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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: first time using brush-on primer

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!

Destiny awaits, brothers

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.

Halfway there

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.

Sergeant Karios, the first to be primed

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 last one I primed
This Squad Karios is now fully operational

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.

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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Squad Cain, scouts with a head conversion

My working concept for my Blood Angels army is the Faceless Strike Force, with 100% of the models in helmets. I wanted Space Marine Scouts in my army, which posed a small problem: the Scout kits only come with bare heads.

Some Googling turned up two easy options for alternate scout heads: Skitarii Rangers and Militarum Tempestus Scions. The latter looked a bit too “WWII Germany” to me, and the Skitarii had the added benefit of being hooded — a perfect match for my Scout snipers and their camouflage cloaks. A quick trip to Ebay later and I had a bag of Skitarii Rangers heads to convert my Space Marine Scouts with sniper rifles (paid link).

I got a bag of heads!

I talked a bit about the limited uniqueness and posability of the Primaris Infiltrators here on Yore, but these Scouts take that to a whole old level: exactly one bottom half, one top half, and one gun for each model. How will the heretics know they’re Blood Angels if they aren’t dual-wielding 16′ banners and wearing an entire craft store’s worth of bling?!

On the flipside, these are badass models. That’s why I bought them.

All five ready to rock
The Skitarii heads sit too high without some trimming-down

In the photo above I’ve sandwiched a Skitarii Ranger head between two Scout heads. The bottom looks the same, but the Scout heads are designed to sit in a shallow divot on each model; the Skitarii heads sit too high and have “flanges” sticking out of the neck recess.

Ha ha, these minis are like 5 pieces and I still managed to glue Sergeant Cain’s hand on backwards

After test-fitting a couple of Skitarii heads, I decided to build the models and then choose heads based on their poses. On the guys looking down their scopes, the larger respirators get in the way; they need the more svelte heads. Like this guy:

Kneeling for a shot

All of them needed a bit of trimming, some more than others. I experimented with using a file, but quickly switched to my hobby knife and stuck with that approach. Shave a bit off, test-fit the head; shave a bit more, test-fit again; and so on until it looked right.

This was my first-ever conversion project, and even though it’s quite light as conversions go it still took some work. On a couple of these Scouts, I spent as long trimming the head to fit as I did building the rest of the mini — and the more fragile Ranger heads, with the tall antennae, were too delicate for me (I nearly broke one).

Close-up of a converted Scout

If you’re looking for it, you can see the curve of the bottom of this one’s neck nub. But with paint and a wash to fill in the shadows, I think it’ll look solid on the tabletop.

Sergeant Cain (with his hand glued on the right way)

I like that this conversion doesn’t look “off” — the heads are the right size, they don’t give the minis giraffe necks, and while they’re taller than the normal Scout heads they’re not that much taller. They’re still in proportion with standard Space Marines.

Space Marine vs. Scout with Skitarii Ranger head
A Primaris Infiltrator taking his kids to the park
Squad Cain, reporting for duty

Another squad down! The Scout models are super-simple, mono-pose, and a bit heavy on the mold lines — but once built, they’re nicely differentiated from each other. A mini carrying a rifle as long as he is tall is always going to look pretty cool.

I dig how the Skitarii Ranger heads look on them. They’re a bit creepy, which I like, with almost a Jawa vibe, and the hoods go well with their camouflage cloaks — and should go even better once I paint them in the same camo color scheme. They’re a fun addition to my Blood Angels force.

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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: basing Squad Karios, part one

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.)

Sergeant Karios, who could easily have killed that Ork using only his nipples
From the back

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.

Squad Karios

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.

Advancing on an objective

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.

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Blood Angels Space Marines Lightbox photos Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Blood Angels Squad Karios assembled

After wrapping up my Space Hulk painting (11 years!) my to-paint queue was empty. I started building Squad Karios — the first unit in my Blood Angels army — before I reached that point specifically so that I’d have a project underway when I suddenly found myself with nothing to paint.

Laying out the remaining six

These minis are a ton of fun to assemble, and assembly is a great palate cleanser after my go-go-go painting in March.

Two down

Once I had the rest together, I realized I’d accidentally given the sub-squad leader a Storm Bolter, not a regular Bolter. A bit of surgery and sanding and he was good to go. I think I’ve been working on Terminators for so long that Storm Bolters just look normal to me.

D’oh!

Squad Karios, reporting for duty!

Lightbox shots

Putting unpainted minis in the lightbox sounded a bit silly, but I like the idea of being able to showcase the details on these figures (these kits are phenomenally detailed) and the choices I made while assembling them. Expressing personalities and embracing themes, all flowing down from Sergeant Karios, is a big part of the fun of assembly.

The four special figures, L to R: Sergeant Karios, Heavy Bolter, Plasma Gun, sub-squad leader

One of my goals for my Blood Angels army is to have no exact duplicates and no near-duplicates among my figures, and the Blood Angels Tactical Squad kit (paid link) is fantastic for that because virtually every piece is unique. Excluding a few arms, even bits which look identical at a glance are actually different: one has one blood drop and the other has three, one has a dangling tassel, etc.

The six regular marines

Even with 5/6 of these guys being “legs akimbo, Bolter held cross-body,” there’s a lot of dynamism and variation between them. They feel like individuals to me.

Squad Karios

It took a bit of experimentation to get the whole squad in my small lightbox, but now I know how to do it for next time. Heck, maybe I’ll pack it with all 30+ Space Hulk minis and see if that looks presentable.

And hey, now I have my first spare bits for my next project!

My first bits for the bits box
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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Squad Karios is coming along nicely

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.

All the bits for the sub-squad leader

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.

All three of them ready to rock

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.

The painting handle is a versatile little tool

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.

So close!

Aaaand done!

Sergeant Karios rocking a huge banner, the sub-squad leader (mechanically, just a marine), plasma, and heavy bolter

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.

Trust me, that armor has huge nipples under the aquila

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Blood Angels Space Marines 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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Blood Angels Space Marines 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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Blood Angels Space Marines Deathskulls Orks 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!