It's my nephews birthday coming up soon, and he's a massive fan of Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Well, not all of it. Not much of it really, except the opening credits where baby Groot is dancing around. He's 5 (almost), so it's understandable he wouldn't be too nostalgic about seeing Kurt Russel and Sly Stallone in a film again, plus the plot might be a wee bit advanced for him.
(This is the obligatory backstory part of the blog. If you want to scroll down to the relevant bits, go right ahead)
I recently got back into figure painting after a friend of mine introduced me to a new gaming group that focused on WW2 history. The introduction session consisted of a 10 hour tabletop battle with 1:72 scale troops using a rulebook from 1973. I was hooked, and of course now I had to build my own army for the next meet. So out came the small paint brushes (and a trip to the hardware store for a magnifying glass), and I began to relearn my figure painting skills. With the improvements in my painting after working for Wingnut Wings, I reckon I'm not too shabby. I won't be winning a Golden Demon anytime soon, but I've come a long way from the kid who tried painting chainmail by dotting in every single link...
The relevant bits
First up, I had to print the model. It came with a low-res and high-res version of the Groot I wanted to print, and after looking at both of them in Slic3r I honestly couldn't see much difference on the screen. Slicing times, however, were huge for the hi-res version, so I went with the low resolution one.
Slic3r settings were 0.2mm layer height, 3 perimeters for the vertical and bottom layers, 4 perimeters for the top layers. 15% triangular infill and a 5mm brim. The model of the head comes with and without a brim - I chose the brim version.
No supports were needed, print speed was ~55mm/sec for perimeters, and I used eSun grey PLA+. Print times worked out being ~8 hours for the body and ~4 hours for the head.
The print didn't need too much cleanup, although the brim around the hands was a bit fiddly to get off.
I started out with a coat of acrylic primer. Automotive primer is fine for this - it tends to be a bit thicker than modelling stuff so it fills in the ridges a bit better. After giving it a light sand I gave it another hit of primer and let it dry for a few hours.
Next step was the base coat. I use Tamiya acrylic paints for most of my models. They're consistent with colours, and easy enough to convert for an equivalent with other brands. So if you use Humbrol/Citadel/Vallejo etc. paints, check this site out for finding your colour match.
Anyway, base coat. Tamiya XF52 Flat Earth. Applied with my old second hand Spray-works airbrush. It's a basic bit of kit, but it does everything I need it to do. It's pretty much all you need for coverage over a large area - like a base coat. I mix my paints at a 60-40 mix of paint and thinners. You want it to have the consistency of milk running down the side of a glass. If you don't have an airbrush, make sure you water down your paint and give it a few really thin coats.
If you're striving for movie accuracy (and I wasn't) feel free to mix your own base colour. This is a guide, not a bible.
I let that dry for a bit, then went over it again to fill in all the bits I missed the first time. The model was still in two parts at this point. The body was impaled on a bit of dowel, and the head was tied to a length of wire so I could get complete coverage with the brush. Once the base coat is dry you can fit the head for the next part. No need to glue it yet, that happens later.
You can see the ridges are still fairly visible on the model, but I reckon it fits in nicely with the sculpt.
Next step is the bit that can make even an average painter look like a pro - the wash. A lot of modellers spend ages with pre-shading under their top coat to replicate fading and weathering. It can be very effective, but if you're in a hurry I've found a liberal dose of wash gives a pretty good result. My washes are made from oil paint and turpentine. For this one I used a bit of Abteilung 502 Dark Rust mixed with enough turpentine to form a watery wash. The thinner the better, as it really flows into the nooks and crannies. So, I coated the entire model in wash, which pretty much covered the base colour. Don't panic though, most of it comes off in the next step.
Once the wash has dried/evaporated, get some paper towel and soak a bit in more turpentine. Start rubbing the towel accross the ridges and higher points of the model to remove the wash from the upper areas. Use directional strokes to follow the grain of the sculpt, much like you would sanding something. The end result should be most of the wash removed except in the crevices. We're trying for the shadow effect you'd get in the creases of clothing. Or tree bark I suppose.
Now for the highlights. Actually, the model is just about done. It's a walking tree after all, not a complex multi coloured mech.
Anyway, highlights. I used Tamiya XF57 Buff for the wood sections. Drybrushing is your friend here. For the noobs, drybrushing is when you dip a paintbrush and wipe almost all of the paint out of the bristles. You should then be able to lightly brush it over your model and the paint will slowly appear on the raised surfaces. Don't use a good brush for this, it tends to destroy them pretty quick.
So, yes, drybrush the raised wood and leave the wash in the crevices. Highlight the eyebrows, bottom of his feet and tips of the bark on his head, plus anywhere else you think he'd wear away his surface bark while walking (or dancing) around.
For the Xylem (or possibly Phloem - I'm not totally up on Groot anatomy. Basically the veiny looking bits on his arms and chest) I used a light drybrushing of Tamiya X15 Light Green.
You may notice that this isn't an XF paint like the rest of the ones I've used. This is because it's an enamel paint that comes in a smaller 10mL bottle. And since when I bought it I was only thinking that it was the perfect colour for my Grimdark helmet lense I didn't realise until I started to mix it that normal acrylic thinners didn't work.
Enamel and acrylic paints generally don't tend to play nicely together. That said, I found that drybrushing with enamel seems to work pretty well. It takes a little bit longer to build the colour up, but it is quite striking when it does. I also used the light green over the top of his head to simulate moss, which again came out brilliantly. I don't think Tamiya have an acrylic in the same shade as their enamel for the light green, so this paint choice is up to your discretion.
The second last thing you'll do is paint his eyes. You can go all fancy and try to give him an iris and pupil (dark brown for the iris as near as I can tell), or you can paint the whole lot black (Tamiya XF1 Flat Black) like I did. The last thing you can do is glue the head into the body. PVA glue is fine for this, the base of the head had a bit of clearance in the body so it won't squeeze out and ruin the finish.
Right! That's about it! Let the paint set overnight - enamel takes a while to dry even with the light coats I used. The next day all you need to do to finish him off is give him a spray of clear coat or varnish. This will bring all the colours together and even out the surface finish, plus it gives a measure of protection from chipping. Like I've said, this is a present for my young nephew, so I gave mine a few coats. I used a spray can of alleged matt finishing spray I picked up at the hardware store.
I say alleged, because it has way more of a gloss to it than the Testors dullcoat I use for my regular models. But it was the right price, and as I said above, it's more for protection than surface finish.
I have to say, I was impressed with how this came out. A good figure sculpt can make even a beginner painter look good, and this particular model was brilliant to work with.
OK, that's it! Baby Groot is good to go - enjoy!
Some of you might recogize the backdrop for Groot from somewhere else. Hey, I like my garden, and if it looks good - use it!
(Oh yeah - I also picked out a card for the little dude with a big Spider Man sticker on it, because Spider Man is his other favourite. Happy birthday buddy!)