Saturday, March 22, 2008

Magmatrax Pt. 2 (of 4). By Vince “Boltman” Hudon


Painting Magmatrax

 Now was the toughest step for me. I felt more at ease with converting which I enjoy a great deal, and the painting I knew would force me to step it up to live up to the conversion which I was very proud of. I knew I wanted a Magma theme, which would tie in with the rest of my army. Oh yes, this model was going to see battle. I'm too slow a painter to afford painting something that I won't use afterwards, as I want to get a full sized army finished and play the game which I enjoy. I decide I would go for a cleaner, flashier look for the model, it is a style I like, and quite frankly, it is the only style I had any experience with. The model was Khorne, and thus called for Bone, reds and goldish colors to keep with the ethos. Yet it had to be original and not just another red and gold model, like every other Khorne Berserker. That's when I cam up with a "Magma scale" pattern, which would make it original and take care of the Freehand aspect of my entry.

I also wanted to try out Non Metallic Metal (NMM) gold, which I had seen in admiration on other models at CMON. The Sky-Earth NMM was a variant, which really made things shine, and I decided to step in unknown territory and aim for the toughest thing I could. Previously, I had stared at countless examples of models with NMM, asked questions to some of the artists, and began to get a feel of how colors were supposed to be applied on various surfaces to give the impression of shine. My basic color scheme set, I decided to start with the right rear leg of the juggernaut. As it was going to be partially covered with the Rider's cape, I could get some practice in without it showing on the final model. I also decided to change my approach to painting, and concentrate on 1 element at a time, that leg for starters, and fully paint it before I moved to the next element. You get to test a particular effect and see the end result of the color combinations right off, instead of waiting until you finished the entire model and realize you don't like the result.. It also allows you to get more familiar with a region of the model and ensure you tidy up all the little painting flaws.

On with a Chaos black Primer coat, after washing the model with soap! Gets rid of finger oil. My 4/0 sized paintbrush will handle all the main coats and highlights or the red armor, and my trusty 10/0 paintbrush will handle all the detail and NMM.

General Tips

  1. I had heard that you should dilute your paint. I somewhat did, but never enough, in perspective. When I realized that properly diluted paint makes smooth transitions in color MUCH easier, it clicked in my head. For this, I prepared a little bottle of dilution water, which is about 15% Future Acrylic Floor Finish and 85% water. More Future made bubbles, and less made a lesser effect. This stuff makes the paint more fluid, it tends to dry less chunky, for smoother transitions. It's a bit like using dishwashing soap in your ink washes. Breaks surface tension and makes paint application smoother. Whatever I painted, I diluted beforehand on a palette, with at least 1 part water to 2 parts paint. Depending on the technique, It could go to 15 parts water to 1 part paint. More on this later.

  2. Use a palette. This was another big discovery for me. I discovered using a piece of plastic to put paint of all the shades I needed for an element. For NMM gold, I did one little trim at a time, with a bit of all the colors I needed on the palette, available to touch up and finish what I'm painting. That opposed to doing all the trim base coats, then take out the next color for next stage, etc. You waste a little more paint, but results are better, and the actual painting is quicker, all colors available right away. Be sure to periodically add dilution water to your paints to slow down the drying on the palette.

  3. I used Vallejo Game Color paints, but mostly because I find their bottles smarter. GW paint I find is pretty much as good and have no problem working with it, actually I did when the appropriate color was closer to hand that the VGC container was! VGC has, however, an edge with smaller color pellets in the paint, which makes smooth layering easier. I will use GW color names throughout the article for easier reference, but in fact I painted mostly with VGC. I recommend their Vallejo bottles because they are more suited to dropping a little paint of each color you need on a palette.

  4. Don't be afraid to go back and touch-up. I had to do it countless times over, with each new element that needed paint I had to learn how to do it. Skulls (always had a hard time getting the right colors), Fur, Magma effect, spikes and horns, NMM gold, NMM steel/silver, how to paint a chain... Took 300-some hours to paint it all, but now I know how to paint each of these elements, and I could do the whole model in half the time now.

Painting the Magma ScalesUsing:

  • Chaos black

  • Scab red

  • Red gore

  • Bloody red

  • Blazing orange

  • Golden yellow


I started off by painting the magma scale on the right hind leg, giving me more freedom to try on an area I could repaint and repaint again as it was going to be partially hidden under the cloak. I started highlighting the armor in red, and then adding a scale pattern, but it looked slightly off, as the lava veins were too similar to the highlighted areas of the armor plate. Ok, let's try something else. I darkened each scale, which improved it. Redefined the lava veins... better. Highlighted the scales a bit, and voilণ33; Finally the effect I wanted. This was going to change a bit as I progressed through the surfaces though, so here is my finally honed technique for the scales:

Basecoat of scab red is in order. I tried to avoid overpainting on the gold trim to be, but no big worry, we'll fix it later. Since the paint is slightly thinned, 2 layers are necessary. Next, I take blood red and draw fairly wide veins intersecting each other, to create scales. The blood red doesn't cover much with one layer, but it doesn't matter at this early stage. Next, a second layer with blazing orange, slightly thinner than the first layer, to leave a little bit of the red on each side of the veins. Still using thinned paint, roughly 30-40% water, if orange didn't cover enough I'd go back. The orange needs to be covering the scab red fully. Then, only where the veins intersect, a very thinned down golden yellow is applied, at about 50/50 water / paint. The trick is to apply the paint with the paintbrush starting a few millimeters away from the vein intersection and drag your paintbrush toward the intersection, lifting the tip off the surface at the center. Thinned paint will be therefore very thin where you started your stroke, and accumulate where you took it off. Paint will slowly travel down the wet path you made with the brush. With the right dilution, paint will dry with a gradual thickness, giving you a smooth transition from no yellow over orange to almost full coverage of yellow. This will require some practice to get perfect, but a few trials will bear the understanding of this technique, which I will henceforth call “wet layering‿.

Each vein leading to an intersection must get this wet layering of yellow, to give the impression that underneath the scales, there is a hot spot. If you observe real lava, you'll notice that warmer spots are at the center, with brighter colors. The more veins and the more lava around a certain region, the warmer it is kept. The borders of a lava flow are darker, cooled down from exposure to the next medium, air, or rocks for instance.


Now the scales must be redefined. The blood red and orange has spilled over the original intent, so red gore is reapplied to redefine the perimeter of each scale. Red gore is brighter than scab red, and the color brightening is useful, yet still subtle. Paint should not be more than 20% thinned, as we want it to make a clear and precise line from the lava veins. I also made the scales larger at this point, giving them a slightly more round shape, extending the straight borders further over the veins in a curved fashion, but not avoiding the vein intersections. By now the scales are looking pretty good. The final touch it to manually apply yellow at some of the intersections, reaffirming the presence of the brighter color, but not every intersection; lava is a random pattern, and I found that leaving some intersections a little more orangey than the others helped the effect.

Finally, the shading. This step can be done after the NMM trims are done, as the effect will be a lot more visible then against a black trim. Regardless, here's what I did. After reading a few precious articles from Cyril and Allan C, I suddenly clicked when I read the mention of “colored water". I wanted to shade the magma scale armor as a whole, darker towards the trims. and any other feature. To this avail, I mixed a very small amount of scab red and black paint (33/67) with a huge amount of thinning water, at a ratio of 15 or 20 to 1. The idea is to end up with tinted water. It's blackish, but you can still see through it very well. With the 4/0 brush I would apply the watery mix over the magma scales around all the edges to the gold trims. Once dry, there is no apparent change. Let's do a second layer. Once dry, perhaps a hint of darkness shows over that region. Now the trick is to apply more and more thin layers of this colored water, on a successively smaller area, towards where you want it darker, in this case towards the gold trim. This very wet layering uses so little pigment of the paint that the layers you paint on don't show at all, giving a very good transition to darkness. It also helps to bring out the NMM gold features, or any detail surrounded by the darkened area.

It is very important that each layer is given time to dry before applying the next or you will break off the previous layer, and create “tide lines" of darkness which you can't really fix unless you start over. To get a good gradual darkening effect, usually about 10 layers were required. In the end, I thinned down black to about a 60% water to paint mix, and blacklined the magma scale armor plate to separate it from the NMM trim. After the darkening though, it was already pretty dark there, and only a quick stroke with black paint was required to define the surfaces. Note that I did not use inks for this. The benefit is that colored water can be made out of any color, and is less harsh and prone to making tide lines like ink will. In a way, colored water is more forgiving that inks, which would have to be diluted even further.

Whenever the surfaces called for a different type or material, I blacklined it with heavily thinned black paint. Being thinned (with Future floor wax finish), the black paint flows and stays in the lines easier. This gave a crisp clean look to the model, something I am fond of.

Painting the Plain Red ArmorUsing:

  • Chaos black

  • Scab red

  • Red gore

  • Bloody red

  • Red ink

Over the black basecoat, a thinned down version (35-40% water) of scab red is applied, in the same manner that yellow was dragged on the surface of the veins. Start the paintbrush at the darkest recesses, and drag the paint towards the brightest edge you want. In my case this generally meant starting from the top trims to the bottom ones, away from the overshadowing magma scale armor plating.


To explain this, lets take the right frontal leg of the juggernaut, right underneath the lava scale plating (leading to the claws). I apply the paint starting up on the leg, and I drag the paint down with the brush towards the claw, using this wet layering technique. Since the paint is diluted about 40% with water, little color will show at the top and more paint will end up at the bottom, this shows even more on a black basecoat. Let it dry a few seconds, and repeat the process. This time, I start putting paint maybe 1 mm below the first layer I just applied. Now this second "wet layer", once dry, won't appear to cover much either, but a little more than the first. I'll apply a third layer, again starting a little below where I started dragging the paint the previous time. Don't be afraid to step out of this procedure, as I did. Sometimes the layer was just too thin, and starting a second layer a little below was premature; I'd simply do another layer starting wherever I thought the change black/scab red was too drastic.

Now it's time to brighten the color. I'll mixed some red gore in the scab red, re-dilute with water, and apply a new layer of brighter, thinned paint, starting a little below the last scab red layer made, spreading the paint towards the claw once again. I kept this process going, with a couple layers of each color mixes. I used pure scab red, 50/50 mix scab red/red gore, pure red gore, 50/50 mix red gore/blood red, until the last few layers I applied were actually very short, close to the claw, in pure blood red. I actually started with scab red, added some red gore about 50/50, then more and more red gore, then eventually blood red, periodically adding dilution water to keep the mix thin and fresh. The final hilight layer is actually blood red with a touch (10-15%) of skull white. More than that would look too pink. Don't worry about actual color mix quantities, is you apply gradual, thin layers by dragging them towards the brightest regions, you'll end up with the same smooth(er) transition.

How smooth your color transition, or "wet blending", is will depend on how you mastered the art of diluting your paint just right (comes with experience). It will also be better if you use 15 layers throughout the surface instead of 3-4, and the more numerous the shades of red you used along the way, the better. The Juggernaut's leg, for example, was made with 5 different shades of red, done with about 15 layers (3 each roughly). And remember, once done, if a particular region of the transition jumps to a brighter color too quickly for your tastes, use the colored watered technique, with a shade of red that is darker than what you are trying to fix, and apply to gradually darken the area. Be patient though, it takes a lot of layers to make it really smooth, and it has to dry in between. When I could, I would darken a bunch of adjacent areas, and by the time I was done, the first place I darkened had dried up and was ready for another thin layer of colored water.

To help bring out a nicer candyish red, thinned down red ink was applied all over the red armor. I preferred using 2 or 3 layers of thinned ink than a heavy one, because the ink will blur the various shades and diminish the difference in shades you have just applied, which you don't want. Ink is just to give it a tint, mainly to change the blood red color, which is too close to orange for my tastes. It also has the benefit of improving the blending effect. That extra tint, which can also be achieved with any color you thin extremely to “colored water" will hide a little bit of the layer transitions.

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