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Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Squad Ultio assembled and partially based

Yesterday was a busy day, but I squeezed in enough hobby time to get Squad Ultio fully assembled and partially based.

Squad Ultio, 1st Company

The 40mm bases are a joy to work with because they give me so much room for scenery. It’s hard not to go buck-wild and overwhelm the models.

I used a mix of tiny rocks, 1/4″-1/2″ slate (paid link), miscellaneous 40k bits from Ebay, and a bounty of Citadel skulls (paid link) for these guys. Like Squad Karios , I see these Terminators as being really down in the shit, fighting across the graveyard that the plains of Armageddon have become.

But I also want the Terminators to have their own feel; I picture them fighting harder targets, in amongst downed vehicles and debris. So their bases have bigger rocks and more chunks of stuff. They’ll get texture paint and tufts, too, of course.

Basing, especially coming up with what to use for each base, and thinking about their themes and role on the battlefield, is one of the most relaxing parts of working on miniatures for me — which I wasn’t expecting. I love it.

I also love the little surprises that come from assembling the figures themselves. Like the second Terminator from the left above, who I visualized as striding implacably towards his foe when I was choosing and test-fitting his parts — but who turned out to be in a more dynamic pose once I got him glued together, almost like he’s breaking into a run.

Compared to the blinged-out tactical squad I’m painting now, this kit is pretty subdued — but there’s a lot of character and dynamism to the models, more than I expected just from looking at the sprues. And I’m thrilled to have my first squad of Termies — my favorite unit in all of 40k — assembled and added to my painting queue.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: full-on highlighting for the first time

After sticking to base coat > wash > drybrush for my Space Hulk set, with just a bit of dabbling in edge highlighting here and there, I committed to fully incorporating highlighting into my painting toolkit with my Blood Angels.

I was pretty nervous about actually doing it for the first time. After base coating and washing Sergeant Karios, I already had about five hours invested in this model. What if I royally screwed him up?

Base-coated and washed
Rear view

Highlighting rocks

It turns out that highlighting is a lot of fun!

Just the gold bits done

It was a bit nerve-wracking at times, but the color progression GW recommends is designed to get lighter in pretty gradual steps. Even when I messed up a bit, it wasn’t too bad — and even not being much good at it yet, I still like the effect.

Everything but the red and magenta done

I’m really digging how the crispness of the highlighting contrasts with the more organic quality of the drybrushing on the base. That should help the mini stand out and make the base feel more like real terrain at the same time.

I also got to do a bit of freehand, since I don’t have any Second Company decals small enough for the banner. Here he is in his almost final state — just a few touches left to do:

Just Pink Horror, two decals, base edge, and varnish to go!

Every color under the sun

Back when I was painting my Space Hulk Terminators, I noted that Brother Goriel required 10 base coat colors. That seemed like a lot! But here I am painting Sergeant Karios, mostly following Citadel’s current painting guide, and I’ve used 25 colors (with one still to go, as my final highlight for magenta is in the mail):

  • Red: Mephiston Red > Agrax Earthshade > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Fire Dragon Bright
  • Gold: Retributor Armour > Reikland Fleshshade > Auric Armour Gold > Liberator Gold
  • Black: Abaddon Black > Eshin Grey > Dawnstone
  • Metal: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver
  • Parchment/white cloth: Rakarth Flesh > Agrax Earthshade > Pallid Wych Flesh > White Scar
  • Magenta: Screamer Pink > Carroburg Crimson
  • Eyes: Moot Green > Agrax Earthshade > Moot Green
  • Yellow: Flash Gitz Yellow

Plus the base:

  • Terrain: Astrogranite Debris > Drakenhof Nightshade > Grey Seer (drybrush)
  • Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White (drybrush)
  • Rocks: Grey Seer > Agrax Earthshade > 50/50 Corax White/Grey Seer (drybrush)

I have about 6.5-7 hours of work into Sergeant Karios. I’m a slow painter! And highlighting takes me a long time because it’s new; drybrushing is a quick, refreshing process by comparison. But every few minis, I get a bit faster at some step or another; I’m learning.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Squad Karios bases, ZEM brushes, Citadel texture paints, Squad Dolos assembled

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.

The larch

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!

Infiltrators, assemble!

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.

The final four Infiltrators

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:

Squad Dolos

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.

ZEM brushes

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.

My new ZEM brushes: 0, 10/0, 2, and 3/0

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.

Sergeant Karios, my test pilot

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.

Rocks: done!

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.

Rocks and skulls: done

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.

Sergeant Karios

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.)

Three down

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.

Squad Karios, set to dry overnight

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!

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Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k

Cooking up a basing recipe for my Blood Angels

I’ve got a basing recipe in mind for my Blood Angels army, and now I have all the components:

All in one place, this seems like a lot!

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
  • This winters SEO video on using texture paints
  • Texture: Astrogranite Debris
  • Wash: Drakenhof Nightshade
  • Drybrush: Grey Seer
  • Base edge: Eshin Grey (or maybe Mechanicus Standard Grey? not sure yet)
  • Citadel Skulls (paid link) for clutter
  • Gale Force Nine Rocky Basing Grit
  • Army Painter Frozen Tufts for grass
  • Blunt tweezers for applying tufts
  • Citadel Texture Spreader (paid link) for the texture paint
  • White glue for tufts
  • Superglue for rocks

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.

So, so many skulls

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:

  1. Assemble the model and glue it to the base
  2. Glue on rocks and skulls to suit
  3. Prime the whole thing white, mini and base
  4. Paint the rocks/skulls/etc., including wash and drybrush
  5. Apply texture paint with the spreader
  6. Wash and drybrush the texture paint
  7. Wipe the base edge clean before it dries
  8. Paint the miniature
  9. Touch everything up as needed
  10. Paint the edge of the base
  11. Varnish the whole thing, mini and base
  12. 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.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk Warhammer 40k

A brief existential painting crisis

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):

  1. Base coat
  2. Shade (wash) the entire miniature
  3. Drybrush

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.

I wondered if layering or edge highlighting might be something to try out, so I poked around, found this handy Citadel color chart (PDF), and started watching Warhammer TV videos. This one comparing two painting processes jumped right out at me.

Excerpt from a free Citadel color chart

In the WHTV video, Duncan Rhodes demonstrates two techniques (again, preceded by primer). One:

  1. Base coat
  2. Shade (wash) only the recesses/cracks/etc. with a fine brush
  3. Edge highlight in a lighter color

And two:

  1. Base coat
  2. Drybrush with a lighter color, but fairly broadly — edges plus larger areas
  3. 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.

Hmm.

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Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: two Terminators down

I know for folks who paint miniatures regularly finishing a couple is no biggies, but for me as an amateur rediscovering my love of painting, who hasn’t finished a miniature since 2012, this is a big day.

Two days ago I washed Brother Scipio and throne boy, my first time doing a full-on wash with multiple shades involved. Yesterday I wrapped up their drybrushing (and re-dotted Scipio’s eyes with Moot Green, since my wash had made the green pop less than I liked), and today I sealed them both and took the last two bits of “stuff” in the Space Hulk box — the chalice and R/C shrine-thingie — all the way from base coat to touch-ups, wash, and drybrush.

Scipio and throne boy drybrushed and awaiting their sealant
Rear view

I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve been trying to be more subtle in my drybrushing. Maybe I swung too far in the other direction? I’m not sure.

Onward to sealant

Throne boy is 90% sealed, time for Scipio

I’m using the top of the empty Chessex dice box as a palette, since the Vallejo stuff comes in a dropper bottle.

So undignified, but that bottom ain’t gonna seal itself

I’ve never brushed on sealant before, only sprayed it on. This is slower, but (as with washing) I have more control — and I don’t have to wait for the weather outside to cooperate, or risk destroying a mini when I assess the humidity/etc. incorrectly.

I used Vallejo matt varnish (paid link) because its Amazon reviews showed photos of sealed minis that didn’t look sealed — which is my goal with all my minis. I applied it with a medium brush in large sections, then backtracked with a second brush before it dried and poked out all the bubbles, redistributed it where it was too thick, and generally made sure no mess was left over.

This is a great varnish. My Termies aren’t completely dry yet, but the sealant is just baaaaarely visible. (When they’re dry, these two are going in the lightbox for a celebratory post.)

Tiny follow-ups

I think the little mobile shrine is for the Librarian; the chalice is part of the same mission as throne boy, I believe as an objective.

Having these rattling around in my to-do box has been bugging me
Calling them done (well, except for sealant — they’ve got to dry first!)

My Blood Angels Terminator colors

My drybrushing colors for the Termies

It surprised me how many separate pots of paint/shade went into my basic paint jobs on these Terminators — 14 plus primer and sealant:

  • Primer: Armory white spray painter (which I won’t be using again in the future; I’m switching to brush-on primer)
  • Base coat: P3 Morrow White and Khador Red; Citadel Lothern Blue, Leadbelcher, Moot Green, and Auric Armor Gold
  • Wash: Agrax Earthshade, Seraphim Sepia or Reikland Fleshshade, Nuln Oil
  • Drybrush: P3 Arcane Blue and Marrow White; Citadel Wild Rider Red, Mithril Silver, and Liberator Gold
  • Sealant: Vallejo acrylic matt varnish

And compared to someone more experienced, who uses layer colors, possibly multiple drybrush passes, blending, etc.? This is peanuts, color-wise.

The last time I finished a miniature, according to my BGG notes, was in 2012. Eight years! My dry spell officially ends today, with two 100% finished, play-ready Terminators.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: trying out the painting handle

For today’s painting progress I queued up my favorite work/create album (shit, one of my overall all-time favorites), Nicolay’s City Lights Vol. 2: Shibuya, and sat down with a couple of Terminators.

First up was yesterday’s throne boy, as I noticed I’d missed a couple of spots. I touched those up, then grabbed my new Citadel Painting Handle (paid link), dropped in Brother Scipio, and took it for a spin.

Throne boy and Brother Scipio

I also switched from painting over a paper towel to using my Gunpla cutting mat. Getting paint on that won’t cause any issues, and when I’m ready to start nipping my Deadzone minis off their sprues and trimming them down, it’s what I’ll be using anyway.

A decade ago, I used putty to affix a mini to a paint pot, wine cork, or other suitable object as a painting handle. It was fine, but always a bit of a pain — and sometimes they fell off. Metal minis in particular would work themselves loose over time.

One of the coolest things about this handle is that working upside-down is a breeze.

Turn that grim frown of eternal darkness upside-down

I also like that it has two “layers” of base grips built in. I’m using the top layer for Scipio. The bulbous grip shape is also easier on my fingers, which are a decade older too . . .

Like the Citadel water cup (paid link), the handle is one of those things that sounded unnecessary at first but is proving to be quite nifty.

Scipio, nearly fully base-coated

I need to finish up the base edges (and a couple hard-to-reach spots by his feet), and then go buy a pot of “Terminator visor/eye green” and dot those in — but apart from that, he’s fully base coated as well.

Base coat colors, as ever for these guys: P3 Khador Red and Marrow White, GW Leadbelcher, Lothern Blue, and Auric Armor Gold. TDB: green for the eyes.

Observations

Having gotten off the assembly line for two miniatures now, I’m 100% happier with this approach (as I speculated might be the case). Sure, it’s less efficient — but given that these miniatures have been in my possession for 11 years, is efficiency really my top concern? Completion is satisfying; seeing real progress in one painting session is satisfying.

I also found myself solidly in the mindful, relaxed yet focused state I talked a bit about in my post on realizing I secretly enjoyed miniature painting — that state of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes, not to have clean dishes,” of enjoying painting for the joy of painting.

Case in point: Brother Scipio, who never met a craft store he didn’t walk out with another yard of locally sourced vellum and a jar of decorative glass gems, is covered in scrolls and jewels. I discovered I love painting the little teardrop-shaped jewels, and I enjoyed taking a deep breath and trying to capture the “tails” of his decorative chest scroll. That feels damned good.