Thursday 19 November 2020

Armies on Parade 2020 pt.3

Over the last couple of weeks the most frequent question asked has been how I've managed to push through my army so quickly, to a reasonable standard. This week I wanted to cover some of the things that have allowed me to get so far on this project in a decent time frame. And apologies for the repeated use of "me" and "I" in the below.


A phrase I use in my day job is "how do you eat an elephant?". The answer, of course, is one bite at a time. But initially it seems so daunting to look at a mass of unpainted figures and think "I have no idea where to begin" or "I can't do this".

I'm 84 hours into this project now, in around four weeks, with just over a week left, and have applied a few key learnings.


Set a deadline. If you don't set a deadline, you'll definitely miss a deadline. 

It started from realising in mid-September that I had enough unassembled Orks to make an army, and Armies on Parade wasn't until end of November.  That crystalised my thinking when I could look at the finish line, and did two things - gave me a target, and made me realise this was going to be ambitious. That's exciting.

Plan Big

I wanted as many figures as possible on a board, completed in five weeks and to get here I had to decide what mattered from the outset. That meant army composition - for me that was simply to assemble everything you can find the drawers. For my Orks, green and yellow are the most important elements because this is a Bad Moon army. Everything beyond that wasn't of importance.

I want characters and vehicles to be the focal points. The rest are grunts and just need putting on the board.

As I want to assemble and paint every Ork model I have, irrespective of the deadline, this means I'm going to make significant strides toward this amibition as the project progresses. That's also exciting!

Plan Well

This informed my thinking on colour, which I've outlined in a previous post. Reds and blues for shadows, yellows and greens for basecoats and highlights, grey and ivory for non-metallic metals. That means seven or eight paints on my desk, and that's it. They're going to look great.


Let's pause here. I now know what I want to do, how to approach it, what I'll get out of it, and what's needed to achieve it. That's without doing any painting, but now I'm excited and clear on what to do.



I painted a test model. It was a fancy individual model. It took me about four or five hours in total. I'm very pleased with the output. It has sat on my painting table as my little reminder of colour scheme, and how cool everything's going to look.

Trial and error

After painting a single test model, I applied the same for a whole squad, but following the guidelines below. This allowed me to try and fail. For example, my original approach was painting yellow first because it's the key element - but this led to me flipping it around to get trivial and unimportant elements completed first.


Let's pause again. I now have six figures finished, a firmer idea of how my scheme works, an idea of time needed to achieve a standard of finish I'm happy with, and feel vindicated that my plan has worked out.

That means I've tried and failed on a few areas, tweaked the process, and have an illustration sitting in front of me for what I can achieve. This is motivating! Now it's time to distil that into the advice for painting everything else.


Set small goals

Every time I wanted to paint, I set an objective for the session. Start from a single goal for that day whether it's "drill the bolter barrels for everything", "base the display board", "finish a squad of five", "edge highlight a vehicle" or "paint the skin on ten Orks", and I painted until that goal was met. Some days that was an hour, others it was three or four hours. It meant the painting session was completed and a tangible output was sat in front of me.

Budget time wisely

Just because we have a goal, doesn't mean you have infinite time to complete it. I work full-time and have a family, so at most I have three hours at night to do other things. That time's precious and must be spent well.


First thought is often the best thought. I don't have the time to overthink and noodle around. So if I thought "where does the highlight go", instead of analysing each piece under different lighting conditions and trying to match it perfectly to other models, I just put paint where it felt right to put it! That's not very scientific, but it works. More importantly, now you can do the next one the same and the consistency across models will help to sell the effect.


I want an army on the tabletop, not an army being entered at a competitive painting event. So don't try to paint it to that standard.

Technique is secondary to output. Don't stop to craft perfect layers or smooth your blends There isn't time. Keep to the concept. 

I opted to paint the metallics as non-metallic, and not doing it with metallic paints and washes. You may not want to take that approach, but I was happy to create "pound shop NMM" which passes first glance as perfectly fine, and nothing more than that is necessary.


Paint inner areas first and fast. No, still not quick enough, get faster. For me, after trial and error on the first couple of units, I opted to use brown or a grey onto fabrics and shoes, quickly, then left cleaning up for when I applied the yellows and greens that mattered to me.

Bigger brush

The brush you're using right now is too small for this project. Get a bigger one. The majority of my painting has been with the equivalent of a W&N size 2 or 3. I do not respect or treat my brushes well. Specifically, my two main project brushes are a cheap, large, synthetic brush bought as part of a large pack, so about 50p for that brush to get base on and a nicer Kolinsky Roubloff for most of the work covering a smaller space, which cost about £2 and is a remarkable workhorse.

The bigger it is, the more space you cover with a single stroke. The less strokes needed, the faster you progress. Make your own phallic jokes at this point, because honestly ... it's all here.

Smaller brush

When I do need precision and finesse, I've gone back to my Broken Toad size 0 for detail work. It's the last brush to touch each model, and only used on teeth, fingernails, eyes, and reaching areas that are visible but not easily reached with a chunkier brush.


Undersides of most of the models aren't painted very well. I don't care, because none of us will be turning this model upside down to inspect the triceps or underside of the jaw. Why waste time painting that area? Because it is wasted time you could have spent on painting another model.

Checks have been invaluable for me to break up boring surfaces, without having to think too hard. They've also been great at hiding away hard to remove mould lines on older metal elements.By setting the check against the line and working out, they disappear into the pattern. My deff dread is a great example here because some of the mould lines are brutal and I haven't the patience to file them down. But you can't see most, because the check magics them away.

My Gretchin are all wearing a single strip of face paint. Want to guess where there's an awkward mould line on that model? It would take me five minutes, per figure, of prep work to get rid of that to a satisfactory standard, which impeding the sculpt, so leveraging it as a guiding line made more sense.

When you see the final army, please note the number of times there's grass or flowers in front of feet and boots. I don't want you looking there, so you can't. That's saved a lot of time offsetting lack of neatness for a perfectly fine set of feet.

Finished not perfect

There's a joke in software development: 90% of the work takes 90% of the time, the last 10% of the work takes 90% of the time.

It's falling into the rabbit hole of dragging something from finished to perfect that can make or break a project like this. If you spent two hours painting a model to an acceptable finish, why are you spending another two hours to finish it all over again? Don't.

You aren't looking at the army and deciding if the straps or boots are painted well, so don't paint them well. Your eye is taking in the scene, then picking out the detail I've painted to lead you toward looking in certain places.That's enough. So put the figure down, declare it complete, and move to the next.

Your rank and file should all be 90% models. Don't spend a minute more than necessary.


Every time another model rolls off the production line, remember you've done something pretty cool here. Add it to a unit. Admire the unit growing and looking awesome. Skip the usual self deprecation you probably subject yourself to, and enjoy the result of your hard work, and remember it's another tick on the list of done.

Sunday 15 November 2020

Burna Boyz

 When the Ork 4th edition rulebook was released in 2008, it rekindled an old love of the Orks and that quickly spiralled into our gaming group jumping into 5th edition and enjoying Warhammer after a few years

I never built any Burna Boyz, as the Lootas were my preference for a heavy weapon, but adding them to the army now is a real pleasure.


Friday 13 November 2020


The ridiculousness of Orks never ceases to amaze, and the Stormboyz are a great example of this. Backpacks with rockets to get them closer to the fight, faster.

I'm using the check pattern on large surfaces to break it up and be more interesting. It's fun on missile warheads, and good for weapon surfaces.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Rokkit Boyz

Rokkit Boyz don't have much in the way of armour. But what armour they do have is yellow. Lot of fabric on these models, so I gave them lots of check patterns for a bit of interest. When everything's painted and on the table, the heavy checking should differentiate them nicely, but remain coherent in the army.

 This unit also features a sneaky Death Skull, as a little tribute to Warbringer who has spent the last two weeks saying "you're painting things yellow, but blue are the best orks".

Monday 9 November 2020

Armies on Parade 2020 pt.2

So now we have a basecoat of yellow in place, we can start to see the task ahead. It's definitely yellow, but without edging or highlights, it's quite dull. You could certainly go "it'll do" for a challenge like this - but that isn't what I want.

Before we get into detail, I want to mark out areas to be check patterning. Couple of reasons for this. One, cleaning up any accidents with black will be a real problem when I have yellow highlights in place, so getting this stage out of the way now will help me. Any overpainting can be cleaned with the basecoat yellow, Scrofulous Brown, with very little effort.

It also lets me see the effect and check it doesn't overpower areas of the model.

With the test model done, it's time to hit the other models in the first wave of batch painting. Small panels on vehicles, heads of rockets on troops. I wasn't brave enough to try fancy swirling patterns on the rockets, but happy the check effect looks good.

There's a high chance I'll come back to the checks later and make the colours less stark. White and black really stand out on the models, so they will likely be overpainted with a cream and brown mix later, but leaving the pure white as a highlight and pure black as a shadow.

As part of my batch painting process, to avoid a sinking feeling when staring at a wall of unpainted models, I've grouped them into units. Painting one area of each unit at a time. It makes the process feel less monotonous, and across an army it means the colours will have a little natural variation between them

This is the near-finished yellow on the first squad. Simple highlights on key edges, brightest areas where the light would hit it, and a mix of the red and yellow for a mid-shadow colour. At the moment it's hard to discern if the effect works without other colours around it, so time to create a skintone.

Reapplied the red upper areas that were lost with the yellow airbrushing stage, then using Slimer Green and Livery Green, the skintones are added in. Really happy with the effect at this point. Character already coming through.

But how does it work as a mass of bodies? Pretty well! It looks like a unified army already, even with only the two main colours of interest in place. The red and purple tones on the unfinished areas look pretty good.

At this point, a little fatigue crept in. I've got the colours I like, and need to change from just doing wave sof green and yellow. So painted a few lenses to see if red/purple was a good colour combination ...

Sure, lenses are only a small detail but they add a lot of fun to the figures and help to break up the surfaces. Happy with how these tests turned out, so now we have a process that can be applied to the rest of the army. This is the original red and purple, then a little ivory in the highlights and dots.

An alternative check scheme in a low impact area to see if I like the effect more or less than the stark black and white. I like this version more, so now I have a plan for the future to update the checks.

Slowly getting the rhythm for painting groups of models. I feel this is tabletop level, quickly. Which is what I need for this many models.

Saturday 7 November 2020


And so the first unit of the army is done. The Gretchin, accompanied by their runtherds.

 There was quite a few duplicate models in this set, so I opted to add scenery to force the variety. Still yellow, so it fits thematically across the force. Albeit a slightly different yellow - more akin to an Imperial Fists colour. 

Completing these quickly is key to finishing the army in time. I can't afford to be overly fussy with the finish, so cheated in a few areas. For example, there's a small mould line that runs down the forehead of almost every model. To sand that out properly would take quite some time, so it's hidden under a line of warpaint, which also gives the unit a little more identity, as they don't have armour like the Orks.

The 20 Gretchin and two runtherds took about 14 hours in total.

As a bonus, the excellent @ArtistsEmpire on Twitter did an unasked for paintover of one group. It's fantastic, and really adds narrative and drama to the scene. Do check out his work, because he does great things.


Thursday 5 November 2020

Ork Mek

 This is probably one of my favourite sculpts from the nostalgia era. Couldn't find an appropriate left arm, so he got a more modern upgrade, and it turned out alright.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Zodgrod Wortsnaga, Runtherd and Ork Slaver

Two more oldschool metal figures, and slowly the producion line for my overly ambitious project to create an Ork army in one month.

I'd like to think they're an improvement on the last time I painted them, which was at least 12 years ago. Here's the comparison shot before they were stripped and repainted!

Monday 2 November 2020

Armies on Parade 2020 pt.1

My love of Orks was rekindled in October/Orktober, after painting the Bad Moon Warboss and I set myself the challenge of trying to build a whole Ork army in time for the Armies on Parade deadline of late November.

Below are the shots of the prep phase of the project, with a lot of explanation steps.

But ... why an army? Why a month? Here's the reasoning.

I've looked at Armies on Parade for a few years, and keep coming up with reasons to procrastinate, instead of joining the fun. This year I wanted to join in the fun, but felt just putting a board together for my Space Wolves was a bit of a cheat, and wanted a different project.

My backlog of unpainted miniatures is pretty big. Despite now painting more than I buy, it's still a large pile of unpainted and unassembled models. This is a shame, because there's plenty of cool models in there - and quite a few Orks!

I've invested in coaching this year with the excellent Aleksandra & Marko of Craftworld Studio. The goal has been to improve the standard of my painting, add vibrancy and be less comfortable and conservative in painting. As a byproduct, I've also significantly improved the speed of my painting for tabletop level, through better understanding of colour choices and technique and thought a few units would be cool.

If you aren't pushing yourself in new ways, you don't build new skills and muscles. This is me pushing myself.

Work in Progress and Explanation

There were a couple of badly assembled vehicles in the pile - a Battlewagon, Trukk and what was a Rhino in a previous life. Looking back, I think these were an attempt to stretch the Ork bits to get most value and add a bit of character. With hindsight, it just comes as a mess, and doesn't add anything

"I wonder if I have any Ork bits in the spares box" ... yes, yes I do.

Four oldhammer Space Ork characters stripped of the paintjobs by Past Me and ready for painting by Future Me. Holy moly there was a lot of paint and varnish on these.

I had the Space Ork Raiders box back when it was first released. No idea whatever happened to it, but picked up this one on eBay for about £20 a couple of years back. Bit of a bargain. In addition, there's quite a few Orks by other companies in here, but I'm ignoring those for this project to stay GW-specific.

Ork Trukk was missing the front cab, so I had to kitbash from what was available. I couldn't find the panels for the sides of the carriage at the back until realising they had been used to extend the width. *sighs quietly* What was I thinking.

This is the "honesty shot" to demonstrate the table full of unassembled, unpainted models in late October. Football result

So many Orks.

Trying to make sense of the madness, with trays dividing up left arm, right arm, torsos, legs, heads, non-GW elements and so on. Then trying to avoid heavy repetition of heads in each unit to add some much needed variety.

Now it's starting to come together. Good tip for taking off mould lines is get a big emory board to deal with the evident lines, especially on metal figures. It will save you wear and tear on your precious files. Think about it the same way as brushes - try to use the biggest version of the tool you can.

The classic Space Ork Raiders, reunited with a colleague of theirs who was painted 3.5 years ago, and he'll be stripped and updated too.

Another honesty shot and showing off the freshly stripped models. I'm a big fan of Biostrip goop for all my models. I dip a figure in, put it into a small bowl and just throw figures into the bowl until full. Leave overnight, run a bowl of hot water, take a piece out and scrub with a cheap toothbrush until the paint's gone. Repeat for infinity.

Starting to look like an army now, it's time to prime!

Investing in a spray booth was required, and glad I did earlier this year. This was a LOT of priming. Everything primed in Vallejo Mecha Black Primer. I find this better and a more consistent product, and less "bitty" that their standard Black Primer, and it costs the same. After priming, leave to cure overnight to really grip the surfaces and provide a solid base for colours.

A second priming stage of white to add brightness to the upper surfaces. I'm not showing every unit on the shot, simply because there's so many and it doesn't really help. But you can see it creates a solid shadow and explains the shapes/volumes better.

I then sprayed the black areas with a purple, Hexed Lichen, and added matte varnish. This adds colour interest into the shadow areas, quickly,  and will be a foundational colour in a number of other choices later on. If I can avoid a pure black paint in a recess, I will.

The two main Ork vehicles are reassembled into something near their original formal. Albeit with tracks and wheels on the wrong vehicles - but that was too major a fix to deal with, so we're going to stick with this setup.

Now, over the white primer, I spray red, Aldebaran Red, and matte varnish. So now we've got a good colour mix happening, with some overlapping tones between the red and purple and an interesting basecoat for the darkest areas of both shadows and highlights. The matte varnish dampens the red a little.

At this point I dropped my airbrush from 40 PSI to 20 PSI and started adding my base yellow, Scrofulous Brown, in a more careful fashion. I leave some of the red and purple in the deepest areas, and actively avoid creating perfectly smooth transitions in all areas. That's important to me, as I want mixes of colour in different areas.

 Where I've been too thorough, the red can be reintroduced into recesses during the hand painted stage, which will be part two of this.