Q&D Painting Howto

Discussion in 'Miniature Wargames' started by thedungeondelver, Nov 3, 2017.

  1. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    Sorry, I'd meant to post this up before. This is essentially what I have said elsewhere, but hopefully in a more compact form...so let's get to it.

    HOW TO PAINT THE DUNGEON DELVER WAY

    Note: I am no painter of any great skill. However, it's in the hands, the eye and the mind. If you've got the combination, or at least one of those, you can make this work.

    First, let's talk about tools. You'll obviously need a range of brushes. I buy Reaper brushes out of habit, but if you're just now getting started and you're not sure how far down the rabbit hole you want to go, hit Michael's or Hobby Lobby, or any other "big" craft store that has a toy/model aisle. They WILL have a set of fine brushes to use, for cheap. A wise person in the other painting thread said that a tiny brush does not automatically mean it is good for eyes, etc. Loading the brush with a tiny amount of paint means you have just seconds to dot the eye and sometimes taking the time to do it properly takes longer which means the paint will dry on the brush. So don't worry about 0/20 brushes out of the gate.

    Next, while you're at the craft or hobby store: paint palettes. these are simple, cost about $.99 each, and if you wash them, are good pretty much indefinitely.

    Grab a coffee mug, or plastic cup, whatever, something you don't care about. This will be for water.

    Next, you want a hobby knife: an X-Acto knife, etc. will do the trick. These sonsabitches are SHARP. Like, scalpel sharp. Sharper than sharp. Please be careful.

    Pick up two kinds of glue: Elmer's glue and Gorilla Glue (their cyanacrylite/"super" glue, not their resins or epoxies) . Elmer's for mounting the mini on an armature for painting, Gorilla "super" glue is for putting together multi-part miniatures.

    If you have a lot of minis, scavenge every plastic soda bottle lid you can that has a relatively flat top. Or get some wine corks. You'll use these as armatures (explained below).

    A set of fine detail files (I have a trio of Armory files I bought back before dirt that I love) are essential, particularly if you're going to work with metal miniatures. I know there's a trend to plastic these days but if you want detail and precision casts, go metal. So get files.

    Likewise, even if you don't have a dremel, pick up a set of 1/32 bits. You can usually find them in quantities of 5 on Amazon. Along with this, a box of small paperclips. These are for pinning those troublesome limbs, heads, arms, legs, etc. You will find that you can remove the blade from an X-Acto knife handle and put the dremel bit there and have a hand-drill for sinking pin-holes in your miniatures bits. Whether plastic or metal, this can be a handy thing (and yes you may have to pin plastic). If you decide you're going to do this a lot, and have lots and lots and lots of metal minis, you might consider picking up the basic Dremel but don't go there until you've got some of the hobby (the painting hobby) under your belt and decide if you wanna go that route.

    Get a brass brush. You can find these at auto parts stores. Likewise get a toothbrush (either buy a new one or snag an old one). If you're taking an old one, wash it carefully to remove toothpaste residue.

    The next section is paints and deserves a talk all its own.
     
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  2. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    Pt 2. PAINTS

    Okay, so you want to get a set of basic paints. You're in luck! There's tons of paint manufacturers out there. Reaper has some gorgeous paints. I'm being drawn towards Army Painter and Vallejo, but whichever of those thr...what? Games Workshop, you ask?

    Ahem.

    NEVER NEVER EVER BUY GAMES WORKSHOP HOBBY TOOLS OR SUPPLIES EVER PERIOD. IT IS A WASTE OF YOUR MONEY. Seriously, GW tools and paints are overpriced and generally of amazingly low quality compared to what you can get elsewhere. Even if you're painting a GW model and using a "How To Paint" that lists all GW paints? Yeah, google "paint equivalence chart dakka-dakka": there you will find a regularly updated paint equivalence chart. Ironbreaker is just Reaper's Honed Steel. Agrax Earthshade is just Vallejo Umber Shade Wash. This isn't a matter of me putting my thumb in GW's eye corporate. This is simple economics. GW paint pots hold 2/3rds the paint that a Reaper dropper bottle does. They hold slightly less than 2/3rds of what a Vallejo dropper bottle holds. GW paint pots don't fucking seal properly, which means their shitty paints dry out. Moreover, since they are in (bad) pots, you can't control what you're putting on your palette. Finally, a single GW paint pot runs about $5 or $6. Even allowing for discounts, they're still typically a buck to buck and a half more than Reaper or Vallejo paints (or Army Painter). Just...just don't use GW Paints.

    Now here's where we flip the script: if you want some GW paint...you can still have it! How? Coat d'Arms! They manufactured Citadel Hobbies' paints for GW back in the 80s and 90s, are still in business and, with that paint equivalence chart, you can get classic colors in bottles that aren't crap. They're not dropper bottles but they hold up for damn near ever. How do I know? I have a set of 5 Citadel Colour paints from 1994 that are in their original hexagonal bottles, have been opened and used some, and are still viscous and viable. Periodically I drop in some distilled water and Reaper Flow Improver and give them a good shake. Think about it: 23 years, vs. about...eight months.

    Now do you understand why I say "don't buy GW"?

    So you've got a basic line-up of paints. Let's get ready to paint.

    First thing we do is prep the miniature. If you have a metal mini, read on. If not, skip to the "Plastic Mini Prep" section below.

    Prepping a metal mini can be a multi-step process, but ultimately, if you do it, you'll find that your paint holds a bit better, you don't have funky "flash" or casting/mold lines to paint over and around, and so on. It's just better.

    To prep a metal miniature, first, remember the brass brush I talked about? Take the brush and very gently - I mean, imagine you're brushing a baby's hair - very gently brush the miniature. This has two effects. One, it helps remove "mold release" (baby powder, really) that they put in casting molds to make the minis pop out easier. Two, it puts a fine (invisible, if you're doing it right) patina of scratches on the miniature. This helps primer bond. Again, we're NOT scrubbing the thing like it's covered in cancer poop. You want to be GENTLE with it. Next step: take your toothbrush, and a tiny bit of dish soap, and under warm running water, gently scrub the miniature. This will remove any metal flakes you might have kicked up brass brushing it, and will remove all of the rest of the mold release.

    Back at your workstation, (which, by the way, should be well lit, if not by strong direct daylight then use a nice bright lamp or two that you can position comfortably and will illuminate what you're painting), examine the miniature for any burrs, mold lines, or flash. Using your files and your X-Acto knife, carefully trim these away. If you're worried about metal particulate once you're done you can repeat the washing step.

    Dry your miniature off after cleaning and washing/rinsing. Take a nice healthy dollop of Elmer's/white glue and attach the mini to the bottle cap or cork (I recommend corks, btw., they hold better). Let it sit for at least a few hours. Use the down-time to prep other minis.

    A NOTE ON PREPPING PLASTIC MINIATURES: Most of the above applies...EXCEPT the brass brush! the brass brush will pit/scratch plastic to hell and gone. Just clean it with soap, water, and a toothbrush.

    With your paints, you should definitely have gotten primer. Either white, black or grey. Some people prefer black as it makes shadows really pop, while others prefer white as it doesn't mute colors. Grey is, of course, in the middle, but you do what looks good to you.

    In the next section, I'll go over basic priming techniques, and we'll get in to paint blending.
     
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  3. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    So...Priming.

    There's two (well, three) schools of thought on priming miniatures. Some folks say white. Others black. And still others go with a neutral gray. Gray tends more towards white, so for now we'll focus on White vs. Black. Briefly, it is my experience that black primer leads to more muted colors unless you apply SEVERAL layers. With that said, it does have the advantage of really making shadows and shaded areas pop. White, on the other hand, adds a bit of a "glow" to colors, and for brighter and fewer layers. Gray does this also, but not as well.

    Whichever color you select, I would now mention a refrain you're going to hear a lot: THIN YOUR PAINTS. Thin them. Do not glop paint on right out of the bottle. You want your paints to be thinned to a 3:1 ratio of thinner (water, distilled water, or a 50/50 mix of water and flow improver - I prefer Reaper's). This creates a skim-milk like consistency.

    Now, once you've thinned your paint (or primer), a single simple coat will suffice. Remember, you just need something for the paint to hold on to. You're not trying to paint the mini in primer!
     
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  4. Bunch

    Bunch Well-Known Member

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    Thoughts on spray vs painted on primer? I ask because we're getting to the cold humid part of the year
     
  5. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    I live in Florida, where it is humid or cold humid most of the time, although we have some very dry winters periodically. I say that my spray primer experience is largely negative; orange peel (the crumbly, dry dust-like residue that covers a mini after spray priming, and it "drinks" the paint, letting little to no color through, plus clogs up the brush) abounds. So I'm not a fan of rattlecan primer, particularly GW primer. I had Armory Gray I used for years and had great success with, but alas it is gone (I think it was made again for a while, but by a different company).

    Overall, brush priming does the trick. Even if you're doing a whole army, remember, a thin (and thinned) coat of primer works best.
     
  6. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    So this is me getting re-started.

    Once you have cleaned and prepped your mini and primed it, it's time to get painting!

    Let me make one thing really clear from the outset: if your mini has eyes visible (one or both), paint them FIRST. If you screw up, you have very little to fix! Whereas, if you screw up the eyes and you're doing them LAST...well, now you're stuck with messed up eyes and a mini painted to your liking. If you start with the eyes you don't have much to do if you foul them up so bad you have to strip the miniature or re-prime and start again.

    There's lots of different ways to "do" eyes. The best way I've found, particularly on miniatures that thankfully have larger eyes, is as follows:

    Paint the eye itself white. Even if you get some on the eyelid, cheek, nose etc. you're going to be painting over those in flesh tones later, don't sweat it.

    Thin black ink in a 50/50 mix with water.

    Load a brush with your black ink wash.

    Carefully flood the eye with black ink. Don't let it run all over the face! If you really get the whole eye-socket filled, take a small scrap of clean paper towel and soak the excess out. Sometimes this will leave enough in the crease between the eye and the eyelids, sometimes it will soak the whole amount up and you'll have to start again.

    Let this black ink dry.

    You now have a white-painted, shaded eye.

    Using a brush no smaller than a 3/0, place a single dot of color for the pupil.

    I'm going to be honest: you will screw this up repeatedly. You're going to be sitting there with some cock-eyed barbarian or sorceress or space marine looking up in agony at you from your workbench (or, rather, trying to, because MY GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY EYES). Sigh, clean it up, and start again. All you can do to gain a steady hand is keep practicing. Until I invent my patented miniature eye-dotting machine, that's all you can do. Another point: if you look on coolminiornot.com you're going to see eyes that have colored irises, black pupils, specular highlights, and look like they're wet and following you! You will not accomplish this the first time out. I'm not saying "don't try" - if that's in your wheelhouse and you can knock that out, hey, AWESOME! Come back and post and teach me how!

    But if you're like me, and you're painting "for the tabletop", the white + ink shade + colored dot should do the trick.

    The next post will be pretty comprehensive about shading and highlighting. Hope folks are enjoying it.
     
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  7. Bunch

    Bunch Well-Known Member

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    What primer do you use?
     
  8. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    Now? I use either Reaper or Vallejo brush-on primers (white or black depending).
     
  9. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    Okay, so let's talk layering and shading.

    But first, let's talk about what you should do to your paint before your brush ever really touches it.

    Ahem:

    THIN YOUR PAINTS

    I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. What, you might ask, does it mean to THIN YOUR PAINTS?

    Here's the thing: you can always add a little more paint to make a shade darker, to bring more color to it. What you can't do (short of writing off the area you're painting or possibly the whole miniature and start over) is take paint away. You want to make your paint about the consistency of skim milk before you paint it on. You don't want to paint an area all in one single coat! Your paint will be thick and gloppy if you apply it right out of the dropper bottle. So don't. Generally, I find that a 2:1 or even 1:1 ratio of paint to good, clean water does the trick. If you want to get all fancy, Reaper sells a product called Flow Improver that is a type of medium (think "paint without any pigment") that you can also add to thin the paint somewhat. But if you're not in to mediums and/or so forth just yet, stick with water. If you get a dropper or pipette or other kind of fine tool for adding water, all the better. But get your paint to a thin consistency.

    Now, again, this means you will have to paint multiple layers. Paint a layer, on and if you've THINNED YOUR PAINTS! properly you'll still see primer through it. That's OK. That's fine. Paint another layer. And another, and another, allowing for drying time between (this is good because you can paint multiple miniatures at once, doing one while another dries). Once you have the paint to the density you like on the surface, you're golden.

    But now let's talk about layering, shading, and highlighting:

    One of the best things to come out of Reaper Miniatures ever was/is the "Triad" concept: three colors, all the same base (let us say, a shade of blue). They have neighboring stock numbers. One is the darkest shade, the second is one step up lighter, and then there's an even lighter color.

    They used to do inks of all the primary colors but now they're down to just a handful, but other companies do inks as well, so regardless of whose paints you use, this will work well enough.

    Once you have painted your miniature and at least attempted the eyes, pick an area and apply the following "layering" technique:

    1. Apply a base coat of the darkest shade of paint
    2. Take a separate brush, and flood all the nooks and crannies with the ink shade that matches that color*
    3. Now, using the middle color, paint the raised surfaces - not in the folds, joints, crevasses and detailed "deep" areas. Don't paint everywhere! We're just hitting the raised areas.
    4. Once that has dried (you're letting it dry between layers, remember), take the third color in the triad, the lightest color, and touch the narrower, highest raised areas. Work on blending here, you don't want it to look too stripy, the colors should fade naturally in to one another. Be patient, give yourself enough time to do it properly.
    If you're not sure where to put the highlight, apply overhead light to the miniature and get a good look at where light falls and how it is naturally highlighted: maybe even take a picture with your phone and have it handy for reference when you paint.

    Note that this works for various skin tones, too. There are a few different "inks" you can get to highlight flesh tones, but to be honest, I have had limited results with these, so here's what I do. With skin tones, I start with the medium color, then I mix a wash (about 10:1 water-to-paint) of the darkest of the skin triad and wash with that. Then I build up highlights using the 3rd in the skin tone triad, adding white as I go for higher highlights.

    At this point there's two things you can do: you can call it DONE if it looks good enough for the tabletop, or you can continue to highlight by adding a bit of white paint to the 3rd color, then applying a thinner highlight, and so on and so on, building up the layers, one on top of the other.

    In the next post I'll talk about metal colors, basing, and sealing.
     
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  10. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    Okay this is going to be brief, but I don't want this to lay fallow too long.

    There are people who talk a lot about Non-Metallic Metals. I think they're very pretty in photographs. Once you move or handle an NMM miniature the illusion is, in my opinion, shattered. NMMs rely on layering and shading a miniature just so the pigment looks like shiny metal with specular highlights. When the light is hitting from a certain angle, that is. Change the angle by either moving the miniature or changing your own perspective, and the specularity remains where it was, and it just ruins it for me. So, I prefer actual metallics.

    There's lots of different metallic shades available for miniatures, and, again, usually in triads. As before, start with a darker shade, highlight with lighter shades. The one difference here is that I find metallics require far less thinning than any other type of paints. I don't know why, but the composition is such (probably due to the metallic flakes in the suspension) that they just don't need to be thinned. But test it; your mileage will vary.

    An important note about metallics: obviously, there's no such thing as "silver ink wash" or "gold ink wash" (at least to my knowledge). But, here's a cool thing I have discovered. Regardless of what metal tone you're painting black ink wash plus highlighting afterward makes metallics absolutely pop. Slop that black ink everywhere into every nook and cranny on your gold, silver, copper etc. Just get it all wet 'n' nasty! If you overdo it, again, remember, you can draw it out with a little paper towel.

    A trick I learned about painting chainmail which was so obvious, I never thought about it, is this: Paint chainmail a base black. Then, dry-brush your metallic over it. It shades all the recesses that chainmail should have, and it looks as it should (mostly black).

    Another technique: if you're painting up old metal (particularly copper) and you want to tarnish it up, and put a nice verdigris on it, paint your metallic tone, then do a 50/50 mix of white and teal and dry brush it on every raised surface on the "copper". Voila! Instant copper rot :smile:

    I'll come back later with some notes on basing and sealing.
     
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  11. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    It's been a while, and I know I said I'd get into basing and sealing but I want to talk first a little bit about highlighting. A lot of folks know what it is, but some don't, and a properly highlighted miniature can make the difference between "looks pretty good on the tabletop" and "Is that one you painted when you were a kid? Oh that's...new? Sorry."

    Highlighting, shading, and layering are probably the most important keys to good painting. Even if all you do is use one color that you slowly mix in amounts of white and build up more and more highlights with the thinner and lighter you make the paint, then you're making a good effort. I know the tendency is to look at a miniature and say "Well, real light and so on makes the highlights", but it doesn't. Not at that scale.

    The other thing I want to mention about highlighting is drybrushing. Knowing how to do a good drybrush can make all the difference. Drybrushing is what it sounds like: your paint brush is virtually dry. Note: virtually. Generally for drybrushing, you want a large tipped, wide brush. Reaper sells brushes just for this purpose, but you can use any brush type for it.

    So what you do is, you load your brush with paint. Don't saturate it, it'll just take longer to get through the next step. But dip it in paint like you're going to paint with it.

    Next step is: wipe nearly all the paint off. Just scrub it around on a paper towel, wipe the bristles, etc. Don't clean the brush, you're only trying to get most of the paint off, not all of it.

    Once that's done, you want to "dust" the area with the now mostly paint-free bristles, dragging it across the surface areas if you're doing highlights. This will dust a lot of the remaining paint on high relief surface areas, and lend a natural lighted effect to armor, clothes, skin, whatever.
     
  12. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    Okay so now that we've discussed painting methods, let's talk about basing and sealing.

    There's a lot to be said for good bases on miniatures. Sometimes they can make even a "meh" miniature look good. If you're creating, say, dungeon adventurers, and you always tend to think towards the dungeon, a basing material like fine gravel (or even just painting the base a stone gray) can do the trick. But if you want wood planking, steel flooring, etc., then you've got a lot of different options.

    Firstly, to get it out of the way, there's a company called Secret Weapon Miniatures that sells some absolutely amazing 20mm, 25mm, 30mm and 35mm (and larger!) bases that are sculpted and cast and they have almost any environment you can think of. I use their "Steel Invasion" bases on my Space Hulk miniatures, and they're gorgeous! They do require painting in their own right, but if you've got the patience to cut off any base (if necessary) from the miniature, with some pinning and some super glue you can attach just about any miniature.

    So if you don't want to go that route, and want to use your own bases (or the miniature already has a base) but you want that base to look good, beyond just painting it, flocking is a great way to achieve a good look.

    To flock a base, whether it is an attached base or 25mm slotted base or whatever, the first thing I recommend doing is painting the base a single color that is similar to the flock you're going to use. So, green, if you're going to add grass. Grey, for stone or gravel. Yellow or brown for sand, and so on.

    Once it's dry, using a brush you don't care about, brush a slightly thinned mixture of white glue onto the base. Then, while that's wet, dip your miniature's base in to your flocking material and swirl it around. Gently tap and blow the excess off until you're left with just enough that it looks realistic. That's really all there is to it, but there are a couple of materials I'd like to make special mention of: static grass, and birch seed pod leaves.

    Static Grass is a fine, synthetic "fuzz" that, when applied on the miniature's base, appears like standing grass. The effect is very very neat, and it really does make your character look like its standing on a verdant lawn! Applying static grass is much like applying any other flocking material but it does take some special care to get it looking just right.

    As mentioned above, prepare your miniature's base. Once done, take some of your static grass and put it in a small jar, preferably a round one (medium-sized baby food jars work well, as do small jelly jars: just something big enough for you to hold the miniature while applying the grass). Once your grass is in, swirl the jar around while shaking it. This "charges" the grass. Each "blade" will develop a mild static electricity charge (like a plastic bag) and slightly repulse the other bits. Then, as before, dip your miniature in and get a good amount on your glue-covered base. Once done, hold the miniature sideways and carefully tap it against the edge of the jar, knocking the excess back into the container. The weight of the loose grass will force the stuck "blades" to stand up, and the slight charge they have will hold them upright while the glue dries. You can also blow on it to help the blades of grass stand up. You can go back and retouch "grassed" bases like this as you need.

    Birch seed pods are a special treat. If you've got any kind of miniature that is for outdoor encounters almost exclusively, or if you're creating outdoor terrain, birch seed pods are amazing. This is a birch seed pod:
    joyce01_Seed_Pods.jpg


    Looks a bit like an ear of corn, kind of meh. However, if you gently break the pods apart, you get hundreds of "leaves":

    joyce01_Finished.jpg

    These are the actual separators, the seeds themselves lie between them. You can toss those out if you want; we're after the above "leaves". Note they're green in fresh pods, but like leaves they do become brown. And, as you might guess, these guys are tiny. However, on the base of a miniature, they look like huge oak leaves! You can (if you have the patience) re-color a batch green for ivy branches and so on, as described here:

    https://www.reapermini.com/Thecraft/24

    If you're not inclined to break apart seed pods, a few different companies sell etched brass leaves, but to my taste that's a bit wasteful and misses the point of a good organic looking leaf.

    So if you've got an owlbear on the prowl, or a ranger on patrol, or a group of elven footmen, or whatever, and you want to imply a forest terrain, birch pod leaves are a fantastic way to achieve that effect.
     
  13. thedungeondelver

    thedungeondelver Active Member

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    Finally, let's talk about sealing your miniature. This, simply, keeps your mini's paint from rubbing off. It protects the miniature. It's not "forever", though, and even after sealing if you game with your minis a lot, oils and salts on your skin or your player's skin will eventually rub sealant and paint off, and you'll have to retouch a spot now and again. But sealing will help keep that to a minimum.

    There's a lot of different sealant types, but one I do want to steer you away from is glossy sealant. It is exactly what it sounds like: it makes what you spray it on SHINE. That's great for, say, a chrome metallic effect on a model car, but not so great for some miniatures on the tabletop.

    But on the other end, there's matte sealant. This can be a pain because it will make your miniatures, along with any gold or other metallics they're showing, dull as hell. So here's what I recommend.

    First of all, don't spray-seal. Use either Reaper or Vallejo satin or semi-gloss sealant. Mix it thin, like you would paint. Be careful here: too much sealant will glop up and dull highlights, regardless of whether it's semi-gloss or not! Gently brush it evenly and thoroughly over your miniature. If you find your mini's metallic areas are a tad too dull, once the sealant has dried, you can always retouch them with paint on top of the sealant (although those areas won't be protected, so be aware).

    Well, that's just about it. I hope this helps folks.
     

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