Friday Five Things: What I’m Learning From Painting A Kabalite Warrior Test Model

WIP 1: Kabalite Warrior Test Model

Today with a bonus sixth item!

I. Dark Eldar models are really intricate. This is something I already “knew” in the abstract, from looking at the models: compared to the Space Marines I’ve painted in the past, they’re much more slender and fiddly, with less room to add layers of paint between different areas of detail. But eyeballing a model, no matter how carefully, just isn’t the same as experiential knowledge. Even slapping paint on some half-assembled test models didn’t really prepare me for the reality: these models are just plain challenging to paint well.

II. Subtractive painting helps, but ordering is important. Subtractive painting is the technical term for the “be messy and clean it up with overpainting later” method that we all know and love. The classic example is painting a Space Marine boltgun: rather than trying to pick out the Marine’s fingers around the grip, I just paint the whole area in a base color and then paint over the bolter parts with black when I’m done, “subtracting” the areas of base color that I don’t want. This method definitely helps reduce some of the complexities of Dark Eldar models, but you have to think about when you want to do the subtraction. I tried to do all of my subtraction at the basecoating stage: basecoating the flayed skin loincloth first, and then “cleaning up” by basecoating the armor plates and all of the belt detail. That turned out to be a problem, because some of the belt detail got in the way when I started adding additional paint layers to the loincloth. I would have been much better off waiting until after layering the loincloth to base the belt detail, even at the risk of screwing up the loincloth.

III. I need a lot more practice with edge highlighting. Related to my first point about Dark Eldar models being hard mode compared to Space Marines, the latter were much more forgiving of mistakes with my edge highlights. I’m doing okay where there are natural edges that allow me to use the side of the brush, but my brush-tip control is erratic, and it doesn’t help that I can’t always steady my hands against the model. Also, as thin as I’m trying to keep my paint as I’m working I’m finding that it’s drying out on the palette (and sometimes on my brush!) even though there’s some extender in my thinning solution. Possibly I’m going to need to drag my wet palette out of the closet. But whatever the case, my edge highlighting technique needs considerable work and improvement.

IV. Using washes to develop surface color variations on the armor is problematic. Only a few of the armor plates on the model are big enough that surface color variations developed via flood-washing are noticeable: the shoulder plates, the large flat plate on the right side of the chest, and a couple of the larger leg plates. Everywhere else the armor is so segmented that the eye catches on the detail, not subtle surface shading. It may be that, instead of basing the armor with Kantor Blue and then trying to shade it with Nuln Oil, I’m better off basing it with an Abaddon Black/Kantor Blue mix and building up highlights from there. I’m not sure I’d lose much if I did this, and it’d make it a lot easier to correct edge highlighting mistakes (a benefit not lost on me in light of my third point, above).

V. Bugman’s Glow is a funny, funny color. It’s ostensibly equivalent to the Tanned Flesh color from the old Citadel range, reformulated as a new Citadel Base paint for better coverage. And it does provide better coverage – certainly much better than the various Citadel Layer flesh colors like Cadian Fleshtone and Kislev Flesh. But having based my test model’s loincloth with it, it just doesn’t look right. Even when shaded with a ruddy wash like Reikland Fleshshade, it’s very brown and subdued, to the point that a first highlight layer of Cadian Fleshtone ends up looking really stark and unnatural. I’m wary about basecoating with Citadel Layer paints, but that might just be the way to go, here. (Data point: though I’m kind of underwhelmed by the Raiders of Commorragh painting guide book, it does endorse the “basecoat with Cadian Fleshtone” method, which Stahly at Tale of Painters also uses, more or less.)

VI. (BONUS ITEM!) Painting the model fully assembled would have driven me crazytown bananapants. On a hunch, I decided against attaching the arms to the head/torso/legs assembly before painting the model. I masked the glue contact points on the main assembly with some poster-tac to keep them from getting crapped up with primer, and then attached the arms to some Pic-N-Stics by their contact points to prime and paint separately. Now that I’ve begun to edge highlight the model’s torso armor, and gotten an appreciation for just how in the way those arms would have been otherwise, I’m not sure there are words in the English language to adequately convey how glad I am I did this.

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