I’ve got a post queued up for later this week about my basing recipe, but tonight I tucked into the first step. Gotta see if this works, and the best way to do that is to try it.
Sergeant Karios was the first model I built in my Blood Angels army, and he was my starting point tonight as well. (My plan is to paint him first, too; screw trying out new techniques on an “expendable” generic Space Marine.)
I’m using a little tub of Gale Force Nine Rocky Basing Grit and a box of Citadel Skulls (paid link), and gluing them down now rather than later so I can hit them with a coat of primer at the same time as the rest of the miniature. Superglue for the rocks, plastic glue for the skulls.
It’s tempting to go wild with rocks and skulls, but 1) I have a concept in mind, and “wild” doesn’t suit it; and 2) I suspect it’s a bit like blood effects, which tend to look overdone about 90% of the time.
Like base-coating, they don’t look amazing at this stage. They look a bit forced and artificial. But my hope is that once I apply texture paint — which will soften the edges of the rocks and skulls, and inevitably cover bits of them — followed by a wash, a drybrush, and some tufts, they’ll look natural and interesting. We shall see!
Tomorrow, when the light is better, I start priming these bad boys.
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!
I wasn’t in the mood to prime minis today (I did some test priming, which I’ve detailed in a post for tomorrow), so I picked another unit to build: Squad Dolos, my first Primaris Space Marines — the cool-as-hell Primaris Infiltrators (paid link).
Gotta start with the sergeant! Although unlike Squad Karios, the first squad I built for my Blood Angels army, these dudes have many, many fewer unique elements to them. That makes it harder to flavor the squad based on the sergeant, but I’m sticking to my guns anyway.
After my first two (drawing-his-pistol guy is such a cool pose!) I stood them up next to two members of Squad Karios for a quick size comparison. Space Marines are massive compared to an average human . . . and Primaris Space Marines make them look small.
(It was while I was working on my third one that I realized the chest-grenades come in right- and left-side variations, and I’d already done one wrong. Now it’s two!)
I want zero exact duplicate figures in my army, and ideally zero near-duplicates as well — so this kit is a bit of a challenge, since it includes two sets of identical twins and the Infiltrators are almost mono-pose figures.
Compared to the Space Marines I built last week, and even setting aside that the level of uniqueness in that kit is higher than in a standard Adeptus Astartes kit, these Infiltrators are much more rigid: no waist rotation, entire torso is one piece; each torso matches exactly one pair of legs; legs locked into position; only five sets of different legs (2x of each set); identical weapons; etc. You do get 10 pieces of “waist bling,” 2x each of five designs, and of course I’m limiting myself unnecessarily by using only the helmeted heads (which are all identical, save that I used the comms guy’s head for the sergeant).
For the two dudes above, I really had to stretch the limit of how far the arms on the one on the left would go in order to make his posture emphatically different than his twin. That said, the poses are quite dynamic, I dig the pouches and holsters and other doodads, and the special ones are rad — the sergeant cradling his Bolt Carbine, the guy reaching for his sidearm, the comms guy. They’re good-looking minis overall, I just miss the blinged-out variations in my Tactical Squad.
I built the other set of identical twins, far right and third from the right, and squeezed as much individuality out of them as I could: different Bolt Carbine angle, head position, bling style and location, and presence/absence of grenades on the chest. I’ll add a bit more variation when I base them (skulls, tufts, etc.).
I’m pretty bleary-eyed after doing six of these in a row, so it’s time to call it a night.
These minis are a ton of fun to assemble, and assembly is a great palate cleanser after my go-go-go painting in March.
Once I had the rest together, I realized I’d accidentally given the sub-squad leader a Storm Bolter, not a regular Bolter. A bit of surgery and sanding and he was good to go. I think I’ve been working on Terminators for so long that Storm Bolters just look normal to me.
Squad Karios, reporting for duty!
Putting unpainted minis in the lightbox sounded a bit silly, but I like the idea of being able to showcase the details on these figures (these kits are phenomenally detailed) and the choices I made while assembling them. Expressing personalities and embracing themes, all flowing down from Sergeant Karios, is a big part of the fun of assembly.
One of my goals for my Blood Angels army is to have no exact duplicates and no near-duplicates among my figures, and the Blood Angels Tactical Squad kit (paid link) is fantastic for that because virtually every piece is unique. Excluding a few arms, even bits which look identical at a glance are actually different: one has one blood drop and the other has three, one has a dangling tassel, etc.
Even with 5/6 of these guys being “legs akimbo, Bolter held cross-body,” there’s a lot of dynamism and variation between them. They feel like individuals to me.
It took a bit of experimentation to get the whole squad in my small lightbox, but now I know how to do it for next time. Heck, maybe I’ll pack it with all 30+ Space Hulk minis and see if that looks presentable.
And hey, now I have my first spare bits for my next project!
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.
After getting Sergeant Karios — my first Blood Angels model — assembled last night, I squeezed in a bit more hobby time and tackled three members of his squad.
I started with the three that seemed like they would have the most built-in personality: the sub-squad leader, the dude who commands the other half of the squad if it splits up at the start of the game; the special weapon model; and the heavy weapon model.
I like laying everything out like this so that I can think about the character and which pieces to use, but also to help ensure I don’t make any mistakes — glue on two left arms, pick arms from different sets (A+B, etc.), or the like.
Citadel’s Mouldline Remover tool (paid link) is my MVP for today. This little thing is so useful, and so quick at accomplishing its specific task, that it helps make this process a relaxing one.
I was surprised and delighted at how often I asked myself, “What would he wear?” and “What kind of marine is this guy?” while I was getting these guys sorted out. And as I started getting a little picture of each of these characters, it became easy to find the right option on the sprue — and then the right pose. That was a ton of fun.
There’s definitely a learning curve here; I’ve never put together miniatures this detailed before, nor with this many parts. I still struggle with the most fragile bits, especially the dangling blood drop charms. I snipped one off yesterday by accident; I glued one to a leg on purpose today to stop it from inevitably getting snapped off.
But on the whole these are fantastic models. Every piece fits perfectly, they ooze personality and are awash in details, and they’re an absolute blast to build. They’re not cheap, but there’s a reason for that.
I am very much here for the fictional and roleplaying side of my Faceless Strike Force: naming the sergeants and squads, thinking about where they’ve fought (and where, from looking at their bases, they’re “currently” fighting), and generally engaging with the lore — which I’ve always loved. That plus Rule of Cool is guiding my choices.
Why is the sub-squad leader a beakie marine? Because he’s ancient, and prefers the old-style helmet. Why plasma for my lone special weapon? Because I really want to try my hand at painting the plasma chamber.
And hey, look who came in the mail: Commander Dante! Most likely the oldest living Space Marine, commander of the Blood Angels chapter, and a damned cool mini — how could I not have this beast leading the charge? I need to read up on how to assemble resin minis, though; I know to wash them and use superglue rather than plastic glue, but that’s about it.
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.
My goal for tonight was to take the Librarian — Terminator 8/12 — as close to completion as possible. I started out with him about 80% base-coated, still needing lots of little fixes and detail work, and got him through to the next stage.
This was one of those nights where it felt like every time I touched the mini, it got worse. He’s quite extra, color-wise, adding Flash Gitz Yellow, Kislev Flesh, Mechanicus Grey, and Army Painter’s Toxic Mist — which didn’t help.
But on the plus side, my painting area has a new mascot presiding over it now — a Funko Pop! Blood Angels Assault Marine (paid link).
I may use his shiny yellow head for transfer practice at some point — but now back to painting.
It wasn’t a relaxing wash, like they usually are . . . but it was a wash.
I was going to call it done here, feeling okay overall — and even having taken a stab at an energy effect on his Power Axe and continued to dip my toes into the edge highlighting pool — but I looked at those big blank pages and said fuck it.
So I went back in with Mechanicus Standard Grey and did my first-ever freehand faux-text.
And then I said fuck it again and made the possibly ill-advised choice to go back and freehand the larger scrolls on the two previous minis where I’d ignored them. How am I going to grow as a painter if I don’t make some ill-advised choices?
With Brother Gideon wrapped up over the weekend and Brother Lorenzo put to bed today, I’ve now painted 7/12 of the Terminators in my Space Hulk set.
I experimented a bit more with edge highlighting on Lorenzo, and so far I like it. I went too far — both in color difference and application — on his gems, but the sword edge and “power lines” came out pretty good.
I’ll probably take a better, less-cluttered picture of the whole gang once they’re done, but here’s a quick and dirty photo to mark this milestone.
Seeing these guys all together makes me excited to play Space Hulk — and to watch my Blood Angels army come together, once those start hitting my painting mat.
I settled on building a Blood Angels army for 40k earlier this month, and now I’ve brought it up from 500-600 points to 800-900 (depending on how I build the models). I’ve got Commander Dante on the way, which should put me right on the money for a 1,000-point Vanguard Detachment, or over a thousand if I build it as a Battalion Detachment and add another squad of troops.
Along with the Blood Angels Codex (paid link), which has been a blast to read, I snagged a box each of Death Company (paid link) and Sanguinary Guard (paid link) and some painting supplies. I’m still following the Rule of Cool: buying what I want to paint without worrying about whether it’s an optimal mechanical choice (while also doing it in the framework of building an army, to keep myself pointed at a goal).
Although the Dreadnought and Rhino are larger than anything I’ve painted in 30-plus years, this is still fewer miniatures than what’s in Space Hulk: 23 Genestealers, 12 Terminators, 3 misc. pieces vs. 1 leader/hero, 10 troops, 15 elites, 1 tank, 1 Dreadnought. That feels like a manageable 1,000-point army to paint.
And even with the new paints folded into my collection I’ve got room to spare in my WarpedMindGames paint racks (which I reviewed back in February, and still love)!
I’m planning a couple of changes to my painting regimen once I finish my Space Hulk Terminators and switch to 40k minis. I’ve done a bit of experimentation with edge highlighting some elements and drybrushing others, which I think I’ll step up for my army. I’ve also got some Citadel texture paint, the correct reds for my Angels, and a palette so I can stop dipping my brushes directly into my pots (a big no-no that I’m terrible about!).