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Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: adventures in hazard striping

With my Rhino, Relentless, mostly base-coated, it was time to do the hazard stripes before moving on to a second coat of red.

I love hazard stripes, especially how they pop against red, and they make sense for the rear drop-door: “stay clear or this massive slab of Ceramite will crush you and then a 10-man squad of Space Marines will grind you into jelly as they charge into battle.

Relentless

I did the hazard stripes the same way I did them on Squad Ultio: two coats of Averland Sunset on the whole surface, cover with Tamiya hobby tape (3mm this time), remove alternate strips, paint those areas Abaddon Black.

Step 1: establish the top boundary
Step 2: fully mask the surface (this angle was scientifically measured by me looking at it and going, “Yeah, that looks about right”)
Step 3: remove alternate tape strips, press remaining tape down firmly

I figured the areas with the bolts would be more likely to let paint “bleed” under them if I left them taped (since they prevent the tape from seating fully). By happy accident all three bolts fell on alternating strips.

Step 4: two thin coats of Abaddon Black

I recommend skipping the bonus steps I added: “Realize trying to use up the last of the black that’s drying out means you’ve just gobbed on quite thick paint,” and “notice you’ve missed a bit and have to backtrack.”

Step 5: peel and reveal!

Like Ultio’s stripes, they’re not perfect. But they’re better than what I can do freehand, and should be fairly easy to touch up when I reach that stage.

Step 6: Mask the top edge and paint the red around it

After painting down to the top edge, I realized I had no clear demarcation for the bottom edge. I tried a few tape lines that incorporated the door pivot/axle thingie, which is cylindrical and therefore annoying to tape up cleanly, and eventually decided that the bottom edge should align with the bottom of the frame instead.

Bonus step 8: realize you should have done the bottom edge differently to start with…
Aaaaaand done

I thought this would be a piece of cake! So much easier than wrapping a symmetrical pattern around three sides of an object, like I had to on Ultio — right? Narrator: Wrong.

But now I’ve got a pretty good template to use for my next Rhino/Razorback!

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Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Turiel and Judgment

I reorganized my pile of 40k kits and my hobby space, and when I was done the simplest option for keeping things tidy seemed to be building the remaining kits for my current 2,000-point Blood Angels army list.

I started with Turiel, a Furioso Dreadnought of the 1st Company. I also built his alternate arm (Furioso Fist and Melter) but forgot to include it in the photo. He got a plain base to differentiate him from Narses, and to give me a blank canvas for creating a little landscape around him.

Narses and Turiel

From there I moved on to my second 40k tank, the Land Raider Crusader Judgment. This thing is huge!

Judgment next to my Rhino, Relentless

Just as I did with my Rhino, I considered painting the interior but decided to seal it up instead. There’s a ton of detail in there and it’s barely visible through the (totally awesome) front doors — plus, sealing it up gave me some cool spare parts for my bits box, like the engine plate below.

The inner frame

One of my favorite details in the Land Raider kit is that every 13th tread plate is the imperial eagle, so this sentient war machine can stamp the mark of the Emperor on every world where it fights.

For the Emperor!
Starting to look like a proper tank now
Testing out the various hull options

In the photo below, Judgment is almost complete. I’m going to leave the foreground items — the pintle-mounted Multi-melta, the twin Assault Cannon, both sponson Hurricane Bolter elements, the lower sponson housings, and the sponson cameras — unglued and paint them as sub-assemblies. I’m not sure yet if I’ll glue the sponson guns or the pintle gun into place, freezing the entire tank into one immobile object, or leave them as moving parts.

Almost there

It took two full evenings just to build Judgment — and I still have decorations and a hull-top choice to make and add to it. Actually painting this beast feels like at least a two-week task.

After Judgment is assembled, though, it’s on to my final squad, some close-combat Terminators (squad name TBD), and then the two resin characters I currently have soaking in soapy water: Commander Dante and my Chaplain, Arrius.

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Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: assembling Squad Adamo

While painting May’s minis, I’m also building my June models. After my Death Company squad, I decided to tackle more jumpy boys: a squad of Assault Marines.

Piles and piles

This is the first time I’ve broken out the bits box to add things to the kit other than basing debris. Everyone’s getting a Blood Angels chapter pauldron, and I’m raiding the greeblies for belt doodads and the like.

Sergeant Adamo

As ever, I started with the sergeant, Adamo, and let the character of the squad flow from him. The Eviscerator looks amazing — I’m so glad it’s an option. And the little “leaping into flight” base elements, which come with the kit, are fantastic.

These are great sculpts, too, full of motion and energy — and somehow they manage to convey that, unlike their Death Company brethren, they’re in full command of their faculties. Compare:

Squad Adamo, 2nd Company, 7th Squad
Squad Zahariel, Death Company

Maybe it’s just me? I don’t know. But I see it and I dig it.

This kit is loaded with options, including separate backs, torsos, and backpacks to use if they’re not Jump Pack-equipped; loads of melee and ranged weapons; and a surprising amount of belt bling. I’ve got another box of them in the wings, and I can’t wait to dip into some of the other options — with an eye to intermingling the guys without knee pads between squads (provided I remember to give them the special weapons…).

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Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Death Company and fun with bases

This past weekend I found myself in a funny spot: Excluding Commander Dante, who’s still on his sprue (I’m not ready to mess with resin quite yet), 100% of my other models to paint this month were drying or curing and couldn’t be painted…but I was in the mood to do hobby stuff.

My backlog has now grown to the point where even if I build my entire current army list, I won’t be short of other things to build when assembly is what I’m in the mood to do with my hobby time — so I started in on my June painting queue. Specifically, Death Company box.

Brother Zahariel

As always, I started with the leader — except that by the rulebook, Death Company battle-brothers don’t really have one, at least not within their squads. They’re generally led by a Chaplain who can manage them on the battlefield. So what to name this squad?

I decided that it would be Squad Zahariel, in honor of former Sergeant Zahariel, a noble and long-lived Space Marine who had fallen to the Black Rage.

Kitbashing a “leaping into flight base” (with a little extra support for this one)

I knew I wanted these guys to be leaping into flight — like the Assault Squad, which includes cool little base add-ons that give them some lift — so I dipped into my bits box and came up with some scrap that would work. (Two pairs of legs are posed standing squarely on the ground, so I didn’t mess with those.)

Finding the right pieces, matching them up to the right poses, and making it all work was a lot of fun. I love this aspect of assembly, and even though it’s quite light as kitbashing goes I have to start somewhere. Baby steps!

I also managed to glue 4/5 of their jump packs on, and let their glue set for several hours, before realizing that I’d placed them about 1-2mm too low. With some wrenching and a bit of surgery I managed to sort them out, and any evidence of my screw-up is well-hidden deep in the crevice between back and pack.

Squad Zahariel, Death Company

This is a great kit, loads of fun to assemble, and it includes a wealth of options, doodads, extra shoulder pads, and awesome Chainswords. I’d gladly build a few more of these boxes.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

Weekend work in progress roundup, army lore, and 500

I finished listening to the audiobook of The Devastation of Baal last week, and then over the weekend — while naming my Sanguinary Guard — realized that I now know something else about my Blood Angels army. Before that I had two bits of lore/flavor around my army:

  • They all wear helmets, no bare-headed models
  • Their bases are meant to be the plains of Armageddon

To which, because of the events of the Devastation, I can now add:

  • My army is post-Devastation of Baal, because it includes both Primaris and non-Primaris Marines

Lore-wise I might be getting a bit fuzzy here, because the only info on post-Devastation Sanguinary Guard — all but one of whom died fighting Leviathan — is on 40k wikis, but that points to the Guard being composed of the lone survivor and Primaris Marines. I see no reason the new Guard can’t be composed of a mix of Primaris and non-Primaris, though, so that’s what I’m going with in my head.

Prepping my May minis

I also found myself on May 1st without a single ready-to-paint model, so I set about getting a few to that stage. That entailed doing the texture paint on Squads Amedeo and Dolos, and priming my Rhino, Relentless.

Into the painting queue with you!

I soon realized that properly priming Relentless was going to be a two-day job. For day one, I did the undercarriage and both ends; it then sat overnight to allow the primer to cure.

I briefly considered not painting the bottom…but yeah, that would drive me bananas

On wings of frustration

As I was listing my May 2020 BGG painting challenge minis, I realized I couldn’t put off figuring out how to name my squad of Sanguinary Guard any longer. They have no sergeant; to the best of my knowledge, Space Marine squads are traditionally named after their sergeant. That’s how I’ve done all of mine.

But these guys are weird. The unit is four, often accompanied by an Ancient — but he’s not part of the squad. He’s a character, he gets a name; that’s Brother Abaoz. But the rest? It seems easiest to name them all and pick the one I like best as the nominal squad leader (since the actual squad leader is Commander Dante): Remiel, Uriel, Zarnaah, and Ballaton.

Squad Remiel rolls off my tongue the best, so Squad Remiel it is. They’re all angel names, which I found by Googling “angel names.” As always, I bounced them off Lexicanum’s list of known Blood Angels names so as to be reasonably sure I’m not claiming someone who already has a place in the lore. (Emphasis on reasonably; I’m going to overlap at some point, it’s almost inevitable — and that’s okay.)

Curse these wings

Their wings, though? Most frustrating thing I’ve glued in my two months of building 40k minis. There’s no “mating” joint, no locking nub, nothing to ensure that the wing is in the correct spot and matches its partner. The instructions imply where they go, but even with the angled 360-degree spinning model on GW’s site I still wasn’t totally confident.

It took me 45 minutes to do Remiel, and most of that was his wings. And every time I’d adjust them, his awesome sword-arm pose would slip because of his huge pauldron, and then the other wing would get bumped, and then…

Brother Remiel, first among equals

The outcome, though, is a straight-up badass pose. Brother Remiel is winding up for a death blow while leaping into the sky, all motion and dynamism. His wings don’t quite match, and that gap at his right shoulder is going to require a healthy amount of Agrax Earthshade to cover up — but this is a great sculpt, and he should look awesome when he’s painted.

I returned to Squad Remiel on Saturday, armed with a new approach: I came prepared to relax, which sounds funny but can be quite effective; I built in a pause between gluing on their arms and wings, to make sure the arms were fully set; I test-fit the wings before the glue on the arms and pauldrons was dry, so I could nudge them around a bit before it was too late; and I checked both wings from every angle before their glue was fully set, leaving time for delicate adjustments to them as well.

Squad Remiel, led by Sanguinary Ancient Abaoz

The end result is one of the coolest squads I’ve built so far. I absolutely love these guys. Whereas after building Remiel I was kind of glad I only had one box of them, with the squad done I certainly wouldn’t mind doing another box. Their details, their dynamic poses, the massive melee weapons — I was drawn to them way back when I was choosing a Space Marine chapter, and now I remember why.

500!

Yore also hit a fun little milestone, one I’ve been watching for since I got back into blogging this past February: 500 impressions in a day.

April 30, 2020

Thank you for reading Yore! I write it because I want to, but I like knowing that folks are reading it — and hopefully getting some mileage out of it, too.

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Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k

Closing out a record painting month with Squad Ultio

I painted 16 miniatures in March, a personal record — but I managed to top that number, by one figure, in April!

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.

Squad Ultio, 1st Company, 2nd Squad
Rear view

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.

Sergeant Ultio, one battle-brother, and the squad’s teleport homer
Three veteran battle-brothers

Gotta grab an army shot, too. I’m up to 553 points now!

My Blood Angels army as of April 30, 2020

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:

One of the classic blunders

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:

This is a game-changer for future kits

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.

My new favorite detail brush

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!

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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Squad Ultio, turbo priming, hazard stripes

I’ve been making some progress on Squad Ultio, my shooty Terminators.

I decided that I’d lean into silver as their primary accent color, and unify them with silver Crux Terminatus emblems on their left shoulders. Sergeant Ultio is getting more gold, but with silver accents.

Silver blocked in

I used to start with the most prevalent color and work my way down to the small accent colors, but now I go in reverse. Once it hit me that, for example, the only way I can manage to paint the gold setting for a red gem on red armor is to hit it first — slopping over into what will be red areas — and then circle back with the red, carefully painting right up to the gold, I realized many accents could be painted better and quicker that way.

Everything but the red — and maybe hazard stripes — done

Reaching the point where what’s left is “just” the red takes some time — probably about two hours, maybe 2.5, for this squad. The red will likely take longer, but blocking that in somehow feels more manageable when I’m down to only one color.

One down!
Black left fists

I almost forgot to give them all black left fists (except the sergeant). I know that — like just about all details of chapter paint schemes — that’s optional (and not universal over the past decades of studio paint jobs), but I like it. It gives them a different presence and energy.

Two base-coated

Warmed up from some quick basing work (on Squads Amedeo and Dolos), and with a bit of momentum built up, I managed to get two more Termies base-coated on Sunday night. That left about another 90 minutes of base-coating, followed by a couple hours of touch-ups and detail work, before I could move on to shading.

Priming speed

It took me 12 minutes per figure to prime Squad Ultio, but since I don’t love priming I’ve been looking for ways to reduce that time without sacrificing quality. On Sunday I consciously employed a loose, light, feathering stroke — and blasted out Squads Amedeo (Sternguard) and Dolos (Infilitrators) in 45 minutes, or 4.5 minutes/figure.

50% of my priming for May done

That leaves just my Rhino, Relentless, and a squad of Sanguinary Guard to prime so I can paint them in May.

Hazard stripes

I want to do yellow/black hazard stripes on the two Chain Fists in this squad, and I bought some 2mm and 3mm Tamiya hobby tape for that purpose — but every time I look at those tiny chainsaw housings, which wrap around on three sides, I question my ability to actually do it.

But fuck it, I’m going for it. Colors are Averland Sunset/Abaddon Black. (The rest of these guys just follow my usual Blood Angels colors, no surprises in their recipes.)

Step 1: paint the housings Averland Sunset, two thin coats for even coverage.

Step 1

Step 2 was going to be “apply diagonal strips of tape” until I actually tried that and physics disagreed:

Definitely not step 2

Step 2: apply vertical strips of 2mm Tamiya tape, edge to edge with no gaps (to ensure even spacing).

Step 2

Optionally, at this stage you can feel free to question the judgment and moral character of the dingus who decided to put a big rock right in front of this Chain Fist.

Step 3: remove every other strip of tape.

Step 3

Step 4: paint the exposed yellow portions Abaddon Black.

Step 4

Step 5: remove the remaining strips of tape. Ta-da! Hazard stripes.

Step 5

Not, I hasten to add, amazing hazard stripes — but better than I could freehand, especially as they wrap evenly around the housing, and easily touched up during the next step of my painting process.

Finished hazard stripes

For true old-school Terminators I should have hazard-striped the Fist itself, not the saw housing, and then painted John Blanche’s face freehand on top of the stripe pattern . . . but these will have to do.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

My painting queue for May-July

I like to maintain my painting momentum by always having something ready to paint, which means planning ahead. Right now my pace is about one miniature every two days, which is a decent data point for building a queue.

I also like to have some options for my hobby time, including a mix of assembly, basing, and painting. I don’t love priming (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say I don’t like it), but that task has to be in the mix as well. Those four activities each have their own appeal:

  1. Assembly: A bit fiddly, but I love coming up with fun poses, choosing wargear, and figuring out who my figures are as characters (especially the sergeants). This is a creative, relaxing activity that can be done any time, including when I don’t have full daylight to work with. I lump the first part of basing in with assembly now — gluing down my rocks and whatnot.
  2. Priming: I want to find a way to derive joy from priming, but there are zero artistic or roleplaying choices to make and it’s fundamentally not a creative activity — it’s just Not Screwing Up. At least it’s reasonably quick, and like assembly I don’t need good light.
  3. Basing: Even though part of it was already done during assembly, finishing the base — which I before painting any part of the model itself — feels like its own thing. And I love it! Super relaxing, creative, and when I’m done the figure feels 50% complete.
  4. Painting: The main event, full of artistic choices and creativity. Relaxing, but still sometimes a bit stressful; I find I hold my breath a lot while working on the final highlights, since one bad slip-up can ruin hours of work. Some stages benefit greatly from a fresh mind and good light, so it’s a bit trickier to fit in sometimes.

That’s why I always like to have a mix of unbuilt, unprimed, and unpainted figures on hand: So when I’m in the mood to do any part of 1-4, or not in the mood for something more intense (final highlights) but in the mood for something casual (basing), or circumstances (nighttime, etc.) rule out any steps, I’ve always got something to work on.

May 2020

My May painting queue

I accidentally put the Chaplain in the back there; that’s supposed to be Commander Dante. My plan for May is:

  • Paint 5x Sternguard Veterans
  • Paint 5x Primaris Infiltrators
  • Paint 1x Rhino
  • Assemble and paint 4x Sanguinary Guard and 1x Sanguinary Ancient
  • Assemble and paint Commander Dante

That’s probably a bit of a stretch, but that’s okay. I like to bounce between complex/detailed sculpts and simpler ones, so the Sternguard (detailed) will be a nice follow-up to April’s Terminators (simple); I can follow them with the simple Infiltrators, then the more complex Guard (also a break from painting red!), and mix in the Rhino and Dante when the mood strikes me.

June 2020

June, which will probably bleed into July

June’s plan is too ambitious, and will almost certainly spill over into July. Nothing here is built yet, so it’s assembly and painting of:

  • 5x Assault Squad
  • 5x Death Company
  • 5x Terminator Assault Squad
  • 1x Land Raider Crusader
  • 1x Furioso Dreadnought
  • 1x Chaplain with Skull Helmet

My guess is that the Dread and maybe part of one squad will land in July, assuming I can keep up my February/March/April pace for another 2-3 months.

But however long it takes me, I’m going to have a blast — and when I’m done, I’ll have a parade-ready 2,000-point Blood Angels army. And hey, maybe by this summer we’ll be able to leave the house again and I might actually be able to play!

And if not . . . my backlog is a massive, joyous hoard of plastic, just waiting for some love. It’s all Blood Angels stuff, and all contributes to my twin goals of having more options for my army (including duplicate units) and painting at least one of every major unit the Blood Angels can field under 8th Edition rules.

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Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Narses almost done, Ultio underway, and it’s Rhino time

Two of the three blue paint pots I need to finish Narses came in the mail yesterday, so I tackled 99% of his highlights last night. He’s so close to completion at this point — but “so close” also equals 18 colors of highlights.

Almost the final session on Narses

Two hours of layers and highlights later, and he’s nearly good to go!

Narses, nearly complete

Up close like this the final orange highlights on his armor (Fire Dragon Bright) read as Way Too Much, but at tabletop distance it looks more natural.

Rear view

My Cog Mechanicum turned out okay, too!

Meanwhile, I’ve got Squad Ultio on the painting handles, fully based and ready to rock — and as part of the RPGGeek April 2020 Painting Challenge I’m trying to get the whole squad (and Narses) finished in April. That challenge was a tremendous motivator in March, and it’s been a great motivator in April, too. A miniature every two days (on average) would get me to a parade-ready 2,000-point Blood Angels army by mid-July, allowing a bit of slush time for the larger vehicles.

Chipping away

And I built my first Rhino, the designated transport for Squad Karios, so that I can paint it in May.

Sides and treads

I made so many mistakes while building this kit: forgot to add the ramp before gluing the sides, glued the top doors on upside down, and glued one hatch to the wrong mount. All fixed before they became permanent, but it was a bit of a comedy of errors.

I’d planned to paint the interior, and assumed that leaving the top off would give me enough room to work. But that’s not the case: There’s no way I can credibly paint, say, the Bolter under the console given how little room there is inside this puppy. Plus my ramp wouldn’t stay fully closed, and I couldn’t figure out why; combine those factors and I decided to just glue this one up and plan ahead for painting the interior of a future Rhino or Razorback. (Which I’d do by priming and fully painting every interior piece before gluing them together.)

Lots of room for customization inside

All told, this is a really neat kit. I got a good deal on an older Rhino box which, despite including instructions for a Razorback, lacked the sprue with the Razorback turret weapons — and the cool little cargo and tow ropes and stuff. I think it was from back when GW was producing them as separate kits, whereas now a Razorback kit will include everything you need to go either route.

And here she is: Relentless, ready to crush heresy in the Emperor’s name. Or more accurately, ready to transport Squad Karios for said heresy-crushing — while providing a little dakka along the way,

The Rhino Relentless, designated transport of Squad Karios, 2nd Company, 1st Squad

I went with the gunner because 1) he’s awesome and 2) who knows if my next Rhino will take the Storm Bolter option (although for 2 points, it seems likely). This should be a fun one to paint — especially now that I have some larger brushes to speed up the bigger panels.

I think I’m going to have to actually write “Relentless” on the name scroll, too, rather than just scribbling on it like I do with most scrolls. I wonder if Gundam panel-lining markers will work?

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Miniatures Painting tools

Thoughts on miniature-painting brushes and brush care

I’m no expert, but I’ve done a good amount of painting over the past two months, and tried a bunch of different brushes, and I figured it was time to write a post about brushes.

When I got back into painting minis in February of this year, I already had a small stash of brushes: a single Armory set I’ve had for years. They’ve been abused at least as much as they’ve been used, because I had no idea how to use or take care of them.

My oldest brushes, what’s left of an Armory set from at least a decade ago

This set has been relegated to Jobs That Ruin Brushes — which is fine! There are plenty of those: priming, varnishing, decals, and bodging paint out of the jar and onto my palette. There’s nothing wrong with them, and if I’d taken care of them they’d still be solid brushes.

The one exception is the big guy in front, an Armory Series 10 Size 1 brush. This is my most-used brush by far, as it’s the one I use to get paint out of my pots and onto my palette — which happens dozens of times per miniature — and, since it’s then used to thin the same paint, as my primary base-coating brush for large areas. Paint is expensive; I hate to waste it. The bristles have the perfect amount of spring to them, it holds just the right amount of paint, and it’s not so large as to be clumsy. I love this brush.

Expanding the toolkit

Back when I started in on my Space Hulk set, and then a couple more times on visits to my local hobby shop, I started fleshing out my brush collection. For some reason the idea that I could buy really, really tiny brushes, and brushes with fine tips, had never crossed my mind before.

I just sort of thought most miniature brushes looked like this:

Why can’t I paint eyes with this brush? It is a mystery

I know, I know. I just used the one set of brushes I had; I didn’t like painting; I had trouble with details. It’s so obvious in retrospect!

So: new brushes. Fine-tipped brushes! I stuck with Army Painter and Citadel brushes, since I’ve always been happy with the quality of their stuff.

Two of my favorite brushes

These two, Army Painter’s Wargamer: Detail and Wargamer: Character brushes are two of my favorites. The Detail is my go-to brush for layers and highlights. The triangular handles are totally awesome, and I wish every brush came with them.

I have brushes stashed all over my painting area, and when I took that photo I left one Army Painter brush out: my drybrush.

Wargamer: Small Drybrush

This wedge-shaped brush, which has stiff, slanted bristles, has really upped my drybrushing game. Highly recommended.

Three excellent Citadel brushes

These three from Citadel have also been serving me well. The Medium Shade brush is perfect for the all-over wash/shade I use; if I wanted to shade only tiny portions at a time, I’d need a smaller brush. The Small Base and Small Layer I use exactly as intended. and they’re both solid.

Pro tip: don’t brush your teeth with them

I also got a tip from a fellow painter, and read some tips in different places, that helped me a lot as I was starting to build up a supply of brushes:

  • Don’t dry them tip-up, as water can sink into the ferrules and ruin them. From what I’ve read you can store them tip-up once they’re dry, but for simplicity’s sake I just store them horizontally all the time.
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm (but not hot) water.
  • Change your painting water regularly. I’ve come to like using Citadel’s excellent water cup in part because it’s small; its size reminds me to swap out my water often.
  • Never let brushes sit with paint on the bristles.
  • Don’t dip the brush straight into the paint pot. Instead, use a crappy brush reserved for this job to transfer paint to your palette, and then thin the paint a bit with that same brush.
  • Thin your paints! I just use a dab of water or two, depending on the size of the blob of paint I’m thinning (and whether I’m planning a second coat).
  • Don’t use your best brushes on metallic paints. I can’t avoid doing this sometimes, but I try to minimize it.

I didn’t read some of those tips until after I’d ruined — or at least shortened the useful lifespan of — several $6 brushes, but since I’ve gotten diligent about following all of them my brushes last much longer.

Cheap brushes do come in handy

ZEM brushes for painting around corners

I also picked up a set of ZEM brushes on Amazon because they were cheap — about 1/6 of the cost of a comparable Army Painter or Citadel brush. Their tips curled within a few minutes, and will never go back to normal.

But, like keeping brushes on hand for “garbage jobs,” these too have a purpose: jamming small amount of paints into cracks (which ruins the tip) and deliberately painting around stuff by using the curled tip as a feature rather than a bug.

Weirdly, the tiny guy in the front, a ZEM Golden Synthetic Round Size 10/0, hasn’t curled yet. This little guy is perfect for scrolls and banners, and perhaps it’s this limited use that has helped preserve him. It’s a great little brush for a dollar.

But still, these are in no way a replacement or go-to set for actual detail work.

Animal hair, synthetics, and taking the plunge

Once lockdown hit and I couldn’t go browse brushes, I decided to fill out some of the gaps in my set online. This was quite the rabbit hole — doubly so because I had no idea that many brushes, especially good ones, are made with animal hair.

I avoid products made from animals wherever possible; many of the brushes in this post are made from animal hair. I’ll be holding onto them, just like I’m still wearing the last pair of leather shoes I bought, but I don’t want to buy any more non-synthetic brushes. So my search became one for a range of brushes that were both 1) good and 2) synthetic, and those two things apparently do not always go together.

Much digging later, I landed on the Princeton Velvetouch line, and my brushes came in the mail yesterday. Shipping was slow and everything is so uncertain right now that I figured I’d go all-in on one order and hope for the best.

Princeton Velvetouch explosion

These tend to be about 50% to 80% of what a comparable Army Painter or Citadel brush would cost, so not expensive but not cheap either. The 10 brushes I bought were $45 total. The reviews were good, the handles feel nice (that’s the “velvet” in Velvetouch; they’re soft and slightly grippy), and unlike a lot of other well-rated synthetic brushes they come in sizes small enough for use on miniatures.

The ad copy makes a pretty good pitch, too: “The NextGen synthetic filament in Velvetouch brushes is the result of seven years of research and development by Naohide Takamoto, a fifth-generation brushmaker and the grandson of the inventor of Taklon, the first artist-grade synthetic brush fiber.” Will it hold up? I guess I’ll find out.

I also snagged a tub of brush-cleaning soap, having learned that periodic cleaning with soap will help preserve their lifespan and reduce curling.

I’m a Dapper Dan man

I’m going to be a sad panda if these Velvetouch brushes are terrible. Stay tuned!