Remember that one time when I printed myself my Guild Wars 2 character in the most pleb way possible?
Well … turns out that our club decided to do a Lovecraft-themed event, which means there’s going to be another mini painting contest, with a Lovecraftian / horror theme. This thematic is one that I highly dislike, but it does highly overlap with “things getting corrupted and turned into monstrosities.” Branded charr from Guild Wars 2 don’t qualify for Lovecraftian/horror, but they fit very well with the “things getting corrupted” bit. Therefore, painting branded charr is not horribly off-topic for the season.
I’m not going to repeat my Blender tutorial this time around — I’ll just explain the rationale behind the design.z
There’s only one problem with branded charr: the model looks like shit (or rather — it looks wholly uninteresting to paint or to look at). Let’s see what else is to see there in the zone.
Turns out, there’s charr sentinels fighting all sorts of branded creatures in the area. Let’s launch our old friend, Intel GPA — and yoink! Maybe the sentinel got rekt by the branded charr he was fighting (even though I’ve got yet to see that happen in game).
With the models in hand, I proceeded to do a special Blender operation that saw me replace the sentinel’s head with that of the branded charr. Sentinel also lost his staff, which was replaced by the branded shield on the other arm.
After I had the basic low-poly model, it was time for the surface subdivision spam to make the model smooth, and shapelab for adding extra details.
But there’s one more thing. As you have probably noticed, branded charr glow with nice slightly purple shade of blue (at least according to the color picker).
Glow effect can be achieved in two ways:
- paint white lines and glow on the mini
… which is the boring one, and:
- stuff the inside of the mini with LEDs.
… which is the route I decided to take. I hollowed the model with the slicer (Blender can’t do it well enough), and cut it into two pieces (because if it was all in one piece, there’s no way in hell I’m getting those LEDs in). I only cut it in two pieces because otherwise, assembling all the pieces together would be trouble and would probably leave me with noticeable seams. This was the wrong choice, but no biggie. It’s the kind of thing that will only affect future me, once I start putting LEDs into the mini.
I added scars on the upper body, legs, arms and horns. I skipped having anything glowy on the shield because of skill issues. I also hollowed out the legs and the base: base was supposed to house dimming circuitry, legs were hollow so I could run wires through them.
As is tradition, 3D printing was outsourced to the guy with the best resin 3D printer in the club: Pivo.
This was a challenging print: not only were walls only 1-2 mm thick (at some places even less), but the complex hollow shape made it highly problematic to support. At the end of the day, 3D printing experts managed to support things in a way that worked for my needs, including no internal supports on the legs (legs had to be hollow, but any internal support would be impossible to remove). However, supporting the print in a nice way was so complex that I was told in very clear terms that I owe Pivo a six pack of cold beer. Just a hint for anyone who wants to download this from my thingverse and offload it to someone else for printing.
That was the most straightforward part, and totalled about three to four Thursdays of work. Since I’m more of a Nikon guy, things that are canon to game quickly went out of the window in color department as well. Artistic license or something.
Also, I was painting off my memory. The last time I saw a branded charr was literal weeks before I started with painting. Naturally, with no active use of references, the colors I used drifted from canon all on their own. But it’s not like anyone would care.
Skin went from charcoal black to ‘oopsie daisy I accidentally spilled High Dweller Purple into my Grim Black’, and I also went for a lot more contrast in the formerly purple veins. For clothes, I was initially torn between picking something dark or on the blue/purple spectrum and something warmer. I got talked into at least trying light and warm colors first, and it turned out well enough I decided I’m going to stick with it.
Lighting Up: Theory
Since LEDs that combine purple and white are very hard to come by, I would have to install LEDs of different colors to achieve the correct color mix. Initially, my plan was to use blue and red LEDs, with red LED being dimmed to achieve the proper color balance. Later I decided to also add cold white LEDs into the mix, in order to make the glow more intense.
In 2023, LED technology has come far. You have RGB LEDs, you have LED strips, you have flexible mini LED strips that resemble incandescent lightbulb filament. My strategy for getting the mini to glow was thus a mixture of:
- ~60mm flexible filaments for red and blue
- 40mm cob LED for cold white. Unfortunately, that one wasn’t bendable.
- 3mm cold white LED for head and places where filament would be unsuitable
- 3mm blue+red dual-color LED for head and places where filament would be unsuitable
I was planning on dimming LEDs with a circuit hidden in the base (but I kinda ran out of time for that one), and everything was to be powered through a type C USB port on the back of the base (I ended up misplacing my type C ports, so I had to employ more ghetto tactics).
As mentioned before, LEDs were to be powered by wires going through the hollow legs. Each color was to have a separate wire for the negative terminal, and a shared positive wire between them — for a grand total of 4 wires.
Blue/red and white LEDs were soldered together into a single structure, and exposed metal bits were then varnished over to prevent my branded charr from turning into a flame legion shaman. I know my mini is fire as kids nowdays say, but that’s not excuse to turn my charr into charred.
The whole assembly was pushed into the mini and really wedged into the head of the mini with tweezers. Given the limited space to work with, this was moderately difficult:
But at least it looked nice from the outside. Almost like in the game, for some values of almost.
Lighting up the main body wasn’t as easy as you’d think. I wanted to add some diffuser to main body scars to hide the internals. This was done with spreading some acrylic water effects product on the inside of the mini, and pushing thin straps of white baking paper across the gaps. Due to curved surfaces and very little space to work with, I had to also use tweezers for this job. This was by far the most annoying part of the build so far.
It didn’t remain so for long, as I had to somehow get blue and red filaments into the body. I tied the filaments together with white baking paper, wetted it with water effects a bit, and then stuck it into the mini. One end went towards the head, the other one went into the shield arm. Shield arm is not directly reachable from the waist hole, so F. Lots and lots of work with tweezers to get that right, only for white baking paper to fail later and the two filaments to separate after the white cob LED was inserted.
Last but not least, there came time to install LEDs in the legs of the figure. But there was a problem: I had space for LEDs, but not for the required resistors — which meant that instead of running four wires, I suddenly needed 7.
Running the Wires
Turns out that running a wire through sharp bends is very difficult. From the wires I had lying around, I managed to run three — two through the leg with less sharp bend, and only one through the difficult leg.
When mentioning the problem to some people, I got pointed in the direction of conductive paint. This sounded great in theory. However, in practice, 20-30 Ω resistance made the “let’s coat the inside of the leg with conductive paint and use it as a wire” strategy unfeasible.
The solution came in the form of 0.2mm varnished copper wire. Being much thinner than the properly insulated wires I had, I could run multiple strands through the legs — I settled on 6 wires through each leg. Positive wire was replaced with three wires to handle the current010.2mm wire is fine for 0.2-0.3 A, and I estimated that between all LEDs, the mini would use 0.3-0.5A with some headroom to spare. Each color also got three strands for the negative: 1 for each cob, 1 for all LEDs with resistors soldered on the terminal, and 1 for each LED without resistors.
End result was a spicy spaghett:
Being strapped for time, I decided to skip the dimming circuit, and just connect everything to 5V without any dimming options.
When mini was assembled together, the wires were pulled out through the legs in order to leave zero slack, and the power connector was soldered onto the wires as close to the base of the figure as feasible. Project complete.
Or at least, almost complete. There were some minor paint job fixes that needed to be done, but nothing too major.
From the front and the sides, it looks pretty decent. Turns out that red LEDs appear to be a little less bright than blue ones, meaning the color never gets too purple:
The back though leaves much to be desired, though, as it seems that red and blue filament got separated:
Which kinda sucks, but it’s also not something that could be fixed by turning the red color off entirely. In that case, the entire back would be too dark.
Oh well. Still looks pretty okay.