After my initial forays, I made some important decisions:
- There's no point rushing. I'm never going to be happy with fast paint jobs, so use proper technique.
- Good old black undercoat and building up highlights is the name of the game
- The smaller the miniature, the higher contrast the paintwork needs to be. Fine blending is next to useless on the table, so use much bigger jumps in shading colours than normal. (In fact "If it looks like it's going to be too harsh, it's probably right") became a good rule of thumb.
- Washes work much better at this scale than larger ones (at least how I used to do them) and are incredibly useful for showing detail.
- 20mm plastic bases (from em4 miniatures.com) are a much better size for both handling and appearance.
The (New) Technique
- Clean and glue to 20mm base, PVA on some sand.
- Spray black undercoat
- wetbrush on base dark green over whole model. (more like halfway between wetbrush and drybrush, a couple of times)
- Tidy up green areas with small brush and slightly thinned down original green colour.
- paint on major highlights with 50% lighter green
- paint on tiny little top highlights (almost just small dots in some areas) 75% lighter green
- Wash with Future Wax and a bit of black
- Pick out bones and other details using same 3-highlight method as on the base coat
- Carefully wash any areas that have come out too bright or flat looking
- Drybrush and finish base and stick on static grass
- Varnish.. Done.
You will see there is nothing remotely clever here, it's all very bog standard "how to paint a miniature" stuff. The approach is the interesting part.
I think of these models as being "Big warmaster" rather than "Little 40k" pieces. The extra time it takes to do the highlighting instead of solely relying on the wash is actually not very much, and the result is far superior on the table. I was greatly inspired by the basing and paintwork on 15mm.co.uk
Interestingly, the "old" technique looks pretty good in photos and the "new" one looks less sophisticated.. But maybe that's exactly the point. This "harsher" way of painting them (and also using unrealistically bright colours) makes them look much, much better on the tabletop. Painted like this, I can see the nice detail at distance rather than a brown blob.
Now happy with the workflow, and it's still many times faster than painting "big" models. I can comfortably paint a unit of 8-10 models to this standard in less than 2 hours (!)