Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Modeling Tutorial: Bow Strings

As you can see from the pictures, my skeleton archers are almost finished. The only thing remaining is to add bowstrings. (Without which, they can't fire their arrows!) If you've ever wanted to add that extra bit of realism to your archers, here's how:

Note: I find that it is easiest to add the string after the model painted. Otherwise, the string can get in the way of painting detail. Vigorous drybrushing could break the string, as well.

Step 1: Coloring the String

Start with some plain thread. If you can find thread in the color you want the string to be, great, otherwise, use white.



Color the thread with thinned paint. (I'm using Formula P3 Rucksack Tan.) Just place a section of thread on a paper towel and paint along the length of the thread. Be sure to turn it so you get color on all sides.


Allow the paint to dry, and you'll have the perfect color bow string.


Step 2: Drilling the Bow

This next part is tricky, and you should definitely practice on some spare bow parts before damaging your nicely painted model (or poking yourself!). Before drilling through the tips of the bow with a pin vice, place the tip of a sharp hobby knife on the spot to drill, and twist it to create a starting hole. Then, place the drill bit on that spot and turn gently to drill through. Most bows have a little ring at the tip; try to drill level so the bit enters and exits the bow on the ring. Use a 0.55mm drill bit, and don't apply much pressure. Let the bit do the work so you don't snap the plastic or slip off.



The result should be two clean holes through the tips of the bow. Use your knife to carefully slice off any flash where the drill bit poked through, and try your best not to mar the paint.


Step 3: Attaching the String


Push the end of the thread through the hole about 1/4 inch.


Add a dab of thin super glue (I use Zap-A-Gap Thin CA in the pink bottle) to the end of the string.

Then, pull the string back through the hole so the glue comes in contact with the bow and sticks. Leave a little bit of the thread sticking out. You can add another tiny amount of glue if you think the bond isn't secure enough, but in this case, less is definitely more. The last thing you want is a glob of glue around the top of the bow.


Once the first end of the string has dried, push the opposite end through the other hole. This time, add glue to the side of the string on the inside of the bow. Then, pull the string so it tightens and the glue contacts the bow.

Make sure the string is tight and secure. The bow string shouldn't be slack at all.

Finally, trim the excess thread. Use a new, sharp blade so you can precisely and cleanly slice off the thread.

Step 4: Final Touch-Up

Paint the small ring around the end of the bow with the color you used on the bow string, so it looks like the string is tied off. The paint should also fill in any small gaps in the holes and cover up the exposed plastic. Add more brown to the wood if necessary, to cover up any mars in the paint or shiny glue.

And that's all there is to it!

Now, these ballistically-challenged skeletons are ready to rain missed shots all over the battlefield!



 'Til next time!


  1. Yeah, great tutorial! Question though: if your figure is drawing the bow, do you also drill through the hand? Any tricks for achieving that?

    1. Thanks, guys! And to answer Mattias' question: Yes, drill through the drawing hand. If the hand looks like a fist, I'd recommend putting using the same technique I showed, and drill through the fins, close to the front edge with the fingers. The string will go from one tip of the bow, through the hand, to the other tip. Don't forget to add an arrow to the drawn bow.

      If the drawing hand has more of an open hand, with hooked fingers, then it will be impossible to drill through (some of the Khemri skeleton hands are like this). In that case, drill and glue the string at the bow tip, and then stretch it across the fingers and glut it in place on the hand. Once that glue dries, pull the string to the other tip to make the V-shape. For hands with a "just released" pose, then the string should look like it does in my tutorial.

  2. Having trouble finding .55 mm drill bits. Any suggestions? Keen to try this out mainly for the wood elves I have jus started.

    1. The .55mm bits I'm using are from the Formula P3 pinning expansion. I know there are other pin vise sets that come with an array of bit sizes, and you can probably find drill bit sets with sizes ranging from smaller than .5mm up to 2mm. But the actual size really isn't important, as long as it's small enough to not split the bow when you drill through, and makes a hole large enough to accommodate the thread.


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