I know the Imperial Knight from Games Workshop is old news and has been done to death on the interwebs pretty much since the day it was released. However, it’s still the first plastic kit (from GW) in what seems like an eternity I’ve actually liked and painting it has been a complete joy. The reason I’ve decided to include it here is because as a large kit with a lot of different surfaces and areas of interest on it there were a few painting techniques that really brought the best out of the model and it’s these I wanted to talk about a bit more in both the video and content below.
With the layers of underlying articulation and exo-frame, metallics make up the majority of the Knight’s surface area. Other than the large carapace and pauldrons, the majority of the war engine’s mechanics are exposed and as a result metal is what’s going to be on show paint wise. Painting all of the parts in a single colour will result in a remarkably bland looking model. Equally however, painting it in a mix of different metals runs the risk of it appearing garish or comical. The trick I found was to use metallic paints such as gold or copper sparingly and use washes, oils and shades instead to change the tone. The effect is far more subtle and can be built up over a number of layers. The end result is a broader range of subtle changes in the metal from cold blue and purple to warm red and gold. Additional paint effects can also be used to add even more variety, such as lubrication on piston rods, oil stains around seals, grime and corrosion on heavily worn or exposed parts like the feet. Head discolouration and burnishing is another nice effect, but I’ll talk about that one separately later.
The first stage for all of the above was to establish a basic metallic starting point to work from. Being the messiest part of the painting, I did all of this first before any other colours were dealt with and I also did this whilst the model was still in a number of sub-assemblies to make it manageable. In fact the Knight stayed in these sub-components all the way through to final assembly and the dry-weathering, so I didn’t really see what the end result looked like until right at the final stages, other than through the occasional dry fit. The metal base was covered in part one way back, but for convenience I’ve summarised them again below:
- 50/50 Boltgun/Charadon Granite base
- Boltgun/Leadbelcher heavy dry-brush
- Chainmail and flat steel light dry-brush
- 50/50 black/brown overall wash
- Chainmail and flat aluminium re-highlight light dry-brush
- Necron Compound (Dry) very light highlight dry-brush
As that stage I also picked out one or two details in either copper, brass or gold. In particular the muzzle of the melta weapon, chainsword trim, piston sleeves and the pipes running under the torso and into the exhaust stacks.
Everything else from this point on was a tonal change to this base through the application of thin layers of washes, inks and oils. After a couple of thin layers of thinned sepia and mud brown wash on the armour trim, piston sleeves and exhausts it looks rather like an old sepia photograph.
Already you should be able to see the washes not only change the colour of the metal to shades of bronze and gold, but also add depth and a feeling of age. It also created a nice contrast with the deliberately bright and shiny untarnished look of the hip sections and legs. You can see where all of the soft dry-brushing has left deposits on the non-metal areas, which is why I always do this first; these get painted over with the armour colours after I’ve finished making a mess with all the metallics. At the end of the day all the acrylic metallic paints I use from GW and Vallejo are technically the same metal powder and suspension, in other words silver. It’s the added pigment which determines the final colour. By starting with a uniform base silver and changing the tone via translucent washes you gain more control over the final appearance. I also feel the end result is a lot more pleasing to the eye personally.
The next stage after this was to repeat the whole process again with some other colours, but more selectively. Blue washes over power cables and inside leg joints, purple in the deeper recesses of the carapace trim and red and blue where pipes connected. Fiery orange wash also enriched the copper pipes nicely as well as around rivet heads. The key I found to these was keeping them light by thinning them with matt medium. Games Workshop’s own Lahmian Medium actually works pretty well for this if you don’t already have an acrylic medium. All of techniques above established the basic foundation for all of the metalwork on the model and although they might seem overly time consuming, when you break it down are really only layers of dry-brushing followed by layers of washes. All which are simple steps requiring no great skill, but yield a decent finish and that’s what I aim to show here hopefully. The next stage after this was to paint all of the non-metallic colours onto the armour panels. I’m not going to go into detail about that here however because it’s just straight forward block painting.
Oil wash and decals
In the past I’ve used oil paint to help enhance panel lines and profiling or create weathering, but in this instance I decided to use it like a wash to add another layer of warmth and richness to the armour and in particular the ornate trim. This is one of those techniques that’s often seen as advanced or challenging when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Oil paint is far more flexible and forgiving compared with acrylic as you can continue to work it even when it has dried. The only ‘downside’ I guess is it needs more in the way of model preparation and brush cleaning. That and of course it will make your room smell of oil paint for days on end. Personally I feel this is all outweighed by the extra level of finish that oil paint can bring to the big models which would be much harder to achieve using acrylics.
There are also two schools of thought here around decals; one being to add them before the oil wash so that they can be toned in and the other to add them after the oils have been blended. I opted to add the decals after to keep them clean, but whichever way you decide the same initial step needs to be followed which is to give the parts a protective layer of gloss or satin acrylic varnish. This is for two reasons, firstly to protect the paint underneath and secondly to give the oil a non-grip surface to work against. This is essential so that you can buff away the excess paint to reveal the colour underneath. For this model I added two layers of Klear with the airbrush.
The oil paint I used for this was Burnt Sienna which I thinned down first with mineral spirit to a heavy wash consistency. This was painted over the entire armour section, including the metal. A hair dryer was used to speed up the drying process as you are going to be waiting a decent amount of time otherwise for the paint to reach working consistency. To blend back the paint, gently rub it away from the armour using a cotton bud or cloth moistened with white spirit. You need very little, just the merest hint of spirit on the cloth to re-activate the oil in the paint and allow it to be blended. By rubbing and polishing the colour underneath is revealed again, but at the same time some of the oil paint remains in recesses and along joins to create a graduated and soft effect that would be very difficult to achieve using acrylics alone.
The oils also add a nice polished effect to the paint almost like enamel. Where you see the biggest difference however is in the metals which take on a rich oily lustre. It was at this point I added all the decals and sealed everything back in with another coat of Klear.
Inks and matt varnish
The heat discolouration on the Melta shroud and Heavy Stubber barrel was achieved using artist acrylic ink thinned with a little Klear. The pigment density of artist ink, black in particular is exceptionally high so these do require thinning with varnish. The reason I use Klear is it increases the transparency of the ink without increasing its viscosity, in other words it stays put when you pass it through the airbrush. These I built up in layers of red, blue, purple and black over the melta and just red, blue and purple for the stubber.
After all of the above what I was left with was a little pile of components ready for matt varnishing and assembly.
Satin versus matt
The final element I did slightly differently was in the varnishing, which is a mix of both satin and matt. By this I don’t mean I blended the paints together, but that I chose to only apply the matt varnish to select areas of the model. Having achieved a finish and lustre I liked for the metallic areas, I wasn’t keen to kill the play of light by dulling the reflectivity. The opposite was true for the armour however which I needed to be flat in order to apply chipping and dry pigments post assembly. This meant applying the matt varnish via the airbrush in very narrow tightly controlled layers. The varnish I chose for this was Army Painter’s anti-shine matt varnish (bottle, not spray) which I mixed 1:1 with Vallejo acrylic airbrush thinner and applied only to the inner areas of the armour plates leaving the metal trim with a satin finish still. The trick to controlling this is to apply only the slightest amount one small area at a time and assuming you are using a dual-action airbrush do not kill the airflow as you shut off the paint. The continued flow of air pressure will immediately dry the varnish so you can seamlessly blend one area into the next. The key here is the smoothest of touches on the paint flow so I recommend practicing a few times first. The air-paint-air routine should be natural muscle memory anyway if you use an airbrush but this way you are also actively trying to dry the spot you just varnished.
All of the above is pretty much what I cover in the video. Part three will be about the final assembly and dry pigments. I’m still undecided at this stage how much final weathering to add as I quite like the clean look of the heraldry, probably I will keep it to a minimum following the maxim “less is more”. There is some slight silvering on a couple of decals which I’m not worried about as they are going to be weathered over anyway. Strangely enough they only really show up under the extreme magnification of the video and not to the naked eye. For now though that will do I think.
Until next time, have a great week.