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Painting Skeletons with Army Painter Paints – A Sepulchral Guard Shadespire Test Model

Shadespire. Something just appeals about the game, where not only do you get to play with Games Workshop miniatures, but you also get to play with them under a series of rules that work really well.

Shadespire has a lovely set of rules. They are apparently well balanced, bar some unlucky dice rolls (no, I will not let that go), and the minis are simply stunning. Games Workshop has done their best to make them incredibly dynamic models, to the point where every single one is in an action pose. They are visually appealing and, like all GW models, lovely to paint.

Which brings us onto this article. I am far from a painting expert, having only returned recently to the hobby to the hobby and having to fit it around general board gaming and work. Currently I do a lot of learning as I go along, which results in a lot of mistakes and rehashes. That being said, we take what we can and try to better ourselves for the next mini. Recently I painted my first test model so I thought I would go through this skeleton in detail, and first time painting a skeleton with Army Painter paints. If anyone has hints or tips, or can see places to improve, please let me know. This is a process, and one I want to improve, so please feel free to be critical.

Painting Skeletons with Army Painter Paints

The first thing to note, when when I tried to find tutorials, everywhere gives their recommendations for painting skeletons in Citadel paints. This presented an issue, as the only Citadel paint I use is the primer. The little guide that came with the Army Painter Warpaints Mega Paint set also didn’t really help. This meant having to find a Citadel guide online and adapt like the human version of a Dulux colour card.

Step 1: Stormvermin Fur Priming and Matt White Undercoat

Step one was to prime the paint in Stormvermin Fur primer, usually used to undercoat Skaven, but which works well as a mid-tone primer for most things…if you don’t want to spend enough money for more than one spraypaint. Stormvermin Fur is a shade that looks like you are painting directly on the sprue (when painting a normal grey sprue); however, since Shadespire minis are designed so that you don’t have to paint them if you don’t want, it is really easy to get a nice cover with the primer.

This was then covered in Matt White, taking the advice I got from Alex, Azazel, and a few other mini bloggers last time about painting by using a wet pallet. This really does make all the difference, and as this article progresses you will notice that the paint is a lot smoother than my previous efforts thanks to that one tip.

The white didn’t cover overly well, and one thing I have done with the next model (The Reaper) is a second coat of the Matt White.

Painting Skeletons using Army Painter paints - Step 1: Stormvermin Fur and Matt White

Step 1: Stormvermin Fur and Matt White

Step 2: Flesh Wash and Skeleton Bone

The next step was to draw out all the detail in the bone. This was done with a fairly heavy Flesh Wash. What this does is dye the white, whilst also pooling in the cracks. A dry brush was used to remove any excess.

On top of that, using a brush that has been trimmed really thin, the bones were picked out using Skeleton Bone. Being careful not to go over any of the recessed areas that now had the shade, a spare thin dry brush was used to remove any misplaced paint whilst it was still wet. Again, the wet pallet made this so much easier.

Skeleton army paints - Step 2: Flesh Wash and Skeleton Bone

Step 2: Flesh Wash and Skeleton Bone

Step 3: Matt White and Wizards Orb

Next, using the really fine brush, and using Matt White again, a few key highlights were pulled out. I was told by someone (I have now forgotten who, so apologies for that) that you should shine a light on a model and highlight the places that are naturally brighter. I tried to do this, but then rotated the model to get better coverage. After that, there was no going back.

I feel I went too heavy on the white on the top of the skull, so if anyone has any ideas on how to highlight a skull more naturally than just colouring in the top, please let me know in the comments.

The next step was to apply a coat of Wizards Orb (which should really have an apostrophe in the name and always reminds me of a Lords of Waterdeep card) to the shield. This was, to be blunt, a bit of a mistake, but by that point I went with it. For the record, Wizards Orb doesn’t provide the best cover.


Step 4: Leather Brown and Dark Tone

The next step was to paint the rim on the shield and provide a dark shade. The rim was done with Leather Brown. A wash was applied over this, because washes are awesome and cover all types of sins, of Dark Tone.

This was effectively me ballsing up and wanting to reset to something that could be worked with.

Step 4: Leather Brown and Dark Tone

Step 4: Leather Brown and Dark Tone

Step 5: Dark Stone, Monster Brown, and Wizards Orb

Still on the shield, once the Dark Tone had dried, I noticed a few gaps around the edge. These were filled in with the Dark Stone grey, which blended in nicely with the Dark Tone to create something that looked relatively seamless. Monster Brown was then used to highlight the leather, and a thin coat of Wizards Orb (“Wizard’s Orb”) just kind of scribbled on the top half of the shield.

Wizard’s Orb was then applied to Skelebob’s loincloth.


Step 5: Dark Stone, Monster Brown, and Wizards Orb

Step 6: Dark Tone and Gun Metal

Once dried, certain parts of the loincloth were washed with Dark Tone, whilst leaving other parts untouched. This was to create a “lazy man’s” multi-green effect without actually having to get different green tones out of the box. Having spent most of my time painting Tzeentch recently, who are possibly the least green of all the Warhammer races, my greens tend to be hidden away at the moment.

Next, it was time to tackle the sword. Looking online I couldn’t find a tutorial for just a normal sword (so PLEASE can someone offer advice on how to paint weapons in the comments??). I wanted it to look kind of rubbish (not in that way) and rusty, so step one seemed to be to mix Gun Metal with a few drops of Dark Tone, and create an undercoat for the weapon.

Ah yes, slightly out of focus, like all good painting pictures.

Ah yes, slightly out of focus, like all good painting pictures.

Lumbering Together:
Step 7: Dark Tone, Platemail Metal, and Dry Rust (Weapon)
Step 8: Matt White, Flesh Wash, Skeleton Bone, Matt White (Bone)
Step 9: Dark Stone, Necromancer Cloak, Matt White (Base)

From there a lot of experimentation went into the blade. I kept putting coats of Gun Metal, Dark Tone, and Dry Rust together and wiping them off. In the end, I sort of got the effect I wanted. It looks grimy and rusty and naff, which is kind of what I was going for – ish. Finally, Platemail Metal was put along the very edge of the sword to give it a bit of a shine on top.

The next step was doing a coat of Dark Stone over the base whilst leaving the bone naked. This was then painted the same way as the rest of the skeleton bone. It was Matt White base, Flesh Wash, then Skeleton Bone, and finally another highlight of Matt White.

The base was then dry brushed in a 2:1 mix of Necromancer Cloak and Matt White, before being brushed again, lighter and drier, in a 1:1 mix of Necromancer Cloak/Matt White.


Steps 7:8:9 – Front of the mini.

Steps 7:8:9 - Back of the mini.

Steps 7:8:9 – Back of the mini.

Of course, Skelebob, the Petitioner, is not alone in this world. He is part of a much larger Warband, and you can see the rest of them in the picture below – they are such stunning minis and, since initially putting this post together, I have now made a good start on the rest of the group. Slowly but surely I’m learning an okay tactic for painting skeletons using Army Painter paint. There is, however, always room for improvement.


Skelebob and Mates

So, as a relatively fresh-eyed painting newb, I do have a few questions for the miniature painting audience who are reading this article.

  1. How do you do handles/staves of medieval weapons? I have no idea how to do spear handles or anything like that, so any advice would be much appreciated.
  2. What’s the best way of doing fur (for the shoulders of some of the minis?)
  3. What do you do for the back of shields?
  4. What other advice, having read this, would you suggest?

I have to admit, I thought painting green would be fun, but Wizard’s Orb has been the bane of my life whilst painting Skelebob, so I’ve had this idea to give each one a base cloth in a different colour, like old knights of yore. This would make The Reaper’s cloth blue, the Prince of Dust as a purple, and the Leader (who I have forgotten the name of) brown. Or something like that. It’s less typical of skeletons.

I don’t know – just spitballing ideas. The Rainbow Seven.

Cheers folks. To be honest, it has been really good to get back to painting. I won’t write an article for each one, but this has been fun. Anyway, please let me know your thoughts and advice. If you can give me any answers to the above questions please let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Great work here, Luke. The figure genuinely looks really good.
    Firstly, I’m going to point you here and make the note that you rarely ever need to exactly-colour match. Eyeballing it really does work, as does using the colour conversion charts, and then adjusting to your own eye’s preferences.

    Handles and staves can be done however you like.
    Do you want old wood? Use greys (AP Ash Grey), highlight with bone white drybrush, and shade with a drop each of strong and dark tone.
    Laquered wood? Pick some browns.
    Pine? Go with ochre-ish browns.
    There’s really no “right” or “wrong” colour, as wood has lots of colour options and can be painted.

    Fur is easy. The hard part is making it neat and not going over the stuff around it. Paint it all literally any shade of mid brown you like – from ochre to a rich “brown” brown. Then Strong Tone it – or 50/50 Strong and Soft Tone. Then lightly drybrush with bone. If you want to vary it more, or for larger areas of fur – stipple in some thinned down, slightly lighter and/or darker browns till you get something that works for you. If you’re dong something like a wolf hide, use some really thinned black in the dead centre and go lighter the further out you go. You can do this in a more limited way by making the fur around the collar of the heroic-pose skeleton there a bit darker than the “base” fur colour and leave it with that.

    I paint shield backs in a “wood” colour – aka anything from ochre to brown to grey-brown. Then I paint fine lines to represent panels, then I paint fine lines in a lighter shade to represent grain. Not many people go this far, but my OCD forces me. See the orc on the right.

    With the AP paints, remember to shake the bejezuz out of them, disregard the low-pigment/high medium bit that comes out of the nipple first, and don’t be afraid to follow Duncan’s Meme Mantra of Two Thin Coats – especially with paints like the AP ones.

    Your sword looks great. I just:
    base coat black
    paint in my “metal” tone – my fav is Vallejo Plate Mail Metal primer because it has great coverage and flows like a dream.
    AP Dark tone wash.
    After that, you can play with everything else, from the edge highlight to the weathering. It might even be worth giving it some brush-on sealer after the Dark Tone wash, so if you mess up you can “wash” the blade with a brush and water to clean it off.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Dude – this is an absolutely awesome response and I can’t thank you enough.
      I’ve been looking at a couple of the minis in particular (the Warden especially) and dreading painting him due to lacking the knowledge on how to do it right. You’ve provided a freaking awesome guide here so thank you!

      I am literally going to try all the techniques you have mentioned here – starting with fur, then shields, and then moving on to the weapons. The Warden has all three so he will really be a test.

      Thanks for the links and the images. I will have a happy half hour reading through them all 🙂 cheers mate!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mate, that’s a great hit out, and personally, I really like that green! The skull is a tad over highlighted – you might just try a very very thin fleshtone wash around the temples & brow ridge – half wash & half water should do it, just to push a bit of contrast there.

    Az has answered all your other questions beautifully, and I have nothing to add to that (I just use a dark wash for the backs of my shields, but I’m a lazy sod 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’ve never painted any miniatures, but I was wondering if you need to varnish or otherwise protect a mini after painting to make it durable for regular play. I used to paint tin figures using acrylic many years ago and remember varnishing them to protect the paint. What are your recommendations?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve got so many games with mini’s now and I’ve always wanted to get back in to painting. I think I just need to do it, at least with Gloomhaven.

    Nice job!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ahh you’re too kind. It’s not that good, but it is a start. It’s no where near your standard yet, as your tanks and soldiers are awesome, but it’s getting there. Your kind words and encouragement mean a lot mate, so cheers 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I think you did these well. The painting you do now will not be the painting you do in a month, a year, etc. It is a learning process and each project will bring you more skills. It’s just like gaining experience points in an RPG. The more you do, the more you learn different techniques, approaches, and improve skills. Eventually you will start to develop your own unique style. Think of guitar players – Brian May, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend all play the same basic instrument, but have very distinct sounds. That will be you with painting.

    As far as your questions, I think Azazel wrote a pretty good primer! Good luck!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Well, my reply got stuck on my computer, so I have to re-type on my damned phone. Being old, I barely remember what I typed. I’m pretty sure it was something like “Great job on that carnivorous plant, Azazel!”…oh wait, your name isn’t Azazel? Haha.. anywho, nice work. I like the tone you added to the skeletons. I also really like the shield. I think everyone else gave some great advice. Just keep painting, keep pushing, and keep trying something new each time.

    I don’t know if this is the conversion chart you used, but I’ve used it a lot when I was starting to look up tutorials and match them to my Vallejo paints.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Cheers man 🙂 I actually just went by eyesight and guesswork haha. I found a blog that was like “apply a wash” so just went with the lightest wash I have 🙂 thanks for the conversion chart though – that will make it much easier in future!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Oh yea, I use that chart all the time! If you’re good at “eyeballing” it, that works too. Personally, I’m horrible at spotting colors. This will probably come out in the “organization” post I plan on getting around to someday.

        If you haven’t already, I would really recommend checking out the Citadel paints. I used to be strictly Vallejo, but I now prefer Citadel paints for the base colors. Like many, I use a variety of paints from different manufacturers, as the paint quality and color is more important than the manufacturer. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

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