Paint your army in just a few months, with this one weird tip!
How did I end up trying to paint an army fully in just 4 months? It all started with a single comment I read on a social media platform. It was a general summing up of Warmachine by a fellow wargamer and I have reproduced it here: “Warmachine is a community of people who hate painting and painting requirements”.
It kind of annoyed me as I am a Warmahordes painter AND gamer. I’ve won more prizes for painting than gaming, spent more time painting than gaming, but I still love going to tournaments. A Steamroller is a fantastic experience meeting new players, “gitting good”, and I see some really nice paint jobs there. In fact, I’m proud of my couple of best painted army awards precisely because of the calibre of painting I’ve come up against over the years.
On top of that, Privateer Press make some models that are just beautiful pieces of art. Their Swamp Siren is quite possibly my favourite model of all time in terms of grace, story within the model and painting possibilities. I also would pick out the Swamp Gobber Bellows Crew as a fantastic and fun everyday model sculpt! Some of the model ranges are made for looking amazing in large groups like pirates or stoney Skorne and are crying out for a paint brush. Surely I’m not alone?
Or maybe this paint skeptic was right? I see a few all plastic and metal armies at tournaments. It is a big time sink and commitment to paint an army, we have jobs, families, other hobbies and none of us have enough time, so who has the time to paint when we barely have enough time to game, right?
Well, what if I painted an army in just a few months? In fact, what if I painted it whilst working 36 hours per week at my job, plus extra shifts to cover holidays, whilst taking on extra parent duties due to lockdown, with less time as wifey is also at home and wants to play xbox with me, whilst painting models that (at that time!) are ill thought of in the meta, aren’t mine as they belong to a mate, which are all put together and there is nearly a hundred of them and look very intimidating, and he is planning to sell them and concentrate on his main two factions so it doesn’t even matter? Nae worries.
Whilst trying to do this, KnightsMachine came into being and I thought to myself, what if my crazy painting challenge could help people work through their own pile of unpainted models and get to the plateau of happiness that is a fully painted army? I sent (I assume it is Lady?) Steph a message to see what she thought. She gave me the messenger equivalent of hot chocolate and cookies by calling me mate and giving me lots of encouragement, she also said word count didn’t matter, so I’m only partly to blame for this novel. I took out all the Scottish words such as scunnered, drookit, and peely-wally in my notes and started writing it up article style.
I’ve split my wee article into what I did week by week and each entry has painting information as to my colour choices, methods and tips that I hope help some readers. You can feel free to skip the tips if you are one of those people who paints Storm Raptors so nicely that I could weep into my water jar.
What’s the one weird tip to help you get painted? I’ll share that if I finish it by the last week!
Paint an army to a good tabletop standard within 4 months or less that I’d be proud to play at a tournament. Tournament standards normally require three separate colours, so I’d choose three colours plus my metallic and a brown for leather and accessories. Good tabletop standard is quite a debatable subject but I’m taking that as the main colours need a basic shade and highlight, and the bases need to be finished with arcs indicated.
I also was being incredibly strict with colours and methods. I wanted anyone to be able to replicate this, I've got 3 brushes around 20 paints and I am using only basic techniques of base coat painting, washes, simple highlights and dry brushing. No airbrush, complex blending, or fancy painting stuff.
I also was making myself take off at least a full day each week to spend with my family.
Practical: These models came ready-made so I saved time in that regard but I spent a day putting parts back together and replacing the occasional missing arm from my bits box. I also checked them for mould lines and cleaned off flash (if people are interested in how to prep and clean models I’ll happily do a short article on that in the future) and undercoated them in spray paint. I like painting lighter colours and darkening down so they all got light sprays, white mostly and bone coloured when I ran out of white.
Intimidating, and this isn’t even all of them!
Arty: I needed a paint scheme. The secret to a good paint scheme is for it to be striking and not too busy. I tend to think of this as primary colour, secondary colour and a smidge of a third for special models such as a touch of magic or glow effect. I had already painted a single Legion model many moons ago, the stunning Archangel model. It was as close to the display sort of painting that I can manage and used some colours I really liked. Deep purple is a fun colour that I don’t often get to paint and the contrast with the bone plates is nice and striking. It had been a lengthy paint just for enjoyment but I decided I’d try that scheme, albeit simplified. The only thing I didn’t know was if that scheme would translate to a standard trooper model, here’s hoping!
“Paint me like one of your Cauldron girls”
Week 1: Sun 5th April
Disclaimer: I don’t play Legion myself so there may be model name errors ahead! (not on my watch -Ed.)
There is an impetus in a project at the start, it isn’t sustainable in the long term but it is the boost to get things going. So, in the first week I picked a selection of Lesser Warbeasts (two Stingers and a Shredder), the Neraph and the Teraph. The Neraph is a pretty model indeed, and almost tempts me to buy into an all flying Legion army, but I managed to stay strong.
I painted the dragon skin dark purple, adding a painted on lighter purple simple highlight on raised muscles. This was just light lines or blobs on top of the raised area. I then drybrushed on a lighter purple and then washed it back with a purple wash to be more graded. Nice and straight forward.
The Shredders and their ilk are small and quick to paint as there is nothing complex about them. I really enjoyed painting the wing membranes on the Neraph (they’re just bone colour base with a dark pink wash and some mild bone highlights on the raised parts). And I’m up to 5 models in just 3 painting sessions. The Warbeasts are 90% skin and bone plates, (just as Warjacks are mostly silvery metal and coloured armour plates), so they are quick and very consistent to paint. Plus, who doesn't like painting a mini T-Rex?
Tip 1: Paint from the inside out: face, then clothes, then armour, then accessories, lastly weapons. It is easier to paint a tiny confined face in an helmet before you do the helmet as you’ll likely get your skin tone on the helmet edges which it is easier to paint over later.
Model Count 5, Points count: 34
Week 2: Sun 12th April
I enjoyed painting the wing membranes on the Neraph so much that this week I picked out two Forsaken to do the wings on, plus a Shredder and a Spell Martyr. I also grabbed a Blight Wasp as the wings looked interesting and an Eiryss2 that I had half done already as I thought I might get bored of purple.
I had to choose my flesh tone here and that was tricky. Normally Legion are a very light purple that is near to white. This was too close to my purple dragon hide highlight so I used a pale flesh colour instead. It gives a contrasting warmth to the cold of the Legion ethos and the hide colour and adds some individuality to them.
The metallic colour I chose was simple silvery iron, which went on here and didn’t look quite right. I needed to rethink that as it was way too bland. I couldn't quite see what to do with that yet though.
Eiryss2 was something I actually didn’t need. By picking a mix of models, I found I wasn’t getting bored. Her green and brass colours for my mate's Khador scheme were a nice palette cleanser but I didn’t feel the need for a buffer model for the rest of the project.
Tip 2: These are 3 dimensional models so you need to paint them to have a light reflective part, medium part and darker shadowed part for most colours on the model. This can be done with Simple 3 stage colours. For the skin I used a dark purple base, I then heavily dry brushed a medium purple over the top for highlights on the muscle. I used a lighter still purple for an extreme highlight and then washed it all together with a purple wash. This made the colours grade together so you don’t have to wet blend, or edge highlight into the middle of next week. I’m painting a shade lighter than my end base colour to wash it back to the darker overall finishing colour I am looking for.
Model count 5 plus Eiryss2 (10), Points count: 16 (50)
That Spell Martyr is spooky looking
Week 3: 19th April
I needed to change things up so I decided to tackle the Blighted Nyss Legionnaires and their Command Attachment. These were mostly metal so I got to spend some time working on the bland silver. I settled on a blue steel armour plate recipe. My tertiary colour is blue and I am using that to colour the breath weapons or magical stuff so blue tinted armour plates seemed to fit. Purple clothes or cloaks helped the units fit the scheme, the bone plate colour translated well to feathers and the blue steel worked well as a tie in to the blue magical style blasts of the beasts. These models are pretty fierce looking and I’ve not seen them on the table before.
Tip 3: You can experiment with coloured metals by using silver with a simple glaze on top. A glaze is just a watered down wash and tints the colour underneath. My blue steel recipe was just silver with a light blue glaze on the flatter plates.
Model Count 12 (22), Points count 18 (68)
Week 4: 26th April
Time for one of the biggies. After finding my feet with lesser, lights and units, I decided to tackle a warlock. I picked up Lylyth1. I spent a little more time on my highlights steps, as befits a general, so she got a 5 or 4 step shade and highlight rather than a 3, so Dark, medium, light and very light purple. I like that the model is such an active pose but something wasn't quite right. I asked my wifey to strike the same dynamic pose and worked out what it was. Privateer Press sculptors take note, the décolletage doesn’t go right under the chin, no matter how pushy-uppy your armour is. Great action pose though.
I also worked on a Nephilim Protector which seemed like an interesting beast to paint. I discovered my blue steel plates didn’t work on a larger scale so I added a purple glaze to give it a more pearlescent effect. I quite liked this model, it feels other worldly and weird. If Guillermo Del Toro (this amused me too much to remove it -Ed.) sculpted models, they'd probably be like these. I also put some base colours on a few of next week’s models.
Tip: 4: A model often looks at it’s worst when you are 75% through painting it. Don’t be tempted to drop it as a bad paint job, drop a wash on an overly bright colour, a highlight on something dark to brighten it up. Or just ignore it and paint the base as that is your backdrop and affects how it Looks. A finished model looks so different to a mostly painted one so don't be tempted to quit and move on.
Model Count 2 (24), Points count 10 (78)
Week 5: 3rd May
This week I picked up a unit of Strider Scouts with command and the very heavy Typhon model which looked amazing. The scouts look very thematic with their bone coloured bows and deep purple cloaks. I debated adding bow strings but decided that would be too fiddly to fit into the challenge time. I love painting the cloaks on these guys.
Typhon got an extra white highlight on his bone plates to make them pop a little more. I also put a yellow wash over the belly plates then highlighted them back up with bone to distinguish them as softer than the spiny back plates. I coloured each mouth and sensory organ sphere thing on the three heads a different colour to remind the user of its multiple heads rule. I, of course, put Godzilla King of the Monsters on in the background whilst painting this big beastie.
Tip 5: If (like me) you don’t understand which colours go with which, grab a colour wheel. There are many of them to see on the interwebs, find your base colour then choose the opposite colour on the wheel to compliment it. This is the reason why so many green skinned Goblinoids have red coloured clothes or armoured plates. Or, I ask wifey as she knows these things and is usually right.
Model Count 8 (32), Points Count 33 (111)
Week 6: 10th May
I picked up the Hellmouth (but missed one of the tentacles initially as it was hiding under other models), a Blighted Nyss Shepherd, and half a unit of the Blighted Nyss Hex Hunters. I was finding painting a whole unit at once too much of a slog (see this week’s tip) so I broke them up a bit.
The Hellmouth is a joy to paint. The quick change from stone ground to bone plate to organic insides is fantastic. I could paint these all the time and was sad when I ran out!
The Blighted Nyss Shepherd was a nice change of pace as she is a normal humanoid model. I wondered what to do about the trousers and eventually decided that as a shepherdess, her boots would be simple fur lined leathers so just made them brown shades. I’ve added the Hellmouth to the points total this week as I had done most of them and left the Blighted Nyss Hex Hunters off until the whole unit was done.
Tip 6: Batch painting. Some people swear by it but, painting the trousers the same colour on all ten models in a unit before moving on tends to just drive me mad. I prefer Spending time on one or two models at a time so I can get to know the details on the sculpt and I can see better progress. Using washes makes for longer drying times though, so I normally worked on 2 or 3 models at a time, allowing for get colours on a 2nd model whilst waiting for the 1st to dry.
Model Count 4 (36), Points Count 7 (118)
Week 7: 17th May
Hand cramps were a bit of an issue but I powered through them. I finish off the Blighted Nyss Hex Hunters, half a unit of Strider Scouts, 3 Blight Wasps, a Carnivean and a big creepy Scythean. This seemed like a huge load to paint, but painting the larger beasts was incredibly quick, not much longer than a single trooper model once the base coats were on. They were just base colours, picked out highlights, drybrush and wash. The troopers were also a little quicker as I had painted some the previous week.
Tip 7: washing makes your colours look smooth, flowing or wet (hair, oily mechanical parts), just painting one colour on makes them look flat and colourful (flat panels), drybrushing makes them look chalky or dry (bones, stones).
Model Count: 15 (51), Points count 56 (176)
Weeks 8 and 9: 24th & 31st May
My hand was a little sore from painting so much so I paced myself a lot and gave myself a day off after every painting batch. I mostly stuck to simple troopers during this time. I finished a second unit of Strider Scouts with their CA. I also added in a Raek for variety. That Raek is a really characterful model, and the long swishing tail deserved some extra highlight time. Good doggy.
I managed a mad evening at the end where wifey was playing a solo game on the xbox and I had a marathon 7 hours straight painting on a Saturday night. I got 2 more Spell Martyrs and a Ravagore done in one night. Those Spell Martyrs somewhat give me the creeps to paint, so job accomplished sculptors! I have a soft spot for the Ravagore model, it is full of character.
Tip 8: Get a decent brush or two. Invest in a brush with lots of strong bristles that come to a good point. A large brush with a fine point is better at detail than a tiny brush, treat it well and it will last a long time. Use cheapy brushes for painting on large section base colours, drybrushing and washing with.
Model Count: 12 (63), Points Count 39 (215)
Week 10: 7th June
I was just putting the infantry away when I realised my model count wasn’t right. I had 18 Strider Scouts with CA, and not 16. I checked again and realised the two left over were Strider Deathstalkers. So that is extra points without lifting a finger, nice!
Model Count: 65, Points Count 223
I painted Thagrosh1 and a Blighted Ogrun Warspear this week. The latter are a bit like cavalry models when it comes to painting. They take a long time due to the much larger model surface area plus all the extra details they have. Thagrosh is fun, a mix of Ogrun size details and a long flowing cloak. I spent time working up the blue of his cloak so he'd stand out as the warlock. Whenever I look at him I feel like he is shouting “Khaaaaannnn!” or “Hungerforrrrrrrddd!”
One way in which Privateer Press really stands out for me is the difference in feel between their small and medium base model ranges. A medium base figure seldom looks like just a big version of a small based model. They usually are a different race or model type within your Faction so you get some great variety and the mediums always look chunky and tough (and usually come with the Tough rule).
Tip 9: I wish I had painted the bases as I went along, they are quite a slog later, so texture then paint the base whilst doing the model before moving on to the next. Painting nearly a hundred bases in one go is horrid.
Model Count: 1 (66), Points Count 0 (223)
Week 11 – 13, 14th – 28th June
The bad weeks. The Blighted Ogrun Warspears are slow to paint so it was a little hard going at times. I could paint 3 or 4 troopers in the time it takes to paint one Ogrun so they were a real challenge. I also was working on a project for my local club so my effort definitely slipped these weeks, but I did get to rest my painting hand and my concentration which helped. The overall result does look suitably big next to the regular troopers but still manages to tie in with the overall paint scheme. I also painted the Warspear Chieftain at the same time and he adds some real menace to this beefy unit. Finishing these felt like I was on the home stretch.
Tip 10: Take painting notes in a sketch book. Want to recreate that purple from the archer you painted 4 years ago? It is in your sketch book. You can actually paint the colour into the sketch with the wash or highlight colour across the top then write next to it what you did. By using the original colour on the page, you’ll be able to get a colour match if it has since dried up in the pot and gone out of production. A half-filled painting journal is a great thing to flip through for inspiration.
Model Count 6 (72), Points count 20 (243)
Week 14, 5th July
There aren’t many models left but I have some work heavy time and solo dad duties this month so I knew this would be a busy week. I picked out a unit of Strider Blightblades to finish the Units and a pair of Shredders. The former have some serious pointy sticks going on.
I spent a lot of time thinking about bases this week. Arcs are popular but I find they can be a bit flat and distract from the paint scheme of the model if you have bright colours like these. I could have graded the arcs somehow but that would be a huge time sink, I would need to think a little more about the arcs. I decided to go with a blasted ash wastes type base, so I ordered some small sickly grass tufts and mixed small rocks/sand for texture. I had plenty PVA glue in the house thankfully.
Tip 11: Base slot issues. If your base tab won’t fit into the slot. You can straighten it with a pair of gripping pliers (not on the painted parts, just the tab!). It is also handy for when letters on the tab make the tab too wide for the slot, you can squash the letters flat by giving them a good squeeze. Fill in the slot by sticking masking tape underneath, then filling it up with whatever texture you are using for the bases.
Model Count 8 (80), Points count 18 (261)
Week 15, 12th July
Just 7 models left to pick from. This week I painted the last Shredder, two Blighted Nyss Shepherds, and Vayl1. I can’t get excited about Vayl1, the sculpt feels a little awkward compared to the imposing Shepherd model. She feels kind of robotic but I like her magic weapons. I like the Shepherd models, they are a really simple sculpt but communicate their role on the table nicely.
Tip 12: Make a painting kit. After making my scheme, I looked out the main paints I used and put them into a handy small plastic case (definitely not the makeup case that my wife is missing and looking for). I could leave this out by my desk ready to paint at any time. I could open the case, get my water, sit at my desk, and be ready to paint in 60 seconds. You can also take it with you to a friend’s or grab it during your lunch break to squeeze in 20 minutes of painting here and there. My case holds around a dozen paints, a water jar, a few paper towels, superglue and 3 brushes. I can wrap a model and place it into the water jar to keep it safe.
Model Count 4 (84), Points count 6 (267)
Week 16, 19th July
Basing a model really finishes it. Playing on a battle map is so much better than playing on a plain cloth, it is the same with a finished model. I spent all this week using watered down pva glue to fill the bases with sand. This took a while to dry but because it was watered down, the sand mix sinks in nicely and this keeps it well secured to the base. I then painted them fairly light grey. Once dry I washed them with a dark grey wash to get into the shadows. When dry, I used a simple dry brush of the same light grey which meant there was 3 shades of grey in the bases. ook a whole session to apply, a couple of days to dry and another whole session to scrape off the excess with a cocktail stick so the bases looked neat. Some people like every scrap of base material scraped off the models, but these were an army at war so I left some of the base material on boots and cloak bottoms to represent them kicking up dust.
I then stuck down the grass tufts I had purchased. I bought a small selection of colours which I used to distinguish between two of the same type of units, so one might have green tufts, the other dead looking tufts. They help break up the grey nicely and bring the models alive somewhat.
Tip 13: Paint mixing. You don’t need loads of shades of one paint, you can mix some purple with some white to get a light purple to highlight your base colour. You can also get a small mixing palette for nothing, just take the plastic wrap from a blister, or from any card backed toy. Card backed toys are great as they are usually formed so have lots of shaped dips in them for easy mixing. They are also small to fit into your painting kit.
Model Count 0 (84), Points count 0 (267)
Week 17, 26th July
I have 3 models left, I painted the Grotesque Assassin which I had been saving as I enjoy painting wings so much, a Nephilim Bloodseer and finally Anyssa Ryvaal. That Nephilim Bloodseer is wonderfully creepy, the Grotesque Assassin is menacing, I Wish I had more of both to paint.
I managed the first two fine, but Annyssa Ryvaal just isn’t working at all. I have gone back and forth to her a few times and neither the stag or her is working. I have kept the picture in to show you how bad a model looks when unfinished and when the paint scheme isn’t quite right. I only have a few days to work it out and fix her! But as I said earlier, an unfinished model looks bad and I’m not going to quit so I'll rethink it and see how to fix it.
Tip 13: Painting time is multi hobby time. I listened to some free audiobooks on youtube whilst painting and also to battle reports or Warmahordes podcasts. Sometimes I was painting much longer just to find out what happened next in my book. It is free listening time so enjoy it.
Model Count 2 (86), Points Count 12 (279)
Week 18, 31st July
I went back to another Nyss model I painted to fit into a scheme, Lanyssa Ryssyl. She needed to fit in with my green Gatormen but she is very cold and icy blue, so how could I make that work? I painted her cool but then painted her iconic cloak in all the different greens of my Gators. She stands out for her different sculpt and feel but she was clearly part of the overall army with her greenish hues. Taking inspiration from this I painted up Annyssa Ryvaal plus stag in cool darker colours and then tied in her accessories and hair to the theme. I hope it works!
I then worked on the base arcs. I decided against arcs and went for a purple line. I used a white paint pen (not a cheat!) to draw a fine line on the exact arc edge. I then washed this with a purple wash. This creates a slightly other wordly colour but the white (now lilac) line is still nice and clear for game accuracy.
You can get nice accurate arcs by drawing around the base on a piece of paper, cutting out the circle and folding it in half.
As I did each model's arc I checked for errors or missing paint. I found one whose arm was missing and I had no suitable replacement. I was running out of time so I grabbed a tiny sliver of green stuff modelling putty. I sculpted a simple blob into the shoulder socket and teased it out and back to vanish into the folds of the cloak. Looks fine and doesn't stand out from the others. It takes a few hours to dry and it was already 17:00 on the last day!
At 22:08 on the final day, I dry brushed a light flesh highlight onto the painted arm, dropped my brush, and I'm done!
Tip 14: This is that one weird tip: Shut up and paint. By that, I mean, when I thought “I could be painting but I can’t be bothered as I am too tired”, I just told myself to shut up and pick up a paintbrush. I have had at least 100 individual painting sessions to complete these models. Not once, did I regret starting after that first minute of painting. Get over that initial hump and you’re in the painting zone before you know it. It is all about inertia, getting started in that first minute leads to an hour painting session almost every time.
Model Count (87) Points count 287
Wow. I recounted and I was 2 models out so I must have missed one or two somewhere. Here are the final stats:
4 months worked out at 122 days of possible painting time. So I painted 2.35 per day of time passed or 2.75 excluding my family days off. I painted around 3/4 of a model per day for the full 4 months.
But did I achieve my goal? I nervously laid them all out next to the inspiration Archangel and this is the moment I have waited for from the start….
This makes the whole process worth it. Look at that dragon and her brood, wow. Nothing on these models is complex or spectacular, but overall, the models are thematically painted and all belong together. The only things missing are some very fine detail work like eye colours and any extras to add a personal feel such as a unique dragony objective.
Would I be proud to play this army? I think I would, it looks cool and there are parts of it I am really proud of like the wings and the fabulous Hellmouth. The models are really thematic and, of course, roll better because they are painted. It was hard work at times but now, every time I would use them, I wouldn't have that moment of "man, I wish these were painted" putting them on the table.
It is also nice to know I would have managed the August point a day challenge!
So there you have it, if a guy who is working away, being a dad, enjoying his other hobbies, doesn’t understand art (easily my worst subject at high school), can manage to paint an army that will be sold in the next month or so, then I hope you can paint your army of models you love.
There is very little in life as satisfactory as bringing fully painted lists to a Steamroller. I can guarantee that even an army painted by a modestly skilled painter will be appreciated. Just like attending a Steamroller and scoring 1 and 3 is appreciated. When I see someone bringing a painted army to my game table I salute the effort every time and it really adds to the experience.
Thanks for coming along on my crazy painting ramble and I hope you learned a useful tip or were inspired to pick up a model and tickle it with a paint brush.
See you at the table sometime.