Monday, 27 June 2016

Better Know a Blogger- Part 13: Broken Paintbrush

This week's Better Know a Blogger features Joe B from Broken Paintbrush.

I had seen Broken Paintbrush pop up on the Faeit 212 blogroll from time to time, but had never got round to clicking on the link to see the impressive work going on there. It wasn't until I started getting a heap of traffic from the blog one day that I ventured onto Broken Paintbrush to see what was going on. Turns out, one of my posts was featured in his "Good Reads" section (more on this below). I checked out the other "Good Reads" for that week and had a nosey around the site and began to see what I had been missing out on.
Joe and his family.

 As you may expect from a title such as Broken Paintbrush, Joe's blog very much focuses on the painting aspect of wargaming. His blog features some amazing work and some in depth tutorials for painting a variety of models from different games systems. One of my favourites in on making custom banners for your Space Marine forces using the water transfers (most marine players will have dozens of these lying around doing nothing).

As well as painting tutorials, he has some great other articles such as unboxings of miniatures and a tutorial on photo editing using GIMP (a free online editing tool and not some paint slave that Joe keeps in his basement. Or maybe he has one of them too, I'm not one to judge!).

Another aspect of the blog that comes across brilliantly is his support of the online wargaming community. His "Good Reads" posts highlight several articles from other bloggers that he has come across over the last few months and wants to promote to a wider audience. Similar to Thor's Wargaming Bloggers Showcase, this is a great way to catch up on great blogging content that you may have missed or been completely unaware of. His "Watch This" series also highlights some great hobby videos that are online, generally focusing on tutorials for different painting or modelling techniques.

Here are Joe's answers to my questions:

1. What age did you get into gaming and what started it off?
In middle school, one of my older buddies began to play Warhammer Fantasy and talked a few of us into joining in. I was able to talk my parents into getting the 5th edition starter set with the Brettonians (RIP brave knights) and Lizardmen.
This started me off too- Mike.

We spent many weekends pushing units around on the carpet floor with soda cans and books for the terrain. We eventually switched over to 40k with the launch of 3rd edition and of all the armies, the Iron Warriors caught my eye. Perhaps it was the simple painting tutorial in the 3rd edition codex (yeah, they used to have those in the codex!) that got me hooked, but the 14th Grand Company is still growing in my cabinet from those days.

When college came, I had put the hobby away and even sold many of my original models. It wasn’t until after college that I got back in and started up the blog.

2. What was the first model you ever bought/painted?
It was a 1:48 scale F14 Tomcat. Ok, that is a lie, I had a few other model airplanes before that that I ‘painted’ but the F14 was a project that I did with my dad. He helped teach me to thin the paints and apply multiple, thin layers to get a nice coat.

In our hobby, it was my Iron Warriors mentioned above. Following the codex painting guide, they were simple enough even for a middle schooler. Drybrush Boltgun Metal, paint on the gold trim and add the decals. Boom! I was proud to have a fully painted army of lead monsters.

Over the years, the complexity has grown a bit, but even with the Chosen squad above, it still involves the same basic steps.

3. What is your favourite aspect of gaming?
I think even when I started, painting has been my favorite part. Some of this stems from rarely winning games with my buddy, be it 40k or Golden Eye. Since I rarely won, I found satisfaction in the story and the hobby end.
This is even truer now that I rarely have a chance to game. Instead, I have immersed myself in the online community and enjoyed the painting aspect of the hobby. I enjoy bringing the dead, unformed plastic alive with motion and character.

4. Fondest memory in gaming?
This is a hard one to nail down as I still think about to the days of gaming with my buddies as kids. But one of the coolest games I played in was a huge Apocalypse battle that involved multiple GW stores in the area. Controlling the Macrocannon or missile array, we could drop orbital bombardment on the enemies in their store while fighting out our battle on a huge table. The overall winner was the side with the most points between all the stores. Pretty epic.

5. What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on the figures from the Mansions of Madness game ( Not the best miniatures, but it is a fun game to play with my brothers-in-law. One of the things I have committed Broken Paintbrush to this year is creating more tutorials. So each miniature has become a case study for painting different colors, skin tones, and textures – turned into tutorial posts.

I’ve been distracting myself lately with painting up my first Inq28 figure to test out some new paints and broke down and bought the new Megaboss to lead my Boyz.

6. When you are not conquering the table top, what do you do?
As a career, I’m an embedded engineer writing firmware and hacking hardware – currently helping to create new IoT devices. I end up spending most of my day in front of a computer so the time painting comes as a nice relaxation.

Family wise, about the time this post goes live I will be welcoming my second son into the world. Also this week, my wife, Kiyosha, and are celebrating our 9th year of marriage. I’m lucky to have such an understanding lady who orders me to go paint when I’m extra grumpy!

7. What would you say about your blog to someone who has never read it to draw them in?
Broken Paintbrush has gone through a number of iterations over the years. It started as The 14th Grand Company, following my endeavors to build an entire company of Iron Warriors.

Now I still post hobby progress and random thoughts on the hobby but have turned the focus to two things:
1. Tutorials, be it painting, photography, or building
2. Community building through my Good Reads and Watch This posts

I think some of this turnaround started with one of my favorite blogs, From the Warp, shut down when Ron decided to focus on other things in his life. He was a fantastic inspiration with his dedication to giving back to the hobby community and support other hobbyists online. For me, Broken Paintbrush is a way to fill some of that void in my own style.

8. What is your favourite article that you have written?
One of my favorite articles was on painting custom Space Marine banners. I’m proud of this article because I have never thought of myself as a good freehand painter. I’ve learned to paint well enough to make me happy, but freehand had always eluded me.

In this article, I not only took on my most ambitious freehand but brought my readers along for the ride through a tutorial. When I read back through the post, I may come off as being skilled at freehand and decals, when the truth was I was faking it until I made it! Since then, I’ve been much less afraid of trying something new of my models and pushing my bounds a bit more.

When looking at my analytics, my review of the Pegasus Gothic Ruins has ranked in the top since posting. I think this is in part because the kit is so versatile while being fairly inexpensive (especially compared to GW’s kits). I also played around with quick drybrush OSL for the lamps and flames which give a bit more interest.

9. Which rule would you like to see changed or removed entirely?
Considering it’s pushing up on four years since I’ve got a real game in, I couldn’t tell you anymore. I still follow the updates in rules and changes to the meta, but it’s all become a bit distant.

I will come out and admit it; I like the idea of Age of Sigmar from the aspect that it creates a way to have fast, easy and fun games (that's ok Joe, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Officers of the Inquisition will be with you soon to help with your "re-education"- Mike). You don’t have to worry about writing a list that matches the points of your opponent or have endlessly complex rules. While I don’t wish AoS upon the 40k world, there is a bit of a simplification that could do it some good.

10. Which of your armies is your favorite?
My first love will always be the marginalized Iron Warriors. Much of this has become nostalgic for me as their drab silver and gold is not so interesting to paint. I’ve tried to offset them with a tank heavy army of Traitor Guard painted in orange and reds.

Lately, I’ve taken the Waaagh! fever and have been building a small army of crazy orks (that's what happens if you interact with Greggles!- Mike). They intrigue me because they are so chaotic, monstrous, and yet humorous. I can paint a bright blue sheet of metal that has been bolted right onto a Nob’z face and have it look totally normal. It’s so foreign to my structured thinking (engineer, remember?) that I find it very freeing.

When I am looking for that structure, I turn to my Mentor Legion. I started them because the local GW store was running a painting challenge where everyone picked a different chapter from the poster and painted a unit. I decided that the white would be a good challenge while the red and green would be fun to paint while I liked their background. Many times I have regretted this decision when painting the hundredth layer of white because I nicked a bit of the green paint over, but when they are finished, I can’t complain (yeah, I feel your pain. As a mediocre painter, perhaps White Scars as my army was not the best of ideas......-Mike).

11. Secret wargamer or loud and proud?
I used to keep it a close secret, in fact, it was only a few years ago I changed my online presence from my gamer handle (dnyarak) to my real name. I don’t go out of my way to advertise it (and many friends probably still have no idea), but I don’t try to keep it hidden anymore.

For me, the painting, hobby, and online community have become part of who I am and in many ways improved my career and confidence.

12. Any hobby tips or cheats to share?
There are so many to choose from, but I’ll go with: take care of your brush and use the right one for the job. I know that comes as an irony from my blog’s name, but if you take care of your brush, it becomes much easier to paint the details and get the color to go where you need it.
I don’t think you need a Windsor & Newton 7 to be a good painter. I have one and think it is a very nice brush, but I have three other brushes of similar size that get the job done almost as well.
Instead, clean your brush (check out my review of brush soap) after every painting session to keep it from splaying. The dried paint in the top of the bristles will force them apart over time and create the split tips that kill detail work.

On the "choose the right brush side", don’t use a detail brush when a standard brush will do. Most of my painting now revolves around three brushes: a standard (size 1) for most of the layers and basic work, dry brush for the dirty work, and a fat wash brush. Only near the end to I break out the detail or 0 sized brushes. If you go too small, you end up working the brush too hard or needing to make the paint thicker to get the job done.

13. Tournament or Casual?
I played in one big tournament and while I enjoyed the straight two days of gaming with amazing people, it nearly killed me. Instead, I enjoyed pickup games with the guys I got to know at the local GW stores. We built grudge matches and ridiculous stories about how my skinks killed his dragon in a single turn or why my Iron Warriors failed to hit with every shot at a disabled tank right in front of them. It reminds me of the games my buddies and I played when I first got into the hobby and the many adventures we had.

14. Nintendo or Sega?
What did Sega ever have besides that hedgehog guy? Mario, Golden Eye, Mario 64, Super Mario Wii, Zelda, what other game console would you ever need?

15. Xbox or Playstation?
See my answer to Q14… ok, so we do have a 360, but mostly so I could get Skyrim and watch Netflix (my own Xbox seems to find much more use as a TV player than a gaming console too at the moment- Mike).

16. McDonalds or Burger King?
Teriyaki? Or if anyone happens to be from Spokane, Zips drive through kicked McD’s or the King any day.

17. Coke or Pepsi?
Is there a difference? (Don't let Luke here you say that!- Mike) Rather how about a nice brown ale, or lately, I’ve found Cascadian Dark Ale are amazing. Hoppy like an IPA but malty like a porter. Any readers in the Seattle area, contact me and we can grab a pint.

Thanks to Joe for answering my questions. You can find Joe at his blog Broken Paintbrush and on Twitter (@brknpaintbrush). Be sure to check out his blog and follow him for the latest updates on his awesome work.

If you have your own blog and would like to take part in the Better Know a Blogger series, email me at


  1. Damn. I didn't realize you had not played in 4 years, Joe. Is there just nobody in the area? Too bad we're on opposite coasts.

    I didn't realize you write firmware. What sort of hardware are you working on?

    And for those who haven't checked out Joe, be sure you do. He's got a lot of great stuff, and does a great job explaining his process.

    1. Yeah I had to recount how long it's been too. Part of it is moving to different parts of town, and the GW stores closing so early it made it hard to get games in. Once this new kid gets here and things settle down I'm going to try and find some gaming groups nearby!

      I mostly write C for ARM0 micros. We are relaunching our product ( next month so been busy with production stuff lately (like going to Taiwan for the first time)

      Thanks for the plug! It's great to be a part of the great community and make friend with so many people around the world.

    2. Way to make a fellow programmer feel inferior. I'm a PHP programmer...


    3. Well, C does come first in the alphabet :-)
      I actually dabbled in PHP and web development but it wasn't for me. I like to hit things with a hammer if they don't work, and servers are too expensive for that!

    4. haha!

      Our servers are offsite, so no hitting them in my office. Besides, with PHP the failure is always the programmer. You at least can blame the hardware :)

  2. Always nice when these articles pick bloggers I know and chat to, lets you have a little bit a peek in their lives. Congrats on the new arrival Joe, hope all are doing well :)

    1. Thanks Rory! Today is the due date (great timing Mike!) so we are just sitting and waiting :-)

    2. You should get in touch too Rory to take part in Better Know a Blogger!

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Am I really a blogger people would want to know more about though? ;)

    5. Of course! We're all very nosey people!

  3. Thank's for the feature Mike and I'm glad the Good Reads got you a bunch of traffic! Oh, I am glad you added the picture from the 5th Ed box, it instantly brought back memories (I forgot about the paper buildings!).

    I look forward to many more of these BKaB posts!

    1. No problem Joe (one good turn deserves another ;) ). I loved the old 5th edition books, they had the awesome funny cartoon drawings around the rules.

  4. When things settle down, I'll totally take you up on meeting up for a couple of pints. Maybe even a game, too (not necessarily 40K) if we go somewhere like one of the Mox locations that's got both beer and gaming space. Now I've gotta go take a look through your blog. Cheers!

    1. I recently stopped by the Bellevue Mox to check it out. Having a pint and gaming would be fantastic combo! I guess I should plan to spend the time rocking the baby to sleep re-reading the rules then :-)

  5. Been a reader of broken paintbrush for a while now, and the content is excellent. joes tutorials are fantastically written, and actually inspired me to do my own.

    Congrats on the upcoming birth of your second little one. I hope she/he brings you loads of joy :)

    Ps I haven't forgotten about the top hat. Will get it done this week :)

    1. Thanks Naf!
      I've been debating on the best use of the top hat seeing as I have no Eldar to add it to. Thinking an Ork Weird Boy may be fitting :-)