Learning to Paint: Volume I, Issue II: A Foray Into Warhammer 40,000: Dark Vengeance

So in the first issue of this series, I talked about why I had decided to start trying to paint miniatures and the inherent problems within. As mentioned in that column I decided to go with Warhammer 40,000: Dark Vengeance as a good starter until my miniatures from three different Kickstarter campaigns (Deep Wars, Stonehaven, and Reaper Bones) arrived sometime in 2013. Considering how over the top expensive either version of Warhammer is compared to other miniatures. I picked up the limited edition version which came with an extra figure in Interrogator-Chaplain Seraphicus. Forty-nine figures for $107 (MSRP of the limited edition) comes out to about $2.18 per guy, which isn’t too bad, but thankfully I paid far less than that for mine (I know people after all…).

The Dark Vengeance set comes with two armies: Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines. There’s a nice variety of figures here, but I was drawn to Chaos mainly because I liked a lot of the new figures coming out like the Warp Talons, Heldrake and Forgefiend/Maulerfiend. However there is a lot more detailing and tiny bits to Chaos figures, so I decided I’d start with the Space Marines as my first foray into painting as they looked at LOT easier. Especially with my handicap in this area. Most Space Marines are two to three colours at most with one colour taking up the bulk of the figure. The only problem? The Dark Angels colour scheme is TERRIBLE.

I mean, look at these guys! Sinus infection green and beige robes? Their two main colours clash with each other. They’re an eyesore to look at and I honestly didn’t want something that ugly as my army. So what to do? I could have painted the figures a different pattern, but I could totally see some whiny anal retentive nerd going, “Oh my god, you painted Dark Angels figures with a Hawk Lords colour scheme?” the first time I brought my figures in to play with somewhere, which would have just killed any fun with the figures. There’s a reason I like role-playing games but am very selective of who I play with afterall. Like gaming online. So I decided to read more about the Dark Angels and found some “successor chapters” that offered better colour schemes. The Consecrators and Angels of Vengeance looked cool and as they were only Black with a hint of red, both would be easy to do. Instead though, I decided to go with The Guardians of the Convenant. These Space Marines are mostly silver, which I liked as I wanted my “good” army to be a little shinier, much like paladins or cavaliers. They also have red robes (for the figures with those) which is a better colour than that terrible beige the regular Dark Angels are saddled with. Add in a hit of black and white, and you have the makings of a Dark Angels chapter that actually looks cool. Their back story as somewhat isolationist warrior-monks was pretty cool too.

Dark Vengeance comes with twenty-one Dark Angels. You get ten tactical Space Marines, five Deathwing terminators, three Ravenwing bikes, a Librarian, a Company Master and the aforementioned Interrogator-Chaplain. I decided to start with the Tactical squad as they had the least detail and special bits to them. I also wanted to think about how to make the robes on the few figures that had them actually look like cloth. First up was the primer.

Primer is the undercoat that you’ll be applying all the other colours too. Games Workshop offers both a white and black primer and so I asked our own resident Warhammer expert, Chuck Platt what the difference was. He let me know that white primer makes colours brighter and shinier while the black primer makes the colours applied darkier and gritter. I knew for the Guardians of the Convenant, I wanted their silver armour to be really shiny, like a beacon of light in the very gritty 40K universe, so I went with white primer. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know what I was doing, but hey, that’s the point of both the painting and the column – to learn something new, especially from my mistakes.

My problem with the primer, which comes in an aerosol spray can, is that I ASSUMED (whoops) that you sprayed it like spray paint, as in one long continuous burst. Then turn the figures around and spray the other side. So I took them outside and put them in a large cardboard box. Unfortunately it was very windy out. My original plan was to set the figures on the top of the box and spray them while walking around getting different angles. Instead, the wind kept blowing the figures down and so I put them IN the box to paint. The end result were figures that were now primed white, but due to the continuous spraying and tight enclosure, bits of original plastic grey remained on the. As well, in some places the primer ran and clumped because I applied too much via the continuous spray. You can see in the picture next adjacent how the original priming job looked. After going, “Well, this can’t be right.” I looked online how to actually apply the primer. I also learned how to remove paint from Games Workshop minis without melting the plastic (Yay Pine Sol) and so I removed the original primer dose and reapplied it correctly. Now the first priming job wasn’t terrible. I could have just sprayed the areas I missed and also scraped off the clumps, but I decided to start over because I have such little time to paint, I wanted to make sure I did it right while it was still in my head.

After the priming, I chose two figures to paint. One with a regular bolter and the other with a storm bolter. Those are types of guns in the 40K universe by the way. For these first two figures, I only used a single paint actually supplied by Games Workshop/Citadel. That would be Runefang Steel. It was metallic and shiny rather than dingy and that’s exactlywhat I was looking for. The white, black and red paints came from the Mantic Paint Set. Games Workshop paints are pretty pricey, and this gave me nine paints and a brush for twenty five dollars. That’s a good deal. Chuck seconded me on going with the Mantic paint starter when I asked him about it, and that’s primarily what I used. I discovered that Mantic paints are thicker and harder to use that the Games Workshop paint, but the colours were nice.

/>It took me about an hour to apply the basecoat of Runefang Steel to both figures. This was the easiest part but I went slow as I wanted to make sure I got all the cracks and crevices, but also to make sure I didn’t apply too much. Then I decided to apply the black as it was the second most prevalent colour on the figures. If you clicked on the Guardians of the Convenant page I linked to earlier in the column, you might be wondering what all there would be to paint black besides the shoulder pads. Well, on each figure there was the mouth, the guns and a lot of little cracks and crevices on the backpacks. I also decided to do the knees black so the figures weren’t just pure silver. I did end up slopping on the bases, but that’s okay, because I knew I could touch those back up with black and I’d just be added flock and/or sand to them eventually anyway (bases will be a column all to itself down the road). I was surprised at how little trouble I had doing the mouths and crevices on the backpacks. I think it’s because I was trying especially hard and going very slow, the latter of which is something very hard for me to do. I like to get things done fast and right on the first go, which is simply something that couldn’t happen here. The shoulder pads were actually the hardest part because trying to get into the crevices around the sword and wings logo on the figures was insanely hard for me, even with a fine detail brush. It was also hard to keep the black within the lines and not have any drip, bun or bleed onto the silver part of the pad. It happened a bit though, but I knew I could go back and touch up those areas with Runefang Steel later. Trying to hold a paint brush that steady and moving it with slow, delicate strokes was crazy, but I did it. You can see the end result of the silver and black colours here. All things considered, I was proud of having been able to do the little areas and pads decently. I thought my first time out would be a hideous mess, but I was happy with how I did. It wasn’t a paint job they’d be showing on Games Workshop’s blog or anything, but it was better than I thought I’d be able to do and so I was more than willing to take that little victory.

Then came the white and red. This took me an hour to do as well, which may be surprising since there is so little of each on the final figures. This was because of the small areas I was painting. I had to apply white to the crest on the chest of each marine as well as the left shoulder logo. I can’t begin to describe how hard doing the logo in white was. The hilt of the sword and the feathers of the wings are so small that even taking my sweet time, I’d occasionally fudge up and get flecks of white onto the black shoulder pad. Then I’d try to touch up the black and I’d get some back on the wings. One and off it went. Finally I just had to be happy with what was there and call it a day. Surprisingly the large chest emblem was MUCH easier to do, even though I had to deal with an arm in the way of much of it. Somehow getting my brush into those little crack and crevices without getting white on the arm gun or silver part of the chest was easier than that damned emblem.

The red paint was pretty easy. I just painted the double arrow on the right shoulder pad and then the eyes. Then I was done. What you see across from here in the end result save for touching up the silver in some places. I think they came out pretty good for a first time by a guy with damaged ulnar nerves and no real sense of touch. The photos actually look worse than the real thing as the flash makes it appear like there is extra white where it’s actually silver in some crevices. A few days later I brought these guys down to the local Games Workshop store in Springfield (DC, not IL or OR). I met Bill there who took a look at my guys and said they were pretty good for a first timer. He gave me a few tips like perhaps doing the white and red before the black next time and also to do a wash with Nuln Oil to fill in the crevices and cracks instead as it provides better shading. I’ll be doing that with the figures in the next column to let you know how that goes.

So there we go. My first two figures fully painted. I made a few mistakes and learned a lot. Again, for a first time, I think I did okay. There’s obviously room for improvements, but I did far better than I thought I would. I’m interested in trying the wash and see if that’s easier than filling in the cracks with black paint. I’m sure it will be as that’s what it’s designed for. I’ll probably go back and touch up these guys once I’ve finished the full division of Tactical Space Marines and go back to do all their bases at once. I might also choose a different eye colour for the next few pieces, just to highlight which ones for done for each column. There’s also Chaos to consider now. I have to pick out a colour scheme. Right now I’m thinking very dark purple with gold and black the minor colours. My first Chaos piuece that I’ll be painting will probably be the Heldrake as it’s super big and thus easier to work on that the much smaller and highly detailed with spikey bits and tentacles troops that Chaos has. What do you think? I also have Lizardmen to work on at some point to, although much like the Dark Angels, I hate the suggested colour scheme of turquoise and chartreuse that games Workshop has for their reptilian race. I’ll definitely be going with some form of green for them.

Thoughts? Tips? Pointers? Leave them here for me. I’m just beginning with this new hobby and I’d love to hear whatever you have to say, whether it’s what your favorite Adeptus Astartes is or you have a good idea for helping me to do the sword/wings logo without the risk of blobbing it up. The only way I’ll get better is with help from all of you reading this, so don’t be afraid to sound off.

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