Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tau of War Painting Tutorial Lesson 1: Priming your miniatures

The first steps of painting a miniature are the most important but unfortunately this is when even veteran painters make big mistakes. Without realizing their folly, painter will assemble their models and grab for GW's Chaos Black Spray Primer. BIG MISTAKE! Why? Well you've just covered your miniature in black and now you'll have to work extra hard to achieve bright colors. And bright colors are what win you Best Painted Awards, trust me. A bright, vibrant army will win out over an equally well-painted dark army any day.
Besides that, you just can't see the detail when its covered in black spray. So what to do? Luckily there is a company out there that produces quality color primers. Army Painter is such a company and its Danish, which is important to me as a fluent Danish-speaker and self-proclaimed Daneophile. Dansk er en smuk sprog og Danmark er bare dejlig! 
For my khaki and green color scheme of my Tau army, I start by priming my models in Leather Brown Color Primer. When  using a color primer, you want to make sure have good coverage on the model. The best way to achieve this is hit the model in short control sprays from all angles. I use double-sided tape to stick the models to a painter's stick. That way I hold the stick in one hand and spray can in the other. 
Once I've primed my models, I paint the base and dry brush it, then I paint any areas I want black. Then I cover the model in a wash of Badab Black. This not only provides shading but it also brings out all the detail so I can see it as I am painting. This method really works well as a guide for painting the model. 
Here's another example of the same priming method but a little farther on. Below are my Marauder Horsemen's Steeds of the Steppes (as I call them). You'll notice that the Leather Brown Primer combined with a Badab Black washing has not only brought the detail for me, but it's even done all of my leather straps for me in two easy steps. I can just leave the leather parts of the model as is. It's almost effortless in fact. I can now focus on getting the colors of the horses right without having to really focus on the saddles and so on. I might eventually go back over the straps and saddle but if I'm in a hurry I can just leave the washed primer and I am done. 
I hope you're convinced. Chaos Black will only bring chaos to your painting table. A color primer followed up by a Badab Black Wash will only bring order. You'll begin to paint models faster and with better results without a doubt. Army Painter has coincidentally opened their American webstore for all you guys to order online. Don't tell my wife but I just spent about 50 dollars over there getting stuff for upcoming painting projects.  


Tnoussis said...

I agree very much! I still do use black for things, but I think it's only time. I've started to use white, and my flgs has begun stocking army painter. I do find that while it might be a touch more work to use white some times, its not a big deal, especially with the results. My tau are all white primed, and I can say that It looks fantastic! The colors are indeed birght and vibrant. And if anyone isn't fully convinced, If you have any scheme other than black, or maybe a dark green you're using on your tanks, you might think that black primer and foundation are the way to go, but honestly, I think priming my tau tanks white has saved me a ton of time, and they look fantastic too! I still belive black has its uses, but shatter hands is right; try other colors too, ussually they are the ones best suited to the job, even if you think other wise.

Golmen94 said...

Prater du Dansk? Da forstår du vel dette her da. Jeg er fra Norge :] Great article!

Muskie said...

Hmm... I'm old I used smelly primer for a long time until I lived with someone who worked at GW and then switched to their spray black. I agree it isn't for everything, but I paint a pretty dark Chaos Space Marine army most of the time.

I bought some Krylon grey primer as I noticed some top painters using it. I'll have to check my FLGS or the internet for other spray primers. I'm Canadian and shipping aerosol cans across the border sounds dubious...

Pete W said...

I went from using GW black spray at first to using Krylon grey primer now. I think the black is a solid choice in many ways because if you miss a spot then it is already shadowed and the grey needs a lot more care.

Having said that, I think a leather brown colour could really save me time on so many of my models, particularly those that have a dirty vibe (like Nuclear Renaissance) because if I miss a spot, it will look like dirty brown when the wash is added.

Thanks for the tip OSH. I guess I know what to order when I next go to the Warstore.

Cobalt Cannon said...

The true reason why Games Workshop always uses a base of chaos black spray on all their miniature tutorials, and encourages this practice has nothing to do with good painting techniques and everything to do with selling paint. They know very well that if you basecoat anything in black, that you have to use more paint to build up even more layers to get the results that you need to complete any painting project. They WANT you to buy their paint. In fact everything they do is all about selling their products. Even their sample army lists are made, not to be good lists, but to be EXPENSIVE lists. They want you to spend the most money possible to build that sample army.

If you want to be a good painter, and artist, then research good painting techniques in all mediums and study art. Don't limit yourself to what the producer that takes all your money suggests. Afterall, all they care about is getting your money, not helping you to be a better painter.

This is why Blogs like this are so great! You get an artists experiences, and suggestions, rather than a marketer's suggestions.

Great post Osh! I had been wondering what you basecoated with. What is the drying time on that primer, and is it acrylic?

Old Shatter Hands said...

@colbalt, Army Painter's spray is acryllic and it dries pretty fast. At least as fast as GW's black spray. I honestly cannot suggest a black spray for any army beside something along the lines of Black Templars or something with mostly a black armor.

You do have to wonder about Gw's motives sometimes. I have a How to Paint Citadel Miniatures and they have a section on painting Blood Angels that starts with a black undercoat and has you putting layers and layers of paint on it. Not wise in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I use white primer for my tau, and have been very happy with it. I have looked at the colored primers you mention, but have not tried any of them yet.

One thing I did notice, is that your wash looks good...I get more of a staining effect when I use a wash, but have not tried the GW washes yet (I use either thinned black, or reaper inks).

In the future, I would love to see your wash techniques.

Thank you again for the great posts.

Dave Pak

Anonymous said...

I too use army painter to paint a tan and green color scheme. Total coincidence, but it's a great color combination! Army painter has served me well, but do you seem to run out of spray rather quickly?

Grajo said...

Hmmmm, is a thing worth trying.

I ever prime in black, but mysecond step is to drybrush the mini with dark grey, so the details jump to the eyes.

And of course, since my main army is a Raven Guard one I´ll keep my black priming, but far in the future I´ll start an Blood Axe ork army, and since they use some camouflage I will be trying what you explain in this post.

Oh, and I´ve tested a dark red primer from Army Painter lately and I think that if you use a badab black wash right after the prime this technique is a useful one and a real time saver (without losing a bit of quality.

Old Shatter Hands said...

Anon 1: I could do a quick lesson on washing no problem.

Anon 2: I do find that Army Painter runs out after about 100 miniatures. Less if you're doing vehicles. But I am really happy with the quality.

@Gomen, Jeg snakker Dansk og jeg forstar lidt Norsk. jeg har forste spillet Warhammer i Danmark, nar jeg var jungere. Hvor boger du? I Oslo?

Anonymous said...

Good stuff. As I'm tragically poor at the hobby aspect of this wonderful game, any information in this regard is useful... I think I'll try Army Painter out, after all. Ty.

Broken said...

I'd second the request for a tutorial on washes. I started trying to use washes in about 1990 using Citadel inks, and I found that I was basically just staining the models - thinning the inks down resulted in cloudy, partial coverage. I've very much neglected the painting side of the hobby for some time, due to lack of time and lack of talent, but I really should start painting some of those fire warriors.

Badab Black is one of the new GW washes; I've heard that they're a lot easier to use than the original Citadel inks, because they're a little thicker and the pigmentation isn't quite so... overwhelming. Have you noticed a difference between the new GW inks and other inks?

I've been using a Tamiya neutral grey primer for my models recently, and I love it. The coverage is great, and it's well worth me paying for... and to complete my move away from GW, I ordered some Army Painter Dragon Red primer a couple of weeks ago, so I can start working on some more Blood Angels. I think that after 20 years, I should probably finish painting more than some 1st Edition terminators in Blood Angels colours...

Have you experimented with the Army Painter varnish/dipping mix? I've seen some impressive results using a mid-tone or soft-tone AP dip on Blood Angels marines, particularly the Space Hulk terminators. Given how much my hands shake, anything that helps me shade without covering everything within six inches with paint has to be a good thing.

To be fair to GW, they didn't always recommend undercoating everything in black. When I first started playing in about 1986/87, things were undercoated in white. Then John Blanche started producing dark, gothic figures by undercoating in black first, and everyone went mad for the Blanche look - it was even nicknamed "Blanchitsu" in White Dwarf, if my memory's working correctly. I seem to remember something in a White Dwarf that said a lot of painters start with white undercoat, then move on to black as their painting skills improve, and then go back to white. How true that is, I don't know...

Peter K said...

I was wondering which colours armypainter has available.

I'am still searching for the right colourscheme for my Tau, I just can not make up my mind..

any tips?

Golmen94 said...

@Old Shatter Hands, Nei jeg bor i en by kalt Bodø mye lengre nord i landet.

Sholto said...

I like the painter's stick idea - I will have to steal that! I lie my models down, but it means I have to wait for one side to dry before I can do the other.

I haven't used black primer in ages, and even then only for ruined terrain and orky vehicles. I use white and grey now.

Sulfure said...

First, I want to say that I love this blog and your Tau army.

But I have a question about your horses.
Could you briefly list the colors used for their body ?

I'm looking foward the next tutorials too :)

Old Shatter Hands said...

@Sulfure, the horses coats;

Grey horses: base coat; deneb stone, then washed with watered down dark grey (mix of codex grey and black) for shading. Then highlighted again deneb stone, and successive highlights of deneb stone +white.

Yellow horses: base coat: Vallejo Model Color (VMC) Tan Yellow, washed with Gryphonne Sepia for shading, then hihglighted with tan yellow, with successive highlights of VMC: tan yellow+ VMC:dark sand

Dark horse: Basecoat of dark flesh, washed with Badab Black for shading, highlighted with Dark Flesh +bleached bone.

Sulfure said...


I am trying that and the leather brown primer.