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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk Warhammer 40k

A brief existential painting crisis

With the end in sight for painting my Space Hulk set, I’ve been thinking about whether to change any of my painting techniques for my Blood Angels army. Like any rabbit hole this question can prove bottomless and intimidating.

What I’m doing now (plus sealant first and varnish last):

  1. Base coat
  2. Shade (wash) the entire miniature
  3. Drybrush

I like how this is turning out on my Terminators, but my third step — an all-over ink wash — really darkens up the miniature. Drybrushing helps it pop again, but their power armor still reads as dark red rather than sort of medium red.

I wondered if layering or edge highlighting might be something to try out, so I poked around, found this handy Citadel color chart (PDF), and started watching Warhammer TV videos. This one comparing two painting processes jumped right out at me.

Excerpt from a free Citadel color chart

In the WHTV video, Duncan Rhodes demonstrates two techniques (again, preceded by primer). One:

  1. Base coat
  2. Shade (wash) only the recesses/cracks/etc. with a fine brush
  3. Edge highlight in a lighter color

And two:

  1. Base coat
  2. Drybrush with a lighter color, but fairly broadly — edges plus larger areas
  3. Shade (wash) the entire miniature

Seeing a drybrush precede a wash blew my mind. It looks great on his finished miniatures (around 14:55 in the video), but I think I still prefer my primary wash (Agrax Earthshade) followed by a drybrush to his wash (Carroburg Crimson) preceded by a drybrush. (Duncan is a much better painter than me; this is just an aesthetic preference on my part.)

I’d been assuming that layering accompanied drybrushing, not preceded it. And maybe that’s an approach some folks take, I don’t know. But it looks like maybe it’s a full-on alternative, not an accompaniment.

On the one hand it’s gratifying to see that my simple approach is more or less a typical one. But on the other hand I really like the idea of edge highlighting and want to give it a shot — but not midstream on my Terminator squad, I don’t think. Maybe I’ll do a test paint job on an old BattleMech, a model I don’t need to match anything else I’m working on at the moment.

Hmm.

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Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk

A full squad of Terminators down!

Today is a big day for me: I finished two more Terminators out of the 12 that come in Space Hulk, bringing me up to what would be a full squad of them in 40k.

“Only in death does duty end.”

Until I started painting in February, I hadn’t finished a miniature in eight years. Between Feb. 22 and today I’ve finished five. Five. Fuck yeah!

They were a blast to paint. I’m energized and ready for the next seven!

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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: Valencio and Goriel

My project for this evening before tonight’s tremulus game starts: Seeing how far I can take Brothers Valencio and Goriel, who are currently partially base-coated.

Goriel is carrying a Genestealer head MK fatality-style, so I grabbed one for color reference
Valencio fully base-coated and starting on his wash
Valencio fully washed

Brother Valencio was an absolute blast to paint: braids, purity seals, gems, skull and crossbones, weird pipes, and a fun pose.

Goriel’s turn on the painting handle

Goriel wins the coveted Most Colors in His Base Coat award for these Terminators, at least so far: 10. He has every color I’ve used for Termies plus another three for the Genestealer bits.

The Terminator equivalent of sweatpants that say JUICY across the ass

Goriel has been the most challenging Termie so far because he’s covered in bling that the others don’t have: a butt skull, a skull on the hatch on his back, white braided cords, and other entertaining complexities. I keep going back to hit things I missed . . . and then seeing more I missed and going back again. And again.

March 2 (left, Omnio and Claudio) meet March 3 (right, Valencio and Goriel)

Like most of these models, I’ve diverged a bit from the paint/color guide in the rulebook — sometimes for aesthetic reasons, sometimes because I forgot a bit, sometimes because I know I can’t do some effect (like freehand 50/50 color schemes) justice yet . . . and sometimes just because Past Martin painted something the wrong color and I decided to run with it.

My back is killing me (I must have been painting like a gargoyle), so that might be it for tonight.

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

More mechs from the vault, circa 1997-2007: part 2 of 3

My intro to part one applies here as well:

These mechs span about a decade of painting, some while actively playing BattleTech during regular matches with a friend in the University of Michigan student union (which I lost, no exaggeration, 100% of the time — but they were fun!) and some after moving to Utah.

The ones I painted while trying to get a fully painted force to the table tend to be pretty unrefined, and anything that wasn’t an assault mech got less attention too — I’ve always been a 100-ton goober, and the tiny ones just didn’t grab me as much.

Zeus

My overly heavy drybrushing (in the wrong colors) here kind of works — entirely by accident, but still. The Zeus is a classic design replete with little lines, radii, and circles, and drybrushing picked those out pretty well. Like a lot of my mechs from this era, he looks weathered; that’s neat.

Kingfisher

I committed hard to my unit color scheme of black with red highlights/unit markings, and it didn’t always work out well. But on the Kingfisher, I like the red legs and weapons. This looks like a mech piloted by some grizzled, battle-hardened mechwarrior with a call sign like “Blood Fury,” known for wading through the blood of her enemies.

Pillager

Up close I can see that I needed to spend some more time concealing the base that went into the larger base. Metallic silver and metallic gold also looked better in my head than they do in reality.

Pillager rear view

I want to play around with sharing two views of some of my minis, and the Pillager is a good one to start with. For one thing, the silver/gold combo works better here — especially in the vents/fins on the legs.

For another, I’m seeing depth in those fins, and in other places, that looks like it could only have come from an ink wash. Maybe I drybrushed this guy in black? Or maybe after ~20 years I’ve just forgotten that I did experiment with ink washes before learning about the Dip Method? I wish I knew for sure, but I don’t.

Score another one for the lightbox on that front: I was 100% sure I’d never tried a wash before 2010 or so, but I’m not nearly as certain anymore. Whatever I did to the Pillager was overdone, but also somewhat effective.

I really, really have not being giving past me enough credit as a minis painter — and it’s held me back from doing more it, and from finding joy in the work. No more!

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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: late night edition

Look, I’m in my 40s: 8:30 is late.

I got the Leadbelcher out to work on Brothers Claudio and Omnio and figured while I was at it I’d hit the bases for a few other Termies at the same time.

5×5, in the pipe
Off to the rack with you

Then I realized I was instinctively settling back into assembly-line painting and returned to focusing solely on Claudio and Omnio.

Omnio, keeper of the Emperor’s holy TI-82 graphing calculator

I like having two minis on the go so that while one is drying I can work on the other one.

Brother Claudio (I love that they went for the pun!)

Claudio is probably my favorite mini in the whole squad. I’ve always loved Lightning Claws. And he’s a fantastic sculpt: covered in golden skulls, those cool little clusters of wires leading to his claws, draped in chains, dripping with gems — and to top it all off, he has a golden chalice on his codpiece. Baller.

Winding down for the night

I got Omnio done and dusted and then took a one-hour break while Claudio’s sealant dried . . . and came back and knocked him the fuck out too.

Two more down!

That’s two Terminators down and it’s only March 2! Technically I painted four figures last month, although only two were normal-sized; the other two were little bits of “stuff” for a mission. Even so, I’m halfway to hitting my mark for all of February with plenty of March to go.

Today was one of my most productive painting days ever.

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

More mechs from the vault, circa 1997-2007: part 1 of 3

These mechs span about a decade of painting, some while actively playing BattleTech during regular matches with a friend in the University of Michigan student union (which I lost, no exaggeration, 100% of the time — but they were fun!) and some after moving to Utah.

The ones I painted while trying to get a fully painted force to the table tend to be pretty unrefined, and anything that wasn’t an assault mech got less attention too — I’ve always been a 100-ton goober, and the tiny ones just didn’t grab me as much.

Starslayer

In hindsight, I can feel my frustration while painting this guy — which led to over-drybrushing. I wish I’d known then that an ink wash would have eliminated that frustration and prevented me from desperately drybrushing the shit out of this model and thinking, “Why doesn’t it look how I want it to look?!”

Perseus

The pose combined with the rusty look I chose for this Perseus makes him look like a stern old grandpa. I’m kind of digging it. Also, I did a pretty good job on his missile battery — the rim is mostly even, and every missile port was hand-dotted because (again) I didn’t use an ink wash on him.

Goshawk

This Goshawk sculpt looks like he’s swaggering into the club, knowing he’s big king swinging dick. I kind of like the green/yellow color scheme.

Nobori-nin (Huntsman)

The Huntsman is kind of fundamentally doofy-looking, and I’m not sure I did him many favors. Despite the over-drybrushing, I do like how his legs turned out; there’s some reasonable depth to them and they look nicely weathered.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk

Coming soon: Genestealer showcase

Now that I have the lightbox and a decent sense for how to shoot in it, I’m going to get these Genestealers up in there for your viewing enjoyment (and my self-critique).

They were the best paint jobs I’ve done until this year, incorporating color-matched drybrushing and the Dip Method (shading), and they build on everything I learned from painting my mechs from ~1997-2007 and my MERCS in ~2010.

Here they are in their case, patiently waiting their turn.

A full set of painted Genestealers from Space Hulk 3e

I think I’m going to lightbox the rest of my mechs first, though. Gotta work my way up to the present by sharing the past!

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Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk Warhammer 40k

My first finished miniatures since 2012!

After buying the 3rd Edition of Space Hulk back in 2009, it took me about three years to finish painting my Genestealers — about 2/3 of the minis in the box.

That was in 2012.

Today, in the year of our glorious Emperor 2020, I finished Brother Scipio, Blood Angels Terminator, and “throne boy,” a nameless fallen Space Marine found aboard a space hulk in one of the missions.

The eye of the Emperor is upon you

It only took me 11 years to reach this point . . .
Let me get some action from the back section

Since I’ve put these two in the lightbox at every stage of production (base coat and wash in one post, dry brush in another, sealant in this one), let’s do a quick 4×4 gallery showing them side-by-side.

As always in my (limited) experience, the starkest difference is between base coat and wash. I wish I’d started doing washes years ago, instead of being too gun-shy to try them.

But it’s drybrushing that brings a mini to life for me. The difference between wash-only and wash plus drybrush isn’t huge at first glance (and some of that is likely down to my inexperience as a painter!), but it’s the step that makes the mini feel most real.

The overhead LEDs in my lightbox make the matt varnish (sealant) pop more than it does in person. A small price to pay for minis I can play with worry-free.

Onwards! I have 11 Terminators left in my Space Hulk set. It will not take me 11 more years to finish painting them. If I keep up this pace — roughly 2 minis a week, without feeling like I’m grinding them out or stepping on my other hobbies — I could have the rest done in about five weeks. Although the temptation to put in a marathon painting session is strong . . .

Musings on joy

More importantly, painting these miniatures brought me joy. Painting them, not just having them fully painted. There was joy in finishing them too, absolutely (and I’m so glad I stopped painting them assembly line-style), but my head was in the game as far as enjoying the painting as the hobby as much as the rest of the hobby around it.

That plus reading a piece in White Dwarf #451 about Phil Kelly, who has been collecting and painting the same Waaagh! of Orks for many years, across multiple editions of 40K, with models he’s inherited, kitbashes, new and old sculpts — just keeping going, loving the hobby for itself, riding out the vagaries of different editions because the Waaaghh! is the fun part — has got me thinking about trying out 40K again.

But not necessarily in my usual mode (buy game, learn rules, paint minis, find opponents). Rather in the mode of: pick a faction that speaks to me, buy a box, enjoy the painting, and maybe try playing down at the local shop sometime in 2021 — or not, and just keep building an army for the fun of it.

This r/Warhammer40k thread overflowing with positivity towards a 40k newbie and painting novice, is full of folks saying basically that: choose a faction you think is cool and form a bond with your minis. That’s where my head is at.

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Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: two Terminators down

I know for folks who paint miniatures regularly finishing a couple is no biggies, but for me as an amateur rediscovering my love of painting, who hasn’t finished a miniature since 2012, this is a big day.

Two days ago I washed Brother Scipio and throne boy, my first time doing a full-on wash with multiple shades involved. Yesterday I wrapped up their drybrushing (and re-dotted Scipio’s eyes with Moot Green, since my wash had made the green pop less than I liked), and today I sealed them both and took the last two bits of “stuff” in the Space Hulk box — the chalice and R/C shrine-thingie — all the way from base coat to touch-ups, wash, and drybrush.

Scipio and throne boy drybrushed and awaiting their sealant
Rear view

I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve been trying to be more subtle in my drybrushing. Maybe I swung too far in the other direction? I’m not sure.

Onward to sealant

Throne boy is 90% sealed, time for Scipio

I’m using the top of the empty Chessex dice box as a palette, since the Vallejo stuff comes in a dropper bottle.

So undignified, but that bottom ain’t gonna seal itself

I’ve never brushed on sealant before, only sprayed it on. This is slower, but (as with washing) I have more control — and I don’t have to wait for the weather outside to cooperate, or risk destroying a mini when I assess the humidity/etc. incorrectly.

I used Vallejo matt varnish (paid link) because its Amazon reviews showed photos of sealed minis that didn’t look sealed — which is my goal with all my minis. I applied it with a medium brush in large sections, then backtracked with a second brush before it dried and poked out all the bubbles, redistributed it where it was too thick, and generally made sure no mess was left over.

This is a great varnish. My Termies aren’t completely dry yet, but the sealant is just baaaaarely visible. (When they’re dry, these two are going in the lightbox for a celebratory post.)

Tiny follow-ups

I think the little mobile shrine is for the Librarian; the chalice is part of the same mission as throne boy, I believe as an objective.

Having these rattling around in my to-do box has been bugging me
Calling them done (well, except for sealant — they’ve got to dry first!)

My Blood Angels Terminator colors

My drybrushing colors for the Termies

It surprised me how many separate pots of paint/shade went into my basic paint jobs on these Terminators — 14 plus primer and sealant:

  • Primer: Armory white spray painter (which I won’t be using again in the future; I’m switching to brush-on primer)
  • Base coat: P3 Morrow White and Khador Red; Citadel Lothern Blue, Leadbelcher, Moot Green, and Auric Armor Gold
  • Wash: Agrax Earthshade, Seraphim Sepia or Reikland Fleshshade, Nuln Oil
  • Drybrush: P3 Arcane Blue and Marrow White; Citadel Wild Rider Red, Mithril Silver, and Liberator Gold
  • Sealant: Vallejo acrylic matt varnish

And compared to someone more experienced, who uses layer colors, possibly multiple drybrush passes, blending, etc.? This is peanuts, color-wise.

The last time I finished a miniature, according to my BGG notes, was in 2012. Eight years! My dry spell officially ends today, with two 100% finished, play-ready Terminators.

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BattleTech Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures

A bevy of old BattleTech vehicles in the lightbox

I’m not going to go as deep into a self-critique on these as in my previous BattleTech minis post, mainly because most of what I said there stands for these minis as well: they needed shading and I over-drybrushed (and generally not in the right color), but they also show effort and look dandy on the table.

I’ve got multiples of many of these vehicles (like any good tabletop army), so I’m just going to throw up one of each type here.

Enter the box of light

First in the box are these two Games Workshop tanks (from Epic 40K, I guess?), which I used in combined-arms games as 100-ton tanks. It’s been so long that I don’t remember if those were the product of house rules, but whatever the case I do remember having a devil of a time finding BattleTech tanks that felt like they were 100-tonners. These fit the bill.

Definitely not BattleTech miniatures

They’re two of my favorite vehicle minis that I’ve ever painted, and I put a lot of time into them back in the day.

Mixed BT vehicles

I like these, especially the cheerful green one with his little headlights.

My quick and dirty color scheme got me through a lot of models back in the day

Base coat black, pick out details in red as unit markings, drybrush (waaaay too heavily) in white, and then onto the table! It got the job done. These look pretty rough as a result, though. If I painted them now, I’d figure out what wash to use on black and then drybrush in medium gray rather than white.

More mixed BT vehicles

The two hovercraft are tiny, and I remember being frustrated by them and putting in the bare minimum to get them table-ready. The little grey missile tank is kind of neat, though.

And to close, these two unprimed beauties — which, I have to say, I’m looking at in a new light now: as possible future painting projects.

Atlas and Ti T’sang

I think I was working my way up to the Atlas back when I played BT; it’s such an iconic mech that I didn’t want to mess it up. I should just have painted it!