Reflecting on the time I spent painting Squad Adamo — which I think stretched all the way from August to the beginning of October! — I quite enjoyed doing their hazard stripes. I love hazard stripes on Chain Swords, so how could I not go wild with these dudes?
I also had a blast working on their bases. The elevated scenery elements in the kit are great, and they were fun to work into my basing routine.
My soundtrack for these guys was Ghostmaker, the second volume in Dan Abnett’s series about Ghaunt’s Ghosts, narrated by Toby Longworth. Good stuff!
I’m experimenting with shining a high-CRI flashlight into my lightbox from the front so the top-down lighting providing by the box itself doesn’t throw the minis into shadow. It seems to work pretty well.
Squad Adamo isn’t my finest work, but despite dragging my feet I did enjoy painting them. And after shooting these photos, I remembered that I could just touch up Mr. Tiger Stripes right on top of his varnish, and then varnish those bits again, so I did that.
A mere 11 figures now stand between me and my first finished 40k army: Squad Barakiel and Squad Zahariel, both of which are fully based and spot-painted.
I finished my second tank, the mighty Land Raider Crusader Judgment, on August 22. This beast swallowed primer, paint, and varnish alike, and it took me quite some time to get through.
The Land Raider is an iconic model, but what sold me on the Crusader — and on painting one for my first army — was a post somewhere about how utterly intimidating this tank would be in real life when a squad of Terminators come boiling out of it. It’s like a jumbo tank shooting out five smaller tanks!
Light it up, buttercup
The Land Raider is patently too large for my modest little lightbox. No way to hide the seams, no way to make it look like it fits — sorry about that.
Let’s kick off with Judgment‘s golden angle:
I can’t remember if I ever mentioned it in my assembly post(s) for Judgment, but I bobbed the radio antenna because the original length looked like a pain in the ass to store and use without breaking it.
Unlike the previous shots, this top-down view is kind of like using a light ring: I’m shooting through a hole in the top of my lightbox. It balances the colors a lot better (which a fancier lightbox would do with more light sources).
Plus a couple natural light/casual shots for good measure:
With Judgment complete, and some sort of minor points update that made Commander Dante 5 points more expensive, my army now stands at 1,581 of 1,996 points painted. I’m getting close!
My original plan for Dante was to go with the studio recipe for gold on Blood Angels — Retributor Armour> Agrax Earthshade> Auric Armour Gold > Liberator Gold — and not the scheme for Dante and the Sanguinary Guard, which is brass over bronze. They’ve got gold armor, why not make it gold?
But then I followed the studio scheme for some other Blood Angels, even when it wasn’t my first instinct, and loved the outcome. And I thought that this “angelic brass” look would also help set them apart from the rest of the army (which I suspect is part of why it’s the studio scheme!). So I went for it, more or less — and I’ll be damned, it turns out gold!
I finished him up on June 20.
I was fascinated to see how Dante would go from deep, dark bronze to gold, so I took a couple WIP photos to highlight the stages of that process. This kind of magical transition is one of my favorite things about miniature painting.
With one exception, all of my Blood Angels to date have had their layers applied the same way: as edge and transition highlights. Somehow this makes them read as fairly bright red despite the fact that most of their armor is still Mephiston Red darkened with an Agrax Earthshade wash.
The exception is the Chaplain’s helmet, which had its first layer (atop a Rakarth Flesh base coat and a wash of Agrax Earthshade) applied to 90% of the surface area rather than just the edges/transitions — I basically repainted the whole helmet in Pallid Wych Flesh, leaving only the cracks/shadows alone. Then the final layer, White Scar, went on as an edge highlight.
That second approach was the only way I could see Dante’s armor turning out gold. If I left it mostly dark bronze, no amount of edge highlighting was going to change that. Unlike a normal Space Marine, he has musculature and other features molded into his armor that make it fairly simple to paint the “highest” areas over completely — trusting the lower pigment count in the layer paints to allow the richness of the bronze underneath to show through — and then do a spot/edge highlight with the final, most gold-colored, layer.
It definitely didn’t come out perfect, but it was a blast and I can see doing more parts of other figures this way in the future.
Commander Dante color guide
I mostly stuck to the studio colors, but diverged in a couple places — mainly because I didn’t want to buy more paint and I didn’t have the right green for his laurel or the Fenrisian Grey for his black elements. (Shades in italics, as always.)
I was tempted to paint some Sanguinary Guard first before taking on the chapter master himself — but when I started this army I painted a Sergeant Karios first rather than an unnamed battle brother, so in that spirit I started the “golden boys” with Dante.
It feels good to have him done, and it was fun to paint just one figure rather than a whole squad. I’m impressed with Citadel’s recipe for the gold on him (and the Sanguinary Guard), which includes no gold paint but somehow reads perfectly as gold.
I haven’t built any Gunpla kits since I started on the — rather intimidating! — MG Astray Red Frame my wife got me for Christmas, mostly because miniatures swallowed my hobby time whole (in a good way). But on Sunday night, unable to sleep, I was in the mood for Gundam.
The Astray is my first MG and I was feeling a bit rusty, so I jumped into one of the other two kits I currently have on hand instead — an HG Gouf Custom. HG kits are super-relaxing to work on, simple but rewarding, and this was just what the doctor ordered. I popped on Community in the background and tucked into it.
I’m still a Gunpla newbie; the Gouf is my fourth kit, all HGs (Leo, Barbatos, and Astaroth Origin are the other three). After working on plastic miniatures, I have to switch grooves a bit — double-nipping, multi-stage sanding and polishing, no glue, no painting, etc. It’s a fun mental shift.
I started making mistakes around 1:00 am Monday, so I went to bed and picked up the Gouf again at a more reasonable hour.
After finishing the kit, I grabbed my trusty black Gundam marker, pulled off the arms, shoulders, head, and gun, and set to panel lining. Come Monday night, I had a finished Gouf.
I figured I’d stretch the capacity of my little lightbox and get a shot of him in there, too.
This was a fun kit to build, and now I feel like I’m back in the groove. Time to start working on the Astray!
It took me longer than I’d like to take Squad Dolos from this state, where they languished for a few days:
To this one, starring the worst base-coating work I’ve done this year:
And then to the “starting to not look like shit” stage:
And finally through the undocumented and quite frustrating stage where I discovered that the ~20-year-old knee pad decals I’d planned to use were — at least as far as I could tell, still being pretty new to using decals — too old to soften properly despite repeated applications of Micro Sol. I was hoping to avoid freehanding their squad markings; in the end, that’s what I had to do.
…But I finally got there!
I have to say that these weren’t my favorite models to paint. Their highlighting was fun, but they’re kind of basic — excellent sculpts and detail, but with so few ways to personalize or pose them that the end product was not all that exciting. I didn’t cut corners on them, but it always felt like a bit of a struggle; I suspect that’s why it took me so long. Ah well.
Thus far I’ve painted more troops than anything else, so my current point total of painted figures (730/2,000) is low relative to the number of models I’ve completed. I’m one figure shy of the 50% mark now, and it’s all characters, elites, and fast attack — plus one massive tank — from here on in.
It doesn’t look like I’m going to match April’s record month, but you never know. Next up I’m going to paint my Sternguard squad and my Chaplain, and fitting in one more squad of five after that — which feels like a stretch right now! — would match April’s tally.
With Squad Ultio wrapped up, I can now do a comparison I thought might be interesting: Terminators I painted in February/March of this year versus Terminators I painted in April — same figures (more or less), same chapter, same color scheme. Which means it’s lightbox time!
Let’s start with the closest apples-to-apples pairings, the ones with similar sculpts and wargear.
How about three direct comparisons of aspects of each model?
And here’s my favorite paint job from each group, the Librarian from Space Hulk and one of the Chain Fist brothers from 40k:
As I was packing them all up again, I realized it might be good to toss in one more photo — five vs. five, but just a casual picture in natural light.
A bit of context
With my Space Hulk Termies, I was working with years-old primer, over-sprayed, and thick base coats of red. I made the conscious choice to stick with the techniques I’d used a decade ago on my Genestealers, so my whole set would look alike; that meant sticking to one post-shading step, drybrushing (with occasional bits of edge highlighting). My April Termies got two layers after shading, and no drybrushing save for the bases.
I also switched over entirely to Citadel paints, rather than my previous mix of Citadel and Privateer, and started using GW’s parade-ready guides for my color choices. The difference between starting with Mephiston Red, a dark red/crimson, and starting with P3 Khador Red, a scarlet, is pretty striking. The scarlet base coat doesn’t leave much room to go “up” in shades.
Overall, I can see that my painting has improved since I started up again. The more recent paint jobs are objectively better, even though they contain plenty of flaws and could absolutely be improved in a myriad of ways.
I tend to be quite hard on myself, especially about things I’ve done which aren’t perfect where I can clearly see that they’re not perfect. (As I type this, I’m literally thinking, “Crap, these felt like they were so much better but the difference just isn’t that dramatic.“) I know I’m not alone in this because I see lots of other miniature painters online who are hard on themselves; after hours of working on a model, it can be tough to see anything but its flaws.
It’s good to be able to see some improvement. The hours I’ve put in are paying off — and I have so much more to learn!
My first 40k tank is also my first completed model in May: Relentless, the designated transport for Squad Karios, 2nd Company. It’s my first partly because it just plain took me longer than I expected, but also because I spent at least as much time assembling minis as painting in the first week or so of the month.
Here are its two golden angles:
And the full lightbox treatment — including my first use of the little hatch in the top of my cube, since this model has a top worth showing on its own.
I’ve mentioned before that there are stages of the painting process when the miniature starts to come alive — the wash makes it look real, the highlights give it life — but with Relentless was surprised to find that that stage was the very last one: the livery. Putting on the decals makes it feel like a vehicle in a larger force, like a part of the Blood Angels chapter. I dig that.
I always forget that “generic” Space Marine kits assume you’re building Ultramarines, so I’ve probably put the gunner’s Cog Mechanicum pauldron on the wrong side. But hey, it’s not like it’s perfect apart from that! Loads of little mistakes abound.
Nonetheless, I’m happy with Relentless and excited to have completed my first 40k tank. I’ve got one more in my current army list, the Land Raider Crusader Judgment, plus a few more in my backlog. Painting them should get a bit smoother every time, and before I know it what seemed difficult on this one will just be routine.
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!
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 built my first Blood Angel, Sergeant Karios, on March 11. I finished Squad Karios, 2nd Company, 1st Squad, last night, on April 8. My army is officially under way!
Fire up the Emperor’s holy Auspex
I’m experimenting with the white background in my lightbox, and so far I like it.
These are the most detailed paint jobs I’ve ever done, and they’ve been an absolute blast to work on. Might as well give them the full lightbox treatment!
I built these guys with a sub-squad leader, in case I want to split them into two five-man squads for a game. He’s in the center, just like Sergeant Karios (above).
Almost a month to paint 10 minis doesn’t sound too speedy, but that wasn’t all I did between 3/11 and 4/8: I also assembled, based, and primed 5 Scouts; assembled and partially based 10 Primaris Infiltrators and 5 Terminators; and assembled my first Dreadnought. So as a measure of my painting speed, it’s not a terribly useful one.
More representative is somewhere between how long it took me to do the final three — which was three days — and my typical painting speed in March, which was 16 in 31 days, or about one model every two days. I look forward to getting faster at it as I start being more confident in my brushstrokes, etc.
I’m also looking forward to my next painting project: Squad Cain, my converted Scouts. They’re already based and have a bit of paint on them here and there.
Heck, given that these guys are simpler sculpts than the tactical squad I just did, I might be able to keep up my 1/day pace — or even knock out all five by Sunday.