Sunday, 26 January 2020

Irons Snakes: Storm Eagle Progress 3

Hi folks,

I bought these Iron Snakes themed Rhino doors from Chapterhouse Studios over 7 years ago, back when they were still operating. Thankfully, I never got around to making the Rhino I was going to do, as they fit the side doors of the Storm Eagle perfectly. That's a big win for procrastination.

Today I sat down to paint them and took some shots to illustrate the process. What I really wanted to show was how bad something can look before it ends up looking good! I am very happy with the finished product, but there are stages during the process where it really doesn't look like everything is going to be ok. This is a fact I would have loved to have learned back when I started painting miniatures 25 years ago. Many of the painting mistakes I made back then were due to the use of fearfully employed and rushed fix-up techniques.

1) Undercoat and Main Block Colour

I started with a white spray undercoat because painting clean white with a brush is hard. If you build up to white from a darker undercoat you can end up overworking it; the finish is rough. Spraying it using a rattlecan or airbrush is best, but then you have to be willing to work with white as the undercoat for things like metallics (black is much better for these) and you have to preserve that white surface during all of the other painting steps. As I went through these steps I put a lot of care into not getting anything on the white, leaving a final clean up of that part until the end (after all other mistakes have been made!). I then added some leadbelchers around the symbol, which went on like hot rubbish.

2) Bronze and Red

I have been using bronze and red as accents on my other Iron Snakes miniatures. The bronze is a little more complicated, as I also need to weather it using turquoise, but I don't do that in this step. I did the one on the left first, before I was really awake, so my brush control was off. Back in the day, I would have tried to fix this up immediately, but I just let it dry now and tidy it up later. When it is dry, you can paint over the top with a thin correcting coat. If you do it wet you may end up blending it in, requiring more coats to fix. By resisting the urge to fix something straight way, you end up fixing it more efficiently, giving a better finish.

3) Quick Blue Coat

Using a Size 2 flat brush, I added the first coat of blue to the snake motif. This is just a quick, time saving coat. Back in the day, I would have painted the whole thing in a 10/0 or 20/0 (fine detail) brush, but you only really need a small brush for the space between the snake and the white of the shield (protect that white!). One of the major changes to my painting technique has been using the biggest brush possible for each job. It speeds things up, you end up with less brush strokes and bigger brushes have a bigger paint well, allowing you to paint longer without reloading the brush.

4) More Blue

Using a smaller brush (Size 0), I painted the rest of the snake in blue. My brush control was ok, with only two major mistakes; the first top loop I flicked a small stripe of blue on the white, the second loop on the second door actually flicked up into my brush when I applied pressure to the wrong spot whilst holding it. That put a thick blue splodge on the white. This was something that I know is better to start fixing immediately, but not by adding paint. I immediately took a clean Size 1 brush, loaded it with water and diluted the blue splodge until it had the consistency of a wash. I then dried the brush quickly and soaked off the blue "wash" with the dry bristles. This works really well sometimes, as long as you are not going to wash the colour somewhere you don't want it to go. You have to think quick, have the equipment at hand, move calmly and get the job done. You can see the rim of the splodge, where it had already started to dry (it was over 35 degree C today). That faint ring would be easy to paint over without over working the white, whereas the original mistake would probably have required a small coat or two of grey over the top, before being covered by white.

5) Nuln Oil Wash

I have heard Nuln Oil being described as "liquid skill". You use it to make up for a lack of skill... apparently. Well, I have been using washes since forever and I (for one) am very happy that I don't have to mix them myself all that much anymore. As you can see, just adding a wash doesn't make things look good. I have done a heavy wash here, paying careful attention to the rim of the shield, around the spear heads and the red cords, as this is where I want definition. I also added it as a glaze to the bottom of each blue snake loop, to add depth. You can see though that the wash has fanned out over the leadbelchers further than it should have. Again, trying to touch this up now would make a mess, the washes and paint don't mix very well when wet, it is better to let the wash dry completely then dry-stipple leadbelchers back into it.

6) Dry Stippling Leadbelchers

Stippling is generally a drawing technique where dots are used to add areas of light and shadow to a picture; the closer the dots are the deeper the shadow. To stipple with a paintbrush, you load it evenly with paint and then, holding the brush perpendicular to the surface, tap the bristles against the surface. The more taps you do the more intense the colour, either light or dark depending on what you have loaded in the brush. The wetter the paint, the less taps you have to do to get the same intensity, though you run the risk of just... splodging. I often use "dry-stippling" when weathering a model, where I remove most of the paint from the bristles as if I was going to dry-brush, but then use a stippling technique to apply it. I used this here to tidy up the previous wash without being too harsh.

7) Verdigris

Starting with a 1:1 light brown/turquoise mix, I pant over the bronze, starting from about halfway up the shield rim. The final colour I use is neat turquoise, followed by a 2:1 turquoise/white mix edge highlight. The edge highlight is where I really pause for a moment, get my breathing steady, give my eyes time to focus on the edge, tilt the piece on the correct angle and exercise my best brush control. This is the first time in the task this morning where I have slowed right down, as getting this right makes all the difference.

8) Weathering and Gold Highlights

A while ago I saw a beautifully weathered Landraider with weathering and dirt all over the top of the assault ramp. At first I was confused, then really excited by the common sense of it. It has stuck with me. It is the top of the door that hits the ground, so I weathered the top of these doors with black, then gradually dry-stippled lighter and lighter black/leadbelchers mixers over the top to blend it in a rough way. I want it to look more like weathering, not perfectly blended shading. With the top of the door getting darker, it raises the opportunity to do some highlights that will really "pop" (I hate that word in the context of painting). Again, I slowed myself right down and edge highlighted the lances and top of the shield rim with gold. I also added highlight to the snake loops with a lighter shade of blue using dry-brushing.

9) Final Touch-Up

If you go back and take a look at each previous photo, you will see that the blue splodge ring has slowly been disappearing. Between each step I added a thinned coat of white over it, gradually blotting it out without overworking the surface. It took patience and time; but get white right and people notice. Now I used some slightly thicker white paint to clean up around the edge of the rim and around the snake. I also added a lighter red highlight to the top half of each red cord and the buttons.

I then dry fitted the doors and took a close look with the rest of the model, to check that the colours and composition I have achieved fit with the overall scheme of the project. At times, this has lead me to strip and re-paint pieces, though not without much soul-searching. If you get to this stage, the paint job is good but it just doesn't seem to fit, I strongly suggest leaving it overnight. If you keep looking at it and asking questions you are better off making a change.

Next step will be the base, which is going to take a lot of structural work. Hopefully, I can also do it justice in terms of... landscaping.

See you across the table,



  1. I've been thinking about a similar post regarding my Tyranids. Last night I started painting some Termagants. One had been done, another had just the legs. I started carefully to do the remainder. After 10 minutes I had a fat brush and was just blobbing paint on like a fiend. They look like a horror show right now! Luckily I learned early on don't judge a model until its finished (in fact I think I immortalised that as my first rule of painting).

    So I had been thinking a 'look how rubbish these figures start out' post would be ideal to show its the outcome thats important and to hold your nerve until you get there. And the doors look ace. It's a great model too.

    1. Cheers mate :-) I have these awful memories of painting by a desk lamp in the cold, thinking to myself "this looks like rubbish, I have to fix it" followed shortly by "gah, it looks even worse, what the hell am I doing???". It really is all about holding your nerve and seeing it through, applying techniques when they count.

  2. Lovely. The Nuln Oil is the best stage, instant liquid talent.

    1. They should just call it "Golden Daemon juice" or some-such :-)

  3. So true! Most projects go through a phase where things look dodgy...then the magic happens. :)

    1. It reminds me of this quote from The Prestige:

      "Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige"."