Thursday, December 9, 2010

How To Cheat At Painting -- Part 1

If you're anything like me, you face two very large obstacles when starting a new painting project or (heaven forbid) an entire army:

1) You are physically disabled when it comes to painting.  Your hand quivers as though in constant terror of the brush, and you have eyesight somewhere between a myopic bat and an a rock.

2) You have little time, and less attention span.  You are also the slowest painter in the world, and it's a shame there's no trophy for that.

Because I'm determined to enjoy this hobby despite my challenges, I had to figure out a way to paint up 'Nids quickly, smoothly, and (since I started a blog) in a fashion that photographs well.

I should have special parking at my hobby shop.

Now, I've posted the evolution in how I paint my bugs, but I feel like I should share a step-by-step for others on how to quickly and easily put together a decent looking model, from priming to basing.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating:  I'm not going to win any Golden Daemon competitions.  At best, I might pick up 'best painted' in a very modest tournament, but really only if I'm the only one who shows up with a fully painted and based army.  Having said that, I like the look of my 'Nids, and I've received some good feedback.

In the words of Jay-Z:

I ain't passed the bar but I know a little bit.

First up, I decided that since I was priming my models white, and washes did a wonderful job of blended shading with no skill required on my part, I wanted to know what would happen if I just started putting washes on white primer.  

This stemmed out of a problem with GW not really making a solid range of purples that had 'off the shelf' highlight and wash colours.  I realize now that I could probably go Liche Purple/Tentacle Pink (or the modern equivalent)/Leviathan Purple, and I will try that combo, but for the time being this is what I'm sticking with:

One Hormagaunt, dancing an Irish Jig.

Tyranid Warrior who forgot his Bonesword/Lashwhip at home

What you're looking at is two layers of Leviathan Purple over white primer and a layer of Badab Black over the entire model after the rest of the details are painted in.

Here's where you should probably make a decision:  If you like how this looks (I think it can apply to Ork flesh nicely too, which would save you Orkses a lot of time), at least for tabletop quality, please continue reading.  If not, feel free to leave, but go ahead and link to my models and talk about how ugly they are on your own blog, I'd love the pageviews!

Step 1: Priming

Snow White and the seven other Hormagaunts
I use a white primer on mostly everything.  This is mainly because a lot of the brighter Citadel paints (which I like to use), have absolutely no opacity, and so you need to do a ton of coats on a black or grey primer to get a smooth coat.

Since, like I said, I'm a super slow painter, that doesn't work.  So white it is!

Step 2: Coloured Wash

Now we're going to take the models and slap a coloured wash on the exoskeleton.  I use Leviathan Purple, because I want my 'Nid colour scheme to be an inverse of Hive Fleet Leviathan, but really any colour wash will accomplish the same thing, and I'm pretty sure you could do this for the flesh on Orks if you used green.  So let's toss a coat of Leviathan Purple over the exoskeleton with a giant brush and see what happens!

We may have a new Irish Dancing Hormagaunt...
Well, that doesn't look great, does it?

Hmm... Well, let's do the whole group anyhow.  Trust me.   While you're doing this, by the way, be sure to overlap the bone sections.  I'll explain why later.

"At least we're all ugly together!"

Now if you're as slow as me, the wash should be dry on your first model by the time you're done the last, so you should be able to keep on rolling and apply the second coat of Leviathan Purple.

Hey, that's... that's looking a bit better!
Now that's more like it!  Again, try to overlap on the carapace/claws a bit, and try to keep it as an even coat. Repeat for the whole group, and you're ready for the next step as soon as they're dry!

Step 3: Painting the Carapace... With your Big Brush!

So grab some Dheneb Stone (the infinitely superior alternative to Bleached Bone), and your big workhorse brush.  A big brush will speed things up and reduce the visible brush strokes on the finished product.

Go ahead and paint the head and back bone parts, as well as the scything talons, but don't try to reach into little spots with your large brush, because you'll need to hit all of them with a smaller brush anyhow.

Large areas painted Dheneb Stone

I find it's faster to do the group with the big brush, then do each model's smaller areas with a smaller brush.  I have to wash/switch brushes less like that.  So go ahead and do that!

An important note is that you need to hit the edges of the carapace.  Because you overlapped the wash, however, the recesses will be black after the third wash, which saves you the trouble of getting right into the recesses with a colour.

Time for the Badab Black!

Step 4: Black Wash!

Again, grab a large brush and give the entire model a generous coat of Badab Black.  If you're the sort who dips models, now's the time!

The ladies love my graded shading

That's it for this part.

I'll conclude this article in the second part, where I'll describe how to finish the model and base it.

I think now is a good time to bring up a point, though:

I think you could dip this model twice, paint the bone and dip it a third time.  But in order to do that, you'd have to buy a LOT of Leviathan Purple and put it in a reasonable container.  Still, if you did buy, say, 15 pots of it, you could probably knock off 30 or so 'gants in an evening to a pretty good standard.  If you bought 15 pots of Leviathan Purple.

But.... you'd have to be a lunatic to do that, wouldn't you.....?

The thrilling conclusion of How To Cheat At Painting!


I send forth some synapse creatures in search of a bulk coloured wash manufacturer!


  1. has a video tutorial on how to make your own washes, so you could do a Leviathan purplesque dip/wash if you were so inclined. Have you tried Devlan Mud yet, it's slightly less harsh than the Badab Black.

    I'd love to have stopped at the wash stage but my old-school 'must paint figures with highlights and more highlights' mentality wouldn't let me, damn it

  2. I'm actually probably going to switch to Devlan Mud so that I can do Dheneb Stone with Skull White highlights, washed by Devlan Mud. I just haven't had a chance to pick it up yet!

    Thanks for the link, I'll be sure to take a peek.

    And I find that if I do base/highlight/wash like I did on my 2nd Blood Angel attempt, I get something that looks way smoother and more professional than finishing with highlights. I guess no matter what else you do, I'd recommend finishing with a wash to blend it together.