Tag Archives: minis

Painting up Island of Blood

It’s been absolutely ages since I got stuck into a serious painting sesh. Day off today, and an assembled bunch of Clanrats, so let’s go!

I’ve decided to not try to win any prizes with these. I will make more effort with front ranks, and characters, but these are very much back rankers. It’s not always easy, sometimes I really want to correct a small mistake, or paint a tongue or eye, but it would be wasted effort.



Here they are after some base coating. Start with a decent spray of black undercoat. Then I drybrushed Bestial Brown all over each model. Wet brushing really, as I want to use the brown for so many things on the model. I use a pretty large brush for this. It’s a flat half inch one. Seriously, I always go a size bigger than I think I need to. It really speeds things up.

Then another layer of dry rushing, this one English Uniform from Vallejo. Any lighter brown would do, or mix it up if you want differentiation. I decided to get the clothing to do the work of making them all look individual. I selected a darkish red, a camo green, a khaki, another brown variant and black. I picked up a few models at random and did all of those in my chosen colour.



Tea break.

Then another wet brush of Chainmail on all the metal bits. Easy. Still not trying to be careful here. The tails were done in dwarf flesh, and while that was wet I mixed a bit of that into the English Uniform I’d previously used and whipped the brush across the rat faces and knuckles, just as a quick highlight. Bone for teeth and shield symbols. All base coated.

Then, a dark brown ink wash all over. You could use the Army Painter dip, but GW Devlan Mud works for me.

And that’s it. About six hours total including assembly. Just two command groups and some movement trays to do and I have two regiments done.



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A Model Education

RPGs are my first love. Not close behind is miniatures Wargaming though. I haven’t actively done anything with them in a decade, but that doesn’t stop me being a fan. (Not entirely the case, I had a decent sized Warmachine force for a while, but sold that off ages ago). One thing both hobbies share is the solo fun element of prepping, fiddling and general potting about with stuff. As my RPG faves are less prep intensive these days I’ve found I want something else to actually do of a cold dark evening. So, back to minis!

Turns out the other thing the two strands have in common is a serious lack of easy on ramps and explanations, especially online. Back when I played minis seriously the Internet was only just getting started. I genuinely thought that by now the net would have picked up the slack and really been a resource for learning about all the options and how best to get started. Nope. After a few nights browsing, I was only getting frustrated at the companies and their store fronts. I looked at Carnevale, Malifaux, WarmaHordes, Mantic, Infinity and others. All looked great, with some stunning minis, but very few sites were newbie friendly. I actually turned to Wikipedia to find out the basics of the setting and system.

Sigh. So I went back to basics. I turned to Games Workshop. I visited a couple of stores, ones I used to manage back in the nineties funnily enough. I knew the staff, and they recognised me even after all this time. I got a guided tour, and a bit of recent history. I noticed some eye watering price rises (last time I saw clippers they were overpriced at £6. Now they’re £18! I was assured they were “very good clippers though”. They’d need to be!). It was nice to be back among the boxes (no blisters) the tables and the brands I knew of old. I stumped up for Island of Blood and off I went, happy as Larry.

You see, at the end of the day, there are loads of folk making fine minis, and no doubt with some fine systems. But GW make it easy. They know how to take my money and send me off with a big old box of hobby goodness. I’m not married to them any more, and I won’t be entering tournaments any time soon. But as long as there are rainy Sunday’s I’ll be making and painting toy soldiers and dreaming of battles.

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Set Europe Ablaze!

Well, got to start somewhere! My eyes aren’t what they were, still, enormously satisfying putting these Commandos together.


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Go figure

One if the things I wanted for my War RPG was readily available miniatures. It’s not that the game needs them as such, but I like having them as a viable option. Plus, I like minis.

I would have liked to have used Airfix stuff as it fits the 70s feel I’m going for, but good as the tanks and planes are, my game is at the trooper level. In the end, 28mm is where it’s at and there’s no better than Warlord Games for great WW2 kit.

So this box cover pretty much sums up my entire game in a single image.


Makes you want to play, right?


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The Red Mantis cometh


Here’s a couple of Red Mantis assassins I’ve finished up for my Serpents Skull campaign. The picture quality isn’t so hot, which is probably a good thing as neither is the paint job!

These guys are desperately trying to wedge themselves into the story, despite the best efforts of the party to rebuff their advances. Not having that, they’re too cool to sit in the sidelines.

Next, a pirate hen party…

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Pathfinder minis, the old fashioned way

I finally took delivery of a bunch of minis from Reaper. They are technically Pathfinder minis, but I’m using them as generic fantasy figs. Plus, they look great and I want to just take pleasure from painting rather than with any specific project in mind.


In the front row we have a couple of serpent folk, one a named character, one a mook. I’ve done some basic dry rushing on the scales which is very easy and very satisfying.

The back row from left to right is a Red Mantis Assassin, a cleric, and a barbarian. The cleric is destined to represent my wife’s PC in our current campaign (assuming I don’t kill her any time soon). The barbarian is just for fun.

I’ll stat them up when they’re done, and of course there’s photos to follow.

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How to paint great minis, quickly

Well painted models are a joy. It’s even better if you did them yourself! Trouble is all those beautiful pro-painted minis can be intimidating. When your model doesn’t look like it’s just stepped out of the pages of White Dwarf, it can put you off ever trying again. If that wasn’t bad enough, you can spend days on a single mini, and still not have it look any way decent to your eyes. 

I spent 10 years teaching people the basics of painting at GW stores. Without exception, I found people had more of a mental block to painting than a technical one. I can’t make anyone a Golden Daemon winner (me included), but I can show you how to get decent results, at a much faster pace than you might think is possible.

The very first thing to do is set your expectations. You have to know your limits. Your model is usually going to be seen from three feet away, in amongst plenty of others, as well as terrain, dice and all the rest.  Novice painters have asked me if I use a magnifying glass in the past. The answer had to be ‘no’, given that no-one gets out a glass to look at them when they’re finished! There’s nothing wrong with ‘good enough’, especially when misplaced notions of ‘perfect’ put you off starting in the first place. 

Enough talk, let’s paint. Here’s my top 10 tips for getting well painted models on your table, pronto.

1.       Get organised

You can lose a lot of time by not having your kit ready and to hand. You want all your stuff in a box, or case, and you want it all together. The only thing you should need to get is a pot of water (and you should have the pot in your kit box already).

Make sure your paints have their colour easily visible. Best advice is to paint the lid next time you use it. Simple. If you can separate out the metallics and inks into a different section, it does make it easier to find the colours.

Get yourself set up so you won’t have to do anything but paint. That means getting your music sorted. It means getting some snacks sorted (M&Ms don’t get in the way). Trust me, if you have a cup of tea or coffee on the go, you will wash your brush in it at least once. If you have a cat, put it outside.

You don’t need much, just a sheet of kitchen towel, an old white saucer, and most importantly, natural daylight. Painting at night, or by artificial light, just not worth it.

2.       Work to a plan

You need to have a good idea of how you’re going to paint your model. Don’t just start and see what happens (nothing good usually). You don’t need every detail planned out in advance, just a basic plan.

A tried and tested method is to ‘dress the model’. This means starting with the flesh, and working your way though the clothing as if it were getting dressed in the morning. Start with shirt and trousers, then jackets, then belts and stuff, finally cloaks, boots and weapons. Basically, it’s from the inside to the outside.

 I like to work on the messy parts first, that way I can cover up any mistakes with the next layer. For example, I always dry-brush hair, fur and metal weapons. If I do these first, then when I do the clothing next to that part it covers up the inevitable overspill.

Finish with the bit you intend to hold while painting. This is often a sword or a staff. You won’t be able to get away with just holding the model by the base as you paint. Sometimes you’ll want to invert the model to get to those hard to reach bits (by the way, hard to reach usually means hard to see as well, so don’t sweat it too much). To do that you’ll want something to latch onto, and if you paint that too early your fingers will have rubbed off all you hard work by the end.

3.       Undercoat with black spray

Seriously. Don’t waste time with anything else. It’s really forgiving, really quick and does half the shading work for you.

4.       Use a bigger brush

A really simple tip is to use a bigger brush than you think you need to. Much bigger. There’s a few reasons for this.

The thing that really slows down your paint job is anything that isn’t actually getting the paint on the model in the right place. Tidying up mistakes, going back and forth to your palette and water, changing brushes, whatever. Most mistakes happen the second your brush first touches the model. If your brush is small, it carries very little paint, so you have to keep going back for more. That means literally starting again with every stroke and that’s how slips happen.

Most novice painters believe the smaller the brush the better the detail. Not so. I never use anything smaller than a standard brush (third one down in the picture), and even then that’s rare. All decent brushes come to a single hair at their very tip in any event, so what you really need is control, and only practice will get you that. That and confidence. If you try to paint a space marine’s armour with a fine detail brush, no wonder it takes all day.

5.       Dry-brushing and washes

Learn these tricks. There’s loads of tutorials for these and they are the two best techniques for the fast painter. No, Golden Demon winners don’t really use them, but us lesser mortals have to. They’re lightning quick, and incredibly effective.

There’s some great all-in-one ‘dips’ available these days that act like a complete wash for your mini. You just base coat your model, and then dip the whole thing in what’s basically a brown-black thin ink. It does work, so be brave, and try it out. I prefer to pick my washes (I recommend Tamiya Smoke for any non bright areas and all metals) but the ‘dip’ deserves a place in this list.

6.       Use recipes

Eventually you’ll get little combinations that really work for you. These will usually be triple sets of colour. A dark, medium, and light set. If you hit upon a great combo, write it down! Stick it on a Post it note, and put it in your case. I (almost) always use the same three colours for flesh, because it’s proven to be ‘good enough’ and I know what it’s going to look like. By all means experiment, if you have the luxury of time.

7.       Pep it up

Going faster makes you faster. Sounds stupid I know, but it’s true. Just try upping your pace a bit. Try to paint that cloak in only 5 or 6 strokes instead of 10 or 20. Be confident in your strokes. If it doesn’t look right, don’t try to fix it there and then, keep going. Most models never look right until the moment they’re finished. Until then they’re only a work in progress.

It not about rushing or panicking, it’s about pace and control. If you’re tentative, you’ll get shaky. Get stuck in, and believe in yourself. Ask any golfer, they’ll tell you.

8.       Wet brushing

The hardest technique to master is blending, and obviously it’s the one that gives the best results. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to cheat. When your pace is good enough you’ll be putting paint on your model while the last layer is still wet. If you’re clever you can use this to your advantage and get a mix going on the model itself. I won’t lie, it’s not easy. It’s most likely to happen by accident, so if it does, be ready to go with it.

Incidentally, this is why you always see GW staffers with coloured lips because they use their mouths to wet their brushes (don’t worry, it’s not toxic). It’s cleaner than their water pot and it’s more immediate so they can blend on the model.

My technique is wet-brushing and it comes from being lazy, and impatient. You simply need a loaded brush, and the same handling technique as dry-brushing, but with a lighter faster touch. It’s harder to describe than I’d like! It’s great on texture that dry-brushing is too subtle for, like faces and clothing. Just flick your brush against the grain and let the sculpt do the hard work. Even if you don’t get the coverage you want first time, you now have some paint on the model and a guide to where the highlights should go.

9.       Paint in batches

If you paint 4 or 5 models in a batch, it doesn’t take 4 or 5 times as much as a single model. You do all the faces, and by the time the last is done, the first is dry and ready. Actually, paint dries incredibly quickly anyway, but you know what I mean. It all prevents opening and closing paint pots and washing and drying brushes. That’s what really slows the process (and army painting is a process).

If I’m doing a regiment, it’s not unheard of to do batches of 20.

Even single models, try doing them two or three at a time. If you get into a groove, you’ll find yourself surprised when three come to life all at the same time. It’s incredibly gratifying.

10.   Use a pen for lining

Get one of those nice black pens from a stationer. You know, with the thin nib, and a 0.3mm tip. Make sure it’s waterproof (spray varnish would make it run otherwise). Use it to black line. This is a technique to separate colours, much like an inker does in comic books. I use it on cuffs, tops of boots, eyes, mouths, any armour plating. It makes for a striking and clean finish. It also covers up any little mistakes too.

So that’s my top ten. Don’t forget, none of this wins you prizes for quality, but it does get stuff finished, and you have too many unpainted models already don’t you? Actually, you’ll be surprised at the quality you get. Practice, don’t get disheartened, and push your pace. Bet you love the results.

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