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Deathskulls Orks Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Orky proofs of concept

Ever since I built my first Ork — Moonkrumpa, the Warboss of my Waaagh! — on November 16, I’ve been nervous about actually painting my initial mob of Boyz.

Which sounds kind of silly after I’ve just spent nine months painting 2,200 points of Blood Angels, right? Especially considering that Orks are a faction for which folks regularly kitbash stuff out of toilet-paper tubes? Well, yeah…except that Orks require a lot of painting techniques with which I don’t have much experience, including some — like freehand — that I’ve assiduously avoided attempting.

Getting the Boyz up on the handles for the first time to work on their bases

But at the same time, I sensed that I was stalling. So I took stock of what, exactly, I was nervous about trying and then decided to see what shook loose while painting one Boy.

Texture paint drying on bases

Here’s the list:

  • Freehand checks and dags
  • Freehand glyphs
  • Getting skin right
  • War paint
  • Weathering
  • One shade of blue vs. several shades of blue
  • Mixing layers and drybrushing on the same figure
  • Not yet having a brand/spot color that identifies Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas as my Orks

That last one was the biggie. I’ve seen two fantastic examples of personalized Ork armies in White Dwarf, one Goff army where every Ork has a red stripe painted across one eye, and one Freebooterz army whose theme is “rust and hazard stripes.” Both are brilliantly simple choices, allowing room for creative expression and variations between models, and neither requires any real additional steps (green stuff, adding bits, etc.). I’ve had a few ideas, but none have felt like The One — and this is an important conceptual step for me.

So I went into my test Ork hoping that the big question mark would sort of shake loose as I painted — and figuring that even if it didn’t, I could resolve some of the other list items in the process.

Putting paint on my first Ork, one of Skrudd’s Krumpas

Freehand…yes?

A few months ago, I read a heartening comment (I can’t recall where) about freehand that was along these lines: People will respect your attempt at freehand even if it’s not great. To which I’d add, maybe more importantly, I will respect my attempt at freehand, even if it’s not great.

With that in mind, I tried freehanding the glyph for “krump.” (I used a Princeton Velvetouch #1 round for both glyphs.)

The “krump” glyph

That’s…not terrible! Separate the two elements a bit more, and it’d be totally serviceable. It looks like I tried, and didn’t just phone it in. What the heck, can I do “moon” so I can have moon + krump on Moonkrumpa’s banner pole?

The Naz glyph (“moon”)

Yes, apparently I can! Again, not going to win any Golden Demons here, but it gets the job done.

War paint…also yes?

Bolstering by not embarrassing myself with the glyphs, it hit me that my simplest idea for establishing “Waaagh! identity,” painting one hand white on every Ork (as white is a Deathskulls accent color), had a logical iteration that was better in every way: paint one hand blue.

It’s the Deathskulls’ primary color. There’s a Warhammer TV video that features Duncan doing blue Deathskulls war paint, so I have a guide. It fits their lore, as they often apply blue war paint before going to battle. And, for good measure, testing out blue war paint would also help me answer the question about mixing shades of blue on the same model.

Caledor Sky war paint and Macragge Blue helmet

Well, shit: check, check, and check in my book. Even with only base coats — no washes, highlights, or weathering — that reads as war paint, and the clear difference between that blue and the darker tone on his helmet feels like an appropriately Orky mismatch (it’s not like these guys are nipping down to Pottery Barn with fabric swatches to get the blue juuust right; they’re kicking the nearest Gretchin and shouting, “Oi, make dat blue or I’ll krump you.”).

And fuck my ass, I even like the blue hand. Really like it. I’m going to add it to the bits of lore I’ve written about my army: Moonkrumpa’s original tribe was the Blue Handz, and their tribal identifier became a mark of membership in his Waaagh!. This is seriously as big a moment for me as coming up with Moonkrumpa; it’s the missing piece of the puzzle that clears my path to painting Orks that feel like mine.

How’s the list looking now?

  • Freehand checks and dags
  • Freehand glyphs
  • Getting skin right
  • War paint
  • Weathering
  • One shade of blue vs. several shades of blue
  • Mixing layers and drybrushing on the same figure
  • Not yet having a brand/spot color that identifies Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas as my Orks

Based on how freehanding glyphs went, I’m no longer nervous about checks and dags, either. My first few won’t look great, but I’ll improve with practice and experience. Ditto weathering, which I may also get a crack at on my terrain before I try it on my Boyz.

I have a hunch that skin and mixing layers/drybrushing will sort themselves out, too. Skin is basically cloth, and there’s an excellent article in White Dwarf #454 to use as a step-by-step reference.

Skrudd and half of his Boyz with their green, blue, and brass base coats done (plus some other random colors)

So all in all, I’m feeling pretty good about my list, much less nervous about painting these Orks — and downright excited to see how they turn out. Sometimes you just gotta paint it and see what happens.

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Deathskulls Orks Miniature painting Miniatures Terrain Warhammer 40k

Trying out two ideas on Brother Test-Mech

My first 40k scenery just arrived, the absolutely massive Vertigus set. I’ve been kicking around the idea of Zandri Dust for the stone and Khorne Red for the metal, the former coming from a Warhammer TV video aimed at the Kill Team Imperialis terrain (rather than this Manufactorum set) and the latter being the studio color for this set. But I wasn’t sure how it’d look — a job for Brother Test-Mech!

Spray-painting the base coat is going to be a must for this much scenery!

I did two panels of his skirt armor in Zandri Dust, bracketing one in Khorne Red. Neither is the final color either of those would be (no wash, no drybrush, etc.), but this should be in the ballpark.

Zandri/Khorne/Zandri

I like it, but I’m not completely sold. How about Zandri/Leadbelcher?

Nope!

Yeah, that’s not enough contrast — and it’s the color I’d expect, which is less fun than an unexpected one.

Literally as I was writing this post, I found a Warhammer TV how-to for this exact terrain, which told me what color to swap for the studio-recommended base coat: Wraithbone, which comes in spray form. There’s more steps in the floors than I’d like (easily replaced with “bung on some Mechanicus” from the other video), and a different recipe for the red, but seeing “aged white stone” in action sold me on the white/red/metal scheme.

Oi, dat’s mine

While I had him out, I figured I’d try another half-baked idea: Having my Deathskulls Orks mark their looted wargear by sloppily painting over Space Marine colors and heraldry. As it happens, most of Brother Test-Mech’s painted bits are dark red, so I half-drybrushed, half sloppily painted it with Macragge Blue.

Hmm

That…kind of looks like ass. I can’t decide if it’s an Orky amount of ass or too much ass. I’m not loving it, in any case. This idea’s going back in the oven to bake a little longer.

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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniature painting Miniatures Painting tools Space Hulk WIP it good

WIP it good: Brother Gideon and his glorious shield

I noticed on Warhammer TV that Duncan nearly always thins his paint a bit, which I’ve never tried. I have a palette now, so I thought I’d give it a whirl with another Terminator: Brother Gideon, who has a truly epic Storm Shield.

Trying out a palette for the first time

A month ago, I wouldn’t even have attempted the finer lines on this shield. The palette helps, as does the right brush and ample light (about which I have a short review coming up next week; this light has made a big difference) — and the nice cold bottle of Asahi just off-camera.

I didn’t do this amazing sculpt justice, but this Storm Shield is the most detailed thing I’ve ever painted. I’ll touch it up tomorrow, in better light, along with the rest of Gideon and see how it turns out.

Soon

My Terminator box is slowly starting to fill up. Gideon is 6/12, so if I can finish him and one more Termie tomorrow I’ll be over 50% done.

And then it’s on to my Blood Angels!

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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.