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.
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.
Gotta grab an army shot, too. I’m up to 553 points now!
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:
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:
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.
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!
Since I started my Blood Angels army in March of this year, I’ve had bits scattered across little baggies, the boxes in which they came, other boxes…it was mess. The other night I wanted to add a couple purity seals to my Rhino before priming it, which entailed looking in like eight different places, and in the end I found only one of the three spares I had.
This is a Plano 3700, one of their larger boxes. It probably incorporates more dividers than actually came with it, because I have oodles of Plano boxes of various sizes scattered about the place. (I use them for everything, but especially for board game organization.)
I have bits from non-Space Marine kits for basing, plus the odd thing like Skitarii heads that I use for conversions, but essentially this whole box is for my Blood Angels. There’s no magic to my system, and it will absolutely change as I build more kits, but here’s how it’s organized at the moment (left to right):
Top row: helmeted heads, bare heads, winged blood drop shoulder pads, other shoulder pads, torso fronts, torso backs and backpacks
Second row: single arms/hands and melee weapons, Bolt Pistols and Boltguns, special and weird weapons, heavy weapons, Terminator bits, miscellany (grenades, Iron Halos, belt bling, etc.)
Third row: Primaris heads, Primaris single arms, Primaris bling, Primaris doodads and weapons, parts from vehicle kits
Bottom row: small basing debris, medium basing debris, large basing debris, actual bases
Notably absent, although I have an abundance of them, are arms. This is because they often come in pairs, so 63A goes with 63B, and the easiest way for me to not mess them up is just to leave them on their sprues in their original boxes (which I’m keeping, along with the empty sprues for future use as clutter, etc.).
Once it was all in there, I learned some things. For example, I thought I was low on BA shoulder pads and had considered buying another upgrade kit to get some more — but I have like 20 of them.
It feels good to have a proper bits box in place at last.
Narses has been sitting on my desk, fully painted save for one tiny bit of highlighting in a single color, for several days now. But that last color (Baharroth Blue) finally came, and with that done I could varnish him, glue on some tufts, and add him to my Blood Angels army.
I think the above is his “golden angle,” but let’s give him the full four-way lightbox treatment, too.
Here he is leading my other troops. There aren’t that many of them yet, but the next couple months should see about three dozen more added to my strike force.
He was a lot of fun to paint — which is good, because my current list features a Furioso Dread and I have a Death Company Dread, two Redemptors, and two “almost a Dreadnought” Invictor Warsuits in my backlog! Ditto his scenic base, which was the largest I’ve ever done.
Having worked with the pre-molded Dreadnought base, though, I don’t think I want more of them in my army. I Ebayed a couple 60mm plain bases to use for my other two (and the Redemptors/Invictors come with plain bases), which will make Narses’ “hero base” a nice contrast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That leaves just my Rhino, Relentless, and a squad of Sanguinary Guard to prime so I can paint them in May.
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 2 was going to be “apply diagonal strips of tape” until I actually tried that and physics disagreed:
Step 2: apply vertical strips of 2mm Tamiya tape, edge to edge with no gaps (to ensure even spacing).
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 4: paint the exposed yellow portions Abaddon Black.
Step 5: remove the remaining strips of tape. Ta-da! Hazard stripes.
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.
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.
I like to maintain my painting momentum by always having something ready to paint, which means planning ahead. Right now my pace is about one miniature every two days, which is a decent data point for building a queue.
I also like to have some options for my hobby time, including a mix of assembly, basing, and painting. I don’t love priming (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say I don’t like it), but that task has to be in the mix as well. Those four activities each have their own appeal:
Assembly: A bit fiddly, but I love coming up with fun poses, choosing wargear, and figuring out who my figures are as characters (especially the sergeants). This is a creative, relaxing activity that can be done any time, including when I don’t have full daylight to work with. I lump the first part of basing in with assembly now — gluing down my rocks and whatnot.
Priming: I want to find a way to derive joy from priming, but there are zero artistic or roleplaying choices to make and it’s fundamentally not a creative activity — it’s just Not Screwing Up. At least it’s reasonably quick, and like assembly I don’t need good light.
Basing: Even though part of it was already done during assembly, finishing the base — which I before painting any part of the model itself — feels like its own thing. And I love it! Super relaxing, creative, and when I’m done the figure feels 50% complete.
Painting: The main event, full of artistic choices and creativity. Relaxing, but still sometimes a bit stressful; I find I hold my breath a lot while working on the final highlights, since one bad slip-up can ruin hours of work. Some stages benefit greatly from a fresh mind and good light, so it’s a bit trickier to fit in sometimes.
That’s why I always like to have a mix of unbuilt, unprimed, and unpainted figures on hand: So when I’m in the mood to do any part of 1-4, or not in the mood for something more intense (final highlights) but in the mood for something casual (basing), or circumstances (nighttime, etc.) rule out any steps, I’ve always got something to work on.
I accidentally put the Chaplain in the back there; that’s supposed to be Commander Dante. My plan for May is:
Paint 5x Sternguard Veterans
Paint 5x Primaris Infiltrators
Paint 1x Rhino
Assemble and paint 4x Sanguinary Guard and 1x Sanguinary Ancient
Assemble and paint Commander Dante
That’s probably a bit of a stretch, but that’s okay. I like to bounce between complex/detailed sculpts and simpler ones, so the Sternguard (detailed) will be a nice follow-up to April’s Terminators (simple); I can follow them with the simple Infiltrators, then the more complex Guard (also a break from painting red!), and mix in the Rhino and Dante when the mood strikes me.
June’s plan is too ambitious, and will almost certainly spill over into July. Nothing here is built yet, so it’s assembly and painting of:
5x Assault Squad
5x Death Company
5x Terminator Assault Squad
1x Land Raider Crusader
1x Furioso Dreadnought
1x Chaplain with Skull Helmet
My guess is that the Dread and maybe part of one squad will land in July, assuming I can keep up my February/March/April pace for another 2-3 months.
But however long it takes me, I’m going to have a blast — and when I’m done, I’ll have a parade-ready 2,000-point Blood Angels army. And hey, maybe by this summer we’ll be able to leave the house again and I might actually be able to play!
And if not . . . my backlog is a massive, joyous hoard of plastic, just waiting for some love. It’s all Blood Angels stuff, and all contributes to my twin goals of having more options for my army (including duplicate units) and painting at least one of every major unit the Blood Angels can field under 8th Edition rules.
Two of the three blue paint pots I need to finish Narses came in the mail yesterday, so I tackled 99% of his highlights last night. He’s so close to completion at this point — but “so close” also equals 18 colors of highlights.
Two hours of layers and highlights later, and he’s nearly good to go!
Up close like this the final orange highlights on his armor (Fire Dragon Bright) read as Way Too Much, but at tabletop distance it looks more natural.
My Cog Mechanicum turned out okay, too!
Meanwhile, I’ve got Squad Ultio on the painting handles, fully based and ready to rock — and as part of the RPGGeek April 2020 Painting Challenge I’m trying to get the whole squad (and Narses) finished in April. That challenge was a tremendous motivator in March, and it’s been a great motivator in April, too. A miniature every two days (on average) would get me to a parade-ready 2,000-point Blood Angels army by mid-July, allowing a bit of slush time for the larger vehicles.
And I built my first Rhino, the designated transport for Squad Karios, so that I can paint it in May.
I made so many mistakes while building this kit: forgot to add the ramp before gluing the sides, glued the top doors on upside down, and glued one hatch to the wrong mount. All fixed before they became permanent, but it was a bit of a comedy of errors.
I’d planned to paint the interior, and assumed that leaving the top off would give me enough room to work. But that’s not the case: There’s no way I can credibly paint, say, the Bolter under the console given how little room there is inside this puppy. Plus my ramp wouldn’t stay fully closed, and I couldn’t figure out why; combine those factors and I decided to just glue this one up and plan ahead for painting the interior of a future Rhino or Razorback. (Which I’d do by priming and fully painting every interior piece before gluing them together.)
All told, this is a really neat kit. I got a good deal on an older Rhino box which, despite including instructions for a Razorback, lacked the sprue with the Razorback turret weapons — and the cool little cargo and tow ropes and stuff. I think it was from back when GW was producing them as separate kits, whereas now a Razorback kit will include everything you need to go either route.
And here she is: Relentless, ready to crush heresy in the Emperor’s name. Or more accurately, ready to transport Squad Karios for said heresy-crushing — while providing a little dakka along the way,
I went with the gunner because 1) he’s awesome and 2) who knows if my next Rhino will take the Storm Bolter option (although for 2 points, it seems likely). This should be a fun one to paint — especially now that I have some larger brushes to speed up the bigger panels.
I think I’m going to have to actually write “Relentless” on the name scroll, too, rather than just scribbling on it like I do with most scrolls. I wonder if Gundam panel-lining markers will work?
Narses finally has his base coat done! I assembled him on March 19, started his base on April 9, finished his base somewhere around April 12, and started painting his body in earnest on the 15th. It’s not that long, but it feels like a long time.
That’s probably partly down to having completely finished him from the waist down before starting in on the rest of him. Painting him that way, while it made sense, has given the process an odd rhythm.
It’s rad to see him with his arms on!
I’ve still got a few smaller elements in need of their base coat — blood drops, lenses, etc. — but they’re so tiny that I’ll just roll them in with the touch-up step. And there are plenty of touch-ups to do!
I even took a pass at the Cog Mechanicum, although it clearly needs some work. And this photo make it pretty easy to see the spot where I broke part of his power plant while assembling him, yikes (top right, silver).
I stayed up too late doing it, but before bed I got Narses fully touched up and shaded.
I can now do everything but the final layer/highlight on his sarcophagus (Calgar Blue) and the two layers on his Force Halberd (Temple Guard Blue > Baharroth Blue), including varnishing his right arm once those highlights are in place. I think it makes sense to do as much as possible before I have to push pause, so I’m planning to do all of his other highlights and just leave those few blues for whenever my paints arrive.
Shipping is understandably a bit slow right now, so while I can’t finish Narses until a selection of blue paints arrive I can still plug away at the rest of his base coat. With a dash of good luck I’ll be able to book him in April rather than May.
My go-to Blood Angels accent color is gold, but I pay attention to the studio paint jobs and they often use other colors more often than gold (reserving the gold for veterans, special figures, etc.). I liked how that worked out on Squad Karios, on whom I used black for most accents, so where I’d normally have done all of Narses’ skulls, keys, and whatnot in gold I decided to follow the studio scheme and make them silver and white.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull it off, but I’m looking forward to attempting the 50/50 white/black paint job on the small Cog Mechanicum on Narses’ rear armor (currently just bare primer surrounded by red). It looks like a fun challenge.
I wanted to improve my force/plasma blue paint jobs, so I did a bit of poking around and found a GW recipe I like: Caledor Sky > Drakenhof Nightshade > Temple Guard Blue > Baharroth Blue (as seen in my Narses color guide). With 3/4 of those now ordered but not yet arrived — meaning I can’t finish Narses’ base coat, which includes those colors for his Force Halberd and eyes — I spent the weekend bouncing back and forth between him and Squad Ultio.
First up was the little teleport homer, which was a fun warm-up figure. I don’t remember even consciously doing a figure as a warm-up before, but now that I’ve done one I like the concept.
I used this illustration on the 40k wiki as my template, but made the lamp a cheery green and skipped the second light (at least I think it’s a light?). My paint library isn’t that deep yet, as I tend to buy colors I need/think I’ll need rather than stocking up on everything — so for the green, I just used a 50/50 Moot Green/White Scar blend for the layer.
I also got Squad Ultio’s bases completely done (except for tufts, of course) — and I love being able to use the same Citadel painting handles for 40mm bases that I use for 25mm and 32mm.
I think of my minis as halfway done when I reach this point. It’s not accurate — the remaining “50%” is more than 50% — but it feels accurate. To reach this point I had to clean up their mold lines, assemble them, partially base them, prime them, and then finish basing them (texture paint, base coat, wash, drybrush). And those steps include at least three overnight curing/drying stints: glue, primer, texture paint. By that point a nice head of steam has been built up — the rest of the figure feels inevitable!
It hit me on Friday night that since there’s more than one Space Marine worth of painting work in Narses, and since I’m painting him in sub-assemblies, I should just finish each part separately — as in, not base coat them all, then wash them all, and so on, but take each one through to highlights on its own.
So I started with his legs. It looks like if I do the single-color underside of his upper body next, I might be able to glue the waist joint and then be painting an actual Dreadnought rather than his component parts. Which sounds like fun.
This is the first time I’ve been really happy with my first layer on parchment. And when the second layer and text (squiggles) were done, I was happy with those, too — I’m learning!
Once I added the chapter decal and highlighted the black piping (which I forgot to do before taking the photo above), I shaded and highlighted the underside of Narses’ upper body and glued his waist joint. That glue cured overnight from Saturday to Sunday.
I checked beforehand to make sure I had unencumbered access to the rest of his upper body when it was in place before adding the glue, and there’s plenty of room for me to work. Now it will feel like I’m painting a figure!
On Sunday we spring-cleaned the house and I didn’t really feel like painting, so I decided to do some assembly instead. I was planning to build my Sanguinary Guard so they’d be ready for painting on May, but when I checked the kit vs. what I’d specced out in BattleScribe I realized that the kit didn’t come with the five swords I’d planned on; rather, it includes three swords, two axes, and a Power Fist.
I know my 2,000-point army will probably get rebuilt after I get to play my first game — whenever the pandemic is over and going to my local 40k venue is a thing again — but psychologically it’s important to me that I’m working toward a specific army, WYSIWYG, that’s game-legal. I have a huge backlog that will give me lots of flexibility in future army lists, but for now I’m building towards one specific list.
So my choices were 1) Ebay a couple extra SG swords, or 2) tweak my list. I went for #2 and spent a couple of happy hours playing with different options.
Two of my goals while assembling my initial list were to build 100% of each kit (so if it comes with 10 models, build a 10-man squad) and to field no duplicate units (there’ll be plenty of time to paint more identical squads down the road). But I realized that one of those was going to have to go to make a tweaked list work, so I decided to cut Squad Dolos — my Infiltrators — in half.
They’re great sculpts, but not all that diverse in appearance; I’ll use the other five down the road, but I don’t mind setting them aside. Freeing up half their points let me kit out my Land Raider a bit differently, give my Assault squad sergeant an Eviscerator — and add a squad of Sternguard Veterans. I got so excited looking at all their cool bits that I decided they’d be Sunday’s assembly project.
As always, I started with the sergeant and let the character of the squad flow from him. This kit comes with an incredibly badass “one hand on the hilt of his power sword” pose for the sergeant — an easy choice! Thus was born Sergeant Amedeo.
In my quest to bling him out as much as possible, giving him two shoulder pads with wide rims, hoisting his Boltgun, and adding the crest to his helmet, I inadvertently made it almost impossible to squeeze his head in there. I wound up having to swap out his left pauldron for a more subdued model to get everything to fit. He looks like he’s staring imperiously across the battlefield, which feels appropriate for a kit with a very “Roman centurion” feel to it.
From there, it was a fun evening of finishing out the rest of the squad. I love this kit! It’s loaded with details and extra bits (like belt bandoleers of Boltgun ammo and grenades) , and with the addition of the Blood Angels Upgrade Kit shoulder pads they feel right at home in my growing strike force.
After Sergeant Amedeo, the battle-brother on the far left was my favorite to build. I tried to make it look like he was mid-motion, having just drawn his combat knife, about to launch himself off a rock and into the fray. The right arm was intended to hold a strapless Storm Bolter, but it works just as well for one of the Sternguards’ special Boltguns with its strap swinging out to one side.
I wrapped things up by doing the first round of basing on all of them, so that they’d be ready for priming after curing overnight. Which means at the moment May should look something like this:
Finish Squad Ultio and/or Narses, if any of them aren’t done yet
Paint Squad Dolos, 5x Primaris Infiltrators
Paint Squad Amedeo, 5x Sternguard Veterans
Build and paint a Rhino
I’m especially excited to take what I’m learning from painting Narses and apply it to my first 40k tank — and the Rhino is just such an iconic design.
They don’t always turn out how I’d hoped, but no matter what I always enjoy working on bases. This whole scenic base thing is still pretty new to me, and I learn something every time I work on one. Yesterday saw Squad Ultio hit the texture paint stage, which ties the whole thing together — sometimes just right, sometimes a bit off the mark.
The only one that didn’t quite work out is the top left Termie, whose base is bisected by a cool bit of blue Imperial scrap . . . which is so flat that it’s almost entirely obscured by the texture paint, and so dark in color that it becomes even more invisible. The rest turned out how I imagined them; tufts will really seal the deal — sometimes they look off until that stage.
The philosophy of miniature painting
Which, as it turns out, is one of the things I find most fascinating about painting miniatures: You have to believe in the potential of a thing that won’t be realized until several steps — and several hours — down the road. Base terrain looks weird until it’s washed; that’s one step. But the scrap looks weird until it’s surrounded by terrain and accented with tufts — and that stuff doesn’t fully come to fruition until the entire model is complete.
I’m not always a confident painter, so I like that the process itself forces me to believe in the groundwork I’m laying — to see the vision of a completed figure I’m happy with during the stages where it doesn’t look great. I find the philosophical side of this hobby as interesting as the actual painting in its own way — like finding joy in painting for the sake of painting, or knowing my own limitations while simultaneously trying to surpass them.
It’s a rich and varied hobby, and I’m really digging it so far.
Also, Narses now has a base coat on his legs.
I’m back to being a bit intimidated by Narses. I’m not sure why! First Dreadnought? First HQ? Largest model I’ve painted in over 30 years? Those all make sense, more or less — but I wasn’t intimidated last week. I don’t know what’s changed.