Monday, 8 April 2013

Army Painting

What follows here is actually an email response I gave to someone asking about my approach to painting armies quickly, but to a decent standard, I don't think it will win awards but what we're looking for is a good finish that looks coherent and adds to the gaming experience, without sinking your life into painting the army.

Before you even think about techniques and products the very first thing to consider is paintscheme, it's something it took me a while to learn and I'm getting better with each army.

My first army was my dwarfs, pretty simple purple & green but then I spent ages doing my pouches and wood and leather all in different shades of brown and really labouring them.  My next army was my WE, I simplified the colour scheme to 2 shades of brown and a green, painting time was cut down massively.  Lizards was then done as 3 colours and a wash, 4 colours for the TK and O&G which I had at Winter War was basically 4 colours on the whole model.

So first off work out what you want your model to look like and then how you can strip that down to as few basecoat colours as possible.  If you need to make your leather & wood look different do it through washes or highlights, the base coat can be exactly the same so it saves you a bunch of time. One thing to consider is if you want the models to stand out at all using entirely neutral colours will blend your models down into an amorphous lump.  Think about all the top armies at winter war, the Ogres had bright blue and the snow to really pop them out, Neil’s skaven have a bright red to them and the skin highlights go really bright and the basing is generally muted but with the bright green on the stone.  It’s all about contrast on the models.  If you’ve ever seen Johnny Hastings (Pointhammered host) beastmen he’s got a really bright blue for his fabric, looks amazing:
Obviously that’s some serious high end painting, but thinking about your scheme can get you a long way towards that.

Next up is batch painting, I did my Orcs & Gobbos in batches of 20, I did my Skaven in batches of 40 models.  Beastmen are a pretty infantry heavy army I'm guessing 40 gors and 30 odd bestigors as the core of the army?  So that should be 3-4 batches of painting at very most.  Then you just grind colours on the models.

Assuming with beastmen you'll have brown fur & some colour for skintone? I know Calum did blue beastmen, Ryan did red, but traditional is just skintone.  So I would spray the whole model brown before putting a paintbrush near them.  Personally I prefer to use lighter colours and then use washes but some people like darker tones and then just drybrush/highlight up.  For that all over basecoat I use an airbrush but that's only because I've got one and it allows me to ensure I can touch up with the same colour as my spray because I've got it in bottles.  Previously I've used all sorts of sprays, Halfords have a pretty good range of sprays for cars that can be good but probably not for natural browns so you might need to try plasticote or Tamiya.  Any of the hobby brands tend to be ok, but those are the two I've heard people use most often.  I’ve used Tamiya in the past and liked them. For my Orcs this is what mine looked like:
That’s just a layer from the airbrush.

Once I’ve got that base colour I use a size 3 or 4 brush to do the basecoat.  Partly this is due to having pretty good brush control so I’m comfortable using that size but it massively cuts down the time it takes to put a basecoat on if you’re using a big brush.  I get them from Hobbycraft as you can get a synthetic brush for far cheaper than using high quality sable ones and the brush will get trashed from basecoating anyway.  So with the model brown I now only really need to apply 2-3 colours to the model, for beastmen I’d imagine that you’d have whatever skintone you’re using and then a bone colour for the various skulls/horns etc and then finally something for the fabric/armour on the models.  All off those go on in a nice flat even coat across the full batch of models I’m painting.  In theory that gives you a three colour minimum that’s tabletop but in reality it still looks pretty crap.

Then I think about key areas of focus, for the Orcs it was the skin, probably the same for beastmen, so I highlighted the skin.  For me that was done with a drybrush, everyone criticises that technique as a bit messy but as long as you’re controlled and do it before washing the model it works really well because the wash tones it down a bit it doesn’t look as messy at all.  If you’re more comfortable then you can just do highlights with a brush, again I’ll try and use the same size of brush as the basecoat and just pick out all the raised areas as quickly as possible. Here’s the highlight on the skin, because it was over so much of the model it did it before picking out any of the other detail from the step above.

After that I’ll hit the washes.  I think the new GW paint range is awesome and the shades & glazes all work fantastically (just make sure you shake them).  My Orcs got an all over wash of Agrax Earthshade.  Not just the skin but the whole model got coated, so you don’t have to be careful about where you put it.  This is the stage where you could use dip if you wanted, I did it with my skaven but for the Orcs the tone I wanted wasn’t quite right so Agrax was better.  The model will now look pretty decent, might need a few highlights but largely it’ll be done to a reasonable standard. Also don’t just thing about shading like with like, for example I tend to shade my reds with either blue or purple washes, it gets a much better contrast into the recesses.

If there are any key areas which are likely to be focused on I’ll specifically pick out some highlights on those, so shields & faces are the key areas but only if they catch the light, again everything here is focused on contrast for maximum effect.

The final thing you need to work out is what scheme of basing works well with the colours on the model.  For the Orcs I went with a reddish brown, largely because there was nothing of that tone on the model and it contrasted nicely with the skin.  For my WE it was a dark almost black earth but with quite bright static grass and woodland leaves (  Good basing is what makes an army, get the right compliment/contrast to the paint scheme and it then means you get an overall look that is far better than the individual model.  Avoid putting too much static grass on bases, far better to have patches and break it up, doesn’t make sense in terms of what you see in reality but looks good on models.

So in short:
1.       Simple Paintscheme & consistent across the army.
2.       Colours basecoat spray
3.       Big brush for basecoats
4.       Quick highlights
5.       Wash to shade
6.       Basing

Another example of my process was the skaven army I did, for that I took step by step pictures of a clanrat model.  In painting those I spent about 6 hours painting in total on 40 models.

Things to avoid are :
Getting caught up with the detail of a single model - you’re going to have 40 of them ranked up in a unit so it’s very rare that anyone will look at a single model and notice the effort you’ve put into highlighting the pouches on his belt which normally never get seen.

Having a different scheme for different unit types – You’re army painting, so it all needs to look good together, different schemes for different units wrecks this unless done very carefully.

If you want a ‘what not to do’ check out the progress on this blog:
He’s painting individual scales on his HE armour rather than just painting it all silver and washing it.  His method takes forever and doesn’t really look any better as a result, so just time wasting. He also changes colour scheme part way through and repaints all his old models, soul destroying stuff.  Work it out up front and stick with it.

Ohh final thing I’ve just thought of, remember most people will be looking at your army from at least 4 feet away most of the time, so that’s what you want to look good, unless you’re wanting to win awards that’s the target for the best distance to check whether the quality is right or not. At 6” away I always spot massive flaws in my figs, but at 4’ they look pretty decent.

Hope that helps.

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