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.
Tonight I wrapped up assembly on Narses, my Librarian Dreadnought.
This is a really cool kit! I can’t wait to paint this guy.
Narses is actually still in seven pieces: torso, arms x2, legs, feet x2, base — I’ve carefully balanced him for a photo, but he’s not glued together yet. I’m going to paint him in pieces and I may leave his arms unglued; I want to see if my miniature storage solution, which hasn’t arrived yet, can accommodate him with his arms attached before I make that call.
I can see a difference between these two, but it’s not the difference I was expecting; I may have fucked up here.
The texture paint is pebbly, which makes sense, so I focused on really saturating it with my wash . . . which, as I type it, doesn’t sound like how I’d usually do a wash: drag across the details, letting it naturally sink into the cracks. So far the net effect here look less like a wash and more like I just used a darker texture paint.
It’s not unpleasant — I like the color — but I don’t know if it will add shadows and depth. It looks like I’ve eliminated the mid-tones.
By pure coincidence, this is my 300th post on Yore! I didn’t plan this one as number 300; I noticed I was getting close and then forgot about it, but as it turns out this grab-bag post of what’s on my mind right now (miniatures!) is pretty emblematic of my approach to blogging here. I hope you’re enjoying Yore, which also turned 10 years old this year — thank you for reading!
I kicked today’s hobby session off by adding rocks and skulls to the bases of Squad Dolos and Squad Cain, my Primaris Infiltrators and Space Marine Scouts, respectively.
So whereas Squad Karios got lots of rocks and skulls, I focused on rocks for Dolos (since a lot of the Infiltrators’ feet include them), picturing them up in high places; and on sparse use of both for the Scouts, with their tiny bases. Both will get extra tufts in the final stage, so they look quite bare now.
I’ve been itching to build my two Dreadnoughts — one Librarian, one Furioso — but also a bit intimidated by them. I’ve never built a larger miniature before, and I love these units so much that I really want to get them right.
Dreadnoughts are one of my favorite things in 40k: a life-support sarcophagus, in which is entombed the still-living remains of a Space Marine who was mortally wounded on the battlefield centuries ago, mounted at the heart of a walking tank — a machine of eternal war. How fucking rad — and metal! — is that?
One of the reasons I picked the Blood Angels is because they have three special ones, all of which come out of the same kit (you pick when you build it): the Blood Angels Furioso Dreadnought (paid link). I started with Narses, my Librarian — named after the 6th Century Roman general, a deeply religious eunuch whose martial successes came late in life, and an unlikely leader; that sounded like a perfect fit to me.
After building his torso and the legs, I decided I’m going to paint Narses in pieces. I’ll sticky-tack the foot divots, waist joints, and maybe arm joints; prime and paint them all separately; and then peel off the sticky tack so I can get a clean plastic/plastic join for the final gluing stage.
One of the little joys of building a 40k army is naming units. I’m starting with just the sergeants and characters, but may eventually branch out to naming more of the models as well. Karios was a son of Zeus, Dolos is a Greek spirit of trickery and guile, and Cain can mean “possessed” and “spear” (plus the whole Christian mythology around the first murder).
Narses is coming along nicely, but I’m out of hobby time for today — his arms and power plant will have to wait.
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!
I’ve got a basing recipe in mind for my Blood Angels army, and now I have all the components:
The basic concept is “plains of Armageddon” (an important planet in the 40k universe), which conjures up a sort of Moonscape in my mind — a wasteland of heavy gray dust and dying grass, site of a thousand battles.
This is a spin on my preliminary idea, which I posted about last week, now organized a bit more:
White Dwarf 161 (Nov. 2016) for its Paint Splatter column, which features the Basing Cookbook
I also have Citadel plastic glue (for skulls) and appropriate wash and drybrush brushes.
As an aside, that box of skulls sounded pretty silly until I got a good look at its contents online.
They’re to scale, modeled to GW’s usual high quality, and staggering in their variety: small, large, different species, fresh, half-destroyed, just jawbones, etc. It’s a really cool box of skulls.
Okay, back to the base itself. A deep gray base with dark blue notes sounds like it will contrast really well with my predominantly red miniatures, while also not being too similar to the predominantly black figures (Death Company, Chaplain, etc.). Green is too cheery, brown sounds easy to mess up and wind up with the plains of Poopageddon, and snow is both too Christmas-like with red Marines and — if applied badly — can look like the floor of a porno theater.
Step 1: cut a hole in the box
There are a million schools of thought on how to base, when to do the base vs. the miniature itself, etc. — basically (hah!) every aspect of this process. I just need to start somewhere, so I’ll be trying this route:
Assemble the model and glue it to the base
Glue on rocks and skulls to suit
Prime the whole thing white, mini and base
Paint the rocks/skulls/etc., including wash and drybrush
Apply texture paint with the spreader
Wash and drybrush the texture paint
Wipe the base edge clean before it dries
Paint the miniature
Touch everything up as needed
Paint the edge of the base
Varnish the whole thing, mini and base
Glue on tufts
In that winters SEO video, he glues the rocks to the texture paint before it dries, rather than to the base itself prior to applying paint. I’m doing it this way so I can get primer on my rocks and skulls, rather than painting them separately and then adding them to the base.
Sitting here writing this, I feel like I’m writing a post partly to avoid taking a step that makes me a bit nervous and actually basing a miniature. So I’m going to stop writing and go do that.
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.