With Squad Ultio wrapped up, I can now do a comparison I thought might be interesting: Terminators I painted in February/March of this year versus Terminators I painted in April — same figures (more or less), same chapter, same color scheme. Which means it’s lightbox time!
Let’s start with the closest apples-to-apples pairings, the ones with similar sculpts and wargear.
How about three direct comparisons of aspects of each model?
And here’s my favorite paint job from each group, the Librarian from Space Hulk and one of the Chain Fist brothers from 40k:
As I was packing them all up again, I realized it might be good to toss in one more photo — five vs. five, but just a casual picture in natural light.
A bit of context
With my Space Hulk Termies, I was working with years-old primer, over-sprayed, and thick base coats of red. I made the conscious choice to stick with the techniques I’d used a decade ago on my Genestealers, so my whole set would look alike; that meant sticking to one post-shading step, drybrushing (with occasional bits of edge highlighting). My April Termies got two layers after shading, and no drybrushing save for the bases.
I also switched over entirely to Citadel paints, rather than my previous mix of Citadel and Privateer, and started using GW’s parade-ready guides for my color choices. The difference between starting with Mephiston Red, a dark red/crimson, and starting with P3 Khador Red, a scarlet, is pretty striking. The scarlet base coat doesn’t leave much room to go “up” in shades.
Overall, I can see that my painting has improved since I started up again. The more recent paint jobs are objectively better, even though they contain plenty of flaws and could absolutely be improved in a myriad of ways.
I tend to be quite hard on myself, especially about things I’ve done which aren’t perfect where I can clearly see that they’re not perfect. (As I type this, I’m literally thinking, “Crap, these felt like they were so much better but the difference just isn’t that dramatic.) I know I’m not alone in this because I see lots of other miniature painters online who are hard on themselves; after hours of working on a model, it can be tough to see anything but its flaws.
It’s good to be able to see some improvement. The hours I’ve put in are paying off — and I have so much more to learn!
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.
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.
Gotta grab an army shot, too. I’m up to 553 points now!
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:
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That leaves just my Rhino, Relentless, and a squad of Sanguinary Guard to prime so I can paint them in May.
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 2 was going to be “apply diagonal strips of tape” until I actually tried that and physics disagreed:
Step 2: apply vertical strips of 2mm Tamiya tape, edge to edge with no gaps (to ensure even spacing).
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 4: paint the exposed yellow portions Abaddon Black.
Step 5: remove the remaining strips of tape. Ta-da! Hazard stripes.
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.
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.
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?
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
Yesterday was a busy day, but I squeezed in enough hobby time to get Squad Ultio fully assembled and partially based.
The 40mm bases are a joy to work with because they give me so much room for scenery. It’s hard not to go buck-wild and overwhelm the models.
I used a mix of tiny rocks, 1/4″-1/2″ slate (paid link), miscellaneous 40k bits from Ebay, and a bounty of Citadel skulls (paid link) for these guys. Like Squad Karios , I see these Terminators as being really down in the shit, fighting across the graveyard that the plains of Armageddon have become.
But I also want the Terminators to have their own feel; I picture them fighting harder targets, in amongst downed vehicles and debris. So their bases have bigger rocks and more chunks of stuff. They’ll get texture paint and tufts, too, of course.
Basing, especially coming up with what to use for each base, and thinking about their themes and role on the battlefield, is one of the most relaxing parts of working on miniatures for me — which I wasn’t expecting. I love it.
I also love the little surprises that come from assembling the figures themselves. Like the second Terminator from the left above, who I visualized as striding implacably towards his foe when I was choosing and test-fitting his parts — but who turned out to be in a more dynamic pose once I got him glued together, almost like he’s breaking into a run.
Compared to the blinged-out tactical squad I’m painting now, this kit is pretty subdued — but there’s a lot of character and dynamism to the models, more than I expected just from looking at the sprues. And I’m thrilled to have my first squad of Termies — my favorite unit in all of 40k — assembled and added to my painting queue.
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.
I stayed up late last night putting the final highlights on two more battle-brothers of Squad Karios.
Then the dog woke me up at 5:00 am, so I figured I’d start on their decals. Knees: trickier than shoulder pads! But Micro Set and Sol are great, just needed a quick second coat on one knee pad and these were good to go.
Then it was on to varnish and Army Painter Frozen Tufts, and now two more sons of Sanguinius are finished!
Bits and bobs
My stash of 40k bits was small, so I ordered a few little piles of basing stuff — rubble, scraps of other models, etc. — to jazz up some of my figures.
There’s plenty of room to play with on 40mm Terminator bases, so I added a couple pieces of scrap (and a skull) to these two members of Squad Ultio. Once I work Astrogranite Debris in around them, they should look half-buried in the plains of Armageddon.
Blood Angels color guide
Mostly for my own reference, here’s the colors and steps I’m using for every element of a “standard” Blood Angel (shades are in italics; everything after the shade, generally, is a layer paint). This is based on — and almost entirely matches — Citadel’s current “parade ready” paint steps for this chapter.
Red: Mephiston Red > Agrax Earthshade > Evil Sunz Scarlet > Fire Dragon Bright