Hello again Champions! At the beginning of the pandemic, I decided it was time to put some focus into a project I had been saving bits and kits for since I returned to the hobby. Since I was a teenager I’ve been obsessed with the artworks surrounding the Heretic Legions. As time, and my association to the hobby, has passed I’ve formed my own opinions and ideas about how I would like to approach creating my own force and what each element would look like. Most of the themes I could gather from stories like Talon of Horus and Black Legion by Aaron Dembski-Bowden and classic artworks by Kev Walker, John Blanche, and Adrian Smith.
The Black Legion always screamed the perfect mix of death metal and baroque evil to me. A blend of all sorts of discarded renegades from every possible level of corruption. Pirate marauders fueled by selfish godless rage, or defiled worshippers of any of the dark gods. The possibilities were endless and it could all be wrapped up in a Black and Brass package. How would I translate the furious force of corrupted demigods, and how would their presence effect their surroundings?
I decided I wanted to make dioramas that would fit into a shelf section of the IKEA, Detolf style display cases. These would include a narratively believable unit of infantry models, a central character, and a vehicle if possible. These models would be created on bases that could be removed from the diorama. As I am more of a builder/painter than a player, this project would be more of a display piece. Who knows, this could be someone’s army one day.
In my off time, for far longer than I care to mention, I had been working on Tru-Scaling some of the plastic Chosen models. Cutting and pasting until they were about the size of a Primaris Marine. Those efforts are represented here as our cast of raving renegades. As well as three of the new plastic Chaos Space Marines with some shoe lifts. ( They’re still a bit too small. I’m going for a realistic scale and proportion here. Well, realistically an eight to ten foot tall humanoid in power armor.) The central character was stitched together from most of the Chaos Lord in Terminator Armor kit, a Chaos Warrior head, and a Dark Angels Librarian hand. I gave him a different trophy rack with some jewelry pieces and skulls, as well as some psychic lightning with a few different wire gages. The cherry on top is a Helldrake fitted with a few thick guitar string details and a bunch of clump foliage coated in multiple coats of PVA glue. The foliage is to represent roaring explosions of fire emitting from all the mechanical daemon’s exhaust holes.
Other than the fire detail, the attachment to the base was the only real conversion here. The big ugly acrylic stand was replaced with a large gauge wire-spoke and its connection was filled with plasticard and Milliput.
The base is a piece of GW terrain added at an angle to represent some of the up-turned battlefield of the rest of the diorama. This monster at such a weird angle puts it at more of a “dive bomb” pose when it’s removed from the diorama. This really isn’t a problem in my book, but I thought it was worth a mention. This piece, like all the characters on the board, is made to sit in slots allowing each piece and its share of the diorama to be removed separately. This was a big checklist point in the back of my head throughout this project because I wanted to simplify the bases of each piece by cutting them from a larger section of the action.
Most of the pieces here are built to be removed from their bases to make the painting process easier. After I began painting the infantry and Heldrake (separately) I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted the ground textures and base details to look. I was going to have to plan these colors to properly complement my cast of characters
The main colors used on the characters were a dirty blue-black, a brassy gold, red, and purple. (shown in the test model above, before any real washing or weathering) I wanted the characters to stand out rather well so I decided to go with a more orange-tinged earth tone beneath some yellow grey mortar dust. I wanted this to compliment the blue in the majority of the armor. This also informed my decision on Imperial Fists (yellow) as the doomed imperial marines littered about the diorama.
- F.W. Burnt Umber Artist’s Ink
- F.W. Red Earth Artist’s Ink
- Terracotta Earth(Secret Weapon powdered pigment )
- City Dark Dust (A.Mig powdered pigment)
- Track Rust (A.Mig powdered pigment)
- Zandri Dust (Citadel)
- Reikland Fleshshade (Citadel)
- Wyld Rider Red (Citadel)
- Screamer Pink (Citadel)
- German Camo Black Brown (VMC)
- Heavy Red (VGC extra opaque)
- Basic Flesh (Scale75)
- Golden Flesh (Scale75)
- Squid Pink (VGC)
- Skeleton Bone (Army Painter)
- Thphus Corrosion (Citadel)
- Decay Black (Scale 75 Fantasy)
- Tendalor Red (Scale75 Fantasy)
- Tiamat Orange (Scale75 Fantasy)
- Aged White (VGA)
- Flat Black (Scale75)
- Negro Grey (Scale75 Fantasy)
- Miskatonic Grey (Scale75 Fantasy)
- Fresh Blood (Vallejo FX)
- Blood for the Blood God (Citadel
- Gunmetal Grey (Vallejo Metal Color)
- Thrash Metal (Scale 75)
- Japan Uniform WWII (VMC)
- Golden Yellow (VMC)
- Strong Tone (Army Painter)
- Matte Medium (Liquitex)
- Flow Aid (Liquitex)
- X-20A thinner (Tamiya)
My first steps were to prime the model with a matte black and burnt umber rattle can primer and a zenithal layer with Stynylrez Grey and White with an airbrush. I also hit the skulls and the lightning with a heavy body white and a brush so I wouldn’t miss them later. The bases were then removed from their figures and replaced in the diorama with some blue tack. All these details got a super light dry brush with some white Stynylrez mixed with a little grey.
Next, the ground details were covered generously with thinned-down FW Burnt Umber acrylic ink through my airbrush. As that layer dried I added a thinned glaze of the same ink into the surrounding areas not hit with the first fully saturated Burnt Umber pass. After that layer was dry I thinned a bit of FW Red Earth ink with Tamiya X-20A thinner and added some Secret Weapon Terracotta Earth powdered pigment. I use a small spray bottle filled with distilled water and a drop of flow aid to mist the diorama. I want all the ground details to be slightly damp before the next step. After I’ve sufficiently wet the diorama, I use a liquid dropper to selectively place drops of the pigment and ink mixture into random places on the model. I try to focus on doing this randomly to break up some of the ground colors adding difference everywhere is really key to making each area seem a little more real. After I’ve applied the drops I selectively spray a few of the sections again with the spray bottle to further diffuse the effect. When that layer was dry I mix City Dark Dust (A.Mig) with X-20A. Then, with an old toothbrush, I splatter the whole thing with the mixture. I’m not too selective here because after the splatter I spray a few areas with the water bottle to wash in a bit of that pigment. When that’s dry the whole thing gets a soft drybrush of Zandri Dust (Citadel) and Skeleton Bone(Army Painter) mixed 50/50. All the metallic areas were base coated with a mixture of Typhus Corrosion (Citadel) and Track Rust(A.MIG) powdered pigment.
From here I could start focusing on some of the finer details of the diorama. I started by picking out all the metallic areas with a messy stippling of Vallejo Metal Color Gunmetal Grey. I try to do this while still maintaining some of the rusty textured undercoats. I also started base coating the other detail elements like the shards of fallen marines littering the battlefield. There are also a few Bloodletter daemons emerging from cracked open sections of the diorama that I’ll have to get to after all the main details are picked out. The main marine armor elements were based out with a wet blend from Japan Uniform WW2 to Golden Yellow (VMC). The trim and emblem details were placed with Heavy Red (VGC) to Wild Rider Red (Citadel) I was beginning to notice that there were a few details on the diorama and basing areas that I might need a bit more of a game plan on.
From a few severed Astartes heads to select vignettes of Bloodletter daemons emerging from pools of blood, there were quite a few details I was going to need to prioritize. How was I going to represent these elements and not take away from the detail on the characters?
Technically there were two bodies of Bloodletters featured on the diorama. I was going to need to figure out how I was going to make them seem to emerge from the bloody areas of the scene as well. I picked a specific area of the model that included a little bit of all the base details to test all these ideas.
After I had based out the armor details on the whole diorama I focused on the details pictured above. Most of the Daemons would be emerging from gore, so this small detail would work great for my test run. The first thing I picked out was all the flesh details within the armor. I did this with a larger brush, sloppy pass to catch all the fleshy details. I used Basic Flesh(Scale75) mixed with a small amount of matte medium and flow aid for this. After a few coats of this mix were applied and dried I heavily washed the flesh areas with Reikland Fleshshade(Citadel) and shaded the armor sections heavily with Strong Tone(Army Painter). I also reinforce some of the chipped areas in the armor with a bit of thinned-down German Camo Black Brown(VMC).
Then I go back into the fleshy areas with some wet lends from Basic Flesh(Scale75) to Golden Skin(Scale75). I also blend in a few glazes with Screamer Pink(Citadel) and Squid Pink(Vallejo Game Color) I try to focus these pink details into the more gooey and ripped-up areas. During all of these steps, I’m blending back and forth between the glazed shadow tones and the flesh tones to push highlights a bit. Some sort of drying retarder or a blending medium can work wonders here. After I’ve put down some pinks, I do the same with Tindalos Red(Scale75 Fantasy) and Heavy Red(VGC). I try to limit these details to maintain a bit of the pinks applied previously. I also stippled on some of the darker red glazes around the body and areas that might catch some splatter as well as some areas beneath the rubble. Since I want the daemon’s arm to “appear” from the blood, I wet blend highlights of Tiamat Orange(Scale75 Fantasy) into a mix of the Tindalos Red and Heavy Red at the base forearm. I want this portion the look very much like the viscera I’ve already modeled in the surrounding ruined body. When I’ve got these highlight areas sketched in, I blend out to the palm and fingers of the hand from the Tiamat Orange into Tindalos Red. I then lightly drybrush the hand and wrist with Decay Black(Scale75 Fantasy)
After I had the main blends down I went back To highlight a few details. I picked out any bone details like teeth, eyeballs, bones, and ribs with some Aged White(VMA). I also added a dot of German Black Brown to the dangling eyeball so it read as a pupil. Then I added some highlights to the charred black areas of the daemon’s hands and wrists with some glazes of Necro Grey(Scale75 Fantasy) and Mikatonic Grey(Scale75 Fantasy).
Now, with all those layers dry, I mix Fresh Blood (VallejoFX) 4:1 with water and a small amount of flow aid. Then I lightly mist the area with a small amount of water with my pump spray bottle to break the surface tension a bit. I try really hard not to get this are too wet as I don’t want it to take forever to dry, but if all else fails, I have a hairdryer. While the area is still a bit damp I add the Fresh Blood Mixture all over the place. No real point in being too careful here, the wash is pretty subtle and I’m going to be adding more to it anyway. While this super sloppy mess is still wet I add select amounts of Blood for the Blood God to the more, well, profusely bleeding sections. Mainly I make sure I coat the fleshy tones in the daemon’s arm, the stumps, and shredded areas of the body. I also splatter a bit of both blood products on the space with a toothbrush.
I feel like this is going to be a great approach to the rest of the ground details of this diorama. I’m excited to paint the more full-bodied Bloodletters with this weird glowing blood and ash-type approach. I feel like the blood will really tie the whole thing together and not clash too much with any of the OSL elements I have planned. I would have tried out some of that on the lightning detailed on this section, but there will be a bit more to do to the ground detail with paint and pigments that it would be a waste to paint it now, just to have to re-do it later. I feel like this one has run a little long, so thank you if you’ve made it this far! I’m on to filling in details and trying to remember to take photos of the progress. I’ll try to pop more details up on the Instagram spot @witchhammerstudio and pretty regularly on the connected blogs, check them out, and let me know what you think. Until next time champions, I’ll see you in the grimdark.