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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: Squad Karios bases turned out fine

After washing Squad Karios’ bases yesterday I was worried I’d screwed them up. Today I drybrushed them: Grey Seer on the terrain, 50/50 Grey Seer/Corax White on the rocks, Corax White on the skulls (all thinned a bit with water.

Squad Karios lining up for a good drybrushing
Drybrushed (top) vs non-drybrushed (bottom)

I probably went too heavy on the drybrushing — my default — but there’s definitely a difference, and a positive one. The drybrushed texture paint now looks like real ground.

My bases vs. the White Dwarf Basing Cookbook
Bird’s eye view

My bases have less artistry to them than the ones in the White Dwarf Basing Cookbook, but “less artistic than the Citadel studio painters” is. . . just reality, right?

What I’m thrilled about is that 1) they don’t look too far off the mark and 2) you can tell exactly which basing model I was going for. Not too shabby!

I’m not totally sold on my choice to use gray rocks on gray ground. They don’t look bad, they’re just hard to pick out of the sea of gray. But brown rocks don’t scream “plains of Armageddon” to me. They sure do pop more, though:

Brown vs. gray
Sandwich

I’m committed to my next two squads already, though: Dolos and Cain both have their rocks already glued down, so they’re getting primed and won’t stay their natural color. But maybe I’ll try painting them differently: still a Grey Seer base coat followed by an Agrax Earthshade wash, but then drybrush them with something like Nurgling Green or a 50/50 Kislev Flesh/Corax White mix.

And I have to remember that painting is a journey, not a destination. By the time I’ve painted 2,000 points of Blood Angels, the difference in quality between my last squad and my first should be noticeable; a bit of variation in how I base them will just come out in the wash.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Narses assembled, maybe screwed up my base wash

Tonight I wrapped up assembly on Narses, my Librarian Dreadnought.

Narses mostly assembled

This is a really cool kit! I can’t wait to paint this guy.

Narses

Narses is actually still in seven pieces: torso, arms x2, legs, feet x2, base — I’ve carefully balanced him for a photo, but he’s not glued together yet. I’m going to paint him in pieces and I may leave his arms unglued; I want to see if my miniature storage solution, which hasn’t arrived yet, can accommodate him with his arms attached before I make that call.

More basing

After Drakenhof Nightshade wash on the left, before on the right

I can see a difference between these two, but it’s not the difference I was expecting; I may have fucked up here.

The texture paint is pebbly, which makes sense, so I focused on really saturating it with my wash . . . which, as I type it, doesn’t sound like how I’d usually do a wash: drag across the details, letting it naturally sink into the cracks. So far the net effect here look less like a wash and more like I just used a darker texture paint.

It’s not unpleasant — I like the color — but I don’t know if it will add shadows and depth. It looks like I’ve eliminated the mid-tones.

Squad Karios, all washed up

Next stop is drybrushing the ground in Grey Seer, and then the rocks in a 50/50 blend of Grey Seer and Corax White and the skulls in straight Corax White. We’ll see if the finished product turns out anything like what’s in my head and/or what’s in the White Dwarf Basing Cookbook, but I’m not optimistic.

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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. Apply texture paint with the spreader
  5. Wash and drybrush the base normally, including rocks/skulls
  6. Wipe the base edge clean before it dries
  7. Paint the miniature
  8. Touch everything up as needed
  9. Glue on tufts
  10. Paint the edge of the base
  11. Varnish the whole thing, mini and base

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

Musings on miniature basing

With a pile of Blood Angels to paint, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to base them. I’ve tried four methods over the years, with mixed results.

Number one is just painting the base black. This is boring. I no longer own any of my minis that are old enough to have been painted this way.

Learning from that, I glued little rocks to my mech bases (1997-2007).

Fuck these little rocks

Those little rocks were a learning experience. They look okay, sometimes even good, but they fall off all the time. I probably didn’t use enough glue, and I definitely didn’t paint them. They likely did get a coat of sealant, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from being annoying.

For the MERCS mini below (2010), I used lots of glue, fewer rocks, larger rocks, and painted and sealed them. I also painted the flat bits of the base dark green. These look pretty good and they never fall off, but the flat green bits are uninspiring.

Tiny rocks, evolved

The Terminators and Genestealers I’ve been working on since 2009 are all molded with bases (left) or lack them entirely (right). These are dead simple, easy to paint, and of course never fall off.

Molded bases (and single-position miniatures)

For my Blood Angels, I was planning to use a thick layer of white glue, basing sand, paint (base, wash, drybrush), and sealant. But a bit of reading and video watching made me wonder about the durability of that approach — and I don’t want little bits of sand coming off everywhere.

This excellent review of Citadel’s texture paint range (now renamed/merged with their technical line) on Age of Miniatures got me interested in using texture paints instead. GW also provides a neat free PDF showing some of the different approaches you can take with these paints.

Based (hah!) on the AoM review, it sounds like the thin and thick non-crackle options both offer sterling durability, and the thick gives you the most options in terms of washing and drybrushing for a base that pops a bit. I’m drawn to Astrogranite Debris because it looks like it will contrast nicely with a sea of Blood Angels red armor.

A possible basing recipe

Combining the Astrogranite Debris base shown in the above PDF (Astrogranite Debris > Drakenhof Nightshade wash > Longbeard Grey drybrush) with the image in this Spikey Bits post for the Plains of Armageddon (which adds the now-OOP Mordheim Turf tufts, i.e. pale grass, and little skulls) gives me a recipe with which to experiment:

  1. Astrogranite Debris base coat
  2. Drakenhof Nightshade wash
  3. Grey Seer (or similar) drybrush
  4. Add little skulls, rocks, and tufts to taste
  5. Paint the edge black or medium-to-dark gray

In my head that looks really cool with a little red dude standing on it. Add that to the still-a-WIP Faceless Strike Force concept for my Blood Angels army, apply some campaign decals, and it’s starting to feel like the kernel of a solid theme.

After I commented on how great his bases looked, a fellow minis painter on Twitter recommended this winters SEO video on using texture paint to base minis — and what a great recommendation that was. Different colors, but this is more or less exactly where my brain was heading; now I have a tutorial to follow.