Sabot’s Sometimes Smaller is Better – LED Tutorial Hobby

Sabot from the House of Paincakes has written an exhaustive example of setting up writing to light up a miniature with LED lights. I’m constantly looking for material to curate to my audience and that’s when I stumbled across Sabot’s entrepreneurial spirit and making his Malifaux models glow like OSL can’t. Using these techniques, I’m sure you can apply them to some of the more interesting Batman or Infinity models for an interesting look. Re-printed with his permission, Sabot‘s here to tell you how sometimes smaller is better.


I’m talking about LED’s.  Sheesh.


A while back I had done research into the various methods of painting ethereal or ghostly miniatures.  The idea of sticking whitish blobs of painted plastic on the table sort of irked me.

Yes.  I said irked.  It’s a Southern-ism.  Look it up.

More after the break.

I had been watching a lot of anime lately, particularly Vampire Princess Miyu, and fell in lust with the idea of a ghost samurai.

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 How does she see with no pupils?  Creepy.

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 Pay attention, there’s a test later.  Don’t worry, it’s multiple choice.

I spent some time looking around for a good mini to paint.

Enter Izamu.

Wyrd miniatures manufactures the Malifaux line of products.  They’re
well known for their high quality, aesthetics, and people cursing
Yan-lo’s beard.

Izamu Armour

I picked one up at my local FLGS, and set about developing a cunning plan.  For about six months.

Eventually I gathered everything I needed and then set to work.

I wanted my ghost samurai to glow.

Prior to assembly, I drilled out the central torso, and the arrow holes in the armor.  I also drilled a hole through the left thigh, ensuring that the holes lined up.  Then, I base-coated in black.

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I decided on a blue and red primary scheme, and set to work.

The base coat on the fabric portions was Vallejo Imperial Blue.  I then highlighted with Vallejo Magic Blue, and Vallejo Ultramarine Blue.  The Helm and scabbards for the daisho were painted in Vallejo Electric Blue.

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 Is that blurry, or do I need to clean my glasses?
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The next step was to tackle the metal plates of the armor.  Historically, the lamellar style armor plates were black in color, or enameled into various colors.  I decided to go with a high contrast color, and stayed with a true metal scheme.  Using Vallejo Brassy Brass I painted the metal portions, and washed with Citadel Nuln Oil.

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The next step was to fill in the contrasting reds.  I used Vallejo Flat Red, washed liberally with Nuln Oil, and then highlighted with Vallejo Carmine Red.  The Carmine Red provides a brilliant, easily shaded color that does not lose it’s brilliance once washed.

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 The Sashimono were painted red.  I briefly considered painting the kanji for the term “Void”, then remembered I can’t freehand to save my soul.
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 I painted the straps and the lacing with the same colors.
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Continuing with my detail work, I painted the staff of the Sashimono with an Vallejo White, which I then washed with Citadel Seraphim Sepia.  The Tessen (war fan) was painted white as well, with gunmetal on the exposed blade tips, then washed with Seraphim Sepia.  The gloves were painted with Vallejo Electric blue, and then washed with Citadel Guileman Blue.  Various metallic details were painted with Vallejo Glorious Gold.

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 Izamu’s weapon was painted with Vallejo Glorious Gold, and Silver on the blade. A light wash of Citadel Nuln Oil was used to enhance the details.
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 I painted the arrow shafts with Vallejo White, and left the fletchings black.
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I then used a narrow old brush to paint the arrow holes in the chest white on the interior.  I’ll explain why presently.
During my time in the military I have managed to learn a thing or three about electronics.  In particular the use of LED’s.  I decided early on that I wanted my mini to actually glow.  I did some research into chip LED’s and found that they were small, but in most cases not small enough, or the wiring was too bulky to use.  Then, a miracle happened.
I found this company.
Specifically, this product:
These are chip LED’s, that are flat, and extremely small.
Don’t believe me?  Check this out.
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Yes.  That is a 30mm base.  The LED measures 1mm, by .5mm, by .4mm.  The wire is finer than a human hair.

These are wired for 3v DC, and available in a variety of colors.  I chose green, citing the need for supernatural appearance.  They come pre-wired, and are less than three bucks a pop.  The site also sells pre-wired battery holders, and switches.
I wired two of the green chip LED’s together, and threaded them through the small hole I had drilled in the leg of the mini, into the torso.  One was wired slightly higher than the other, so one remained near the neck opening and the other in the torso.  I tested the wiring, and then the magic happened.
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Holy crap.  It worked.

Now.  What to do about the battery.
I determined that a CR25 battery would fit under a 50mm base, but the battery holder would not.
My solution was fairly simple.
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 I cut a portion of the interior of a 50mm base.
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 Pay no attention to the Aleph hacker holo…..nothing to see here.
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 A 40mm base fit neatly in the interior of the 50mm base.
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More importantly, the base then provided the interior clearance I needed for the battery holder.
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 I inverted the 40mm base, and glued it to the bottom of a Wyrd Miniatures 50mm Zen Garden base topper.  And, as per my usual, I basecoated in black.
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 I drilled a small hole through the base for the wires to fit through.
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Does this look at all familiar?
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The base was then painted with Vallejo Flat Red on the Tori, which was then washed with Nuln Oil, and then highlighted with the same color.  The stone was painted with a medium grey, then washed with Nuln Oil.  Selected stones were heavily soaked with Citadel Seraphim Sepia.  The moss was painted green, then washed with Nuln Oil, and a green ink wash.  I edged the base in black.

I fitted the mini onto the base and threaded the wires through the hole I had drilled previously.  Luckily, the placement I had chosen worked out pretty well.

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Underneath, I completed the wiring, and sealed the wires with low temperature heat shrink.  I coiled the wire into the base, along with the battery holder, and then tested the wiring to make sure the whole thing worked.
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The relief was so great, I actually sighed.  I never sigh.  Ever.
My lovely and talented wife took pictures for me.  Here is the finished product.
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It looks pretty cool at night.
I’ve made use of LED’s in several of my models.  I’ll show a few more.
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  An Arcanist Rail Golem from Malifaux.  I used a 1.8mm Orange LED in the chest, and jury-rigged a battery holder underneath.  The system is ineffective, and more fiddly than I’d like.  The battery is held in place by a strip of plastic secured by rare-earth magnets.  I hot glued the wiring into the base.
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This is a display base for a Malifaux Showgirls set I painted and gave to a dear friend.  Her daughter is a big fan.


Here we are.  LED’s can add a great touch to make miniatures seem more  alive on the tabletop.  With the advances in miniaturization, and nano- and pico- sized LED’s the single biggest point of bother at the moment seems to be the power source.  Most LED’s are set or 3v DC, and as such a watch battery will provide more than enough power.  As batteries get smaller, even this issue will eventually become easier to solve.  I look forward to being able to hide a pico- LED under a 25mm base.

Anyone else tried anything similar?  How did it work out?

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