Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle

The Tiger Roars 
Guest Commentary

Watching Paint Dry: A Guide to Painting for the Average Gamer  by Patrick Eibel
Here at the Jungle, we feature lots of articles about tactics, building an army, and general advice on enjoying the game of Warhammer 40K.  There is, however, not a lot of discussion on painting.  This is because, and I know this may shock some of you, we are not the world’s greatest figure painters.  But what we lack in skill, we make up for in persistence.  Kenton and I keep plugging away at our armies in an attempt to field them fully painted and reasonably attractive.  Which is a goal, I think, most players of the game would be happy with as well.  Here then is some sage advice on how to paint your army while “keeping it real.”

Choosing a Color
After deciding what army you want to play, selecting a color scheme may be the most important decision you will make.  Many armies are identifiable immediately by their armor color – Ultramarine Blue for Ultramarines, Dark Angels Green for Dark Angels, yellow and blue for Iyandan Eldar.  Knowing the established GW color schemes will help you align your army with an existing one, or help guide you on a different path.  You will get tired very fast of explaining why your Space Marine army is Shadow Gray and Sunburst Yellow and not Space Wolves.

I break down my color selection into four areas: the main color, the accent color, the metal bits, and the detail bits.  The main color is the color that the bulk of you figures will be painted.  A good way to determine what you want that to be is to paint a test figure in the colors you have chosen, then step back from the table about twenty feet and ask yourself what color jumps out at you.  Colors have powerful connotations attached to them – red is bloody or fiery, black is menacing, blue is serene, green is earthy and natural – so make sure that the color you have chosen as your main color fits with your theme for the army. 

The accent color is there to help break up the monotony of the main color.  On Marines, it can be just the shoulder pads, but for other armies it can be more varied, either torso/legs, head/body, armor/uniform, or any other division may work.  Necrons have a built-in accent color with their glow rods, although you can certainly change what that is (I know a player who replaced all of his rods with red plastic for a very different effect).  The accent color should usually contrast with the main color to offer some visual interest, although complementary combinations can also work.  Just look at the Fighting Tiger stripe patterns: orange and black contrast very strongly, while mustard yellow and brown are complementary. 

Fighting Tigers of Veda Space Marines in Fiery Orange and Chaos Black, and in Bubonic Brown and Bestial Brown

The metal bits refer to all the things on your model you will use a metallic color on.  Depending on your color scheme, this could be the entire model (Iron Warriors, Necrons) or nothing at all (Tyranids).  I equate the metallic colors with the tech level of the army.  For Kenton’s Kurindan army, which is pretty feral, I chose Tin Bitz and Brazen Brass to evoke a very primitive, low-tech feel.  For my Orks, I use Boltgun Metal, but I dirty it up with a flesh wash to convey the lack of proper maintenance.  For my Tau and Eldar, I use Mithral Silver on the weapons for a more high-tech sheen. 

The detail bits are all the other things on your model that you will paint in something other than the main and accent colors. You will want to limit the number of additional colors you add to your figure, just so you don’t have to keep changing paint pots all the time (remember this is advice on how to make progress on your army, not prolong it indefinitely). 

For my Tau army, the main color is Graveyard Earth, which on a Fire Warrior is the color of the armor parts, the head, the backpack, and the wristbands.  The accent color is Desert Yellow, which is the color of the fabric uniform under the armor.  The metal bits are all Mithril Silver and are limited to details on the guns and backpack.  The detail colors are Jade Green (part of the Tau logo), Ice Blue (the round dot in the Tau logo, the round screw-like part of the rifle, and a little detail on the backpack for balance), Blood Red (the top sensor where the “eye” is), and Chaos Black (the belt, hooves, rifle, and faceplate). I also paint the middle part of the shoulder pad in a squad designation color to help keep the units straight.  So, a total of eight colors plus painting the base and flocking, and with three of the colors I am only painting one thing, which is fairly manageable.

Some of Pat's Fire Warriors, painted with the techniques discussed in this article

Tom Sawyer And The Fence
Many of us remember the story of how Tom Sawyer tricked a bunch of kids into painting a fence for him by making them think it was fun. Alas, this trick will not work on 40k models, as anybody who has painted one knows how tedious the process is. Face it, unless you hire someone to paint your army for you (and, in essence, pay for your army twice), you will have to devote the time necessary to painting your army. Not just for you, but for the rest of us. While I view 40K as a social game, an excuse to hang out with someone for a couple of hours chatting and throwing dice, I enjoy it much more if the armies on the table look good too.  It adds a certain amount of credibility to your games, as if you were doing a battle report for White Dwarf.  Not that you have to paint to ‘Eavy Metal Team standards*

*Can we talk for a second about the ‘Eavy Metal Team?  How many times have you read a battle report in White Dwarf and thought, “Why is that idiot taking those figures?”  The answer generally is that that was what was available to be played with that was painted by the ‘Eavy Metal Team of painters.  Ummmm, here’s a clue: if you know the next issue will have a Tau battle report, paint more Tau.  I mean, isn’t that what you’re being paid to do?  But I digress.

There have been a variety of articles about how to go about painting your army in the most efficient manner, so I am going to offer one on the most inefficient way that gets me results: paint one figure at a time.  I set out a squad I want to paint, break it up into groups based on the poses (all the like legs together, basically), and then fully paint and flock one model at a time in each group until the unit is done.  I find that in the limited time I get to paint each week, I can complete one figure in about three days.  The reason I do this is to have some concrete evidence that I am making progress.  The method of painting all the bits in a squad of one color and repeating until the squad was done left me discouraged, as the squad always looked unfinished until the very end.  By doing one figure at a time, I can set little goals like completing all the figures in a particular group or getting half the squad completed.  Anything that can add incentive to painting is a good thing.

A Preacher from Pat's Witch Hunters army

What The Flock Are You Talking About?
Unless you are Golden Demon entrant, flocking may be the most underappreciated part of completing your model.  Some players don’t even bother and field their painted models on plain black slottabases (I think most of my Orks are in that category).  But flocking your models can serve another purpose other than just aesthetics.  Flocking can help to differentiate your squads when you don’t want to add squad markings in other ways. For instance, in the Summer in the City campaign, I used three units of Grey Knights that were all outfitted exactly the same.  I differentiated them by their bases as one squad was flocked with gravel, one with dirt, and one had their bases painted like rusted metal.  Along with painting the band along the bottom of the bases different colors, flocking is one of the quickest and easiest ways to tell your units apart.

Is That All?
Well, I’ve prattled on for a bit, but I will leave you with some final thoughts. 

  • The most important thing you can buy for your painting table is a good set of brushes.  I basically use a fine sable brush for just about everything until it wears out, then I replace it.  And I don’t feel bad for the sable.  Better my brushes then a coat for Paris Hilton I say. 
  • The second most important thing you can buy for your painting area is a good light.  Have you ever picked up a figure during a game and realized that there was a ton of details you missed?  It drove me nuts, so I got halogen track lights and now I feel like I’m in a painter’s studio. 
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been at a gaming store where some guy describes his Herculean effort to finish painting his army for the Grand Tournament.  Hey, buddy, that’s your own personal hell.  No one’s asking you to paint 100 figures in five days, so don’t feel pressure to do so (unless, of course, you enjoy being a sleep-deprived nervous wreck.) 
Some people enjoy painting Citadel miniatures purely for artistic reasons and the game is almost an afterthought.  That’s fine, but I am more of a gamer than an artist, and I want to play the game.  Painting miniatures is basically a function of how I can increase my enjoyment of the game, but I don’t want it to take significant time away from my playing time.  Finding a way to balance real life, painting and playing is always tricky, so just do the best you can.  I mean, it is only a game after all. 

Necron Heavy Destroyers painted by Patrick Eibel


Posted August 2007. Used with permission.


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle