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Freehand letter painting tips

Being a renowned glutton for punishment, I recently put myself in the position of having to freehand twelve names onto some Battlefleet Gothic ships. Why did I have so many at once? Because we're in the run-up to the finale of the Scyrian Expanse campaign, and the Imperial Navy's flotilla needed serious reinforcements.

Such blank. Many base.

The first hurdle, of course, was to come up with names for all twelve ships. Even the escorts. They might be puny so far as the game is concerned, but naming them makes it mildly harder for the players to get callous about casualties, and improves immersion.

Bemoaning said lack of names to Curis, he suggested a few, including:

Hepatitus Alpha
Aedidas Traksuet
Aeileen Comon

Feel free to use those gems for your own ships/tanks/three door hatchbacks. Personally I resisted the temptation, and chose... others.

Having picked my names (most of them mercifully short) I got stuck in.

Freehand lettering: tips and tricks

Anyone who reads this blog (or has eyes) knows I'm not a competition painter, so these tips won't take experienced painters by surprise; hopefully they'll be helpful for people of intermediate skill and below.

Side note for beginners: anyone with a steady hand can paint letters given enough practice. Just make sure you have a brush with a decent point, and you know how to use a palette to control the volume and consistency of paint on your brush. There are plenty of videos on youtube explaining how to make a wet palette, and almost any non-porous surface can be pressed into service for a more bog-standard palette (as the long-suffering ice cream tub lid on my paint station will testify).

Thing the first: basecoat the area
As with my freehand painting tips, I suggest you paint letters on an area of flat colour. Painting on an area that has only been basecoated allows you to use the background colour as an eraser, which makes tidying up your text significantly easier than correcting a mistake made on five blended layers of amazingness. In this example, my background colour is... well... black.

Thing the second: pick the mid-point
It might seem reasonable to start painting at the start of the text, but actually, you want to start in the middle and work outwards. This ensures the word is placed where you want it on the miniature. Just count how many letters and spaces there are in the text, and paint the middle letter first. In the case of my example above, the middle character was actually a space, so I marked it with a small line.

If you've got a lot of letters, it might also be a good idea to put down a line of regularly-spaced dots for each letter to make it easier to keep the size of the letters consistent.

Thing the second: make sloppy letters
Seriously, don't be tidy, just mark out where everything is going. Get the shape  and spacing right before you start tightening anything up. Counter-intuitively I find doing things this way to be significantly more efficient than trying to be neat and tidy from the get-go.

Thing the third: tidy up the shape
Use the background colour to erase any mistakes. The great thing about doing this is that it becomes very quick and simple to get right angles and other shapes which can be tough to do precisely with a brush. If you look closely in the third image above, you can see a few drying lines of black paint which had been used to sharpen up the top of the N.

Thing the fourth: embellishment and detailing
This is the stage where I add serifs onto the letters and any other embellishments. You'll be alternating between your font colour and your background colour, blocking in a serif then sharpening it using the background colour.

Once you've finished the letters, you can start highlighting things if appropriate. I didn't use any highlighting, since the text is on a flat surface rather than a cloak or flag or whatever. 

+ + +

Hopefully that's been somewhat useful. Here be the fruits of my labours:

The finished reinforcements

The new cruiser squadron

The flotilla in its entirety

One time, I started extending a tape measure in the same room as Jack, and this
freaked him out so much that as he fled the table, he knocked over a pint of water
inches away from my girlfriend's laptop. Suffice to say, the above moment was
one in which I avoided any sudden movements.