Sunday, November 13, 2011

Princess Celestia Repaint

Even though I've done model work over the years, I've never undertaken completely modifying or painting an existing toy/figure before.  Of course, never before has there been a toy that is just so different from what it's supposed to look like that I've felt the need to do so.  If you've ever watched My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, you'll know that Princess Celestia is most definitely NOT pink like this picture to the left.  Apparently, I'm told, the color pink sells girls' toys.  So, instead of making the toy accurate to the cartoon, they chose to make Celestia pink.

I've seen a few different repaints over the last few months, some making the figure look like Luna, some coloring Celestia properly, and after a good long look at my own figure for a month or so, I decided to give her a repaint myself.  Unlike most of those pictures online, I decided to give you something of a step-by-step guide to doing it yourself (if you're so inclined) with very little money, but a whole lot of patience - be warned, it took me over a week to get her looking like the final picture and I've had quite a bit of experience with model painting in the past.

First off - start with a reference drawing.  I like this one especially since she has an extra swoosh of mane around her horn, the little curl around her cheek, and you can see most of her colors pretty well.  Of course, her mane and tail are always changing color slightly, so you have some artistic licence there, and of course in my version she won't have her necklace/collar, so there's something else we won't have to worry about.

We're almost ready to paint!  With my model painting experience I could have done this one of two ways - one, go to the hobby store and buy model paints, and I'm talking about the acrylics that you can by from Games Workshop (Warhammer paint) because that stuff is made for plastic and it holds up really good once you give it a final coat of sealant.  BUT...with the primer running $8 a can, and each little color running about $3 a bottle, it would probably cost around $30 or so.  Of course, going this route would mean a complete repaint, even the eyes and cutie mark, spraying her with a primer coat of white paint would probably be the fastest route, plus model paint dries pretty quick and goes on smooth.

If you're cheap, or if you don't want to go that route, you can do what I did and go with Ceramcoat craft paint.  Mind you, this is very time consuming because you have to do build up quite a few layers in order to cover up the pink.  The picture to the left has about three-four coats of paint built up over the course of a few days.  I used Magnolia White.  Be careful because at this stage the paint can scratch off so use a flat 'wash' brush and be careful to smooth out your strokes so you don't get noticeable brush strokes.  You can use a little bit of water if they get too thick.  I went over the crown about three times as well, but since it's not meant to be white, you can stop with just the 'primer'.

Once Celestia is almost completely white (I needed to do at least one more coat of white on her wings at this point) I started putting the metallic kim gold on her hooves and crown.  The metallic paint I used here was actually a discontinued color a few years ago that I bought on clearance, but I'm sure any metallic gold would do, providing you get it plenty of dry time and make multiple coats.  I believe it took three to four to get the color just right.  Use a liner brush for the details next to the white areas, and a flat wash brush for the smooth large areas.  Don't forget to paint the bottom of her raised leg since it will show, although I did paint most of them, I didn't put on too many layers of paint there since she had to be upside down and it wasn't very ladylike.  ^_^

At this point in the painting I'd finished all of the layers of white, all of the layers of metallic and had painted the small purple jewel on the crown which you can't see here.  I also used a pearl finish to all of the white parts of Celestia's body, wings and horn.

Because I wasn't brave enough to paint her eyes from scratch, I used a fingernail to scratch the paint from her already pre-painted eyes (so yes, she has a derpy look if you look at her directly from the front!) but it was easier to fix up the white around her eye lashes and add a little black here and there to let them stand out a bit more, rather than doing it all from scratch.  If you're talented enough you could just paint around the eyes and not worry about it, but I had debated doing them by hand myself.

At this point you can also start doing the coats of paint for her mane and tail.  I chose four different colors, one I mixed myself.  Aqua, Orchid, Periwinkle and I lightened Ultra Blue with white for the fourth color.  The toy only had three colors to her mane but there's a not-so-obvious fourth color if you really look closely at the cartoon.  In the picture above you'll see I've started on the aquamarine stripes.

Finally Celestia is starting to look like herself!  The striping is the hardest part of painting her, so here's a tip on order of painting.  Before you use any pearl coats or finishes, paint the inside of her tail by her legs and her mane between her wings and up by her cheek on her right side.  These areas are the hardest to get to and since you'll be doing at least three coats on each stripe, you'll need the leeway to cover up your mistakes with white before you do any finishing coats.  Once you've done these inner layers of hair striping, the outside layers will be a breeze.  Choose your striping carefully as you'll want all four colors to be seen on both sides of the figure.

 Now for finishing touches!  Princess Celestia always has sparkly hair so I used a sparkle glaze to finish out her mane, tail, wings and horn.  Probably shouldn't have put it on the wings but it just looks pretty, and I've seen her horn sparkle a few times so I thought it was appropriate.  You also need to paint in the cutie mark at this point unless you used the scratch technique like with her eyes, or you were just careful to paint around it.  If you do paint it from scratch I used a yellow paint dot in the center and then surrounded it with the same gold paint as her hooves and crown.  Of course, she'll still need a cutie mark on the opposite side if you're up to the challenge.  After this photo was taken I put a pearl finish over the cutie marks (you can see a bit of white touch-up paint if you look closely) and it blends quite nicely with the rest of her.

In the closeup of her face I made a bit of a mistake with her eyelashes (covered them in pearl finish and glitter glaze) but otherwize her eyes were left intact through the whole process.  Below are a back view and a view of her left side as well.  I completely repainted both cutie marks to make them more even.  Also I didn't mention the  jewel on the crown was painted with a darker purple to a lighter purple on the front of the jewel with two white 'light glints' since I felt a bit artistically inspired.

I'm pretty happy with how she turned out overall.  For a short time I had regretted starting the process (especially through the coat after coat after coat process with the white) but I think the time and effort paid off.  Looking back at it, I'm pretty sure I would have at least smoothed her mold marks out a bit with a x-acto knife first and primed her with a good model primer just because of how easily the first coats would scratch off with the tip of a fingernail or a sharp brush binding.  I probably would have taped off the eyes and cutie mark and then went to town, then used a better white to do a nice top finish coat and then worked on the rest with craft paint.  But what's done is done, and I think the end project turned out nicely.

Oh...and so you know, she's not for sale.  ^_^;

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Two-Cat House

I find it amusing how cats can look pretty angry at certain angles even if they're purring away and happy as can be.  Mina is pretty much always happy, except for when she doesn't want to go into the carrier to go to the vet, or when she's being picked up when she wants to be running around the house.  I've heard her growl a few times, but overall she's a pretty happy cat.  I wish sometimes that it would come through in her photographs, because she really is pretty sweet.

Having two cats in the house is a lot like having two kids.  They have two distinct personalities and two distinct schedules that they run on.  Mind you, both cats want to play first thing in the morning (maybe some cuddles if I'm lucky) and then food.  Then it doesn't matter what you do, unless they're in the mood to play.  Mina will play all by herself.  It's probably because she was a month older than Olivia and out on her own for at least awhile.  Olivia, on the other hand, spent much of her life in captivity with humans playing with her off and on, so she's pretty spoiled.  Olivia will tear up the couch merely because she wants someone to play with her.  She'll attack the blinds if she's feeling you're not giving her enough attention. The couch is taking the most wear, unfortunately, and I've debated the difference in cost between getting claws removed in comparison to getting a new couch.

The problem with Olivia wanting to play all the time is that she won't play when Mina is around.  In fact, she gets downright angry if Mina comes in after the string when she's been setting up for an attack for the past 20 seconds.  Olive is a huntress.  She will stalk string for minutes before pouncing, will come at it from different angles, hiding in different parts of the living room, until finally the right moment and....  Mina swoops in, gets it instead and Olivia makes a "MRAF" sound and walks out of the room, sitting with her back facing the situation as if to say, "Forget this!"
In the meantime, Mina doesn't care.  I don't think Mina really even pays any attention to Olivia most of the time.  Oh sure, she knows she's there, but she doesn't fall for the grumps and huffs that Olivia puts on.  She'll swoop in wherever to play with one toy or another and then swoop out again in order to find something else new to play with.  But...she'll drop whatever she's doing if someone tries to play with Olivia, wrecking the poor cat's concentration until Olivia finally gets angry and hits her with a well placed paw to the face.

Mina, meanwhile, really doesn't care.  She'll chase Olivia around until both of them are worn out, throwing themselves into little piles in the living room across from one another.  Then Olive goes back to scratch on the couch or the blinds and things start over again.

Squirt bottles don't work against this habit.  We even put deterrent on the couch, put a scratching post right next to where she scratches...she knows she's getting our attention and it doesn't matter if she actually won't play when we try to play with her, she's getting attention.

As I said to begin with, having two cats is like having two kids.  The smaller one always looks up to the larger one for how to act, what to do, things to get into, and the smaller ones tend to be the ones that we forgive faster than their older siblings.  It's just the way it is.  Or maybe it's just how Mina plops up in a lap, purring, looks at me with those big round eyes and says, "Hi, I'm cute, gotta love me!"  And Olivia has always been a princess since the day we brought her home.

I'm just glad they aren't real kids, otherwise I probably would have strangled one by now - you should know better!!  Kids push buttons but they have true intelligence.  Cats have smarts of their own but in a different way altogether.  It's all a matter of training I suppose.