in the same place at the same time to actually play a session.

It’s been so long, I don’t remember any of the characters’ names, but I’ve had a chance to paint figures for all of us.

Daniel chose a female Halfling cleric.  Clerics with swords? Blasphemy!  This is Reaper Miniatures Gnome, because it’s virtually impossible to find a halfling cleric figure.  She’s too tall compared to the elf, but she’ll do.

This is a Reaper miniatures human thief I painted years ago.  I just rebased it on a square base and modelled some more stones for use with the D&D square grid.  This is Levi’s character.

Martine chose an Elf wizard, wearing maroon (just like House Gryffindor).  This is the Celeborn figure from Mithril Miniatures.  Not exactly a level 1 wizard, but he’s wearing mundane red, and we’re pretending that scepter is a wand.  I like the way the green gems turned out.

Mung smash!  Raah!  I “rolled” up a fighter to beat stuff up.  This is a Mithril Miniatures Easterling. I’ll play Mung when no one else is around, but I expect we might invite another friend over once and a while.  All theoretically, of course.

Norse Irish, Painted for the Kids, part 2

I’ve finished basing the whole Norse Irish DBA army. Soon I’ll be auctioning it off on the Fanaticus Forum with the proceeds going to the Child’s Play charity.

DBA army II/46, Norse Irish.

Here are the elements not described in my previous post.  Most of the figures here are from an Essex Miniatures army pack.  The camp followers are Trey Corbies, donated by Sean Devitt of Trey Corbies miniatures.  Paul Potter donated two elements of Auxilia from mixed manufacturers.

Thanks to all of the painters who helped on this project!  I should have the auction thread started on Fanaticus shortly.

Jon Barmore painted 2x3Ax.
JM Seman painted 1x3Ax and 1x2Ps.
Paul Potter donated and painted 2x3Ax, various manufacturers.
Sean Devitt donated and painted camp followers from Trey Corbies, as well as the camp.
Tim Hladon painted 1x3Ax and 1x2Ps.