July 18, 2014 - Arran Slee-Smith

Green Stuff tutorial for beginners: Sculpting a 28mm Star Wars miniature

In this Green stuff tutorial I’m going to explain step by step how to sculpt a 28mm Star Wars miniature and expand on tricks and tips I have learned.

Green Stuff is easily my favourite tool in my Hobby Arsenal. It’s the ultimate in freedom and creativity when it comes to Tabletop Gaming. And while big companies like Games Workshop and Battlefront Miniatures are moving towards Computer aided design, Green Stuff will always have its place. I am far from an expert with Green Stuff but I think I have learned enough to help any noobie. Don’t forget to check out the images, many have been annotated with extra steps and tips. I will be revisiting some areas in later posts with more detailed breakdowns.

Tools

While its down to your own personal preference and requirements as your skills progress. There are some tools that you can’t do without when sculpting green stuff:

  • A sharp hobby knife, this is a must, a dull blade will tear or drag through soft green stuff and ruin your work
  • A sculpting tool, in my case I prefer to use an old hobby knife that I don’t mind ruining for most of my work, but many people recommend clay or wax sculpting tools.
  • Wire for armatures, almost any wire will do, I use flattened out paper clips, though not really ideal I always have a box to hand when the urge takes me to sculpt.
  • Green Stuff (Duh!), Also known as 2 Part Sculpting Epoxy. You can buy this from many retailer including Games Workshop or army painter. However there are many equally good and far cheaper suppliers that sell “Green Stuff” for roughly the same price and you will get alot more. You also have the option of Milliput, which I find is far less forgiving then Green Stuff.
  • A base, this will be your main contact with your miniature, you don’t want to be handeling soft Green Stuff. A decent base is a must, I use old Games workshop slot bases. Smaller miniatures you can also use Golf Tees.
  • Super Glue. Generally you shouldn’t have super glue anywhere near un-cured Green Stuff, once the two combine the Dice Gods themselves couldn’t part the two. But it has its uses.
  • Modelling Files.
  • Pin Vice, this confusingly named tiny drill is a useful tool, especially when working with armatures.
  • A tub of water. Use this to keep your tools wet and the green stuff wont stick to them. This will make sculpting those finer details and acheiving a smooth surface much easier.
  • A shiny(wet) surface to work on. Green stuff likes to stick to everything, its partly why I prefer it over milliput which somestimes has a hard time even holding to itself. It also allows you to use other matrials with green stuff without the need for glue (seriously, green stuff and super glue should be used to build houses!).

The most important tool you need when working with Green Stuff is patience. I usually sculpt a miniature over a period of days, but that is due to being limited by time after work. Even if you have time, its sometimes necessary to walk away and come back an hour later when the Green Stuff has been given enough time to harden. So have a second project on the go or go take a really long coffee break.

 

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Green Stuff tutorial for beginners Step 1: Planning

While I often don’t write or draw my ideas down before I start a sculpt, I usually spend some time visualising exactly what I want to achieve. However when something is complex or you want to record an idea for later (while at work for instance) sketching out your would be miniature is always a good idea so you can go back to it for later reference. While the end result may not look exactly as you planned, whether that’s adapting ideas on the fly, or due to impracticality, having a good idea of the feel of your mini before you start will help allot.

You may also wan’t to decide on a style. While fully realistic miniatures are diffidently awesome, they are much more difficult to sculpt. Beginners may want to lean towards a more cartoony or stylistic approach, where proportions can be exaggerated and you can get away with less detail. It also suites the tabletop quite well due to the fact that you will often be seeing your mini from 3ft away and much of the detail will be lost anyway.

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Image courtesy of Privateer Press http://privateerpress.com/

Perfect example of stylised sculpt. Image courtesy of Privateer Press http://privateerpress.com/

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Green Stuff tutorial for beginners Step 2: Armatures and the basics.

Think of the Armature as the skeleton for your miniature. Its going to define its shape its size and also its pose. Armature wire is best for this, however I use whatever I can get my hads on at the time. Often paper clips or similar. It’s not ideal however it gives you a rigid body to work on and start building up. For 15mm miniatures, depending on the pose, I will usually only use a single strand the height of the mini and use green stuff for limbs. For 28mm miniatures I will use one length for the center mass, running up one leg to the top of the head. A single length attached at the shoulders to create both arms and a final piece for the remaining leg.

Once your happy with the pose you can begin bulking it out. Your not looking to add any detail, but to give your self some mass to work on. I usually just roll sausages around the wire and pinch it until it roughly resembles something human. You don’t need to worry if its rough or even out of shape. You can use a knife or file later on to tidy it up.

Depending on the pose you may want to wait until there is some meat on the centre mass before attaching the shoulders and other limbs. On this mini I took a different approach and started to add detail to the legs and body before adding any mass to the arms. This in hindsight caused me a couple of issues later on but they were easily rectified.

 

Green Stuff tutorial for beginners Step 3: Building up layers.

Currently your sausage man doesn’t look like much, but over this next step your going to start adding layers to build the shape of a human (or alien or whatever). Like before you don’t need to be perfect but this is where you define the final shape of your mini, so a little more thought should be used then the last step.

Add a small sausage of green stuff over the previous layer and use a wet tool to smooth it out. Sculpting the basic shape of muscles. If you haven’t planned your drawing, use the internet to look at images of the human anatomy to give you a rough idea how human muscles are arranged. Following this will help you get all the lumps in the right places. I ignore the hands and feet at this stage.

Once you have a rough muscle structure you need to walk away. Do it. The Green Stuff needs to harden.

Done? Okay now now you can start to skin your mini. This is when you need to start being really thoughtful about your sculpting and remember to keep your tool wet to make smoothing out easier. Using a thinner layer of green stuff you can begin to build up the first layer of detail. It’s entirely down to your preference how much detail you go into here, or if you want to start sculpting cloth and clothes into your miniature. I personally play it on a case by case basis. In the case of my Star Wars miniature, I sculpted the cloth that was bound close to the skin in this step, but areas I knew wouldnt show I didn’t need to take as much care.

Green Stuff tutorial for beginners Step 4: It’s all in the details.

Much like the previous step, this step is all about building layers. You may find it easier to let each area dry as you complete each area. Spending an hour sculpting your face only to squish it with a stray finger can be infuriating. So I usually work in an area, let it cure then move onto the next.

My next step was the face as it would be under a hood and difficult to do later on. First your going to want to fill those soul-less empty eye sockets. I smoosh a small ball into them and then using a pin or end of a blade add dots for pupils and work the upper and lower thirds into eyelids. Then I use a small amount of green stuff to build the nose and brow, don’t forget the eyebrows! Facial hair and lips come next and finally I built a little bit of a hairline. Even though the hair will not be visible it helps to add some detail just in-case its not entirely covered.

Clothing and cloth is one of the more complex things to sculpt. The way cloth folds, bunches and stretches can be frustrating and is hard to make look right. Fortunately this is the age of the internet and there are plenty of guides to help you. One of the best I have found is this drawing guide for Manga (I have the book version). It visually explains quite well the dynamics of cloth and the way it interacts with itself and other objects.

Our miniature is beginning to take on an identity now. Our bearded Jedi now has a face and clothes. His robe falling nicley behind him and one foot off the ground gives him some momentum. The next problem I face is the robe needs to spread out behind him as the air bellows it out. After several attempts attempting this with Green stuff and failing quite badly I took an unorthodox approach. We shall see how well it holds up after being painted but I think its sturdy enough and light weight enough that it wont bend or collapse. A little bit of work to merge it to the rest of the robe and cover the seam and it will look just fine.

Green Stuff tutorial for beginners Step 5: Hands and feet (aka. Damned if I know section).

Hands and feet are my biggest struggle with green stuff (and drawing too). They are so complex and fragile that its very easy to make sausage fingers or tiny stubs that look more like tentacles then fingers. I could do an entire article covering the trails and troubles I have when sculpting hands. Just to make them look vaguely passable so its not an subject I am going to cover in depth here simply because I have no real authority on the subject.

I often work the hands separately from the mini just so I have a little bit of room and have a spare hand to pin and hold the hand in place.

But the basics of it are create a small triangle for the palm with the point towards the wrist then attach 4 strands of green stuff for the fingers at the opposite end. Then attach the thumb to the appropriate side. Lightly score the joints and attempt to fold the fingers into the pose required. For the light saber I wrapped a hand around a straight bit of wire, once it dried I attached it to the arm.

Feet should be simple, however I am never quite happy with the shape. So if anyone has any recommendations for them that would be super.

Green Stuff tutorial for beginners Step 6:  Clean up.

This is the final stage, where you take the time to smooth out any last rough edges using sand paper, files and your hobby knife. Once your done with that your ready for painting!

Check out Part 2: Sith Lord (Lady) 28mm Star Wars Miniature.