Hobby Focus: Pushing shadows to define shapes

how to shade quartered space marine schemes

Shading our models is something most of us take for granted. A quick wash with Badab Black or the almighty Devlan Mud and 99 percent of us are done. And rightfully so. It doesn't take much most of the time. The trick though is getting your shadows to be consistent across the light and dark areas on your model.

Most of the time this never even comes up since we have single color models. By that, I mean an Ultramarine is blue and not much else. It becomes an issue when you get into different colored quartered and halved color schemes. Make one of those colors light and the other one dark and the potential for contrast problems increases.

Aurelius Legion was gracious enough to allow me to use one of his models as an example of this very thing. He recently posted his work on weathering and battle damage after trying out some of the techniques he found here on FTW. I love the look of his weathering, but something did not seem right when I was looking through the pics of this guy.

And then it hit me, the shadows that should be in the yellow or light area on the model were not there and the yellow areas overall seemed to flatten out in comparison to the darker portions of the model. I took his photo and added some shading where I thought it might help the yellow areas come together and look similar in terms of lighting when compared to the darker areas on the model. It's not much more than pushing the contrast in the shaded areas within the yellow area itself.

how to shade power armour

By pushing the contrast in the yellow areas and making the shadow areas look like they are in "shadow," you can really define the pieces of armour and bring the model to life.

If you go back up to my picture at the very top, I tried to do that with my model in the light blue areas. In places where it's not a very deep recess, it only goes to GW Shadow Grey. In the places where the recess is deeper or the area is in shade, it goes to almost black (around his ankle). Same thing around his collar above his chest eagle.

And I haven't always done this right myself. Sure, you can chalk up lots of things to just painting to a "tabletop" standard, but the idea is to find those small things you can do to your models that don't take a tremendous amount of time but yield great results.

Space marine quartered scheme

Take this guy for example. He looks good, but if I'd pushed the contrast in some of the deeper recesses on his white armour, he might have come out a little better in the end. Not much, just a bit more here and there to really define some of the different armour plates would have been all he needed.

Sometimes it's not as easy as just throwing a wash on there. Sometimes you need to help the illusion and push the contrast in key spots in order for it to look like it has life to it. Is just putting down a quick wash wrong? Absolutely not, but taking a few more seconds and adding that additional shadow may take your model up to the next level.

Make sure to check out the other Hobby Focus Articles too!


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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Plastic Eversor Assassin complete

plastic eversor assassin conversion

plastic eversor assassin conversion

And here's the completed model. I painted him up to match the official color scheme but kept him a bit more muted overall. The only real color that makes him stand out is the red on him. The grey highlight on the black is a cool grey as I wanted him to be more cold and impersonal than warm and inviting. Besides, I figured it would help tie him into the cool greys on his base too.

I do like the contrast the bone helmet creates against the black armour. It really makes his head pop out from the rest of the figure. The smaller skull on his chest plate and the side of his gun help tie it all together.

The only weathering I did on this guy was with some powders at his feet to tie him into the base. A few weeks ago, I mentioned trying to make my own powders out of pastel and the epic failure that was. I ended up picking up a few light grey powders from Secret Weapon Minis to try them out. I got my hands on Slate Grey, Ash Grey and Ancient Earth. I hadn't planned on getting the Ancient Earth powder, but the color looked so cool.

Eversor Assassin weathered

Using powders over black seems to be a bit tricky. I varied the colors I used and found it took a couple of passes to build it up to where it started to look natural. I kept the powders down around his feet to simulate the little bit of dust he would have kicked up moving around the battlefield. I figure this guy is not like a regular troop and he's going to be much more careful with how he moves around a warzone.

Like all powders, the loose stuff comes off after applying it and then you can see how much is left after each pass. When you're working over a color (and not black or white), you get the change in hue that helps show the difference. When working over black, you're not getting that change in hue, you're trying to build it up from a dark nothing. The opposite is true with putting powders over white... it takes next to nothing to get a substantial change.

All in all, he was a fun build and it gave me a chance to try using light colored weathering powders over a black surface. He's not going to win any awards, but he looks the part and I can imagine him returning with his trophies as proof of a job done.

And as a side note, if anyone is interested in buying this guy, drop me an email. He's not going to do anything but sit in my display case so I'd much rather see him go to a good home and be put to use.

If you want to see what went into building him, that post is here.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Making your own weathering powders, don't do it.


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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Plastic Eversor Assassin conversion WIP

Black Library Nemesis cover art
Image from the Black Library

In the end, it may have been just as easy to buy one... but I wanted to see if I could could build my own plastic Eversor Assassin. Besides, I had most of the bits and it was the challenge that really drove me on this project.

I have to be honest though, I did cut a few corners knowing that this guy was going to reside in my display case and go no further. Had I been doing it for someone else, I might have added a few more things to finish him off.

GW Eversor Assassin modelNow the Games Workshop model isn't too bad if you look at it under the right light.
That's it there on the right.

But it has that "old" feeling to it. You can tell because the pose isn't that dramatic. They hadn't perfected the dynamic poses they can get today.

I thought I could do something at least as good as this with the right bits. Well, that was the idea anyway.

A breakdown of my assassin conversion
Obviously it took a few bits from a couple different places to make this guy. Before I started, I knew I wanted to keep one thing from the original model... and that was the slightly over-sized skull head. In fact, that was the only bit that I purchased for this model. The rest I scavenged from my box.

The main part or the body of this guy is an Eldar Guardian figure I think. Whatever the basic troop model is. Nothing fancy and most of the gems were shaved off the model as well.

plastic Eversor assassin conversion

1. The lamp from an Apothecary backpack. The lamp itself is cut clean from the actual backpack and mounted on a short stem made from greenstuff.
2. Space Marine Scout bullets. These are the tiny bits you add as shoulder straps to Scouts that most people don't bother with.
3. Skull icon from the top of a Space Marine plastic banner pole. I cut the front half off so it would lay flat against his chest armour.
4. Your standard Space Marine bolter scope.
5. Standard Space Marine bolter with the muzzle cut off and moved to the top to allow for the needle conversion underneath.
6. The needle is made from a single crack missile that's had it's nose cone and rear fins cut off.

plastic Eversor assassin conversion

7. The Chaos Warrior skull that I bought. I had to cut the neck portion down considerably to make it fit in the tiny Eldar neck opening.
8. Sheathed sword from Space Marine Scout set as his powersword.
9. Plastic curved bit (I think a shield of some sort) used to extend his backpack over his shoulder. I added a greenstuff button to the front as well for texture.
10. Eldar guardian arm that has the pointing finger. The finger has been cut off in this case, but it gave me the positioning I wanted for his trophies.
11. More Space Marine Scout bullets... this time trimmed down to represent combat drugs. A pair of greenstuff cables completes the illusion.
12. Standard Space Marine pouches. They comes as three in a row so I cut two away.
13. Don't know what this one is or where it comes from. I've had it for years knowing I would use it some day on a model. This just happened to be it. It's glued to his hand and some greenstuff added around his fingers makes it look as though he's actually holding the hair.

The base comes from Dark Art Miniatures. I bought a handful of them a while ago and I've been trying to use them up as I find a need for them. In this case, it made the perfect ruined warzone type base for this guy and gave him a little bit of height as well.

All in all, he's not in a super dynamic pose. I think the biggest part was just seeing if I could do it with an Eldar body as the base and working up from that. I'd call this a success in that respect. If I had (or built) a more dynamic pose to begin with, I bet I could build something really dynamic like the picture at the very top of the post.

As far as painting, I think I'm going to stick with the standard color scheme.
You can see what the finished model looks like here.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Conversions live and die in the details
Conversions: Can you "see" the end result?


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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How I paint Deathwing bone armour

Deathwing Heavy flamer model

Alright, I'm going to cover the whole process I go through to get the bone color you saw on the Deathwing terminator squad I posted the other day. It's not a terribly difficult process, but it does take a considerable amount of time to do. You'll need plenty of patience to get through this.


For the purpose of this tutorial, I'm limiting it to the armour itself. The remaining elements can be finished off to your liking. If you're going to try this, I'd suggest giving it a good read through to the end as I had to skip around some explaining things and you'll want to have a good idea of the whole process before starting.

It should go without saying that there are dozens if not more ways of getting a "good bone color" for your Deathwing. It really is a matter of personal preference. This method came about out my searching for a bone color that wasn't so warm looking. It started as an experiment that I've kept working on for the past year or so.

The exact materials (paints) you will need
ColorPlace Automotive Grey Spray Primer
Americana Slate Grey (the cool shadow armour color)
GW Dheneb Stone (the warm highlight armour color)
GW Adeptus Battle Grey
P3 Menoth White Highlight
GW Devlan Mud Wash
GW badab Black Wash

NOTE: I've listed the exact colors for those folks looking to duplicate the effect. Naturally you can swap out any of the colors/brands/steps to alter the final result to something you like better.

The only thing you need to keep in mind is the values of your warm and cool armour colors. They need to match for this to work correctly.

Painting Deathwing bone armour

Priming your model
Start by priming with the ColorPlace Automotive Grey Spray Primer. This gives you the base that everything builds from. If I were to sum this whole thing up in a single sentence, the idea is that we're going to do a split (two-color) basecoat on the model giving the illusion of being lit from above while the rest will be in "shade."

Deathwing bone highlight and shadow colors

Here you can see our two armour colors (the warm and cool) and how they match up when we look at them in greyscale. While they are not absolutely perfect matches, they are close enough to pull off the effect without any troubles.

These two colors give us the split look to the model. The models are wearing the bone armour we all know they have, but it's painted either highlighted or shaded. We never really just paint the regular armour color, we use our imaginary light source to define it through light and shadow.

Painting Deathwing bone armour

The three main stages to painting the armour
1. Defining the extra elements and recessed areas
The first thing you'll need to do is take your GW Adeptus Battle Grey and block out all of the darker elements that are NOT the armour. Things like the flex fitting in knee joints, power cables, helmet lenses, everything extra outside of actual armour plates.

Once you have all those elements blocked in, go over everything with the GW Devlan Mud wash. You need to make sure you hit all the recessed areas on the model with the wash. This is what is going to define the individual armour plates later on. You can see I was a bit sloppy, but no so much that I made lots of extra work in cleaning up the model in the next stage.

2. Clean up the armour plates.
Here's where you go back in with the Americana Slate Grey and clean up everything. This is why it pays to be a little neat in the previous stage.

3. Add the "bone" color to the armour.
This is the stage where the GW Dheneb Stone is added to the model.

Now I know I skipped over stages two and three for all intents and purposes, but here's where we go back over them in depth.

Painting Deathwing bone armour

At the end of stage two, your armour should look like this. All of the armour plates should be nice and clean and have a smooth coat of the Americana Slate Grey. Having primed the model with the exact light grey color, it will make the job much easier since both colors match.

You can leave your non-armour elements the GW Adeptys Battle Grey and leave the GW Devlan Mud wash showing only in the recessed areas between all the armour plates.

Making the transition to the third stage can be the tricky part. We are taking a zenithal lighting approach to this guy. If you hold your model so that you can look down on him, you'll get a good idea of the areas that are going to be painted with GW Dheneb Stone.

Painting Deathwing bone armour

This is the view you're looking for... not directly overhead, but not down at model level either. We are only going to paint the visible plates seen at this angle. Then we turn the model and look each side and the front and repeat the process.

That means no GW Dheneb Stone will be painted onto the back of his left thigh as it cannot be seen from this angle. We are trying to mimic how light will fall on the model from this angle. On his right thigh, we'll paint just the outer portion of his thigh that is not covered by his hip armour plate. The inside portion is not visible.

EXCEPTION: If you're painting the model and you come to a spot that is painted accurately for the light as it would fall on the model, but it still doesn't look right to you for whatever reason... you can adjust it as you see fit. This is where you'll have to use your judgement. I ran across one or two of these spots in the whole squad, so it's not something you'll have on every single model. And be careful when you adjust things. You don't want to alter the effect and create more problems than you solve.

painting bone armour

And once you have the Dheneb Stone down, you're just about done. You can see the model above has the warm color on the top where the lighting would hit it and the undersides are still all the cool grey color. Getting the Dheneb Stone onto the model is the hardest part of this whole process since you need to blend (either by layering or wet blending) every single armour plate that is affected by the overhead light. I chose to do wet blending as I can do it faster than trying to layer a number of coats of Dheneb Stone across the surface of each model.

Adding the final edge highlight
Using the P3 Menoth White Highlight, you edge or line highlight a few of the more prominent edges of the model. These will fall on the Dheneb Stone portions of the model since we are still using our zenithal highlighting approach.

Deathwing highlighting bone armour

It doesn't have to be much, just a bit here and there to define an edge and make it pop out. At this point, you'll have a finished model (in terms of armour) that you can weather to your liking. You can see on the pic above that I only hit a few key spots to give the armour a sharper look to it.

Adding weathering for effect
In terms of weathering, I probably go a bit heavy. For these guys, I used a number of quick and easy techniques to create a variety of effects.

1. GW washes for stains and spills. In some places where liquids might drip down from joints, bolt heads or connection points, I added a few streaks using a wash.

2. Weathering powders. I used these in a few of the deeper recesses to simulate the buildup of dirt and some rust on the armour. In particular, I used black around their feet and a series of browns where dirt and grime would build up most (knee joints and the neck area of the suits).

3. Chipped and scratched paint. Starting off with GW Chardon Granite, I take a small brush and use this effect around outward joints on the armour. Places where the armour would rub against walls, the ground, doorways, etc... If it gets too heavy, I take the base color the chipping is done on top of (either the warm bone color or the cool grey shadow color) and remove some of the effect. I've found that less is more here. You don't need much at all to make the suits look fairly beat up. In areas with considerable chipping, I'll go back over the Granite color with GW Boltgun Metal to show the chipping and damage is down to the metal.

And that finishes off the model
And there you have it. Yet another labor intensive way to paint Deathwing bone armour. I guess it's not too hard since Deathwing armies are generally smaller in size like Grey Knights and you can paint the other portions of the model fairly quickly to get a complete look.

I can tell you that this technique will scale up to dreadnoughts, but I know that vehicles may prove difficult given their wide open flat spaces. Not impossible, just a little more difficult.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might be of interest:
Zenithal highlighting theory
My first Deathwing painting technique
All of my Deathwing related posts


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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Deathwing squad complete

40k Dark Angles Deathwing Terminator Squad

And here is the completed Deathwing squad. I've been forcing all the smaller tutorials on you guys for the past week so I won't make you go through any more than the "how to" paint them that I'll post in the next couple days.

I like to think these guys are my best work to date. I mean I have lots of projects that are my favorite for one reason or another, but these guys are the bringing together of so many different aspects for me into one complete unit.

40k Dark Angles Deathwing Terminator Squad

The shoulderpads are Forge World and the bases are Secret Weapon Miniatures. If you've got any questions on any of the models, just ask and I'll do my best to answer. Enjoy.

40k Deathwing Terminator Sergeant

Deathwing Terminator

Deathwing Terminator with assault cannon

Deathwing Terminator with chainfist

Deathwing Terminator with heavy flamer


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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A quick way to paint metal decking

Space hulk metal decking

This is an alternate way to paint space hulk metal decking to give it a bit of color without adding a tremendous amount of work to the process. Most of the time, we base our "decking" bases with GW Boltgun Metal and then give them a quick wash with GW Badab Black to pull out some surface detail. There's nothing wrong with this at all. I've done it with great success myself.

This technique is just as easy and gives your metal decking a bit more of a military feel since it adds a touch of muted green to them.

What you're going to need to pull this off
It's not much, but it's worth mentioning that I used specific washes to do this. Mainly for their properties. I'm sure it would work using other materials, but the effect might be slightly different in the end. The key part to this whole thing are two washes from Secret Weapon Miniatures. You're going to need Heavy Body Black and Baby Poop. Aside from them, it's GW Boltgun Metal and Silver. That's it.

Painting space hulk bases with washes

With these two washes, you're going to mix them at a ratio of 1:1. For those not sure of ratios, that means for each drop (they come in dropper bottles) of one color, you add a drop of the other color. So if you add 5 drops of the black, you'll need 5 drops of the other color. The black is used to darken the Baby Poop color down. On it's own, it's a bit too bright for what we want to do.

The highly scientific and exact process
The base in the picture up top also comes from Secret Weapon. I first picked it up because I loved how clean they were. They aren't cluttered up with lots of little bits of junk. But... the detail on them is very fine. So fine that one kinda heavy layer of paint and you'll lose the majority if not all the detail on them. That made me worry to no end.

You can't just go slopping the paint on these guys or you'll destroy them. That's part of the reason I came up with this approach, I was afraid my regular methods would destroy the detail on them.

So what did I do and how do you do the same thing?

Easy, the first thing you do is get a good, smooth layer of GW Boltgun Metal down. I did two fairly thin coats (I thinned it with a bit of water). After that, it's 3 passes with the wash mixture. You can do more or less depending on the darkness you want. I found three to get me close enough to what I imagined in my head. Make sure you let each one dry completely before adding the next!

After you have your washes down and completely dry, it's time to do a little drybrushing. The first pass is with GW Boltgun Metal and the second pass is with a silver color to pick out some key edges and spots worn back down to the bare metal.

Since there is not much raised surface texture on these bases in particular (actually none at all), the drybrushing is done in a tiny circular pattern across the surface. This will create some areas that are "worn down" more than others. The ultimate goal is to make the decking look as though it is traveled regularly in some places while other areas are a combination of paint and grime that has accumulated on the surface over time.

When you do drybrush like this, you really want to get as much paint off your brush as possible. It might take a couple repeated passes to build the metal back up, but it's worth it in the end. You don't want to try and get the effect in one pass, you'll end up ruining your base.

You can do more too
And like always, it doesn't stop here, you can add other things to your base or add additional washes of different colors to simulate spills and such. I opted not to add any rust or other fancy effects to these bases since I wanted them to fall into the background and not draw attention away from the models. I really did keep them simple, but it shows you that you don't have to go to the ends of the earth to get a decent looking base.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
How to paint dirty metal
How I go about prepping resin bases


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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How to paint heat stained gun barrels

Warhammer 40k heat stained gun barrels example

It's not an effect you see very often or at least I don't see very often. Most of the time when we paint our gun barrels, we give them a quick coat of GW Boltgun Metal followed by a wash of Badab Black and call it a day.

Sometimes, I'll add some soot stains to the end of the barrel especially if it's a plasma weapon or a flamer. Those just cry out for the effect. Besides, it makes them look so much better for such an easy thing to do.

In this case though, I didn't want to just add some "soot" to the end of the assault cannon. It's a far too powerful weapon to just build up a little dirt at the end.

According to the fluff, they are notorious for overheating, warping and malfunctioning due to the heat created by the volume of fire it can put out. The barrels are considered expendable and changed out after each mission.
Nothing like a disposable weapon.

I wanted to make the barrels look like they've been warped by heat. Actually not warped, but the heat has been so intense that it has started to change the color of the metal. So I went looking at a few real world examples and found a handful of automotive tailpipes that had this effect.

The metal goes through a series of color shifts as it gets closer to the hottest portion. I made a few notes and after looking at some examples and came up with this chart.


To duplicate the effect, I used 4 washes and two colors.
I started by painting the barrels GW Boltgun Metal and gave them a wash of GW Badab Black. That's standard practice.

To get the heat effect, you start at the muzzle (the dangerous end) and work backwards. The first wash is GW Asurmen Blue followed by GW Leviathan Purple and then finished with GW Gryphonne Sepia. I did one right after another and blended where each color met the next. You don't need huge bands of color either, just a suggestion of the color is more than enough.

One thing you need to make sure you do is make the blue section a bit bigger than the rest so that you can go back when dry and add a bit of silver on the tip since it has gotten so hot it's burned clean.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
How to paint soot stained gun barrels


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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How to do basic zenithal highlighting

zenithal highlighting example

Zenithal highlighting on models can be a huge and somewhat complex topic and it's with some reservation that I'm posting this whole "tutorial." I don't consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but hope to share what I know about the topic with those folks in the same boat as me.

This is not an exhaustive discussion on the topic by any interpretation either. There are painters out there who know much more than I do and there is much more that can be discussed when getting into something like this. All that being said, I'm hoping this post will help folks understand some of the basics with zenithal highlighting and give them enough of an understanding to try it out for themselves if they want.

I'm not going to get into the actual process of painting the model in this post, but instead I'm going to try and keep focused on the ideas behind everything. How you physically paint the model is important, but you need to understand the theory and why the paint goes in certain places and not in others first. Still with me? Let's see if we can remove some of the uncertainty people have with trying to paint using this aproach.

Getting started, what is zenithal highlighting?
I would guess most of us started out with line highlighting our models. It gives them a certain kind of look and feel. Zenithal highlighting is another approach to highlighting a model that gives it a completely different look and feel. It makes it appear as though the model is being lit from a light source directly overhead of the model. It could be said that this is a much more realistic approach to highlighting a model.

It creates areas of strong highlight and areas of shade on a model that can bring it to life in a way that regular line highlighting cannot do. In essence, we are duplicating the effects of sunlight as though it were the middle of the day and our model was standing outside.

For my example, I'm going to use the Space Marine Terminator Librarian I did a while back since I had the presence of mind to take some pics as I went along.

how to do zenithal lighting example model

For the purpose of the tutorial, I'm going to focus on his armour and not on all the smaller elements on him. These too would get the same treatment as his armour in the end and the exact same ideas/theories apply to all of those parts as well.

I have this guy basecoated with GW Enchanted Blue. Over a black prime, it took a few thin coats to get a nice, smooth finish on him.

Where does the light come from and where does it go?
With zenithal highlighting, we imagine the light source being directly overhead. The orange arrows give you an idea of how the light might "fall" on the model. If we look at the model from the top down (the right half of the picture) we can see the actual exact places the light would hit on the surface of the model.

And we come across our first problem.
There isn't much model to highlight if we place our light source directly overhead.

zenithal highlighting tutorial example

The way we fix this is by making our light source a bit larger and less like a flashlight shining down from directly overhead.

zenithal highlighting tutorial light source

Think of it like this... instead of one large light shining straight down from over his head, we have a ring of lights that shine down and slightly inward from over top of him. The red line above would be the "ring" and each orange arrow would be a smaller light that shines down and inward. This effect goes all the way around him too.

zenithal highlighting overhead source

What this does (widening the light outward like this) is open up the surface areas of the model to more highlighting. As you can see by just looking at the model itself, there is much more area to be highlighted as opposed to our directly overhead (narrow source) look like we originally had.

zenithal highlighting wide source light

Now widening the light source opens up some additional surface area, but it also means you need to pay close attention to what is highlighted and what is not. It doesn't take much to kill the effect. Like OSL, you need to follow your map of what should be highlighted and what should not.

Mapping out the overhead highlights
Once you have an idea of what gets highlighted and what doesn't, you make a mental note in your head and then start blocking those areas out on your model. In my case, I simply used my base color again since I'd applied a wash to the whole model to darken it slightly.

zenith highlighting mapped highlights

You can see in the photo above that I've "mapped out" the highlights in orange on the left side. This is where they should go in theory. The right side shows what it looks like once you actually apply the paint. Getting your highlights to look correct is going to require some blending so you don't have abrupt breaks between each highlight color.

This could be done by wet blending or layering of your colors. Again, we're just looking at the theory here and not any number of paint application techniques you could use.

Highlighting the overall shape and not the specific part
With zenithal highlighting, it's important to keep the overall shape of what you're highlighting in mind. Do get caught up in what exactly it is. By that, I mean don't get caught up in highlighting an "arm." Think of it more like a cylinder or tube that is in a particular position with light falling on it.

The photo below shows you what I mean by this. If you look at his arm, it could be easy to get caught up in the details and forget that the main shape is a horizontal cylinder. The highlight on his arm will be brightest on the top of the cylinder and then fade to dark as it moves around each side towards the bottom.

zenithal highlights on the model

The same thing applies to his outstretched leg (another cylinder at an angle) as well. Starting at where the light hits it along the outer edge, you move into shadow as you come around the front towards the inside. The same would apply as you move in the opposite direction around back. Add to that you need to consider what elements overhead are blocking any light.

Following the light as it moves over the model
And for one last look, I'm going to go over the completed Librarian and mark off some of the highlights and shadows applying what we've covered so far. Remember, the light comes from above. Even though we have a wide light source and not a narrow one, the light still comes downward in terms of direction.


Starting on the left side of the picture, we have his outstretched arm. Like we mentioned earlier, it translates into a cylinder in a horizontal position. The top is highlighted and the underside is left in shadow.

His shoulderpad really emphasizes the effect since it is turned due to his arm. Only the upper most portion is highlighted and the lower portion is left completely shaded. If we were line highlighting, it would be a completely different set of guidelines we'd be using. Sometimes this can throw people off when doing this technique. It can be easy to keep highlighting since we're used to hitting ALL the raised surfaces with line highlights. In some respects, this can be quicker than line highlighting a model since you're not highlighting everything... it's only the upward facing surfaces of the model.

The left leg has a bit of a highlight on the hip plate that sticks out followed by a shadow that is created by the very same hip plate. Then we move back into a highlight since his leg is sticking out from under him.

Moving down the right side of the picture, we have a strong highlight on the top of his torso. His back is in complete shadow since it is underneath and angles back inward. Where his center plate sticks out, we have another small highlight again. As we move down his right leg, the whole back side of his thigh is in shadow since it is under his arm and bent. No light is going to get in there. It's not until we get to his lower right leg around the heel where it is sticking back out that we get our first highlight on it.

A few last thoughts
So there you have it a quick look at zenithal highlighting and some of the ideas or theory behind doing it. The whole trick to the effect is getting your lighting and shadows in the correct places. You need to be fairly careful in mapping out where exactly the light falls on your model in order to make convincing.

Once you have it mapped out though, it's just a matter of painting those selected areas. This idea can be applied to regular line highlighting as well. Keeping that same overhead source in mind, you can apply line highlights to a model in just the areas the light would actually hit it. I do this with my models all the time. It helps reinforce the feeling of being lit by an overhead source and I don't have to line highlight everything on the model either.

And for those interested, here's the completed Terminator Librarian.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Line highlighting made simple


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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How I prime my models, the actual steps

how to prime 40k models

Since posting about priming models on Monday, I realized that the title may have been misleading in that I did not actually include the "how" part when it comes to how I prime my models. We'll remedy that here.

Going back to the first post, I use spray paint to prime my models. It's one of two colors the majority of the time as well. The other tool I use is my priming board. It's really the lid from an small tupperware bin that I claimed a long time ago. It's just big enough to set a Land Raider on top without falling over. You can use anything really, some folks hold each model in their hand while wearing protective gloves.

By using the board, I can batch prime three models at a time. If I do batch prime, the only thing I have to watch out for is getting too much paint on any one particular model. So I generally do one model at a time.

how to prime models warhammer 40k

This is what the board looks like. I took a minute and measured the distance I hold my spray can at when I prime as well. The average distance is 8 - 10 inches. That's around 20 - 25 cm or so for you guys across the pond if my math is correct.

If I back up much further, I'll start to get a fuzzy texture on the surface of the model. Much closer and the paint will pool on the surface and drip.

NOTE: I prime year round, the only exception being when it is physically raining. That means in the cold, in the humidity, whatever it may be. I just step outside (with the wind to my back), give the model a quick spray and then bring it back in to dry. I've found that if I shake my can well enough before starting, I don't have any issues.

How to hold the model
As I make each pass with the paint, I rotate the model slightly. I'd guess around 45 degrees or so for each pass. It depends on how the model is posed and how hard it is to get to all the inside surfaces.

holding models while priming


How do actually spray paint the model?
I have two methods I use when priming. The first is a horizontal pass and the second is a vertical pass. It comes down to how I hold the model.

With the horizontal pass, this covers the majority of the model. There are a few things you have to do to get the best results though. The first thing is to make sure your can is moving AND you start spraying before you pass over the model. The second thing is to make sure you don't stop spraying until you're past the model as well.

how to prime warhammer 40k models

The horizontal pass is done at True Line of Sight for the model. That means I hold the model up so I am spraying on the same horizontal plane as the model. If you're a bit high or low when doing this, you may accidentally miss some areas depending on how the model is posed.

how to prime warhammer 40k models

If you look at the picture above, you'd be following the green line as you move your spray can. Once you start moving, you'll want to start actually spraying just before you get to the model and end just after (the red line). You can go left or right when you make your passes, that part doesn't matter. This keeps you from getting too much paint on the model and having it pool.

I move fairly quickly in my passes as well. If you go too slow, you run the risk of pooling or obscuring the finer detail. It usually takes me two revolutions of a model to get the whole thing done. Don't try and do it all in one pass. Two lighter coats is far better than one heavy coat that may run or cover details.

priming 40k models

And the final vertical pass for good measure
Once I have my model primed using the horizontal pass method, I tilt it so I'm almost vertical and make a few passes from the top down to get the upper areas I missed. And again, all the same things apply here as well, the distance, the starting and stopping and the lighter coats as opposed to heavy ones.

Finishing off the model
This method gets 99 percent of the model covered. I don't worry too much about the basing as that's usually given a good basecoat anyway later on to help seal in all the tiny elements like sand and rocks.

For the areas I do happen to miss, I go back in with some regular paint from a pot and touch up as needed. I find having to go back and touch up is still better than trying to do it all with the spray paint and forcing it to work when it isn't doing the best job.

I'd rather spend and extra minute and get good coverage that won't kill my details than to try and force the spray paint into a void space and have it run and pool on the surface of the model.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Things to consider when priming
Priming using other colors than black or white


Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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