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Posted by ArkenTyre

Pedal to the metal

I’m going to share a secret with you all… A secret the Paintocracy doesn’t want me to spill. Here it is: Your army doesn’t always have to be flawless! Some days you just want to get your army DONE. Screw perfect! You just want a complete army on the table; you want to stop sweating all the nuances of blending and highlighting and just get on with playing the game… It happens to all of us, even the “pros”, I get it, and I’m here to help.

Staring at mountains of unpainted metal is daunting and discouraging and depending on who you are, on a scale from 1 to 10, a finished army at a 6 is better than a half-finished one at an 8. Sacrilege? Maybe, but I’m just that kind of a guy. So I’m going to show you how I did a unit of TFG in one day.

Before we get too far let’s back up a bit and see how I got to this frustrating point. I’ve been playing Cygnar for over a year. I play all five armies, but Cygnar is what I play in tournaments. I’ve done pretty well with them but honestly, I needed a change of pace. So I looked at my other (mostly unpainted) options. Cryx, Khador and the Protectorate of Menoth. Most of my gaming buddies play Cryx and play them well, plus I’d already started this one and wanted a clean slate, so I turned to my two “blank” armies. Khador was right out. My wife plays Khador and the key to a happy relationship is never compete with your significant other for best of faction. (The fact that she can probably kick my ass with Khador had nothing to do with my decision to go with the PoM. Really. It didn’t.).

So with my obvious choice in front of me, I realize I’ve got less than 60 days until GenCon SoCal, and I’m pretty determined to have these done and ready to play by then. I’ve got to get cracking, and I need some shortcuts badly. So what kinds of shortcuts do you take to speed up an army and still keep it looking good? I used three.

  1. Brush Size. (this isn’t as obvious as it sounds)
  2. Paint Selection
  3. Decoy

What in the seven hells is Ark going on about? Well hang on, I’m telling you.

1. Brush Size. Bigger is better/Size matters.

If you use a bigger brush you’ll cover more area at once, obviously. But what’s not so obvious is what kind of brush to use. For painting large areas quickly I like flats. This is a major time saver when working on jack plates. I was surprised to find out that none of my fellow BT’s used flats until I mentioned them. Stunned really. I wish I could quote misterfinn’s actual reply after using flats for the first time, but I can’t (we’re a family site here). Needless to say his initial reactions were very positive! So what’s a flat? A flat is merely a small version of your classic wall painting brush. Since Temple Flame Guard cloaks are basically wavy walls (yes very small wavy walls) flat brushes will allow me to burn through these guys. The texture of your models should dictate your brush use. Wide expanses scream for flats. Remember you can use the edges of a flat just like you would a spotter or a liner. It takes some practice, but once you learn how to use a flat, your painting speed will increase. Shortcut One: Flats (BIG flats) .

2. Paint selection. Not so pretty in pink.

Interestingly enough, I’m not talking about color. When you’re angling for speed, color is a secondary consideration. Don’t get me wrong, color selection is still important! It’s just that when you’re painting quickly, opacity is a more important factor than hue. Opacity (the inverse of transparency) is how opaque a given paint is. The higher the opacity, the fewer coats you need. The fewer coats you need, the less time you’re spending on a given color. Neat, huh? Well, here’s the downside: you need a lot of experience with your paints to know which ones you can count on to be opaque. From my stable I choose VMC Cavalry Brown, which is a rich terracotta color. When it is wet it’s a beautiful rich red-brown, it changes as it dries, it goes more brown than red. It’s still a decent color and its coverage is about the best of any paint I have, so I have no compunctions about using it. Only a few accent colors are going to go with terracotta brown. So I went with VMC’s ochre with the intent of highlighting it up. The cam. orange doesn’t have the best opacity, but I’m going to have to balance out the scheme. I’m really just taking the standard scheme and muting it to more of a red earth tone.

The nice thing about the ochre is that once it’s laid down, it has a good tooth to it. Tooth is a term used to describe surface texture. Some paints dry very smooth and silky. Some dry with a bit of grit to them. Those with grit dry with more tooth. This is helpful because the grit helps to hold more paint in with each successive pass. Now be careful! Paints with tooth can tear easily when wet, making divots. So make sure each coat is fully dry before putting a brush to it again. I’ll go into more detail on this when we get to the actual painting portion.

Now before we get to the last shortcut, it’s time to consider some realities about speed painting:

A. It’s going to be hard on your brushes. Using quick painting techniques can age your brushes more rapidly. You’re going to be rougher on them, probably clean them less often per figure and you’ll be using paints that could potentially be harsher on the bristles. Things like tooth help us paint faster, but it’s like your brush deciding to take up smoking and drinking while riding a motorcycle with no helmet all at the same time. It may not outright kill the brush, but it’s certainly not going to help it live longer. In the battle for a fully painted army there are going to be some casualties. You’ll have to get comfortable with totaling a brush every two to three units or so.

B. Speed painting is tiring. Assembly-line painting is hard on your back, wrists, and fingers. You’re going to make the same repetitive motions on each of 6-10 figures, one right after the other, for a few hours at a time. Take breaks. Typing isn’t the only thing that can cause carpal tunnel.

C. There’s going to be some quality loss. Face it. The faster you go, the more mistakes you’re going to make. So while on the surface this looks like a way for beginners to get an army done up quickly, it is actually better for intermediate painters, because you’re going to have to understand how paints work and interact. We combat the quality loss with a little sleight of hand… er paint.

3. Decoy. These are not the ‘Thralls you’re looking for…

So now we’ve slapped on some paint. We’ve sacrificed a good brush or two along the way, and our blends aren’t as pretty as we’d like. This is starting to look like a bad idea. Well buck up camper, we’ve still got some tricks. Now we’re getting into decoy. Decoy is simply my way of saying we’re going to force people to look at OTHER portions of the model. This will take their eyes off weak blends and plant them firmly on something else.

In the example of my TFG, the decoy is easy. Their tabards have a nice raised decoration on each one. Their shields have a menofix planted front and center. We’ve got a sufficiently dark surface and all we need to do is paint the decoration with a color that stands out. This draws your eye directly to it and helps to define the figure. The trick with decoy is to SLOW DOWN. This is where you can’t afford to make mistakes. Flowing robes with fuzzy blends is fine, but to have sloppy scroll work is going to kill your overall look. This is where you break out your good brushes and take your sweet time. Save it for last if you have to. Come back to it another day if you think that will help, but don’t screw it up. Flub this and it’s going to be strip time. Just me being honest with you.

Ready? Lets go

I’m going to assume a few things with this article. I’m going to assume you’ve already prepped and primed your models at an earlier point. This is strictly about the painting.

Step one. Laying the base coat.

I’m using Cam. Orange Ochre for this, it’s going to take two to three passes. The first one will be pretty transparent. Don’t sweat it. Just lay down the paint and pick up the next figure, by the time you’ve finished the sixth or seventh, the first one should be dry enough to start another coat. The first coat took me about a half an hour to lay down smooth. This is the most area I’ve got to cover, so it’s going to take a little while. The next coat was laid down in about 15 minutes. I’m more concerned with getting the recesses fully painted. The raised areas will be seeing highlight that will cover any transparent areas.

Here’s a better look at the base coat.

Now that I’ve finished that, it’s on to the next color. The first few steps will take the longest; we’ve got the most area to cover. That’s the nice thing about the Temple Flame Guard, with the big expanses of fabric, they are ideal for speed painting. I start with a quick coat of Vallejo’s Calvary Brown. This is one of the single most opaque colors I’ve ever seen. Normally you don’t sweat “one coat coverage” in mini painting, usually that’s reserved for painting walls, but when you’re in a rush, it matters. I do this coat first, because I can count on the coverage, but I need to shade it in some way. I grab Vallejo’s Dark Red and thin it down to a wash level. This is a pretty transparent color. In fact it’s almost impossible to basecoat with, which is why I’m going out of order here. Normally I’d lay down the darkest colors first and build up each highlight, but it would take too much time to do that with the Dark Red. So instead I work it into a wash and just coat the Calvary brown coat I’ve already laid down.

Now that I’ve got my shadows in place I need to work the original color back up. With just a few passed of Calvary Brown, and I’m done. Just make sure to get the raised parts of each fold. This shouldn’t take much time at all. Washes and highlights? About 20 minutes.

I’m far from done here though. Those shadows don’t really pop yet; I need to really define the highlights better. This is done with a coat of Vallejo’s Red leather. This is where I start to tighten up my tolerances for mistakes. I need clean lines through here. I certainly can’t afford the time to blend, but I also can’t afford to correct a whole host of mishaps either.

On the left is Red Leather; on the right is Orange Brown. On each successive layer I’m getting thinner with each highlight. This is how I’m going to fool your eye into thinking there’s a smoother transition than there is. If you’re not into blending yet, this is really where you should strive to be. From here, blending is the next logical step, So if you can get comfortable highlighting like this, you’ll be well on your way. One last highlight to go, I break out the Light Brown and do the thinnest highlights I can. I hate this part. It hurts my hands when I do it for too long. It’s usually a good idea to take a break just before this step so that you can have relaxed steady hands. Total time, about one hour.

Ok… So now were on to decoy. The robes look pretty good, but they obviously aren’t perfect. I need something clean and bright to mellow out any of the harsher highlights in the robes. You eye sees things in context. If all we see is the brown robes, you’ll easily be able to spot any flaws. Now if I put down a bright ivory color, your eye now has a far wider range of contrast to consider, the robes mellow out. Neat huh?
A few quick passes with Vallejo’s Pale Sand, and another with Vallejo’s Ivory, and we’re done. Total time, about 30 minutes.

You guys have seen me do the golds bit a few times now. Well the formula and technique hasn’t changed, so I’m going to gloss over this and just show you the pictures. Total time on the golds? About one hour.

A quick coat of Citadel’s Chainmail on the spears and we’re so close to done. I didn’t shade the Chainmail. I certainly could have, and probably will at a later point, it’s just that silver paints tend can get away without shading better than other colors, and frankly I’m tired, I’ve been at this a while.

So one last bit and then we toss on some shields. I need just a drop of color. Eventually I want to go back and clean this up to look like nice gems, but right now I don’t have the time. So just a dab of Citadel’s Snot Green will fill the void for now. The last thing we need to do is to attach the shields and use the same techniques I’ve used on the Flame Guard themselves. We still use the basecoat tricks, gold techniques and decoy bits. We base them with a quick dry brush and some static grass, add a little flourish at the bottom of the shields with some ink and we’re done.

Total time? About 7.5 hours. Assuming you can keep it up; a 500 point army could be done in just a few short weeks. Remember, a finished army is a pretty army. Raw metal sucks.

A parting shot: