Painting time!

The Brush is mightier than the Bolter!

So, time for a fresh article and this one is on a subject near to my own heart, painting.

(Disclaimer: When I originally started this article I did not realise how large it would be, so this one will be in 2 possibly more parts.)

At the Stockport Dreadnought, there will be a number of awards for painting. These include.

  • Best Single Miniature
  • Best Large Miniature
  • Best Squad
  • And the coveted Best Painted Army

This first part we are going to be looking at painting Armies and how you can achieve a unified looking collection when displaying your own for the Best Painted Army award!

So I thought I would take some time and offer some tips, at the last Dreadnought a good friend of mine Matt Garside won best-painted army *shakes fist angrily* with his stunning mechanicus army, which lead me to reflect on what I might do differently next time. I myself was fortunate enough to walk away with Best Single Miniature with my Roboute Guilliman, after which I was wondering what I did right, what I did wrong, and what would I change. So seeing as I will not be entering the next Dreadnought but instead running it I thought I’d offer whatever wisdom I can into the painting of miniatures and armies.

When looking at the Best painted army award you are looking at painting on a different scale to the single miniature. So there are a variety of different things you want to consider, timescale, army composition, war zone, and the most important spot colour to name a few.

Parade Dress.


When looking at armies you will tend to see people looking for cohesion more than any other aspect of the painting, like an army arrayed for parade your own force will want to look cohesive and together, as though it is a band of soldiers who are willing to fight and die together for whatever cause they have pledged themselves. This is something that should seem pretty standard. I mean we have out colour schemes presented to us in many different ways namely the particular Codex books we pick up for our collections. Let’s take the Ultramarines as the prime poster boy example. What do we know about Ultramarines, we know that they are Blue, we know they follow the Codex Astartes. So immediately we know without thought what the basic marine will look like.

  • Blue Armour
  • Coloured Shoulder Trim
  • Gold Aquila on the chest
  • White Squad Markings.

But what we don’t know for definite are the smaller details. So we paint our marines and we come across certain things that are different to our standard Battle-Brother, like the Sternguard Boltguns, these are a prime example. A handful of these guns are a standard boltgun, metal body with a  black armoured gun casing. However, unlike most bolt guns, some of these have an additional Armour casing on top of the first but wait suddenly we have gun straps that no other marine has, and these big chunky scopes. What do we do here? Well the same as with anything else, pick whatever colour you like for them! The point I’m trying to make here is that the materials you find in small quantities may appear across the entire army. For example, the additional armoured gun casing on some Sternguard Boltguns also appear on the space Marine Tank Storm Bolters. Those Gun Straps, well given the industrial nature of the Imperium these may well be made from the same material as the pouches you’ll find on your Characters, Scouts, and various other Marines, those scopes, there’s a good chance that the glass used for the lenses are the same as those your Scout Snipers have. All these factors can really help solidify your Army and make it look as though it is meant to be together.

This advice can also be used to tie different Factions together, for example, my own Ultramarines where the Extra Boltgun casings are concerned I have used red as the colour on the secondary bolt gun casings it from the black of the primary gun casings. My Deathwatch, however, are entirely black save the usual silver arm and their parent chapters shoulder pad, so I have used the same red as my Ultramarines on their bolter casings and the same green on their gun scopes.

This means that when I play a game with my 4th Company Ultramarines fighting against a Tyranid player with their Deathwatch allies as they fight for the fate of Tarsis Ultra (See the 2nd Ultramarine Novel by Graham Mcneill for all the awesome details), that my army looks cohesive even when they are made from separate factions.


Where did you come from? Where did you go?

So this small chunk we look at bases! Bases are probably, in my opinion, one of the most important details a miniature can have, this is where we begin to place the miniature into an actual setting with a narrative and a story driving our miniatures forward into the actions they’re undertaking.

Are They perhaps space Marines retaking an Imperial facility from the Xenos, perhaps they’re a Tau Coalition defending a research facility from an Ork Waaagh, without the bases we’d never know.

Bases can be as simple as texture paint spread over a surface or can be extravagantly bought resin kits covered in details.

Whichever one you chose it needs to tell your story, and the same base can tell a very different story if used correctly. Let’s take a personal favourite of mine, the Games Workshop Sector Imperialis bases.

So these bases are an incredible addition to the arsenal of the everyday hobbyist. They’re easily available from your local hobby store, and arguably the most affordable basing solution on a large scale. Some details may not be as defined as I’d have liked (Looking at you flat faces skulls melted into the ground!) but as to the rest of it, they’re amazing.

So these bases are obvious, your force is fighting on an Imperial world. It may seem like your story is already written, and to many it could be. But to me, to me, it only offers more questions.

What’s the weather like? Is it dry? Is it Snowing? Maybe it’s damp and rusted. All of these you can use emphasize a theme for your force. The famed Valhallan Astra Militarum regiments are known for their keep winter craft, so it stands to reason that they would have been sent to a snowy cold warzone, if you were to put these miniatures on a desert themed base they’d look somewhat out of place with their thick coats and fur-lined hats.

The type of base you use can also affect the type of whether you have on your miniatures. If your tanks and infantry have had nice weathering powders used on them to make them appear dusty and dirty, then it would look very odd to have them marching through a wet and rainy warzone full of puddles.

Bases can be used to emphasize so much about our miniatures and paying attention to these details could be the difference between taking a trophy home or not (Never ever bring up my repulser bases…..never).

So now we know the world and the weather, but what’s happening?

An Army on the attack against a particular foe may be pushing forward and taking ground, we may see pieces of wargear or even pieces of the enemy on the bases of our miniatures. Perhaps the Genestealer Cults of an imperial hive have torn into the staunch Imperial Fist defenders, meaning we may see Yellow helmets on the ground, perhaps a discarded bolt gun here or there.

An Army on the defensive though will be looking to push an enemy away from them, so the debris of battle would likely be their own, Perhaps the Valhallans we mentioned earlier are facing off against an aggressive Dark Eldar raiding party. In which case we are more likely to see broken lasguns, broken Valhallen’s even, the crimson splatter of blood where a defender gave his life to the glory of the Emperor!.

The miniatures we paint for our battles give our heroes character, they let us know whether they’re sneaky, or bold, strong, or weak.

But our bases give us our story, they place these characters in a setting and give us a world to place them in.

Together they bring these Plastic, resin, and Metal miniatures to life, they give us our narratives, they provide us with a rich depth to our games and when arrayed ready for a Best Painted Army competition are the background to the portrait that is our miniatures.

So now that I’ve rambled on about this enough for one day I’ll leave you here and in our next article we will round off this point on painting which I hope will give you some insight and advise that helps you on your way to the Stockport Dreadnought 2018.


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