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Ultramarines 5 man Sternguard Squad, some lessons for me and future projects

Frustration at the way the Devastators turned out has all but evaporated because of the way these have come out!  Really happy with them and it comes down to a few things I think I drifted away from in my pursuit of new techniques and trialling different products.  The key lessons, which made the difference in this project, are as follows:

1.  Stick rigidly to base, wash, layer, highlight 1, highlight 2.  Some of this was becoming blurred and I was going too far down the line and then applying my varnish and wash, making some of the layer and highlight work look untidy.  A structure for these guys and being strict about one colour for each different part (bare metal, pouches, red seal, cloth, flesh, armour colour etc) and then doing the varnish and top to bottom black wash worked perfectly.  (Obvious I know – but this post is perhaps a little more for me!)

2.  Rattle can varnish has a place.  Yes the finish of the Vallejo Stain Varnish is of a higher, finer quality, but using a can varnish like Humbrol Acrylic Gloss 35 varnish has its uses.  It is far more durable and allows the oil wash to flow across far better, allowing a much tidier clean up phase once the wash has had time to semi-dry.  I will use this on all my models going forward. 

[Death Watch guy was put in to add some variety to the unit and wider army and works fine IMO as a Sternguard model.  It also gave me a chance to practice black – I am considering a small Iron Hands project further down the line.]

The mid-stage varnish to seal the oil wash and the final varnish was the Vallejo satin varnish I always use and you cannot tell I used a heavier spray gloss varnish earlier on.  I was also able to speed up transfer application as well – a gloss varnish were the transfer is due to sit is always my first stage in their application.

3.  GW paints are actually pretty good.  I scrapped all my old style GW colours and embraced their new system.  They actually base, layer and highlight really well.  The metallic colours suck, but for what I am looking to do they can be made to work just fine.  That said the Vallejo Model Air colours would always be used for Airbrush work and Vallejo Liquid Gold Old gold for all my gold trim.  The quality of paint job I want for my army sits between tabletop and display case with a 25/75% split toward display and the GW stuff works for what I want to do.  They do make it very simple for any colours progression (lens, flesh, leather etc).  I have been re-converted!

I know a few people look at this page now and some would say this is all pretty obvious and I guess it is.  By jotting it down it will help me going forward and who knows maybe these tips may prove useful to some. 

In short, going back to the basic principles is definitely a good solution if, like me, you have been trying a lot of new techniques and things start to go off-piste. 

The next project, as is the norm now, has been running concurrently to these guys – 3 Drop pods.  

The Terminators that are 75% done also need brought back down from the shelf so expect them soon too.  Taping off to get those hazard lines done on 15 doors was eye bleedingly painful!  Speak soon – HTB.


  1. How many times do you varnish when working on your models? Do you base, varnish, wash, etc. I have always had massive issues with varnish (I destroyed a model once with a bad can), so have not ever really introduced it to my painting efforts (other then to make particular objects glossy). Any advice would be appreciated!

    Your patience on your models is inspirational.

  2. I base coat my main colours to the point where I need to apply a wash. I now gloss varnish from a can the models apply the oil wash. Once this has semi dried I rub off the excess I don't want. At this stage my washes will be mostly finished and transfers on so I cover the model again to seal everything in place. I then go onto highlights and maybe small acrylic washes before a final satin varnish once everything is really really finished.

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  4. Hey HTB, just linked over from Tale of Painters. As a fellow Ultramarines enthusiast I am devouring your blog. Superb job on the boys in blue. Any chance you might do a step by step tutorial for your infantry or more importantly your excellent heavy tanks? Almost like the UM tutorial on ToP? It would be much appreciated and I am sure all your readers are keen to learn your techniques!

  5. The tactical marines have a fairly good description of how I produce the colour schemes but will put a step by step together on the next batch of marines as you have asked to see it. Thanks for the comments :)

  6. A step by step is in the works? Praise the Emperor!


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