Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Alpha Legion Rhino and so. many. scales...

"Yeah, of course I can paint dragon scales on the back of a rhino" I said. Ho ho ho. A hollow laughing. This turned out to be one of those projects that I am really, really happy with but had me tearing out great clods of hair figuring out. The brief was to paint an Alpha Legion rhino (using the lovely, lovely Forgeworld doors) and to add to the Legion paint scheme by painting scales along the top and down the back door. This sounded fairly straightforward. Turns out it is quite tricky to paint convincing scales, but more of that later. First lets look at the tank as a whole!

Alpha Legion colours are a dark blue and a turquoise-y green. The colours have been muted a little by the photography but you should still be able to see what I am on about. The blue was fairly straightforward, a basecoat of Necron Abyss highlighted with the addition of Enchanted Blue (not my usual blue highlight but I wanted a "warmer" blue than the usual grey-blue) and sequential drybrushing to pick up the edges. Then I shaded the whole tank with what the 1:35 modelling community call a "filter" essentially a wash glazed over the surface to alter the tone of the colour scheme and add shading. In this case I wanted to add a little hint of green to the blue in order to bind the blue and green areas visually. This was achieved with a 2:1 mix of Asurman Blue and Thraka Green washes carefully glazed over the blue avoiding any pooling.

Once this was dry I turned my attention to the green areas. The trick was making a blue-green that wasn't bright turquoise, Orkhide Shade and Hawk Turquoise came to my rescue (roughly a 3:2 mix). This was highlighted with the same shade mixed with a little bleached bone. Finally the area was given a filter of 1:1 mixed Asurman Blue and Thrake Green wash. While this all dried off I painted all the metallic areas in Jeff Rust (see the glossary - The Book of Jeff - for common methods I use). The icons of the Hydra on the doors and glacis plate were also painted with Orkhide shade. Try to do this if you want multiple discrete areas of colour on a model. Use the same base shades and just shade and highlight differently. It will tie the look of the model together and keep it from looking gaudy. The heads were highlighted with Goblin Green and shaded with Thraka Green. The tongues also had a thin glaze of Thraka Green, this prevented them from standing out from the green field too much.

It was now time for markings, the first was placed on the forward left quarter - as it looked a bit plain - and features an alternative Alpha Legion symbol. The Legion use a variety of markings to identify themselves to their various cults and insurgencies in order to obfuscate their presence. The chained 'A' is one such identifier and looks pretty spanky so that livened up the panel! For anyone who struggles with freehand painting and wants to replicate this: start with the cross bar chain, paint a dash followed by an equals sign followed by a dash etc: -=-=- with the dashes in between the equals bars. Then round off the edges of the equals signs. Finally paint a chevron on the top of the chain and extend the lines below. Thicken up the lines and add serifs as they look all kinds of fancy.

Now it got tricky. The main feature the client wanted was those scales. I'm really glad he did as they look ace and forced me to solve a problem I never knew I'd need! Initially I tried painting the scales on individually over the blue. That looked terrible. So I blanked out the area with Orkhide shade (see, that green again) and tried painting tessalated irregular scales (see the cape on Vulkan He'Estan). Turns out that works on a miniature in 3D sculpting but not in painting. So I blanked it out again and started laying out regular patterns of overlapping 'V' shapes. Too regular. It looked like a green tiled floor. Cue some growling and chewing of paintbrushes. Blank out again. This time a less regular pattern. Finally, it was looking right, but each scale looked too flat. I realised that I would have to individually highlight every, single, scale. That actually turned out to be a fairly quick job and I am so glad I did it as it made the paint job. Check out the results on the next two shots:

The colours are Base: Orkhide Shade; Outline: Orkhide and Black; Highlight: Orkhide, Knarloc and Gretchin Greens in a 2:1:1 ratio.

The irregularity is what gives it its natural feel. Precious little organic matter grows in a straight line so neither should this! I firmed up the line of the doors as they connect to prevent the model's details from disappearing under freehand painting. I also blended in the edges of the scales to the blue by stippling Necron Abyss along the edge of the pattern. This prevented the design from looking too "painted on" and sank it into the scheme of the rest of the tank. Finally I painted in all the bone sections and turned my attention to the tank commander:

A few things worth noting. The insides of tanks are generally painted a different colour to the outside. Use a fairly neutral colour and generally pale. This will add a nice touch of contrast to your paint scheme. Also, the cables running from the marine have all been painted differently. There is no real reason for this but it adds another touch of reality ("step 3: Attach green and yellow live cable to socket B..." etc). Finally I got on with some fun weathering - reasonably light, I see the Alpha Legion as professional soldiers who would care for their vehicles - using my usual methods to achieve a nice "in use" look. And there you have it! One finished Alpha Legion transport and my second post in two days. Looks like the mojo is back with a vengeance. Now then, on with those Emperor's Children and then a treat, a whole army of Death Korps of Krieg, I love those guys, glee!



  1. Loving the scales matey, really nice :)

  2. Great free-hand work, nice smooth blending!