Friday, December 10, 2010

How To Cheat At Painting -- Part 2

Part 1 here.


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.


We left off with this:

We've come so far together!

Now I'm going to continue the step-by-step and show you how to finish off a model's details and give it a good looking base, all with minimal effort and time!

Step 5: Carapace Highlight

You've got two choices here, and they're both good ones, but it depends on your comfort level.

If you like dry-brushing, take your favourite dry-brush and hit the carapace with a fairly heavy Dheneb Stone dry-brush.  After you do that, it's going to look a bit chalky.  That's fine, just run a VERY thin coat of Badab Black over the carapace, and it will even out nicely.  By very thin, I mean I took my large brush, soaked it in water, and dipped just the very tip in the Badab Black (maybe 1/16 of an inch), then applied that to the carapace and head.

If you prefer line highlighting, you can do that easily and it looks great.  I tend to do the dry-brush for smaller carapace sections, like the Hormagaunt's head and back, and the lines for the larger parts, such as the shield on my Tyranid Prime.

Either way, you want to highlight just the edges of the scything talons.  It will keep it much cleaner.  I also hit the edges of the hooves, just for kicks (see what I did there?).

I apologize, but I somehow didn't get a picture after the highlights but before the eyes etc were painted.

Step 6: Details

After that's done, the model's almost finished!  The only details left are on the face.

First, grab some Mechrite Red or equivalent, and paint the tongue.

Next, grab some Skull White and hit the teeth and eyes.  

I feel like I should point out that you'll have an easier time if you simply take a very fine brush, wet it thoroughly and use just a tiny bit of skull white.  You don't want it running off your brush as a liquid, but part of the problem with using a very fine brush is that if the paint isn't properly thinned, it will dry on your brush almost instantly, which will stiffen your brush and lead to messy errors.

Also do your best to pick out the teeth individually instead of trying to draw your brush across and hit them all, it will give you a better effect in the end.  This should be relatively easy, because all those layered washes really make the details on the model visible, and hide a lot of errors if you don't quite get the whole tooth.

Finally, go over the eyes again with Sunburst Yellow.

Sunburst yellow is fairly transparent, but goes over white very well.  If you've made mistakes, which can easily happen on the eyes, you can go back over the area with a dark purple to hide, and it should blend in easily.  I use Liche Purple with a bit of grey added to dull the colour, and I find it blends beautifully.

Your model should now look like this:

Hey there, good lookin'!
Congratulations!  You've just painted a Turbo-Ant!  Now it's time to base it!

Step 7: Painting the Base

Go ahead and paint the base Khemri Brown or something equivalent.  Pick something very opaque, such as something from the Citadel Foundations line, or even use black if you prefer.  You'll probably need to hit the rim twice.  

I find it's faster and easier to get a lot of paint on the brush, start at the centre of the base, drop the paint down and spread it toward the edges, then do the rim twice.  Very fast and even.

A Hormogaunt, gracefully leaping off a Frisbee made of dirt
If you're doing more than one model, do the top first and one coat on the rim, and the paint will be dry by the time you get back to the first model.

Step 8: Applying Your Basic Basing Material

I use a mixture of plain beige flocking sand, which you can find anywhere, and the "Small Slate" rock chips from GW's 40k Basing Kit, which is VERY much worth the purchase, in my opinion.  The mixture is approximately 75:25 in favour of the Sand. You want it to look like rocks on a beach, not random beige pebbles on a volcano.

Anyhow, grab some PVA (white) glue, and just SLATHER it on.  I used to not use enough glue, and my flock would come off the base with any sort of handling.  Basically, put on how much glue you think you need, and then double it.  Noone's base has ever suffered by having too much flock, or having it stay on the base too well.

My rule of thumb:  If I can see through the glue to see the base colour underneath, there's not enough glue.  Grab your large workhorse brush and just pound it on, and don't worry about the brush.  Warm water will wash it right out.

Once that's done, dip the model's base in the basing material ( which should be in a small container).  Do this over a clean sheet of blank paper, so that any spillage or flock that comes off the model can be poured right back into the container of basing material.

Give the glue at least one hour, but preferably overnight, to dry before you do anything else.  Your model should now look like this:

Oooh, baby, I be stuck to you like glue, baby...

Step 9: Finishing the Base

I use plain green Static Grass, and I use it for a couple reasons.

1) Fluff-wise, Tyranid Hive Fleets prefer worlds that are filled with life.  So I like the thought that even in the desert-ish badlands that the basing material depicts, there's still lush green grass popping up all over.

2)  Plain green Static Grass, when sprayed with a matte finishing spray, looks AWESOME.  It loses the shiny, plastic look and just looks like bright green summer grass.

To apply Static Grass, put some random blobs of white glue on the base and simply dip the model into the static grass.  After that, I use my number one gal's hair dryer (on warm but not hot) to blow on the bases.  This helps blow off excess static grass, but has the bonus effect of making the grass stand up wonderfully.  

Some people drybrush their static grass.  I don't.  I'm toying with picking up some Iyanden Darksun (dull yellow, foundations series paint) and trying it out, but I'm just not sold on the necessity.  To each their own!

I sometimes add bloodstains, however.  To do this, I put thinned down Mechrite red, and then go over it with Baal Red wash.  It'd probably look better if I did a hit of Devlan Mud over that, but I haven't tried it because I don't own any Devlan Mud yet.

Anyhow, after that your model should look a little something like this:

All your base are covered in grass

Not bad for a quick, easy paint job on a swarm model.  

I should just point out, by the way, that I took that photo before the glue dried on the static grass.  As it dries, it retracts a bit, and makes the grass stand up straighter and look a little less 'blobby'.

So that's it!  I'm still convinced that you can do Ork Flesh with successive Thraka Green washes, so if you've got a horde army, rejoice!  We have a quick painting method that even those of us with physical disadvantages can use to produce good looking models, quickly enough to field a painted horde army.

Together, we can kill a Wraithlord or Demon Prince, and that's just kinda awesome.

As always, I would love any feedback or suggestions that anyone has to offer me.  I'm pleased with how these models look, and I actually have a shot at fielding a painted army for my first game, and I'd love to share this method with other people who might be struggling to balance a good looking model with a technique that's efficient as well.


More Tyranid Unit Reviews forthcoming, and I still have a Trygon to paint....


My brother got me into playing Ultimate Hockey Team in NHL 11.  He said be patient, it's super hard to get decent NHL players from the packs of cards.  The first Standard Pack I opened?  It had Jonathan Toews, the guy on the cover of NHL 11.

He still hasn't forgiven me.


  1. Great tutorial! This looks like a really good method for getting an army finished, thanks for the helpful guide to how you painted them. Best wishes on the rest of the swarm!

  2. Thanks so much! I'm happy with how they've turned out and it's really simple and fast. Remember, painted models fight better!

  3. came across this once I'd started my Nid Swarm. I had already made a big vat of purple wash in a jam jar and have been loving the ease at which the army is being painted!

    I've gone for a simple black carapace with tiny amounts of drybrushing, man I love washes and drybrushing!

    In regards the Orks, my scheme is prime black, drybrush the metal parts with silver, then goblin green the arms, head and any other visible flesh, then liberal application of devlan mud. If I'm feeling lazy I can stop right there and have some Goffs, normally I put down some red details but it depends on the mob. (characters and vehicles get a lot more attention, and as a result I get away with super lazy painting)!

    ps - glad I'm not the only one with a wobbly hand and squinty eye sight!