18 September 2017

Finding Your Style!

Throughout 2017, whilst I've been working on scenery for BathCon 2017, I've spent a lot of time experimenting with various painting techniques trying to find methods of painting which fit with my hobby goals, style and ability. In short, the goal has been to find a technique which takes advantage of an airbrush, is quick to apply and which yields good results. I'm pleased to write that I think I've found the right combination of techniques to achieve my goal! This post covers how I've got to this monumental moment :)


So, I've had my airbrush for nearly 4 years. 2017 is the year I finally got to grips with it as a tool. In the past, I always found that the cleaning and maintenance put too much of an overhead on the benefits I reaped from its use. Enter stage left a glass full of water! This very simple addition to my Airbrush regime has made all the difference! Whenever I finish using my airbrush I wash it out in the sink and then simply place it in the cup of water... sometimes for weeks in between use. This ensures that there is never any dried paint to clean out before use and allows for much quicker applications of paint when required.

As a benefit of this, I also cracked the method for preparing paints for use with the Airbrush. You need thin paints! Almost all of my paints are GW. I like the clearly defined painting system they employ in regards to base coats and their matching layer paints. The downside of this is that I need to water down the paints before use in the airbrush. I've found that a suitable mix of paint, water and Vallejo Airbrush Flow Improver make it very easy to dilute the paint enough to work through the  airbrush without any problem.


Now on to the big one! Shading has been the area of the process which has involved most experimentation, failure and therefore required most thought to nail.

Shading is a very important step in painting a miniature and I have been on a mission to find a suitable method of applying a wash which is quick, gives awesome results and most importantly doesn't result in a need to reapply base paints to tidy up the shade. Not only is such an action a waste of time it is also very challenging to adequately reapply base paints when they have been airbrushed and so are likely part of a transition. I realise that applying a targeted ‘pin’ wash would solve this but that option would take too much time so wasn’t an option.

Initially, I attempted to follow the method recommended by the top dawg, Kenny Boucher, of Next Level Painting. Kenny’s recommended method involved coating the model in gloss varnish and then using a gloss Nuln Oil or Agrax Earthshade wash. The combination of the gloss varnish and gloss shade ensure that the surface tension of the wash is maintained and drastically reduced any ‘coffee staining’ which can occur. I initially found this method to give positive results: I used in on a Blood Angels Tactical Squad early on in the year, however, some coffee staining did occur. Later, when using this method I encountered some issues when the wash seemingly dissolved the gloss varnish coat. This had some very problematic results for the Shadow War: Armageddon terrain I posted about back in June. It's worth noting though that I don’t think this was due to the wash/technique… more I’d either applied the gloss varnish to thinly or that I hadn’t left it long enough to dry (or both!).

As I appear to be covering this in chronological order, next up, during the summer I was listening to an episode of the fantastic Sons of Heresy podcast and the hosts mentioned following a shading technique they learnt during a seminar at a Horus Heresy event. After a quick YouTube search, a video of a chap called Mark Bedford who works at ForgeWorld revealed not only the secrets of how to apply a great wash but also how to follow a quick painting process to get your models on the board. I’ve included it below as it’s a fantastic video and well worth a watch, but the section which stood out for me revolved around his wash mixture… and how he applies the wash as the last stage of painting a miniature.

Andy’s wash mixture stood out as it seemed to promise the answer to the coffee staining problem. Essentially one mixes 1 part Nuln Oil, 1 part Seraphin Sepia, 1 part Lahmain Medium and 3 parts water to produce a subtle wash mixture; applied after a coat of gloss varnish. I tried this mix on 3 of the GW Objective Markers which were released along with 8th Edition. The washes worked fantastically aside from white residue which appeared in the areas where the wash had pooled the most. Upon investigation, it appears that this is due to the water element of the wash. Diluting GW washes with water is a huge no-no!

Base - Highlight - Shade

Following on from unlocking the ultimate shade formula I'd like to cover the idea of base coating, then highlighting and finally shading. This is, of course, different from the GW painting system of Base - Shade - Highlight! I feel that if one chooses to use an airbrush as the primary method to apply base coats and use gradual transitions for highlight (and also some shadows), following the traditional process causes issues as maintaining the transitions is difficult. Alternatively, if one can apply the highlight before shading the model... and the shade doesn't cause any coffee staining, that's ideal!

The trick is to highlight the model to '11' in preparation for the colour muting down. Whilst painting many of the large GW bits of scenery I've worked on, namely the Sector Mechanicum (Shadow War: Armageddon terrain), I noticed how the final colour of the terrain was always coming out darker than I desired. There were two reasons for this, 1) that the airbrush layers became less vibrant when dry and 2) as already indicated, the wash when applied also reduced the vibrancy of the colour. On some of the later pieces of scenery, I got used to highlighting the model to '11' in preparation for the toning back of the colours and found that it works perfectly! The bonus is that applying the shade last means your models look suitably muted and 'realistic' (as opposed to a cartoony look).

Pulling it all together

When painting my most recent model, Sly Marbo, I took the opportunity to bring together all the lessons learnt (mentioned above!). The shade was mixed up using 1 part Nuln Oil, 1 part Seraphin Sepia and 4 parts Lahmain Medium (essentially replacing the water element from Andy Bedford's mix with an increased amount of Lahmain Medium. Happily, it worked a treat and in conjunction with all my learning, he looks great!

In conclusion, I feel like my understanding of painting has increased a lot this year. My abilities with a paint brush (or airbrush) may not be top drawer but what skill I do have, combined with the techniques I’ve mentioned in this post, should mean I’m able to increase my output and for the models to be of a higher quality than I was previously achieving.

The learning never stops though... Next up I will be focusing on my Sylvaneth force. These models will provide a fantastic opportunity to refine the process on some amazing, organic miniatures. I’ve also ordered some Army Painter shades and shade medium as I’ve heard great things about their shades. I will use these to mix a wash along the lines as that mentioned above.

11 September 2017

Sly Marbo: the one man army!

Hot on the heels of BathCon 2017, I've been working on Sly Marbo.

This is an old GW model which I wanted to add to my collection due to his rules as a 'one man army' in Shadow War: Armageddon. I picked him, minus 1 arm and thickly coated in a rather terrible paint job from eBay for about£5! The arm was replaced with one from the Catachan set (again, an eBay purchase). My friend Dan used him (whilst still unpainted) with spectacular results during BathCon 2017.  I will be starting to work on my Sylvaneth and Blood Angels models in preparation for a trip to Warhammer World in April 2018 but I wanted to get this guy painted up before starting those larger projects.

For this model, I used tested out a new process- this involved painting his base coat and highlights before shading. I really enjoyed this process; it was quick and will certainly be the process I now follow for all future models.

I base coated him with Bugmans Glow for the skin, Death World Forest for his vest, Caliban Green for his trousers and Dryad Bark for the pouches. Alongside those main colours, I painted the base with a mix of Mechanicus Standard Grey/Dryad Bark and Screaming Skull for the copper pipes. 

As this guy is a 'one man army' in the context of how I will use him, I wanted to add a more detailed base. The base used here was taken from the Warhammer 40K basing kit which was glued to the top of a 25mm base.  

Each colour was then highlighted using the recommended colours from the Citadel Painting System chart. Once complete the whole model was coated in gloss varnish in preparation for the wash.

The final steps involved shading the model using a mix of Nuln Oil/Reikland Fleshshade/Lahmain Medium. After that was dry I added Nihilakh Oxide/Nurgle's Rot to the pipes and a wash of Beil-Tan green to the lower half of the knife. Finally, a couple of thin coats of matte varnish were airbrushed on to the model to matte down and protect the miniature.

In conclusion, I am very happy with how he has come out. The new process, combined with the use of more delicate washes (diluted with Lahmain Medium) has allowed me to quickly paint this model to a good standard. As is always the case, I try and take learning forward... onwards to Tree Folk and the Sons of Sanguinius!

9 September 2017

BathCon 2017

BathCon 2017 was the wargaming day I've planned since the beginning of this year. On the weekend of 2nd September, I hosted 3 friends for a full day of X-Wing, Shadow War: Armageddon and Warhammer 40,000... and then some Poker!

Since I organised the event it has been the sole focus of my hobbying time. My goal was to get into a position where I could present a gaming table full of painted terrain and where possible fully painted models. Whilst achieving all the goals I set myself was impossible, I was able to prepare all the scenery pieces I wanted to paint. With one of the game on the roster being Shadow War: Armageddon this was no small feat!

Prior to the event, I ran a roll to determine which game systems my guests would like to play. the 3 winners were X-Wing, Shadow War: Armageddon and Warhammer 40k. The two games which lost out were Age of Sigmar and Blood Bowl.  

So, here are some of the photos from the day...

The Board

This is the board set up prior to the event. Whilst I made posts on this blog covering some of the pieces of terrain used, I didn't post about them all. Over the coming weeks, I will probably catch up with such posts as I learnt a lot from my experiences and would like to share that information.


To kick things off we played 2 games of X-Wing. It's been about 18 months since I last played and had forgotten how much fun it can be! I played a simple 50 point match whilst the other game involved a few more models on each side(as can be seen in the picture below).

Shadow War: Armageddon

We chose to play a 4 player battle in SWA, so 1v1v1v1... which turned out to be a lot of fun! We played it on the full 6v4 table packed full of terrain. It took 3 hours.. which is a bit longer than most SWA battles are supposed to last but it was hugely entertaining. We had Orks v Chaos Marines v Space Marine Scouts v Sly Marbo! the Orks and Chaos Marines spent most of the battle trying to tickle each other to death in combat whilst Sly Marbo did some cheeky stabby-stabby moves with his poisoned knife. The less said about the Space Marine Scouts the better!

Warhammer 40,000

Finally, we played some 40k. a 50 power level battle. Chaos v Space Marines/Blood Angels. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and only managed 1 turn each before having to call it a day.

25 August 2017

Checkin' In

So I haven't made a post in a few weeks. That's not to say that I've not been working on anything; on the contrary! Next week I am hosting a small gaming event and so it's all hands on deck trying to complete as many models/pieces of terrain as possible.

During this final week of preparation, I'm working on some small pieces of terrain. These will be either objective markers or just general battlefield details.

Currently, these models have all been base coated and highlighted via the airbrush. I've also used a mix of Chaos Black/Dryad Bark to sponge on some paint chips. They were then given a couple of coats of gloss varnish.

Next up I will apply the wash, weathering and final details like rust etc.

10 July 2017

Battlefield Furniture Terrain

A quick win this week: I knocked out a set of resin battlefield furniture!

Aside from the pillow on the bunk bed, these pieces were all painted in the same colour as to not distract whilst on the board.

Initially, these pieces were primed with Vallejo Black Primer. They were then base coated with Mechanicus Standard Grey; after which I airbrushed various lighter shades by adding increasing amounts of White Scar to the Mechanicus Standard Grey.

I then used a sponge to apply a 50/50 mix of Chaos Black and Dryad Bark lightly around the harder edges of the models. The models were then sealed with a couple of coats of Gloss Varnish.

Burnt Umber and Black oil paint was thinned with white spirit and used as washes. After the wash had been given some time to try, white spirit was used to manipulate the wash and clear any residue from the flat panels.

The models were then coated with matte varnish to reduce the impact of the gloss varnish and to protect the paint.

As these are relatively incidental pieces of terrain I didn't want to spent too much time on them and thus chose not to paint any details. Next up is the walkway section of the Shadow War Armageddon scenery.