Saturday, June 23, 2012

Alpha Legion Terminators - ready to engage!

These guys go up on CMON now:

Pictures are taken with a badly lit photo box (some sun light and one lamp only...), but on the other hand with 2 different cameras, one crappy compact and the other a proper SLR camera. Can you see which picture is from which? ;-)


Go and check out the new

National Geographic Traveler Magazine: 2012 Photo Contest

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alpha Legion color scheme tutorial - step-by-step Terminator

As announced, here comes the step-by-step tutorial of my beloved old Alpha Legion color scheme. First, I want to bore you with some background information: My first Warhammer 40k army (many years ago) were the all-organic Tyranides. These can be well-painted with simplest and DIRTY techniques (as I love it). Unfortunately, at least at that time, Tyranids were quite boring to play. Yep that was when I actually had still some time to play -- long gone. Anyway, still thinking as a player, I was looking for a more versatile and interesting but surely EVIL army that I could field against this hated Dark Angels (of my friend) and the slightly laughable Imperial Guard (of another friend). What else would be better suited than CHAOS?! (Evil laughter here). However, I did not want to constrain myself too much once more and decided to chose a legion that doesn't follow a single chaos god -- so the Alpha Legion it had to be (another reason was that I really fancied this idea of crappy chaos cultists that run fantacilly screaming against these auto cannons... In one of my old White Dwarfs I found an intriguing picture of the Alpha Legion color scheme:

I loved this strong and shiny blue! Together with the bright silver metal and the green symbols, it made an awesome contrast. I wanted to copy that scheme! For some reason, I will never get, GW decided actually against painting their Alpha Legion marines in this scheme, but rather used a darker and dull blue with an increasing amount of green over the years!
Anyway, my color scheme is supposed to be as close as possible to the one you can see above. As you will see below, surely the quest for it is not at an end yet and the scheme can certainly be improved still... I am happy about any suggestions from your side!

So, enough bla bla... oh not quite ;-) I have some warnings that you should be aware of before trying to follow this tutorial...

- Similar to the Death Guard one, this tutorial is not intended for total painting beginners as I will not explain the used techniques. On the other hand, and as always, I am more than happy to answer any questions and give more detailed explanations if asked for.

- As well, this scheme is not optimized or completely fixed. Instead, I try some slight variations (unconsciously). To be honest, after not painting it for quite a while I had some difficulties remembering how it did the scheme exactly last time. Hence, this tutorial is also a reminder for myself -- in case I ever want to do more Alpha Legion marines! Very doubtful after painting like 50 of these blue guys.

- Those of you who are familiar with my work so far will know that a clean color scheme with smooth color transitions is really a problem for me! Therefore, this scheme is quite a challenge for myself (and even after painting it so many times, I still struggle with this dammed blue transition of the armor). This means for you, dear readers, that very likely you will manage to do this scheme much cleaner than me with a much  nice result! I am looking forward to see your results!

- One last warning, different to the quick'n dirty Death Guard scheme, this one isn't quick! It takes me roughly 7 hours per Terminator (faster for a marine though) to complete.

- Oh and: SORRY for the bad pics!!!

This is a list of the actors... eh colors in the order of appearance in this drama...
- black (primer)
- codex grey (GW)
- enchanted blue (GW)
- midnight blue (GW)
(- dark sea blue (Model Color))
(- ice blue (GW))
- space wolf grey (GW)
- 'ardcoat gloss varnish (GW)
- tin bitz (GW)
- snakebite leather (GW)
- boltgun metal (GW)
- chainmail (GW)
- dwarf bronze (GW)
(- kommando khaki (GW))
- bleached bone (GW)
- fortress grey (GW)
- glorious gold (Game Color)
(- chestnut ink (GW))
- scorched brown (GW)
- black ink (GW)
(- lich purple (GW))
- bhadab black (GW)
- chaos black (GW)
- mithril silver (GW)
- silver (Model Color)
- skull white (GW)
- scorpion green (GW)
- snot green (GW)

Colors in parenthesis are optional and not strictly needed for a nice result. Of course, a lot of the 'middle tones', e.g., chainmail, fortress grey, aren't necessary either and could be mixed from the other colors easily (as I used to do when I was a little pupil without money. However, I got somewhat lazy in the meantime...). 

- one sturdy for dry-brushing (mainly the stones on the base): In my case the Citadel Small Dry Brush.
- your favorite allround paint-brush: In my case, at the moment, the da Vinci No 2 (I still do not dare to use the Series 7 Winsor & Newton for everything -- but only for the details at the end of the scheme). 

Before we start, the obligatory glance into the wet palette (that isn't working correclty with this shitty baking paper that I get here in Chile...argh!):
As you immediately will notice, green is missing! Right, I painted that directly from the pot...;-)
You also notice that the color scheme is quite "cold" with only the bony brown adding a little warmth (you can get rid of this as well if you use greenish/grayish browns, e.g. rotting flesh instead of bleached bone...)

Obviously, I have assembled and based the miniature. In this case it is a super simple setting for the base, just some rocks and mudd. The miniature has been primed with black primer and the base got already one layer of codex grey.

Paint all the armor with enchanted blue, possibly in several layers until it is covering well.

And now the fun starts with the -- for me -- most difficult part: the blue transition on the armor. We want to go all the way from midnight blue over enchanted blue to space wolves grey! There are several ways to do this transition, e.g., as wet-in-wet blending (fastest and most difficult) or with layering (slowest and critically depending on the number of tones for the layers). Now, I cannot explain these techniques here in detail. Instead, I refer the interested reader to the excellent material available on Massive Vodoo. In addition,  one could do the transition  in separate steps, first starting with the darkening tones (as I did here) and then, in step 3 and 4, involve first ice blue for brightening and finally space wolves grey. However on my 4th and last Alpha Legion terminator, I tried once more wet-blending with the complete transition at once, and without using ice blue. Instead, I just mixed all middle tones.
Furthermore, I found dark blue sea here not completely convincing and hence skipped it in the 4th termi as well... You see already, this is not a completely strict color scheme but you can find out yourself what works best for you...
For me, steps 2-4 take approximately 2 hours to finish (basically because I just give up on the smooth transitions at some point).

Now, I found that the brightness-darkness spread over the whole armor is fine, but the blue is not as strong and "boom" as it is supposed to be. I solve this with the following "trick": I mix some gloss varnish into the midnight blue and add some water until it has basically the consistency of a wash/ink.
As usual: have it rather too thin and apply it carefully with only few color on the brush. At least until you get a feeling for it. I spread it over the whole armor moving the brush towards shady areas. You have to be quick in this step because the color dries extremely fast and you want to avoid any patchy structure on the armor at any cost! A nice side effect of this "washing" is that the transitions become smoother (although the whole miniature becomes also darker again).

This is the most boring (and hated) step for me: you have to paint all metallic parts with tin bitz, one hour... Watch your brush and keep it wet over its whole hair length...

For a change this is a real quick one! The last parts have to get their base color. Having all parts with at least one layer of their base color is often my general painting strategy.  After that I start to mess around with the individual places trying to implement some transitions or interesting effects. This strategy also helps if one uses quick dry-brushing schemes... Oh, and what do we do in this step actually? Right, we apply some codex grey to these "soft parts" in the armor in the joints.

And the last basic step: the bony stuff gets a layer of snakebite leather...

Now, the real fun starts: We have to highlight the metallic parts. For this purpose, we first use some boltgun metal that we can mix with the left-over tin bitz in the wet palette (if available) to create even smoother transitions. So, as I am quite a dirty (and lazy) painter, I apply usually dry-brushing onto the large areas (like the weapons and the big shoulder pads). But be careful do not accidently hit the blue armor with the brush! We don't want to repeat the steps 2-4 again! ;-)
Later, I use my allround brush and with an increasing fraction of boltgun, I concentrate on the metallic areas that "receive light from your imaginary light source".

I continue step 9 with adding more and more chainmail. The targeted areas, like the edges, become smaller and smaller...
One has to keep in mind, that all metallics look best with the contrast maximized, meaning we want to achieve all the way from black to "white metall" in the end...but see below

For the normal Alpha Legion marines, I tried to restrict the color palette to as few  and cold colors as possible. Furthermore, I wanted to keep the color scheme clearly distinct from the Thousand Sons and Night lords. Hence I avoided to use gold completely. However, I found for the elitist terminators it would be ok to use a little of gold for some accents. In this case, the metallic cables and the ammunition of the gun. I prime these with a few layers of dwarf bronze but leaving some tin bitz in the shady areas if possible.

I continue with highlighting the "bony parts" with a mix of snake bite and kommando khaki until pure khaki in a few layers. Instead of the khaki, you can also directly use bleached bone and merge step 12 and 13...

Continued highlights with bleached bone...

Probably not applicable to you, but for completeness: A drybrush of fortress grey onto the base...

Highlighting the gold with glorious gold -- the one and only true gold! ;-)

After applying quite some highlights, now it is time to add some shadows and "draw everything back together", i.e. make it smooth. For this purpose, we will apply a number of inks and washes in the next steps. We start with a small one which is actually optional: chestnut ink to the golden parts gives them an idea of red...

Next, the horns and skulls: Here you can basically use whatever darkish brownish comes to your mind. In my case (and in preparation of the next step) I use a mixture of scorched brown, a little black ink and gloss varnish (for fluid-ability (?))  and the remaining chestnut ink...

As I learned in the workshop: metallics is not only about the brightness contrast but also involves  ad glossy-dull contrast. Therefore, we should dull the metal parts that are in the shadows while increasing the brightness contrast at the same time.  I use the mixture from above (scorched brown, black ink, varnish) and add just a little bit of liche purple just to make it more interesting. In addition, I want to avoid that the metal looks too used or even rusty! As you see on the white dwarf picture, the Alpha Legion mysteriously manages to fight in clean and shiny weaponary! ;-)

For the grey joint parts, I use un-thinned black ink for the shading, which gives it an interesting look. In addition, I use the black ink sometimes to do some fine lining of inside-egdes and bolts in the armor etc etc...

Almost done, just a number of fast steps to go from here! Next, the final wash! Badab black for the darkest areas. This wash is so awesome that I can even apply it to the blue armor to darken it in the deepest shadows even more!

The index astartes picture shows that the Alpha Legion weapons usually have some black parts which add a nice and interesting contrast to the bright metallics. In addition, there are always some "holes", in the skulls weapons etc that need some chaos black...

After all the washing, most parts are a little dull and dark. So, we need to re-install some highlights. First some boltgun, but this time very careful...

Then again chainmail...

...and glorious gold...

And now towards the brightest metals, with first Mithril Silver...

And finally silver.

Also the bony parts can get some new highlights. If you still have energy, you can start with bleached bone or even kommando khaki. If you are lazy as me (and want to finish now) you can very very carefully use skull white directly.
Then, all that is left to do is the Alpha Legion symbol itself, the eyes, any glowing stuff... and some scales (that you can see in the white dwarf picture if you look close enough).
All this stuff gets a base coating of skull white...

...and then scorpion green

For the hydra in the symbol and the scales, I use some snot green to make them more interesting.

And here we go, last thing to do: A little chaos black for the fine-lining of the hydra. Oh oh, and a sealing layer of gloss varnish onto the blue armor and shiny metal parts of course... ;-)

I voila! 

That is the final result (: