So this will be my first foray into creating a walkthrough or painting guide of any kind. I’ve always been one to work in silence, hiding my in-progresses pieces until they’ve come out looking clean and sparkly, ready for display. But this time I thought I’d do something different.
I thought I’d look back on the process of painting Games Workshop’s Canoness Veridyan late last year and give you a bit of an emotional walkthrough, a tour of my neurotic painting process. It will focus on painting techniques themselves, but also on the theory and practice of being a miniature painter. Perhaps it will inspire. Perhaps it will terrify. Either way, here it is.
A few things to say before we begin this adventure: I have been painting models for the better part of a decade! With practice comes results. I enforce this fact upon all the friends who are thinking of getting into the hobby. You can’t expect your first models to be magnificent, but you will come to look back on them with love and as a measure of progress (below you can see my earliest and one of my latest miniatures). The flip-side is that there are a lot of cheats and tricks that you can use with modern paints that make even the quickest work look fantastic!
The other main point is that I am hardly a Golden Demon level painter and will probably always aspire to that level (not even mentioning those Spanish and Italian masters, with their flawless blending and colour theory and what-not). I often find myself using the cheats and tricks mentioned above as a bit of a crutch.
With this model, however, I wanted to take the crutch away from myself and force myself to walk… so-to-speak. And I really valued the experience. I tried to apply a couple of advanced techniques, such as non-metallic-metal and proper highlighting of black based on other walkthrough’s I’d found online. While it didn’t end up super perfect, I ended up learning a lot and finding out that it isn’t actually as scary as it seems! Hopefully that’s a bit of encouragement for people also hoping to take that “next step” in improving their skills.
Step 1: You Gotta Start Somewhere
With all miniature projects (and, ya know, basically anything ever) you have to start somewhere. With resin kits, this means washing the resin in luke-warm, soapy water. This removes the solution placed on the moulds so that the creators can remove the finished model safely. This is like buttering the toast before putting in the sandwich grill. You want that baby to slide out all neat like, not ripped to pieces.
Anyway, this is your moment to think and be mindful. Feel the soapy slipperiness slide off gradually. Wash your model gently, making sure not to bend any parts or lose them down the sink. When everything’s dry, the next stage is carefully scraping mould lines off the model with the back of a sharp blade or file. Then after that, comes one of the most important steps in the entire process: priming.
There’s a bit of contention among the miniature painting community about whether or not Games Workshop sells “primer” or just paint in spray form. For those who don’t know, a primer is base separate to the paint layer which allows paint to bond with the material better. You need this, basically. Either way though, if you’re not constantly handling your display models (you shouldn’t), I find Games Workshop’s black spray to be more than suitable. You have to note, however, that it is not the same as their black paint. You’ll want to lay down a very thin coat of this over your primer before you start working on anything that will be black.
And for the love of the Emperor, only spray prime and shave your resin models in well ventilated areas and with a mask. This plastic-resin dust is not something you want to be breathing in or leaving floating around your bedroom. Same thing with spray paint. At very least, invest in a cheap mask. I admit to sinning in this respect, often. I almost always model (but never, ever spray paint) in my room, but it’s not something you think about while doing it.
When the model is all clean and black (or white, whichever colour you choose to base with), you can sit back and admire it while it dries. Don’t touch it for a while. Look at it, plan out the blocks of colour in your mind, put it under a bright lamp and note where shadows lie. Feel that sense of dread that always comes. The important thing to do is breath (not anywhere near the dust or spray paint) and take your time. The blank canvas syndrome is something that all artists have to face at some point in their careers, but once you start splashing that first drop of paint, you’ll feel a lot better. Getting somewhere, anywhere, helps.
Extra Tip: While it’s satisfying to have a line-up of unpainted models to work on, having too many primed and ready pieces in your collection leads to a stress known to many miniature painters. I find having less models prepared in this way far less stressful than having a completely unopened box. At least you can pass on or sell an unopened box easier than a primed and prepared model if you find you don’t have the time.
Step 2: Paint it Black
A generic rule you can apply to all miniature painting is paint either the areas that will feature the most prominent colour (so that you can slap paint on quickly) or the deepest areas on the model first (so that you don’t have to worry about spoiling these parts when painting outer details). I work with a mix of these two rules in mind, depending on the model and time I want to spend on it. For more detailed models (and for Veridyan), I often work one limb/decoration/weapon at a time. This lets you focus on minute detail, but has a major drawback in the fact that this makes it more difficult to have consistent colour across the model, ESPECIALLY if you are mixing certain shades. Either way, as you can see, I took the individual limb route with Veridyan.
Black, the most prominent and lowest colour on Veridyan, is a very difficult colour to paint realistically on miniatures (almost surprisingly). When following the typical technique of edge-highlighting and shading, it’s quite hard to strike the balance between making it too grey or too flat.
My recipe for black is one that I apply to almost every model. It’s hardly perfect, but I find it quick and easy, producing a subtle effect (if not incredibly realistic). Starting from a Chaos Black base, blend in a little bit of Eshin Grey from the edges that you wish to highlight. After this, use Mechanicus Standard Grey to highlight the extremes, running your brush at an angle over the edges. As a final highlight, depending on how shiny the black material is, should be either a mix of Mechanicus and white or, my favourite paint in the GW line, Celestra Grey.
You can also use a base of a certain dark colour, like dark blue, green, red, etc. instead of Eshin Grey to create the impression of a slightly tinged black. But always finish off the recipe with a light grey, because this keeps the material looking like a tinged black instead of a dark colour. You can see an example of this “dark colour” look on my old Chaos Warriors to the right.
With Veridyan, I wanted her black armour to be highly glossy, as in the original artwork, and so I based my highlights on that. As you can see in the image above, I also added a little “shine” on the upper thigh where light would hit naturally.
After painting the black, I actually did a bit of a silly thing and use a thin layer of the new Agrax Earthshade GLOSS which added a layer of shine that made the highlight look a bit messy. However, it was was also a happy mistake, as it provided an interesting texture contrast between her robes and armour trim. Sometimes, you just have to accept these happy mistakes and roll with it.
Step 3: Break 1
After painting Veridyan’s right leg I took my first break. It’s important not to push yourself to complete models in a rush (unless you really need to of course!). Instead, take your time, take breaks, come back days later and take a look at it. Whenever looking at things with fresh eyes you’ll be able to see small mistakes or ways to make them better.
Veridyan was also the first model I painted that I shared WIP shots of on social media. I find this a bit of an ego-boosting encouragement, especially when other artists see it, call out the mistakes and send their compliments.
On the other hand, many artists refuse to share on social media for obvious reasons. The constant encouragement can become a bit of a crutch. You can definitely stagnate in your practice if you go too long without constructive criticism. Seek it out, ask for it, don’t be afraid of a bit of pain because, in the end, it will help you improve.
And so, I guess I’ll finish this article with a request from you all! Send me your constructive criticism! If there’s anything you’ve seen on this site or my Instagram that you think I could improve, please don’t be afraid to let me know.
Anyway, that’s all for now. Hopefully I can find time in this next week to write the next installment, but I will be traveling so I hope you don’t mind if there’s a bit of a pause.
Thank you all for reading! Go get painting 👌