As I toil away on my current hobby project, I have begun to notice a trend in my approach to the task of painting an army. Many of us have moved beyond our first armies, and the experience that comes with collecting and painting those first few thousand points allows for a far more refined approach to future projects. I have noticed a trend developing in my work that I wanted to share.
The first army I had ever painted, was an all-metal Tyranid collection back in the early 90’s. Crayola color scheme aside, I made some terrible choices about the order of color application, which cost me quite a bit of time. By attempting to paint all of my Genestealer’s flesh, THEN go back and paint the chitin that surrounds the exposed muscle, I had made quite a time consuming task for myself. It would be like painting the eyes and mouth of a model first, then going in and trying to paint the flesh of the face AROUND the already completed work. In addition to being time-consuming, this approach also allowed for many opportunities to make mistakes, which consumed even more time to correct.
Last Spring, I decided to finally build the Renegade IG collection that had long been a dream of mine. After committing to the project, I spent most of May and June converting guardsmen with the Forge World renegade torsos, and converting the hell out of some 20 odd Chimera chassis. When I had finally built the last of the models, and applied an even coat of primer, my progress with the army ground to a halt. I do not play with unfinished models, so it is not as though I was suddenly overwhelmed with testing out the collection on a gaming table. No, the models simply waited on the shelves of my studio (in formation, naturally). Over the course of July, I spent many hours sitting at my painting desk, staring at one single guardsman model, and one Chimera. I thought about color selection, color tone, methods to apply each color, and most importantly, the order in which to use each of these treatments to make the project flow.
I spent a few hours recently writing out the color scheme for my current project, which is a Dark Eldar army composed entirely of heavily converted Skaven. While the color choice was obviously important, this was not the focus of my documentation. I wanted to write out not only the colors and treatments I planned to use, but more importantly, the order in which I could apply these without conflict. By working my way through the paint scheme, I was able to compose a step-by-step guide for my final color scheme that I can now apply across the entire collection. I think there are multiple benefits to doing this. First of all, by writing out the colors, I know exactly how much of each paint to purchase. More importantly, I also can assure that the entire army will receive the same treatment, which will guarantee a uniformity in visual presentation of the finished collection. While I have had to make room for flexibility concerning a few varied colors such as fur, I can now take my guide, run an army-wide assembly line process, and bang out the collection with relative ease.
What I am trying to say, is that when painting models, you really do need to consider the techniques you plan to use as a whole. For example, be aware that washes can easily run, and so therefore if you plan on doing a large amount of heavy washing on a figure, you may well want to do this step before working on areas of the model that will not receive a wash. Another example would be drybrushing. If you feel that your drybrushing control (or lack thereof) will result in a bit of collateral painting, perhaps you should do that drybrushing early on, to keep not-drybrushed parts of the model untouched.
It is certainly possible that this sort of thinking is obvious. Personally, I had to learn the importance of “ordering techniques” the hard way with that first Tyranid army I mentioned.
Perhaps going through my planning process seems like a no-brainer, and everyone who reads this article will say “Well duh!”. Personally, as much as I enjoy reading painting guides and learning new techniques, I rarely read about the thought process behind hobbying. I just wanted to share my belief that thinking about details such as paint order and documentation, can truly benefit your painting experience and finished product. The time spent planning, speeds up the actual painting process. This comes from having such a clear direction to take, every time you sit at the paint station.
I would love to hear the input of others. Am I doing something that everyone already does, or am I just really anal about my hobby?