Evolution of a painting technique

I thought it might be interesting to share an email that came to me the other week about a technique I used. Well, not the actual email, but the idea of how a technique starts one way and transforms as others pick it up and add their own touch to it.

The original email asked me about the technique I used to paint my Deathwing troops and how something like that would transfer over to painting Imperial Guard. All Things 40k has got a good tutorial on painting Imperial Guard that runs similar to my approach, but has a little (actually a lot) more depth to it.
But before getting into any actual process you might want to try, let's look at where I got the idea originally.

Photo from Bushido in the 41st Millennium

Many moons ago, while cruising the FTW Blog rolls, I came across this post that had a few pictures of a Space Marine Librarian in terminator armour being painted up. It wasn't the paint scheme that caught my eye, Librarians are blue and so is this one, but it was the base color and highlight combination that stood out to me.

I thought this is a great way to suggest the color of something without actually having to paint it that way. I went on to elaborate by turing my whole theory into a quiz to prove my point, but the end result is the idea works great if you can get the right color combinations.

So I took what I saw in the picture and attempted to recreate it for my own purposes. A couple test paintings on some spare legs and I found just the right color combination to get the results I wanted.
And my Deathwing were born. They aren't going to win any awards for painting, but that's not the point. They are an experiment. I'm sure I could do it over and paint them to a much higher standard using he same technique. Maybe one day, when I have nothing else left to paint, I'll give it a try.

But not being happy with just painting troops, I decided to see if I could take the same approach and apply it to something bigger, like a Dreadnought. It works just as well, you just need to refine your weapon painting skills since those parts of the model are bigger and play a larger role visually.

Then with two successes under my belt, it was time to move up to vehicles.

And it worked again. Just like the dreadnought, you need have a plan for your weapons and painting large flat areas as well. Obviously, since those are found on vehicles and not something commonly found on troop models.

This was all good and well since I'd been sticking to the same colors. The next question I had was could I change the colors and still get good results?

That's where I still need to do some more experimenting. My attempt at a Librarian model didn't turn out as well as I would have liked. My Scouts on the other hand did turn out fairly well for being another experiment.

And so we come to the email asking how to apply this technique to Imperial Guard. How exactly to do it, I don't know. I do know it will work if you're willing to invest a little time in experimenting and getting the right colors.

Ultimately, it's as simple as choosing a neutral base color, adding a wash and then adding a single line highlight in key areas.

These were sent to me in the email showing me how the writer had used my original technique on his models. A huge success if you ask me. Mind you, they are still WIP shots and not everything is painted, but I hink he's definitely got a tabletop quality model here once he gets the last details added.

And that shows you, it shouldn't take much to get nice looking models. You don't have to spend 100 plus hours on one model just to get it tabletop ready. A basecoat, a wash and maybe a highlight is all it really takes sometimes.

Do I love to see lavishly painted and converted models on the table, sure, who doesn't? But I'm just as happy playing against an army that is painted. Just painting them makes all the difference in the world.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
What do the words "Pro-Painted" mean to you?

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Another, possibly quicker, alternative is to follow the neutral base/wash/single highlight as stated but replace the wash with the Dip. It might pan out better for truly massive numbers. Not that I am challenging the results (these look great to me), just thinking of some further uses. After looking at the mass numbers of troops I have unpainted, the project is going to require extensive measures to actually complete the rank & file so time can be spent on the truly interesting aspects. I figure the Dip (which to me, seems just like a wash) and the addition of the highlight as noted in this excellent article, I figure it ought speed along my assembly to the point where it actually gets momentum. However, what would be the best wash/dip for use with non-neutrals like blue or red? Same deal, just use a bit darker wash?

  2. I was just coming on here looking for your painting tutorial, only to find you've just re-visited it! Bonus! I'm going to try & apply this technique to some Lizardmen later today, I reckon.

  3. I always loved your Deathwing technique. Gritty with a hint of the actual color. Thanks for the link-love ;)

  4. James: When it comes to reds and blues... I don't have an answer for you. I tried blue on my Librarian and failed at it where as I had success with green the first time around.


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