Last night I finished my first minis since May 20, 2021: one Hive Fleet Balaur Fire Team for Kill Team, a unit of Genestealers. These guys were a ton of fun to paint, and given that I started them on April 8, went on a short vacation, and worked on my Warriors during the 16 days it took me to finish them, I feel pretty much back on track with painting.
Hive Fleet Blue Steel
I figured I’d shoot one with some terrain, too.
And why not take advantage of the rare opportunity to do a before/after? I painted the blue/pink Genestealers (from Space Hulk) in 2012. It’s not quite “10 years later,” though, because I didn’t paint anything from 2012 to 2020, when I got back into painting and starting both taking it seriously and actually enjoying it. So it’s really more of a “two years of progress” before/after, since this is how I was painting in 2020.
This was my second time glazing, and the first time I haven’t painted over my efforts and gone with a different technique. (I tried glazing a Custodes sword several times, but just couldn’t get it right.) My glazing isn’t great, but these first four Scything Blades taught me quite a bit; I’m hoping to improve my technique as I work on my Warriors.
I’ve also never used dotting tools before. Still room for improvement there as well, but there’s just not that much surface to work with on Genestealers and I didn’t want to overwhelm their shading. The Warriors’ carapaces are a larger canvas, so I’m looking to step up my game on them.
As a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Leviathan, I like how my twist on Leviathan’s color scheme turned out. There are at least two official Leviathan color guides out there (one in White Dwarf and one on Warhammer TV), but the main differences between Leviathan and Balaur are the toxic green claws and spotted carapaces.
My goal for these Genestealers was to evoke brightly-colored bugs and poison dart frogs, and to combine that with a “snake’s underbelly” body color for an unsettling — maybe even unpleasant — look that befits the terrifying nature of Tyranids.
The Killa Kans kit is incredible — just absolutely packed with modularity and personality — and I had a great time with these two (as I did with my first Kan).
Since I have a better lightbox now, I figured I’d roll Mukkit in as well and have the whole gang in one photoshoot.
Here’s the whole mob, at what I hope are their golden angles:
I crossed my fingers when I painted each Kan a different shade of blue, but now that they’re all in one place I like that effect. In combination with my other units, it looks suitably hodgepodge for Orks.
And here’s each Kan individually:
…And then shots of the whole mob from all four sides.
The space-snail Skraggit is about to stomp on is from an Age of Sigmar kit, the Squig Herd. Wanting to use him prompted me to pose Skraggit mid-stomp, creating Skraggit as a character at the same time. Here’s his close-up:
I made a little slimy trail for him by forming a shallow trough in the texture paint, applying extra Agrax Earthshade to that area, and then skipping it when I drybrushed the rest of the base. It shows up best from above:
Next up is my Oldhammer project: 10 vintage ’80s/’90s metal Boyz, include 2/3 of the Goffik Rok band, with a little light kitbashing to bring all their wargear up to a reasonable WYSIWYG standard for 9th Edition. Too rowdy to be led by a Boss Nob, they’re oldsters who don’t play by the rules — and love to play their looted ‘oomie instruments. Their draft name is Deff Metal Mayhem.
I finished my Trukk! I built Da Fancy Wunback in February, and worked on lots of other stuff at the same time (painted 11 Boyz, built two Kans and a Dread, converted my Warboss)…but it still feels like I’ve been working on this Trukk forever. Back of the napkin, I’d say it took me somewhere between 35 and 45 hours from sprue to varnished and ready for the table.
This is the final post in a five-post series documenting this Trukk. Assembly is in part one and part two, the color guide is in part three, and a few WIP shots are in part four.
Many thanks again to Hobbyistgirl for her conversion (build process and painted Trukk), which was my inspiration to try this and my guide for large portions of the assembly process. Her Trukk is awesome!
Regular readers might notice that there’s no shot of Da Fancy Wun in casual light. That’s because I got a new lightbox (full rundown later in the post), and can now take photos good enough that they abrogate the need for a casual shot.
The Emperor’s eye grows larger
After a year-plus of steady painting, and some struggles with my first lightbox — notably taking photos without the lower half of each mini in shadow, and straining to squeeze full 10-model squads into it — I decided it was time to upgrade. I went from 12″x12″x12″ to 16″x16″x16″, which doesn’t sound like a big jump but is actually so large that I’m very glad it folds up nicely, and from one fixed ring of lights in the top to two repositionable light bars.
This FOSITAN lightbox (paid link) cost about $60 (three times what my smaller DUCLUS box cost), and it’s totally worth it.
Every interior surface is shiny silver, but dimpled so that it provides reflectivity without hotspots. You can shoot from the front or top, and the two light bars can clip onto the edges in either shooting configuration. Those bars also tilt, and if you want to diffuse the light when shooting from above there’s a translucent white square (with a hole in the middle) you can add between the bars and the object you’re photographing.
Unlike the DUCLUS, it doesn’t offer multiple color temperatures — but it does offer a lovely neutral white, and that was the only temperature I used on the old box anyway. The bars are dimmable and it includes several rather nice plastic backdrops; after a few test shots, I’m currently using the lowest setting and the grey backdrop.
I couldn’t resist reshooting Thragg’s Deff Lads, who I felt got especially short shrift in their lightbox session, along with a mixed-unit group.
The only problem is that now I want to reshoot every lightbox photo I’ve taken, and that doesn’t sound like fun just now. So I probably won’t! But I’m going to enjoy better lightbox pics going forwards.
Da Fancy Wun brings me to a pretty respectable 476 points (9th Edition rules), with 35 models painted (32 infantry, 3 vehicles). Next up is probably two more Killa Kans.
I built the first of Thragg’s Deff Ladz (my second mob of Boyz for my Deathskulls Ork army, Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas) on January 17th, and have chipped away at them slowly but surely for the past two months. Since I’ve mostly painted rank-and-file Orks so far, this 98-point unit brings me up to 356/2,000 points and 34 finished models.
I’m not painting at the same pace in 2021 that I did in 2020. And that’s okay! Even if I only do 5-10 minutes in a given day, my hobby streak remains unbroken (today is day 387) and those few minutes are still more than the zero minutes I was putting in for many, many years.
Part of it is that after a year in isolation, the prospect of actually playing 40k still seems like it’s probably 8-12 months away. I’m still enjoying miniature painting as a hobby, but now I have one finished 2,000-point army — the goal of finishing a second feels less urgent. So I’m taking it easy, not gunning the engine and risking burnout.
Along the way, I also picked up a second paint rack. My whole paint library is now accessible, with room to spare. I’m an organized person, by and large, and this appeals to me greatly!
Anyhoo, time for some Boyz! Let’s fire up the ol’ lightbox.
Get stuck in, you gits!
And as always, a casual shot (a mix of natural and artificial light):
Ork skin tones
With Thragg’s Deff Ladz complete, I’ve now used all six skin tone recipes that are currently in my main Ork color guide (plus 3/5 of the recipes I use for Deathskulls blue, and both of my teeth/nails options). The Ladz are a mix of two quite different schemes, one based on Castellan Green and the other on Caliban Green. I love the Caliban version; they start out super-dark green (with a black wash) and highlight up to a very cartoony look.
Now that I’ve tried them all, I took four photos showing each of the six colors, all in the same order (which is the order in which they currently appear in my color guide). So in terms of base paint > shade paint, that’s:
Waaagh! Flesh > Biel-Tan Green
Waaagh! Flesh > Athonian Camoshade
Deathworld Forest > Athonian Camoshade
Deathworld Forest > Biel-Tan Green
Castellan Green > Athonian Camoshade
Caliban Green > Nuln Oil
Recipes 1 and 2 are almost identical to one another; ditto with 3 and 4; really, I have four major recipes with two variations. The variations only differ in which shade paint is used, and unless they’re side by side and you know to look for it that difference is hard to spot. But I like variety in my motley crew, and even just counting the four “main” recipes I’ve got quite a bit of it in my army (all tied together, I hope, by their shared palette of secondary colors and especially by their war paint).
Similarly, my blue recipe built on Kantor Blue is quite similar to the default Macragge Blue version (at least the way I wash and highlight them). But Thousand Suns Blue makes for a vibrant and quite distinctive finished product; I really like that one.
Next up is Da Fancy Wun, my Taurox/Trukk conversion, which is currently primed, partially painted, and waiting for the sealant on the bottom-most wheel spikes to cure.
My first mini of the new year (although, having been completed on January 23rd, “new” is a bit of a stretch) is my first Deff Dread, “Facepeela” Snarg. Facepeela is also the first model I’ve ever magnetized, a process that was not without its problems…leading to this also being the first model I’ve ever done that incorporates green stuff (Kneadatite).
Facepeela brings my Waaagh! up to 308 points. Still a ways to go!
I heart big and stompy
I also experimented with using mostly natural light (no lightbox) and just a piece of printer paper as a backdrop. It’s more, well, natural than the lightbox, but I don’t think I have this technique quite figured out yet. Here’s Facepeela’s golden angle shot that way:
This kit was fun to build and paint, validating my choice to make my first Ork army list about 50% vehicles — including a second Deff Dread, three Killa Kans, and a Morkanaut. Not too surprising, as it’s basically a super-sized Killa Kan — and that’s one of my favorite 40k kits I’ve ever built.
Just for fun, here he is alongside a sampling of the Orks I’ve painted so far:
Green stuff for a green lad
The necessity for green stuff came about when, as I was working on highlights, I noticed that the secure position for his lower saw arm — the position in which it stayed in place the best, resisting drooping — only worked because the arm was braced against the socket, scraping paint off the edge every time I snapped it in place. I tried Blu-Tack, and that was fine, but I didn’t like the idea of leaving a blob of it on there forever.
Blithely assuming that green stuff was just easily-moldable putty that would dry into something about as hard as plastic, I decided to go that route instead.
Turns out, green stuff is incredibly sticky, not terribly easy to work with, and dries semi-soft. But it did the job better than Blu-Tack, as it’s hard enough to stay in place and can be primed/painted/varnished. I didn’t take any pictures of that process (because it was pretty frustrating), but it was basically: apply green stuff in a blob much larger than needed, just in case; let it cure overnight; trim it to fit with a hobby knife, slowly, testing the fit with every trim; prime and paint normally; two coats of varnish (and two in the socket, too).
My second Dread isn’t using this arm, so I might build the arm again, drill it better this time around, and replace the one currently on Facepeela. Or not! It works, and unless you’re looking for it the ugly blob of green stuff isn’t noticeable.
Deff Dread color guide
My Deff Dread’s base includes one bit not found on my usual list. Color-wise, apart from that, it’s just a bigger Killa Kan.
I like Facepeela’s static, menacing pose, but I don’t want two of it; my second Deff Dread will probably be posed raising one leg, about to gleefully stomp on something. Not sure what, but maybe a grot. We shall see!
With an hour to spare, I finished a wild push — a week worth of painting in about two days — and wrapped up my final miniature of 2020: Mukkit, one of the Killa Kans in my Deathskulls Ork army.
This is the best miniature I’ve ever painted. It incorporates everything I’ve learned this year, plus a couple of techniques I haven’t tried before, and it features the best highlights I’ve ever done. (I’m not saying it’s amazing, just frankly assessing it against my output to date.)
Light it up like dynamite
I listened to so much BTS in November and December, often while painting, that it’s only appropriate to lead with a BTS lyric (from “Dynamite” on their album BE).
Plus a casual shot for good measure:
Orks being Orks, the 22 minis I’ve painted so far bring me to a whopping…208 points. Down the road, when I paint my Morkanaut, I’ll get to experience a massive completion bump (+340 points, if memory serves).
WIP it good
I don’t usually combine posts for finished minis with WIP photos, but for Mukkit I did a sort of time lapse — and it turned out to be the clearest and most complete set of photos of my process that I’ve done so far. Mukkit was a genuine sprint, although I didn’t speed-paint him; I just did more painting in fewer days than normal.
I primed Mukkit on 12/28 and started painting him in earnest on the 29th. I wanted to book him by the end of the year, and it seemed doable.
This was my first time painting a larger unit with Citadel’s XL handle (which I just got recently), and it’s night and day compared to holding the base. I can’t believe I waited this long!
In hindsight, the moment I decided to commit to using thinner lines for my edge highlights heralded a sea change. Now that I know I can paint more delicate highlights, and can see the direct line of improvement from the start of the year to the end, I suspect I’m going to use more thin lines in the future.
Just imagine a photo of my weathering steps here, because I forgot to take one.
The lighter blue I used for Mukkit’s Klaw — as part of my unifying theme of every model in this army having one blue hand — doesn’t look as different from the other blue parts as I’d hoped, but it is a bit clearer in person.
The Killa Kan kit is amazing. Every part is swappable between Kans, and many parts are shared with the Deff Dread kit, adding even more customizability. There’s a ton of room to add personality in the assembly stage — and the painting stage is just as fun. These models are silly and dark in just the right measure and mixture, and they’re one of my favorite 40k kits.
Up next is probably one of the two Deff Dreads in my current list; I’ve got a three-armed big dude on my desk, mostly still on the sprue. With three Kans, two Dreads, and a Morkanaut (plus “Ork Terminators,” the Meganobz and Big Mek in Mega Armour), this army is full of what I love: big stompy things.
I wound up working on a box of Gretchin at the same time as five Boyz (not my usual approach; it’s too many at once!), so they got wrapped up on 12/27 as well.
Do Gretchin know they’re adorable?
Like the Orks I painted at the same time, these Grots use three different skin recipes (1, 2, and 3 on my current list). I can’t wait to see how this approach looks across a larger force.
I love these models, and they’re quick to paint up. Every step feels like it takes about half as long as an Ork Boy, so a box of 10 (excluding the Runtherd) takes about as long as a unit of 5 Orks; that makes doing 10 at a time pretty manageable.
With these 10 Grots plus 3 small terrain pieces and 11 Orks, December’s tally of 24 models is my new record. I think 16 was my previous record, and the Grots being so small helps a lot here. (And who knows, I might sneak in one more terrain piece this year; I have one that’s pretty close to done.)
Having made the questionable choice to work on the “back five” of Skrudd’s Krumpas at the same time as an entire unit of Gretchin, 12/27 was a record day for me. (The Grots have their own post, just to keep things organized.)
Wot’s dat funny light?
First, the new five on their own:
And then the whole mob, including Skrudd and the five I painted up earlier this month.
There are three skin recipes in this mix (1, 2, and 3 on my current list of Ork recipes. My hope is that sticking to a single recipe for war paint, which every model in Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas wears, will unify the larger army.
I overcooked the weathering on a few bits on these guys, notably the checked shoulder pads. I wound up repainting those, which is never my first choice, but it was worth it. I’m pretty happy with them overall — I just need to remember to go easy on the grit and grime!
Orks are as fun to paint as I’d hoped. I enjoy having multiple recipes for their skin, Deathskulls blue, etc. — and the mix of skin tones works as well in practice as it did in my head. I’m not sure my attempts to punch these five up (more checks, more blue and white, more lighter-colored boots for contrast with the terrain, etc.) were as successful as I’d hoped, but it feels like I’m moving in the right direction.
As I did with my Blood Angels army, I started Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas off with the backbone of any Waaagh!: some Ork Boyz. Six minis at once is about all I can handle, so I painted Boss Nob Skrudd and five of Skrudd’s Krumpas. I finished these Boyz on December 8th.
Krump dat lightbox
As an added bonus, my casual shots can now incorporate a play board and terrain!
The real Orks were the Orks we made along the way
On December 6, I retired my workhorse brush, which no longer has enough bristles to perform any meaningful service. It now rests in a place of honor, cradled in Wolverine’s arms atop the base of my painting lamp.
This brush is most likely seven years old, as I recall buying a pack of Armory brushes back in Utah when I needed to paint some Mercs minis in 2013. (If not, then it’s even older than that.) It’s served me well primarily as my paint-dipping brush, but it’s also done a ton of base-coating, painted the base edges on 50+ Blood Angels, been poked into crevices, and done every job a brush can do.
Before I lose track of it, I want to recap my half-assed method for quickly doing Ork checks. First I establish the grid using 2mm Tamiya hobby tape, and paint whatever’s showing Macragge Blue.
Then I peel away tape and hit either more Macragge Blue squares or the Corax White squares, whichever color is showing.
I don’t have a photo of step 3, but it’s just freehanding the missing squares once all the tape is gone. Every square gets two coats of paint.
A more time-consuming, and neater, approach would be to re-tape and only paint masked-off areas, but I discarded that as too fussy. A steadier hand than mine could use Warhammer TV’s approach, marking the edges of the grid with pencil, then filling in the lines, then painting those squares. But I need the steadying influence of the initial masking-off, and then of the “virtual” grid — and in any case I don’t see how pencil is going to show up on metal or black, which is what I checked here.
Step four is a thinned-down Agrax Earthshade wash, as recommended in White Dwarf #454 (don’t want those checks to be too clean!).
Reflections on painting my first Orks
It was a weird feeling hitting the point when a Blood Angel would have been done, ready for varnishing…and still having checks, rust, chipping, different rust, verdigris, and dirt/battle damage to go. On the one hand I’m setting myself up for work I could certainly get away without doing. On the other hand, I only need to paint them once but I have to look at them forever.
And, more importantly, all those extra steps were a lot of fun. They really only added a couple of hours, maybe three tops, to the finishing process (total, across all six Orks).
I learned a lot along the way, and I see plenty of room for improvement. Here’s what jumped out at me:
My freehand Krump glyphs are terrible, no surprise there; that skill will improve with practice.
I’m pretty happy with my checks; although they could be tidier, at the moment they feel the right amount of messy.
I exercised what I hope was the proper amount of restraint in weathering steps. I’ve seen plenty of Orks online that just disappear under chips and rust and clutter, no longer readable in the way I like my minis to be readable. I want green skin, blue war paint, blue gear, and checks to be what pops, not weathering (or the bases, or clothing).
War paint on arms feels like a struggle, but hands are pleasantly simple — and faces are surprisingly fun.
I love the signature that ties all of Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas together, the single hand painted blue. That felt right at the idea stage, and it feels right now that I’ve painted it on my first six Boyz.
Ditto the looted Space Marine wargear, although I’d like to branch out into other factions for variety.
I need to mix blue into my clothing options (and dirty white into my options for boots), and not hesitate to add more blue to my Orks in general. It’s their signature color, it pops — and since they feature lots of browns and their bases are brown, that pop is important. These first six could use more blue.
My initial 2,000-point list is still in draft form, but currently it only features 30 Boyz and 10 Gretchin. That feels light on Boyz for a horde army, but I’ve got so many Mek-y and Deathskulls-y units to fit in that I’m not sure how I could pack in more Boyz (and, after all, these aren’t the kings of the horde, the Goffs; they’re Deathskulls, the kings of Mek stuff). We shall see!
Thanks to changes in point values (most of my Marines got more expensive) and unit classifications (my Scouts went from troops to elites), I had to drop a painted unit of Sternguard from my army, and replace half of the already-painted Squad Karios with another five tactical Marines, in order to bring my list into line with 9th Edition rules.
That left the five battle-brothers of Squad Caedes as the final unit I needed to paint in order to have my first-ever 40k army.
And now they’re done! I’ve finished my army!
The boards in the Battlezone: Manufactorum sets (Vertigus, in this case) make for great photo backdrops. I can’t wait to shoot my whole army on one of these, with terrain!
I’ll gather my entire force for a group photo or two in a future post. For now, a deep breath, a pause, and a shift to painting Deathskulls Orks and terrain pieces.
As I sit here writing this, I kind of can’t believe I finished my army.
But it just hit me that while I was a bit worried this moment would sap my momentum, when I finished I immediately built some Manufactorum terrain and primed some Ork Boyz, so I’d have stuff teed up to work on tomorrow — without even thinking about it. Minis every day, it’s a good feeling.
And finally, I’ve gotta close with the last WIP shot for my first army, Squad Caedes heading into highlights: