Dark Eldar models: Good and Bad?

The quality of the new Dark Eldar models is amazing, the trouble is trying to paint them to even a tabletop standard. I managed to stop by my FLGS (Game Vault) and had a chance to look at the new Dark Eldar Codex along with the handful of sprues that came in the "black box" release.

As I stood there talking to a friend of mine about the game (even though he is getting out of 40k), I was absolutely amazed at the quality of the new Dark Eldar models. I mean these things are amazing in terms of quality and detail. Simply gorgeous.
And then it hit me.

While I love the new sculpts and the amount of detail is utterly amazing, I think these are going to be some of the hardest models to paint (and make look good) for most people.
And here's what I mean... your average player I would suspect does not have a degree in art or the hours upon hours to spend lavishing these models with attention. There's so much on these models that you almost have to be willing to spend a considerable amount of time on each one if you want something that is even worth looking at. Either "tabletop standard" is going to go way up or there are going to be lots of unfinished Dark Eldar armies running around out there.

And here's why, while the detail is great, kids today want everything done in an instant. They don't want to wait anymore. Instant gratification as my friend called it. Their lives move way too fast to think about slowing down and spending real time just painting a single model.
You can't even get them to write in complete sentences anymore because they're so used to texting and shortening their words... to make it quicker.

You can't swing a stick in the blogosphere without hitting ten sites with articles telling you how to get it (painting) done quicker and easier. This place is no exception. We're all pressed for time and most of us struggle to get a little bit of painting in each week. Even with GW's washes and things like dipping techniques and colored spray primers... there is only so many corners you can cut before you have to invest real time in a model.
Dark Eldar are going to need real time.

I hope people are willing to spend time on these models. But I suspect we will have lots of unpainted, frustrated (because of the painting) Dark Eldar players out there. I know what it like to get close to having painting become just a job.

I honestly think you're average player, with the little time that we all have in our busy schedules is going to struggle getting their new Dark Eldar army looking the way they want it to. Will they be armies with beautifully sculpted models, sure... but unfortunately, I bet most will be unfinished.

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. Ouch, very good point. I might have to reconsider my impulsive next new army...

  2. Kids today need to get off my lawn!


  3. @Ron: I can see exactly where you are at here, I was trying to teach some kids to paint today... even with marines and foundations it was not really working.
    Personally I bought just Lilith for the display case, with plans to add probably and Archon and some Incubi later. However I can't see myself building and painting an army of them.
    It isn't that the extra detail bothers me, or the time needed to paint them, it is just that I have way too many minis now and new shiney or not, well I can't justify buying them just to paint at some as yet unknown time in the future...

    @Ben: I second this motion.

  4. I saw the models also and my knee jerk reaction was the same thing.... but then I came to realize that the people who paint to play (ie: table top quality) will still paint it with the bare 3 color min painting style. Those of us that paint to have great looking minis on the table will be spending all the extra time on the detail. You are going to see a lot of base coat, line highlight, blades and guns painted.

  5. I noticed the same thing. Good article!

  6. Great post! I found the same to be true with the Vostroyans; great sculpts with lots of detail that demanded a lot of time to paint.

  7. Point is, that this army is just not meant for beginners- this also apllies for the playstile...

  8. Games Workshop are in a no-win situation. If the new sculpts had been phoned in there'd be tons of people complaining. As it is they're being criticised for being too detailed (and that's nothing against Ron, I've heard people say the same things elsewhere?

    The internet is a fickle sphere.

  9. You're probably right Ron, such beautiful minis do come at a considerable investment of time and skills. I'm certain that we'll get to see a ton of rushed and incomplete armies pop up allover the place in the coming couple of months (till the next flavour of the month drops).

    On the other hand I've recently started to try and take a more positive approach in general (been a huge cynic for years now) and I hope that the DE will do for a lot of gamers what the LotR and Warmaster ranges did for me.

    LotR, being of slightly smaller scale and with more realistic proportions and, Warmaster, being really, really smaller, forced me to adjust my techniques and the way I approached minis. After about a dozen LotR minis and about 5-6 strips of Warmaster minis I could already see my approach to 40K minis changing for the better. Sure my painting got even slower, but the end result was also a lot nicer.

    I'm thinking/hoping that the more challenging surfaces and techniques required to get the most out of the new DE range will also push a lot of painters and modelers to a new level. I can hope and dream right ;-)

    For me personally I've been waiting for this update for almost a decade, but I have way too many unfinished stuff and projects. So I've only pre-ordered the codex and a single Kabalite Warriors box just to give them a try. I'll see how I fare with them and if I have enough time to do something worthwhile with them. I'd hate for such beautiful minis to just sit on a shelf collecting dust!

  10. It's a good point - and perhaps slightly intentional. From what people are saying, Dark Eldar are going to be a tough army to play successfully.
    From a developer standpoint, you don't want someone picking up an army they're going to lose with and not have fun - Complicated models might be a method to dissuade people from choosing armies that take a little more dedication.

  11. One of the reasons I have decided to collect and paint a Dark Eldar army is simply because the models are so detailed and I can lavish them to my hearts content.

    I disagree though, if painters choose a limited palette of colors, they'll be able to get results faster than you'd expect.

  12. I basically just paint and it has taken me a long time to get to where I am with one army. Just one. So I can understand the need for "speed". But that said there are some quite nice looking armies out there that has been speed painted. I don't think it's the *time* you spend but rather if you care or not.

    I get my not-from-my-self hobby fix through the web, like reading FtW for instance, and while I am mainly a paint guy I sometimes end up either reading about or watching games being played. Many of the models aren't even primed let alone basecoated and washed. And these models are often of the Space Marine variety. So the level of detail doesn't seem to be the do or die here.

    How much harder is it to paint a DE compare to let's say Eldar or an Ork or the like? Washes could actually make details easier in some ways. Me, I'm going to give Lilith a try, hoping to get to see some painting guides before I try. Just like the Eldar I want to paint DE. Just a shame their codex will be really old by the time I could possibly finish an army for them:)

    Kids that can't be bothered to write coherently and without silly abbreviations needs to be sat down and paint models to be taught some valuable lessions in what results you get when you put time and effort into something. It is our generations failure that we haven't thought the kids that (except for video games). I firmly believe that ADD/ADHD is more often learned behavior than anything else. We all need to learn to slow down and just do things that have meaning.

    Btw, a DE painting guide or two would be interesting if someone ends up having you paint them:)

  13. My sisters of battle never ever got done, oh they were tabletop with 3 colors, but I never got every bracelet, every skull every detail exactly as I wanted it.

    I'm avoiding DE for this exact reason, I know that I'll just obsess and obsess about having every bit of every figure painted.


  14. This sounds like nonsense to me. More detail on a model allows a painter to spend more time and effort on bringing that detail out, but it doesn't force you to do so. The baseline quality for Dark Eldar is going to be the same as for every other army, but the top-level quality is going to be much higher; this is awesome.

  15. Wow, another bummer post were Ron tells us how he has no faith in humanity. Way to dwell on the negative, dude.

  16. Hi Ron

    I get what you're saying, and I think it's up to folks like us to keep doing what we do, helping people that are ready for it to improve their painting skills. Or even become more comfortable with the tips and tricks they may already know.

    I'd be happy to work on a couple of quick tutorials with you once these hit the shelves. Let me know if you're up for it.


  17. I'm not sure if they're actually more complicated, as in harder to paint, so much as the standard trap people run into.. they do look time consuming. Time is where a lot of people have issue with detail. Detail isn't necessarily hard - it just takes time and patience.
    I've been helping a friend slowly improve his painting by teaching him small tips and tricks to help improve his skills. From here, he's getting a little more adventurous in what he's painting and taking more time (and pride) in what he's creating.

    I too would be willing to help out. Maybe write some articles up on issues like patience, quality levels, experimenting and so on.

  18. I agree.

    Whilst those who know me know that I hate all 40K baddies and everything they stand for, I have to admit that these models are awesome...but I wouldn't ever dream of trying to paint one.

    No way, Jose.

    The only thing worse than this for someone like me is very detailed but poorly sculpted modles like the WFB Empire state troops.

  19. I have a DE army, old codex, old minis. S'ok as far as my painting skills go...

    I will almost certainly 'refresh' my DE army, fully in the knowledge that it will get three colours and some washes if I get the time.

    I've got quite a lot to do with my time: As long as they look a bit like 'evil space elfs' when they hit the table, that's where I'm aiming for. 40K will always loose to real life, in the end. Unless I take a pragmatic view about my armies, they'll never see action.

  20. Wow, thanks for all the comments guys.

    James: I agree, people who do the three color minimum will continue to do so. I think with some forces, this a can get good results... with DE I think they may be disappointed with the results.

    Hudson: Vostroyans are another great example, I never thought of them.

    Mini: I'm not upset at the level of deatil, quite the opposite, I love all the detail. I think it's going to make it harder to get a really good looking army without investing some real time into it now though. There is more detail and it's smaller as well.

    Hephesto: I agree, and then we'll see bunches and bunches of the new flavor and so on and so on. I think you've got a good point about painting something different having an impact on your painting style/approach.
    I too hope the new quality of sculpts helps push people to new levels in their painting.

    Flekkzo: You're right, it does fall on those who can to help those who want to learn. I can certainly see collecting a number of tutorials on how to "paint" DE. Even if they aren't the quick fixes we might all be used to.
    And it's not that the quick fixes won't work on these models, you'll just need to apply more of them to get the resutls you want (since there is more detial requiring different approaches and colors, etc.)
    As for tutorials, I'm already looking at what I can paint to help people get similar results. I do have some Eldar figures lying around that I could use as test subjects.
    Any particular requests?

    Chris: More detail does allow you more time to work on a model... and you are not forced to do it. Thats' true, but when a model is almost all small details, not painting them has an impact on your final result.
    I do agree that even tabletop quality for these guys will exceed that of other less detailed forces though.

    Mr. Esty: I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm happy the new sculpts are as detailed as they are. I hope all of us painters can keep up now. I don't see the models getting less detailed as they go along either. That means Grey Knights should be amazing as well. That's all.

    davetaylor: You're correct. It's like Flekkzo mentioned, those of us who can should do what we can to help others. I'll drop you an email and we can chat about getting something together. Thank you for the offer.

    Dave G_Nonplus: You're right, detail isn't all hard, but it is time consuming and requires patience. Two things you can't pass along in a tutorial to someone looking for a way to get their army painted quickly and have it look nice. Send me an email and maybe we can come up with something we can do.

    Thanks once again everyone.

  21. @Ron

    I'm sorry if my comment came off as, well... bitchy, but I just don't see why you can't say something nice about models (that you think look good) without wallowing in some preemptive disappointment. I mean, you haven't even seen a badly painted DE army yet! Cheer-up Eeyore :)

  22. Drax: I think you could do it, if you can sculpt your mascot, you've got to be able to paint Dark Eldar.

    Zzzzzz: I think we've all go to balance detail and painting/converting with the time we have or it's like you say, they'd never get sone.

    Mr.Esty: I apprecite your comments, they have a way of keeping me honest. If all I did was put up "nice" posts about how great the models are, I would not be sharing how I really feel about them.
    And you're right, I haven't seen a badly painted DE army yet. And I hope I don't. I hope that everyone who decides to take on the army also decides to take on the painting challenge with as much enthusiasm.
    I think playing them well and painting them well will both be difficult.

  23. @Ron

    Paint tips really depends on what GW themselves comes up with in the next GW/on the web. But I'd be interested in the basics, i.e. DE Armor, skin (yes, I am going to get Lilith:)), weapons. Things that sets them apart.

    I am particularly interested in alternative painting schemes for DE, as it seems like they are going for the black with colorful highlights approach. I haven't really seen what other schemes are out there.

    I am sure I will have more questions when I have the dex, the GW, and Lilith :)

  24. Hey Ron,

    I can see where you're coming from however in my experience it's the more detailed models that tend to be easier to paint. If a model has a lot of great detail, even basic painting techniques can make it look good.

    I believe that it's the large flat surfaces that take serious skill to make look good. In every Golden Daemon, there is always a few winners that have been converted to remove all of the sculpted detail so that the painter's true ability can be displayed.

    With these new Dark Eldar it looks to me like even a beginner will be able to get a decent table-top standard. Due to all the detail, a base coat with a foundation and a wash should achieve a quality paint-job with minimal skill required.


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