(Mr. Pink from the blog Modern Synthesist will be doing some articles here on Faeit 212. This is his first of his tutorial on sculpting. It makes for a great introduction)
Still, no matter how many head-swap bits are retailed, there is going to come a time when you have an awesome idea for a miniature, and there might not be a compatible, ready-made bit. You're going to have to make it yourself. I speak from experience when I say this is a daunting prospect. I am not a Sculptor. I was not professionally trained, and I dropped out of Art after the tenth grade on the belief that I wasn't talented enough to continue. Anything I know about sculpting, I learned by doing, and I learned it trying to make better models. All I can tell you is what I have learned, but it is my hope that through some simple articles, I might be able to impart all the basic knowledge you need to get started at sculpting. After that, it's all up to how much you practice :)
I wasn't sure whether to start this series with Tools or Materials, but I've elected to go with Tools. In this article, I'm going to give examples of the kinds of tools I use along with photos of each one.
Sculpting becomes much easier once you have some proper tools to work with, but that isn't to say that you should head out to your local art shop and buy up every sculpting tool they have on hand. I have been rather disappointed to find that the majority of the tools in my local art shops are for sculpting clay, and they are nowhere near fine enough for the kind of work you want to do when sculpting miniatures.
Here is a look at all the tools that I currently have in my sculpting toolbox:
...however, anyone who shows you that many tools is clearly trying to make up for something. Though I have all of those tools, the reality is that I keep the following tools in a separate pencil case, and they are my go-to tools of choice:
If the Tyranids actually showed up, and we had to flee this planet in a hurry, I could pare that essential set down to the following:
And, we're I forced to evacuate my interstellar refuge ship when it got overrun with genestealers, and I could only take a single tool into my escape pod with me, I would choose this one:
Though these are the tools I rely on, the reality is that you can sculpt with anything. I once heard a story of someone whose favourite sculpting tool was a Howling Banshee power sword. Over the years, Hydra has gifted me several tools that were everyday household items taped to the end of old paintbrushes. For example, he uses two nails, filed down to different levels, in a way very similar to how I use my ball burnishers.
He also fond of making his Tyranids even gribblier by giving them multiple eyes, and one time he brought me an empty pen casing because it's flared-out end was the perfect thing for stamping these eyes. As I result, I now collect the ends of pens and pencils in different diameters for stamping things like eyes.
Another thing to know about sculpting tools is that you should always be on the lookout for your next favourite tool. Upon his most recent visit to Canada, Hydra was preaching the wonders of the silicon/rubber clay shapers. He was so taken with them, and so adamant that I should use them, that when he left the country, he left behind one of his shapers, and it has very quickly become one of my favourite tools.
The soft, smooth end of the tool makes it perfect for sculpting fleshy bits on the Haemonculus Coven Grotesques and Wracks as you can slowly work in indentations without leaving any sharp lines from a metal tool. The shaper is also great for smoothing areas as it is part firm and part pliant, meaning no annoying lines or marks like you sometimes get from metal tools.
So, though we've been over how sculpting tools are all a matter of personal taste, if you wanted my recommendation for a good place to start, I would suggest a cheap (likely Made in China) set of wax carving tools, like the following ones I got for super cheap off eBay:
That set includes all kinds of clones of tools that are sold individually elsewhere, like, for example, the Games Workshop Sculpting Tool:
BELOW - GW TOOL
In fact, I'm not even sure that is a GW sculpting tool. It may be a much cheaper version of the same tool that I procured from a sculpture supply place here in Toronto. The GW tool is a good tool, so if you've already got one, that's great; however, I just wanted to demonstrate that you can get all 12 of those tools online for about the same price as the single GW one. The metal work on them is a little rough, but not in a way that is going to significantly mar your sculpting.
This type of wax carving set will, honestly, do you, but if you have a few more bucks (which is likely as those sets run about $15US max), and you're willing to shell out for three more tools, I'd recommend two different sizes of double-ended ball burnishers (also called embossing tools), and a smaller one of these new-fangled silicon clay shapers. The toolkit would wind up looking a bit like this...
...and it shouldn't run you much more than $30US.
Which, I think, pretty much sums things up as far as tools are concerned. I hope this has been useful, and if there is anything I did not cover in enough detail or something you have questions about, please feel free to ask.
In my next "How to Sculpt" article, I'm planning to focus on the materials: things like epoxies or polymer clays and how to get the most out of them/make them last longer and respond better to your influence.