Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So, Turbo-Ants.....?

This is the story of how I started painting again, where I'm at in that stage, and how I named my Hive Fleet.  I'm aware that I'm not by any stretch a great painter, but considering that, as Tycho from Penny Arcade says, "My hand shakes like an autumn leaf", I'm pretty happy with what I've ended up with so far.  They look fine on a tabletop, and that's all I really want from them.


It started quite innocently.  Like any self-respecting young man, there is a pile of stuff in my parents' attic that belongs to myself and my brother from when we were younger.  Every once in a while, my father intimates that not only should they be allowed to clear their space, but that my brother and I ought to do the clearing for them. The nerve.

Anyhow one day I was back in town, and had been recently thinking about D&D, Warhammer, and specifically Warhammer 40k -- thanks to Dawn of War 2.  So I thought, wouldn't hurt to see if I can still paint a model or two... I always liked that. I wonder if any of those paints are still good?

Well as it turns out, back in the day Citadel paints were packed in awesome, airtight containers... lo and behold:

We are older than the internet.  Space Wolves Grey, please leave Blazing Orange alone.

Some of those paints are, if I recall, about 16 years old and still kickin'.  Yes, I'm aware that the internet has been around for more than 16 years.  Shut up.  No, you shut up.

So I just needed a few basics like black, bleached bone, and some sort of purple, and I could paint one of those Tyranids that caught my eye.  So I got them, and a box of Termagants.

I decided to do an inverse of the Leviathan scheme, since I'm naturally quite contrary. This left me with a couple of problems.  First, I wanted to do the carapace sections in Bleached Bone, since if I went with the more white-ish colouring they use for Leviathan, I feel like it would look unnatural, and there would be too much of a contrast.  Like a cow.

Problem is, I forgot what an absolute nightmare Bleached Bone is to work with.  Plus I hadn't painted in 14 years or so.  So it was time to experiment.

I also couldn't find a satisfactory purple.  Citadel foundations 'Hormagaunt Purple' isn't a bad colour per se, but there's nothing in their range I can use off the shelf to highlight it without mixing paints, and it's rather dull (like the Foundations line tends to be), so Horm. Purple + Black wash + Horm Purple probably wasn't going to cut it, but I gave it a shot anyways.

So first:

Noone will invite me to prom.

My first attempt was as follows:

Horm purple, black wash, drybrush horm purple
Khemri Brown, Flesh Wash (old school!), heavy drybrush Bleached Bone
Mechrite Red for the gun, fill in the details.

Not especially attractive.  While looking at these first few, by the way, you'll probably notice that I used Citadel Purity Seal, poorly.  They're all chalked up and faded now, my first 12 Termies.

Aside from not looking that great, this took longer than I want Termagants to take, since I'll have 60 or so when all is said and done.

So I revised my strategy.  What about using white primer so I could paint bleached bone directly onto the carapace, black wash, then highlight?

I hang out with that first guy so that I look better by comparison

Second Attempt:

Horm purple exoskeleton
Bleached Bone carapace
Mechrite Red gun
Black wash the entire model (huge time saver, I may look into dipping in the future)
Edge the carapace in Bleached Bone
Drybrush Horm Purple

Faster, better looking.  But I still wasn't 100% satisfied with the look of the exoskeleton, I wanted something that had richer shading gradation, photographed better, and was equally fast if not faster.

It was around this time that my hive fleet got its name.  Since so far I had only been painting Termagants,  I got a BBM message from my lovely ladyfriend asking what I was up to.  I said not much, painting.  She said "What are those things called again? Turbo-Ants?"

"They are now, because that's just awesome."

And Hive Fleet Turbo-Ants was born.  If it has a backstory, I'm sure it's awfully similar to that of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Third Attempt:

I get all the ladies.

Now we're talking.  I decided to experiment with coloured washes.  I knew that layered washes really evened out the tone on a model and showed a lot of detail, so decided to try something on a freshly primed model that I hadn't seen before:  I used Leviathan Purple wash directly over the white primer.

Two coats of that, paint the bleached bone carapace, paint the gun, black wash the whole thing, line the carapace, do the details.  Skipped the red in the little holes on the model, it didn't look right.

I'm really happy with how these turned out.

Here's a Warrior done using the same method, and one using the original method:

New - Still needs Static Grass

Old - Does not need Static Grass

So that's where I'm at.  The next thing I'm going to try, on the Hormagaunt I'm experimenting on now, is using Dheneb Stone instead of Bleached Bone for the carapace, because I really really hate working with Bleached bone, and I'd like to be able to do a normal drybrush on the shell instead of just lining it, specially since I'll have to do so much with my Trygon.


My lazy Tyranid Prime conversion!


Paddy O'Lanterns, the Hormagaunt who dances the Irish Jig!


  1. They look good--but hell, I think the old model looks good (if a bit dusty). Pray tell, is that a result of a heavy dry-brush, or just one of um... dust?

  2. Thanks! I'm happy with how the newer ones are turning out!

    The 'dusty' problem is actually a problem with Citadel Purity Seal... if you google 'purity seal problems', there are a lot of horror stories of nicely painted minis getting bleached/dusted/snowed by the stuff.

    I'm thinking I should post an article on how to use it properly, as it took some research and voodoo to get it to work properly (as it did with the 'old style' warrior posted above).

    I'm still looking for a better satin finish spray varnish, though.