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.
Twenty-six paint colors. Terrain. A tuft. Decals. 7-8 hours of work. And loads of new-to-me techniques: texture paint; highlighting (as opposed to drybrushing), including two layers in some areas — on top of the base coat and wash, of course; decals; multi-step basing. He was so much fun to paint!
To date, this is the best paint job I’ve ever done. And about an hour after applying the sealant, I realized that I’d painted the lower edge of his torso armor like a wee black belt, to hold up his space-loincloth and grenades . . . when it should actually be red. Such is life! He’ll be unique among his brethren.
Finishing my first Marine makes my Blood Angels army feel real.
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!
These minis are a ton of fun to assemble, and assembly is a great palate cleanser after my go-go-go painting in March.
Once I had the rest together, I realized I’d accidentally given the sub-squad leader a Storm Bolter, not a regular Bolter. A bit of surgery and sanding and he was good to go. I think I’ve been working on Terminators for so long that Storm Bolters just look normal to me.
Squad Karios, reporting for duty!
Putting unpainted minis in the lightbox sounded a bit silly, but I like the idea of being able to showcase the details on these figures (these kits are phenomenally detailed) and the choices I made while assembling them. Expressing personalities and embracing themes, all flowing down from Sergeant Karios, is a big part of the fun of assembly.
One of my goals for my Blood Angels army is to have no exact duplicates and no near-duplicates among my figures, and the Blood Angels Tactical Squad kit (paid link) is fantastic for that because virtually every piece is unique. Excluding a few arms, even bits which look identical at a glance are actually different: one has one blood drop and the other has three, one has a dangling tassel, etc.
Even with 5/6 of these guys being “legs akimbo, Bolter held cross-body,” there’s a lot of dynamism and variation between them. They feel like individuals to me.
It took a bit of experimentation to get the whole squad in my small lightbox, but now I know how to do it for next time. Heck, maybe I’ll pack it with all 30+ Space Hulk minis and see if that looks presentable.
And hey, now I have my first spare bits for my next project!