Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do you like my Hammer Pants? I made them out of people. - Dark Eldar Mandrakes

Hi all! I've decided to jump on the Dark Eldar band wagon and start that army, (the models are just too cool!) I don't want to do anything super-competitive, so I'm using all the really cool-looking but sort of useless units. I started out with the Mandrakes.

Sorry about the color wash-out, seems like the camera wasn't playing nice with the lamp.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dark Eldar Wracks

Hey everyone! Sorry for the egregious lack of updates. We’ve been super busy with commissions and the Iron Builder competition that Ian mentioned a few posts back. To placate what few followers we have, I present some Dark Eldar Wracks. I know they’re not perfect, but they’ll be good enough for my purposes.

Empire Flagellant Bodies and Arms
Chaos Warrior Heads (sans horns)
Vampire Count Ghoul Bodies (for Liquifiers)
Kroot Arms and Shoulder Pads (for Liquifiers)
Skaven Hand Weapons (for Spikey Bits)
Necron Flayed One Hands (for Leader’s Scissor Hands)
Leftover Renegade Ogryn Bit (for Leader’s Toxin Injector)
Diodes (for Toxin Injectors)

Construction is fairly straight forward. The Leader and Liquifier guns still need hoses and such attached to them.

The Diodes can be found at nearly any RadioShack (25 for $3). Basically, you just cut the wire off of one side and trim it down on the other; then you can just plug it into a pre-drill hole in the model’s back.

Comments and criticism welcome, but these guys have to be painted by Saturday evening for a competition, so they won’t be getting changed. However, all good ideas will go towards the second batch I’ll have to make.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Machinations of an Unfettered Mind - Ironclad Dreadnought Conversion

So yeah, I was bored of Slaanesh for the evening and decided to take an Assault on Black Reach Dreadnought I'd saved from the bargain-bin and try to salvage it into something cooler. So with several bits bins, some plasticard and some Green Stuff, I've come up with this little guy. I recently finished up James Swallow's Nemesis book, and throughout it the author gives the characters gizmos and doodads that are compact and rather clever, much unlike the ornately baroque and unsubtle grim-dark devices we're used to. I used that take on 40k technology when I was building my new mechanical buddy. He's not festooned with purity seals, he has no filigree that would take artificers years to repair if a child's errant rubber ball ricocheted into him, his Hunter-Killer missiles aren't launching from the butts of golden cherubs.


Seismic Hammer Close-up

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll - Iron Builder III Army Project

With the newest Iron Builder kicking off at the KrystalKeep, I've decided to do a Slaanesh-themed daemon army. Here's a couple of teaser shots for all you post-starved followers:

Very much incomplete Daemonette Unit No. 1

Fiends of Slaanesh, SGS Style!

The two on the flanks actually have bigger lamprey-esque maws now,
made from Green Stuff.

Most of the rest of the army

Here are a few answers to questions people will undoubtedly be asking, I've tried to arrange the order to simulate a conversation:

1: Yes, Iron Builder is still a 40k event.
2: Yes, I know they're on square bases.
3: Because it doesn't matter for 40k if models are on square or round bases.
4: It's so I can use them for WH Fantasy also.
5: The cobblestone is made from 1/4" gridded plasticard, tutorial to follow soon.
6: Because the pewter GW Fiends of Slaanesh look terrible.
7: Chaos Spawn and Ravener tails and a ton of Green Stuff.
8: No, I'm not doing a tutorial for them.
9: Because it's self-explanatory.
10: Just get the kits and mix up the parts! Shit! Get off my case, spaz!

For those of you that are unfamiliar with what Iron Builder is, EDUCATE THYSELF!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trial Techniques - Over-highlighting and Washes

So this is a technique I've heard about but never really tried before. The basic theory is that you highlight the model more than you would normally, then use a wash or glaze to tint the model back down to the desired tone. Normally I do my reds by basing with Mechrite Red, washing with Baal Red or Badab Black, then highlighting with Carmine Red, Blood Red, and finally with small accents of 2:1 Blood Red + Bleached Bone. Instead, this time I based with Mechrite, washed with Baal Red, then did a heavy drybrush with the standard Carmine/Blood/Blood+Bone mix, then took it to a 1:1 and finally a 1:2 mix of Blood+Bone. The models almost appeared pink when I was done! But after two washes of Baal Red, the tone of the model was once again that rich, squiggly red I was after. An added bonus was that the two washes of Baal Red smoothed the whole model out and eliminated that telltale dusty appearance of drybrushing.

This isn't the most refined technique, and it won't look as good as careful blending. But it's quite useful for completing mass quantities of models in a short amount of time.


Monday, August 9, 2010

GenCon 2010 Breakdown Pt. 1

I'm back from GenCon with some exciting news! On a personal note, my Wazzdakka Gutsmek model took Third Place in the Machines of War category in the painting contest.

Painted by Ian Villamagna, converted by Aaron Given

I'm actually really happy with the model taking Third Place, since he was painted over the course of two days in a rush for a tournament. I actually had forgotten that GenCon held painting competitions, and I just happened to bring some of my flashier stuff to attract attention at the Mongoose Publishing booth. So for a "oh-what-the-hell-might-as-well-see-what-happens" I'm pretty pleased.

I was introduced to Tom of at the convention. Hopefully and will be able to do some work together in the near future.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shackled Goblin Studios debuting at GenCon!

Hey all!

If you're heading to GenCon in August, be sure to stop by the Mongoose Games booth! You'll get to see some studio miniatures I've painted for them! What they are specifically I don't think I'm allowed to say right now, but I'll give you a hint: I AM THE LAW!

If you're interested in commissioning Shackled Goblin Studios for painting one miniature or two hundred, custom conversions or whatever, please email us at for quotes and estimates!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pink Horror Speed Painting Tutorial

Apologies in advance for the photo quality, was trying out the camera in my Droid. It seems that the camera is alright, (5mPx) but the light at the apartment is kinda terrible. Clicking on the thumbnail and zooming in presents a pretty okay picture.


1: After cleaning and pinning the models, prime with White. I recommend either Do-it Best Flat White Spray or P3 White Primer, I’ve had good experiences with both.

2: Take Vallejo Game Color “Squid Pink” and base-coat the models with a large flat brush. Thin your paint slightly with water and do two thin coats instead of one heavy coat. Let the pink dry COMPLETELY between coats! If you disturb paint while it’s drying you’ll leave ugly rough, patchy textures on the model.

3: After the final coat of pink has dried, wash the entire model liberally with Citadel Baal Red wash. Once again, I cannot stress enough that you must wait for the pink to dry completely. If you wash the model while the pink is still wet in the crevasses it will bleed into the wash and ruin the effect.

4: After the wash has dried completely, (and once again, completely!) thin down some Squid Pink and highlight the raised surfaces of the model, (tentacles, flexed muscles, jowls, et cetera.) I prefer a wet-brush method with a No. 0 Round, though if you’re a little shaky at it a solid dry-brushing will get you a similar effect.


1: Start by blocking in the flames with VGC Falcon Turquoise, if you’re feeling creative you can have the color running onto the skin of the Horror to simulate an engulfing magical fire.

2: Wash the Turquoise areas carefully with Citadel Asurmen Blue wash. Since Asurmen Blue is a dark wash, you don’t need to be very heavy with it.

3: Just like we did with the pink, re-line the high points of the flame with Falcon Turquoise.

4: Start mixing in White to your Falcon Turquoise, beginning with a 1:3 White/Turquoise ratio, and highlight the flames again, but this time over a smaller area, so that the previous color shows a bit. Do this a few more times, gradually increasing the amount of White each time, (1:2, 1:1, 2:1) and allowing the step below to show through a bit. By keeping your paint thin, you increase the transparency of the paint, which allows the layer below to show through the layer on top and helps with the blend.


1: Base coat with Citadel Tallarn Flesh

2: Wash with Citadel Ogryn Flesh wash.

3: Highlight with Citadel Dwarf Flesh

4: Highlight with Citadel Elf Flesh


1: Base coat with Citadel Dheneb Stone

2: Wash with Citadel Gryphonne Sepia wash

3: Highlight with VGC Bone White

4: Highlight with VMC Ivory

All that’s left is to pick out the eyes in Black and you’re done! Spray with a protective Gloss and then two or three coats of Dull to matte the model back down. I highly recommend Testor’s Glosscote and Dullcote, I’ve used it in high-humidity, winter cold and other undesirable coating conditions and NEVER had it fuzz or frost.

Here's all ten of the buggers together. Some of the Pink Horrors have Blue Horrors evolving/spawning/bursting from them, I used the same technique on the blue parts as I did the pink parts. Just base with Citadel's Mordian Blue, wash Asurman Blue, highlight again with Mordian Blue, then progressively bring the tone up by mixing in gradual amounts of Citadel's Space Wolves' Grey into the Mordian Blue.

Hope this was educational!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Flesh & Faces Paint-A-Long

Well folks, it's time for another painting session with Ian and Myself. So, if you're in the Dayton/Kettering area at the end of the month, feel free to stop by at the Krystal Keep and share some painting time with us and the crew. Details are in the advert above.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How To: Snow Basing

Keeping with the hopes of making this site an instructional tool, I've decided to take the camera on a little trip with me as I finished a commission for a customer. These Ogres were painted for one of our better customers, who I will refer to simply as "The Bartender".

For this project, you'll need Elmer's Glue, Snow Flock (I've used Woodland Scenics' snow flock, pictured above), Static Grass, a throwaway brush and a small tray to mix in.

To begin, you'll need some finished models to work with. Have everything painted, based and sealed before you begin the process.

Once you have some models to play with, you'll want to lay out a rough patching of flock on them. Any color flock can work, as long as it fits your models color scheme. Here, I've used Gale Force 9's "Parched Straw" static grass (shown above).

Next, you'll want to mix up your snow. Dump some snow flock and glue into your mixing tray and use the back of your brush to mix the two togeather, adding water as needed. There is no golden ratio to this step, the best way to describe the desired mix is: "Mix to a mashed potato consistency". Your mix should look like this:

Once you have your mix ready, take your brush and start dabbing it on the base of the model. Don't worry about getting the snow mixed in with the static grass; on the contrary, you want it to look like the snow has been caked and matted into the grassy patches. If you're gotten your mix right, you'll notice the snow start to level out on its own once you dab it down (shown below).

After you have your mix dabbed onto the model, you'll want to grab a pinch of your un-mixed snow flock. Sprinkle this over the still wet mix you've just laid down on the model. This will give the snow more texture since, as mentioned above, the mix tends to flatten itself out and become too smooth looking (sprinkled base shown below).

Repeat this process for the rest of your models; dabbing on the mix and then sprinkling them with the snow flock.

Your results should look a little something like this:

I hope this tutorial has given a little confidence to those who need it. Trying a new basing technique on models you've spent hours painting is always daunting.

As with all skills though, practice makes perfect. Get out there and try this on a few test models until you feel confident enough in your ability to turn out consistent results.

It should be noted that you can seal the snow after you've finished the process, but I've gotten varying results on how this affects the grass and the overall look of the snow.

As always, comments and questions are welcome and, indeed, helpfull.

Special thanks to "The Bartender" for the use of his models.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Paint Brushes 102 – Synthetic or Natural?

Paint brush bristles can be made from many different types of fibers. The type of bristle determines the brush’s quality, longevity and behavior. Brushes are made with either synthetic bristles or natural animal hair bristles. Each type has its benefits and draw-backs.


The most common synthetic materials are Nylons and Taklons, which both come in white and gold colored bristles. Nylons mimic the soft natural sable-hair bristles and tend to be more delicate than the Taklons, which while Taklons also mimic sable, they tend to be more robust and hold their shape when loaded with paint. For the life of me, I have not noticed a difference between the gold and white Nylons/Taklons, and about 30 minutes of intensive internet research tells me there is no difference aside from aesthetics.


While almost all animal hair will work in a pinch for a brush, (examples being goat, camel, boar, badger, horse, deer, rabbit and tiger for starters) the most common that we’re concerned about are Sable bristles harvested from small mammals called martens.

Cute, yes?

So why is it called a “Sable” brush and not a “Marten” brush? According to the Internetz trappers nicknamed the Marten the “Sable” for whatever reason and the name stuck. Sable brushes are what I tend to run into at art stores.

Another very popular type of natural brush is the Kolinsky, which oddly enough is not named after a person, but the Russian Kolinsky mink from which the bristles are harvested. Kolinsky brushes have been dubbed to have the highest quality and most desirable spring and absorbency (the amount of paint the brush can hold).

The Variables

So now that we’ve discussed the two generic types of brushes, (natural and synthetic) let’s talk about the attributes of a brush and how each type performs.

Absorbency: Like a fountain pen, the brush holds a reservoir of paint that allows it to be used for more than a stroke or two. Absorbency is how much paint a brush holds. Technically, natural brushes have a better absorbency because the individual hairs are “scaled” as shown in this microscope picture.

These scales give more surface area to the hair, allowing more paint to be held. Synthetic bristles are smooth and therefore cannot hold as much paint. I have been told that the scales also hold onto the paint better, giving you more control because the paint flows off the brush at a steadier pace. Since synthetics do not have these scales, paint can collect at the tip or rush off the brush when stroked. Realistically, with the amount of paint scale-modelers use, the difference in absorbency between natural and synthetic is nearly indiscernible.

Spring: I’ll also call this the “action” of the brush. When the brush is stroked, the bristles bend based on the amount of pressure applied. The more pressure applied, the more of the length of the bristle is touching the surface, the more paint is applied. The more pressure applied also means that the bristles can fan out, giving you a larger area of coverage. While Kolinskies are considered to have the most desirable spring, I find that Taklon is a close second. I consider Spring to be intrinsically connected to my next attribute, Reliability.

Reliability: What do I mean by reliability? I mean that every time you stroke with the same amount of pressure, the brush behaves in the same way, the bristles spread out to cover the same area, the same amount of paint flows onto the model. If your brush seems to behave differently on the same stroke, consider getting a new type!

Longevity: Literally: how long the brush will remain consistent and usable. If your brush loses its point and frays out after a few strokes (I call this “getting tired” and it’s indicative of a brush nearing the end of its life, though sometimes it just means you need to clean it,), if it starts to curl at the tip, or get stray bristles poking out at odd angles it’s probably time to toss it in the trash. A long lifespan does not make or break a brush, because high-quality long-lasting brushes are usually expensive.

Ability to Hold a Fine Point: Your brushes absolutely MUST be able to hold a fine point. As mentioned in 101, rookies often make the mistake of buying teeny-tiny brushes like Spotters for fine detail work. Unfortunately Spotters have almost no Absorbency, which can make for a frustrating experience trying to do free-hand or eyes. A good No. 0 Round or 5/0 Liner that can hold a point will serve you better, simply because it will have a better paint capacity.

Cost: Cost must be balanced against all the above attributes, and it really depends on how much you paint. For example, a weekend-warrior who logs only four or five hours a week at his paint station can probably buy a $15 Reaper Kolinsky No. 0 Round and have it last for several months or even a couple years, provided he doesn’t abuse it with excessive base-coating/washing/dry-brushing. I log between 40 and 60 hours a week painting, I use my No. 0 Round for hours at a time every day. I’ve found that the $15 Reaper Kolinsky No. 0 Round lasts me about six to eight weeks, while a $5 Reaper Taklon No. 0 Round lasts four to five weeks. Financially, it makes more sense for me to by two Taklons instead of one Kolinsky; I simply wear out brushes too quickly, even if they’re the “high-quality” ones! But more importantly, I can get the same results with a fresh Taklon as I can with a fresh Kolinsky. I used to buy a new Kolinsky every month until I tried the Taklon on a lark and discovered what I know now.

I use the same approach with my other types of brushes. My favorites are these:

I get them at Wal-Mart for less than $5 a bag. They come with 10 brushes, and I regularly use all of them with the exception of the Glaze ¾” which I still use on tanks. Sure, they don’t last more than a month, but if I paid $5-$10 per brush for a high-quality natural-hair, or even $3-$6 for a high-quality Taklon they’d still get destroyed almost as quickly. Not that I always go for the cheap and easy, though! And it’s not like I’m saying there’s no difference between the cheap and expensive, but for my purposes, with how much abuse my brushes take, there’s really not a difference for me. I often go to Michael’s or United Art and Education and see what’s on sale, spend about $20 and get four or five high-quality brushes. Sometimes I’ll even spring for a $15 Kolinsky just to treat myself!

Hope you enjoyed reading Paint Brush 102! Join me next time for Paint Brushes 103: Proper Maintenance and Cleaning.


Trial Techniques - Dirt

Recently, I've started building an Ork Dread Mob list for the release of the new Imperial Armor 8: Raid on Kastorel-Novem by Forgeworld. Now normally, Bad Moons are my Ork clan of choice, but yellow (as I'm sure you all know) can be an absolute pain to paint. So, I've decided to try my hand at a Goff color scheme.

Right off, I found that the problem with Goffs is that they can get a little boring with all that black armor on them. So, I had a look around the interwebs and found that many painters had used a nice dirt technique to break them up. So, I've embarked on a bit of a learning journey to try and replicate this effect and I figured I'd share the results.

I started by painting the Kan as I usually would, except that I tried to keep the colors more subdued. For all the "white" areas, I've used Citadel's Dehneb Stone foundation paint as it's pretty close to white. This keeps the lighter areas from completely dominating the models, while still providing a nice contrast.

Once the model was based and nicked around the edges with Boltgun Metal, I started the dirtying process. I started by very lightly stippling, and in some cases dry brushing, Vermin Brown over the areas I wanted to accentuate. I made sure to hit the lower areas of the armor to try and give the impression that the dirt is getting kicked up and sticking to the model.

I then moved on to stippling Macharius Solar Orange over the Vermin Brown, taking care to let the Vermin Brown show through. Finally, I mixed in a little Bleached Bone into the orange and stippled the edges very lightly. As you can see, my preliminary findings are a little rough...

I will continue to post updates here as I progress through the army and refine the technique. Sometimes, the best way to explain something is to freshly learn it yourself.

If you have any question on the rest of the model or just want to comment, feel free to post below.

Thanks for bearing with me.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Paint Brushes 101 – The Basics

For the aspiring scale-modeler, it can be intimidating to stand in the brush aisle at a craft store. The choices seem endless with the multitude of brands and types of brushes, not to mention the option of natural sable or ox bristles, and synthetic white or gold nylon or taklon. Should you go for cheap bulk or expensive high-end brushes? Should you get wee-itty-bitty brushes, long whippy-thin brushes? Which ones are better for vehicles? Which ones are best for dry-brushing? Which ones are good for free-handing?

Let’s discuss the broader styles of brushes and what they’re good for. But first some terminology!

Round: Long closely arranged bristles for detail. This is my work-horse. I use my No. 0 Round for detail, blending, base-coating particular areas, washing, pretty much everything.

Flat: The name kind of says it all: a wide, flat brush with long bristles. I don’t use Flats a lot. I find that because of their longer bristles they tend to be harder to control than Brights. I’ll use Flats for bulk washing.

Bright: Similar to a Flat, but with shorter bristles, meaning the brush is easier to control. In a pinch its straight toe can act like an Angle. Very utilitarian. I’ll use this type for tanks, or larger surfaces that need a smooth finish. I also use Brights for washing, both bulk and precise. The cool thing about Brights is that after you’ve worn them out they make really good dry-brushes! Loading a Bright with paint and running the belly of the bristles along the edges of armor is a sinfully easy technique to get edge-lining done.

Filbert: I like Filberts a lot, I find them to be very useful in getting smooth blends on areas that are too big for a Round. You can also roll the brush left or right to reduce its coverage mid-stroke, pretty neat for capes or cloth! I also use Filberts for washing, edge lining and dry-brushing just like I would with a Bright.

Fan: Truth be told; I haven’t used one of these and I don’t see myself using one anytime in the near future.

Angle: I do love Angle brushes! The straight cut of the toe works great for areas requiring straight lines or blocking, the angled toe means you can ease into tight areas, holding the brush like a knife with the longer bristles away and pulling towards yourself with pressure can give you some really nice sweeping strokes. It works like a Bright for washing, edge-lining and dry-brushing.

Mop: Not a fan of these. Generally they’re too soft for dry-brushing, base-coating, or washing.

Rigger: Also called “Liners”, I use these for eyes, script, text and free-handing. With thinned-down paint or inks you can use a good Liner just like a pencil!

Spotter: Imagine a really small Round. I hate these things and I hardly ever use them. They don’t carry enough paint in their tiny bellies to make them worth using, usually the paint is dried enough to become useless in the time it takes to go from the palette to the model. This brush is a common buy for rookies to do eyes or detail work with, and it’s a mistake! As I’ll explain later, you don’t need a small brush, you need a brush that will hold a point!


Brushes are sized with a numeric system, the larger the number the larger the brush. For example: a No. 0 is smaller than a No. 1, and both are smaller than a No. 2. Brushes smaller than a 0 are gauged with more zeros; where the number of zeros is indicated by another number on the left of a slash. For example: a 5/0 is actually 00000, and a 2/0 is actually 00, a 20/0 is smaller than a 10/0, and both are smaller than a 5/0. Sometimes larger brushes are labeled by using the length of the toe, an example being ½”, where the toe of the brush measures a half-inch across. The smallest brush I use is a 10/0 Liner, and the largest brush I use is a ¾” Bright.

Thanks for reading! Join me next time where I’ll be discussing pricing, materials, and what to look for in your favorite brand of brush!


(Credit where credit is due for the pics!)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Welcome, one and all, to the new
Shackled Goblin Studios website!

Shackled Goblin Studios is the brainchild of Ian Villamagna and Aaron Given, two freelance painters from the Greater Dayton area of Ohio. On this website, we will be periodically posting our work, painting tutorials, notifications of any classes we're teaching and generally anything else we feel the need to display. Please stay tuned, as we hope this website will become both a showcase of our work and (more importantly) a helpful tool for hobbyists everywhere.