I’ve got a basing recipe in mind for my Blood Angels army, and now I have all the components:
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
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.
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:
Assemble the model and glue it to the base
Glue on rocks and skulls to suit
Prime the whole thing white, mini and base
Paint the rocks/skulls/etc., including wash and drybrush
Apply texture paint with the spreader
Wash and drybrush the texture paint
Wipe the base edge clean before it dries
Paint the miniature
Touch everything up as needed
Paint the edge of the base
Varnish the whole thing, mini and base
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One thinned Mephiston Red base coat later, here’s how ol’ Ti Ts’ang looks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
Astrogranite Debris base coat
Drakenhof Nightshade wash
Grey Seer (or similar) drybrush
Add little skulls, rocks, and tufts to taste
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
I looked at both cheaper and more expensive options, but landed here — on the cheaper end of the middle, at $44 — for a few reasons.
Compact form factor — my desk is already too crowded
Multiple color temperatures, not just cool white
Three points of articulation: tilts at the base, tilts at the bend, and the head rotates from side to side
Touch controls, which sounded cool
Aesthetically pleasing (not a top concern, but still)
Shown above is my default setting, medium brightness (the top is about 450 lumens, which isn’t a lot but is actually quite bright for a task light) and neutral white color temperature.
I wish the color temperatures were spelled out a bit better, but “night” is warm, “coffee” is warm shading into neutral, “reading” is neutral white, and “writing” is cool white. To my eye the reading setting has the best color rendition, which is what I’m after for miniatures.
The lamp includes a cord and wall wart, and there’s a single USB port on the back of the base. The next model up (paid link) includes wireless phone charging for about $6 more, if that’s something you need.
I opted against a magnifier lamp for now because I’m not convinced I need one (holding minis close to my face does the trick, so far) and most of the ones with a good magnifier and selectable or neutral white color temperature were quite expensive. I figure by the time my painting skills could really benefit from magnification, I’ll have learned more about what sort of lighting works best for me and will be able to make a more informed choice.
It’s a lamp (paid link)! With it I can paint better, for longer each day (and have been). I like it. You might like it as well.
I noticed on Warhammer TV that Duncan nearly always thins his paint a bit, which I’ve never tried. I have a palette now, so I thought I’d give it a whirl with another Terminator: Brother Gideon, who has a truly epic Storm Shield.
A month ago, I wouldn’t even have attempted the finer lines on this shield. The palette helps, as does the right brush and ample light (about which I have a short review coming up next week; this light has made a big difference) — and the nice cold bottle of Asahi just off-camera.
I didn’t do this amazing sculpt justice, but this Storm Shield is the most detailed thing I’ve ever painted. I’ll touch it up tomorrow, in better light, along with the rest of Gideon and see how it turns out.
My Terminator box is slowly starting to fill up. Gideon is 6/12, so if I can finish him and one more Termie tomorrow I’ll be over 50% done.
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):
Shade (wash) the entire miniature
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.
In the WHTV video, Duncan Rhodes demonstrates two techniques (again, preceded by primer). One:
Shade (wash) only the recesses/cracks/etc. with a fine brush
Edge highlight in a lighter color
Drybrush with a lighter color, but fairly broadly — edges plus larger areas
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.
After seeing Warpstone Pile‘s cool setup I bought an inexpensive lightbox to use for photographing my miniatures.
For $20, this DUCLUS lightbox (paid link) — one of dozens of cheap lightboxes on Amazon — offered some features I really liked.
Folds up for storage in the included bag
Built-in LEDs with a dimmer switch, 95+ CRI, and a button to switch between cool, neutral, and warm light
If you turn it off while it’s plugged in, it has setting memory for both brightness and color temperature (it resets when you unplug it)
Five fabric backdrops, including black — the one wanted to start with
Here it is with the black backdrop in place, on the lowest light setting, with the LEDs set to neutral white. As a flashlight enthusiast who’s obsessed with high CRI and neutral white in my lights, I’m pretty happy with the light this puppy puts out.
I’m just shooting with my phone because it’s easy: shoot, email the pics to myself, and then crop, auto-adjust and -contrast in PhotoScape, and they’re ready to upload. Getting out my Serious Camera would only reduce the likelihood that I do this at all. Pitter patter!
I chose my favorite paint job that I did back in ~2007 for my first victim: this 100-ton Behemoth. I’ve always loved assault mechs and this is a great design; I spent a lot of time painting it back in the day. It’s one of the first minis where I felt like I had my drybrushing down.
But in the lightbox? Oof, that close-up under even lighting is really unforgiving. This mini is absolutely good enough for tabletop, and it looks sharp at arm’s length — my usual painting standard. But here I can see that I over-drybrushed, perhaps to compensate for not doing a wash. I’m pretty sure I didn’t drybrush in a complementary color, instead just using my default white.
Still: not terrible! This post, and my evaluation of my past work, isn’t about tearing myself down. I’m not winning any Golden Demons, but I’m not as bad a painter as I’ve long felt that I was — even under the all-seeing light of the DUCLUS. I’d play proudly with this little Behemoth in my force.
Next up is this Bushwhacker, which I painted with a metallic base coat. Definitely from around the same time as the Behemoth, in terms of when I painted it.
Over-drybrushed, not washed, and I can see I wasn’t great at removing mold lines either. The rocks on the base are glued down, but I suspect they needed to be varnished or something to help them stay in place. I like the look, but I don’t plan to base minis this way again — the little rocks fall off quite easily.
But overall, I’m not sad about this little dude either. There’s ample room for improvement, but even in the lightbox I’m pretty happy with how he turned out.
It will be fascinating to compare these to some of my later dipped (washed) minis and see how they stack up.
Anyhoo, I’m quite pleased with this lightbox and I look forward to sticking more minis in it. Being able to shoot photos without worrying about having good exterior lighting (sometimes a challenge in Seattle!), or finding just the right spot in the house, should make it a breeze to keep doing these posts.
After a bit of airing-out time I got my paint racks from WarpedMindGames assembled. They’re everything I hoped they would be — absolutely fantastic, and for a solid price.
Imperial Paint Rack Linear
I ordered the one that’s set up with 34 mm holes for GW paint pots, of which it holds 45. Assembly took about 5 minutes and was entirely problem-free.
You can see the two brush slots towards the back. Note too the nicely staggered rows, like movie theater seats, which make the labels of partially obscured rows of paint easier to see.
This rack is full of decorative flourishes that give it character, like the gothic arches in the sides and the eagles on the cross-braces.
There are also purely decorative eagles in the back, and the cutouts from whence they emerged are in the largely invisible bottom of the rack.
Here she is fully assembled and stocked with paint and brushes. I’ve got base coats in the front, followed by layers, shades, and dry brush paints marching up towards the top.
The shop said that these don’t need glue, and I agree. The only fitment that’s even vaguely loose is the very top rack (the skinny one), which has the fewest attachment points. But this entire rack, fully loaded, also isn’t designed to be moved around regularly. I don’t plan to glue any of it.
The paint holes are perfectly sized for my new-style GW pots. They also hold my smattering of Privateer P3 paints just as well. I’m basically out of brush space here, but that’s what the second rack, the Mini, is for; it will also hold some of my overflow paints (duplicates, dodgy ones that don’t have much life left in them) and my hobby knife, basing media, etc.
Imperial Paint Rack Mini
Like the larger one, the Imperial Paint Rack Mini went together beautifully in about 5 minutes. This one is compact and has more structure to it thanks to the large plates above and below the drawer; it’ll do great if I need to tote it around the house (and again, no glue).
The drawer is quite deep, swallowing up my miscellaneous miniature-related stuff easily. The flat surface in front of the first paint row makes a handy spot for odd-sized bottles (primer, etc.) — and, I suspect, a good work shelf for paints that are on-deck for whatever I’m painting at the moment.
Everything else I said about the big one applies here. It’s a thoughtful design, cleverly implemented as a flat-pack DIY solution, and it has character to boot.
I also had a great experience with WarpedMindGames as a shop. I messaged the owner, Brian, about a small problem (the fitment of my drawer), he messaged me back in five minutes, and after investigating found that his cutter’s driver was off; I had a new drawer on the way that same day, with some extra goodies in the package as an unexpected surprise.
Here they are side by side on my desk. I have a few paints elsewhere at the moment (the colors I’m using), but taken together these two accommodate my entire collection with ease.
Thumbs up all around on the WarpedMindGames, their service, and these two racks!
Update: I’ve been chatting about minis games with Brian of WMG, and he shared this tip: Don’t store brushes vertically, as it can cause them to splay out and/or get junk in the ferrules. Instead, store them horizontally — for me, that’ll be in the drawer of the Mini — and use the vertical slots for other tools (hobby knife, files, etc.).