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Finished miniatures Kill Team Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Five Hive Fleet Balaur Genestealers wrapped up

Last night I finished my first minis since May 20, 2021: one Hive Fleet Balaur Fire Team for Kill Team, a unit of Genestealers. These guys were a ton of fun to paint, and given that I started them on April 8, went on a short vacation, and worked on my Warriors during the 16 days it took me to finish them, I feel pretty much back on track with painting.

Hive Fleet Blue Steel

Their underbellies creep me out a bit
Golden angles
Front
Back

I figured I’d shoot one with some terrain, too.

Hive Fleet Balaur scuttling through the ruins

And why not take advantage of the rare opportunity to do a before/after? I painted the blue/pink Genestealers (from Space Hulk) in 2012. It’s not quite “10 years later,” though, because I didn’t paint anything from 2012 to 2020, when I got back into painting and starting both taking it seriously and actually enjoying it. So it’s really more of a “two years of progress” before/after, since this is how I was painting in 2020.

Current way vs. old way, front view
Rear view

Nid thoughts

This was my second time glazing, and the first time I haven’t painted over my efforts and gone with a different technique. (I tried glazing a Custodes sword several times, but just couldn’t get it right.) My glazing isn’t great, but these first four Scything Blades taught me quite a bit; I’m hoping to improve my technique as I work on my Warriors.

I’ve also never used dotting tools before. Still room for improvement there as well, but there’s just not that much surface to work with on Genestealers and I didn’t want to overwhelm their shading. The Warriors’ carapaces are a larger canvas, so I’m looking to step up my game on them.

As a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Leviathan, I like how my twist on Leviathan’s color scheme turned out. There are at least two official Leviathan color guides out there (one in White Dwarf and one on Warhammer TV), but the main differences between Leviathan and Balaur are the toxic green claws and spotted carapaces.

My goal for these Genestealers was to evoke brightly-colored bugs and poison dart frogs, and to combine that with a “snake’s underbelly” body color for an unsettling — maybe even unpleasant — look that befits the terrifying nature of Tyranids.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Tyranid Hive Fleet Balaur color guide

I’m far enough along with my first Fire Team for Hive Fleet Balaur to need to take stock of my paint library, so it’s time for a color guide!

Hive Fleet Balaur Genestealers (April 24, 2022)

As always, this guide is drawn from a mix of GW material (White Dwarf #463 and a Warhammer TV video for the Leviathan scheme, Warhammer TV again for their classic Warriors video), YouTube tutorials (Doctor Faust and CatgutPainting for the mottling), and my own spin on things. Washes/shades are generally in italics, and my notation is base > shade > layer > layer for Citadel’s Parade Ready approach.

Bases

  • Terrain: Stirland Mud > Reikland Fleshshade > Astorath Red drybrush
  • Rocks: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Celestra Grey drybrush
  • Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
  • Horns: Zandri Dust > Seraphim Sepia > Ushabti Bone drybrush
  • Base rim: Doombull Brown
  • Tufts: Army Painter Wasteland Tufts

Models

My Tyranid Kill Team only has two units as of this writing, Genestealers and Tyranid Warriors, and Tyranids tend to be pretty similar faction-wide, so this is pretty much my guide for all Hive Fleet Balaur Tyranids. Balaur is a splinter fleet of Leviathan, so the studio scheme for Leviathan was my starting point.

Paint steps vary slightly from my usual approach because the full-body drybrush is messy, so it has to come before most of the other steps: Prime and base coat with Wraithbone spray, shade the skin, drybrush the skin, deepen the wash in the vents/joints, apply the texture paint to the base, and then do everything else.

  • Body/skin: Wraithbone spray > shade with 1:4 Carroburg Crimson:Lahmian Medium all over > Screaming Skull drybrush > Carroburg Crimson wash in the vents/joints > Pallid Wych Flesh drybrush > Pallid Wych Flesh on high points
  • Carapace: Naggaroth Night > Druchii Violet > Xereus Purple edge highlights > Genestealer Purple edge/point highlights > Genestealer Purple mottling (larger dots), size of model permitting > Fulgrim Pink mottling (smaller dots)
    • Mottling: Apply dots of thinned paint with dotting tools, in varying sizes
  • Claws: Incubi Darkness > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow > Sybarite Green on tips/edges
  • Weapons larger than claws: Incubi Darkness > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow glaze > Warpstone Glow edge and tip highlighting (as if the glaze weren’t there) > Sybarite Green on tips/edges
    • Glazing: 1:6 Warpstone Glow:Lahmian Medium, 7-8 layers, starting with almost the entire weapon and covering a bit less area every time, working from the base towards the tip; the end should be pretty close to pure Warpstone Glow, but not quite as bright
  • Fleshy bits and tongues: Bugman’s Glow > Reikland Fleshshade > Kislev Flesh
  • Teeth: Screaming Skull > Agrax Earthshade > Screaming Skull
  • Eyes: Averland Sunset > Casandora Yellow > Flash Gitz Yellow
A WIP Genestealer from my first Fire Team (April 9, 2022)

Notes

I’m still pretty new to using Lahmian Medium, and my first attempt for the main body/flesh wash — 1:3 Screamer Pink:Lahmian Medium, my best guess at the ratio used in White Dwarf #463 — went on more like a base coat than a wash. So I switched to using my shade brush, Carroburg Crimson, and a 1:4 ratio, and that went much more smoothly.

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Adeptus Custodes Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Adeptus Custodes Dread Host color guide and painting steps

There are relatively few Adeptus Custodes units, and from what I’ve seen they all use pretty much the same colors (adapted per one’s shield company) — kind of like Deathskulls Orks. So I have a feeling one main color guide will cover most of my army.

Bases

As ever, I’m using a recipe from White Dwarf 161 (Nov. 2016) for the terrain, and washes/shades are in italics.

  • Terrain: Stirland Mud > Agrax Earthshade > Golgfag Brown drybrush
  • Rocks: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Celestra Grey drybrush
  • Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
  • Nameplates: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver on the letters only
  • Base rim: Dryad Bark
  • Tufts: Mix of Army Painter highland and mountain tufts

Trajann Valoris has two additional elements on his base:

  • Demon skull horns: Steel Legion Drab > Agrax Earthshade > Ushabti Bone drybrush
  • Stone platforms: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Grey Seer drybrush

Custodes

These recipes cover the basics for Dread Host Custodians, and in general they come straight from Citadel (with a few tweaks). I default to Citadel’s Parade Ready steps (base/shade/layer/layer), but with these guys I’m mixing in a bit of drybrushing as well. Gems are a big deal for Custodes, so I’m going to attempt a more realistic and detailed approach on those.

  • Armor: Retributor Armour spray as both primer and base coat > Reikland Fleshshade > Auric Armour Gold > Stormhost Silver
  • Dread Host black:
    • Left pauldron: Abaddon Black
    • Robes: Abaddon Black > drybrush Eshin Grey > very lightly drybrush Dawnstone (follow option two in this excellent Artis Opus tutorial)
    • Weapons: Abaddon Black > Eshin Grey > Dawnstone
  • Dread Host gems: Stegadon Scale Green > Coelia Greenshade > Sotek Green in a crescent from 2 o’clock to 8 o’clock > Temple Guard Blue in a smaller crescent over the Sotek Green area > dot of White Scar at 11 o’clock
  • Dread Host eyes: Sotek Green (note this is a layer paint) > Temple Guard Blue
  • Blades: Sotek Green (note this is a layer paint) > Coelia Greenshade > Temple Guard Blue drybrush on the high points along the flats, plus the edges > Fenrisian Grey drybrush on same areas > dot of Fenrisian Grey on the tip and the power nodules
  • Dread Host pteruges: Celestra Grey > Drakenhof Nightshade > Ulthuan Grey > White Scar > dots of Stormhost Silver on the studs
  • Gloves, weapon grips, and other leather: Doombull Brown (note this is a layer paint) > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red > Squig Orange
  • Plumes, tassels, cords: Mephiston Red > Carroburg Crimson > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Wild Rider Red
  • Metal: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Stormhost Silver
  • Armor joints and leg/boot tubes: Abaddon Black > Eshin Grey
  • Parchment: Rakarth Flesh > Agrax Earthshade > Pallid Wych Flesh > White Scar > Eshin Grey for the writing
  • Cartridges: Warplock Bronze > Agrax Earthshade > Brass Scorpion
  • Trajann’s unique elements:
    • Cloak exterior, and his robe: Mephiston Red > Carroburg Crimson > Evil Sunz Scarlet drybrush > touch-up the gold portion
    • Cloak interior: Doombull Brown (note this is a layer paint) > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red drybrush
    • Lion pelt: Dot black in for the eyes, nose, and claws; for the rest, it’s Zandri Dust > Agrax Earthshade > Ushabti Bone
    • Feathers: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Ulthuan Grey > a few dots of White Scar

Painting notes

The Codex’s guideline for robes (they generally match the shield company’s color, so black or black/white for Dread Host) doesn’t match the lone Dread Host mini pictured in the Codex, whose robe is red outside/white inside. I went with black because it seemed like the better approach for emphasizing that this is a Dread Host force.

I repainted, and then re-glazed, and then repainted (etc.), the first batch of Sentinel Blades several times, including multiple botched passes at freehanding a “crackling lightning” effect, before realizing that I just don’t have the skill and brush control to pull this off. It was becoming a bottleneck and making me not want to finish the first squad, so I went back to basics.

Painting steps

For the early steps, I’m painting my Custodes like I paint terrain, rather than figures — and there’s no touch-up step. That plus doing primer and base coat as one, with no overnight cure time, should make them significantly quicker to paint than my other models.

  1. Assemble: Build all of them at once, then spray them all (rather than having parallel tracks for assembly, priming, basing, and painting on multiple units).
  2. Primer and base coat: Spray the whole mini with Retributor Armour, which also only needs 15 minutes to cure (rather than curing overnight).
  3. Base: As per usual, but apply the texture paint carefully around the feet so that the model is clearly standing atop, not mired in, the terrain.
    1. Base rims: Paint as usual. (I normally do this last, to mark finishing the mini, but with the nameplates in the mix I want some wash in the crevices where the plate meets the rim, so the rims need to be done now.)
    2. Paint the nameplate: Just my usual steps, but extra careful around where the terrain meets the top edge of the plate.
  4. Gold touch-ups: I inevitably get a bit of Stirland Mud on what should be gold, so just fix it up with Retributor Armour. Check for little nooks and crannies that didn’t get hit (or hit hard enough) with the spray, and touch those up as well.
  5. Shade the gold: Wash all the gold areas in Reikland Fleshshade. Doing this now lets me get into all the hard-to-reach crevices without worrying about messing anything up.
  6. Paint everything except gold and gems: Approach this whole process like I do with terrain: with the care of highlighting. I’m not bodging on paint and fixing it in a touch-up step; I’m carefully painting details surrounded by areas that are at a different stage of completion. The goal is to avoid needing touch-ups (or at least needing as many as I usually do).
    1. For Custodian Guards, my order is: black, bronze, silver, blades, eyes, pteruges, tassels/plumes, gloves.
  7. Finish the gold: Highlights, plus any gold touch-ups prompted by the previous step.
  8. Paint the gems: Base coat, shade, highlight, as per usual — but “think like terrain.” These can be simple details; a gem the size of a grain of salt doesn’t need shading, and may not even need a highlight. A bigger gem deserves the full treatment. Keep the flow fast and loose.
  9. Seal: No weathering or decals for these lads, so just my usual Vallejo matte white sealant.
  10. Tufts: As per usual; apply with white glue.
  11. Glue the flight base pegs in place: I did this before sealing, without thinking about it, but this really should be the final step. If I’d sealed the bases first, I could have slathered on my sealant with reckless abandon without needing to carefully avoid the clear pegs.

When I started out, my plan was to batch-paint every step across the entire army. I wound up doing that for priming/base-coating (the gold), bases, and nameplates, but thereafter I switched to working squad by squad — my usual approach. It might technically be more efficient to batch the whole army, but I need the dopamine hit of finishing minis to give me momentum for the next batch. (And I’m not entirely convinced messing with 26 figures at once, all cluttering up my desk on improvised hand-grips, is more efficient…)

I always like to use a new minis project to build on existing skills and knowledge (e.g., painting these Custodians like I learned to paint terrain) as well as learn new ones, balancing the latter with not overwhelming myself and risking burnout. For my Custodes, realistic gem shading and more detailed fancy blades — glazed with the aid of Lahmian Medium, which is new to me — are my stretches. I’m also hoping that a whole army painted without a dedicated step for touch-ups will help me paint more precisely across the board.