Thursday, November 12, 2009

Svartmetall's 90's Plaguer Marine tutorial!

Old School here,
I have been a big fan of an exceptionally talented converter named Svartmetall for some time. If you have been around any of the big forums long enough, you may be familiar with his work, but if not, I would like to share this tutorial with you from the undistputed master of Nurgle himself. I won't send you to a specific Web site to find his work, just google search his name and you will find truly amazing work. Here is his guide to creating an old-school looking plague Marine from bitz and green stuff:
Old School Plague Marine Tutorial(or, My Head Got Cut Off And Used As A Blight Grenade And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt)
The idea behind this tutorial is to show how you can convert one of the current plastic Chaos Space Marines into an old-school style Plague Marine – I like the bulbous 90s-style Death Guard models, but they’re pretty hard to find these days and since I wanted to have an ‘old school’ squad of this style of model it seemed like a good idea to work out how to convert one of the ‘normal’ CSM models into something as close as I could manage to the Plague Marines of yesteryear. Here’s the fine figure of an old Plague Marine miniature that will be serving as inspiration, and the bog-standard plastic bits that will form the basis for this conversion:
First of all, trim the mould lines and assemble the basic body parts; I put a 2mm spacer in at the waist joint to give the model extra height (as I like my Nurgle troops to be huge and hulking) and also to give the overall figure more balanced proportions. I filled around this spacer with green stuff to make the joint more solid.

Before putting on the front half of the torso I removed the bottom half of it, the better to accommodate the augmetic cabling that will be going there. It doesn’t matter what torso front you use, because we’re aiming for a very smooth rounded chest so you’ll need to sand any details on it flat anyway. Then I used a pin drill to make holes ready for the augmetic cabling – be careful drilling these, as they need to be at the correct angle for the ‘lay’ of the cable; a bit of forward planning is needed here in terms of how much cabling you want and where you’re going to put it - there’s no harm in making sketches if you need to. Then I stuck a gob of green stuff inside the lower torso cavity and made a hole in it ready for yet another bit of cabling, with a corresponding hole in the right leg.
Drilling holes in the head was tricky, and again these have to be at the right angle for where you eventually want the cabling to sit; never be afraid to stop and stick a bit of guitar string into a hole to check it’s at the right angle before going any further.

Once the green stuff on the torso has set, you’re ready to start inserting the augmetic cabling; I generally use guitar strings for this, as the windings look right for augmetics even down at the 28mm scale. A .032” gauge guitar string is just the right diameter to work with the hole made by the default bit that comes with the GW pin drill, and that’s what I used on this model.

You need to bend each piece of string so it fits properly on the model, and the cable which goes from the leg into the lower torso is a good example of this; ideally you’re aiming for a smooth, natural-looking curvature of the cable. That piece has a gentle-ish curve that can be done with fingers, but for some pieces you’ll need a much sharper curve for which you’ll probably need to use a pair of needle-nose pliers and a little practice to get the feel of how to bend it to the right shape.
The cables that go around to either side of the torso are a good example of this; eventually they’ll be covered by the shoulderpads so they need to sit tight to the side so they don’t stick out too much. Be careful when bending string with pliers as the windings can sometimes stretch apart, which spoils the look of the cabling; try to keep the ‘wrap’ of the windings around the guitar string’s core as even as you can. Use a small dab of glue on the end of the string as each end is inserted to keep it firmly anchored in place.Possibly the single fiddliest part of this whole conversion was getting the head attached with the cable that runs from the helmet into the upper chest at the right angle; several tries were needed, and swearing occurred, before the helmet was mounted firmly with the cable going smoothly from it into the chest.

Phew. Tricky, but now it felt like it was starting to get the feel I was after. You can also see now how the spacer at the waist joint gives a nice overall proportion to the figure; it’s not strict true-scale, but looks the part nonetheless.And now it’s green stuff time. I seriously debated using one big lump of green stuff to make the rounded torso, but given the various bits of cabling going into it at various spots the only way
I found that worked to get the desired bulbous look was to use several smaller bits and smooth them together; this made it a lot easier to leave gaps for the cabling to pass through into the body. The idea was always to give the finished model as much depth as possible, so the detail seemed to go right into the body and not just sit on the surface.
Where two different pieces of green stuff needed to blend smoothly, I used a wetted thumb to get a seamless transition. In some cases you still get a very tiny line, but for Nurgle armour this doesn’t look out of place at all; it almost looks like marbling.

Note the profile shot; as I was building up the layers of green stuff I kept checking the overall shape of the torso from all angles to make sure I was keeping the curve smooth and even. The gaps where the cabling passes into the torso don’t all have to look the same; I chose to have a large gaping cavity where the cabling from the leg enters the torso, with cracks across the armour’s surface spreading out from this. By contrast the cabling at each shoulder and from the head have quite smooth holes. I also left a jagged hole in the lower left of the belly for that authentic Nurgle look, and added two kneepads of green stuff to match the old-school Plague Marine’s detail. Following on from this, once the front had cured hard I added green stuff texturing all round the back of the model, so the bloated belly would blend in both in terms of dimensions and detailing with the overall profile of the model.
There’s a deep recessed gap inside the smooth edge of the belly, which is again intended to give the impression of depth to the model. The rest of the green stuff work on this part of the model’s back is made up of a stretched-tissue type of texture; remember that much of what goes here will be at least slightly obscured by the backpack, so keep it flat enough to the body for the backpack to sit correctly.

Also, from this angle you can see the bits of cabling sticking round the sides of the torso from the chest and the helmet; next we’ll deal with those and attaching the arms.I used a file to smooth down the edges of the cabling that were sticking out, then put a 1mm spacer in at each arm joint so there was an overall flat surface for the arms to mount onto.

The choice of weapons is of course up to you; I’ve always thought that chainswords feel perfect for Death Guard, very brutal and no-nonsense, and the bolt pistol also works with the close-combat feel. Once the arms were glued on and set, I added more green stuff stretched-tissue around the circumference of the arm joint, some of which stretches over to the backpack mount or joins the tissue reaching up from the lower back.
The more your green stuff work looks homogenous to the model, the better, and one of the best ways to do this is to keep it unified all over the model and where necessary to match any of the model’s original texture and surface detailing. Also at this point I smoothed in the kneepads and, as you can see on the left knee, blended the line of the model’s leg into the kneepad itself so it looks like a part of the model; the last thing you want to see on any miniature is something that screams here is the green-stuffed part because it doesn’t match or blend in with the actual model. Ideally you shouldn’t be able to tell what’s original and what’s conversion once it’s painted up; I actually find that one of my favourite stages with any converted model is after the basic primer or undercoat has been applied, as it’s then that everything is finally the same colour and you can see how well what you’ve added to the model blends in with the rest of it. As a final touch I added a tiny worm (or possibly piece of gut) sticking out of the hole in the lower left of the belly.
Finally, on goes the backpack, and some more green stuff was inserted around and behind this to blend it in with the main body. And, of course, the finishing touch for that authentic ‘old school’ Plague Marine look – a spike on top of the helmet.

I also added some tiny splurges of stretched-tissue green stuff around the boots, and at the elbow joints on the arms. These are just little details but they add to the overall visual unity of the model, making it all look like it belongs together.And here’s the finished result:

It’s quite a lot of work for one troop model, but a full unit of these guys looks pretty nifty lumbering across the battlefield.

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