Wargaming Tradecraft: Object Oriented Hobbying


Object Oriented Hobbying

What exactly is "OOH" ?

Besides something for witnesses to express when they see your work, this is a term I'm coining that has it's roots in the programming word. (Though I suppose considering recent WoW roots to OO- could suggest that when you run out of supplies, shout "Out Of Hobbies!") The point is to look at a single object as a collection of smaller objects, properties, features, and so on - and those smaller objects, as a collection of even smaller objects - etc. The context is slightly different, but I'm applying this to hobbying because it's extremely easy for even the most advanced artist to look at a project and be completely overwhelmed - never to finish, or even begin.

I'm applying the term Object-Oriented-Hobbying to refer to a couple things:

  • First, it's a method to break projects down into smaller, manageable stages.
    • Creating a plan with lists.
    • Looking at large projects and seeing each section as a single task.
    • eg: Instead of staring at a whole model, plan to paint it's boots, pants, shirt, arms, head, gear, etc as different tasks.
    • This helps you by accepting a project for what it is - small, easily completed steps.. lots of them, but small and easy nonetheless.
  • Second, it's a way of looking at a single aspect of a project to determine just what exactly it's comprised of, and if you can break it down further.
    • Looking at a single item and determining what details make it what it is.
      • Determining if any of those smaller details can be split further into even smaller objects, details or features.
    • eg: When looking at "a bolter", notice that it's made up of a clip, muzzle, sight, side plates, stock, etc.
      • These break down into more objects and/or possible features - eg: Clips usually have visible bullets, muzzles have holes for flash (good for blackening), sights may be adjusted or drilled, plates often have symbols and could be scratched up.
    • This helps you because you're then able to separate details, rather than paint over large sections deserving of more detail.
As practice, take a look around you as you're going about your daily life - even as you're sitting here reading this - and try to picture how objects break down into the various collections of items and features they're composed of.
eg: That mouse isn't just an object with a wire coming out of it - it's a hand rest, (with a pattern?) 2 buttons, (unless your Mac isn't that evolved yet) scroll wheel, possible side buttons, logo, wire, connector for the computer.

Let me give you a detailed example of each:

This Harlequin Wraithlord made for a very intimidating project. Looking over all that, you have to ask yourself, "Where to begin?" That's a question it's very easy to get stuck on, while the answer is quite simple. Rather than look at it as a single large project, break it down into steps.

  1. Remove everything from the sprues, clean them.
  2. Figure out the pose.
    1. How will you make things sturdy.
    2. Modify anything necessary.
  3. Make any other mods you wish to
  4. Prime
  5. Paint the Dreadnought
    1. Paint the blue, then metal, emblems, etc
  6. Create the base
    1. Gel and paint multiple layers.
  7. Paint the Wraithlord
    1. Paint the gold
    2. Paint the Green and White checks
    3. Paint the Red sections
    4. Paint the Purple sections
    5. etc
  8. Glue
    1. touch up paint
  9. Varnish
Each section actually breaks down further as you spread a highly detailed project out over a long period of time, creating yourself lots of mini projects:
  1. Paint the Dreadnought
    1. Paint the Blue
      1. Paint CC arm
        1. Hand
        2. Wrist
        3. Shoulder
      2. Paint gun arm
        1. Shoulder
        2. Ammo box
      3. Paint the backpack
        1. Left stack
        2. Right stack
        3. Center
      4. Paint the body
        1. Faceplate
        2. Top center
        3. Left shoulder face
        4. Left shoulder top
        5. Right shoulder face
        6. Right shoulder top
        7. Left shoulder joint
        8. Right shoulder joint
        9. Undercarriage
What I've done is treated every tiny section of the Dreadnought as if it were it's own model, deserving of the same time and effort. Yes, if you look at that entire to-do list, you're going to freak out a little - stop. Don't look at the entire list, look at step number 1, and do it. Part of all this is mindset, because a big list can still be a big scary list, so just keep telling yourself it's one step at a time.

It's worth noting that on large scale projects like this, I prefer to separate tasks by paint colour, not physical section. This means on the Dreadnought, I paint all the blue, then all the metal, then emblems, etc... rather than painting everything on one arm, then the other arm, then the backpack, etc. The reason for this is consistency - you want everything to appear uniform, and the more time between sections means you might not get a colour, highlight or shadow to match a previous area.

tire images from www.ghostwood.org
Another example is this: when I begin my PostApocalyptiBuggy, one of the things I'll work on are the tires. Some people would just paint the tire and move on to the next section... instead, I will:

  • Build Tire
    • Worn, therefor file corners
    • Aged, therefor add cracks to rubber.
    • Winter, therefor add chains
      • Aged, therefor some links will be broken / hanging
      • Worn, therefor file some links
    • Wheel Wells
      • Scavenging, therefor some bolts may be missing
      • Rusted, chip corners
  • Paint Tire
    • Prime
    • Paint Tire
      • Black
      • Worn rubber sections are lighter grey
    • Paint chains
      • Silver
      • Aged/Worn, dull and scuff driven on areas.
    • Paint Wheel Wells
      • Metallic
        • aged, paint chips
      • Rust
  • Weather
    • Snow would get caught in links and treads.
      • Older caught snow would be dirtier
    • Make snow on base appear driven on
      • treads
      • chain with the treadmarks
Look at all that - that's just for a tire, and this is just thinking ahead. Each section of this project is going to involve me sitting down at my desk and thinking "What can I do?" and then going to town modifying.

The Big Picture is Still Important

Just because you're approaching a task by treating every little section as it's own, doesn't mean you can ignore the big picture. No matter what, you need an idea of what the final project should be. You may be able to break a project into smaller objects, but without an idea of the final product, how are you to know what smaller details to add? That doesn't mean finalize all the details before you begin, because more ideas will come during the creative process as you work.

Continuing with the tire example:
  • If I didn't plan that the vehicle was for a post apocalyptic world, I wouldn't know to add features of age and wear
  • If I hadn't decided to set the vehicle in a snow environment, I wouldn't be planning the proper weathering or features. (chains)
  • This means that without some idea of the bigger picture, I'd have bought a model vehicle kit, and just built it stock - straight from the box, as if it had just come off the assembly line.

Feature Creep

via Maximum Heresy
This may or may not be an issue for you, and generally will only occur during the modding stage. If the creative process takes over while you're modding, you can quickly find that the picture is much larger than you originally intended. That's what we call "feature creep" or "scope creep". In the business world, this is a bad thing, because we have deadlines. In the hobby world, we sometimes have deadlines (such as a painting competition or a tournament) and usually have at least another project we'd like to work on after the current one.

Extra features can also detract from a project. An extreme example would be making a sleek sci-fi vehicle, then adding all sorts of sci-fi doo-dads - now instead of smooth and sleek, we have something covered in knick-knacks.

Compare your additions to your original picture of the project, because lots of tiny little extras can make something appear far too busy and actually destroy the image. If the sky's the limit, you're not ruining the project by adding too much and you don't care how long a project will take, then keep on working.


  1. Clever blend of worlds. Very useful too, of course, like everything else I've seen here!

    Another good reason for the breaking up into objects is to prepare us better mentally and in time terms for the work involved. Not thinking too deeply what a bolter is composed of before starting to paint can mean not only delays, interruptions or a need to hurry, but also frustration. That's definitely bad.

  2. Great article and as a programmer I approve of OOH and am a participant in its use.

    I did a similar article, though nowhere near as in depth as this is, about painting an entire army. It was the same approach, take it a step at a time and don't let it overwhelm you. Such a simple concept, as you're trying to teach people here, but too often forgotten in the face of something overwhelming.

  3. @Porky: Right indeed, and painting over parts can be a pain, especially when working with lighter colours.

    @Thor: I thought you'd appreciate the comparison. OOP was one of the few things I actually learned in three years of college, when they weren't teaching us to copy and paste or holding the hands of the computer illiterate.

  4. Interesting take on things. I'm not sure that OOH is the right model to reference as you seem to use more of a spiral scheme in your painting (though OOH is a much more clever name, I'll give you that).

    I wonder how this post'll be received by non-technical folks...

  5. Anyone know where I can buy a couple hundred marine awards? My Ultramarines deserved to be covered like that ultra pure dude.

  6. OOH got me through Uni. We called it code reuse, but the tutor called it plagiarism. Tomato, tomato.
    Another way to look at it is through the eyes of a project manager and utilize some of the Agile techniques, breaking the project down in similar chunks which become smaller and more manageable. It scales as well, not just to cover individual models, but across whole armies.
    Especially as time becomes a premium commodity, it's important to make the best use of the available time that you have.


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