(Yeah, I know, white bases on a white background makes a great pic)
...I would have done these with my airbrush, but the technique I'm planning on using on these pretty much depends on them being primed white - unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a white primer that agrees with my airbrush. Vallejo Model Air primer is gray, and the white Game Color & Reaper primers don't work well through the airbrush. Vallejo is now making an acrylic-urethane white primer sold in bulk bottles, but it doesn't appear to be sold in the U.S. - I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and order some from a UK eBay seller.
Anyways, the technique uses inks:
Privateer Press P3 Brown Ink & Yellow Ink
Here's the first test I did on my Painboy's Grot orderly - this is straight brown ink over white primer:
Ehhh, not what I'm going for - too dark. When I think "deck of a pirate ship", I picture a more "blonde" wood color. I started playing around with adding yellow to the brown ink to lighten things up, and settled on a 50/50 mix of brown & yellow ink:
That's closer to what I'm looking for. The main thing I like about using inks for this is that it also acts as a wash - more ink naturally settles in the crevices between the planks, making them darker. This makes the process much faster - and I've got almost a hundred bases to do, so that's a big plus. The other nice thing is that a little ink goes a looong way.
Once I had the ratio figured out, I mixed up a bottle and labeled it:
Now I'm ready to crank these out:
Working with inks directly on primer can be tricky - as you can see in the picture above, the ink doesn't want to stick like paint would - I'm guessing that this is because the inks are all liquid and don't have any suspended dry pigment in them, so there isn't any "tooth" to help it cling. You basically just have to keep working it in, and it will eventually stain the surface. The other problem is that if you work the ink too much, it gets "frothy" and pools in odd ways - and, by the time you work the pools out, they have already stained one area much darker than the rest. (I guess I'm not being a very good advocate of this method, but trust me, it looks much more natural as wood than the standard "base with dark brown, then paint lighter brown "grain lines" on top").
Here's some of the finished bases:
(Obviously I haven't painted the lip of the bases yet). I did touch up one or two of the bases with a bit of Devlan Mud wash where the ink didn't settle in the cracks as much as I wanted. I did the bases in the above pic in about ten minutes before I went to bed, so the process should be pretty quick...