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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: splitting my time, first Blood Angels model

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.

Noctis and Zael drying after being shaded

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.

The options feel overwhelming

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).

Oops

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 . . .

Baby steps

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.

I see why people have special clips for this

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.

Sergeant Karios, Tactical Squad Commander

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.

Ready to rid the space between the stars of heretics
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Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk Warhammer 40k

A brief existential painting crisis

With the end in sight for painting my Space Hulk set, I’ve been thinking about whether to change any of my painting techniques for my Blood Angels army. Like any rabbit hole this question can prove bottomless and intimidating.

What I’m doing now (plus sealant first and varnish last):

  1. Base coat
  2. Shade (wash) the entire miniature
  3. Drybrush

I like how this is turning out on my Terminators, but my third step — an all-over ink wash — really darkens up the miniature. Drybrushing helps it pop again, but their power armor still reads as dark red rather than sort of medium red.

I wondered if layering or edge highlighting might be something to try out, so I poked around, found this handy Citadel color chart (PDF), and started watching Warhammer TV videos. This one comparing two painting processes jumped right out at me.

Excerpt from a free Citadel color chart

In the WHTV video, Duncan Rhodes demonstrates two techniques (again, preceded by primer). One:

  1. Base coat
  2. Shade (wash) only the recesses/cracks/etc. with a fine brush
  3. Edge highlight in a lighter color

And two:

  1. Base coat
  2. Drybrush with a lighter color, but fairly broadly — edges plus larger areas
  3. Shade (wash) the entire miniature

Seeing a drybrush precede a wash blew my mind. It looks great on his finished miniatures (around 14:55 in the video), but I think I still prefer my primary wash (Agrax Earthshade) followed by a drybrush to his wash (Carroburg Crimson) preceded by a drybrush. (Duncan is a much better painter than me; this is just an aesthetic preference on my part.)

I’d been assuming that layering accompanied drybrushing, not preceded it. And maybe that’s an approach some folks take, I don’t know. But it looks like maybe it’s a full-on alternative, not an accompaniment.

On the one hand it’s gratifying to see that my simple approach is more or less a typical one. But on the other hand I really like the idea of edge highlighting and want to give it a shot — but not midstream on my Terminator squad, I don’t think. Maybe I’ll do a test paint job on an old BattleMech, a model I don’t need to match anything else I’m working on at the moment.

Hmm.

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Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Starting my Blood Angels army

After doing a ton of reading and noodling about Warhammer 40k factions, I settled on the Blood Angels for my army.

Roughly 500 points of Blood Angels

These are (all paid links):

Three factions enter

The Adeptus Custodes came in a close second, with Orks a somewhat more distant third. I’m always drawn to the elite army in games like these, and the Custodes being able to field a 2,000 point army with a couple dozen models — half the number needed for Space Marines, many less than Astra Militarum or Orks — appealed to me, as did their absolutely badass minis, gold color scheme, and lore. On the Ork front I’ve always liked them, and being able to color-theme your Waaagh! and just sort of cobble together a band of space football hooligans sounded like fun.

But a couple of simple questions (which took me some time to arrive at!) made it no contest:

  1. What 40k minis have I loved since I was a kid?
    • Old-school Terminators
    • Rhino/Razorback tanks
    • Old-school Eldar walkers
  2. Apart from those, which minis look the coolest to me now?
    • Old-school “refrigerator box” Dreadnoughts
    • Sisters of Battle Mortifiers and Penitent Engines
    • Adeptus Custodes Vertus Praetors and Custodian Guard
  3. Why build an army that doesn’t include my favorite units?

So: Space Marines, which check the most boxes on that list (and which can, if desired, ally with Sisters or Custodes and pilfer their coolest units!). Of those factions, the Blood Angels’ lore spoke to me the most: doomed space vampires who eventually succumb to the Black Rage, known for their bloodthirstiness in battle. They’re over the top in such fun ways — and they have the most Dreadnoughts, plus access to BA-specific as well as generic Terminators.

On top of that, when I imagine a Space Marine the first image that pops into my head is always a red one; red is fun to paint, too, and their accent colors — black and gold, mainly — make for a great combo. And the Blood Angels have rad elite units with quite different color schemes for variety: the Sanguinary Guard, golden veterans with angel wings, each wearing a death mask in the image of the previous wearer; and Death Company, black with white and red accents, who are all in the grip of the Black Rage.

When I unpacked all these glorious boxes to check out the plastic within, I was also thrilled and relieved to find a comprehensive Blood Angels transfer sheet in the Dreadnought box. I’d heard these weren’t included in sets anymore, and figured I’d have to raid Ebay so my squads could have accurate markings.

Transfers!

Of my starting units, I think only the vanilla Space Marines need these; the rest have their own transfers or are too blinged out to have room for them (cough cough Terminators).

Squint and imagine my next 12 months of painting

Before ordering my sets I downloaded BattleScribe and used it to play around with various Blood Angels options. The four sets I picked can be configured different ways, but generally shake out to around 500-600 points of models.

As a starting point, half of a 1,000-point army sounded perfect. It’s a manageable amount of painting — 15 human-size figures, 1 Dreadnought, 1 tank — and when I add my next planned purchases I come out right around a thousand points. The Dreadnought and the tank intimidate me as a painter, but that’s healthy too — that’s how I grow.

I’m going solely by Rule of Cool, buying models I love so I can paint them. On that basis my next additions will likely be Commander Dante, a Death Company squad, and a Sanguinary Guard squad. At that point I’ll need one more 5-person squad of troops to have a Battalion, or I could split them up into Vanguard + Patrol instead and have a complete army (again: probably not optimal for play in any way!).

Theme-wise, right now I’m going with “faceless,” which might turn into a name for one of the squads or something — but all it means is everyone wears a helmet. I don’t especially enjoy painting faces, although that will probably change; I love painting helmets; and it’s a fun filter to apply to what’s frankly a staggering range of options.

I’m over the moon with excitement — I can’t wait to paint these minis!

For the Emperor and Sanguinius! Death! DEATH!