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Beginner's Guide To Free Hand Writing

Judge Dreadnought here to educate you.

It should be a Tabletop Engineer post today, explaining how he made his AdMech Techguard. However, I'm stealing back my blog for the day to do a how to guide on Free Hand Writing.

I saw this picture on the Twitters made by the amazingly helpful Cadian Shock:

He was practicing free hand painting on the underside of one of his tanks. So, in an effort to get noticed by a more long term and bigger blogger (a shameless act of self-promotion), I thought I'd bump this guide up earlier in the schedule.

You might remember the above Judge Dreadnought from previous posts. It has the motto of my home made chapter on it, the nameless and numberless Space Marine Field Police (SMFP)! "Nos es Legis" ("We are the law" in low Gothic) is their first motto, but I may change it out for a more manly sounding "Nos es Lex".

Pigeon Latin for Imperial fluff is a topic in itself, but as I was making the writing I took a step by step picture, which will do double duty as a project log and how-to guide.

Step 1: Research

What does Imperial Script look like anyway? I dove into some old pictures and settled on mimicking the Dark Angel banner font. "Ex tenebrae lux (From darkness, light)" has been one of my favourite chapter mottos, and I'll be stealing it for my SMFP later on. "Ex tenebrae lex (From darkness, law)" in case you were wondering.

Step 2: Design
Epic advice on passing high school Physics re-purposed for toy soldiers.
Idle doodling on an old worksheet for how the writing should look. I copied the writing as best I could, but I'm not an artist. As long as the vague shape is similar, the model won't look out of place along side anything with a proper transfer.

Step 3: Practice

I have some ceramic tiles we use for lab work, which I also use as a palette. The paint sits really well on it, and tends to flow smoothly around it. It makes for a good practice surface, which gives us the following result.

Smooth white tile begs to be marked!

Just as a quick aside, this is the consistency of the paint I use for lettering.

Painty puddles

You can see it's quite watery, and that's to ensure ease of writing. People tend to write at a faster speed than they paint, and when you write slower than your natural speed you actually lose a little control. Very fluid paint ensures that you can at least get close to your natural writing speed.

Step 4: Dark colour

It's obvious from the above photo that we've started with a dark greys, rather than jumping straight into white letters. There are two reasons for this. Going through various greys to a final white is just how you put white paint onto a black undercoat.

The second reason is for the very likely event we screw up the lettering on the first pass. Recovering a dark grey takes less paint than a brighter white, which means less detail is lost on the model. For broad flat areas, like those we tend to put lettering on, this ensures we don't get odd bumps of thick paint appearing on the flat surfaces.

In the below photo you can see the first layer of Eshin Grey done, and a further layer of Dawnstone on top.

Judge Dreadnought judges the painter whilst he works
Having that bit of fuzzy grey around the writing can be cleaned up if you like, but I like the glowing effect it produces.

Step 5: Layering and Highlight

This is a stylistic choice for me. I treat free hand writing as I would any object on the model, and so give it a layer and a highlight. This helps the writing to stand out a bit, rather than leaving it flat looking.

Pick your style though, as we're going for contrast. As the black panel here is quite flat, a highlighted 3-D looking letter sticks out from the rest of the model. If you had a textured surface, I'd imagine flat letters would stick out more. 

For this part I've layered in Ulthuan Grey, and then highlighted with White Scar. You can see the White Scar only goes into the top corners of the letters, creating a nice textured effect.

"We are the law!" - Judge Dreadnought in response to xenos claims of innocence

If all this looks like a lot of effort, it's not really. The whole process is relatively fast, as the paint dries so quickly. This whole thing took me 15 minutes, and I was taking pictures all the way through.

That said, there's probably a faster, or more efficient way of doing this. If you have any, let me know in the comments below, or send me some feedback over Twiter or Facebook.

Until next time!

Thanks for reading.

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