Way back when, it used to be ok for Space Marines to wear camouflage. Some chapters used it extensively while others shunned it all together as a sign of cowardice. Nowadays, the only Marines you see wearing any kind of camo are Scouts and even then, it's a cloak at best. Even they are sporting the chapter colors on their armour.
Don't get me wrong, there are some folks out there doing amazing camo work on marine scouts and the Imperial Guard guys have it down to a science.
But camouflage has all but disappeared from Space Marine forces. You just don't see it anymore. A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader asking about painting camo patterns on marines. Power armoured marines... not just Scouts. In particular, the Howling Griffons in their Sigmar VI Insurgency Force pattern.
Sounds cool doesn't it?
This project gave me the chance to revisit the army and try something new.
Where the idea for this post came from
Like I mentioned earlier, a reader emailed me a few weeks ago and asked how he might go about painting this particular camo pattern on his guys. The pattern comes from the old Warhammer 40,000 Compendium.
The image there is from GW and you can see some of the crazy camo patterns a few chapters were sporting during the Badab war.
So with his request, we talked about painting camo and I decided to see what I could do to replicate this particular pattern. I set out to build myself a marine in MK6 armour with a few adjustments to better represent that particular mark of armour and give him an "old school" feel.
Once I had him built, I set him on an appropriate desert themed base from Secret Weapon minis. Does me no good to paint him a certain way to match his environment and then not put him in it. Completely assembled, he got a quick prime with a light grey color.
How I went about painting the model overall
Since I've never painted yellow before, I knew I wanted a light color primer so I didn't have to do a thousands layers to get a good, consistent yellow basecoat on him. It took two thin coats of GW Foundation Iyaden Darksun to get a yellow I was comfortable working with.
1. Base color of GW Foundation Iyaden Darksun
2. Wash with GW Gryphonne Sepia
3. Clean up original base color before adding camo pattern.
After a quick overall wash with GW Gryphonne Sepia to tone him down and then some touch-up work with the base color, I set out to paint the camo pattern on him. I've never been that good at camo myself so I knew this one was going to give me some trouble.
Some of my concerns with the camo pattern
I was worried my camo might make parts of the model tough to read visually. I knew my weathering would mute it slightly in the end, but I still needed to make sure the guy looked like a marine and not just a blob of colors.
To that end I decided to lighten my camo up overall. Not the huge swings in contrast to the pattern. I'd save the darkest darks for defining the armour plates on the model itself. I sort of skipped on the highlighting as well.The only thing I did do to highlight was go over my model with the basecolor again after shading it with the Gryphonne Sepia wash and picked out the upper portions of the armour.
The camo process step by step
The first part of painting the camo was to block out the dark areas over the yellow basecolor. I wanted to get a good balance of light and dark. I used GW Foundation Calthan Brown to block the pattern in. It took a couple passes to get a nice, smooth brown with any variation.
You want to make sure your camo is "clean" at this point since any variation in the pattern (how it's painted, splotchy or streaky for example) will read as surface texture that you don't want. Get a nice smooth finish and you can go back later and add the detail to the surface where you want it.
After that dried, I went through with GW Devlan Mud and dark lined the recessed areas of the model. This helped bring back out the different edges of the armour plates.
Since the picture had the browns a little warmer in color than what I had on the model at this point, I had to make a decision. Do I keep in line with the art or do I go for something that is close... keeping in mind I might need to replicate this on two or three tactical squads. Every little step I add on my test model adds considerable time as I expand that out into an army.
I went with close enough at this point and hoped to minimize the time it took to transfer this pattern army wide. We still have the smaller dark spots to add to the pattern!
The smaller spots were done with GW Foundation Charadon Granite. I made sure not to go overboard with these and tried placing a few clusters here and there in prominent areas only.
With those in place, my "camo" was done for all intensive purposes. That meant one more simple wash over the entire model with GW Ogryn Flesh to bring the light and dark areas together just a bit more and read as one.
From here on out, I went through and finished off the smaller details on the model like his gun, eyes, purity seals, etc.
With all of that work done, I was ready to jump into the weathering. I did do one last thing before getting into the weathering though and that was to freehand the chapter symbol on his right shoulderpad.
Here's where he really comes to life if you ask me. Through the use of weathering powders, he looks like he's been operating in the desert. The dust has collected in his armour and the subtle changes you get from the powders helps give him that battle worn look.
The powders muted the camo pattern even more around the lower portions of his legs and his backpack and gun show the effect nicely as well. My favorite is the grip on his bolter. The dust from his hands has collected there.
So what did I learn about painting camo?
A few things actually...
1. You need to work out your pattern and colors ahead of time. A test model would certainly be a good idea here.
2. Be aware of contrast in your camo colors. Too much and it will make it hard to understand what exactly you're looking at. You want the suggestion of camo, not necessarily the exact thing.
3. Scale is important. Once you decide how big or small your blobs, swirls, dots, whatever are going to be, stick with it. Don't make them large on the shoulderpads where you have more room and smaller on things like arms where there is less room. It will kill the consistency you need to pull this off effectively.
4. Match your camo to your environment. It doesn't have to be exact, but you want close enough that it reads as though it should be a reproduction of the environment. This is the case where you want the model and base to come together and not stand apart like we always shoot for.
Camouflage is cool
Going the camouflage route will definitely make your army or even just a unit stand out. It can be a good bit more work, but there are things you can do to keep it from getting out of control. And you can be sure that you'll most likely be the only one with a camo paint scheme making your force stand out from the crowd.
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
How to paint camouflage