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When is detail too much detail? A discussion re: trends in miniature design


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I've been pondering this for a while, but what prompted this thread is me having to decide whether I was going to buy old or new Chaos Knights. Here are the GW store photos and links for each:

My initial thought was: of course I want the new ones! They're new! They're detailed! They're dynamic! Look at those billowing cloaks! Each one looks like a special character!

...and then I started thinking about actually painting them. And that I know from previous experience that the models are all cut up into strange and bizarre pieces - you can check the sprues on the site to get some idea - with each model cut up in totally different ways from every other model, so there's no ability to alter anything on any of the models without a saw and a degree in sculptural engineering. 

And then I took a step back and started really looking at each of the photos. And I realized: I'm not sure I even actually like the newer ones better, as a unit. Individually, the models are better, there's no real doubt. But when you actually line them up next to each other, I realized I actually like the look of the whole unit of old ones better.They fit together. You can look at them as a unit, and not be distracted by having your eye drawn to all the little details or dramatically different posing on each one. 

Anyway, I don't want to go on any more than this. But it just made me reflect that maybe more detail and more dynamic poses don't actually necessarily make for more aesthetically pleasing units, as opposed to individual models. And then I wondered about other peoples' perspectives. Am I crazy for buying the older chaos knights? Have other people have similar experiences with other models? At what point does some detail become excessive, or is more detail always better? 

 

Edited by yukishiro1
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I've yet to come across any GW models that I felt had too much detail. I have 5k worth of stormcast which would be the closest thing to new chaos knights and they don't feel like too much. 

 

I think however there is definitely a push towards detail, I've not been able to see any new slaanesh mortals up close but they seem a little OTT. It's actually one of the biggest problems I have with a lot of 3d printing sculpts, they just add too much, I watched a video somewhat recently where Vince Venturella was complaining a 3d sculpt he'd painted had too much detail to do properly and  if Vince finds a model a problem I've got no chance. 

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The worst unit for detail I've had the displeasure of painting is Myari's Purifiers from Underworlds. I've been staring at them for weeks trying to come up with an alternate scheme and I keep finding more little details and bits/bobs that frustrate me to no end. Doesn't help that I just don't like the lumineth aesthetic either. 

There is definitely something to be said for model simplicity. It's one of the things I appreciated about warmachine/hordes when I played it for a few years. The larger, flatter spaces were a breath of fresh air coming from 40k and I felt they gave me a lot more room to improve my painting skills instead of just my attention to detail. I think the largest jump in the quality of my paint jobs happened during my time with those games. 

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I think some things translate better than others. Look at the thousand sons codex, for exampleCodex: Thousand Sons | Games Workshop Webstore

All the greebling and little flame designs on the armour trim looks cool in the art, but IMO, it would look horrible being translated to miniature form. You can see this with a lot of other chaos art inn particular, but general IMO some things, particularly very sharp, deep, details don't translate well into miniature form. One good example is hair and fur, where often a simplified design can look more visually pleasing than a very realistic one. Another example is GW vs FW nurgle- OTOH I prefer the GW offerings just because FW designs tend to have too much 'sharp' detailing. Personally, I never worried too much about models being too dynamic, but I find being too 'noisy' is a big turn off

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Posted (edited)

I am sympathetic towards detail on things like Underworlds or Warcry warbands, because they're designed to be played in a game where each one of them is basically an individual character. But it's not a great fit for AOS. I enjoyed painting my first set of Untamed Beasts...my second set has sat there for months now because I'm having trouble finding motivation to paint the exact same details all over again on 9 more models. 

If I was only using 5 Chaos Knights in my army, I might go with the new ones. They're cool as individual models, and I can just about see them working as a single unit. But I need 15 for this army. And the thought of actually painting 15 of those - and knowing that that means painting the exact same model with the exact same hard-to-reach details 3x each because there is zero customization - fills me with enough apathy that I don't think I'd ever get through it. Whereas I can totally see myself painting 15 of the old knights with no real problem, and actually enjoying how the 15 look more, too.

I guess for me it mostly comes down to repeats. I don't mind painting highly detailed models once, but having to do it more than once starts to feel like a huge chore, and I also feel like it starts to look not very good on the table, either. 

Edited by yukishiro1
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I definitely agree that the detail on the newer models has gone too far. I think I've said this recently in another thread, but I've gotten really burnt out on warhammer the last few months. I invested in some really exciting, detailed models, mostly for Warcry bands and Daughters of Khaine. In principle I love them, they look fantastic in the art, and on the boxes.

I'm sure that for a professional painter, or someone trying to do impressive stuff for Golden Demon then they are great. However, I've found them nearly impossible to get finished. I'm not the best painter in the world (partially sighted and with dyspraxia, so that certainly doesn't help). It takes a lot of practice to get things looking the way I want them, and the more fiddly the models are the harder it is. I got stuck in a complete rut trying to paint my models and was genuinely worried that I was losing interest in the hobby as a whole.

Then I needed to paint up some Reaper minis for Stargrave, and just rocketed through them. It was such a breath of fresh air, and I really remembered what it was I enjoyed about all of this in the first place.

So I sat down to compare the models, and its not even that the Reaper ones are less "detailed" per se, rather its a range of factors. They are generally one or two piece figures. That means the poses are sometimes less dynamic (though not always, I am dubious that GW need to cut their models into quite so many strange pieces to achieve their heroic poses...) The models do have a lot of detail, however, its less fiddly (partly due to being in metal) Its less "cluttered" for lack of a better word, and there is an elegance and a simplicity to them which modern warhammer is sorely lacking.

In life as a whole, I'm not overly drawn to minimalism, but when it comes to miniatures there is a lot to be said for it. These figures are at such small scale that something which would look great in real life or in a painting just isn't appropriate. A good mini should almost be a caricature of the subject, capturing the "feel" of the subject in as simple a set of expressive elements as possible. Why try to pick out every stitch or pattern when something more expressive would get the job done, be easier for the painter to paint, and look better at a distance?

Less is more, and its time Games Workshop remembered that.

I realise I feel quite strongly about this, because in a sense its an accessibility issue. When you pick up a box of models you implicitly want them to look as good as they do on the box. But if that isn't actually possible for a non-expert painter to achieve then that's a major problem. How many people new to the hobby will be put off when their models prove to be beyond their skill, and the only help which online tutorials can provide is inane memes about thinning your paint?

I'm going to be painting older models and ones from other companies who are less cluttered for the time being. I hope that I'll one day be able to come back and finish my DoK army, but for the time being I'm not in a rush to try.

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I'm actually struggling painting the lumineth realm lords.  There is so much trim, hard to reach detail, and parts that should be glued on after painted - it really sucks the fun out of painting when you have a bunch to finish. Don't get me wrong, the end product looks great, but at the end of the day the detail is sort of irrelevant when put on the board.

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LRL are absolutely not fun to paint, to the point where I sold them, which is a shame as I wanted some new "high elves". There definitely needs to be a balance and more so having less details for your normal battleline units, that ultimately will be in a blob and/or ranks, and will be dying in droves so won't even notice all the details. 

Edited by Tervindar
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I found the relatively statuesque pose of the older plastic Chaos Warriors really has a menace about them that I really like. I added a little more dynamism through careful posing of the arms, head and shields and I think they look ace. I decided against buying the new ones as I was just so pleased with the originals.

One disadvantage the older ones have is they require some decent amount of flash and mould line removal. I may still get the Start Collecting set though for a mix of old and new warriors and knights.

Edited by Greyshadow
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while the new slaves look dynamic I can’t get over the fact some of the warriors look like they are hitting the floor or tripping over. I ended up buying two boxes of old chaos warriors and knights as there is something about the uniform look I very much like. Which is ironic for a chaos army.

I think there is an argument for less is more over some of the more modern fussy models. If one examines a painting then very often the detail is pared back to give an impression. And I feel that is true for minis. I recall over lock down painting some GW minis and just stopping as they were not fun. I switched to painting Star Wars rebellion and  it was a blast. Tiny tiny models but enough detail to allow the eye to get a hook on what it was looking at. Amazing fun painting x wings or at ats while listening to John Williams 

 

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Wow, this is about the strangest discussion on these forums, but definitely an interesting one! As some of you might have noticed I got into AOS because of the Lumineth Realm-Lords and their absolutely stunningly beautiful product line. I do get that they are an incredible amount of work and I'd say that I need a week's work for doing a single Dawnrider, provided I have the free time and motivation to do it. I got the launch box in March and I'm still not done (albeit I got distracted by the Archmage). And I don't even do the pupils of the eyes.

But I love the fact that the models are as detailed and beautiful as they are because, while I might not be fully able to do them complete justice, they always offer the opportunity to challenge myself a little more and become a little better. I don't really believe that there is substantial demand for models that look less cool and I sincerely hope that GW won't ever settle for less. Accessability is an issue, of course, but there's always the option to find someone that paints your models for you.

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I don’t think anyone is thinking the models should be less beautiful. I think the Dawnriders are just astonishingly good miniatures for example and up there with the very best models in the Lunineth range. One of the things I love is just how uncluttered and clean they look. Sometimes less is more.

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Related to this, I hate bits that are clearly going to break.

This is a problem of many new plastic sculpts, as GW loads them with small pointy bits and they just break too easily.

  • I am finishing up some 40k scions and the antenas are already broken for half of them.
  • My gitz battleforce box came (unopened) with several pointy bits broken.
  • 40k custodes spears have, at least, 3 parts that will most certainly break at some point (trigger guard, spike at back, eagle bit back).
  • Take Trajan valoris, it could do without the plume by the sigil shield, the weird front armor hanging bit, the leg covers.

These is connected with the over design as I feel that very frequently those hanging bits, coils, and whatnots contribute a fair bit to the busy feeling of miniatures.

I end up cutting and not adding bits to my minis in an effort to simplify them. I understand this is very personal, though.

 

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I'm on the other side of the argument, there are so many flat uninterseting surfaces on the backs of Ironjaws that i'm thinking about slapping some custom chainmail there or something. Old Black Orcs/ardboyz look fine to me. GW seems to cathing up on this as well with new WH+ Megaboss.

 

 

IJbacks.png

Edited by dnusha
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I want more flat surfaces lol. Sometimes I just want to paint a nice gradient with some shadows. Having a lot of detail just obscures the overall shape. 
 

I don’t have a problem with this in AoS since my army (DoK) doesn’t really seem to suffer from this IMO, but it’s definitely a trend in Horus Heresy, to the point where I am, like @yukishiro1 picking up old kits instead, or, in my case, kitbashing so I cannspread all the fiddly bits across more models and reduce the density of clutter. I play Night Lords and while I appreciate some spikes and chains as much as the next chaos dude, I don’t need my terminators dripping in doodads.

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31 minutes ago, Greybeard86 said:

Related to this, I hate bits that are clearly going to break.

This is a problem of many new plastic sculpts, as GW loads them with small pointy bits and they just break too easily.

100%, I put together a Unmade warband for Warcry recently that was an exercise in frustration, so many pieces breaking on the sprue or already broken in the box. Great looking miniatures in the end, but I'm not sure how long they'd survive used as playing pieces.

As for details on the miniatures, necron warriors or nighthaunts are a breeze to paint and look great, whereas something like Nurgle mortals need a lot more attention before I would be happy with them.

I don't really have much time for painting, so if choosing an army to get into, amount of models needed and the level of details on the miniatures definitely plays a part.

5 minutes ago, Ggom said:

I want more flat surfaces lol. Sometimes I just want to paint a nice gradient with some shadows. Having a lot of detail just obscures the overall shape. 

I agree! I preferred the simpler look of the ironjawz brutes, a nice blend on the back muscles would look great. You can add so many effects to plainer surfaces; chipping, texturing, weathering, scarring on skin, glazing in different colours to add interest that would otherwise be under pouches, bandoliers, bottles, etc. 

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3 hours ago, MarkK said:

As for details on the miniatures, necron warriors or nighthaunts are a breeze to paint and look great, whereas something like Nurgle mortals need a lot more attention before I would be happy with them.

Great point as I've painted both of these recently. I picked up some necrons last year and had a great time painting them. Simple models but striking when painted and lined up together. I continued the collection and have a decent sized force now despite never really playing 40k simply because they were so easy to work with. Death guard on the other hand were bought to play kill team. I've loved painting them as well and they're amazing models, but the poxwalkers in particular convinced me I never want to buy a full death guard army. So much detail and complexity in what are supposed to be simple cheap chaff. Hours to paint the equivalent of a goblin expanded out to 60 or so for a typical army... No thanks man. They're beautiful but I'm good with just one box. 

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10 hours ago, Maogrim said:

But I love the fact that the models are as detailed and beautiful as they are because, while I might not be fully able to do them complete justice, they always offer the opportunity to challenge myself a little more and become a little better. I don't really believe that there is substantial demand for models that look less cool and I sincerely hope that GW won't ever settle for less. Accessability is an issue, of course, but there's always the option to find someone that paints your models for you.

I guess I don't personally feel like packing in tons of detail really does give much opportunity for improvement; if anything, it often reduces it. Painting a tiny pouch takes technical brush control, but that's about it. Precisely because it's so tiny and textured, there really isn't much to actually do with it. If you have the brush control, it just becomes a case of spending a bunch of time doing it. You can't really glaze a tiny pouch. You can do basic edge highlighting, but you really can't layer it, because it's too tiny; even if you could, there isn't enough volume to make it actually noticeable to the viewer. You certainly can't blend.  

In contrast, comparatively large, uncluttered surfaces - particularly contoured ones - actually present some of the greatest opportunities for improvement. That's where you learn to glaze, to blend, to layer, to create reflections. A pouch painted by a master painter and a pouch painted by me are going to look pretty much indistinguishable. It's those big areas of armor plates or cloth that are going to show me up as the mid-level painter I am. 

The Dawnriders are actually the best thing in Lumineth IMO. There actually are a lot of smooth surfaces on them, and there are comparatively few tiny details stuck on there for the sake of sticking them on. Compare them to the chaos knights I linked, they're dramatically different. The only thing I dislike about the Dawnriders is the way the horses are posed on one foot in ways that don't match how a horse actually moves (one of the five is basically correct for a gallop, one isn't far off, while three are significantly off) - but that's a minor quibble, and it's true of GW's other horse models too, it's just more dramatic in this case since they're modeled at a gallop rather than the usual canter GW typically uses. 

Edited by yukishiro1
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Detailed design makes me happy! It's so impressive that the sculptors are able to do the things that they can! 

When I got the new SC slaves to Darkness I was blown away by the dynamic poses on those knights, I eagerly clipped them off and glued them up. It was only starting to paint that I realized I had no hope of getting to all those details with a brush. I was pretty disheartened. I sort of made an attempt with contrast but I couldn't do it all justice. 

That's my only issue with the details and dynamism. I usually can't reach them without sub assembly, which isn't my favourite way to hobby. I spent years in the habit of getting a box, clipping, glueing , then painting, and the results were great, very few hard to reach areas. But as the quality of models has gone up, I'm forced into half building and painting. It's jarring, but I'm learning. 

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I posted this elsewhere on here but it's germane to the discussion so I hope you don't mind me repeating it here:

My increasing feel with GW is that their designers do not trust or place enough interest in "line" or silhouette. Yes art is subjective, but undeniably most of the most celebrated, popular or attractive figures in any form of art have a defined and fairly simple shape.

GW do an excellent job of line and dynamism but then they as often as not demolish it under gubbinz and bits. I sometimes think all miniature design at GW requires authorisation by someone with a fetish for bags, purses, pouche and pointless jewellery. I painted this Rockgut the other week which is a gorgeous homage to the original Stone Troll, one of the first minis I ever bought.

image.png.89ac2e89c12f3e6645e148773b540e2b.png

Except for that f**king shoulder rock. Yes, I know why its there, there's narrative or whatever. But part of storytelling is economy. Not everything that can be there, should be. GW models are often three paragraphs when a sentence is better. Compare that with this from Knightmare miniatures:

image.png.5c4b9ed07db8170fc74ebb7922c2c185.png

They're both lovely models, it's not a competition. But the above mini demonstrates that the shoulder rock not only adds nothing, but actually subtracts from the sculpt. It draws attention away from the face and pose and anatomy , which are excellent. They are excellent on the Knightmare Troll too, the difference is, the Knightmare sculpt expresses itself without any impediment. There is nothing eise there. I would say the latter Troll is like a sort of Platonic Form. As a concept, it is more self confident, and clear, and as a consequence, despite its proportions and comparative absence of detail, closer to seeming "real".

The Dominion set of Kruelboyz are some of the best GW sculpts in an age precisley because they're uncluttered. They have excellent proportions, a central aesthetic and silhouette- shield, ropey muscles, spikes- and everything is in service to that. Their poses- hunched, bent- add to the overall feel of menace undercut by a faint pathos. I wanted to paint them as a project precisley because they had this aesthetically pleasing, chaotic but coherent look. That to me is sort of the sweet spot for how an army of any faction should look: uniform without being robotic, diverse without being distracting:

image.png.18da765b1475e3e1877adcf31cd90366.png

Which is why I really dislike the little grots and the big monsters and the Underworlds warband- they make sense thematically for the KB, but artistically they're obnoxious and cluttered in opposition to the tensile menace of the gutrippaz and hobgrots. They might seem to look OK next to each other because of the narrative we've been given as to why that is, but they're in fundamental disagreement in respect to how they actually compliment each other visually . The Rockguts on the otherhand, or Rippaz Snarlfangs, look perfectly at home with the Dominion Kruleboyz, because they share similar visual notes.

The mirebrute for example is *supposed* to look like it goes with the Kruelboyz, but it misses all the most important elements that actually make them work and looks like a weird pastiche as a result. The Skareshields work in combination with the otherwise stringy, quite pathetic form of the Kruelboyz. Blowing one up to the size of a car and sticking it on something with the build of a Sumo Wrestler misses the point entirely. 

Basically- GW design serves lore and narrative first. Which is fine, of course. When those two come together, as with much of the Gloomspite range, it's wonderful and original and timeless. 

Sylvaneth, DOK, Idoneth and Slaanesh  are my personal exemplars of GW producing miniatures which stand on their own but are enhanced by knowledge of their lore. They do elves really well, basically (Slannesh is basically elves on acid). Drukhari, Ad Mech and Genestealer Cult over in 40k.

But elsewhere the bombast of said lore often obscures pure aesthetic in other areas. In which case, a lot of the models feel trapped in their own logic. 

I expect to see this increase fwiw. GW is trying to push its lore further into the cultural mainstream, so the likliehood is that models covered in associated fictional ephemera will be accompanying that.

Edited by Nos
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Chaos Knights are HORRIBLE to paint - they don't have a clear 'path' through the model when painting. But this was also true for the 7th ed ones too - dreadful models and dreadful to paint. The 6th ed ones were clean and beautiful.

Vindictors are some of the best models around becuase of the clean design.

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What I will say is that its possible to paint very detailed sculpts in such a way that enables you to more or less ignore alot of the pointless junk and still end up with a good result. You need to understand how values and contrast work as concepts, but if you know how to use those techniques you can literally give extraneous bits a single coat of contrast or whatever and not have it effect the overall job. Obviously I'd rather not have to paint pointless things *at all*, but it dosent need to be a cause for paralysis.

I didn't even know what these bits on the back of Rippa were (quiver and random fur) til I got half way through filling them in with paint. Those details are *right in the centre* of the sculpt, first place your eye goes to. They're pointless and they disrupt the otherwise excellent flow of the model. So I knew that I should just paint them a few complimentary shades of Brown, so they would be in keeping with the tone of the rest of the model but also hopefully muted enough to encourage attention towards the more important parts. 

There's little teeth and ropes on the shield too. Does it matter they're not picked out? Nope. The orange of the shield is in symmetry and harmony with the leather barding and plume, if the shield was broken up with a painted line across that would probably detract from the overall finish.

That's the stuff that makes a pleasing finish, composition, not painting individual shoelaces. Which again, is why I would advocate that detail is very much secondary to shape and character. I'm confident you could remove all those aforementioned bits without affecting the integrity of the design in any way.

20210824_013452.jpg

Edited by Nos
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Yeah, I get that intellectually, but when I actually go to paint, I have an extremely hard time just ignoring details. I recognize looks fine on other peoples' models, but it stresses me out on mine, to the point where it kinda ruins the painting experience. I wish they just wouldn't put the extraneous junk on there in the first place. 

Many GW kits used to give you the extra bits that you could choose to put on or not as you chose, that was a great compromise. They seem to have stopped doing that though, modern kits have it all molded into the main pieces of the model. 

Edited by yukishiro1
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