Painting at 6mm (or thereabouts…)
Hi again, in my last article I mentioned giving a guide to painting models at 6mm scale so it would be remiss of me to not at least give it a go.
A common refrain I hear from people when they are faced with the prospect of 6mm is that they could never paint something that small or their eyesight would never handle it or there’s just so many models they’d never want to attempt a project that large.
What I’d like to do with this article is try to dispel some of that and maybe get you to give it a go, I think you’ll find that a few simpler techniques can turn up a nice looking force you can be proud to put on the table – even if it wont be winning any painting competitions!
First though setting some expectations. I am not a particularly noteworthy painter, I’m more interested in getting some paint on my models and getting them on the table. I do, however, take a bit of pride in having something I’ve worked on at least look the part.
The miniatures and choosing colours
Right now I am building a Thousand Sons army for Epic
I did some hunting on eBay and raided the remnants of a few friends bits drawers to get together enough for 10 stands of demons and 4 silver towers. Ebay is not the only place to go to get things like these incidentally, there are some good proxies here.
At this first stage we want to clean up any plastic spurs or metal flash etc. and then spend a little while looking at the models and their features and deciding what we want to paint and how we will pick which parts to paint what colours.
And it’s here that I’ll mention the first key take away point.
1. Contrast and colour monotony
At 6mm (and other small scales) gentle colour gradients and variants tend not to come out. You have a small amount of space to make the model have some visual interest so strong contrasts help achieve this. The second point is with colour monotony. That is, having large blocks of the same (or very similar) colours. At 6mm this can make the entire model appear to just be one colour and thus not visually interesting. What is worth looking for on your models is small bits or details that you can pick out in a different colour, a little bit of variation to break that monotony.
For the Silver Tower the colour palette is going to be yellow, blue and gold as those are the colours of the Thousand Sons, luckily these are strongly contrasting, thanks GW! I know that the main body is going to be blue so that’s simple…but it runs right into the colour monotony problem but looking over the model all those small gun turrets and little tubing/piping things give me places to sensibly place the gold (or other colours) to break up that monotony. Finally the roof tops of the towers can be in yellow…but again that’s quite a lot block colour yellow and not really much in the way of detail bits to pick out. So I will go back to the well of ideas on how to resolve that and Tzeentch comes to the rescue again. Flames. Instead of painting the roof tops in block yellow instead paint them red/orange/yellow in bands to represent some flame which should make them a touch more interesting.
What I’d recommend to anyone out there starting to paint (especially at 6mm but other scales too) is to spend maybe a little bit just looking over your models and working out what bits should be what colours and how you’ll keep it looking visually interesting. Google other people’s painting, steal ideas liberally. If you really want to go in-depth you can use this moment to plot out the order in which you’ll paint the colours on. As a hint for doing that remember that drybrushing tends to be a messy process so generally you’ll want to do it before doing your detail work.
Executing the plan!
Now that the colours are chosen and I’ve got a little bit of a plan in mind (paint blue, ink blue, drybrush white, pick out details) we do the starting point, basecoat and blue and we get the next tip for painting at 6mm
2. Favour lighter shades
Because a 6mm model is so much smaller the likelihood of seeing the detail is reduced, especially for parts of the model that share the same colour. This means that darker colours especially blend the details away into nothing as the natural shadows that might highlight the detail are not readily visible against the dark paint. What can end up happening is a model looks like it’s just one colour slapped on (and…I mean…we’re being lazy painters here so slapping on a few colours and calling it a day is what we want but we don’t want it to look like we’ve done that!).
In this case I chose a mid-tone blue (Altdorf blue) as my main body colour and just painted that down all over. Many sources will tell you to paint two thin coats for a better finish but I’m going to share a dirty 6mm secret that many superior painters will reel in horror from. For what we’re going to do here one coat is good enough! The next two stages will serve to obscure the comparatively poor coverage that only a single layer provides. Save yourself a bit of time 😉
Now we roll on to the next stages that will serve to highlight the detail and differentiate parts of the model. These stages are dead quick and real easy and they even serve to conceal the finish of that single coat of prior paint. At 6mm these are an extremely useful tool, even more so than at bigger scales.
3. Ink washes are good, drybrushing is better
Because we chose a mid tone blue for the prior step we can really easily just use a dark shade wash. So grab your wash, grab your brush and apply it all over. Quick and easy. Then let it dry (takes a bit longer than a normal paint and then wait even longer because the step after is a drybrush so we don’t want any remaining wetness from this step affecting the drybrush).
After the ink/shade is dry we drybrush. For those not in the know to drybrush you
- choose your paint and get a sturdy brush you don’t mind losing its point
- get a little bit of the paint on the brush and then wipe most of the paint away on a tissue/etc.
- Then draw the brush over the surface you want to paint slowly, the small amounts of paint you have left on the bristles will tend to catch only the raised edges of the model, highlighting those bits whilst leaving the recesses darker
I chose white as the drybrush colour for the heavy contrast, but reusing the same mid shade blue or a paler blue would also work just fine too.
At 6mm drybrushing is fantastic because the models do actually have meaningful detail, it’s just difficult to pick all of it out with painted highlights using a brush normally and when you need to paint 30+ individual guys to make a single playable formation it can get real tedious real fast. Drybrushing is both quick and gets those details. It also helps to break colour monotony from point 1 by putting another differing colour onto the samey colour blocks.
Next comes the details, where we pick out the pieces we want in our different colours. For me this is gold and yellow (with some red and orange for the flames). For these colours (especially the yellow) you might need multiple coats to get the finish you want, don’t skip out here like we did for the earlier blue layer though.
The flames are achieved by painting red all over the section I want in colour (red 100%), then painting back over part of the bits in red with orange (orange 75%) then again with yellow over some of the orange section (yellow 66%) which leaves three distinct bands of colour. When painting I made of my brush strokes vertical, brushed towards the tip of the towers and I didn’t care too much about the places where the colours cross over being too neat. The last thing to do was to wash all over the ‘flames’ with a yellow wash (casandora yellow) as this blends the three colours together a bit and stops them having such harsh crossover points.
Does it look amazing when we look this close? Nope. Quick and easy though. And remember another key point:
4. You’re going to be 20+ inches away most of the time, worry about how it looks at that range!
That’s mostly a point to help give some confidence and encourage you to go out and give it a go. I’ll leave the advice and guides on how to get fantastic close-ups at this scale to painters more accomplished than I.
Anyway on to the final part and the final key point:
5. Basing makes your model
At 6mm basing is very important. It doesn’t need to be some mini diorama all its own, but it should always be done. A middling quality basing job can make a load of middling quality models look great on the table. How about we cheat to get there?
I use textured paint (from coat d’arms specifically) as it’s basically paint+sand and is fine enough that the grains don’t look weird next to a 6mm figure. Slap it down on the bases all over, just avoid getting (too much…) on your models.
Remember how we like contrasts? I then glue on some flock (with watered down PVA glue) that stands out. My Thousand Sons are fighting on an ice tundra apparently. (though £7 for a box of flock is steep…)
You might notice the 5p pieces piled on top of one another. I use these to add some height to skimmers that feels much sturdier than the thin flight stems models sometimes come with.
Now finally the finished pieces. Notice how the camera is a little bit further away? That’s how you’re going to be seeing them on the table most of the time! Focus on how they look at this kind of range, not when zooming in.
Now, you may disagree that they look good or that you’d be happy to field them looking like that and that is, of course, perfectly fine. Paint to the standard that you’re comfortable with or proud of. For me though this is a quick, simple way that doesn’t really need much fine brush control and doesn’t need spending ages highlighting details.
Hopefully you’ll be able to take a tip or two from this, hopefully you’ll find maybe a bit of confidence to give painting at this scale a go. Maybe even it will help dispel some of those ‘I can’t paint something that small!’ comments.
Go on, give it a go!