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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Terrain Warhammer 40k

40k Sector Mechanicus terrain color guide

I started my 40k terrain collection with pieces from the Manufactorum line, and then added a bunch from the Sector Mechanicus line — enough stuff that, if I built all of it, I could kit out a 2,000-point 40k board. My plan has always been to find a paint scheme that unifies these two themes, and after looking at lots of possibilities I settled on this one.

My goal here isn’t to replicate the studio paint schemes for Mechanicus terrain (although they’re great!), it’s to make my bombed-out table full of a mix of Manufactorum and Mechanicus pieces looks cohesive. I’ve gotten ideas from Warhammer TV videos and Google searches, referenced Citadel’s mini-guides for specific colors (e.g. Deathworld Forest), and used my Manufactorum color guide as my baseline.

In the dark future there are no bare bottoms

Tying Sector Mechanicus to Battlezone: Manufactorum

My approach is to follow these steps in this order. That entails a rattle can primer/base coat, tackling the biggest sections, completely finishing everything but the tiny details (pipes, plaques, handles, screens, wires, and the like), then doing those details (with no wash/highlight steps for them!), and lastly weathering the whole piece.

  1. Spray everything Leadbelcher. Tackle each piece in two stages: broadly, top and bottom. Flip them over and wait 15 minutes before spraying the second stage.
  2. Big stuff:
    • Stanchions and gantries: base coat the tops of the gantries Deathworld Forest (over the existing Leadbelcher primer/base coat); touch up any overspill with Leadbelcher; wash the stanchions and both sides of the gantries, starting with the undersides and waiting an hour before doing the rest; and then completely finish these sections (all the way up to top-level drybrushing). That way I can be messy with my washing and drybrushing before painting the other elements.
      1. Tops and edges of gantries: Deathworld Forest > Agrax Earthshade > Elysian Green drybrush > light Screaming Skull drybrush
      2. Undersides of gantries: Agrax Earthshade
      3. Stanchions: Agrax Earthshade > Ironbreaker drybrush > Necron Compound drybrush
    • Red metal (large plates, tanks, doors, some pipes): Khorne Red > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red drybrush > very light Squig Orange drybrush
    • Railings and large pipe joints (compatible with Manufactorum pipes): Wraithbone > Seraphim Sepia > Agrax Earthshade pin wash along seams/wherever they’d be really dirty > Tyrant Skull drybrush > Praxeti White drybrush, focusing on the high points and edges
    • Bare metal (ladders, chains, hooks, etc.): Agrax Earthshade > Ironbreaker drybrush > Necron Compound drybrush
    • Bronze: Warplock Bronze > Agrax Earthshade > Brass Scorpion on the relief elements
    • Big 3-D Cog Mechanicum: The metal elements are already done (silver spray, wash, drybrushes).
      • White: Corax White > Apothecary White contrast paint > Praxeti White drybrush
      • Black: Corvus Black > Basilicum Grey contrast paint > Eshin Grey drybrush > light Dawnstone drybrush
      • Eye: Corax White > Khorne Red > Evil Sunz Scarlet
    • Small Cog Mechanicum: The metal elements are already done (silver spray, wash, drybrushes).
      • White: Corax White > thinned-down Agrax Earthshade wash > light White Scar drybrush
      • Black: Abaddon Black > light Dawnstone drybrush
    • Hazard stripes: Averland Sunset/Chaos Black (use 3mm Tamiya hobby tape to mask them off) > very thin Agrax Earthshade wash to dial them back a bit
  3. Little details (wires, conduits, screens, etc.): Base coat in a single color (Averland Sunset, Macragge Blue, etc.) and vary these choices across the terrain pieces (especially duplicates!); it sounds like heresy, but these truly don’t need any follow-up coats/layers/etc.
  4. Weathering:
    • Rust: Thinned-down Skrag Brown > thinned-down Fire Dragon Bright
    • Verdigris: Nihilakh Oxide on bronze elements
    • Bullet holes: Shade them with the rest of whatever surface they’re on, then at this stage just fill them with Leadbelcher
    • Chipping and damage: Sponge on Rhinox Hide, focusing on the blasted edges and torn-away elements, but also randomly putting it everywhere that feels right

If you like this color scheme/approach, there’s nothing about it that’s unique to my setup; it should look dandy without the Manufactorum pieces to complement it.

Note that during assembly I’ve added battle damage and decay to my Mechanicus pieces: holes in gantries, missing ladder rungs, bullet holes, smashed railings, etc. My rules of thumb are: no section of gantry intended to mate with another at the table should be too badly damaged, as that would look weird if the other side didn’t match; and don’t overdo it. These aren’t ruins, like most of the Manufactorum pieces, but they have seen some shit.

Drilling holes and taking big bites out of my gantries (April 27, 2022)

My hope is that the mix of ruined and intact pieces, which is common to both terrain themes — out of the box in the case of Manufactorum, and added by me in the case of Mechanicus — will make the whole battlefield cohesive, immersive, and fun to look at.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Terrain Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Tyranid Warriors and terrain

I’m currently working on three things in parallel, all at different stages: my second Hive Fleet Balaur unit for Kill Team, three Tyranid Warriors; a batch of Manufactorum terrain; and a couple of larger Sector Mechanicus terrain pieces.

Tom Servo of Finland watching over three freshly-glued Warriors

These guys were every bit as fun to build as my Genestealers. And despite having no names, no personalities, no quirky equipment — none of the stuff I’m used to using as my roleplaying hooks for how to assemble and paint an interesting figure — these models are packed with opportunities to convey intent (nom nom nom), motion, and character.

I’m honestly surprised how much I enjoy building and painting Tyranids.

My Tyranid Warrior Fire Team: Venom Cannon, leader, and weapon beast

Since I’m combining pieces from two lines, Manufactorum and Mechanicus, for my table, I started out with the Mechanicus stuff by just faffing about and seeing how it looks alongside my Manufactorum pieces.

I love how modular the Mechanicus terrain is

Alongside creating interesting terrain, my goal is to balance the modularity of the Mechanicus kits with a desire for durable, functional pieces I don’t need to fuss with.

These kits can be painted in pieces and assembled at the table, then broken down and reassembled a different way the next time. But some of the elements, like the railings, are going to mar whatever you attach them too — and in any case, that level of modularity seems like overkill to me.

So instead I built four anchor pieces, all of them fully assembled and glued — and all of them capable of being combined in lots of different ways. I left space for a Ferratonic Furnace under the octagon at the back, but glued my second furnace to the platform up front. The long gantries can each accommodate one or two of the larger Mechanicus tanks being slid under them, and almost all of the “mating” ends of the gantries and platforms can be mixed and matched.

This took a couple of hours, but I’m happy with how my pieces turned out.

My four anchor pieces (just press-fit at this stage, not glued)

After sleeping on my choices, I tweaked a couple things here and there, picked two to start with, and got them glued together.

The Ferratonic Furnace and platform will be glued together after I’ve sprayed them both (to make it easier to reach all the little crannies behind the ladder, cables, etc.)

Then I shifted gears and did the first wash on four Manufactorum pieces I’d previously primed, with an eye to finishing a full Kill Team board worth of terrain as soon as possible.

I’ve yet to figure out the secret of not being messy with terrain washes

It’s a weird angle, but this is my current overflowing work area: freshly washed Manufactorum pieces at the bottom, a mix of finished and WIP Tyranids and terrain in the center, and my first two huge Mechanicus pieces waiting for a dry day so I can spray them.

My desk hasn’t looked like this in months, and I love it!

Shifting from working on 2,000-point 40k armies to Kill Team squads has been just the ticket for getting me jazzed about painting again. It’s also helped me find something to focus on with terrain, since I’ve got a much shorter-term goal than filling a Strike Force board: one Kill Team board, which is maybe 4 large pieces, 2 medium ones, and a handful of little bits.

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Finished miniatures Kill Team Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Five Hive Fleet Balaur Genestealers wrapped up

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

Their underbellies creep me out a bit
Golden angles
Front
Back

I figured I’d shoot one with some terrain, too.

Hive Fleet Balaur scuttling through the ruins

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.

Current way vs. old way, front view
Rear view

Nid thoughts

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.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Tyranid Warriors and Genestealers

With my Genestealers’ initial base/wash/drybrush done, I based them and then tested some base rim options.

Doombull, Rhinox, Khorne, Squig
Wild Rider, Wazdakka, Doombull

Doombull Brown is the clear winner in my book, so that’s what I’ll be using for my Tyranids.

Genestealers based and with their full initial base coat in all colors; next comes touch-ups

I also took a box of Tyranid Warriors on vacation with me, and spent some quiet time trimming and filing them. I just wrapped up assembly on the first one (Venom Cannon, Boneswords, and Toxin Sacs), so now he’s in my impromptu drying station.

These minis are every bit as cool as I hoped they would be

Both Hive Fleet Balaur units for my first Kill Team are coming along nicely, and I’m in the groove. If I find myself in a painting mood, I could have my Genestealers completely wrapped up this weekend.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Genestealers

After letting the glue on the Genestealers I built last night cure overnight, finalizing my color scheme this morning, and writing a color guide for Hive Fleet Balaur, I sprayed these five bad boys:

Even though it was only about 40 degrees out, the rattle can still worked great

While they were drying (Citadel’s rattle cans really are paint-ready in 15 minutes; I love them), I nipped out to Mox for the four paints I was missing. Then I got my ducks in a row for a painting session.

I’d say pardon my dusty desk, but I hate dusting so my figures are almost always dusty

I’ve seen Genestealers painted basically all one color (like the current studio paint jobs for Leviathan) or about 50/50 (like the old Space Hulk models, with their blue bodies and pink hands), and I decided to split the difference. I’m giving them carapaces on their backs, basically from the tail joint up, and treating the rest of the body — including the carapace-like tail and chest/belly — as skin/body tone (whitish-pink).

Among other things, that will let me practice my mottling on these guys before doing it on my Warriors, who are larger and have more carapace areas to paint. I also don’t love the studio Leviathan scheme for Genestealers, which I find too monotone; expanding what counts as carapace lets me avoid that.

First wash applied; I love this unwholesome pink!

Post-drybrush, they’re not as off-white as the studio models, but they’ve definitely changed:

The main body now only needs its final Pallid Wych Flesh highlight

I decided to go back and re-reestablish the Carroburg Crimson in their vents and joints, but that didn’t magically make my drybrushing as adept as a GW studio painter’s work. Maybe the final highlights will balance things out a bit? We’ll see.

Base elements now finished, texture paint applied and drying

I took a closer look at some Leviathan nids in the 8e codex and White Dwarf #463, and I’m pretty sure some of them have a Pallid Wych Flesh drybrush over their Screaming Skull drybrush — so I gave that a shot. It makes a difference! In natural light, this guy reads much whiter:

After the second drybrush was applied

I’m going to call that “close enough for splinter fleet purposes” and move on. Time for some Naggaroth Night!

Quickly checking the compatibility of my two other primary base colors

Once I had the carapace roughed in, I threw a quick coat of Incubi Darkness — my other primary base color — on the claws so I could get a feel for how things will look down the road. Both colors will get darker before they get highlighted up, and I’m hoping the final layers will bring them tonally in line with the flesh while still keeping them dark enough for satisfying contrast.

Heck, how about a quick and dirty test to see what Warpstone Glow and Sybarite Green might look like?

I’m not sure glazing is worth the effort on small claws like these — simple layers look pretty solid

Oh yeah! It fits Balaur’s origins, the colors work together — I’m digging this. I can’t wait to see it with the mottling on the carapace!

This is the most painting I’ve done in about seven months, a full day of thinking about, writing about, and painting Tyranids. It feels good.

Categories
Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Tyranid Hive Fleet Balaur color guide

I’m far enough along with my first Fire Team for Hive Fleet Balaur to need to take stock of my paint library, so it’s time for a color guide!

Hive Fleet Balaur Genestealers (April 24, 2022)

As always, this guide is drawn from a mix of GW material (White Dwarf #463 and a Warhammer TV video for the Leviathan scheme, Warhammer TV again for their classic Warriors video), YouTube tutorials (Doctor Faust and CatgutPainting for the mottling), and my own spin on things. Washes/shades are generally in italics, and my notation is base > shade > layer > layer for Citadel’s Parade Ready approach.

Bases

  • Terrain: Stirland Mud > Reikland Fleshshade > Astorath Red drybrush
  • Rocks: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Celestra Grey drybrush
  • Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
  • Horns: Zandri Dust > Seraphim Sepia > Ushabti Bone drybrush
  • Base rim: Doombull Brown
  • Tufts: Army Painter Wasteland Tufts

Models

My Tyranid Kill Team only has two units as of this writing, Genestealers and Tyranid Warriors, and Tyranids tend to be pretty similar faction-wide, so this is pretty much my guide for all Hive Fleet Balaur Tyranids. Balaur is a splinter fleet of Leviathan, so the studio scheme for Leviathan was my starting point.

Paint steps vary slightly from my usual approach because the full-body drybrush is messy, so it has to come before most of the other steps: Prime and base coat with Wraithbone spray, shade the skin, drybrush the skin, deepen the wash in the vents/joints, apply the texture paint to the base, and then do everything else.

  • Body/skin: Wraithbone spray > shade with 1:4 Carroburg Crimson:Lahmian Medium all over > Screaming Skull drybrush > Carroburg Crimson wash in the vents/joints > Pallid Wych Flesh drybrush > Pallid Wych Flesh on high points
  • Carapace: Naggaroth Night > Druchii Violet > Xereus Purple edge highlights > Genestealer Purple edge/point highlights > Genestealer Purple mottling (larger dots), size of model permitting > Fulgrim Pink mottling (smaller dots)
    • Mottling: Apply dots of thinned paint with dotting tools, in varying sizes
  • Claws: Incubi Darkness > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow > Sybarite Green on tips/edges
  • Weapons larger than claws: Incubi Darkness > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow glaze > Warpstone Glow edge and tip highlighting (as if the glaze weren’t there) > Sybarite Green on tips/edges
    • Glazing: 1:6 Warpstone Glow:Lahmian Medium, 7-8 layers, starting with almost the entire weapon and covering a bit less area every time, working from the base towards the tip; the end should be pretty close to pure Warpstone Glow, but not quite as bright
  • Fleshy bits and tongues: Bugman’s Glow > Reikland Fleshshade > Kislev Flesh
  • Teeth: Screaming Skull > Agrax Earthshade > Screaming Skull
  • Eyes: Averland Sunset > Casandora Yellow > Flash Gitz Yellow
A WIP Genestealer from my first Fire Team (April 9, 2022)

Notes

I’m still pretty new to using Lahmian Medium, and my first attempt for the main body/flesh wash — 1:3 Screamer Pink:Lahmian Medium, my best guess at the ratio used in White Dwarf #463 — went on more like a base coat than a wash. So I switched to using my shade brush, Carroburg Crimson, and a 1:4 ratio, and that went much more smoothly.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

Testing Hive Fleet Balaur color schemes

After an evening of assembling Genestealers and thinking about paint schemes, I spent the rest of last night leafing through back issues of White Dwarf for Tyranid content.

My initial idea for Hive Fleet Balaur’s color scheme was the bi pride flag: pink, purple, blue. Along with the symbolism and the colors, I also like that it includes 2/3 of the classic Genestealer colors.

But the more pictures of gorgeously painted Tyranids I looked at, the more I found myself drawn to Hive Fleet Leviathan’s paint scheme: off-white body with unsettling pink undertones, like a snake’s belly; deep purple carapace; and dark red claws/weapons. No surprise from GW, but that is an outstanding color scheme with fantastic contrast and perfectly matched tones.

This gorgeous spin on Kronos on DakkaDakka gave me the idea to try green weapons/claws. A CatgutPainting video on patterned Tyranid paint schemes sold me on mottling, which I first saw on Javier Del Rio’s stunning Hive Tyrant in White Dwarf #463:

Miniature painted and photographed by Javier Del Rio, from White Dwarf #463

So I started pondering making Balaur a splinter fleet of Leviathan, and using Leviathan’s colors as my starting point. GW has done Leviathan at least two ways for their studio paint jobs, so I blended ideas from both of them for the body and decided to test Wraithbone base > 1:3 Screamer Pink:Lahmian Medium shade.

Still thinking about bright colors (something I haven’t yet done for 40k) and wanting to see how that would look next to a vibrant purple carapace (with pink dots/mottling still in my brain) and medium-to-bright green claws, I slapped some paint onto a piece of terrain. (I’ll be repainting this area whenever I circle back to terrain, and conveniently it’s already primed with Wraithbone spray.)

Here’s Wraithbone base coat, the Screamer/Lahmian wash, Xereus Purple, and Warpstone Glow.

Test colors

And here it is with a quick and dirty Screaming Skull drybrush over the body color, bringing the body closer to Leviathan:

Getting closer to “snake’s underbelly” whitish-pink

Now to test out mottling the carapace. I did some research and found that some folks do this with a toothpick or a dotting tool; this Doctor Faust tutorial is a good demonstration of one approach. My kiddo has a stash of dotting tools, so I borrowed a few different sizes.

Small and his buddy Real Small

Here’s a Genestealer Purple base mottled with Genestealer Purple and then Fulgrim Pink, with purple done using the larger of the tools above and pink done with the smaller one:

Mottling

Genestealer Purple isn’t much of a contrast (although for adding depth to mottling, that’s probably good), but Fulgrim Pink sure pops. It’s also clear I’m not good at this yet! But I do like the effect.

I threw Khorne Red into the mix and polled my wife and kiddo, and we all liked both options (red or green) but agreed they each give the model a different feel.

(optometrist voice) Green, or red? One, or two?

The more I look at the toxic green, the more I like it. The Leviathan lineage is clear from the identical body color and the mottled variation on the carapace color, the toxic green (coupled with the mottling) cements Balaur as its own thing, and the whole scheme should contrast nicely with my basing recipe: Stirland Mud texture paint, Reikland Fleshshade wash, Astorath Red drybrush (from the ever-amazing White Dwarf Basing Cookbook in the November 2016 issue).

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Adeptus Custodes Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

Spraying my Custodes with Retributor Armour: notes to self

After enjoying the time savings from spraying my first batch of 40k terrain with Citadel’s Wraithbone rattle can — a primer and base coat in one — I decided to go the same route with my custard lads. They’re 90% gold; this is a potentially huge time savings.

So I built my entire army before painting any of them — something I haven’t done since I got back into painting in 2020. It’s only 26 models, so this seemed like the most logical approach.

2,000 points of Dread Host Custodes

As luck would have it, today’s weather was perfect for some spray painting.

3-2-1 RESPIRATE
Deep in the spray chamber, it’s kinda dark

Here’s what I found:

  • Retributor Armour, which is a metallic, doesn’t go on as easily as Wraithbone (which is not).
  • Compared to terrain, which, broadly, is flat and regular, miniatures are much fussier to spray paint. They’re covered in little nooks and crannies.
  • The Allarus Terminators are fussier than the Custodian Guards, because their pauldrons are overhangs and their little turtle heads make a “dead zone” for paint unless you hit that area from just the right angle.
  • Starting with them laying down is much easier than starting with them standing up. Many of the hard-to-reach bits are dealt with much more smoothly, and when you stand them up there’s just a bit of obvious touching-up to do.
  • My usual approach — spraying into an open box sitting on its side — doesn’t work nearly as well as just setting the figures on the top of the box and attacking them from all angles. (Outdoors, with no one nearby, and my goggles and respirator on, this isn’t a safety hazard.) With care, it’s not too hard to keep the paint on the box.
  • I thought one can would cover 21 infantry models and 6 bikes. It actually covered 14 infantry models (1 Trajann, 1 Vexilus Praetor, 6 Allarus, 6 Custodians) and the bases for the 6 bikes.
  • That took me about 75 minutes, including time spent waiting for stuff to dry, so spraying the other 6 infantry and all 6 bikes shouldn’t take any longer than that.
  • I can’t believe I used to do this without goggles and a respirator mask!

None of that has anything to do with the quality of Citadel’s rattle cans: Retributor Armour spray dries beautifully. Even if I have to brush-prime the odd crevice and touch it up with a spot of paint, I’ve still saved a ton of time here.

Look at their wee nameplates!

I opted to spray the Vertus Praetor bases because 1) why not? and 2) that way the rims and rocks won’t look different from the rest of the bases (which they might if I primed them white). Ultimately this probably wouldn’t matter much — but hey, shiny bases!

I’m honestly tempted to leave them like this

Now I need to wait for another can of paint to arrive in the mail before I can goldenize the rest of them — but in the meantime, I’ve got 20 bases to work on!

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Adeptus Custodes Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Adeptus Custodes Dread Host color guide and painting steps

There are relatively few Adeptus Custodes units, and from what I’ve seen they all use pretty much the same colors (adapted per one’s shield company) — kind of like Deathskulls Orks. So I have a feeling one main color guide will cover most of my army.

Bases

As ever, I’m using a recipe from White Dwarf 161 (Nov. 2016) for the terrain, and washes/shades are in italics.

  • Terrain: Stirland Mud > Agrax Earthshade > Golgfag Brown drybrush
  • Rocks: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Celestra Grey drybrush
  • Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
  • Nameplates: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver on the letters only
  • Base rim: Dryad Bark
  • Tufts: Mix of Army Painter highland and mountain tufts

Trajann Valoris has two additional elements on his base:

  • Demon skull horns: Steel Legion Drab > Agrax Earthshade > Ushabti Bone drybrush
  • Stone platforms: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Grey Seer drybrush

Custodes

These recipes cover the basics for Dread Host Custodians, and in general they come straight from Citadel (with a few tweaks). I default to Citadel’s Parade Ready steps (base/shade/layer/layer), but with these guys I’m mixing in a bit of drybrushing as well. Gems are a big deal for Custodes, so I’m going to attempt a more realistic and detailed approach on those.

  • Armor: Retributor Armour spray as both primer and base coat > Reikland Fleshshade > Auric Armour Gold > Stormhost Silver
  • Dread Host black:
    • Left pauldron: Abaddon Black
    • Robes: Abaddon Black > drybrush Eshin Grey > very lightly drybrush Dawnstone (follow option two in this excellent Artis Opus tutorial)
    • Weapons: Abaddon Black > Eshin Grey > Dawnstone
  • Dread Host gems: Stegadon Scale Green > Coelia Greenshade > Sotek Green in a crescent from 2 o’clock to 8 o’clock > Temple Guard Blue in a smaller crescent over the Sotek Green area > dot of White Scar at 11 o’clock
  • Dread Host eyes: Sotek Green (note this is a layer paint) > Temple Guard Blue
  • Blades: Sotek Green (note this is a layer paint) > Coelia Greenshade > Temple Guard Blue drybrush on the high points along the flats, plus the edges > Fenrisian Grey drybrush on same areas > dot of Fenrisian Grey on the tip and the power nodules
  • Dread Host pteruges: Celestra Grey > Drakenhof Nightshade > Ulthuan Grey > White Scar > dots of Stormhost Silver on the studs
  • Gloves, weapon grips, and other leather: Doombull Brown (note this is a layer paint) > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red > Squig Orange
  • Plumes, tassels, cords: Mephiston Red > Carroburg Crimson > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Wild Rider Red
  • Metal: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver
  • Armor joints and leg/boot tubes: Abaddon Black > Eshin Grey
  • Parchment: Rakarth Flesh > Agrax Earthshade > Pallid Wych Flesh > White Scar > Eshin Grey for the writing
  • Cartridges: Warplock Bronze > Agrax Earthshade > Brass Scorpion
  • Trajann’s unique elements:
    • Cloak exterior, and his robe: Mephiston Red > Carroburg Crimson > Evil Sunz Scarlet drybrush > touch-up the gold portion
    • Cloak interior: Doombull Brown (note this is a layer paint) > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red drybrush
    • Lion pelt: Dot black in for the eyes, nose, and claws; for the rest, it’s Zandri Dust > Agrax Earthshade > Ushabti Bone
    • Feathers: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Ulthuan Grey > a few dots of White Scar

Painting notes

The Codex’s guideline for robes (they generally match the shield company’s color, so black or black/white for Dread Host) doesn’t match the lone Dread Host mini pictured in the Codex, whose robe is red outside/white inside. I went with black because it seemed like the better approach for emphasizing that this is a Dread Host force.

I repainted, and then re-glazed, and then repainted (etc.), the first batch of Sentinel Blades several times, including multiple botched passes at freehanding a “crackling lightning” effect, before realizing that I just don’t have the skill and brush control to pull this off. It was becoming a bottleneck and making me not want to finish the first squad, so I went back to basics.

Painting steps

For the early steps, I’m painting my Custodes like I paint terrain, rather than figures — and there’s no touch-up step. That plus doing primer and base coat as one, with no overnight cure time, should make them significantly quicker to paint than my other models.

  1. Assemble: Build all of them at once, then spray them all (rather than having parallel tracks for assembly, priming, basing, and painting on multiple units).
  2. Primer and base coat: Spray the whole mini with Retributor Armour, which also only needs 15 minutes to cure (rather than curing overnight).
  3. Base: As per usual, but apply the texture paint carefully around the feet so that the model is clearly standing atop, not mired in, the terrain.
    1. Base rims: Paint as usual. (I normally do this last, to mark finishing the mini, but with the nameplates in the mix I want some wash in the crevices where the plate meets the rim, so the rims need to be done now.)
    2. Paint the nameplate: Just my usual steps, but extra careful around where the terrain meets the top edge of the plate.
  4. Gold touch-ups: I inevitably get a bit of Stirland Mud on what should be gold, so just fix it up with Retributor Armour. Check for little nooks and crannies that didn’t get hit (or hit hard enough) with the spray, and touch those up as well.
  5. Shade the gold: Wash all the gold areas in Reikland Fleshshade. Doing this now lets me get into all the hard-to-reach crevices without worrying about messing anything up.
  6. Paint everything except gold and gems: Approach this whole process like I do with terrain: with the care of highlighting. I’m not bodging on paint and fixing it in a touch-up step; I’m carefully painting details surrounded by areas that are at a different stage of completion. The goal is to avoid needing touch-ups (or at least needing as many as I usually do).
    1. For Custodian Guards, my order is: black, bronze, silver, blades, eyes, pteruges, tassels/plumes, gloves.
  7. Finish the gold: Highlights, plus any gold touch-ups prompted by the previous step.
  8. Paint the gems: Base coat, shade, highlight, as per usual — but “think like terrain.” These can be simple details; a gem the size of a grain of salt doesn’t need shading, and may not even need a highlight. A bigger gem deserves the full treatment. Keep the flow fast and loose.
  9. Seal: No weathering or decals for these lads, so just my usual Vallejo matte white sealant.
  10. Tufts: As per usual; apply with white glue.
  11. Glue the flight base pegs in place: I did this before sealing, without thinking about it, but this really should be the final step. If I’d sealed the bases first, I could have slathered on my sealant with reckless abandon without needing to carefully avoid the clear pegs.

When I started out, my plan was to batch-paint every step across the entire army. I wound up doing that for priming/base-coating (the gold), bases, and nameplates, but thereafter I switched to working squad by squad — my usual approach. It might technically be more efficient to batch the whole army, but I need the dopamine hit of finishing minis to give me momentum for the next batch. (And I’m not entirely convinced messing with 26 figures at once, all cluttering up my desk on improvised hand-grips, is more efficient…)

I always like to use a new minis project to build on existing skills and knowledge (e.g., painting these Custodians like I learned to paint terrain) as well as learn new ones, balancing the latter with not overwhelming myself and risking burnout. For my Custodes, realistic gem shading and more detailed fancy blades — glazed with the aid of Lahmian Medium, which is new to me — are my stretches. I’m also hoping that a whole army painted without a dedicated step for touch-ups will help me paint more precisely across the board.

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Adeptus Custodes Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

40k army number three: Adeptus Custodes of the Dread Host

I’ve been maintaining my hobby streak for miniature-painting (today is day 495), but over the past few months my pace has slowed considerably. I’m okay with that, and I stand by my philosophy on this: Any forward progress beats the zero progress I made for many, many years. Even if all I do is paint one Deff Dread’s horns, or one Marine’s Bolter, I’ve done something to keep the train moving.

If the train stops, it may not start up again for a long time (if ever).

But it hit me this morning that just as working on terrain was a great palate-cleanser between finishing my Blood Angels army and starting my Deathskulls Ork army, a third army might be just the ticket here. If I’d done that when I first got into painting, with my Angels, I probably would have lost all my momentum and burned out.

But now, with one 2,000-point army ready to go and a second with 37 figures done (32 standard-sized and 5 large ones)? That feels quite different.

My first model in this army, a sword-and-board Custodian Guard

It’s custard time

Way back in the before times (March 2020), when I was deciding what army to paint, I almost picked Adeptus Custodes because of the sheer awesomeness of the Vertus Praetors and Custodian Guard models. Blood Angels were the right call, though, and Orks were the right call after that — but now it’s time for the golden legion!

As a palate-cleanser, they fit the bill perfectly:

  • It’s an elite army, so it can be tiny. My current draft list is 20 infantry models and 6 bikes! That’s about half the size of my Marine army and a third the size of my Ork army.
  • Assuming I make them gold (which I will be), they’re like 90% gold — which means I can spray them with Citadel’s Retributor Armour, and treat them more like terrain. Primer and base coat in one, with just a handful of details to pick out after that. Boom.
  • Custodes should play quite differently than either of my other two armies.
  • They should also look different from my Angels, even though they might wind up gold/red. I’m basing them on Stirland Mud, and the studio recipe for their gold is slightly different.
  • I can also paint them as being clean and perfect, a marked shift from my Orks — which have a whole bunch of steps after I’d normally be done with a Blood Angel (checks, weathering, etc.).
  • Hell, I can probably even fit them in my existing overflow storage without needing to buy more cases. (And even then, they need one case at most!)

I also considered Grey Knights, who can rival the Custodes in the low model count category — and take Terminators, my favorite 40k unit, as troops (yes, I knocked together a 100% Terminator list just to see what it might be like). Ditto Harlequins, who have fascinated me since high school, but I was surprised to find that they’re not nearly as elite and actually need a fair number of bodies on the field. And I’d previously thought about Necrons and Death Guard, too. But none of them ticked as many boxes, nor felt as right, as Custodes.

At my fevered 2020 summer/fall pace, I could paint this entire 2,000-point army in 6-8 weeks. Now, something more like 4 months is probably reasonable. If I keep slow-rolling it, maybe 5-6 months?

I still don’t know if it’s “cuss-toe-dees” (my brain’s default pronunciation), “cuss-toe-dess,” or “cuss-toads,” but I do know that this is about half of my entire army:

Given that I’m currently working on Orks, where I’ve painted dozens of minis and barely hit 500 points, this is going to be a refreshing change

Dread Host

I’m drawn to the Shadowkeepers based on their lore, and they do also look cool — but I want gold Custodes. As with Marines and Orks, it seems silly to go the custom route and lose access to rules for the canon shield companies (the five in the Codex), and not at all sporting to choose a custom color scheme and pick the best rules that week.

Setting Shadowkeepers to one side, I find myself drawn to the Dread Host — the Custodes who will smash your whole planet just to show the other planets what’s what. And I dig their color scheme, which uses black pauldrons, white leather bits, and blue gems. Even if I go with red plumes, they’re not going to be confused with Blood Angels.

As is traditional, I’ve kicked things off by building my first Custodian to mark the official start of my army: Inkaef, Custodian Guard of the Dread Host shield company. (For BA it was Sergeant Karios; for Orks, Moonkrumpa . . . who I tweaked and rebuilt like four times.)

Inkaef, my first Custodian

I was tempted to lean into the whole pronunciation thing — and gently deflate the over-the-top bombast of the Custodes — and name the members of my custard shield company using Latin words for food: Shield-Captain Prandium (breakfast), Warden Bubulae (beef), Vexilus Praetor Capsicum Anuum (potato), Custodian Acetaria (salad). But that’s not me; I like the pretentiousness of the Custodes, who make the Astartes look like bastions of modesty, and I generally take my names seriously.

With so many Renaissance Italian, Latin, and Greek names in my Blood Angels army, I want to avoid the obvious choice — Roman names — for my Custodes. Since they’re drawn from the ranks of all the myriad noble houses of Terra, why should they all have similar names? My plan is to name every model (unlike my other armies, where I only name the characters, squad leaders, and vehicles), but beyond that I’m not sure how or if I’ll theme their names. (Inkaef was a 4th dynasty Egyptian prince.)

In any case: Onwards, custard legion!