I skated out of painting the new Minotaur chapter icon when I posted this Minotaur Space Marine model I painted a few months back. After getting a few requests on how to paint the actual chapter symbol and not the shortcuts I did, I thought I might give it a go to see just how hard it would be to duplicate in freehand.
My initial impression was that it would be fairly easy to do and I was close. It's not hard to do once you know how to break it down into shapes, it's just keeping track of a few key spots in order to get the right feeling to the iconography.
I sat down and sketched it out a couple times until I knew I had a workable process that I could reproduce with my paintbrush on an actual model. Not that it would be super easy, but it was doable.
I decided I would be adding this (my freehand work) at the end of my painting in order to keep the overall model painting time down to a minimum.
You can do your freehand before or after you paint your model, each has it's pros and cons and it's worth considering both methods. I discuss that very thing in this post on when to do your freehand work.
I started out by painting up a shoulderpad in the bronze/gold look the models would have so I could see how the final freehand would look over the real basecolor. I used the same method I did on my previous model. It does me no good to paint it on something grey only to find out it (the colors I chose) don't really work that well over a bronze metallic basecoat later on. This way, I could modify either part so the end result was what I was looking for.
Here's where the problems started
And I hit the very problem I anticipated. Trying to get this detailed of an image to look good over a metallic color is near impossible for me. What I needed to do was repaint my base color as a light brown in order to make the icon stand out. The background color needs to be a flat color or better yet, non-metallic metal for this icon to work the best I think. That can add considerable time to painting your models and slows everything down. NMM is not something you're going to crank out quickly nor is it something I want to do on a few dozen shoulderpads.
Once I had it (my shoulderpad) repainted with my tan instead of bronze, it was a matter of following the steps I came up with and "building" the overall shape of the minotaur head. Note I said build it and not try to draw it outright in one pass. By building it from smaller shapes, I'm able to reproduce it consistently each time I go to do it.
The few areas I found I had to watch out for were the length of the nose compared to the width of the top of the head. You don't want him to have too short of a nose so you need to make sure the top of the head is the correct width in relation to the icon's height overall. Another problem is the amount fine line work on the image overall. This is not simply a blood drop or a simple tactical squad arrow.
Painting this icon will try your patience to say the least.
I ended up breaking out my fine tipped drawing pen to help with some of the line work. My brush could do it, but the more I worked on the image, the more I found myself looking for alternatives to painting... like not doing it at all.
So what's the verdict?
You certainly can paint your Minotaurs chapter symbol onto every shoulderpad. I'm not ever going do it though. I'd paint it onto my vehicles where I had a larger area to work on and my linework did not have to be absolutely perfect. When it comes to troop shoulderpads though, it's decals (which I don't do that often myself) or most likely casting.
Check out the two part shoulderpad mold making and casting series here.
I'd even go so far as to say that you could paint the icon normally over a regular metallic background as long as it was sculpted onto the surface. The added texture would help it stand out and the use of a wash or two around the edges would help make it pop out as well.
So there you have it. Don't try and freehand this icon (especially if you have lots of them to do and by that, I mean more than one) unless it's large and on a vehicle. For troops, it's decals or casting. And if I went the casting route, I'd make my own larger sized, low relief icons for my vehicles too in order to add some texture to the flat surfaces.
In fact, I'm going to sculpt one and paint it up to see how it turns out.
I'll post the results later this week.
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Painting Minotaurs in bronze
Molding and casting shoulderpads
When you paint your freehand matters, chose wisely