Accept the challenge, no matter the odds - vindicator masterclass review

Just back from a great day over in Nottingham for the latest of GW's Materclasses. As before (this was my third) Phil and Mark were more than up for a day of tutoring and sharing the tank painting love.

A couple of days ago I received an email asking me what colour I wanted my Vindicator basecoated in. As a exceptionally bad Templar player, I nearly choose another chapter to paint, yup the Carcharodons, but as I have a garage full of part painted Templars already, the opportunity to learn how to get the best out of black tanks and marines was too much. Plus, I intend to add a fair bit of black to the Carcharodons if I ever get around to painting them.

So lets break it down for those who've never been.

Venue: The Moot. Over the car park from the main Games Workshop building, well equipped, well lit, loos and brews. 10/10

Set-up: Max of four to a table, each with a paint station, 14 paints, pva glue, plaster of Paris, thinners, brushes, apron, weathering powders, daylight bulb lamp. 9.9/10*

*one of the seats faced me, meaning the gentleman in question was facing away from the tutors, not ideal. He wasn't the only one though and no-one complained so that might just be my preference. Had that been an issue, Dan and Adam would've sorted out a better view I'm sure.

Programme: 09:30 for a 10:00 start, everyone arrived promptly so we started ahead of schedule.
The day hadn't got a specific agenda but the general overview was decals, basecoat, adding interest, chipping, sponging, shading/highlighting, weathering. Now none of this is groundbreaking to me, but two things happen in this kind of environment; first the two tutors Mark and Phil are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable that you learn something new, guaranteed. Secondly, the attendees are all after something a little different, so I shared a table with 2 x White Scars and a Carcharodon. Other tables had Blood Angels, Salamanders, Astral Claws, Ultramarines, no other Templars though?

Decals: The tank is built, basecoated and given a couple of coats of purity seal, Mark apologised that the exhausts hadn't been drilled out, I can live with that. You could use the transfer set that comes with the box, or interestingly some of the Forge World sheets (that might have swung it for the carcharodons had I known beforehand). In the past I have just added a single transfer as "I know" how to do transfers. This time I threw on a few more, lots of explaining about the wetness vs glue, getting decals to go where you want them too. Adding a bit of damage to these using something blunt to scrape away certain tiny areas, a hit of arcoat to knock them into the background and the jobs a good 'un. 10/10

Adding interest: No airbrushes here, maybe one day who knows. That leave large areas of flat panels to add interest to. Lighter tanks had the basecoat with some additional colour mixed in, this is sponged on to leave a very subtle texture making the tank more real. Great to see this effect on such a range of colours, explanation on which colours work and why. As for mine, a black tank is already as dark as it can be so Mark suggested I added a smidge of blue to the mix to give a hardly noticeable touch. Phil believes quite strongly that dark tanks have interest added with weathering and detail painting, and after seeing his Red Scorpions up close and personal I couldn't agree more. By now, there were a number of tanks beginning to pop and this is less than half way through. 10/10

Chipping: Yup, bits of sponge, with the basecoat brought back in, touching onto the decals to really push them back into the tank. What I learned here is the lightness of touch is key, Mark and Phil were going over and over a tiny area to get that subtle build up. Treating the Vindicator as a canvas I stayed with working on just one side, in previous Masterclasses I have tried to finish the model and it tends to rely on speed or not paying attention to the guys, neither of which was going to work for me. I was heavy handed on all the effects, partly because I'm learning this as I go and partly because I've spent a lot of time painting Orks and those boyz have a tendency to create a slap dash approach. 10/10

Shading/highlighting: Tau Light Ochre and Steel Legion Drab mixed 50/50, a good dollop of Lahmian Medium are 3 pots I shall be buying more of. This gives you the sandy, earthy tones you see on Phil's Red Scorpions. This really popped the Vindicator and it went from being flat to having real definition and presence. Paul and his White Scar tank didn't fare so well, yellow on white just didn't work, but that's exactly what the day was about. Finding out what worked, what didn't. Pushing your ability, comfort zone whatever. For example, the other side of his tank with a Rhinox Hide/Black mix looked amazing, bags of interest and detail. Probably my favourite technique and one soon to appear on 9 x drop pods and several Land raiders and Rhinos ;p 10/10

Lunch: A man's gotta eat right? A much reduced option for lunch, previously you picked whatever you fancied off the Bugman's Menu, this time a choice of 3, one veggie. Spuds and veggies on the tables to share, and a drink thrown in. If I'm honest I'm here to paint not to eat (and boy can I eat), it filled a gap and was pleasant enough. And it gave me 20 mins to check out the mins and purchase the new Masterclass book. 7/10

Weathering: A more relaxed pace after lunch, I haven't mentioned that while Phil is demonstrating a technique, Mark works the room and vice versa, lots of one-to-one time, as much as you need. A lot of the information is generic so what works for White Scars will work for Templars, just different colours so earwigging is also well worth it. Lots of time spent on weathering, 3 different ways of applying powders dry, wet and mixed with pva/plaster of paris for a real grungy look. Dry mud, wet mud, dust trapped in nooks and crannies all sorted. I forgot (again!) not to overwork the powders and as you can see from the photos, the back of the tank originally had lovely clumpy multicoloured muddy build up, but I dragged a brush over it and flattened the lot - d'oh! I also collared Mark about snow in the tracks, and he explained (a) that he didn't like doing it and (b) how he did it, Deluxe Materials Shovelled Snow poked in with a cocktail stick, gloss warnish and a tiny drop of sepia ink for the slushy stuff. 10/10

That's all folks: Mark and Phil spent the day showing off fantastic techniques, their wonderful models and imparting valuable knowledge. Adam and Dan made sure we all had what we needed including what appeared to be an endless tray of tea, coffee and biscuits. Looking at what I produced I think I am the least happy with the result compared to previous classes, on the plus side I got it. I understand how to create these effects. Looking at Phil's Red Scorpions, I can see that my technique is exactly the same as his, it's just not as clean, not as subtle, not as polished - but it's there.

Value for money: With all those 10/10's I'm hardly going to complain, but look at how the £115 ticket breaks down. I know, I know you can buy a Vindicator from elsewhere for less, but looking at the actual costs from GW;

Vindicator £35.00
14 paints £32.20
4 brushes £12.00
4 weathering powders £11.80
Lunch: £6.00
Total: £97.00

Was it worth it? Hell yes.

On one final note/quote, as Mark pointed out (and Phil on numerous occasions) "you can always hit the Chaos Black respray button". If the weathering is too heavy wash it off, highlight too strong, put the basecoat back on, and if like me you're not 100% happy with how this turned out, get the Dettol, strip it down and start again. But that's a whole other post...