Tuesday 17 September 2013

Tutorial - Converting Complex Figures

Up until a couple of years ago the extent of converting I did on models was fairly minimal; a weapon swap here and there. Maybe a head swap if it wasn't too difficult. I rarely did anything complex, so there was little in the way of planning involved.

More recently I've been doing a lot more advanced conversions, in some cases involving parts from 5 or 6 different models. With that level of work and commitment to chopping up nice old lead, I've starting implementing a bit of a structured approach to converting my models, illustrated by the image below, which is a walkthrough of the process involved for one of my Gutter Runners for my Skaven Blood Bowl team:

Step 1 - Concept: I'll normally have a fair idea of what I want the finished figure to look like, but I find it helpful to make a visualisation of the concept. Here I've drawn up a collage of images from the GW 1991 catalogue (courtesy of Stuff of Legends). By playing about with different combinations at this stage, I avoid the dreaded scenario of hacking apart a lovely old figure only to find it won't work and leaving you with a pile of useless (and worthless) bits of lead.

Step 2 - Chop: Using the concept as a guide, the source models are carefully dismembered and reassembled in the right pose, with pinning at all the key joins. In the case of the Skaven Gutter Runner above, there's 6 donor models: Skaven Lineman (head); Skaven Thrower (right arm); Skaven Blitzer (torso); Skaven Catcher (left glove); Elf Catcher (legs); Mordheim Skaven Casualty (feet and tail). At this stage the pose needs finalising - you'll notice I changed the head position to alter the feel of the model from the concept, so he now looks like he's fending off a would-be tackler!

Step 3 - Rough Sculpt: Now the pose is sorted, all the damage from the cuts needs repairing, and some elements need sculpting from scratch. I've learnt that sculpting is all about layering and patience - start off with structure and layer up to finished details. At the rough sculpt stage I want to fill in all the gaps and provide areas to sculpt the finished details onto. You can see this best with the left upper arm where I just added bulk to add fur onto.

Step 4 - Detail Sculpt: At this point all the final surface details are worked on; blending joins in armour, sculpting the collar onto the chestpiece and texturing the fur. Hopefully after this, the model will be ready to paint.

Step 5 - Paint: Once the conversion is finished, it can be painted just like any other model, and with any luck people will be blown away by the results!


  1. Fantastic tutorial. I keep meaning to give converting a go!

  2. This is good common sense and it's a very good thing you've wrote that down. I have to say it took me many years to realise all thoses steps were necessary. Saving time by skiipin steps only ends in porr models and sometimes ruined donors.
    Just like using paint straight from the pot is the worst thing to do when painting, sculpting too big or complex parts in one go is the worse in modelling. Not many can sculpt a whole face in one go but most are able to sculpt a rough face, then a nosse, then hair and so on with some practice.
    I can't emphasise enough on pinning correctly which makes conversions last longer and which helps finding the right "pose" by bending the wire until you're perfectly ok.

    You models really show that all these steps are relevant. This tutorial is a must-read for anyone willing to throw himself into conversions and for anyone like me who already did but sometimes forgets to take the time to do things properly.

  3. Cheers guys. It's all been a process of trial and error though - the number of figures I've ruined doesn't bear thinking about!

    Steve - I strongly urge you to give it a go - it's a lot of fun

    I should have added that a razor saw is essential ;)

  4. Dear Axiom
    Thank you for sharing this pages
    I am a big fan of your converted skaven team
    Would it be possible to make some miniatures for me?
    Thanks a lot