September 18, 2014

Nomads Red Step-By-Step

I received a lot of positive feedback after the PanOceania Blue Step-By-Step from a few weeks ago, and it just wouldn't seem fair to neglect the Nomads after completing Team Red. Stepping up to model for this demo is the new Nomads Mobile Brigada Heavy Infantry from the Operation: Icestorm boxed set.

Hopefully, you are able to adapt the concepts of the Team Blue Tutorial to any color that you wish to use. So rather than just re-hash the same techniques and steps with different colors, I thought that I would offer different information and insights into the process - as well as the problems that I ran into along the way, and how I overcame them.

Again, I will be using a Sotar 20/20 Airbrush with a SparMax AC27 Compressor and Windsor & Newton Series 7 Round brushes, along with a selection of Vallejo Model Colour, Vallejo Game Colour (or the GW colors they are based on), and Privateer Press Formula P3 Paints.

Red offers a unique challenge in that digital photography kind of hates it a lot. It is a challenging color for digital cameras and post-production software to handle and maintain the depth of color you see in real life. In an effort to help out with that, I have painted a Nomads Iguana TAG along with the Icestorm Team Red Guys, so that the larger surface area will hopefully show the depth and gradients more accurately.

I used black Rustoleum Sandable Auto Primer to prime the minis:

On these models, I wanted to try a different Red than I had ever used before. I generally tend toward orange-reds. For these models, I wanted a red that did not trend toward orange, or too much toward pink... Next time you see a nice red car on the street in the sunlight, look at its highlights and shadows closely, and you'll see what I was after.

I used Angel's "recipe" as a starting point to see how it would work for me. As you will see later, there is some trial and error that goes into trying out new recipes. A list of paints used is not a magic cure-all that will automatically make amazing minis! And if something is not working, keep fiddling with it until you like it.

Not only am I trying a new Recipe, but I am also trying a new technique - "Underpainting." This technique means highlighting the miniature in grayscale, and applying translucent color over that to create the highlights and shadows.

First, highlights are applied with VMC 166 Dark Grey, horizontally and above (ie, the airbrush never points "up;" just square on, directly above and everywhere in between, never from below).

Next, VMC 151 Flat Aluminum (or you could mix white into the Dark Grey) is applied - but instead of a square-on 90º facing, at a 45º degree angle from above up to straight down from the top.

So now, over the three-color grayscale underpainting, spray a thin, translucent coat of VGC Bloody Red (Or old GW Blood Red).

After the red, I was already skeptical of the underpainting. I don't think it's a technique I'll use in the future very often.  I can get more dramatic highlights and shadows in fewer steps using color... I don't need no steenkeeng grayscale...

So I already feel like I've wasted two steps of my time... But if you don't try new things...

Moving on. First shadows are airbrushed with VMC 035 Black Red. This time the airbrush comes from below the equator (I actually turn the model, not the airbrush - otherwise all the paint would spill out of the cup...)

More shadows are then airbrushed with VMC 146 Hull Red, making the upward spray angle even more acute.

The first highlights are then airbrushed mixing in a little VMC 020 Sunny Skintone to the VGC Bloody Red. Model Colour is way more potent than Game Colour, so just a tiny bit is needed to kick the Blood Red up two notches on the Value chart.

This is probably a good place to mention that if it appears that there is a photo missing, it's probably because I forgot to take the photo of that angle in that step (like the rear of the Mobile Brigada, above).

For the next highlight, I added VMC 005 Ivory to the previous mix.

I even the score with the Brigada by now forgetting the Iguana rear shot

At this point I felt that things were starting to get rather Pink, so I reclaimed the center with my original base color, VGC Bloody Red. This is where I start to deviate from the recipe - Remember, if it's not working for you, try something else! There's no rules!

...aaaaaand immediately fall behind again.

To help bind the colors together and enrich the red, and to tone down some of the pink-ness, I glazed the entire model with thinned Red Ink. It was about 1 part ink to 8 parts water. Thinner is better, as you can always glaze multiple layers if it is not strong enough - but you can never take it away if it is too strong. Err on the side of caution.

Putting the airbrush away, we switch to a regular brush to do the lining. This is VMC Hull Red thinned down with Black Ink.

I came back to it the day after the lining, and felt that the highlights had gotten too  muted with the ink glaze and whatnot. It lost the pink-ness, but also lost a lot of depth. So I went in again with the Blood Red and Sunny Skintone mix, and re-sprayed some highlights - I would have to re-line some crevasses afterwards.

See? Not a very straightforward Step-By-Step - this is how trying out new recipes and techniques can go sometimes. Sometimes, you have to go back and re-do stuff if the results don't make you happy. 

Using the same mixture of Sunny Skintone and Bloody Red (but now not diluted for airbrushing), I started the edge highlights (brush).

Now it was starting to come to life. But after another day or two looking at it, I decided it needed another, brighter edge highlight. I used VMC 013 Ice Yellow.

That's a lot of steps! But painting is a trial-and-error thing sometimes, especially when trying something new. In the future, I will skip the underpainting altogether, and instead of mixing in Ivory in that one highlight step, I will just add more Sunny Skintone. That will knock out the need for a bunch of those extra, back-and-forth steps I had while trying to figure out how I wanted it to look.

On models that were going to end up mostly black, I airbrushed the red through to completion, then I used a liquid mask to block those sections out before airbrushing, lining, and edging the black portions. 

See the completed Mobile Brigada.


  1. Really helps seeing the back and forth, as well as reading how you'd do it differently in the future. Thanks Tom!

    Which liquid mask do you use?

  2. Ive seen a more effective underpinning method using a black primer with grey/white underpainting followed by airbrushed ink then highlights.

    You got to a very clean/crisp result though.


  3. Very good tutorial. It's very comprehensive, detailed and easy to follow. Please keep doing more of this tutorials in the future, they are a very good reference to improve the painting techniques.

  4. I take it the PSI on the airbrush was 20 or less?