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Deathskulls Orks Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Deathskulls Ork color guide

Compared to my Blood Angels, there are a staggering number of colors that could go into painting any given Ork. So much variety!

Status and randomization

In general, the lower the status of one of my Orks, the worse his wargear will look: rustier, more weathered, etc. Boyz are just one step above Gretchin, so their stuff should be rustier and less well-maintained than a Nob’s stuff.

After painting my first batch of Boyz, I updated the guide below to be more clearly a mix-and-match affair. I choose skin color, Deathskulls blue recipe, teeth/nails recipes, and clothing colors randomly for any given batch of Orks, ensuring that the whole army doesn’t look uniform (yet also doesn’t clash).

War paint (currently) doesn’t get randomized, because my thinking is that just before a battle the Gretchin mix up a big batch and everyone daubs themselves with it. This also means that the most significant color, and the one that pops the most, is consistent across my whole Waaagh!.

Color guide and paint steps

As always, this is mostly GW’s studio paint guide with some tweaks; in this case I’m also working from White Dwarf #454, which has a whole Paint Splatter column devoted to Orks, and a couple of excellent Warhammer TV videos. (Also as always, washes are in italics and specific techniques like drybrushing are generally called out.)

  • Skin: Pick a recipe:
    1. Waaagh! Flesh > Biel-Tan Green > Warboss Green > Skarsnik Green
    2. Waaagh! Flesh > Athonian Camoshade > Warboss Green > Skarsnik Green
    3. Deathworld Forest > Athonian Camoshade > Elysian Green > Ogryn Camo
    4. Deathworld Forest > Biel-Tan Green > Elysian Green > Ogryn Camo
    5. Castellan Green > Athonian Camoshade > Loren Forest > Straken Green
    6. Caliban Green > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow > Moot Green
  • Deathskulls blue: Pick a recipe:
    1. Macragge Blue > Nuln Oil > Calgar Blue > Fenrisian Grey
    2. Kantor Blue > Nuln Oil > Caledor Sky (note this is a base paint) > Teclis Blue
    3. Thousand Sons Blue > Nuln Oil > Ahriman Blue > Temple Guard Blue
    4. Hoeth Blue (note that this is a layer paint) > Drakenhof Nightshade > Hoeth Blue > Blue Horror
    5. Thunderhawk Blue (note that this is a layer paint) > Nuln Oil > Russ Grey > Fenrisian Grey
  • Clothing: Like should never abut like (e.g., no brown pants next to a brown belt); mix and match at random:
    • Black: Abaddon Black > Skavenblight Dinge > Stormvermin Fur
    • Brown: Dryad Bark > Agrax Earthshade > Gorthor Brown > Baneblade Brown
    • Dirty white: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Ulthuan Grey > White Scar
    • Deathskulls Blue: Pick a recipe above, but consider using Agrax Earthshade or Drakenhof Nightshade for the shade/wash
  • Straps, armbands, belts, cord wraps, etc.: Like should never abut like (e.g., no brown pants next to a brown belt), and dirty white looks off on belts and straps, but other than that mix and match:
    • Black: Abaddon Black > Skavenblight Dinge > Stormvermin Fur
    • Brown: Dryad Bark > Agrax Earthshade > Gorthor Brown > Baneblade Brown
    • Dirty white: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Ulthuan Grey > White Scar
    • Deathskulls Blue: Pick a recipe above, but consider using Agrax Earthshade or Drakenhof Nightshade for the shade/wash
    • Tan: Zandri Dust > Agrax Earthshade > Ushabti Bone
  • Teeth, horn, nails: Pick a recipe:
    • Zandri Dust > Seraphim Sepia > Ushabti Bone > Screaming Skull
    • Rakarth Flesh > Agrax Earthshade > Rakarth Flesh > Pallid Wych Flesh
  • Metal: Leadbelcher > Nuln Oil > Ironbreaker
  • Dirty metal: Leadbelcher > Agrax Earthshade > Ironbreaker
  • Brass/bronze: Warplock Bronze > Agrax Earthshade > Brass Scorpion
  • Mob glyphs: Macragge Blue unless it’s on a dark background, in which case it’s Corax White
  • Eyes: Khorne Red > (incidental but helpful wash when I do the face) > Evil Sunz Scarlet
  • Skull decorations: Celestra Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Ulthuan Grey > White Scar
  • Actual skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
  • Tongues/insides of mouths and pink topknots: Screamer Pink > Carroburg Crimson > Pink Horror > Emperor’s Children
  • Orange topknot (hair squig): Mephiston Red > Carroburg Crimson > Troll Slayer Orange > Fire Dragon Bright
  • Bullet belt links: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Nuln Oil > Dawnstone
  • Weathering and embellishments: These steps all happen after the rest of the mini is 100% done (including highlights); not every Ork uses all of them:
    • Stitching: Pick whichever of Zandri Dust or Dryad Bark contrasts best with the clothing item and do a single coat, no highlights
    • War paint: Caledor Sky > pin wash in the crevices with the same shade used for the skin (Biel Tan, etc.) > Teclis Blue (Warhammer TV reference video)
    • Checks: Macragge Blue and Corax White > very thinned-down Agrax Earthshade wash (or use the armor’s base color in place of Macragge, e.g. Kantor); I wrote a little guide for these
    • Chipping: Apply dots of Leadbelcher on the high points on armor, etc.
    • Built-up rust: In spots where it can accumulate over a long period, such as on and around bolts, apply thinned-down Skrag Brown
    • Surface rust: For something that’s just a piece of rusty crap, drybrush Ryza Rust
    • Rusty hot garbage: Typhus Corrosion > Ryza Rust drybrush
    • Verdigris: Nihilakh Oxide
    • Weathering/general grunge: It’s easy to overdo this and darken things up too much, so go easy; sponge on Skavenblight Dinge

As I wrote this post, it felt like a lot. Compared to my basic Blood Angels color guide, it is a lot — and it’s a lot for what’s ostensibly a near-throwaway unit in a faction that’s supposed to be quick to paint up.

But at the same time, on relatively simple models, these steps are what convey the essentially Orky nature of Orks: poorly maintained wargear, random items of clothing, rusty guns that somehow still shoot, and so on. My hope is that, as with Marines, I’ll get quicker at tackling all of these steps on my Boyz as I paint more of them.

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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 Miniatures Warhammer 40k

The Waaagh! is in the mail

After doing some serious noodling yesterday, I decided today to start a second 40k army to paint alongside my beloved Blood Angels — and after much decidedly un-Orky consideration, I chose Deathskulls Orks.

Why Deathskulls?

Lots of reasons! Some are purely practical, like not wanting to paint a second red army (ruling out Evil Sunz) and having some reservations about painting yellow (striking out the Bad Moons), but most are all heart.

One, blue looks like fun to paint and isn’t the color I see most often on other folks’ Orks. “I like painting red” was a gut-level motivator that helped me pick Blood Angels for my first army, and it absolutely applies here as well. And two, I love these filthy looters and their fascination with stealing, using, and converting other factions’ stuff — so many opportunities for kitbashes and character!

There’s also a sentimental reason, one that I didn’t even realize until I’d already mostly made up my mind about my clan choice: White Dwarf #121, from 1990.

My copy is in storage, so this stand-in image will have to do

More than perhaps any other single factor, this issue of White Dwarf is responsible for me starting my first 40k army — albeit on a 30-year time delay. (It’s also a big reason why I dreamed about Space Hulk for that long, and eventually painted my set — which is what got me properly into miniatures.) It features many of my favorite models in the 40k universe, and I spent literally hours poring over this issue as a wee lad — heck, I even brought it places, like the theater, so I could read and reread it while I was supposed to be paying attention to other things.

Look who’s on the cover. Deathskulls Orks! Thirty years later, it was meant to be.

Orky plans

Still a draft, and I still have plenty of paint to order, but if I don’t write this stuff down it drifts away into the ether.

Bases

To contrast with my Blood Angels, because the Ork figures have so much character (and I’m planning to customize to my heart’s content), and because Orks somehow just look right to me on dusty badlands, I’m going this route for their bases:

  • Armageddon Dust texture paint, an Agrax Earthshade wash, a Tyrant Skull drybrush, and Baneblade Brown for the base rim — a recipe that comes straight from the same excellent White Dwarf basing cookbook (#161, Nov. 2016) as my Blood Angels bases
  • Limited clutter, mainly Army Painter swamp tufts, small rocks, and the occasional Citadel skull or piece of scrap too rusty for even the Deathskulls to loot

I’ll probably glue my good buddy Mr. Test ‘Mech to a base and subject him to this color scheme to see how it looks, but in my head it seems solid.

Deathskulls blue

Based on a Warhammer TV video, I’m going to test out this recipe:

  • Macragge Blue base coat
  • Agrax Earthshade pin wash (not my usual all-over wash)
  • Chronus Blue drybrush
  • Weathering with Rhinox Hide, dots of Leadbelcher, and possibly Typhus Corrosion and Ryza Rust (not all at once, of course)

I’ve also got a weird idea rattling around in my head about Ork skin: adding a random splash of a lightening or darkening color each time I base coat a new batch of Orks, to ensure that their skin is both consistently green and varies the tone a bit between figures, just like real skin.

Da first Boyz

I’m starting my Waaagh! — still unnamed, haven’t even picked a leader yet — with three kits: Ork Boyz, of course; Gretchin, of course; and a recommendation I gleaned from Reddit, Warboss Grukk’s Boss Mob, which gives me five Nobz and a plastic Warboss with a great sculpt (unlike the other options). From reading folks’ recommendations, Boyz + Nobz will provide tons of options for kitbashing and customization, which I’m quite excited about.

I fiddled with some Kill Team lists and found that a leader, some Boyz, and some Gretchin seemed like a fine starting point, so that second track is also supported by these initial 40k Ork kits. By the time playing either game is an option, I’ll probably have more Orky options ready, too.

I’m considering “horns” as a theme for my warband, but I need to bounce my ideas off of the Codex and that hasn’t arrived yet. But if I go that route, I’ll probably convert the Ironjaw Warchanter or Weirdnob Shaman, both from Age of Sigmar, as a Weirdboy. I’ve got some conversion ideas for looted Marine vehicles which count as Ork Trukks, too, and I’ll probably build one Trukk kit without a looted vehicle so I can make sure that the looted ones are roughly the same size (for matched play fairness).

And now…it’s time to paint some more Blood Angels!

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Blood Angels Space Marines Miniatures Painting tools Warhammer 40k

Cooking up a basing recipe for my Blood Angels

I’ve got a basing recipe in mind for my Blood Angels army, and now I have all the components:

All in one place, this seems like a lot!

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
  • This winters SEO video on using texture paints
  • Texture: Astrogranite Debris
  • Wash: Drakenhof Nightshade
  • Drybrush: Grey Seer
  • Base edge: Eshin Grey (or maybe Mechanicus Standard Grey? not sure yet)
  • Citadel Skulls (paid link) for clutter
  • Gale Force Nine Rocky Basing Grit
  • Army Painter Frozen Tufts for grass
  • Blunt tweezers for applying tufts
  • Citadel Texture Spreader (paid link) for the texture paint
  • White glue for tufts
  • Superglue for rocks

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.

So, so many skulls

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:

  1. Assemble the model and glue it to the base
  2. Glue on rocks and skulls to suit
  3. Prime the whole thing white, mini and base
  4. Paint the rocks/skulls/etc., including wash and drybrush
  5. Apply texture paint with the spreader
  6. Wash and drybrush the texture paint
  7. Wipe the base edge clean before it dries
  8. Paint the miniature
  9. Touch everything up as needed
  10. Paint the edge of the base
  11. Varnish the whole thing, mini and base
  12. 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.