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  • WAMP Review: Miniature Mentor's Speed Painting with Thomas David

    Thomas David is renowned as a master speed painter capable of painting very beautiful, highly detailed work in only a matter of hours. He was one of the studio painters for Helldorado and is also a professional miniature sculptor. The guys at <a href="https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=48176&c=ib&aff=156913&cl=9063" target="ejejcsingle">Miniature Mentor </a>sought him out and now his speed painting secrets are available in one of their newer tutorials.

    Currently this tutorial, like most of them, is only available via download. I don’t know how long the “DVD Coming Soon” sign has been there, but it seems like it’s been a while. Downloading the video files, formatted as MPG4, is a pain-free process. After paying, <a href="https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=48176&c=ib&aff=156913&cl=9063" target="ejejcsingle">Miniature Mentor </a> emails you the directions and links, and also offers some tips on optimizing your download. Now, the link you’re given says it will expire after 96 hours or a complete download, so be sure you download your files ASAP. If the unthinkable happens and your link dies, or you experience a problem with your download, they do provide a support email address. Also, don’t plan on using your computer too much during the download because it’s going to take a while to download all 6 files which add up to over 5 gigs.Review-SpeedPainting.png

    Because the video files are MPG4 format, you’ll need an appropriate player. <a href="https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=48176&c=ib&aff=156913&cl=9063" target="ejejcsingle">Miniature Mentor </a> provides links to the 2 they recommend right in the product description for every tutorial- you can’t miss it. VLC Player worked the best for me, offering smooth playback and intuitive slider controls that let me skip directly to where I left off. QuickTime was like watching a bad web-cam. Your results will depend on your computer, so I highly recommend installing and testing both players to see which one works best for you.

    The files are an average of 40 minutes long for a total tutorial length of 3+ hours. The editing between the different parts is a little rough because they don’t always stop at the best place. Where they have to cut off each section may be to limit the size of each file, which I can understand, but just a little more polish on this editing work would make the transitions smoother.

    The secret to Thomas’ amazing speed painting results is a technique he calls Zenithal Highlighting, and we get to see this technique used on 3 different miniatures. This technique allows you to establish the highlights and shadows of the miniature. He then shows you how he paints over the zenithal highlight layer to achieve a beautiful global lighting effect. During the tutorial the narrator- I’d love to know what this guy’s name is so I’m not always calling him “the narrator,” like he’s some shadowy X-Files character- explains the difference between standard Zenithal lighting and Zenithal lighting with global fill lights, and how this results in a much richer and more realistic looking miniature.
    For the first miniature, Thomas uses an airbrush to paint the zenithal highlights, but he also shows on the remaining 2 miniatures how the same effect can be achieved using spray primer. This is great because it opens this technique up to everyone without requiring them to buy and airbrush. However, the airbrush method will give better results. While we’re on the subject of airbrushes, this is not a tutorial on how to use an airbrush. They do offer some basic instructions on a couple of points, but don’t count on learning everything you need to know from here.

    The cinematography is great, as we should expect from <a href="https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=48176&c=ib&aff=156913&cl=9063" target="ejejcsingle">Miniature Mentor </a>, but the picture quality is so good it almost works against them. There are a few different times when “the narrator” (dun dun dunnnnnnn) mentions that the miniature looks better in real life than it does on screen. Part of this is because they are zoomed in so close that you’re able to see things the naked eye would miss which ruins the effect a little. While watching the tutorial I decided that I was going to try this technique on an upcoming commission, but after viewing the video gallery at the end and seeing good resolution shots of Thomas’ work I became very excited about trying this out. If you feel uncertain of the quality you can produce using this technique because of the intense resolution of the tutorial, then watch the gallery at the end and look up some of Thomas’ other work on-line and you’ll quickly be convinced.

    While they do a great job showing the miniature I do wish that we could have seen the tip of the airbrush in relation to the mini. They do tell you how far away they are and show a graphic, but actually seeing it would have been more valuable for me, even if they only showed it for a minute or two.

    In this tutorial they do a much better job of letting us know what paints are being used. A lot of the time they will show stills of each paint that’s being used, but it’s not completely consistent. I don’t know why the choice was made to sometimes not show the paints when they’re mentioned; it just seems inconsistent. A number of the colours used in the airbrush section are from Prince August, which isn’t available in the US, so you may need to find suitable replacement colours if you want to follow Thomas’ exact recipe. Also, some of the materials used aren’t in production anymore, like the inks and glazes from Citadel, so you may need to find suitable replacements for them as well.
    One small gripe I have is, while they do an excellent job of showing all of the mixing for the airbrush, they never show any of the palette work for the glazes and paints used in later sections. They do provide the recipes and paint to water ratios, but actually seeing the colours being mixed and the final consistency would help.

    Thomas uses paints and other mediums in unexpected ways that produce brilliant results. I had never thought of mixing a wash with paint before, but he does it on a number of different occasions, which makes me wonder what other avenues of experimentation lie unexplored. I also love his metallic recipes, which combine some NMM techniques with occasional use of metallic paints.

    The miniatures that are painted are 2 different Space Marines from Games Workshop and a Saracen from Helldorado. The Space Marines are very good comparison pieces as one was airbrushed and a spray can was used on the other to create the zenithal highlighting. We get to see the different steps you have to take to achieve good quality results based on the different highlighting mediums, and it’s pretty obvious that the airbrushed method is faster and produces better final results. The Saracen is the best miniature to watch, as he uses many more colours than the monochromatic marine armour. Watching the completion of this miniature also answered the lingering questions I had of “how do I paint ‘this’ using this technique,” where the ‘this’ was anything from flesh to cloth to weapons, etc. While watching the Saracen you also are introduced to many new painting recipes that achieve some amazing results.

    Another great thing we get to see is Thomas’ sparing use of highlights. I agree with the narrator on this- a lot of people overdo their highlights which ruins all the mid-tones they worked so hard on. Thomas is very precise in his placement of extreme highlights and reflection points. Seeing this showed me that I have this problem and has made me more conscious of controlling my highlights.

    Keeping true to the style of their Complete Guide, this tutorial also features some extra information screens that occasionally pop up. They disappear too quickly, though- I don’t think I actually finished reading most of them before they were gone.

    The quality of instruction is very high in this tutorial; I’ll say it again- something we expect from <a href="https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=48176&c=ib&aff=156913&cl=9063" target="ejejcsingle">Miniature Mentor </a>. We are told how the technique is done and the “why” behind it: this is what makes for a great tutorial. “The narrator” (Mwa-ha-ha) does most of the talking. I don’t know if Thomas is camera-shy or really that stoic, but he doesn’t say much. The narrator does a very good job of engaging Thomas and getting him to explain the techniques and he expounds on them when the brilliant artist is a tad reticent. He does take it a little far, though. There are a few occasions where he seems to chatter just to fill the silence.

    One final nitpick- if possible they probably should have re-dubbed the two sections of audio where we can hear a jet fly over. It’s not an overpowering sound, and it’s not very distracting, but not hearing the jet would be best.

    The Breakdown:

    Product: 9.5 / 10
    * Ordering is a snap through PayPal and the download instructions email is provided very quickly
    * File host is easy to navigate and download from
    * Clear, succinct download instructions and providing support contact email is a nice touch

    Content: 9.2 / 10
    * Instructions are clearly given in great detail, but the narrator rambles a little
    * We are told the “why” along with the “how”
    * Palette work not shown for the regular painting steps
    * Every paint used is mentioned by name
    * Zenithal Highlighting provides a solution for anyone who has trouble determining placement of light and shadow
    * Teaches how to maximize the effectiveness of highlights and shadows without making them overpowering

    Value: 9.5 / 10
    * $25 is a reasonable price for such a high quality tutorial
    * The time you can save by using the zenithal highlighting technique is invaluable

    Overall: 9.4 / 10
    Army and commission painters will be interested in this tutorial because it provides a way to paint miniatures to a very high standard in less time, but I think everyone, even expert painters, can learn a lot from this tutorial. The zenithal highlighting technique is a solution to anyone who struggles with finding where to place their highlights and shadows. Very high quality miniatures can be produced quickly using other techniques Thomas shows. If you have trouble seeing the high quality results that are possible while watching the tutorial, then be sure to watch the gallery presentation at the end- you will be convinced!

    A lot of people have been wondering what the next big “thing” will be in the painting world. Years ago it was black-lining, then came NMM. I really believe this technique is going to show up more and more until it becomes the next big thing everyone’s discussing on the forums.

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    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Noddwyr's Avatar
      Noddwyr -
      Nice one. Always wondered about the miniature mentor vids. Thanks.
    1. three little pigs's Avatar
      three little pigs -
      Nice detailed and relevant review. I have just ordered a painting vid (I need all the help I can get) so MM will have to wait a while longer for my 'hard earned', however on the basis of this review their likely to get their share soon enough.

      thanks cregan
    1. Vern's Avatar
      Vern -
      Yes, I pretty much enjoyed all of this MM (although he is a talented git though )
    1. Ulfgrimr's Avatar
      Ulfgrimr -
      Great review CT of a good product, many thanks.
    1. warhammergrimace's Avatar
      warhammergrimace -
      I tried this technique the other week and its great for getting really good looking table top minis, VERY FAST.
    1. Flashmanfe's Avatar
      Flashmanfe -
      I have been a suscriber to MM almost from the start and find being able to see the brush strokes and the paint drying in the video almost invaluable. Great camera work. I also take issue with not showing the mixing and blending of the paints, although MM states these are advanced techniques, it would be nice to see a more detailed description of the process. However, I always look forward to the next release from MM. Hope my 2 cents helps.
    1. vegascat's Avatar
      vegascat -
      I didn't like this MM tutorial as much as others I've seen as I was quickly dissappointed when *ta-da* he "speed paints" with an airbrush. Okay, I'm not saying its not "real" painting because the miniature looks great and its clearly minature painting, but I'd probably have waited to get this video until later if I'd know beforehand. I expected that the speed painting would be more brush based and perhaps geared towards getting an good to good-great looking army painted quickly and on the table.
    1. Cregan Tur's Avatar
      Cregan Tur -
      While I can understand how you feel, the airbrush was only used for the creation of a Zenithal Highlight layer- which can also be created (but not as cleanly) with a can of primer. All of the color work was brushed on.