Friday, March 28, 2008

Magmatrax Pt. 3 (of 4) - By Vince “Boltman” Hudon


Non Metallic Metal Gold (NMM Gold) Using:

  • Scorched Brown

  • Vermin Brown

  • Leprous Brown

  • Light Yellow #010 from Vallejo Model color range; similar to 50/50 white golden yellow mix

Alright now, the most learning I did here. NMM had stirred amazement, wonder and a certain deal of fright since I first saw the Master's results. It looked incredible to me, and it looked impossible to achieve. Well my friends, it isn't as hard as it may look. But it's definitely something you should attempt only after getting a good grip of the wet layering described in the red armor portion of this article. I did a lot of searching and observation on this, and here is how I painted my interpretation of NMM gold.

First, there is no perfect way to do it. To each their own color picks. I chose mine from the lists of's renowned Commander Y (Tom Shadle) and Mahazael, the Demon Prince Master of There are a variety of colors to pick, and the technique is the same for NMM silver or brass, but you'll have a very hard time achieving results you like unless you have the right colors for the look you wanted. I wanted my NMM to be shiny, bright, to contrast with the darker red armor. Not too sure myself if it would work, I had read that Gold would never reflect perfect white, it's just not in the tint of the metal. Some people would use beige to brighten the brown and make it look gold. Others used yellowish to make the gold shine. I picked a yellowish color, but something between beige and yellow. Too yellow isn't good, as it will look like yellowish metals, not actually gold, which draws it's shades in the browns. If your attempts end up looking yellow, then you are using too much pure yellow, and should stick in the leprous brown color ranger longer before going to light yellow for the final brightening.

Colors set, the next and most important thing is understanding the way light reflects on metallic surfaces. I have no background in arts and therefore lack the proper theory to explain here. I am, however, a very good observer. I spent hours upon hours searching and scrutinizing pictures of well made NMM models, the ones I though had achieved a good reflective effect and caught my eye. Most of the hundred or so pictures I kept were found on, from browsing countless high scoring models. I began to get a feel of how reflective surfaces could be painted to mimic reflections and give it a shiny appearance. It's hard to explain, it's just something you eventually understand, from seeing this type of surface at this particular angle from the light source, painted this way. I can however teach you how each type of reflection was made on Magmatrax, and hints as to which situation calls for which effect, to the best of my humble observations.

Sky-Earth NMM Gold (SENMM)

Certain golden areas are sufficiently large to show off with some shinier gold effect. Or perhaps the area is small but you really want to make it look like it's polished, super reflective gold. That's when you use the SENMM technique. The idea is to simulate the reflection of the horizon, where sky and earth meet. Have you ever looked at a shiny chromed hubcap?  Pretty much everywhere the car is parked, you'll see a horizon line, be it from sky and earth meeting itself, or another such drastic color transition from dark to light, like the sidewalk and the building behind it. To fool the eye into recognizing the horizon in the distance reflected on the metal, you use this technique.


I always started with a basecoat of only slightly thinned leprous brown. (20% water). 2 layers would usually suffice, but don't worry if the surface is not perfectly covering the black undercoat, as there will be many more layers applied. Take scorched brown, normally thinned around 1/3 water and paint a horizontal line on the surface. From this starting point, I paint the entire area underneath scorched brown. Next, I use light yellow to paint directly over the horizon line. I can also use this step to even the horizon line made with scorched brown. With this feature as bearings, I then slightly brighten the dark zone under the line. Starting from the very bottom, I'd use 50/50 thinned vermin brown and apply paint from the bottom, brushing sideways. When the horizon line is high up on the surface, vermin brown won't be sufficient: the color has to become brighter. A 50/50 mix of vermin brown/leprous will often suffice, but for those really large areas, you might have to bring it to full leprous brown. Next, over the horizon, I would go to the highest area of the surface and paint leprous brown. Then, successively, mixes of leprous and light yellow, 50/50 thinned with water, are layered horizontally. My best advice is to have all 4 browns available on the palette, diluted 50/50 with water each, on your palette. That way you can mix various concentrations of paint for your mixes, which comes particularly important in the leprous/light yellow transition. Put a layer in between leprous and light yellow. If it's too dark, just add more light yellow to the mix on the palette. Too bright? ...well you get the idea. A lot quicker to adjust the layering for a smooth transition. Just remember to add thinning water periodically. And if your horizon line is particularly low, the top color will tend towards vermin brown. But don't go to scorched brown as it confuses the eye which you need to fool into associating dark brown as the earth line. Same with the bottom of the earth zone, don't go to light yellow too much as it is reserved for the sky region.


Now that it's all painted, it's time to “hilight" the very edges, the rims of the metal surfaces. For this you must remember that the brightest rims are perpendicular to the light source. And as the rims tend to be parallel to the light rays, it reflects less and less of the light. So, if you take the armor shell on top of the hind legs of the Juggernaut, the very top of the gold rim is light yellow, and as the curved line goes down, the very rim goes from light yellow to leprous brown, and then no hilight at all. This also means that the underside trims should get no hilight of such at all, since light is above the metal. However, at the very bottom of the metal trim, a little brightening is in order, with a very thin layer of leprous brown (always thinned) and then an even smaller line of 50/50 mix of leprous and light yellow. This you apply, like the top rims, using the side of your paintbrush, only grazing the edge for a very thin line.

Knowing how it's done is not enough, you must also know where to do it. In the case of SENMM, your horizon line is the starting point. That starting point should however follow a simple rule. If the surface you are painting is perfectly vertical, then your horizon line should be right in the middle of it. However, if the surface is tilted up a little, then the horizon line should be lower on the surface, the more tilted the lower the horizon. If the surface is tilted down, then the horizon should be higher up. Best way to figure this is to take a mirror and check it out for yourself. If you tilt the mirror up or down, you'll the features reflected in it move down or up, accordingly. In reality, it doesn't take a big angle for the tilted surface to only reflect the sky or the ground. For miniature painting, I found that the horizon line helps to show off reflection, and you'll want to put that horizon in, and only avoid it when the surface is really very tilted.


The cylindrical features are done in the same way, but the horizon line has to be alongside the length of the cylinder for the best effect. Furthermore, to accentuate the drastically curves surface, the scorched and vermin browns are very scarcely found, accentuating more on leprous and light yellow. The horizon therefore goes from scorched to vermin to the normally unused leprous and finally a 50/50 mix of leprous and light yellow.

The horizon line might not always be horizontal. On curved surfaces, or surfaces tilted both on the vertical and horizontal axis, the horizon may end up diagonal. Magmatrax's waist gold trims are an example. For one thing, on such a small surface, the horizon line “horizontal" would be ackward (and too small). Instead, the transition was made vertical, though the light yellow for the sky transition was applied from the top rim, brought down at a slight angle and then continuing at the bottom of the trim towards the backside of the model, in an “S" figure. I lack the proper explanation, but in this case, from studying many models, this technique clearly shows the eye that it is a reflective surface.


NMM Gold trimsMost of the Gold on Magmatrax was simply done as a NMM gold trim. The area is painted in the same fashion as the SENMM areas, color-wise, with the following considerations. Generally speaking, a NMM trim tends to be hilighted in reverse to regular surface, bright at the bottom, and dark at the top (assuming the light is at the top). However, the very top rim is hilighted with your purest, brightest color, light yellow in my case. So I start with a leprous basecoat (2 coats thinned), then scorched brown in the upper part, covered almost entirely with vermin brown. To get my bearings, I would then paint a 50/50 mix of light yellow/leprous brown at the very bottom of the trim, and then blend the colors in between, using strongly thinned mixes ox light yellow and leprous brown, and then vermin/leprous mixes. Your paint should be thinned down 50/50 with water for a better transition.


To get a good NMM effect, it is essential that your color transition is very smooth; you cannot see layers. To practice, I suggest using very diluted paint, up to 2/3 water at first, only applying a small amount of diluted paint, and then adding successive layers of various mixes to fill in the color gaps in the transition. As you get familiar with this technique, you'll pull it off with less water in the paint, at a faster rate. The first few trims literally took me hours to do right. But it gave me experience with paint thinning, and amount of paint in the paintbrush required for best application.

Painting the studs had me discover that a simple SENMM technique could be used to great effect. Aiming for the sky, I kept my motto strong: “No shortcuts, make everything as intricate as possible and go the extra mile, every time". So I decided to paint every last one of the studs (over a hundred in all) scorched brown, and very carefully paint the lower 1/3 leprous brown and the top 1/3, light yellow. Paint was only barely thinned (10%), as the paint needs to stick and cover. Besides, thinned paint on a stud tends to gather around the stud, which is a big no-no. For best results, I made sure to leave a scorched brown lining all around the studs. The biggest studs also got a very, very small touch of pure light yellow thinned down as usual (35-40%) at the very bottom of the stud, leaving most of the leprous brown showing. Small zones of color as such might not seem worth the time, but for the overall piece, even the slightest hints of color will show. Just like the smallest error in color transition will haunt you until you fix it.

NMM Silver/Steel


  • Fortress grey

  • Codex grey

  • Wolf grey #47 (Vallejo Game color, like Spacewolf grey without the blue hue)

The steel parts were done with the same NMM techniques, over the black undercoat. I unfortunately do not have specific recipes for the various layers, and it is still a color I feel I need to improve on. Part of the problem is that there are no good dark greys out there, you should mix your own in a pot. I didn't, it took longer, and I will for my next project. Basically, re-use the gold technique, however your vermin brown equivalent should be a 50/50 mix of black and Codex grey.


The chains were done with black basecoat, followed with 50/50 mix of codex/black, covering the entire links but avoiding where the links touch each other, to leave a line. Then a hilight of Fortress grey covering half of each link, brighter towards the light. Finally, a hilight of wolf grey on the top third of each link did the trick. As a reminder, the lava scales, where the chain crosses over, were darkened towards the base, like any other edge of the magma scales, using the colored water technique explained earlier. This helped make the chain stand out. Note that the jewelry chains were glued down to stiffen them. This became essential for the chain hanging from the axe, as otherwise, the swinging motion would break the paint as the links rubbed. To hold it in place, making it much easier to paint, very liquid superglue was applied along the chain, to fuse all the links together.

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