So 2017 has come to an end, the world has made one more lap around the sun and my pile of “to-do” miniatures continues to grow.
This has been a rather special year, as some of my regular readers or followers would know, as it’s been a year in which I’ve moved from the quiet and damp Adelaide Hills to the sunny, colourful and lively south of Spain. I’ve had to leave a lot behind, almost my entire collection of miniatures and all my tools and paints, but have gained a lot in terms of focus, proximity to the world of the Mediterranean masters and easier access to some of the best miniature makers in the world. Giving up army painting (for the most part… I still have some Salamanders to finish and an itching to start some Spiderfang 😉) has been a pretty natural choice for someone who hasn’t played a proper game in two or three years. So it’s a win win.
The largest part of my WIP posts and discussion on process this year has taken place on Instagram, so if you haven’t already, be sure to click the link in the menu above and follow my Instagram page at @Illuminator_hobby
And rather than make multiple pages (waste not, want not!) I thought I would create a bit of a master-post of the display pieces I’ve been practicing on over the past year! It’s been a really productive year in which I’ve taken my miniature painting to the next level, inspired by the ‘Eavy Metal Facebook group and the amazing community of painters on Instagram. There’s still a long, long, long way to go before I’m going to be confident entering things like Hussar, Golden Demon or Silver Brush, but now I at least have a goal that I’m working towards every day.
My first miniature painted with Army Painter War Colours
November: Papa Jambo Bust
And here we have him, my masterpiece for the year. Definitely the piece I’m most proud of so far, and something of a diversion from my normal work.
Thanks to everyone who’s followed me here, on Instagram and given me support over Facebook or in real life. It’s been an incredible year of hobby, and I look forward to pushing forward into uncharted territory in this new one!
And so we’re back, from outer space, to continue this hobby journey. Thanks to everyone who showed interest in the first post in this short series. I hope it’s inspired some of you new painters to pick up a brush and brought some comfort to struggling hobbyists like myself.
It’s been a good few months since I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and paint anything, but I’m preparing to get back to it. I have a new brush, a couple of new paints (including Vallejo’s Fluros) and a number of minis to jump right back in with. But for now, I’m returning to Veridyan.
When we left off, we’d just finished discussing black. Surprisingly, this is one of the most difficult colours to paint or, at least, get looking “right” on miniatures. Now, rising from the glossy blackness of Veridyan’s armour, we begin to paint the gold and metal.
And that’s where the fun begins.
Step 4: Heavy Metal
You’ll notice that, in the original John Blanche artwork (pictured), Veridyan wears black armour with gold trims. Because of the lighting of the blood red ground and flames around her this gold appears different on the various points of her body (see the shoulder trim compared to the kneepads and then the sword). This being the case, I did my best to replicate the effect.
I also ended up attempting Non-Metallic Metal (NMM), inspired by the ‘Eavy Metal box art. As said in the last post, I worked to replicate this as best as I could. Because I had this reference, I didn’t have to dive into my first NMM experience completely blind.
The trick to NMM is, as the name suggests, creating the illusion of light hitting and reflecting off of metal in a realistic way without using metallic paints. This requires a good eye, careful planning, practice with blending… or a bit of luck and washes/glazes. Whatever works for you.
The kneepads, I think, turned out the best of all the metals. They were created by painting on a layer of ochre-ish yellow like Averland Sunset, then washing with our old friend Agrax Earthshade. This paint is referred to as Liquid Talent for a good reason. Washes pool in even the smallest of recesses rather than laying on top of details, creating great texture and shading with a quick brush over. From there, I worked back up to the yellow but, unlike usual, I left shade in very specific places.
When painting NMM, it’s important to exaggerate shadow just a bit. Light would be landing on the rim of the kneepad (all the way around, but particularly on the bottom and top), the top of the skull in the centre and also a bit on the detail within the trim. As such, I left the darker, washed areas with almost all the shade showing through (seen between the “flames” above the skull), while building up the bright areas to almost full yellow. From there, I continued to add layers to the bright areas with a bleach boned colour, then pure white. Again, don’t be afraid to use pure white on the very edges, but keep in mind where the light falls and bounces.
This idea can also been seen in the shoulder pads and fleur de lis patterns scattered around the body. The relatively dark brown of the shaded areas (that is, those places not hit directly by imaginary light) are left brown, while the very tips are highlighted white. I am a little less happy with the shoulder pads, as they ended up a bit thick and murky, almost tinged green for some strange reason. Remember, as the good Lord Duncan says: “PAINT IN MULTIPLE THIN COATS, NOT ONE THICK ONE.” Patience is key. Blend slowly. The smoother the blend the more realistic the metal will look. However, if you want a more exaggerated, cartoony look, by all means go and paint in layers.
The same principal is applied to the areas of bare steel on Veridyan’s armour, except in greyscale. Starting from a dark grey (perhaps Eshin Grey) in the recessed parts of the armour and working up to pure white will create realistic looking metal. I particularly liked how this turned out on Veridyan’s ornate gloves (see left). For a grittier, heavier, meaner looking metal, go straight from dark grey to white/light grey (as seen on the pistol barrel). The harsher the contrast, the harsher the metal. You’ll see this effect used a lot on Ork armies or even my own Iron Wolves. This is when you can add little chips as well for a more realistic effect (simply make small, random stripes of the final highlight colour).
Step 5: The Holy Sword
Now this was the tricky part.
It was tempting to paint the sword in exactly the same way as detailed above, but that would make it blend in far too much with the gold. This is her principal weapon, after all, and a focal point for the whole model (what with it being a long, straight line in contrast to the curves and folds of her armour). Besides, in the artwork, Veridyan’s sword glows a sort of deep bronze under the hellish light. To recreate this effect, I turned to brown rather than yellow.
Starting from a flat base of Rhinox Hide, I gradually added Karak Stone to the mix. Keeping the principal of direct light in mind, I kept the lower half of the sword completely brown (where the light would not hit but which might reflect the ground around). Using my mix of Rhinox and Karak, I gradually blended along the length of the sword, eventually arriving at pure white on the tip. I then gave the whole thing a very light brown wash to smooth out the transitions a bit (a very helpful technique to try, especially if you’re just beginning to blend), before working a bit of white back in to keep it bright. Finally, I ran my brush at an angle over the edges of the sword (even at the bottom) to finish the effect.
To add to the piece and deviate from the artwork a bit (I hate doing what everyone else has done!) I decided to try a “power weapon” effect by painting on lightning bolts in orange (which you can still see in the photo to the right)…
I ended up hating it and having to redo most of the sword. Ah well. We learn by making mistakes, after all. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Step 6: The Devil is in the Details
I am, as you might be able to tell, a long-suffering perfectionist. I’ve stripped and re-painted countless minis over the years just because there was one little thing that niggled me about them. I’m also rather obsessive when it comes to the small details in things. I think you have to have a combination of both of these traits if you want to be a miniature painter. It’s just using them as a force of good that is difficult.
I love small details and tiny models (hence Goblins and Squigs) simply because it gives me the opportunity to practice laser-like focus. Painting a little chain dangling from Veridyan’s belt or dotting out small patterns on her robe, man, that’s the good stuff. I’m always trying to step up my game, getting finer and finer as I go along. I’ve ended up with Army Painter’s “Extreme Detail” brush in my collection just for this reason. Next step is, of course, “The Psycho“. (Great brushes, by the way).
When painting extreme detail, I find having a magnifying lamp or even cheap 2x reading glasses incredibly handy. I can’t stress the importance of good, natural light in this process as well. You need to be able to see where your brush is going.
Unfortunately, I can’t give many tips on developing a “steady hand”, as it all comes through practice and repetition. I’m still trying to master the art myself. I can, however, give you a couple of good recipes, which I applied when painting on Veridyan’s smaller details. They are quick, easy and without-frills.
Red (for example, cloth and wax):
Mephiston Red > Wash with Xereus Purple > Mephiston Red > Evil Suns Scarlet > Highlight the very edges with Jokaero Orange.
Purity Seal Paper:
Karak Stone > Wash with Agrax Earthshade > Karak Stone > White > Dot on/scribble some thin lines of watered-down Rhinox Hide to represent text.
Start with Rakarth Flesh > Wash with Agrax. Essentially the same as the purity seals, but leaving more contrast between the washed Rakarth and final white highlight (you can also use Ushabti Bone, a slightly yellower bone colour, to further differentiate the two).
DO NOT start with white. Instead, start with the foundation paint Celestra Grey (seriously, a life saver). To give the impression of a white with depth instead of pure white, only highlight the edges of the armour/hair/whatever with pure white. Use a mix of white and Celestra to create a mid-tone where appropriate. Shade with watered down Nuln Oil (very carefully) if you need extra depth.
Pale Caucasian Flesh:
Kislev Flesh > Shade with Agrax or Reikland Fleshshade > Kislev flesh > Kislev Flesh/White > White on very edges (noses, etc.). Mix in a tiny amount of red to paint the lips (only paint the bottom lip of any scale mini, this gives an impression of make-up or flush without going too far).
And really, that’s all there is to it! To finish off Veridyan, I used these simple, basic tricks over the finer details, making them pop while not taking too long. Of course, there’s room for experimentation even here, like producing more realistic flesh with blue tones and deeper red with greens. For now, though, I think we’ll leave it at that.
Ahh, one last thing on details though: Eyes!
Everyone learning to paint miniatures comes across this problem sooner or later, discovering that even with the thinnest brush in the world it seems impossible to paint realistic eyes. But there are some easy tips.
The biggest mistake to avoid is creating a “startled” look by placing the iris/pupil in the very centre of the eye, detached from the border. In reality, the iris is obscured, top and bottom, by eyelids. In miniature form, all you’ll likely see of the whites of the eye are the very corners. As such, it’s best to paint most of the eye black.
Paint the whole eye black, or very dark brown > Very carefully, paint on a strip of white in the eye socket, leaving a ring of black (suggesting eyelashes) > Over this, paint a black dot, big enough to reach the black edge of the eye, but small enough to leave some white visible on both sides (depending on where the model is looking).
It’s tricky, sure, but eyes are a focal point that deserves the attention. If you do not have the space to paint eyes, however, don’t be tempted to just splash paint over the eyelid. Instead, paint a thin line of wash to give the impression of dark eyes between the eyelids. This looks a whole lot better than bulging, cartoon eyes. Trust me. I have far too many of this sort in my collection from the early days.
Step 7: Watching it all Come Together
And so, apart from a few extra things here and there, Veridyan is complete.
There are, naturally, a number of things I’d go back and change if I had the time and energy. Firstly, I’d take more time on blending the metals smoothly in thin coats. I’d pay closer attention to the proportions and shading of the face and also avoid the gloss wash that turned her black armour all shiny in the wrong places.
Never-the-less, Veridyan was a massive learning curve for me, someone looking to take the next big steps in the mini painting field. I got the opportunity to try out a number of advanced techniques, including NMM and blending, in the safe shadow of a number of reference pieces. Even writing this walkthrough has been an educational experience in itself!
I truly hope you’ve gotten something useful from it, even if it was just a bit of a laugh. You can find the completed model in the gallery section of this site, or by clicking here!
To wrap everything up, in this series we’ve covered or touched up:
Thanks again to everyone who’s supported me in my painting over the years, especially in recent times! Please continue to enjoy my site and check me out on Instagram if you haven’t already. I’m rolling out a number of past projects there at the moment, but expect to see a lot more works in progress and new models next month.
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!
Some of my earliest attempts at painting Warhammer
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.