Tuesday, March 22, 2011

There's no wrong way to paint a goblin.

Remember when Peter Jackson made a bunch of movies about hobbits, and everything on screen was brown or green? I really like that aesthetic. Sure, it's still fantasy, but it somehow feels more viable than the technicolor illustrations from the Player's Handbook of yesteryear. That's why I decided to eschew the traditional jet-black night goblin wardrobe in favor of an earthier approach.

Gollum times infinity

Here's what I did:
  1. Clean mold lines, prime white.
  2. Wash with Badab Black. This is important as it begins the shading process and gives later washes something to stick to. For the model above, I've also painted the skin, which usually takes two or three thin layers of Thraka Green.
  3. Start applying a series of washes to block out the colors, working with the contours of the model to simultaneously create highlights and shadows. It's important to combine washes to create depth - three washes of Gyrphonne Sepia looks pretty pad, but two washes of Gryphonne Sepia covered by a wash of Devlan Mud usually does the trick. Here you'll paint in the opposite order compared to traditional paints - start with light washes and then work darker.
  4. Finish up. In the example above, the goblin's hood was painted with a layer of Leviathan Purple covered by 30 million layers of Baal Red until everything blended smoothly. For the spearmen, I'll also paint the business end of their weapons with traditional metallic paints and give it a few washes to bring everything back down to goblin metallurgical standards.
The models certainly aren't winning any awards, but I'm very pleased with the end result. I think there's a number of advantages to this process. For one, it's fast. While each color requires multiple coats and a modicum of brush control, it's extremely quick to finish a layer, so batch painting lets me finish ranks at a time, rather than models. I also enjoy the high-contrast, gritty look. Because you're building up the color in layers, you can give a unit a lot of texture by varying the recipe slightly from model to model without significantly impacting your painting time. This lends itself perfectly to mimicking the homespun rabble of a night goblin horde while retaining a unified palette.

That said, there are a few drawbacks, as well. Because the wash needs to pool to do its work, small models with a lot of drapery or other textures (like night goblins) work best. Also, I haven't had pleasing results with other brands of inks and washes, so the color palette is necessarily limited. This suits me, aesthetically, but it does mean that everything I paint tends to be muddy brown and green and it makes painting certain armies impossible. Doing Bretonnians in this style would be a challenge, for example (one I'd like to try some day...). They also come out looking a little glossy in pictures, but it's minimal in person and a little matte varnish goes a long way. Over time, sunlight may be an issue, as washes can fade, but I store my miniatures in the dark, so I don't think it will be noticeable. I've been pawing at that tired old test model (far right in the picture above) for about a year and a half now and had him on a table that gets direct sunlight for weeks at a time and I haven't seen any fading.

Only another several hundred goblins to go. To war! Raise the (tabletop) standard!


  1. Zehr kewl. I think they look fantastic. Seems to me you found what works for you. Any intention to Dullcote these guys? (Sorry if I missed mention of that.)

  2. Looking good!! I prefer your scheme over the traditional GW approach.

  3. Thanks dudes. Yeah, I'll matte varnish the lot.

  4. I agree with Jon. These guys look evil and dangerous, really nasty and way deadlier looking than what GW offers. Perfect for Warhammer and Mordheim.