Wargaming Tradecraft: Thagrosh, Herald of the Crystalline Affliction


Thagrosh, Herald of the Crystalline Affliction

A bold article for an intense warcaster to begin the re-invigoration of Wargaming Tradecraft. In this article, I'll cover Epic Thagrosh from start to finish.

My ex-wife had a couple particular requests for her army, so as a break from the Hordebloods I've completed the leader of the Crystalline Affliction. The specifics of this army are this:

First, it needs to be modified to integrate ACTUAL Amethyst Crystal into the sculpts. Primarily on the beasts as all spikes are to be removed and replaced.

Second, she fell in love with the paint job I did on the Borderlands Charity Miniatures. So, I now have an army worth of models to apply the cell-shaded style to. This style is defined by deep shadows, strong contrasts and almost messy hashing used in shadows and highlights.

Jump to the end of the article for high quality images of the finish project.
Take a look on DeviantArt for the lower quality collage.

Without going in to a ton of details, (yet) incase you're wondering, Amethyst is a type of crystal that ranges from clear to pink to deep purple. When you buy them, the colour can be any of those as a solid or any range of those colours. Small or large, doesn't seem to impact the clarity.

I'll write up a post on these crystals at a later date.

Starting off, I pin Thagrosh as I do with all my large models and pose him, then fill all the gaps with green stuff. Because of the requirements of this project, I then cut off all his spikes and start replacing them with crystal. I do some rudimentary green-stuffing to blend the crystal in to his skin, but I'm not super happy with it. You'll notice by the end, it's much more different.

 Fully assembled, Thagrosh stands proud. Spikes on his back, the tips of his wings, his head, an elbow and his claws are all replaced with amethyst.

Gluing the tiny crystals on the tips of his wings is tricky, as anyone who has glued tiny spear tips or banner poles together knows. My strategy for this is to first glue the tiny part on, then once it's dried, surround it in green stuff to firm it up. Once that's dried, cut the green stuff down so it's not noticeable. Voila.

His head didn't end up looking quite how I wanted. The defining feature now is how it flares out after the neck. It looks just fine, but I'd probably make it smaller / sleeker if I did it again. I think now it's best described as a "helmeted" head.

 Something else I'll cover in another post is "masking". Basically, I wanted the crystals on him before priming, but didn't want to prime the crystals so I wrapped them all in tape. (Annoying for the tiny ones on his wing tips.)

I'll also leave the tape on for a while because I intend on airbrushing him too.

Before airbrushing, I base his skin and wings to offset the shade I'll be spraying on slightly.

Starting the airbrushing, I begin with a layer of lilac (light purple) followed by a mix of lilac and peach.

We don't want him to be purple though. Once everything looks the way we want it, I finish off with a light coating of a light blue violet.

I paint his wing membrane white to contrast to the skin.

Don't be afraid to be slightly inconsistent with base layers. Look at your own skin. It's not a smooth blend of colour.

For a stronger contrast, I airbrush his loin cloth with a few layers. Mostly chestnut, but also some yellow and olive.

Worth noting, the purple and white I airbrushed were actually an airbrush brand paint. First time I used such a thing and it absolutely makes airbrushing MUCH easier. Thinned just right, no clogging. Another thing I'll do a full article on.

My decision to buy a more expensive airbrush paint was this - Looking at the long-term of this project, I want consistency in the colouring I use. This means major stuff shouldn't be painted with mixed paint.

After airbrushing, I paint all the recesses of his skin with a dark purple, then a stronger purple. I get a little messy with this step (intentionally) beginning the hatching process.

More visible is as I begin hatching with the blue. You can see in the photo how it really stands out. I curve hatches around shapes like muscle, bring it sharply across flatter areas and use it across natural recesses on the model.

It wasn't contrasting enough for my liking though. Did a test on his chest, which worked out being EXACTLY what I needed.
I thinned some magenta so it would tint the surface instead of covering up the hatching I already did. Instead of hatching, I messily paint it into all the recesses and shaded areas

When I apply this to the rest of him, I end up painting the shadows black first.

 Painting with this style is NOT for the faint of heart. It's not complicated, but it is a very long drawn process that requires patience. These kinds of projects will easily overwhelm and cause you to rush. Break your task into smaller jobs and take your time.

But seriously... Every tiny little line has to be painted individually. You can speed up as you get used to it, but it still takes a ton of time. And you don't go over the body just once - every colour you use this way has to be done. I had EIGHT hatch layers on him. EIGHT. I'd catch myself getting impatient and have to slow down, multiple times.

I don't do much colouring on the membrane of his wings. I wanted them near-white to stand out from the rest of his skin. It still gets some black shading though.

Here's Thagrosh hatch-painted to the blue layer.

You can see there's a strong contrast created next as black is added thickly to him.

Also, just disregard the orange on his eyes... total mistake.

Now the magenta has been added. Additionally, I paint the magenta around everywhere the gems are jutting out of his body. Creates a really nice flushed look.

The eyes are no longer orange. Used some alcohol on a Q-tip which I twisted in the socket to remove the paint. (And the primer actually, had to paint on some Gesso to re-prime it.)

In order to soften the skin, I rub pigments (weathering powder) on. Dark purple into the shadows and white to highlight. Once the powder is on, I use a paint brush with just water to blend it into the paint beneath. To hold the pigments, I paint on a light layer of Liquitex matte varnish.

Once that's done I hatch to highlight using light pink and some white.

To get an idea of what's involved and all the layers, here are the notes from my notebook. Like the Blood Angel Terminator I entered into Golden Demon, there is an excessive number of layers. 17 in all here, 8 of which were carefully painted lines.

 I paint his armour plates the same way I did his skin. Moving from dark red, to bright red to flesh tones. Greys and white for the trim.

There aren't really recesses and such to go by on the smooth open areas of his armour. In these cases, just get wild and casual. Let the paint flow and the brush dance.

 I REALLY like how his weapon turned out.

Decided to go with gloss black. Wasn't going to do anything to make the etched runes stand out, but changed my mind and lightly dry-brushed on some dark grey.

The shaft I painted with a wood look.

For the wraps, I used a mix of white and black paint / pigment. Again, I find using pigments to colour black / white objects create cleaner highlights and shades.

The gloss was an interesting step since I usually just use it for liquids. Here, I wanted the blades to look like obsidian. The middle picture shows a single layer of gloss while the lower one shows the weapon after about 5 or 7 layers.

Gloss is basically a layer of clear shiny paint. When you paint on a lot of layers, it gets thick. This adds some depth and smooths things out.

You can see between the two photos how the white reflection of the gloss becomes wider and smoother as the gloss thickens. In some places the shine disappears because the gloss is so thick it smooths and rounds out.

 Nothing really fancy here, though the hatching is trickier because the wraps are so thin. It was even harder to paint between the wraps.

I apply the same obsidian look of his weapon to the gem / things on the wraps.

Also a wider nicer look at the wraps on his weapon.

I wanted to copy the appearance of the amethyst crystals, but with a colour that would stand out from his skin. I end up going with a dark / beige look I've used often before but paint in a lot of lines along the curvature of the chitin.

For the crystal look, I go with gloss again. From the middle to right pics is the difference between one and many layers of gloss. You can see with a first layer of a surface like this, the gloss pools and stands out between the plates. It takes a bunch of layers to make this look uniform.

Once again, Thagrosh's loincloth was airbrushed with chestnut, yellow and olive colours as a leather effect. It's already fairly dark so I don't do much to shade it. Without being too bold, I spend more time to highlight. In the end, bold is good and this becomes a nicely contrasting part of him.

His base was fun to create. I mixed some texture gel that had white flakes in it with another gel full of silver flecks and blue translucent paint. I think it ended up looking kind of icy and crystally.

To add a dynamic look, I cut out some clear plastic shards from a blister and glue them jutting out from his forward-most arm as if he stepped forward with enough force to smash the ice upward.

This gets covered with the same mix I use on the rest of the base, both over, under and around the sides so the plastic isn't visible.

And finally, here we have Epic Thagrosh in all his glory!

The following are high-res photos of the angles I mixed together above.

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