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.
As ever, Sergeant Karios is first into the breach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After washing Squad Karios’ bases yesterday I was worried I’d screwed them up. Today I drybrushed them: Grey Seer on the terrain, 50/50 Grey Seer/Corax White on the rocks, Corax White on the skulls (all thinned a bit with water.
I probably went too heavy on the drybrushing — my default — but there’s definitely a difference, and a positive one. The drybrushed texture paint now looks like real ground.
What I’m thrilled about is that 1) they don’t look too far off the mark and 2) you can tell exactly which basing model I was going for. Not too shabby!
I’m not totally sold on my choice to use gray rocks on gray ground. They don’t look bad, they’re just hard to pick out of the sea of gray. But brown rocks don’t scream “plains of Armageddon” to me. They sure do pop more, though:
I’m committed to my next two squads already, though: Dolos and Cain both have their rocks already glued down, so they’re getting primed and won’t stay their natural color. But maybe I’ll try painting them differently: still a Grey Seer base coat followed by an Agrax Earthshade wash, but then drybrush them with something like Nurgling Green or a 50/50 Kislev Flesh/Corax White mix.
And I have to remember that painting is a journey, not a destination. By the time I’ve painted 2,000 points of Blood Angels, the difference in quality between my last squad and my first should be noticeable; a bit of variation in how I base them will just come out in the wash.
Tonight I wrapped up assembly on Narses, my Librarian Dreadnought.
This is a really cool kit! I can’t wait to paint this guy.
Narses is actually still in seven pieces: torso, arms x2, legs, feet x2, base — I’ve carefully balanced him for a photo, but he’s not glued together yet. I’m going to paint him in pieces and I may leave his arms unglued; I want to see if my miniature storage solution, which hasn’t arrived yet, can accommodate him with his arms attached before I make that call.
I can see a difference between these two, but it’s not the difference I was expecting; I may have fucked up here.
The texture paint is pebbly, which makes sense, so I focused on really saturating it with my wash . . . which, as I type it, doesn’t sound like how I’d usually do a wash: drag across the details, letting it naturally sink into the cracks. So far the net effect here look less like a wash and more like I just used a darker texture paint.
It’s not unpleasant — I like the color — but I don’t know if it will add shadows and depth. It looks like I’ve eliminated the mid-tones.
That spot foil — the gold bits — looks like kintsugi. The stamps look so real I want to peel them off.
I opened the front cover and literally went, “What the hell, why did Tim write in this and why does it say $125 . . . OHHHHHH.”
Every page is a work of art. The whole is a work of art. Thousand Year Old Vampire is a master class in how to make a print RPG book 1) look and feel amazing and 2) look like an artifact from the world it contains.
I’ve seen some gorgeous gaming books in the past, but very, very few are in this one’s league. If you want to know more, or buy a copy, hit up Tim’s itch.io page for the book.
By pure coincidence, this is my 300th post on Yore! I didn’t plan this one as number 300; I noticed I was getting close and then forgot about it, but as it turns out this grab-bag post of what’s on my mind right now (miniatures!) is pretty emblematic of my approach to blogging here. I hope you’re enjoying Yore, which also turned 10 years old this year — thank you for reading!
I kicked today’s hobby session off by adding rocks and skulls to the bases of Squad Dolos and Squad Cain, my Primaris Infiltrators and Space Marine Scouts, respectively.
So whereas Squad Karios got lots of rocks and skulls, I focused on rocks for Dolos (since a lot of the Infiltrators’ feet include them), picturing them up in high places; and on sparse use of both for the Scouts, with their tiny bases. Both will get extra tufts in the final stage, so they look quite bare now.
I’ve been itching to build my two Dreadnoughts — one Librarian, one Furioso — but also a bit intimidated by them. I’ve never built a larger miniature before, and I love these units so much that I really want to get them right.
Dreadnoughts are one of my favorite things in 40k: a life-support sarcophagus, in which is entombed the still-living remains of a Space Marine who was mortally wounded on the battlefield centuries ago, mounted at the heart of a walking tank — a machine of eternal war. How fucking rad — and metal! — is that?
One of the reasons I picked the Blood Angels is because they have three special ones, all of which come out of the same kit (you pick when you build it): the Blood Angels Furioso Dreadnought (paid link). I started with Narses, my Librarian — named after the 6th Century Roman general, a deeply religious eunuch whose martial successes came late in life, and an unlikely leader; that sounded like a perfect fit to me.
After building his torso and the legs, I decided I’m going to paint Narses in pieces. I’ll sticky-tack the foot divots, waist joints, and maybe arm joints; prime and paint them all separately; and then peel off the sticky tack so I can get a clean plastic/plastic join for the final gluing stage.
One of the little joys of building a 40k army is naming units. I’m starting with just the sergeants and characters, but may eventually branch out to naming more of the models as well. Karios was a son of Zeus, Dolos is a Greek spirit of trickery and guile, and Cain can mean “possessed” and “spear” (plus the whole Christian mythology around the first murder).
Narses is coming along nicely, but I’m out of hobby time for today — his arms and power plant will have to wait.
I’m too close to these right now for self-critique. They’re not perfect. Despite having been painting for 30 years, I’ve spent the vast majority of that time not painting. I’m very much a beginner, with a lot to learn.
I’ve included my favorite mini in the center of each picture below: Lorenzo, the Librarian, Gideon, throne boy. (Close seconds are Leon and Zael.)
Even though there are fewer Terminators than Genestealers, and fewer of either than all the BattleTech stuff I painted ages ago, this was the most personally significant miniature painting project I’ve ever undertaken.
I have loved Space Hulk since I was a wee lad, flipping through issues of White Dwarf around age 10-12. Terminators are my favorite Warhammer 40k concept and figure, and always have been. I’ve wanted to own a set, painted by me, for over 30 years. The journey to getting these painted has, until 2020, been defined largely by not enjoying painting; this was the year, and the project, that saw me enjoying the process for the process. I love it now, and I had an absolute blast painting these Terminators.
For now, these are my best paint jobs. For now!
Painting is a ton of fun
I learned a lot, and rediscovered some things, while I painted these dudes:
using brushed-on washes, with multiple shades
a more delicate touch while drybrushing
a bit of experimentation with highlighting, notably on armor plate edges and gems
paying much more attention to painting details
using a brushed-on varnish for the first time
working with new tools, including a painting handle and a specialty water cup
using better brushes, and finer-tipped brushes, and taking better care of them
thinning my paints for the first time
I’m going to put what I’ve learned into practice on my Blood Angels army — and then iterate on that, and iterate again. I’m a miniature painter now, and I love this hobby!
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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
Apply texture paint with the spreader
Wash and drybrush the base normally, including rocks/skulls
Wipe the base edge clean before it dries
Paint the miniature
Touch everything up as needed
Glue on tufts
Paint the edge of the base
Varnish the whole thing, mini and base
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.
My working concept for my Blood Angels army is the Faceless Strike Force, with 100% of the models in helmets. I wanted Space Marine Scouts in my army, which posed a small problem: the Scout kits only come with bare heads.
Some Googling turned up two easy options for alternate scout heads: Skitarii Rangers and Militarum Tempestus Scions. The latter looked a bit too “WWII Germany” to me, and the Skitarii had the added benefit of being hooded — a perfect match for my Scout snipers and their camouflage cloaks. A quick trip to Ebay later and I had a bag of Skitarii Rangers heads to convert my Space Marine Scouts with sniper rifles (paid link).
I talked a bit about the limited uniqueness and posability of the Primaris Infiltrators here on Yore, but these Scouts take that to a whole old level: exactly one bottom half, one top half, and one gun for each model. How will the heretics know they’re Blood Angels if they aren’t dual-wielding 16′ banners and wearing an entire craft store’s worth of bling?!
On the flipside, these are badass models. That’s why I bought them.
In the photo above I’ve sandwiched a Skitarii Ranger head between two Scout heads. The bottom looks the same, but the Scout heads are designed to sit in a shallow divot on each model; the Skitarii heads sit too high and have “flanges” sticking out of the neck recess.
After test-fitting a couple of Skitarii heads, I decided to build the models and then choose heads based on their poses. On the guys looking down their scopes, the larger respirators get in the way; they need the more svelte heads. Like this guy:
All of them needed a bit of trimming, some more than others. I experimented with using a file, but quickly switched to my hobby knife and stuck with that approach. Shave a bit off, test-fit the head; shave a bit more, test-fit again; and so on until it looked right.
This was my first-ever conversion project, and even though it’s quite light as conversions go it still took some work. On a couple of these Scouts, I spent as long trimming the head to fit as I did building the rest of the mini — and the more fragile Ranger heads, with the tall antennae, were too delicate for me (I nearly broke one).
If you’re looking for it, you can see the curve of the bottom of this one’s neck nub. But with paint and a wash to fill in the shadows, I think it’ll look solid on the tabletop.
I like that this conversion doesn’t look “off” — the heads are the right size, they don’t give the minis giraffe necks, and while they’re taller than the normal Scout heads they’re not that much taller. They’re still in proportion with standard Space Marines.
Another squad down! The Scout models are super-simple, mono-pose, and a bit heavy on the mold lines — but once built, they’re nicely differentiated from each other. A mini carrying a rifle as long as he is tall is always going to look pretty cool.
I dig how the Skitarii Ranger heads look on them. They’re a bit creepy, which I like, with almost a Jawa vibe, and the hoods go well with their camouflage cloaks — and should go even better once I paint them in the same camo color scheme. They’re a fun addition to my Blood Angels force.