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.
As I amassed the hoard of plastic that will become my Blood Angels army, I learned about decals. Most of what I knew about them was that as a kid, I tore, mangled, and misapplied them at basically every turn.
My research led me to Micro Set and Micro Sol (paid link), the twin weapons in the modeler’s arsenal for putting tiny decals on tiny figures — and especially on curved or irregular surfaces. They’re both decal softeners; softer decals become more fragile, but also better able to conform to curves and whatnot.
I watched three YouTube videos about putting on decals, and browsed a few posts, and the funny thing is that people don’t really seem to agree on how to do it. Take the videos:
One person scored the decals with a hobby knife and uses only Micro Set, and never touched the decal with anything but a brush or that knife
One used like 8 million layers of Micro Sol; the process appeared to take an hour or two with lots of drying time between coats
One used both Set and Sol, and a Q-tip, and did the whole thing in one coat of each and like two minutes
All of their decals looked great when they were done.
And the posts? Gloss varnish before and after; no, only after; no, gloss before and matte varnish after; only after turning three times widdershins and never under the light of a full moon . . . you get the idea.
The little near-identical bottles themselves also make things a bit confusing: Sol recommends starting with Set and then using Sol; Set says to use only Set unless you really need Sol. But Sol is for irregular surfaces, which sounded like my use case — so I just followed the directions on the Micro Sol bottle.
I went with Second Company for my first squad because I like the pop of yellow and — for some reason — the decals for Second Company seem to be the most common.
And there’s another peculiarity: GW seems to have largely gone away from decals that aren’t for Ultramarines. The only Blood Angels transfer sets I have came out of my Dreadnoughts — even this kit, an explicitly Blood Angels tactical squad, doesn’t have a sheet of transfers in it. When those run out, I’ll be relying on Ebay.
Anyhoo, next came the banner.
The Micro Sol bottle says to let it dry and see how they turn out, and then apply more Sol as needed (with drying time between coats); as needed, prick any bubbles that form. With a reasonably smooth coat of primer and paint these two decals both seemed to have gone on okay, but I could see a couple little spots where they hadn’t settled down perfectly. So I hit those spots with some more Sol, then let them dry again.
When all’s said and done, I’ll varnish over the decals when I seal the whole mini. These weren’t hard to do at all — huzzah!
I also put together a painting area on my desk, including paint racks and a lamp and lightbox, and added a host of Citadel pots and tools to my arsenal.
I’ve got a 2,000-point Blood Angels army to paint during quarantine, all mapped out in BattleScribe. My baseline was my favorite units in 40k and units that looked fun to paint until around 1,500 points, and then 500 points of units that looked fun to paint but also supported what I already had. “Paint the army you love and don’t worry too much about the ebb and flow of the rules” is my mantra.
Along the way I’ve grown as a painter: used brush-on primer, wash, and sealant for the first time; experimented with edge highlighting; improved my detail painting and drybrushing; learning to make terrain bases; stepped up my assembly game with new tools; and played around with different workflows to find the one that’s right for me. I’m not going to knock anyone’s socks off with my paint jobs, but I’m having fun and loving the hobby.
Yore also turned 10 this year, and crossed the 300-post line last week in my flurry of miniatures-related posting (here’s #300). Traffic has doubled and I’m having a blast blogging again — and I’ve discovered the joy of the #warmongers community on Twitter, a tremendous source of inspiration, motivation, and camaraderie.
If you’re reading this I hope you enjoy Yore, and thank you.
After sticking to base coat > wash > drybrush for my Space Hulk set, with just a bit of dabbling in edge highlighting here and there, I committed to fully incorporating highlighting into my painting toolkit with my Blood Angels.
I was pretty nervous about actually doing it for the first time. After base coating and washing Sergeant Karios, I already had about five hours invested in this model. What if I royally screwed him up?
It turns out that highlighting is a lot of fun!
It was a bit nerve-wracking at times, but the color progression GW recommends is designed to get lighter in pretty gradual steps. Even when I messed up a bit, it wasn’t too bad — and even not being much good at it yet, I still like the effect.
I’m really digging how the crispness of the highlighting contrasts with the more organic quality of the drybrushing on the base. That should help the mini stand out and make the base feel more like real terrain at the same time.
I also got to do a bit of freehand, since I don’t have any Second Company decals small enough for the banner. Here he is in his almost final state — just a few touches left to do:
Every color under the sun
Back when I was painting my Space Hulk Terminators, I noted that Brother Goriel required 10 base coat colors. That seemed like a lot! But here I am painting Sergeant Karios, mostly following Citadel’s current painting guide, and I’ve used 25 colors (with one still to go, as my final highlight for magenta is in the mail):
Red: Mephiston Red > Agrax Earthshade > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Fire Dragon Bright
I have about 6.5-7 hours of work into Sergeant Karios. I’m a slow painter! And highlighting takes me a long time because it’s new; drybrushing is a quick, refreshing process by comparison. But every few minis, I get a bit faster at some step or another; I’m learning.
This past weekend I worked in a bit of painting time. Somehow painting my first Blood Angels model feels more like the official start of my army than any of the preceding steps — buying, assembling, priming, and basing.
Audiobook as painting soundtrack
I’m listening to the audiobook of Guy Haley’s Dante (paid link), narrated by Gareth Armstrong, while I paint; so far I’m loving it.
I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and it’s fascinating to me that three things are happening simultaneously while it’s on: I’m enjoying the book (Armstrong is a great narrator); it’s keeping me company while I paint, much like background music would; and neither book nor painting is distracting me from the other to the degree than I can’t comprehend the book or focus on my painting.
In fact, on that last front, paying attention to the book is actually helping me get into the Zen-like, relaxed-but-focused state in which I like to paint.
As ever, Sergeant Karios is first into the breach.
Compared to painting my Space Hulk Terminators, which had a fairly thick, years-old coat of spray primer and a poorly applied, and equally thick, base coat of red covering most of each model, this is night and day. Karios has my worst coat of brush-on primer, as he was first and I was still getting the hang of it, but it’s so nice and thin compared to the Terminators — and thinning my paints, using a proper fine brush, and focusing on the details are also smoothing the road.
There’s also a definite quality difference between the cheap ZEM brush I’ve been trying out for base-coating and my better Citadel and Army Painter brushes. The curled tip on my ZEM brush is going to stay curled, so it’s been relegated to “open areas and spots where I need to poke between things” duty, leaving my better brushes for actual detail work.
Along the way I took a poke at a Marine’s base with Mechanicus Standard Grey, and while not bad it’s too dark and too tonally close to the terrain color. Fortunately I’ve got more gray on hand now, and I have a hunch Danwstone will be perfect.
And on Sunday night, just as the light outside starting becoming too dim for detail work, I finished base-coating my first Blood Angel! Sergeant Karios still needs a full touch-up pass before his wash — but shit, that feels good.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
Priming minis used to stress me out because spray primer is so finicky, and I’ve ruined minis using it wrong. I’ve switched to brush-on primer (Vallejo white primer, paid link) . . . and apparently it still stresses me out. I think it’s because it feels too easy to mess up, and unlike a painting mistake it’s not trivial to fix.
Time to learn how to brush on primer!
After a couple of minis, I’d figured out a few things. One, this stuff dries faster than varnish. With the varnish, I can quickly do the whole miniature and then backtrack to pop bubbles, eliminate puddles, etc. With the primer, the top half of the mini is dry before I’ve finished the bottom half. So I learned to tackle a section, backtrack, and then tackle the next section.
Two, it’s less forgiving than the other two new approaches I’ve used since I got back into miniatures: brushing on wash/shade and varnish. This Vallejo primer is quite good about “self-correcting” — many bubbles will pop on their own, it settles into cracks a bit as it dries, and a thin coat works nicely. But if I dab it on too thick in, say, the vents on a Space Marine backpack and don’t notice it right away, I can’t fix it; with shade and varnish, it’s fixable for some time.
Three, I primed my first couple like they owed me money and I was going to beat it out of them with my brush. As a result, I over-primed them a bit. Once I figured out to put less on the brush and apply it with a lighter touch, the whole process went more smoothly.
As ever, I started with Sergeant Karios — the first mini in my Blood Angels army that I built, and the first for every stage of the process. Even if I mess him up, I like that he’ll always be special because he was the test pilot.
By my last, things were looking better: a lighter, smoother coat; many fewer bubbles and puddles; and less like an explosion in a cake frosting factory.
The saving grace here — I hope — is that I just finished painting a dozen Terminators that I’d 1) over-primed, 2) with spray primer, making them fuzzy, and 3) bounced around in a Plano box for six years after priming them, and they turned out okay. I can see some bubbles and pooling on my Blood Angels (note to self: Space Marine pauldron edges like to collect primer), but they look better than those Termies did.
Fingers crossed for the painting stage! I’ll be starting with the bases, and I have to say that putting together this post, and seeing Squad Karios up close in photos, makes me more optimistic than I was as I primed them.
I’ve got a post queued up for later this week about my basing recipe, but tonight I tucked into the first step. Gotta see if this works, and the best way to do that is to try it.
Sergeant Karios was the first model I built in my Blood Angels army, and he was my starting point tonight as well. (My plan is to paint him first, too; screw trying out new techniques on an “expendable” generic Space Marine.)
I’m using a little tub of Gale Force Nine Rocky Basing Grit and a box of Citadel Skulls (paid link), and gluing them down now rather than later so I can hit them with a coat of primer at the same time as the rest of the miniature. Superglue for the rocks, plastic glue for the skulls.
It’s tempting to go wild with rocks and skulls, but 1) I have a concept in mind, and “wild” doesn’t suit it; and 2) I suspect it’s a bit like blood effects, which tend to look overdone about 90% of the time.
Like base-coating, they don’t look amazing at this stage. They look a bit forced and artificial. But my hope is that once I apply texture paint — which will soften the edges of the rocks and skulls, and inevitably cover bits of them — followed by a wash, a drybrush, and some tufts, they’ll look natural and interesting. We shall see!
Tomorrow, when the light is better, I start priming these bad boys.
After getting Sergeant Karios — my first Blood Angels model — assembled last night, I squeezed in a bit more hobby time and tackled three members of his squad.
I started with the three that seemed like they would have the most built-in personality: the sub-squad leader, the dude who commands the other half of the squad if it splits up at the start of the game; the special weapon model; and the heavy weapon model.
I like laying everything out like this so that I can think about the character and which pieces to use, but also to help ensure I don’t make any mistakes — glue on two left arms, pick arms from different sets (A+B, etc.), or the like.
Citadel’s Mouldline Remover tool (paid link) is my MVP for today. This little thing is so useful, and so quick at accomplishing its specific task, that it helps make this process a relaxing one.
I was surprised and delighted at how often I asked myself, “What would he wear?” and “What kind of marine is this guy?” while I was getting these guys sorted out. And as I started getting a little picture of each of these characters, it became easy to find the right option on the sprue — and then the right pose. That was a ton of fun.
There’s definitely a learning curve here; I’ve never put together miniatures this detailed before, nor with this many parts. I still struggle with the most fragile bits, especially the dangling blood drop charms. I snipped one off yesterday by accident; I glued one to a leg on purpose today to stop it from inevitably getting snapped off.
But on the whole these are fantastic models. Every piece fits perfectly, they ooze personality and are awash in details, and they’re an absolute blast to build. They’re not cheap, but there’s a reason for that.
I am very much here for the fictional and roleplaying side of my Faceless Strike Force: naming the sergeants and squads, thinking about where they’ve fought (and where, from looking at their bases, they’re “currently” fighting), and generally engaging with the lore — which I’ve always loved. That plus Rule of Cool is guiding my choices.
Why is the sub-squad leader a beakie marine? Because he’s ancient, and prefers the old-style helmet. Why plasma for my lone special weapon? Because I really want to try my hand at painting the plasma chamber.
And hey, look who came in the mail: Commander Dante! Most likely the oldest living Space Marine, commander of the Blood Angels chapter, and a damned cool mini — how could I not have this beast leading the charge? I need to read up on how to assemble resin minis, though; I know to wash them and use superglue rather than plastic glue, but that’s about it.
It hit me that when I finish my Space Hulk minis I might, in that happy glow of satisfaction at finally completing a task I began in 2009, stall out and loose my painting momentum. I decided to start a second parallel hobby track, assembling Blood Angels, so that when my Termies are done I’m already in the middle of my next project.
I kicked this hobby session off by getting these two Termies shaded, since washes take a bit of time to dry.
Then I broke out my Blood Angels Tactical Squad box, assembled all my Gunpla tools — plus my newly acquired Citadel Mouldline Remover (paid link). I’ve always struggled with mold lines, and this looked like a handy tool to have.
Excluding the hobby knife (I have a couple), my other tools are from this little kit I bought on Amazon (paid link). It’s been a great kit, and the files and buffing board are useful for minis. The only tool I don’t love is the nippers, but unlike Gunpla — where a bad nip will really mess up the look of an unpainted model — it seems like light nip marks will be masked by primer and paint.
I thought about starting with a grunt in case I made mistakes, but decided to start with the sergeant since he would “flavor” the whole squad: I’ll be naming the squad after him (and naming all my squads, of course).
Ha ha, this little dangling blood drop was too fragile to survive being trimmed off the sprue with a hobby knife. I thought nipping would mangle it, but in hindsight I should have nipped. Ah well, nothing a quick filing-down can’t take care of. It’s only a priceless heirloom that this thousand-year-old warrior has carried into countless battles, after all . . .
It felt really good to glue his little legs down! A literal first step.
I’m also quite liking the mold line remover. The back of my hobby knife is free, but it’s not curved and it seems like it’d be all to easy to cut myself or accidentally snip off something near what I’m scraping.
Compared to the two Deadzone miniatures I started assembling (Huscarl, Captain), which were so poorly sculpted that they prompted me to sell all my Deadzone stuff, this was a great experience. Even though this sergeant is composed of a whopping 14 separate pieces — more than I’ve ever assembled for a single figure — they all went together perfectly, and the whole process was supported equally well by the instruction booklet.
And the reward for using 14 pieces was a staggering amount of customization and a good amount of posability. This is an incredibly detailed model, and having a myriad of choices in how to kit it out was enjoyable.
I’m going by Rule of Cool but also paying attention to the actual 8th edition 40k rules — because while Rule of Cool says this guy would look awesome with a Combi-Melta in one hand and an Assault Cannon in the other, that’s just creating headaches for myself down the line when he can’t actually see table play.
So I picked two weapons that looked cool (but were also valid choices) and test-fit everything before putting glue to plastic. Which was a good idea, because the massive wings on his original right pauldron wouldn’t fit with the Hand Flamer.
And with that, I’ve officially started the process of building my Blood Angels army: Sergeant Karios, resplendent in his glorious nipple armor, reporting for duty!
After that I circled back and drybrushed and sealed Zael and Noctis, leaving me just two more Termies to go before Space Hulk is complete.