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Deathskulls Orks Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

A wall-mounted paint rack and some WIP miscellany

Currently working on a few too many Boyz and Gretchin at once, so I’ve been taking breaks to do some assembly.

First up, a Killa Kan:

Mukkit, leader of Mukkit’s Murda Mob

Mechanically, Killa Kan mobs don’t have a leader, so perhaps it’s more apt to say that Mukkit considers himself the leader.

I’ve heard these are terrible units, but damn this is an incredible kit. 100% of the parts are interchangeable, and they ooze character from every rivet. I was going for a sort of “Rarr! Mukkit stomp you!” pose, but wound up with more of a Macarena/posing for a tourist photo kind of deal…and I’m not even a little mad. Love this dude.

Alysia got me an Age of Sigmar Weirdnob Shaman for Christmas, so I spent a couple of pleasant hours today figuring out how to kitbash him into my Weirdboy.

Age of Sigmar Weirdnob Shaman + 40k Ork bits

On the AoS model, I test-fit the cape to see which of my arm swap ideas might work, and I trimmed off the smoke and shaved the spot under it flat. Everything else stayed.

I used the arm from the standalone Mek kit, which I snipped at the wrist; a standard from the Meganobz kit, which I stuck where the smoke used to be; two shoulder pads from the Boyz kit, which I used to camouflage the kludging I did around the smoke; and a jaw plate from the Nobz kit, which I used exactly as Gork (or is it Mork?) intended.

“Warpmek” Nakk, Weirdboy of Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas

As befits a Deathskulls army in general and Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas in particular, “Warpmek” Nakk is both a Weirdboy and a Mek (achieved by taking Da Fixer Upperz for him).

Since I’d destroyed the Mek kit’s clamshell packaging to steal one of his arms, I decided to just slap him together as well.

“Sawfasta” Grunk, Mek

Alysia also gave me a new paint storage solution, a nail polish rack that can swallow 100% of my current paint library. I believe it’s this model on Amazon (not a paid link), and as the reviews show it’s been battle-tested by fellow hobbyists. I can confirm that it does a bang-up job of holding Citadel paint pots.

Nail polish rack = Citadel paint library

I’ve seen folks organize their paints by color, but I alphabetized mine by type instead. I mainly follow GW recipes, so this makes the most sense for my approach. The top row is Technical paint and some non-paints (glue, etc.). The second row starts with shades/washes on the left and then jumps into base paints, which run another full row and the first couple slots of a third. After that come all of my layer paints.

I’ve mounted it with room for a second one, which I’ll need at some point. (I’m currently storing all my backup pots somewhere else.) I loved my previous paint storage solution, but my paint supply had outstripped its slots and I wanted to free up that corner of my desk.

Having started my paint collection back in February with the bare minimum I needed to do parade-ready Blood Angels, it feels funny to be actively using 85-90 paints now.

Happy holidays, merry Christmas, and I hope to be back in a few days with some finished Orks and Gretchin.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Terrain Warhammer 40k

Battlezone: Manufactorum terrain color guide and painting steps

After assembling, priming/base-coating, and doing the initial wash on my Manufactorum terrain pieces, I tucked into the next steps — and realized it was time for a guide to those steps, and the colors I’m using, so that Future Martin can replicate it all on the next batch.

Chipping away at some terrain following the steps in this guide (walls and floors are finished except for weathering; metal, windows, and all small details remain)

Warhammer TV reference videos

My primary guide is an excellent video on painting this exact terrain. I’m mixing in some of what Duncan does in this video about Imperialis terrain, too. For weathering, Duncan covers rust (second half) and Nihilakh Oxide in two other videos.

These videos are a tremendous resource and I love that GW makes them available. There’s no way I could approach the finished quality I want in my terrain without them.

Painting steps

Terrain is a different animal, so it requires different steps in a different order. This looks like a million steps, but it’s really quite a relaxing painting process; I’ve just broken it down, for my own benefit, because the process is different than the one I’ve spent the last nine months employing on my Blood Angels.

From step 2, floors: both have been shaded, and the one on the right has been drybrushed as well

Step 1 basically takes the bulk of the terrain piece — the stone elements — to completion, which is done to avoid messily washing and drybrushing other stuff the wrong colors. Step 2 does the same for the floors, and so on. The final step, number 7, involves weathering that goes back over many of the areas completed in 1-6 — and apart from varnish, it’s genuinely the last step.

Don’t overdo it” is my mantra for most of the steps. It’s easy to want the whole building to look super-grimy at the shading stage — and forget that there’s grime and character still to come, at later stages.

  1. Walls:
    1. Wraithbone spray, primer and base coat in one
    2. Seraphim Sepia wash almost everywhere; err on the side of “everywhere,” not “almost”
    3. Agrax Earthshade pin wash along the “bands” of the pillars, plus randomly anywhere else that would have gotten especially dirty while these buildings were in use (or weathered after they became ruins), notably under doors and junction boxes, as well as along conduits — and throw in some random spots, too
    4. Drybrush all Wraithbone areas with Tyrant Skull, in a circular motion; this is designed to go everywhere
    5. Then a lighter Praxeti White drybrush over that, in circular motions, pressing lightly and just hitting the high points
  2. Floors:
    1. Bung Leadbelcher into the holes in the floor (which hits the pipes and suggests that the floors are metal gratings with a coat of paint over them) > Mechanicus Standard Grey on the flat parts of the floor and the entire underside > Agrax Earthshade > Dawnstone drybrush the flat sections of the floor in circular motions, top and bottom
    2. Paint hazard stripes along the centerline of the floor with Averland Sunset (using 3mm Tamiya hobby tape for masking)
    3. Light drybrush with Celestra Grey on the top and edges, including the hazard stripes (skip the bottom)
  3. Bare metal: Leadbelcher > Agrax Earthshade > Ironbreaker drybrush > Necron Compound drybrush
  4. Red metal (doors, windows, tanks, accents): Khorne Red > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red drybrush > very light Squig Orange drybrush
  5. Red pipes: Khorne Red > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red drybrush
  6. Bronze: Warplock Bronze > Agrax Earthshade > Brass Scorpion drybrush
  7. Cog Mechanicus:
    1. White: Corax White > Apothecary White contrast paint > Praxeti White drybrush
    2. Black: Corvus Black > Basilicum Grey contrast paint > Eshin Grey drybrush > light Dawnstone drybrush
    3. Eye: Corax White > Khorne Red > Evil Sunz Scarlet
  8. Other little details (wires, etc.): Base coat in a single color (Averland Sunset, Macragge Blue, etc.) and vary these choices across the buildings (especially duplicates!); it sounds like heresy, but these truly don’t need any follow-up coats/layers/etc.
  9. Weathering:
    1. 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
    2. Rust: Thinned-down Skrag Brown > thinned-down Fire Dragon Bright
    3. Verdigris: Nihilakh Oxide in the crevices on bronze elements

This guide is written for the walls, but it applies to the pipes, sacred radiators, and whatnot as well. The only real changes are obvious stuff, like applying the Agrax Earthshade pin wash to different parts of the pipes.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Terrain Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Manufactorum terrain

On Sunday morning, I picked up where I’d left off with my terrain on Saturday: Wraithbone done, all-over Seraphim Sepia wash. Next up was a pin wash with Agrax Earthshade.

The pin wash is subtle, but I like the effect. Both of these pieces have had their all-over Seraphim Sepia wash, but the one on the right has had some grimy areas pin-washed with Agrax:

Before (left) and after (right)

I used a cheap #5 brush for the pin washes.

Pin-washed sacred pipes
Dang but I love this terrain! The sculpts are great
Bunging Leadbelcher into the holes in the flooring

I was a bit nervous about doing a full-coverage drybrush over my precious washes…but it turned out to be no biggie. And as the video notes, it looks quite subtle at first but it does actually make a difference.

I used my giant flat-edged 5/8 brush (the cheap one I used for the washes) for this messy, brush-killing job.

Pre-drybrush on the left, post-drybrush on the right

My buildings are noticeably darker than the ones in the video at this stage, which I think comes down to the thinned vs. straight wash. I dig it. Next up, a lighter drybrush with Praxeti White, same brush and same circular motions.

This is subtle, too, but in this case I’m just not that confident in my technique. Both the amount of paint and the weight of my brushing make a difference, and I’m not there yet in terms of experience — but even so, it’s a nice effect.

Praxeti White drybrush on the left half, but not on the right half (yet)

And that’s the stone done! (Except for, maybe, a final weathering step of some sort.) Warhammer TV didn’t steer me wrong: two washes and two layers of drybrushing really does tidy things up and produce an organic, lifelike weathered stone — and surprisingly quickly, too.

Next up, Mechanicus Standard Grey on the floors (top and bottom), applied with an inexpensive flat-edged #5 brush.

Floors mostly base-coated, above and below

That’s where I ran out of steam for the night, after a pleasant Sunday spent almost entirely working on this terrain or futzing with my Orks’ basing colors. Next terrain-painting session, I’ll finish the edges and borders on the floors, wash them, drybrush them, and then move back to the walls to work on details.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Terrain Warhammer 40k

Time to bone some wraiths

When I finished varnishing Squad Caedes on Friday night, I checked the weather and saw that the only day in the next two weeks that might be spray-paint friendly was Saturday, and sprang into action.

I built as much Manufactorum terrain as I could handle before bed, which turned out to be three pipes and two buildings.

This terrain is awesome!

I’ve never built (or painted) terrain before, and I was surprised how cool the stuff in the Vertigus set is — although, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been: GW is pricey, but they tend to nail it on sculpt quality, details, and feel. I cannot wait to see how this all looks when it’s painted up.

Next stop was an overnight glue-curing session (this stuff uses a lot of plastic glue), followed by checking the weather again on Saturday — and then shaking the everloving shit out of my can of Wraithbone spray and testing it out on a piece of sprue.

No expense was spared on this painting booth

The instructions say that it shouldn’t be raining (check) and it should be at least 59 degrees Fahrenheit, but come Saturday 52 degrees was the best I could do. And in Seattle, in winter, having a temp over 50 and sun rather than rain is pretty special, so I figured it was worth expending a bit of paint on my test sprue and hoping for the best.

The verdict? This spray paint is great, and 52 and partly cloudy works just fine. It went on smooth, with no pebbling, and it’s a nice even coat. It genuinely seems to deliver on “primer and paint in one,” and as I’d heard it doesn’t seem to be Contrast Paint-specific in any way. I remember ruining minis at both the primer and sealant stages with spray paint in the past, so this is pretty exciting.

For comparison purposes, there’s a piece of bare sprue in the top right corner:

Wraiths: boned

After another 2 minutes of can-shaking (always be religious about this!), I moved on to my actual terrain.

Actual sun! That’s gotta be good for a couple extra degrees

I don’t know if I’m going heavy on it, but it feels like two medium/large terrain pieces and four small ones ate up about 1/3 to 1/2 a can of Wraithbone. The time savings is incredible, though: Applying primer and then a base coat to these pieces would have taken me hours, whereas all of this took me about 75 minutes — and most of that was waiting for paint to be dry enough for me to turn the pieces, and then shaking the can again.

Squad Caedes moving amongst the (Wraithbone-sprayed) ruins

Next stop, a nearly all-over wash in Seraphim Sepia.

I’m using a cheap, flat-edged 5/8 brush for this dirty job
Freshly washed vs. not yet washed
Drying time

I love washes because they’re such a cheap date. Pound for pound, no other step breathes as much life into a miniature in so little time — and that appears to go double for terrain. I could already slap these on a table and not be sad, so I can’t wait to see how they turn out after drybrushing, spot painting, and weathering.

Unlike in my primary reference video for these pieces, a Warhammer TV how-to for Manufactorum terrain, I didn’t thin down my Seraphim Sepia at all. (They use Lahmian Medium in the video.) This approach is faster, and in my experience all-over washes always look quite dark until you highlight the model — and besides, I quite like the slightly darker tone of my buildings.

This approach has at least one downside, though: I used 2/3 of a bottle of Seraphim Sepia on two medium/large pieces and three small pieces. At that rate, I’ll need a couple more bottles just to get through the rest of the Vertigus box.

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Deathskulls Orks Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k

Into the badlands: testing an Orky base recipe

I’m pretty sure I’ll like the basing recipe I’m using for my Deathskulls Orks, which comes straight from White Dwarf #161 (also the source of the recipe I use for my Blood Angels), but a bit less certain about the tufts. So I figured I’d do up a test base and see how it looks.

Armageddon Dust base coat

Fresh and creamy

I use the skinny end of the Citadel texture spreader for Astrogranite Debris, which is much thicker than this stuff. For Armageddon Dust, I’m liking the wide, flexible end — it smears on really easily.

Dry and ready for shading

No surprise, I guess, but this stuff dries much faster than Astrogranite Debris. There’s a chunky version of the Armageddon color, Armageddon Dunes, but I wanted the flatter bases on these guys to contrast with the hillier ones on my Blood Angels. With less aggregate in the mix, it dries faster.

Agrax Earthshade wash

Taken after the wash had mostly dried

It looks much too dark now, but I remember that stage from my “plains of Armageddon” bases. Until it’s drybrushed, it ain’t gonna look right.

This dries quickly, too — so quickly that I think I might be able to take a base from bare plastic to finished in a single day, rather than needing 1-2 overnight drying sessions like I do with my Blood Angels’ bases.

Tyrant Skull drybrush

Not too shabby!

Mine looks a bit darker than GW’s, but close enough — and I like the look.

Right after I took this photo, I realized that I’d never primed this base. D’oh! That probably explains why it looks darker: it’s riding on black, not white.

Baneblade base edge

That’ll do, Baneblade

Ignoring the crappiness of the edge (no primer…), that looks solid! Same tonal step-down as the grey-to-grey shift between Astrogranite Debris and Dawnstone on Sergeant Dolos’ base, which is exactly what I was after.

Army Painter tuft options

My brain said swamp tufts would look good; kind of a mix of green and brown. I like the contrast between my Angels’ gray bases and pale brown tufts, so brown/badlands bases with green tufts — though deliberately not bright, heavy, or totally green — seemed like a good route.

But I also wanted to try Army Painter’s winter tufts, which look more badlands-y — and look like they could pair well with swamp tufts. A mix of grasses could be nifty.

Swamp tuft
Winter tuft

They’re quite similar, as both are pale brown and black — just with the swamp tuft replacing some of the winter tuft’s brown with a splash of green.

I showed this test base to my wife, Alysia, and she said she had trouble telling the two tufts apart at arm’s length. I totally agree — in fact, I routinely forgot which one was which while writing this post.

Winter (left) and swamp (right) tufts

Gun to my head, I’d pick the swap tufts — my original idea — because they do stand out more clearly from the terrain.

But I like them both, and I like them together. Unlike my Blood Angels, who are fighting their way across a plain that has been leached of all life, my Orks are on a normal planet — so it makes sense that the grass might not all be the same color. Unless one definitively looks better with an actual Ork standing next to it, I’ll probably just use both types at random.

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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools

Princeton Velvetouch brushes for painting miniatures: an update

I wrote about getting a bunch of Princeton Velvetouch brushes back in April of this year, and have been painting with those brushes (and my hodgepodge of others) for the past four months, or about 1,400 points of Blood Angels.[1] I just ordered a second batch of them from BLICK, which is itself an endorsement. I like these brushes a lot.

Princeton Velvetouch brushes: reloaded

My two most-used sizes are 10/0 and 3/0, and both of those finally gave up the ghost about 2-3 weeks ago, with splayed/curled tips no longer able to to detail work — so let’s call their front-line service life about three months. (Now they become drybrushes, get dipped into metallic paints, etc.) That’s not nearly as long as my non-synthetic brushes, but that’s a trade-off I’m fine with.

Before their tips inevitably curl or splay (despite daily washing with brush soap), these brushes paint just as well as my natural brushes. When my natural brushes wear out, I’ll replace them with their Princeton Velvetouch analogs.

Lots of other synthetic brush lines have a couple brushes small enough for minis but are primarily geared for other types of painting. One thing I love about this line is that they cover all of the sizes and shapes I’ve ever wanted for miniatures, from ultra-fine to relatively massive, including the chisel-shaped tips I like for drybrushing.

So: Princeton Velvetouch brushes are excellent, and in my experience especially good as synthetic brushes go.

[1] I started a daily “work on miniatures” streak on February 22, 2020, when I dug out my Space Hulk Terminators and started painting again. It didn’t start as a streak; I was just painting every day because I was excited about it. But I bumped into the idea on Twitter and have had success with using Seinfeld chains for motivation in the past, so it turned into one. Today is day 192.

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Blood Angels Space Marines Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k

Closing out a record painting month with Squad Ultio

I painted 16 miniatures in March, a personal record — but I managed to top that number, by one figure, in April!

Last night saw Squad Ultio, my first Terminator unit, through to completion. A big part of my motivation to finish these guys in April was my entry in BGG’s monthly painting challenge; once I added Ultio to that list, I was going to do my level best to finish them.

Incidentally, I looked up the proper first layer color for an Averland Sunset base and it’s not Flash Gitz Yellow (as I’ve been doing on Ork scrap on my bases) but Yriel Yellow, so that’s what I’ve used to highlight my hazard stripes. No other color surprises on these guys.

Squad Ultio, 1st Company, 2nd Squad
Rear view

With their 40mm bases they’re a bit much to try to fit into my tiny lightbox, so here are a couple close-ups of the squad in two parts.

Sergeant Ultio, one battle-brother, and the squad’s teleport homer
Three veteran battle-brothers

Gotta grab an army shot, too. I’m up to 553 points now!

My Blood Angels army as of April 30, 2020

I built my first Blood Angel, Sergeant Karios, on March 10, so this represents about seven weeks of work.

Drinking, writing, and a brush

Along the way, I nearly made a catastrophic mistake:

One of the classic blunders

I also tried a new tool, and a nerve-wracking experiment — both hard to make out given the terrible photo (though easier to spot in the lightbox shots above) — and wrote ULTIO on the banner and BAAL on a pauldron in Gundam marker:

This is a game-changer for future kits

I did learn that if I brush on varnish over the marker, it’s going to rub it out at least partially. I touched up the ULTIO, but it didn’t come out as crisp as it was before. Note to self for next time: dab it on, rather than brushing.

And, as a first follow-up to my long post about brushes, I tried the first of my new Princeton Velvetouch brushes, the 10/0 Liner. After 5-6 hours of layers and highlighting work, the extraordinarily fine tip of this synthetic brush…still looks like it’s brand new.

My new favorite detail brush

That’s incredibly exciting, as I’d despaired at the prospect of finding synthetic brushes that could match the quality of animal hair; these look like they’re going to deliver. Comparing this $3 brush to any of my $1 ZEM brushes, which curled in the first few minutes of use, the price difference is absolutely worth it (although crappy brushes also have their uses!).

I also have two rules for all new detail brushes: no metallic paints, and brush cleaner at the end of every session. (That second rule goes for all of my brushes, now.) Those seem to make a big difference!

My painting queue for May through July is just as ambitious (by my standards) as April’s, with 16 + 1 tank on the docket for May and 17 + 1 Dreadnought + 1 large tank for June. I may not hit them both, but I’m painting for the joy of it and joy doesn’t care what month it is.

Which is good, because as of this post’s publication date my family is on day 50 of pandemic isolation/lockdown, and time has become a meaningless smear of present. Stay safe out there!

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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Squad Ultio, turbo priming, hazard stripes

I’ve been making some progress on Squad Ultio, my shooty Terminators.

I decided that I’d lean into silver as their primary accent color, and unify them with silver Crux Terminatus emblems on their left shoulders. Sergeant Ultio is getting more gold, but with silver accents.

Silver blocked in

I used to start with the most prevalent color and work my way down to the small accent colors, but now I go in reverse. Once it hit me that, for example, the only way I can manage to paint the gold setting for a red gem on red armor is to hit it first — slopping over into what will be red areas — and then circle back with the red, carefully painting right up to the gold, I realized many accents could be painted better and quicker that way.

Everything but the red — and maybe hazard stripes — done

Reaching the point where what’s left is “just” the red takes some time — probably about two hours, maybe 2.5, for this squad. The red will likely take longer, but blocking that in somehow feels more manageable when I’m down to only one color.

One down!
Black left fists

I almost forgot to give them all black left fists (except the sergeant). I know that — like just about all details of chapter paint schemes — that’s optional (and not universal over the past decades of studio paint jobs), but I like it. It gives them a different presence and energy.

Two base-coated

Warmed up from some quick basing work (on Squads Amedeo and Dolos), and with a bit of momentum built up, I managed to get two more Termies base-coated on Sunday night. That left about another 90 minutes of base-coating, followed by a couple hours of touch-ups and detail work, before I could move on to shading.

Priming speed

It took me 12 minutes per figure to prime Squad Ultio, but since I don’t love priming I’ve been looking for ways to reduce that time without sacrificing quality. On Sunday I consciously employed a loose, light, feathering stroke — and blasted out Squads Amedeo (Sternguard) and Dolos (Infilitrators) in 45 minutes, or 4.5 minutes/figure.

50% of my priming for May done

That leaves just my Rhino, Relentless, and a squad of Sanguinary Guard to prime so I can paint them in May.

Hazard stripes

I want to do yellow/black hazard stripes on the two Chain Fists in this squad, and I bought some 2mm and 3mm Tamiya hobby tape for that purpose — but every time I look at those tiny chainsaw housings, which wrap around on three sides, I question my ability to actually do it.

But fuck it, I’m going for it. Colors are Averland Sunset/Abaddon Black. (The rest of these guys just follow my usual Blood Angels colors, no surprises in their recipes.)

Step 1: paint the housings Averland Sunset, two thin coats for even coverage.

Step 1

Step 2 was going to be “apply diagonal strips of tape” until I actually tried that and physics disagreed:

Definitely not step 2

Step 2: apply vertical strips of 2mm Tamiya tape, edge to edge with no gaps (to ensure even spacing).

Step 2

Optionally, at this stage you can feel free to question the judgment and moral character of the dingus who decided to put a big rock right in front of this Chain Fist.

Step 3: remove every other strip of tape.

Step 3

Step 4: paint the exposed yellow portions Abaddon Black.

Step 4

Step 5: remove the remaining strips of tape. Ta-da! Hazard stripes.

Step 5

Not, I hasten to add, amazing hazard stripes — but better than I could freehand, especially as they wrap evenly around the housing, and easily touched up during the next step of my painting process.

Finished hazard stripes

For true old-school Terminators I should have hazard-striped the Fist itself, not the saw housing, and then painted John Blanche’s face freehand on top of the stripe pattern . . . but these will have to do.

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Miniatures Painting tools

Thoughts on miniature-painting brushes and brush care

I’m no expert, but I’ve done a good amount of painting over the past two months, and tried a bunch of different brushes, and I figured it was time to write a post about brushes.

When I got back into painting minis in February of this year, I already had a small stash of brushes: a single Armory set I’ve had for years. They’ve been abused at least as much as they’ve been used, because I had no idea how to use or take care of them.

My oldest brushes, what’s left of an Armory set from at least a decade ago

This set has been relegated to Jobs That Ruin Brushes — which is fine! There are plenty of those: priming, varnishing, decals, and bodging paint out of the jar and onto my palette. There’s nothing wrong with them, and if I’d taken care of them they’d still be solid brushes.

The one exception is the big guy in front, an Armory Series 10 Size 1 brush. This is my most-used brush by far, as it’s the one I use to get paint out of my pots and onto my palette — which happens dozens of times per miniature — and, since it’s then used to thin the same paint, as my primary base-coating brush for large areas. Paint is expensive; I hate to waste it. The bristles have the perfect amount of spring to them, it holds just the right amount of paint, and it’s not so large as to be clumsy. I love this brush.

Expanding the toolkit

Back when I started in on my Space Hulk set, and then a couple more times on visits to my local hobby shop, I started fleshing out my brush collection. For some reason the idea that I could buy really, really tiny brushes, and brushes with fine tips, had never crossed my mind before.

I just sort of thought most miniature brushes looked like this:

Why can’t I paint eyes with this brush? It is a mystery

I know, I know. I just used the one set of brushes I had; I didn’t like painting; I had trouble with details. It’s so obvious in retrospect!

So: new brushes. Fine-tipped brushes! I stuck with Army Painter and Citadel brushes, since I’ve always been happy with the quality of their stuff.

Two of my favorite brushes

These two, Army Painter’s Wargamer: Detail and Wargamer: Character brushes are two of my favorites. The Detail is my go-to brush for layers and highlights. The triangular handles are totally awesome, and I wish every brush came with them.

I have brushes stashed all over my painting area, and when I took that photo I left one Army Painter brush out: my drybrush.

Wargamer: Small Drybrush

This wedge-shaped brush, which has stiff, slanted bristles, has really upped my drybrushing game. Highly recommended.

Three excellent Citadel brushes

These three from Citadel have also been serving me well. The Medium Shade brush is perfect for the all-over wash/shade I use; if I wanted to shade only tiny portions at a time, I’d need a smaller brush. The Small Base and Small Layer I use exactly as intended. and they’re both solid.

Pro tip: don’t brush your teeth with them

I also got a tip from a fellow painter, and read some tips in different places, that helped me a lot as I was starting to build up a supply of brushes:

  • Don’t dry them tip-up, as water can sink into the ferrules and ruin them. From what I’ve read you can store them tip-up once they’re dry, but for simplicity’s sake I just store them horizontally all the time.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm (but not hot) water.
  • Change your painting water regularly. I’ve come to like using Citadel’s excellent water cup in part because it’s small; its size reminds me to swap out my water often.
  • Never let brushes sit with paint on the bristles.
  • Don’t dip the brush straight into the paint pot. Instead, use a crappy brush reserved for this job to transfer paint to your palette, and then thin the paint a bit with that same brush.
  • Thin your paints! I just use a dab of water or two, depending on the size of the blob of paint I’m thinning (and whether I’m planning a second coat).
  • Don’t use your best brushes on metallic paints. I can’t avoid doing this sometimes, but I try to minimize it.

I didn’t read some of those tips until after I’d ruined — or at least shortened the useful lifespan of — several $6 brushes, but since I’ve gotten diligent about following all of them my brushes last much longer.

Cheap brushes do come in handy

ZEM brushes for painting around corners

I also picked up a set of ZEM brushes on Amazon because they were cheap — about 1/6 of the cost of a comparable Army Painter or Citadel brush. Their tips curled within a few minutes, and will never go back to normal.

But, like keeping brushes on hand for “garbage jobs,” these too have a purpose: jamming small amount of paints into cracks (which ruins the tip) and deliberately painting around stuff by using the curled tip as a feature rather than a bug.

Weirdly, the tiny guy in the front, a ZEM Golden Synthetic Round Size 10/0, hasn’t curled yet. This little guy is perfect for scrolls and banners, and perhaps it’s this limited use that has helped preserve him. It’s a great little brush for a dollar.

But still, these are in no way a replacement or go-to set for actual detail work.

Animal hair, synthetics, and taking the plunge

Once lockdown hit and I couldn’t go browse brushes, I decided to fill out some of the gaps in my set online. This was quite the rabbit hole — doubly so because I had no idea that many brushes, especially good ones, are made with animal hair.

I avoid products made from animals wherever possible; many of the brushes in this post are made from animal hair. I’ll be holding onto them, just like I’m still wearing the last pair of leather shoes I bought, but I don’t want to buy any more non-synthetic brushes. So my search became one for a range of brushes that were both 1) good and 2) synthetic, and those two things apparently do not always go together.

Much digging later, I landed on the Princeton Velvetouch line, and my brushes came in the mail yesterday. Shipping was slow and everything is so uncertain right now that I figured I’d go all-in on one order and hope for the best.

Princeton Velvetouch explosion

These tend to be about 50% to 80% of what a comparable Army Painter or Citadel brush would cost, so not expensive but not cheap either. The 10 brushes I bought were $45 total. The reviews were good, the handles feel nice (that’s the “velvet” in Velvetouch; they’re soft and slightly grippy), and unlike a lot of other well-rated synthetic brushes they come in sizes small enough for use on miniatures.

The ad copy makes a pretty good pitch, too: “The NextGen synthetic filament in Velvetouch brushes is the result of seven years of research and development by Naohide Takamoto, a fifth-generation brushmaker and the grandson of the inventor of Taklon, the first artist-grade synthetic brush fiber.” Will it hold up? I guess I’ll find out.

I also snagged a tub of brush-cleaning soap, having learned that periodic cleaning with soap will help preserve their lifespan and reduce curling.

I’m a Dapper Dan man

I’m going to be a sad panda if these Velvetouch brushes are terrible. Stay tuned!

Categories
Blood Angels Space Marines Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: painting Sergeant Karios

This past weekend I worked in a bit of painting time. Somehow painting my first Blood Angels model feels more like the official start of my army than any of the preceding steps — buying, assembling, priming, and basing.

Audiobook as painting soundtrack

I’m listening to the audiobook of Guy Haley’s Dante (paid link), narrated by Gareth Armstrong, while I paint; so far I’m loving it.

I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and it’s fascinating to me that three things are happening simultaneously while it’s on: I’m enjoying the book (Armstrong is a great narrator); it’s keeping me company while I paint, much like background music would; and neither book nor painting is distracting me from the other to the degree than I can’t comprehend the book or focus on my painting.

In fact, on that last front, paying attention to the book is actually helping me get into the Zen-like, relaxed-but-focused state in which I like to paint.

Fetch the Emperor’s bucket of Mephiston Red

As ever, Sergeant Karios is first into the breach.

For the Emperor and Sanguinius!

Compared to painting my Space Hulk Terminators, which had a fairly thick, years-old coat of spray primer and a poorly applied, and equally thick, base coat of red covering most of each model, this is night and day. Karios has my worst coat of brush-on primer, as he was first and I was still getting the hang of it, but it’s so nice and thin compared to the Terminators — and thinning my paints, using a proper fine brush, and focusing on the details are also smoothing the road.

Slow and steady: red done, magenta done, starting on gold

There’s also a definite quality difference between the cheap ZEM brush I’ve been trying out for base-coating and my better Citadel and Army Painter brushes. The curled tip on my ZEM brush is going to stay curled, so it’s been relegated to “open areas and spots where I need to poke between things” duty, leaving my better brushes for actual detail work.

Base edge color test

Along the way I took a poke at a Marine’s base with Mechanicus Standard Grey, and while not bad it’s too dark and too tonally close to the terrain color. Fortunately I’ve got more gray on hand now, and I have a hunch Danwstone will be perfect.

Sergeant Karios, fully base-coated

And on Sunday night, just as the light outside starting becoming too dim for detail work, I finished base-coating my first Blood Angel! Sergeant Karios still needs a full touch-up pass before his wash — but shit, that feels good.