Posts Tagged ‘tutorial’

One of the most frustrating things in the hobby for me has always been seeing photos online in which the poster asks for criticism or comments on his painting.  You click on the picture, and… it’s blurry.  Totally out of focus.  Or not lit well enough.  Or sitting on a cluttered desk in the middle of a dozen other projects.  At that point, offering any sort of help becomes almost impossible.  Usually, the photo is accompanied by a quick “Sorry, phone camera pic lol”.

ork nobz jul 01

This picture was taken using an iPhone 3GS.

grots jul 01

So was this one.

Right now, the phone I’m using is several generations behind, but as you can see from the pictures, it’s still capable of taking miniature picture reasonably well.  Here’s how I do it:

lightbox jul 01

This is my lightbox – it’s about $45 on Amazon, and comes with two small lights(you can see on the right side, next to the tall desk lamp), and several different colored backgrounds.  It folds up for easy storage, and it’s what I use for all of my miniature and dice bag pictures.

You can find tutorials all over the place for how to make your own light box – I find it easier to just acquire one on Amazon.

The next thing you notice is probably all the lights – I have four lights set up around the light box.  These help to eliminate shadows and get the inside area lit as brightly as possible.  The two smaller lights provide a side light, and the desk lamp and the other work lamp(on the left; you can just see the shade) help with top light.  It’s a lot like lighting a stage for theatre – you want the actor(or miniatures in this case) to be well lit from as many sides as possible.  Now, it’s entirely possible to get even more technical and discuss color correction after taking your photos, but that may be a topic for another day.

To actually snap my photos, I use an app called Google+Snapseed – a search in your app store for “Snapseed” should bring up results.  It offers a ton of really useful ways to correct and modify your photos, including cropping, adjusting brightness and saturation, and more.  From the app, you can post your pics directly to Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Note the Moleskine notebooks I’ve set up in front of the miniatures – that’s what I balance my phone on to correct shakiness and get a good image.  If you do get a blurry picture, you can always delete it and try again – there’s no point in asking for criticism on a photo that you know is blurry.  Once you have a picture you’re satisfied with, I’d recommend cropping out as much of the empty background as you can.  One of minor pet peeves is when I see a picture of a space marine, and there’s a ton of empty space around the mini.  Crop it out; nobody needs to see empty desk/background.  After that, it’s a simple matter of saving the picture to your phone, emailing it to yourself, finding some way to get it to a place where you can post it anywhere you like.  I find Dropbox useful for this, personally.

And that’s about it for a quick and dirty primer on how to take good miniature pictures.  You can of course take this further, getting an actual tripod, a camera meant solely for photography, macro lenses, the works.  But this’ll do in a pinch, and goes a long way to eliminate “potato quality” pictures.


Continuation of my previous tutorial.  Here I’m covering briefly how to do the house’s edging and frame pieces, and a bit of the painting process.


While this can also be done with balsa wood strips, here I used pieces of matte board cut into rectangular strips.  Simply cut to fit the edge of each section of the house, and then glue them down.  It’s important to get the angles as close as possible for a tight fit, especially in places like the cross bar above.


A view of the side pieces.



For this section the easiest way to get the right curve on your pieces is to take the template you’ve made and trace out the roof curve on paper to make a template for the curved pieces seen above.  I hope that makes sense, it sounds a bit complicated but it’s really not.

The little piece sticking out at the very top of the roof is a section of bass wood cut at a slight angle and glued on with superglue.

The house's door.

The front door is a piece of balsa wood, cut down into a door-like section and glued down.  Do this first, and then make the frame with thin section of matte board or, in this case, more bass wood.


Toothpicks!  These fancy toothpicks are cheap, and the ends make great doorknobs and window hinges.  Just take your craft knife and carefully slice off the tips of the toothpicks.

The window is made the same way as the door.


Those cheap acrylic craft paints from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s are great for painting terrain projects.  They usually run about $1-2 per bottle, and you get a ton of paint in each.  I have six or seven bottles in various browns, greys, etc that I use for these kinds of projects.

Coat 1 on the roof.

The roof will take multiple coats of paint, since reds are generally finicky.  This is a mix of red and a lighter grey.  For the house walls, I’m using a tan brown, which I’ll weather later. The trim will be painted in a black/grey shade.

The front of the house in brown.


And here is the house with the roof finished.



Right now the chimney still needs painting, as does the trim.  The house will also get some weathering to make it look more worn and lived in.  But that’s the basics of the tutorial.  The same principles can be applied to other types and shapes of houses as well.

Finally, this is the original house template that I downloaded years and years ago, when I first found the tutorial for these houses on the Privateer Press forums.  It prints out pretty well on a regular sheet of paper.


I’ve been making my crooked houses for a while now, and a bit of encouragement prompted me to try writing up a tutorial for them.   I originally got the idea for the houses on the Privateer Press forums, the old ones that have been shut down for a long time now.  I don’t remember who made them originally, but his work was really wonderful, and my best efforts so far haven’t topped his.  These are intended as terrain pieces for tabletop miniature wargames, although they would also work well in roleplaying games on a battle mat or something.  Prepare for a lot of pictures.

This is the picture that prompted the tutorial.

You can make the houses out of foamcore, though matte board also works really well.  Occasionally it will be on sale at Hobby Lobby for $4 for a huge sheet.  Grab one or two.  For the glue I use Aleen’s Tacky Glue, which is a white glue similar to Elmer’s, but thicker consistency.  Superglue is also helpful for certain steps.  I cut my pieces out on one of those green cutting mats.  If you have a 40% off coupon for Hobby Lobby, you can get them pretty cheap.  I use x-acto knives to do all my cutting, and you should be prepared to have extra blades on hand because cutting matte board dulls them really quickly.  Painter’s tape helps keep pieces together until the glue dries.

I think it’s important to have a template for your pieces, so that you don’t end up wasting material.  Take a few minutes with a ruler and some graph paper to plan out a design.  Remember that these are in 3 dimensions, so if you have an overhanging second floor, you also need a piece that acts as a floor.  I used Bristol paper in this tutorial for my template pieces, as well as for the roof tiles you’ll see later.

The template pieces for this house design.

I’m making a simpler house in this tutorial than the one pictured above with the grey roof.  Basics first, right?

The pieces all cut out. The small squares are extra.

The house is simple, and starts with 4 pieces.  Two end pieces with a peak for the roof, and two side walls.  The small squares are extra, but can be glued inside the frame at the corners for a bit of extra stability.

Most of the frame glued.  I use the blue painter’s tape to hold  the pieces together while the glue dries.  Note that the side walls are glued just inside the end piece.

The tape helps hold stuff together.

The frame, ready for the roof.

This is the frame, glued and ready to add the roof.  The Aleen’s Tacky Glue takes some time to dry, so it’s best to go off for a bit to watch a few tv shows or something until the frame is ready to be handled.  In the next steps, you’ll see the edging on the frame.  I did this with matte board, cut into rectangular strips.  Each one is carefully marked, cut, and then glued to the frame.  They’ll be painted to look like wood.  In this part of the tutorial I’m skipping this step, because it’s more aesthetic than anything else.  I will cover that in Part 2 of the tutorial, along with doors and windows.

For the roof I use cereal box card – it’s thin enough to bend and flex easily, and thick enough to provide some structure for the tiles.  In this example I’ve used a graham cracker box.  Pasta boxes, tissue boxes, macaroni and cheese boxes – all of these would work just as well.

This part of the roof is fitted very precisely onto the frame.  Begin by laying out the frame on your card, and marking the roof points as well as the side wall.

You’ll want a rectangle just big enough to fit onto the frame.  Fit the roof very carefully onto the frame, and mark the very edges.  This will also get cut down, to make the card stock into a very tight-fitting cap on the frame.  It will all get covered by tiles for the final house, so it’s important to fit the card as closely to the matte board frame as possible.  The next pictures will hopefully show this.

To get the sagging roof right, mark a straight line on your card, and then draw an oval on it.  The oval gets cut out, and the edges will get taped together to form the sag in the roof.

The oval section that will be cut out for the sag.

The roof taped down and cut closely to fit the frame.

The sagging section taped down, and the roof taped to the frame.

The house is starting to look more like a house.  Tape helps immensely in this section to keep everything together.  Again, the glue needs time to dry.

Next are the tiles.  They can be done using the same card as the roof, but here I’ve used Bristol paper again, and I think I prefer that.  It’s easy to cut with some scissors.  I mark a rectangular strip measuring 1/2″ wide, and cut that into individual tiles using scissors.  The tiles should overhang the edge of the roof by just a tiny bit.  I glue them down in rows, doing a row on each side before doing the second row atop the first.  Start from the bottom and work up, to overlap your tiles.

The first row of tiles.

Row 2.

Four rows done.

A word on chimneys:  I made mine using a wide straw, cut down and fitted into a piece of Bristol that’s had an oval cut out of it, using the straw mouth as a template.  Ideally it will look like a metal pipe when it’s painted and done.  You can do other options, but I chose to use this one for the tutorial.  The next few images show the chimney and the process of tiling around it.  This was glued down with superglue.

For the tiles that cover the roof’s edge, you’ll want to cut slightly bigger rectangles.  I glue these down with superglue, because it’s much faster than holding each tile in place while the Aleen’s glue dries.  You can bend them in half just a bit to get them fitted onto the roof without leaving sharp creases.

The roof's top edge.

The roof is almost done in the above picture.  Laying down the tiles can be done while watching tv, it’s a simple process that just takes time.  The tiles on the edges stick over the frame just a bit, about 1/8″ in most cases.

That’s it for part 1 – I’ll try to put up part 2 in the next day or so.