Building an Isorian Army 2: Painting the Phase Troopers
In his previous article, Zac Beldan started his series of articles on choosing, assembled and painting his Isorian Army. Here, he continues the series with an detailed step-by-step guide to his approach with phase troopers…
I paint miniatures because I like gaming with painted armies. The process of painting itself doesn’t provide me with the same thrill and excitement that putting a painted army on the table does. Which is rather odd when you think about it. The crux of this is that I paint to make my models look good on a table but not necessarily good when you pick them up and give them a close look. An example of this is that I haven’t painted the eyes in a man-sized figure in the better part of a decade. You don’t see them when you are standing over you army directing combat so what is the point.
I bring this up to temper your expectations about what sort of painting article this will be. My aim is to get a decently painted army to the table as quickly as possible. To do this I use drybrushing and washes to provide depth and tone to my figures and apply highlights using layering and not blending. Where appropriate I also add weathering to further add detail. So what follows will be a guide to quickly painting Isorian Phase troopers for the tabletop.
I am using the Isorian Phase troop Command Squad for this article because I don’t have a current recipe for painting the troops. With a smaller model count in the unit I will be able to test some colours but also to determine what parts of a trooper need to be painted and in what order to avoid having washes cover parts or having to redo elements. This is always the first part of my process when starting a new army. I want to learn how to quickly work through all of the aspects of a model so I can get my units painted and on the table with the least amount of fuss.
The Isorian Phase Command Squad comes with three trooper models and a spotter drone. The blister includes a sprue with four heads (one with the faceplate lifted so you can see the face) as well as a plasma carbine, arm for the leader model and two sets of appendages that attach to the back of the leader model.
There was very little flash on the models and very few mould lines. The figures, with the exception of the two sets of appendages, went together easily. The leader’s two sets of appendages took a few moments to fit into the slots on the back of the model and while I think I have them assembled correctly I am still not absolutely certain. Still, the model looks nice so its not a major issue. Once the models are assembled and the glue is dry I prime them with the Army Painter Uniform Grey primer.
Choosing a base colour
The first thing I need to decide is a base colour for the Isorian armour. I don’t want to replicate the studio colour scheme and I want something that emphasizes the organic nature of the Isorian armour and weapons. I also want natural looking colours so a quick look through my collection narrows the decision down to Vallejo 094 Russian Uniform WWII and GW’s Dryad Bark. One model is based in each colour and then I apply a wash of GW Agrax Earthshade to provide some depth. Once that is dry I then drybrush each model to see how each colour looks. I typically do three levels of drybrusing. The first is with the base colour to re-establish it on any upper areas that may have been covered with the wash. That is followed by two successively lighter colours to provide increasingly brighter highlights. The Isorian trooper models are excellent for this type of painting as the surface are rich with nooks and crannies in which the wash can settle and the drybrushing can pick out details.
After having a look at the two samples it appears that the Dryad bark comes out looking too bright (perhaps too pink?) but the 094 Russian Uniform WWII looks as if it will provide an excellent base, provide nice highlights and will allow me to pick some brighter, stronger colours for the details of the weapons to provide some nice contrast. The Russian Uniform model was drybrushed with Russian Uniform after the wash and then a 1:1 mix of Russian Uniform and Army Painter Necrotic Flesh and finally a drybrush of straight Necrotic Flesh.
I don’t think it can be said enough that the secret to sharp looking miniatures is to provide the viewer with areas of contrast on the model. Typically you do this by picking colours that differ significantly in hue, saturation or brightness as well as being opposites on a colour wheel. Since I am using a green base colour I am going to add some red elements to the model. I also want to emphasize the difference between the constructed and the organic parts of the armour so not only will the mechanical parts be red but the red I use will be a bright, artificial colour. No flat red or brick red here but the bright pop of GW Khorne Red. Before I get to that though I have some paint to apply.
All of the models start with an overall coat of Russian Uniform WWII followed by a wash of Agrax Earthshade. After some drying time the models are all drybrushed as explained above. The first item of the armour to pick out are the coils that appear under the exterior of the armour. I decided to do them in a bright orange to make them pop from the armour and also provide a link back to the studio colour scheme. There are several on the plasma carbines which I will have to do after I paint the base of the weapon. Next are the tubes extending from the backs of the troops as well as the weapons. I have no idea what they are but I want them to look like tubules from a plant so it avoids looking too much like a tentacle.
I want to weapon stock to fit in with the tone of the armour so I grab the Vallejo Grey Green and paint all of the organic areas of the weapons with this. I also use it for the armatures that extend from the back of the squad leader. The masks and the non-organic plasma plates of the weapons get two thin coats of Khorne red. Then I need to go back and paint the tubules on the weapons with the P3 Midlund Flesh. Finally the squad leader’s face gets a base of Vallejo Flat Flesh.
Once all of this has dried it is time to put on some washes to provide some depth to the model. The Midlund Flesh tubules, the leader’s face, the red sections of the models as well as the orange coils all get washed with GW Richland Fleshshade. It is a red-brown wash that has a more red tone to it that brown so it adds some depth to the shadow areas but also gives these areas a slightly more red look. The Grey Green parts of the models get a wash with GW Nuln Oil. The washes have a tendency to run so I use a small brush for this work and also keep a damp brush handy to soak up any areas where the wash pools up. The models are then set to dry for about an hour.
There are several small parts that can now get painted. The grenades at the troops waists and the circular and oval parts of the weapons, not the power coils, get a coat of Army Painter Alien Purple. The energy source on the weapons and on the back of the troops get a base coat of GW Fenris Grey. It is almost a Robin Egg blue colour but GW brands it as a ‘grey’ for some reason. Maybe Robin Egg blue isn’t a butch enough colour name for Space Wolves? The plasma coil in between the two red sections of the weapon is also painted with Fenris Grey. This takes a small brush or a steady hand. Luckily I have a small brush.
Once the Fenris Grey areas are dry I get some Vallejo Ivory paint and water it down it less opaque but not quite a wash. I then put a dab of this on the energy sources and a thin line on the weapon power coil to add a small highlight. The tubules are all given a quick highlight of Flat Flesh and the final step is to paint the spurs coming out from the troop’s shoulders. They are given a coat of Necrotic Flesh and then a highlight of the Flat Flesh.
I want the bases to look alien. Most of my bases have been looking a bit pedestrian so I decide to try to spice these up a bit. I use a base of GW’s Stirland Battlemire texture paint on the bases. This is a dark brown texture with a slight gloss finish to make it look like glistening mud. Once that is dry I give it a wash of Corellia Greenshade to darken it and also add a green tone to it. Hopefully this will make it look less like terrestrial mud. Once the wash is dry I drybrush the base with GW Kabalite Green and then Sybarite Green. This adds some detail to the bases and also reinforces the green tone that it gained with the wash.
Once the base has had some time to dry I use some watered down PVA glue to add some spots of tarragon to the base. It is a bright yellow spice that not only sticks to the glue but also sticks to most of the surface of the base. Once the glue has dried I am actually forced to brush some of the tarragon off. While it looks very bright and alien it is also quite stark against the brown/green base texture so I get some of my grass mixture and apply it, with glue, between the areas of tarragon. The result unfortunately covers up a lot of the texture paint making that work seem a bit redundant.
The bases look quite different from my normal bases but ultimately I am not very happy with them. They look busy and ultimately distract from the models which should be the focus. Thankfully I only have it on four bases so I clean them off and instead give the bases a coat of GW Martian Ironearth. This is a bright red textured paint that dries into a cracked and craggy ground. The bases are given a wash of Agrax Earthshade and then drybrushed with Fire Dragon Bright and Yriel Yellow. I finish the bases off with a bright green tuft for contrast and paint the edges of the bases black. Its not as ‘alien’ looking as the previous attempt but it does make the model look less cluttered
So what did I learn about the painting process? First, I need to paint the weapon areas and wash them before I start painting the tubules on the models. Second, the bases need to be simpler to let the models stand out. And finally, tarragon will stick to everything. Its not a good flock. So with these lessons learned I can apply them to the painting process of the first Phase Squad. Before I do that though I am going to work on the first of my Tsan Ra Torus squads.
Zac continues in his articles in painting the Tsan Ra using a Torus Squad as an example. (Link soon!)