10 April 2018

Gang painting - The Scale Creep Methods

When it comes to our painting it seems that the most common goal at the moment is a 'Gang Sized' project. Around 10 or so figures in a thematic group, whether it be a unit, a warband, a gang or some other kind of group, it's the kind of thing each of us will do a couple of in a year (at least).

But how do we do it? Each of tends to work in isolation, showing WIP's or finished items to group but we never have the opportunity to sit and watch how the others work through it. Occasionally WIP's will illicit responses such as, 'Why the fuck do you do it like that, you awkward sod?' or 'For the love of god will you tidy your painting desk!', occasionally 'Tell me you only keep your paints in a plastic bag to wind Paul up' can be heard over the tumult of 'Cut your fucking fingernails!'.

Artistic view of WIPsters group painting, actual process may differ

So we thought it might be educational to get each of the Scale Creeps that are willing, awake, sober and paying attention, to blether on a little bit about how that go about painting a gang of mini's (mostly so the rest of us can point and laugh).

Of course we all have our views and it's only natural we'd want to confront them in the most gentlemanly way. Here's our personal observations on each other's methods :
Assleman :JB
Captain Crooks 

Whiskey Priest 

I'm a batch painter (Yuk). I tend to do things in groups (Naughty, naughty)(pics or it didn't) as I'm impatient and want to get stuff done. I've experimented with different colour undercoats but I usually stick with Black as I'm more comfortable with it. I will occasionally glue some gravel to the base before spraying but not always. It depends. As do a lot of things. I'm almost always a flesh first kind of guy. I have a lot of figures lying around that have nothing but the flesh done (Inefficient. Just paint naked models from here on in).
How lucky. I just happened to have 4 figs at different stages just hanging around! (I like your Techs WP)
I find it laborious and like to get it out of the way quick. 
I tend to use Triads (Mafia can't paint for toffee, see?) like the foundry system (although not always foundry paints or the Triads as they are sold). Shade of one colour goes on all the figs and then depending how quickly I managed that I might do a second shade (of a different colour) while I'm waiting on that drying (Breaking the internet from the sofa with blogposts). Then back to the middle tone of the first colour, then the second and same with the highlights. When both the main colours are done I can then do the same with the next two colours so I'm always working on a smaller and smaller proportion of surface area of the model.

Working through the colours
With a unit of P├│keman or similar it's a case of picking two colours and going over the whole unit but deliberately leaving parts black so I can go back with a third and fourth colour to give the unit some variety. I usually leave metals and hair till last. Metals will either be grey or metallic and get a wash of brown as well as black, then highlighted with a metal again. Hair and other detail should contrast with the rest of the figure. I usually divide the figures into roughly equal groups and divvy up the hair colours that way (segregation is bad, kids. Don't be that guy). Basing is as quick as I can make it. The Necromunda bases make life easy but on the Orks I've been using GW basing paints over the gravel with some grass tufts on top (those Necromunda bases are brilliant. I just they'd been around when I started painting Confrontation models. Mind you, some people would have objected if I'd cut off all the tabs). I use washes and occasionally black lining to neaten things up and separate areas out. Job done.
(JB : I find Colin's method quite good and not that far from my own apart from the basing last part which makes absolutely no sense to me.) (Shut up you! It makes perfect sense!)
(Basing first goes against nature. It's like a horse trying to mate with a hamster) (love is not against nature you fool !)


Back in the early 2000s I hated painting. The end. The only painting I did was full units in a single sitting when building the next army for whatever campaign weekend or tournament I was attending. Because this painting was usually compressed into the few weeks immediately before said event, the results were rushed and poorly finished from repetitive batch painting (AKA Agony). When I abandoned massed warfare for skirmish gaming, I had a revelation - I could paint a single model at a time. I could spend time improving my techniques and really bringing out the character of the model.

The paint queue

Since then, I nearly always paint a single model in a single sitting (AKA the other kind of agony) (Not true. This is a fine and productive technique!). Sometimes I might paint more - two or three, never more than five. The irony is that painting many single models has added up to me painting far more models than when I was batch painting!

As for the painting itself. I undercoat black. Like Whiskey Priest, I start with the flesh, and paint the rest of the model from 'inside-out', only painting the top layers of detail last. Nearly all my painting is based on block colours shaded with washes. Because I'm working on a single model at a time, I have a hairdryer handy to speed up the drying times for the washes (God meant for us to paint another model while washes on the first dried, not CHEAT !) (How come the hairdryer doesn't blow the wash away? I'm asking for a friend)(There are different settings on hairdryers - you can use a gentle blow rather than a forceful blast)(I just sit and morosely watch until it's ready for highlighting. It's a bit like watching paint dr- oh... right). First highlights are usually done with the original colour. Further highlights are usually the original colour mixed with a lighter similar colour, or sometimes white or an off-white.

I used paints from the pot thinned on an old coaster. The WIPsters keep saying I should use a wet palette.
I always do my basing last (see it's not just me JB!) (Axiom is a bastion of sanity in a world gone MAD), mainly because I tend to knock off the basing texture whilst painting the figure (I know, I should stick it on a cork or something). Basing is railway modelling talus glued with PVA glue. When that's dry I cover it with a watered down layer of PVA. Then it's painted a mid-grey, washed black and drybrushed with a light grey, before finishing the rims with black. I might add static grass depending on the model.

The Axiom paint storage system. Not recommended.
I used to store my paints in a plastic bag. It lasted for about 13 years before it fell to pieces. Now they're all in the kid's old shoeboxes and shoved in a drawer (Probably the least "Axiom" way to do things I could ever think of)(Believe me, it's shocking. I really do need to sort it out!).


When it comes down to painting models, my heroes aren't Mike Mcvey or the likes (JB especially hates Fraser Gray), the real stars I look up to are Alekse├» Stakhanov and F.W. Taylor. Why is that ? Efficiency. (No Henry Ford? Smart arse)
I've been painting for more than 25 years (straight, full power 24 hour no sleep no shower)and my painting level clearly shows I've never aimed at getting a very high standard but there's one thing that's always been a concern : Getting. Shit. Done. (Painting and then using 50-100 models a year to a perfectly acceptable standard is far more rewarding than 3 competition winners to my mind).
My main source of pleasure is finishing a model, adding the last tuft of grass, fixing the base rim and putting it in the photo booth.
There are more 'pwolific' (Fnar, fnar!) painters than me out there of course, but I'm trying to make the best out of the time I spend behind the desk and here's how :

My paints are all sorted by colour and kind (washes, inks, metallics, colours...) and although I will store them in something fancier than this piece of cardboard, I find not looking for a paint pot is essential for 2 reasons : 
- Less frustration duh
- I use a lot of "tricks" (does that mean you cheat?) and recipes over and over and I know the colour sequences to achieve them so I save a lot of time doing that. I can just repeat things I've done. I would probably love the triads system since that's already quite close to what I'm doing naturally.

I use a wet palette too (I think the reader would like to know more about what makes your palette wet)(The answer will shock you!), it makes me thin my paints more than I'd normally do and it keeps paint fresh. I don't use much mixes but when I do (there must be a meme in here somewhere!)(He is Sir Not-Mix-a-Lot) it also saves time to have them fresh for the whole shift.

Now, Number (2's) is probably the main point in my painting. I just can't stand working on one thing exclusively (It's the way of the future, you know it). I need to have models at all stages on the table, from raw from stripping, to prepared ready for basing or conversion, to ready and based and so on. I never know what I'm going to want to do so I need something at every stage if I feel pushing putty more than painting for example.

I've also painted some armies in the past and although my years of painting bug (Tyranids from Hive fleet Typo?) units are over (No they aren't, you can't back out, there is no OUT *The Crying Game theme plays*), painting a single model at a time is a big NO. If I'm opening a pot, I have to do it for a good reason. Do I have reds to paint on many models ? Good, I'll do it then, just for one? Fuck it. I'll do it when I have another model to do along. I can paint a single colour on models meant for different projects at once, that's not issue, that's how I like it. It saves time, energy (and exponentially increases boredom) and also helps maintain a sort of coherence in the way I paint.
Over the years, I've found my ideal number of model to work on is somewhere around 8 to 10 depending on how complicated models are, below 5 seems boring and above 12 seems a chore.

Here's a good example of what I'll start with, 2 units of 8 and 10 models. They're all prepared, ready for a base coat and fully based. (I think this is for our benefit Jon) (I'm watching and learning)
Basing before priming has many advantages for me :
- It helps seal the sand
- The sand can be drybrushed carelessly
- It's easier to fix any basing mistake on an unpainted model than a painted one

Next steps will always be :
- Priming the models, I tend to do a white zenithal spray over a black undercoat these days because it gives a greyish result that's neutral for any colour coming after and it also helps a lot to read the model and get what is what, (less thinking is always a bonus, never trust your brain) (does this make a difference if you are colour blocking?)
- Painting the base. I know very few people do that but I like being totally carefree about that part and drybrush the hell out of the sand and that's what I can do if I paint the base first (It just ain't right. It's like dogs and cats living together. It's unnatural!) (what do you do if you get some shoe colour on your base?) It's always easier to be neat while painting a foot than while drybrushing the 10th base of a unit.

This photo made me puke a handful of tiny baby men into a bowl of goldfish and then the goldfish started eating the baby men while they stared at me forlornly. Unnatural!!

Then colour blocking (Yawn). Unless I really know what I'm doing or the model is really predictable, I find blocking colours first helps ensuring you aren't forgetting anything and that it just "works". I tend to make units of models who come from various origins (like in the picture above and below) so tying the models with one another with colours is essential. That's what I'm making sure of here.
I won't lie, it's a real pain in the rear but once you're past that stage it's just fun. It makes you able to use the same wash on several parts at once (saving time) and you get an idea of the finished product right away so you don't have to come back on some parts you've already fully finished.

It would appear that we all shop at the same haberdashers
But hey look ! That's what comes out in the end !

Definite proof my method is the best.

Captain Crooks

I am not a religious man, but if I were, I would absolutely worship the graven image. Every miniature I jealously scrabble to my sweaty clutch is a tiny object of adulation, worthy of all my spare time and energy, and I treat them as such  - each need their own time to shine, not to be shuffled through some half hearted batch painting assembly line like a soulless piece of consumable trash. No. Not my army manz. Mine are SPECIAL (They are all special. But mine are more special than yours).

I am terrible at painting gangs. When I conceive an idea for a group of minis I rigorously search through my collection, hunt down for trade or impulsively purchase each member with singleminded determination. I often base them up in a flurry of activity, lining them up in pleasing arrangements and taking lots of WiP pics (Where are all these pics? on your blog? I'll just go check.....oh) I pour all my thought and attention into one of them, usually a favourite sculpt or one that best represent the group as a whole, painting it up, nutting out colour schemes, eating loads of nuggets dipped in milkshake, getting lots of constructive criticism,  producing a finished product and wallowing in the praise of a job well done, and then... on to something completely unrelated. Job's done. Endorphins engaged. Ego satisfied. Gang doomed to never be finished.

I have dozens of projects like this. A Marienburger Mordheim warband - 1 finished.  An RT Space Marine scout unit - 1 finished. A Nurgle Mordheim warband - 1 finished. A Shadow War Wych killteam - 1 finished. A samurai warband - 1 finished. Tau Shadow War killteam - 1 finished. Goliath Necromunda gang - 1 finished.

Dimension Force - coming to a Saturday morning cartoon near you!

The list can and will go on. How many Marius is one model? (I'm looking forward to you fielding that multiverse mega kill team comprised of a jaunty fellow from Marienburg, a pustle-infested human, a pale evil space elf...)

The last gang I actually finished was my Mordheim Witchhunter warband that I started in 1999 and finished... about 3 weeks ago when I finally based them up (it's less than 2 decades. Pretty decent output if you ask me). I am a very bad man, but I want to be good in my heart.

In terms of technique... sigh... just, ehh, follow your heart. (Seems like you follow your nose more) 

Organisation is key. (SAVE US! The mess is coming to take us!)

And don't listen to JB's weird 'paint the base first' ranting (but do paint your bases first) (no don't), science has proved the concept is an abomination and if you do it, you'll be crushed by dugongs while you sleep. UNNATURAL!


  1. Awesome choir recollection of memories. I have to confess being more of Asslessman's church, mini-batch painting 10 guys-ish at a time. With a variable result. And basing comes last, messier but more in line with my dubious logic.

    1. Basing last ? WHYYYYYYYYY ????????

    2. I'm with you JB basing is done first if possible. ;)

  2. Intriguing/Terrifying. I try to put the basing on before I spray prime, so that it sticks on better, but sometimes I am in a hurry, and can not be bothered. Typically I paint skin, then clothes, then weapons and such (so inside out).

    Although I could probably sum up all my painting as "Very slowly".

  3. Great post guys :D

    James, for shame :( Even with your new paint rack your desk still looks the same. Maybe you need a paint rack for your paint rack so your paint can rack more?

    Oh, basing last is my preferred method too.

  4. Very interesting post. I find about 5 models to be my sweet spot. I tend to be more inspired when I finish models, but painting one almost always become two, then I could use this color here since there is so much left. I almost always do the basing before priming. I've taken to sealing it with gloss varnish as PVA tends to come apart when it gets re-hydrated with paint. I usually do all the dry brushing of the base last though, then it looks like dust on their boots. I really want to see Crooksy's Frankengang in action now. At least most of you guys keep your paints in one place. Mine are all over the room.

  5. What sort of sick fuck would base their models last? The first I ever heard of this was when I read Kev Dallimore's Foundry painting guide and I was shocked and appalled. I thought it must have been a mistake. But no. How you people don't accidentally drybrush base colours onto your models or stick little bits of sand onto the figure's shoes is beyond me.

    1. Amen brother, it's probably one of the biggest tragedies out there and NO ONE will speak about it ! It's time to end this !

    2. Getting the base colour on your model's feet is a nice way to tie it to the base. It makes them part of the world. Slowly melting into it... bonded at the molecular level.... AAAAAAHHHH!