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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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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!

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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.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Squad Karios bases, ZEM brushes, Citadel texture paints, Squad Dolos assembled

I know I’m posting a lot these days — I’ve been blogging for almost 15 years: posting twice a day, for one person, is a lot! — but I’m deep in the joy of this extended moment, of being a novice miniature painter falling in love with this hobby. Everything is new for me right now, even little things — like today’s new little things, blending paints and following a basing recipe.

Plus, you know, the whole family is stuck at home — like yours probably is, if you’re reading this around the post date and not years later. Not to make light of the situation, but late February has turned out to be a serendipitous time to get back into painting miniatures.

The larch

Before diving into today’s WIP post, I want to wish everyone reading this well. I hope you and your families are safe and weathering the COVID-19 pandemic as well as possible.

Yore isn’t a news blog, or really a serious blog at all most of the time. It’s a creative outlet, it’s my hobby space, it’s something I work on when it’s fun. I figure you’ve got COVID-19 stuff coming at you from a million angles, so I’m going to keep doing what I do here: talking way too much about miniatures.

Stay safe out there!

Infiltrators, assemble!

After giving myself what I suspect was a glue-induced headache last night, I changed up my assembly routine a bit. Instead of trimming and gluing in small stages, which is more fun, I’m trimming every piece and then assembling them all at once.

The final four Infiltrators

I’m also sticking newly-glued minis in the bathroom with the window open and the fart fan running. So here’s a bathroom shot of Squad Dolos, fully assembled:

Squad Dolos

Sergeant Dolos is front left; the sub-squad leader (pointing hand) is back center. Since my current Blood Angels list doesn’t have room in it for either of the Infiltrators’ special units, the comms guy or the Helix Adept, I had to get a bit creative with the mini that the kit assumes will be the comms guy. (Weirdly, you don’t get the Helix Adept mini in this kit; it’s only in the Shadowspear box, I believe.) I used two Incursor arms, which are included because this kit lets you build either; he’s the sub-squad leader.

ZEM brushes

I also picked up some inexpensive brushes, a ZEM detail set (paid link), since I’m still pretty bad at taking care of my brushes. I’m getting better! But I’m still not great. These are under $2 each, as compared to a $5-$6 Army Painter brush — and available for delivery, which is handy since my family is sheltering in place for who knows how long.

My new ZEM brushes: 0, 10/0, 2, and 3/0

I used the 0 today and quite liked it. It’s got more bristle tension than some of my other similarly sized brushes, which is handy. After a short painting session, though (just skulls and rocks on 10 bases), the tip looked like this:

From what I’ve read, that “tip curl” is a hallmark of cheap brushes in general and cheap synthetic brushes in particular. Still not a bad brush for the price, but I’m now doubting how much I’ll like the finer-tipped ones — since a curl in those can really wreck detail work.

Basing Squad Karios

My first squad has a post tag of its own (they all do; so far that’s Dolos and Cain), in case you want to follow their journey from box of plastic to fearsome painting Space Marine infantry. Today’s step on that journey, now that their primer is cured, is to paint the little rocks and skulls I glued onto their bases and then apply texture paint.

Sergeant Karios, my test pilot

I don’t have a medium gray in my paint stash at the moment, and I want these rocks to be lighter than the texture paint (Astrogranite Debris) but darker than the drybrush color I’m going to use (Grey Seer). So: it’s blending time!

I did a 50:50 blend of Corax White and Mechanicus Standard Grey, thinned it with a bit of water, and went to town.

Rocks: done!

I use a dry palette, so I had to mix up a new batch after about five guys — which is fun, because the little variations in my batches will ensure that my rocks don’t all look like they came from Rocks ‘R’ Us. It tickles me to no end that the best way to get actual rocks to look like they belong with a miniature is . . . to paint them to look like rocks.

Next up were the skulls, in Corax White, followed by a quick Agrax Earthshade wash on them and the rocks.

Rocks and skulls: done

And after that, the texture paint. I gather than Citadel has reformulated this stuff in the past few years, and merged it into their Technical line (it’s no longer actually called Texture), with one of the results being that you can apply it with a brush. But as soon as I opened my pot of it, I was glad I had the Citadel Texture Spreader (paid link): the Astrogranite Debris is a thick, slightly dry paste.

I used the small end of the spreader for all of these. The large end looks ideal for wider bases, but on these I needed the little paddle.

Sergeant Karios

This stuff is fun. Like, really fun. I’m applying it now so I can wash and drybrush without ruining my minis’ legs, but lots of folks apply it last. Using the tiny end of the spreader I was able to manipulate the paint easily enough that I’d have felt just as comfortable doing with a fully painted mini.

After each one, I ran my finger around the edge of the base to corral any loose grit. (Once the whole mini is done I’ll paint the base edges, of course.)

Three down

This paint also feels like cheating. It’s a bit like the magic that occurs when you apply a wash to a base-coated miniature — poof, it suddenly looks a million times better.

Squad Karios, set to dry overnight

Even having not done the finishing steps yet (wash the texture paint > drybrush it and the rocks/skulls > possibly highlight the skulls > add tufts), these are already the best-looking bases I’ve ever done. Miles ahead of my past efforts with just glue and little rocks — and that’s 100% down to this paint. I love this stuff!

That’s probably it for tonight’s hobby session — but damn, this one felt good. As a proof of concept for my “plains of Armageddon” basing recipe, the rocks don’t stand out as much as I’d like — though I’m betting a nice light-colored drybrush will help — but otherwise I’m calling this concept proven. I can’t wait to see what it looks like after the whole process is complete!

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Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k

Cooking up a basing recipe for my Blood Angels

I’ve got a basing recipe in mind for my Blood Angels army, and now I have all the components:

All in one place, this seems like a lot!

The basic concept is “plains of Armageddon” (an important planet in the 40k universe), which conjures up a sort of Moonscape in my mind — a wasteland of heavy gray dust and dying grass, site of a thousand battles.

This is a spin on my preliminary idea, which I posted about last week, now organized a bit more:

  • White Dwarf 161 (Nov. 2016) for its Paint Splatter column, which features the Basing Cookbook
  • This winters SEO video on using texture paints
  • Texture: Astrogranite Debris
  • Wash: Drakenhof Nightshade
  • Drybrush: Grey Seer
  • Base edge: Eshin Grey (or maybe Mechanicus Standard Grey? not sure yet)
  • Citadel Skulls (paid link) for clutter
  • Gale Force Nine Rocky Basing Grit
  • Army Painter Frozen Tufts for grass
  • Blunt tweezers for applying tufts
  • Citadel Texture Spreader (paid link) for the texture paint
  • White glue for tufts
  • Superglue for rocks

I also have Citadel plastic glue (for skulls) and appropriate wash and drybrush brushes.

As an aside, that box of skulls sounded pretty silly until I got a good look at its contents online.

So, so many skulls

They’re to scale, modeled to GW’s usual high quality, and staggering in their variety: small, large, different species, fresh, half-destroyed, just jawbones, etc. It’s a really cool box of skulls.

Okay, back to the base itself. A deep gray base with dark blue notes sounds like it will contrast really well with my predominantly red miniatures, while also not being too similar to the predominantly black figures (Death Company, Chaplain, etc.). Green is too cheery, brown sounds easy to mess up and wind up with the plains of Poopageddon, and snow is both too Christmas-like with red Marines and — if applied badly — can look like the floor of a porno theater.

Step 1: cut a hole in the box

There are a million schools of thought on how to base, when to do the base vs. the miniature itself, etc. — basically (hah!) every aspect of this process. I just need to start somewhere, so I’ll be trying this route:

  1. Assemble the model and glue it to the base
  2. Glue on rocks and skulls to suit
  3. Prime the whole thing white, mini and base
  4. Paint the rocks/skulls/etc., including wash and drybrush
  5. Apply texture paint with the spreader
  6. Wash and drybrush the texture paint
  7. Wipe the base edge clean before it dries
  8. Paint the miniature
  9. Touch everything up as needed
  10. Paint the edge of the base
  11. Varnish the whole thing, mini and base
  12. Glue on tufts

In that winters SEO video, he glues the rocks to the texture paint before it dries, rather than to the base itself prior to applying paint. I’m doing it this way so I can get primer on my rocks and skulls, rather than painting them separately and then adding them to the base.

Sitting here writing this, I feel like I’m writing a post partly to avoid taking a step that makes me a bit nervous and actually basing a miniature. So I’m going to stop writing and go do that.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: first time using brush-on primer

Priming minis used to stress me out because spray primer is so finicky, and I’ve ruined minis using it wrong. I’ve switched to brush-on primer (Vallejo white primer, paid link) . . . and apparently it still stresses me out. I think it’s because it feels too easy to mess up, and unlike a painting mistake it’s not trivial to fix.

Time to learn how to brush on primer!

Destiny awaits, brothers

After a couple of minis, I’d figured out a few things. One, this stuff dries faster than varnish. With the varnish, I can quickly do the whole miniature and then backtrack to pop bubbles, eliminate puddles, etc. With the primer, the top half of the mini is dry before I’ve finished the bottom half. So I learned to tackle a section, backtrack, and then tackle the next section.

Two, it’s less forgiving than the other two new approaches I’ve used since I got back into miniatures: brushing on wash/shade and varnish. This Vallejo primer is quite good about “self-correcting” — many bubbles will pop on their own, it settles into cracks a bit as it dries, and a thin coat works nicely. But if I dab it on too thick in, say, the vents on a Space Marine backpack and don’t notice it right away, I can’t fix it; with shade and varnish, it’s fixable for some time.

Three, I primed my first couple like they owed me money and I was going to beat it out of them with my brush. As a result, I over-primed them a bit. Once I figured out to put less on the brush and apply it with a lighter touch, the whole process went more smoothly.

Halfway there

As ever, I started with Sergeant Karios — the first mini in my Blood Angels army that I built, and the first for every stage of the process. Even if I mess him up, I like that he’ll always be special because he was the test pilot.

Sergeant Karios, the first to be primed

By my last, things were looking better: a lighter, smoother coat; many fewer bubbles and puddles; and less like an explosion in a cake frosting factory.

The last one I primed
This Squad Karios is now fully operational

The saving grace here — I hope — is that I just finished painting a dozen Terminators that I’d 1) over-primed, 2) with spray primer, making them fuzzy, and 3) bounced around in a Plano box for six years after priming them, and they turned out okay. I can see some bubbles and pooling on my Blood Angels (note to self: Space Marine pauldron edges like to collect primer), but they look better than those Termies did.

Fingers crossed for the painting stage! I’ll be starting with the bases, and I have to say that putting together this post, and seeing Squad Karios up close in photos, makes me more optimistic than I was as I primed them.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k

Testing Vallejo primer and two edge highlighting options

I wanted to keep my painting technique fairly consistent across my Space Hulk set so they’d all look similar despite being painted over a seven-year period, but now I’m ready to try some new techniques with my Blood Angels army.

One is a simple switch to a brush-on primer, rather than the spray-on stuff. Another is edge highlighting, likely in combination with drybrushing. I dabbled a tiny bit with highlights on my Terminators and liked it, and I love how it looks on minis I see online. I recognize that my skill as a painter will improve over the course of painting my army, but I want to start out with a baseline that’s likely to stay reasonably consistent over time.

Since I’ve got a pile of old BattleTech mechs just sitting around, I figured I’d bust one out and use him as a test subject.

The Ti Ts’ang is goofy enough that I won’t miss him

Earlier this month I posted about feeling a bit overwhelmed with painting options, and this experiment is a good way to narrow things down a bit: I’m going to try edge highlighting before the wash on one shoulder, and after the wash on the other one.

My guess is that highlighting after the all-over wash will look better. Let’s find out!

First, the primer

I’ve used Armory spray-on primer for every miniature I’ve painted since the 1990s, with mixed results — not because it’s a bad primer, but because it’s a spray primer. They’re sensitive to heat, cold, and humidity, so unless you can spray indoors your “priming year” can be quite short.

So: brush-on primer. I’m trying white Vallejo surface primer (paid link) because it has good reviews. My experience with their matt varnish (paid link) over the past few weeks has been excellent, so I’m expecting the primer to be solid.

One thin coat of Vallejo primer

After a single thin coat, including a follow up with an “empty” brush to pop bubbles and deal with pooling (just like I do with the varnish, and with washes/shades), you can barely see the difference between the primed shoulder pads and the bare metal. I suspect I need to do a second thin coat, but either way I know I should let it cure overnight.

The next morning I could see bare metal in a couple of spots I’d primed, so: too thin. I put on a second coat and left him to cure again.

Two thin coats on the shoulder pads

Then I thought, what the heck: I’ll single-coat the head and sloppily single-coat the ax blades, giving me two more tests in one curing session.

A few hours later I wondered why I was doing a full cure for a paint test — let alone one that’s keeping me from tackling Squad Karios! So I grabbed my Mephiston Red base and Evil Sunz Scarlet layer and went to work.

I came here to kick ass and paint things red, and I don’t know how to kick ass

One thinned Mephiston Red base coat later, here’s how ol’ Ti Ts’ang looks.

Mephiston Red base coat

Right off the bat, this stuff is much easier to paint over than my old spray primer. I don’t know if it’s the nature of spray primer, bad technique (overspraying), or the seven-year gap between priming and painting, but when I was finishing up my Terminators I found myself fighting the pebbly/fuzzy texture of the primer. My money’s on me applying it poorly, but whatever the case it wasn’t fun to work with and it overwhelmed some of the model’s details.

Three primed bits enter

In terms of one coat of Vallejo primer vs. two coats, there’s a clear winner: one well-applied coat.

  • The shoulder pads got two coats, and I can see the primer overwhelming some of the finer lines and details. It’s not awful, but it’s not great.
  • The sloppy single coat on the ax blades left a bubble or two here and there, but smothered no details.
  • The properly applied single coat on the head (no bubbles) didn’t annihilate any details and was just as easy to paint over as the other two areas.

In hindsight I think I forgot to stir the primer for the first coat on the shoulder pads; I distinctly remember stirring it for the head and ax. Eh, my conclusion would hold even if I’d stirred it: two layers of primer plus a layer of paint is too much.

To the Emperor’s highlighting salon, brothers!

First, the pre-wash highlight areas.

From the photo’s perspective: Evil Sunz Scarlet on right ax blade, right half of helmet, right shoulder pad

Evil Sunz Scarlet is subtle. I don’t have GW’s recommended color for a second-layer highlight, Fire Dragon Bright, so I grabbed my closest analog for another experiment: Wild Rider Red, my drybrush color for my Space Hulk Terminators.

From the photo’s perspective: Wild Rider on left ax blade

That’s much less subtle! My line is pretty bad, but even though the paint is notably orange the actual color pops nicely.

Time to shade

Next up is an Agrax Earthshade wash.

Pre-wash, the Evil Sunz Scarlet looked too subtle to my eye. But post-wash, it’s more visible. Still somewhat subtle, but not bad.

But look at the contrast between it and the Wild Rider Red — and between the Wild Rider before and after the wash. The Agrax knocked the orange right out of it, but it still pops noticeably more than the Evil Sunz.

I don’t think he knows about second highlight, Pip

Okay, after a few minutes of drying time it’s the final stage: a single edge highlight on the bits that have been base coated and washed, so I can compare those effects (and the two different highlight colors).

In the head/shoulders photo, the left half — as you look at it, not the model’s left — was highlighted after shading; the right half was highlighted before shading.

Head and shoulders (Evil Sunz Scarlet)

I can see why GW recommends shading before highlighting, and that color combination. Particularly at arm’s length, the post-wash highlighted portion pops more and has clearly been highlighted. The pre-wash side is more muted, and at arm’s length I can’t even tell it has highlights.

Let’s peek at the ax. On the front of the ax, left is post-wash highlighting and right is pre-wash (again, the photo’s right/left). On the back, it’s reversed: left is pre-wash, right is post-wash.

In the photo, the Evil Sunz Scarlet pre/post look about the same. At arm’s length, I can tell the pre-wash side has been highlighted — unlike the head and shoulders — but I still prefer the half that’s been highlighted after the wash.

The back is too orange in both versions. Even though 40k minis — where I’ll be trying out the combo of wash and highlighting I land on here — are pretty over-the-top, this blade looks downright cartoonish. That’s not inherently bad, but it’s not the effect I’m after.

One last data point, since I’ve got a freshly painted Blood Angels Terminator from my Space Hulk set handy.

P3 Khador Red base + Citadel Wild Rider Red drybrush (Terminator) vs. Citadel Mephiston Red base + Evil Sunz Scarlet edge highlight

I prefer the GW-approved color combo to my old one (which I was expecting), and I prefer the edge highlighting to drybrushing. Even though my edge lines suck! That’s something I can work on.

Conclusions

Summing up this whole little experiment:

  • One coat of Vallejo primer, stirred and applied with care
  • Edge highlight my base coat of Mephiston Red in Evil Sunz Scarlet after the Agrax Earthshade wash
  • For crisp edges, like armor plates, I prefer edge highlighting to drybrushing

And hell, I may even take a crack at doing a second finer edge highlight in Fire Dragon Bright, too. Time to paint some Blood Angels!

Categories
Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools

Musings on miniature basing

With a pile of Blood Angels to paint, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to base them. I’ve tried four methods over the years, with mixed results.

Number one is just painting the base black. This is boring. I no longer own any of my minis that are old enough to have been painted this way.

Learning from that, I glued little rocks to my mech bases (1997-2007).

Fuck these little rocks

Those little rocks were a learning experience. They look okay, sometimes even good, but they fall off all the time. I probably didn’t use enough glue, and I definitely didn’t paint them. They likely did get a coat of sealant, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from being annoying.

For the MERCS mini below (2010), I used lots of glue, fewer rocks, larger rocks, and painted and sealed them. I also painted the flat bits of the base dark green. These look pretty good and they never fall off, but the flat green bits are uninspiring.

Tiny rocks, evolved

The Terminators and Genestealers I’ve been working on since 2009 are all molded with bases (left) or lack them entirely (right). These are dead simple, easy to paint, and of course never fall off.

Molded bases (and single-position miniatures)

For my Blood Angels, I was planning to use a thick layer of white glue, basing sand, paint (base, wash, drybrush), and sealant. But a bit of reading and video watching made me wonder about the durability of that approach — and I don’t want little bits of sand coming off everywhere.

This excellent review of Citadel’s texture paint range (now renamed/merged with their technical line) on Age of Miniatures got me interested in using texture paints instead. GW also provides a neat free PDF showing some of the different approaches you can take with these paints.

Based (hah!) on the AoM review, it sounds like the thin and thick non-crackle options both offer sterling durability, and the thick gives you the most options in terms of washing and drybrushing for a base that pops a bit. I’m drawn to Astrogranite Debris because it looks like it will contrast nicely with a sea of Blood Angels red armor.

A possible basing recipe

Combining the Astrogranite Debris base shown in the above PDF (Astrogranite Debris > Drakenhof Nightshade wash > Longbeard Grey drybrush) with the image in this Spikey Bits post for the Plains of Armageddon (which adds the now-OOP Mordheim Turf tufts, i.e. pale grass, and little skulls) gives me a recipe with which to experiment:

  1. Astrogranite Debris base coat
  2. Drakenhof Nightshade wash
  3. Grey Seer (or similar) drybrush
  4. Add little skulls, rocks, and tufts to taste
  5. Paint the edge black or medium-to-dark gray

In my head that looks really cool with a little red dude standing on it. Add that to the still-a-WIP Faceless Strike Force concept for my Blood Angels army, apply some campaign decals, and it’s starting to feel like the kernel of a solid theme.

After I commented on how great his bases looked, a fellow minis painter on Twitter recommended this winters SEO video on using texture paint to base minis — and what a great recommendation that was. Different colors, but this is more or less exactly where my brain was heading; now I have a tutorial to follow.

Categories
Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: splitting my time, first Blood Angels model

It hit me that when I finish my Space Hulk minis I might, in that happy glow of satisfaction at finally completing a task I began in 2009, stall out and loose my painting momentum. I decided to start a second parallel hobby track, assembling Blood Angels, so that when my Termies are done I’m already in the middle of my next project.

I kicked this hobby session off by getting these two Termies shaded, since washes take a bit of time to dry.

Noctis and Zael drying after being shaded

Then I broke out my Blood Angels Tactical Squad box, assembled all my Gunpla tools — plus my newly acquired Citadel Mouldline Remover (paid link). I’ve always struggled with mold lines, and this looked like a handy tool to have.

Excluding the hobby knife (I have a couple), my other tools are from this little kit I bought on Amazon (paid link). It’s been a great kit, and the files and buffing board are useful for minis. The only tool I don’t love is the nippers, but unlike Gunpla — where a bad nip will really mess up the look of an unpainted model — it seems like light nip marks will be masked by primer and paint.

The options feel overwhelming

I thought about starting with a grunt in case I made mistakes, but decided to start with the sergeant since he would “flavor” the whole squad: I’ll be naming the squad after him (and naming all my squads, of course).

Oops

Ha ha, this little dangling blood drop was too fragile to survive being trimmed off the sprue with a hobby knife. I thought nipping would mangle it, but in hindsight I should have nipped. Ah well, nothing a quick filing-down can’t take care of. It’s only a priceless heirloom that this thousand-year-old warrior has carried into countless battles, after all . . .

Baby steps

It felt really good to glue his little legs down! A literal first step.

I’m also quite liking the mold line remover. The back of my hobby knife is free, but it’s not curved and it seems like it’d be all to easy to cut myself or accidentally snip off something near what I’m scraping.

I see why people have special clips for this

Compared to the two Deadzone miniatures I started assembling (Huscarl, Captain), which were so poorly sculpted that they prompted me to sell all my Deadzone stuff, this was a great experience. Even though this sergeant is composed of a whopping 14 separate pieces — more than I’ve ever assembled for a single figure — they all went together perfectly, and the whole process was supported equally well by the instruction booklet.

And the reward for using 14 pieces was a staggering amount of customization and a good amount of posability. This is an incredibly detailed model, and having a myriad of choices in how to kit it out was enjoyable.

I’m going by Rule of Cool but also paying attention to the actual 8th edition 40k rules — because while Rule of Cool says this guy would look awesome with a Combi-Melta in one hand and an Assault Cannon in the other, that’s just creating headaches for myself down the line when he can’t actually see table play.

So I picked two weapons that looked cool (but were also valid choices) and test-fit everything before putting glue to plastic. Which was a good idea, because the massive wings on his original right pauldron wouldn’t fit with the Hand Flamer.

Sergeant Karios, Tactical Squad Commander

And with that, I’ve officially started the process of building my Blood Angels army: Sergeant Karios, resplendent in his glorious nipple armor, reporting for duty!

After that I circled back and drybrushed and sealed Zael and Noctis, leaving me just two more Termies to go before Space Hulk is complete.

Ready to rid the space between the stars of heretics