Tutorial: Wings

Scratchbuilt Dragon Wings
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o you've decided to join the swirling swarm of a Tyranid Hive Fleet and need some madly flapping winged warriors. Or perhaps your Dragon Disciple character from D&D has come of age and now the miniature needs wings. What about a conversion to replace an existing dragon's small wings with ones that actually look like they can provide the thing with some real lift? Look no further for all shall be explained.

In my case, I needed a brood of flying Tyranid Warriors. As such, this tutorial will use one of those miniatures as the example, but this technique can be applied to any sort of miniature that needs to fly.

For a natural wing look, you can't improve on Mother Nature. I ran a Google search to find an appropriate bat wing skeleton. This we'll use as a template so that we can get the bone shapes and layout accurate (or at least close enough to make a reasonable facsimile).
The original bat wing template image.
Photo from Bone Clones. Used without permission. All rights reserved.

Click here for some anatomy on bat wings if you're curious. Don't worry -- no pop quizzes later!
In Paint Shop Pro (you can of course use Photoshop or whatever other image editing software you prefer), I changed the image to greyscale, increased the contrast, and then made a negative image. Then I printed it out at an appropriate size and laid the parts directly on top.

An important thing to notice is how a bat's wing is essentially the same framework as a human's arm and hand. You can see each finger, the thumb, and the forearm. The membrane is stretched across these base bones like the canvas on a tent.

It can be argued that fantasy monsters shouldn't follow the rules of real creatures. I disagree; using reality as a guide makes our conversion believable. However, you'll see as the tutorial progresses that reality is a guideline for enhancing our work, not a strict rule.
How to cut the scything talons.
The great thing about plastic is that it's very easy to work. I used a hobby knife to "nip" away at the last joint until it was cut off. You could also use a jeweler's saw or modeler's mitre blade to achieve this.
The first step of the actual conversion/creation is to create the framework based on our batwing template. Since I wanted my wings to be used with the aforementioned Tyranid Warriors, I opted to use the scything talons as a base.

If you're not working on tyranids, you could still use these particular pieces -- they cost $5.00 US for the sprue and there's no law saying you can't mix and match pieces from various companies to achieve the look you want.

Alternately, clip the hands off your miniature and file down the arms until you have a suitable shape to use as the basis for the wing. You may need to build up the wrist with green stuff to have a large enough area to insert brass rod later (more on this below). Of course, this won't work too well if you want wings AND arms and legs on your miniature.

Bending the wire for the wing bones.
Time to work on the frames for the wing bones. Bend a length of 0.032 brass rod or wire and try to follow the contour of the batwing template. With this thickness, it's easy to do with your fingers, but you could use small pliers if that's more comfortable.

For my wings, I'll have three wing bones. The longest will be 80mm, the middle one will be 50mm, and the shortest will be 45mm.
Yet another option is to sculpt the base arm structure. First, bend a small piece of 0.032 brass rod or wire into a suitably sized shape. With a pin vise, drill a hole in your creature at the point where the wings will be inserted. I won't go into details of sculpting in this tutorial (as that would be extensive to say the least), but build up the arm by adding green stuff. Allow each layer to dry, then build up another layer until you're happy with the shape and size of the arm.

Whatever option you choose, the target goal should be a shape that is more or less similar to the tyranid scything talon arm in the photo above: an "L" shape. This will form the anchor to our wing.

Don't worry if the angle of the bends don't match the template perfectly. As long as they're in the same place in relation to one another (and to the matching wing), it'll look fine. Besides, real creatures have flex and motion and rarely have their bones in precise positions.

If you found this tutorial helpful, why not donate to Necrotales to let me know?

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