Monday, May 28, 2012

Imperial Armour - Model Masterclass Volume Two [Review]

OK, I'm a bit late, but I'm still sorting out out things after moving. I've only just started getting the hobby room together, so I haven't done any modelling or painting, but it was just my birthday and my lovely girlfriend bought me the new IA Model Masterclass.

For those not in the know, Forge World released a book of advanced paiting and modelling techniques back in 2008. The Forge World painting style is quite strongly informed by miltary and historical painting techniques. This is very interesting to me, since in the late 90s I did a fair bit of historicals stuff.

Model Masterclass Volume Two is very much a follow on from Volume One, containing few new techniques but more examples of their use, and some nice twists on techniques. I'll not really look at Volume One here, except as a point of comparison.

These are actually rectangular. I'm just using
a flash since the tripod is packed away.

The Book

The book is printed on the same high quality stock of all Forge World books. At 143 pages it is longer than the first, having about the same mix of long and short articles. The copy editing is generally good, though with a glaring mistakes in page references (page 10 referred to as 67) and some confusing jumps in the picture titling composition (a section talking about weathering tracks and hatches, where the framing gradually shift from the both hatch and track to just the hatch; another talking about washing tracks, with a picture of a washed gun mount hub), and the text reads well. For Forge World (and Games Workshop), the editing is well above par.

The framing on this triptych is odd in that is moves from the hatch
to the track, but the narrative doesn't really follow it.

This is not a track, however much they try
and convince me otherwise.

The picture quality of Volume Two is better than Volume One. In the original there were quite a few shots with white balance and other colour issues, whereas in Volume Two, while there, they are not as critical. While not so important in most books, when you are talking about building up colour with Commando Khaki followed by Skull White, it helps if two near identically painted pieces always appear identical. If not then it is a little confidence shaking - how accurate are the rest of the pictures? At least being close seems like it should be important in a painting book.

From Volume One - the circled parts are the same,
and should be the same colour.

Volume Two also contains the opening tools and paints section from Volume One as an appendix. The picture has been updated with their new work bench, so It's intersting to see how it's changed in four years (the answer is not much - they do have a new air compressor!).

The Models

Like Volume One, the focus is on Imperial Armour (no real surprise here!), but has more non-imperial stuff. There are several short articles on Eldar and Chaos Daemons, and some good long pieces on the Great Brass Scorpion and the Choas Reaver Titan. A good range of subjects are presented,

The terrain and diorama articles are a good mix of display boards and battle boards. They present a good range of scenery, and the last one is an Ork camp, which was very nice to see (and looks painful in its complexity).

By and large, the pictures are well framed so you can really see what's going on.

Wonderful looking and some interesting techniques

The Masterclass

As has already been mentioned, Volume Two is a follow on from Volume One. The lessons are written clearly and concisely and are mostly well illustrated. There are a few instances where the steps taken or tools or paints used become a little unclear, but these a such a small handful and a second reading will remove confusion.

The most detail in either book is in the first sections of Volume One. Volume Two largely continues on from the latter part of Volume One, with less detail and more examples. That isn't to say there aren't a bunch of new techniques. They have assimilated many of the popular techniques of the last few years, and add a few new spins to things like layering (for instance using the less popular Tamiya paints - at least in fantasy modelling circles - for their reds and clears), and new tricks with oils.

It is a masterclass, so it does assume some knowledge and skill in painting. I'd heard this complaint after Volume One came out: "I just doesn't tell me enough." And if you are expecting a from the beginning guide to painting, you still won't get it in Volume Two. As in most fields, this suits those willing to ask questions of themselves and what they want from painting (my other hobby is audio, and I've seen the same problem in masterclasses there - you need to push and ask questions, and have learnt how to learn to really get anything out of it).

Another useful thing it does is reinforce flexibility. The same techniques are used over and over, but but with subtle differences and alternate combinations. Sepia wash, brown ink and gloss varnish can be used to make oil stains. Replace brown with black for dark, greasy stains. Add powders for grease. Just the brown ink and varnish can be spilled oil by adding some water.

My general feeling is that the techniques in Volume Two are slightly more accessible - they rely less on oils and powders (except for basic powder sippling), more on airbrushing and washing. I don't think this is a bad thing as (especially) oils can be quite intimidating.

Another good note is they don't suffer from marketting pressures - while GW products are prefered when offering very simillar things (especially acrylics and weathering powders), they aren't affraid to use other products when needed.

The Breakdown

It might look a bit like I'm picking faults with the book, but I think how much the very few problems stick out is indicative of the quality. Overall, a good read, and well worth it for me. It's especially worthwhile if you prefer gritty style painting. On its own, I'm not sure it would hang together that well unless you are really prepared to go out and make mistakes with new techniques. When taken with Volume One, I think the whole pacakge is greater than the sum of its parts, and that's where the best value lies.

Those who will benefit most are experienced painters who want more, and inexperience painters looking for a style of their own. But if you just like the pictures, this is also a good book with plenty of eye candy. I, for one, am looking forward to trying a few of these techniques.

You can also check out a review by Karitas over at Excommunicate Traitoris here.

Other Books

'Eavy Metal Masterclass

I thought it would be good to drop this one in, since it's a more basic masterclass. It still lacks the very basic stuff from the How to Paint Citadel Miniatures guide (the newest version of which is actually very good!), but has an excellent selection of step by steps. I found this most useful for helping me get back my sense of colour choice.

The 1989 edition.

Citadel Miniature Painting Guide (1989/92)

The first painting guide I ever had. This is still an excellent painting primer. The styles may be a little dated but the presentation is excellent and it has a certain joie de vivre lacking in more recent publications. It also makes you realise that fine model detail isn't always needed to make a great painted mini. Having seen both (and owning the 1992 one), the later (blue) one is slightly better and has good show case of models from the time.

The Model Makers Handbook - Albert Jackson and David Day (1981)

The second modelling book I ever owned. This was my dad's and all sorts of modelling. There are great sections on reposing, battle damage, dioramas, and all sorts of other things. It had some great techniques like using an buff enamal wash to simulate dust and how to scratch build plants.

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