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.
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.
Two hours of layers and highlights later, and he’s nearly good to go!
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.
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.
And I built my first Rhino, the designated transport for Squad Karios, so that I can paint it in May.
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.)
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,
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?
Narses finally has his base coat done! I assembled him on March 19, started his base on April 9, finished his base somewhere around April 12, and started painting his body in earnest on the 15th. It’s not that long, but it feels like a long time.
That’s probably partly down to having completely finished him from the waist down before starting in on the rest of him. Painting him that way, while it made sense, has given the process an odd rhythm.
It’s rad to see him with his arms on!
I’ve still got a few smaller elements in need of their base coat — blood drops, lenses, etc. — but they’re so tiny that I’ll just roll them in with the touch-up step. And there are plenty of touch-ups to do!
I even took a pass at the Cog Mechanicum, although it clearly needs some work. And this photo make it pretty easy to see the spot where I broke part of his power plant while assembling him, yikes (top right, silver).
I stayed up too late doing it, but before bed I got Narses fully touched up and shaded.
I can now do everything but the final layer/highlight on his sarcophagus (Calgar Blue) and the two layers on his Force Halberd (Temple Guard Blue > Baharroth Blue), including varnishing his right arm once those highlights are in place. I think it makes sense to do as much as possible before I have to push pause, so I’m planning to do all of his other highlights and just leave those few blues for whenever my paints arrive.
Shipping is understandably a bit slow right now, so while I can’t finish Narses until a selection of blue paints arrive I can still plug away at the rest of his base coat. With a dash of good luck I’ll be able to book him in April rather than May.
My go-to Blood Angels accent color is gold, but I pay attention to the studio paint jobs and they often use other colors more often than gold (reserving the gold for veterans, special figures, etc.). I liked how that worked out on Squad Karios, on whom I used black for most accents, so where I’d normally have done all of Narses’ skulls, keys, and whatnot in gold I decided to follow the studio scheme and make them silver and white.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull it off, but I’m looking forward to attempting the 50/50 white/black paint job on the small Cog Mechanicum on Narses’ rear armor (currently just bare primer surrounded by red). It looks like a fun challenge.
I wanted to improve my force/plasma blue paint jobs, so I did a bit of poking around and found a GW recipe I like: Caledor Sky > Drakenhof Nightshade > Temple Guard Blue > Baharroth Blue (as seen in my Narses color guide). With 3/4 of those now ordered but not yet arrived — meaning I can’t finish Narses’ base coat, which includes those colors for his Force Halberd and eyes — I spent the weekend bouncing back and forth between him and Squad Ultio.
First up was the little teleport homer, which was a fun warm-up figure. I don’t remember even consciously doing a figure as a warm-up before, but now that I’ve done one I like the concept.
I used this illustration on the 40k wiki as my template, but made the lamp a cheery green and skipped the second light (at least I think it’s a light?). My paint library isn’t that deep yet, as I tend to buy colors I need/think I’ll need rather than stocking up on everything — so for the green, I just used a 50/50 Moot Green/White Scar blend for the layer.
I also got Squad Ultio’s bases completely done (except for tufts, of course) — and I love being able to use the same Citadel painting handles for 40mm bases that I use for 25mm and 32mm.
I think of my minis as halfway done when I reach this point. It’s not accurate — the remaining “50%” is more than 50% — but it feels accurate. To reach this point I had to clean up their mold lines, assemble them, partially base them, prime them, and then finish basing them (texture paint, base coat, wash, drybrush). And those steps include at least three overnight curing/drying stints: glue, primer, texture paint. By that point a nice head of steam has been built up — the rest of the figure feels inevitable!
It hit me on Friday night that since there’s more than one Space Marine worth of painting work in Narses, and since I’m painting him in sub-assemblies, I should just finish each part separately — as in, not base coat them all, then wash them all, and so on, but take each one through to highlights on its own.
So I started with his legs. It looks like if I do the single-color underside of his upper body next, I might be able to glue the waist joint and then be painting an actual Dreadnought rather than his component parts. Which sounds like fun.
This is the first time I’ve been really happy with my first layer on parchment. And when the second layer and text (squiggles) were done, I was happy with those, too — I’m learning!
Once I added the chapter decal and highlighted the black piping (which I forgot to do before taking the photo above), I shaded and highlighted the underside of Narses’ upper body and glued his waist joint. That glue cured overnight from Saturday to Sunday.
I checked beforehand to make sure I had unencumbered access to the rest of his upper body when it was in place before adding the glue, and there’s plenty of room for me to work. Now it will feel like I’m painting a figure!
On Sunday we spring-cleaned the house and I didn’t really feel like painting, so I decided to do some assembly instead. I was planning to build my Sanguinary Guard so they’d be ready for painting on May, but when I checked the kit vs. what I’d specced out in BattleScribe I realized that the kit didn’t come with the five swords I’d planned on; rather, it includes three swords, two axes, and a Power Fist.
I know my 2,000-point army will probably get rebuilt after I get to play my first game — whenever the pandemic is over and going to my local 40k venue is a thing again — but psychologically it’s important to me that I’m working toward a specific army, WYSIWYG, that’s game-legal. I have a huge backlog that will give me lots of flexibility in future army lists, but for now I’m building towards one specific list.
So my choices were 1) Ebay a couple extra SG swords, or 2) tweak my list. I went for #2 and spent a couple of happy hours playing with different options.
Two of my goals while assembling my initial list were to build 100% of each kit (so if it comes with 10 models, build a 10-man squad) and to field no duplicate units (there’ll be plenty of time to paint more identical squads down the road). But I realized that one of those was going to have to go to make a tweaked list work, so I decided to cut Squad Dolos — my Infiltrators — in half.
They’re great sculpts, but not all that diverse in appearance; I’ll use the other five down the road, but I don’t mind setting them aside. Freeing up half their points let me kit out my Land Raider a bit differently, give my Assault squad sergeant an Eviscerator — and add a squad of Sternguard Veterans. I got so excited looking at all their cool bits that I decided they’d be Sunday’s assembly project.
As always, I started with the sergeant and let the character of the squad flow from him. This kit comes with an incredibly badass “one hand on the hilt of his power sword” pose for the sergeant — an easy choice! Thus was born Sergeant Amedeo.
In my quest to bling him out as much as possible, giving him two shoulder pads with wide rims, hoisting his Boltgun, and adding the crest to his helmet, I inadvertently made it almost impossible to squeeze his head in there. I wound up having to swap out his left pauldron for a more subdued model to get everything to fit. He looks like he’s staring imperiously across the battlefield, which feels appropriate for a kit with a very “Roman centurion” feel to it.
From there, it was a fun evening of finishing out the rest of the squad. I love this kit! It’s loaded with details and extra bits (like belt bandoleers of Boltgun ammo and grenades) , and with the addition of the Blood Angels Upgrade Kit shoulder pads they feel right at home in my growing strike force.
After Sergeant Amedeo, the battle-brother on the far left was my favorite to build. I tried to make it look like he was mid-motion, having just drawn his combat knife, about to launch himself off a rock and into the fray. The right arm was intended to hold a strapless Storm Bolter, but it works just as well for one of the Sternguards’ special Boltguns with its strap swinging out to one side.
I wrapped things up by doing the first round of basing on all of them, so that they’d be ready for priming after curing overnight. Which means at the moment May should look something like this:
Finish Squad Ultio and/or Narses, if any of them aren’t done yet
Paint Squad Dolos, 5x Primaris Infiltrators
Paint Squad Amedeo, 5x Sternguard Veterans
Build and paint a Rhino
I’m especially excited to take what I’m learning from painting Narses and apply it to my first 40k tank — and the Rhino is just such an iconic design.
They don’t always turn out how I’d hoped, but no matter what I always enjoy working on bases. This whole scenic base thing is still pretty new to me, and I learn something every time I work on one. Yesterday saw Squad Ultio hit the texture paint stage, which ties the whole thing together — sometimes just right, sometimes a bit off the mark.
The only one that didn’t quite work out is the top left Termie, whose base is bisected by a cool bit of blue Imperial scrap . . . which is so flat that it’s almost entirely obscured by the texture paint, and so dark in color that it becomes even more invisible. The rest turned out how I imagined them; tufts will really seal the deal — sometimes they look off until that stage.
The philosophy of miniature painting
Which, as it turns out, is one of the things I find most fascinating about painting miniatures: You have to believe in the potential of a thing that won’t be realized until several steps — and several hours — down the road. Base terrain looks weird until it’s washed; that’s one step. But the scrap looks weird until it’s surrounded by terrain and accented with tufts — and that stuff doesn’t fully come to fruition until the entire model is complete.
I’m not always a confident painter, so I like that the process itself forces me to believe in the groundwork I’m laying — to see the vision of a completed figure I’m happy with during the stages where it doesn’t look great. I find the philosophical side of this hobby as interesting as the actual painting in its own way — like finding joy in painting for the sake of painting, or knowing my own limitations while simultaneously trying to surpass them.
It’s a rich and varied hobby, and I’m really digging it so far.
Also, Narses now has a base coat on his legs.
I’m back to being a bit intimidated by Narses. I’m not sure why! First Dreadnought? First HQ? Largest model I’ve painted in over 30 years? Those all make sense, more or less — but I wasn’t intimidated last week. I don’t know what’s changed.
With an overnight cure for my primer (might be overkill, but why not be safe?) and an overnight dry for texture paint, I need to plan my miniature queue at least two days ahead of where I currently am. I like to have something I’m painting, something else ready to paint, and stuff to build in the queue. So: time to prime up some Terminators!
It took me about an hour to prime Squad Ultio, which feels kind of slow. But with that done, I could turn my full attention to Narses — my first-ever Dreadnought.
I’ve never worked with sub-assemblies before; I normally just build and then paint. But there’s no way I can do a good job shading and highlighting some of Narses’ elements if he’s assembled, so he’s getting painted in four big pieces.
I don’t think I’ll put him together until the varnish stage — and even then, I’m not gluing on his arms. They fit snugly without glue, and I like the idea of being able to pose him and adjust his arms for storage. That big ol’ waist joint will be getting glued, though.
Librarian Dreadnought color guide
Being this far along with Narses means it’s time to record the paints I’ve used and will be using on him (shades in italics, as always). This is 95% just GW’s studio color guide, except that I swapped in their “cold white” recipe for the white elements and added some accent colors.
Red: Mephiston Red > Agrax Earthshade > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Fire Dragon Bright
Narses is larger than a Space Marine, of course, but he’s mostly composed of big, simple blocks of color. Adding in that his scenic base took some time, and he’s landing somewhere between a single Marine and a squad of five in terms of painting time.
Squad Ultio bases
Come Wednesday evening I wasn’t really feeling like doing serious painting, so I relaxed by working on Squad Ultio’s bases.
The common elements use the same colors as my other bases. The new stuff:
Horns: Mournfang Brown > Agrax Earthshade > 2:1 blend Kislev Flesh:Mournfang Brown
Ork scrap: Two coats of Yriel Yellow > Agrax Earthshade > Flash Gitz Yellow
I didn’t notice Yriel Yellow was a layer paint until I was already applying it, but it’s the color I wanted and after a couple coats it looks good enough for Ork scrap.
I was originally planning to do texture paint next, then go back for the concrete slabs and any molded rocks I wanted to leave in place, but after thinking it through I realized I’d make a mess of that. So instead I went back and painted 100% of what I planned to keep, leaving bare only those bits of molded debris that I knew would be getting buried in texture paint.
This is my first time using a Citadel drybrush paint; I normally just drybrush with whatever color makes sense for the model. But for rust, from what I’ve seen, Ryza Rust is the way to go.
I experimented with it on an area of metal I was planning to cover with texture paint, just in case, and it looked great. When I washed it, it became quite convincing brown rust; that’s something I’ll keep in my toolbox. For Narses, I wanted fresh orange-brown rust on the scrap on his base, so I applied it after the wash — and, funnily enough, as dotted-on highlights with wet paint rather than with actual drybrushing.
Where I’ve overdone it, like on the Ork scrap, it looks orange. But where I went a bit easier on it, like on the missile cover thingie on the rear side of the base, it actually looks like rust. This is cool stuff!
I went back and dotted the overdone areas with a bit of Agrax Earthshade to hopefully tone them down a bit, and then it was on to texture paint. I plotted out my tuft locations in advance and deliberately smoothed out a few spots with those in mind.
After drying overnight, it was on to shading and drybrushing — and then done! Next up is Narses himself.
Dreadnought base color guide
I’ve got two Dreadnoughts in my current army list and a third in my backlog, and while I’m going to take pains to make their bases look different (because they’re 100% identical scenic bases to start with) I still want a reference for the colors I used on Narses’ base.
Shades are in italics, as always, and for most of these elements my final step is a drybrush rather than highlighting/layering.
These color guides are useful now (I refer back to them all the time — even a “standard” Marine uses a lot of colors!), but they’ll be doubly useful if I circle back to a particular type of unit weeks or months down the line — and if you’re reading this while painting your own army, maybe they’ll be useful to you, too.
40k Dreadnoughts come with an awesome scenic base: cracked concrete slabs, bullet holes, a skull, shell casings, etc. But with a 60mm base I just can’t resist cluttering up that space, so I did some work on Narses’ base with my skulls, rocks, and Ebay bits.
This one was a ton of fun. The model itself is so imposing that it shouldn’t be overpowered by the scenery, and the rusty metal, rocks, and skulls will be a nice visual contrast with the red, blue, black, and gunmetal of Narses himself.
I’m going to work texture paint in around the bits of debris to tie this base — which would otherwise be 95% concrete slabs — in with this army’s “plains of Armageddon” basing scheme, and to make the transitions between elements, as well as the overall base, feel more natural.
Squad Karios: painted 5 Space Marines, primed and based 5 Space Marines
Squads Dolos and Ultio, Dreadnought Narses: assembled and partially based 13 models
Squad Cain: primed and partially based 5 Scouts
Squad Karios, 2nd Company, 1st Squad, started March on sprues and is now half done as of last night — just under the wire.
My 2,000-point Blood Angels army list is 50 Space Marines, 2 Dreadnoughts, 2 tanks, Commander Dante, and a Chaplain — and my backlog of other fun Blood Angels stuff for future use stands at 2 Dreadnoughts, 15 Space Marines, and a Chaplain.
At my current painting pace I’ve got a solid three months of painting just for the Marines in my list, plus the tanks/Dreads, plus my backlog; that’s got to be good for another two months, give or take. I’m looking forward to it!
Blood Angels army progress pics
I have a thread going on Twitter where I share photos of my 40k army as it reaches new milestones — full squads assembled, primed, painted, etc. Here are the photos from March:
I’ve never had a proper 40k army before. I started a Squat army in the mid-’90s, but never made it past one or two squads (and a like amount of games). It’s a real pleasure to be plugging away on my Blood Angels.