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Deathskulls Orks Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Orky proofs of concept

Ever since I built my first Ork — Moonkrumpa, the Warboss of my Waaagh! — on November 16, I’ve been nervous about actually painting my initial mob of Boyz.

Which sounds kind of silly after I’ve just spent nine months painting 2,200 points of Blood Angels, right? Especially considering that Orks are a faction for which folks regularly kitbash stuff out of toilet-paper tubes? Well, yeah…except that Orks require a lot of painting techniques with which I don’t have much experience, including some — like freehand — that I’ve assiduously avoided attempting.

Getting the Boyz up on the handles for the first time to work on their bases

But at the same time, I sensed that I was stalling. So I took stock of what, exactly, I was nervous about trying and then decided to see what shook loose while painting one Boy.

Texture paint drying on bases

Here’s the list:

  • Freehand checks and dags
  • Freehand glyphs
  • Getting skin right
  • War paint
  • Weathering
  • One shade of blue vs. several shades of blue
  • Mixing layers and drybrushing on the same figure
  • Not yet having a brand/spot color that identifies Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas as my Orks

That last one was the biggie. I’ve seen two fantastic examples of personalized Ork armies in White Dwarf, one Goff army where every Ork has a red stripe painted across one eye, and one Freebooterz army whose theme is “rust and hazard stripes.” Both are brilliantly simple choices, allowing room for creative expression and variations between models, and neither requires any real additional steps (green stuff, adding bits, etc.). I’ve had a few ideas, but none have felt like The One — and this is an important conceptual step for me.

So I went into my test Ork hoping that the big question mark would sort of shake loose as I painted — and figuring that even if it didn’t, I could resolve some of the other list items in the process.

Putting paint on my first Ork, one of Skrudd’s Krumpas

Freehand…yes?

A few months ago, I read a heartening comment (I can’t recall where) about freehand that was along these lines: People will respect your attempt at freehand even if it’s not great. To which I’d add, maybe more importantly, I will respect my attempt at freehand, even if it’s not great.

With that in mind, I tried freehanding the glyph for “krump.” (I used a Princeton Velvetouch #1 round for both glyphs.)

The “krump” glyph

That’s…not terrible! Separate the two elements a bit more, and it’d be totally serviceable. It looks like I tried, and didn’t just phone it in. What the heck, can I do “moon” so I can have moon + krump on Moonkrumpa’s banner pole?

The Naz glyph (“moon”)

Yes, apparently I can! Again, not going to win any Golden Demons here, but it gets the job done.

War paint…also yes?

Bolstering by not embarrassing myself with the glyphs, it hit me that my simplest idea for establishing “Waaagh! identity,” painting one hand white on every Ork (as white is a Deathskulls accent color), had a logical iteration that was better in every way: paint one hand blue.

It’s the Deathskulls’ primary color. There’s a Warhammer TV video that features Duncan doing blue Deathskulls war paint, so I have a guide. It fits their lore, as they often apply blue war paint before going to battle. And, for good measure, testing out blue war paint would also help me answer the question about mixing shades of blue on the same model.

Caledor Sky war paint and Macragge Blue helmet

Well, shit: check, check, and check in my book. Even with only base coats — no washes, highlights, or weathering — that reads as war paint, and the clear difference between that blue and the darker tone on his helmet feels like an appropriately Orky mismatch (it’s not like these guys are nipping down to Pottery Barn with fabric swatches to get the blue juuust right; they’re kicking the nearest Gretchin and shouting, “Oi, make dat blue or I’ll krump you.”).

And fuck my ass, I even like the blue hand. Really like it. I’m going to add it to the bits of lore I’ve written about my army: Moonkrumpa’s original tribe was the Blue Handz, and their tribal identifier became a mark of membership in his Waaagh!. This is seriously as big a moment for me as coming up with Moonkrumpa; it’s the missing piece of the puzzle that clears my path to painting Orks that feel like mine.

How’s the list looking now?

  • Freehand checks and dags
  • Freehand glyphs
  • Getting skin right
  • War paint
  • Weathering
  • One shade of blue vs. several shades of blue
  • Mixing layers and drybrushing on the same figure
  • Not yet having a brand/spot color that identifies Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas as my Orks

Based on how freehanding glyphs went, I’m no longer nervous about checks and dags, either. My first few won’t look great, but I’ll improve with practice and experience. Ditto weathering, which I may also get a crack at on my terrain before I try it on my Boyz.

I have a hunch that skin and mixing layers/drybrushing will sort themselves out, too. Skin is basically cloth, and there’s an excellent article in White Dwarf #454 to use as a step-by-step reference.

Skrudd and half of his Boyz with their green, blue, and brass base coats done (plus some other random colors)

So all in all, I’m feeling pretty good about my list, much less nervous about painting these Orks — and downright excited to see how they turn out. Sometimes you just gotta paint it and see what happens.

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