Wednesday, 14 August 2013

HUGE tutorial - painting an Viking Hirdmen unit

I’ve made a big tutorial while I painted my latest hirdmen unit, step by step pictures with lots of detail shots. 
Bare with me here and please read throe all the steps. If you got any questions or anything you think I didn´t explained good enough, don’t hesitate to ask and I will try to answer your question and update this tutorial.

I will here show a standard size unit according to the “Hail Caesar” rules. The miniatures are a mix of different manufacturers but are mostly from Gripping Beast.

First some notes on the aim on this tutorial. I will here try to explain how I paint a unit of my Norsemen. This standard will not win you any painting contest but the aim is to get a descent looking unit in a rather short time to game with. 

As some of the pictures are taken late at night and the light sources varies greatly from picture to picture because of this some pictures will be better or worse then others. 

One philosophy or technique I will try to use is watered down paint. By adding some extra water to the paint the paint will run smother, make a thinner layer and will not cover up so much of the color under. This will make a sort of ink or wash with your regular paint that will work with the model sculpt instead of against it. This could create a miniature that will look to bright for your taste in the beginning but we will fix that later on with some regular washes.

I will paint the miniature in what I call a batch painting technique. I paint one color on all the miniatures before I change color, working throe the unit one color at the time. This is not the most fun way of painting miniatures but it will save you lots of time.  

This is the first time I have painted such a large unit in one go as this and I tested some new ways of making a standard. So some things are tried out for the first time just for this tutorial.
Wish me luck…

Ok, now we start.
Remember to always mix in some water with your paint, I will not write it down on every step as I almost always do it here.

After the cleaning up of mold lines and gluing the plastic miniature together I glue all my miniatures on “assembly lines”, some pieces of wood. This will make the handling of the miniatures easier and quicker.

 After a white primer I start with a dark gray paint on the chainmail. I use Panzer gray from Vallejo, seriously this is thee best color ever. I use it for so much. GET IT...

Next step is a basic skin color mixed with some water. I used Flat flesh, 70 955 from Vallejo.

After this I painted the wood material of axes, spears and shields and so on. For this I used Vallejos US Field Drab 70 873. Remember to water it down.
I also painted some beards and hair while I was at it.

You can never go wrong with green on a Dark Age unit. I here started to include some shield patterns.

Next step was a new greenish color.

But as I wanted some more color on the unit blue was the next one. Ive stared on some striped pants on some of the miniatures also.
The lines are far from perfect but that’s okay for now. We will fix that later on, don’t waste time on that now.

Next up was a sort of orange color, Vallejos – Light brown, 70 929

A darker red color was the next color I picked. Notice how the mixture with water thins the color down so you can see the strings on his leggings. Maybe a little to water deluted but It will work in the end.

Next color of choice went for a sort of yellow-brown color, Vallejos - Midle stone (I think, the text is barely readable) 70 882.

While taking the picture on the now yellow strings on the leggings I noticed that I have missed to paint his hand. Doh.
You could fix such things now or you can fix such things later on if you for example are using a light brown and thus use it on the hand with some extra water, we will wash and highlight it with the rest of the skin later anyhow.

Green is nice. By now Im gething a fairly good idea on how my miniatures are going to end up. But I could always add a color or two to mix up the color palette used. 

A sort of red-brown color was used on some of the leather work, some belts a skin and such. By using diffrent amount of water you get diffrent colors with the same paint.

A darker brown, more leather work. Some sides of the shields. A beard or two.

A lighter yellow color was used to includes some blond haired Vikings.

Some bright red was here used on some shields and some other details. I try not to use it on clothes as I think it’s a too bright color for that but I love the effect it gives the unit to include some colors that really pop.

A start on a red raven design

Some shield patterns and a red stripe on his (and some other miniatures in the unit) tunic.

More bright red stripes and dots on the shields and tunics.

Some brighter yellow colors on some tunics. When adding details like this I often find that it is enough to just give some of the miniatures that extra level of detail. If you do it an all it will take more time. For the effect of the details to shine throe in the end, to be spotted on the table it is enough to just give some of them this extra level of love.

Again with my beloved Panzer gray, some shield patterns.

More shield details with the dark gray paint. Please notice the badly drawn lines, to thick.

With some touching up I think It looks a little better.

Here are some more touching up on the shield designs. You will notice this is not perfect match in color tones but there is a reason for this, it will create a more living miniature with more color variations.

Next up is a new layer on the chainmail. This time I drybrushed some metal over the originally dark gray color. The idea is that the dark gray will shine throe but with some metallic shine. I think I got a little too much metallic color on these to be perfect but for a gaming miniature it will do.

With the chainmail done I move up to the pure metal. Shield bosses, helmets, axes and swords. Please notice the darker chainmail and the brighter helmets.

I wanted some more color variations on the metals so I went with some bronze colors to.

With all the regular colors done, the miniatures are now painted with at least one layer of paint. Its time for the first real wash or ink. For this I used to use the legendary Devlar Mud from GW but as they stopped to sell this I have moved to Army Painters – Strong Ink. Next best thing of those that I have tried. Not as good as Devlar mud but good enough.
Cover more or less the whole miniature with some water deluded Strong In. If you have some white or some of the blue colors under you should be a little more conservative and just paint the places you want to tone down, the places you want a more darker, a more shadowed effect on.

By dragging some ink around you could make some rather nice effects one the miniatures, like this shield where just some of the shield have the Strong Ink on it and some parts have more water then some. 
Many people painting miniature I have seen stops here. This will unfortunately create a sort of brown looking, rather dull and bland looking unit. What you need is some highlight to really make the unit pop.

First highlight. The skin color. I used the same paint as I used to paint the skincolor at the first time. But this time I only use it to highlight some of the skin.
What you want to highlight is the nose, the cheeks, forehead, finger and such.

Some white was here used to highlight and on some details. Notice the shields in particular.
I like to use white as this will really make the unit look bright, a nice contrast to sometimes darker miniature.

A close shot on a shield after the Strong Ink and now the white color.

The striped pants that I didn´t fix. Now is a perfect time to fix it. In this way I create a highlight in the same time as I create straighter stripes.

The skin colors still look a little boring. But now I add a new wash. Ogryn Flesh from GW, a wash that gives a little red tone to the miniature.

This wash I only paint on some places of the miniature. Like the under lip, NOT the upper lip as this will look as lipstick.
Around the nose maybe, between the fingers. And I use it where the skin “ends” and maybe a tunic or chainmail starts.
This red ink will make the miniature look more alive.

Its time to start on the bases.
For this unit I will us multi bases as I have started to like it more and more.
I will use two 40x40mm bases that I got with the plastic hirdmen and a 80x40mm that I cut from a plasticard. I start with a knife and making small cuts in the bases on both sides. On the downside my theory is that it will get a better grip and not slip down from an hill or such and on the upper side its done so the miniatures and the basing material will get a better grip when gluing.

The hird arranged on the bases and glued.
The big multibase gives me the opportunity to rearrange the miniatures more and could be used as seen here with one of the rear rank miniatures instead joining the first rank to give a tighter shield wall effect.

Now its time to move down to the basement where I keep my basing material. I will use a old brush and some Woodglue. I think some of you will call it white glue or PVA but I’m not sure if it’s the same so I will continue to call it wood glue here.

The whole base is covered with the wood glue using a brush. As the glue is waterbased its easy to clean afterwards.

The whole multibase is lovered down and covered in my box of sand. Its regular sand stolen under the protection of darkness from a playground… Yeah I know Im a bad ass gangsta.
I like the varying sizes of the sand grains it gives me.

Here I have painted the base. I start by painting the sides brown and then drop some dots on some of the places on the topside. Before it dries I add water to the topside and using the brush and the natural capillary action of the water to cover the whole base.
By using a water eluted paint I get the natural color variations of the sand to shine throe for free.

 Next step is more woodglue. I don’t cover the whole base but just some of it. I want the ground work to show. The bases are then covered by my magical flock (apparently people would kill to get the exact ingredients I have heard.) 
The theory behind it is at least that you should mix all kinds of stuff into it. Different brands, sizes and colors of flock and other basing material, twigs and dried leaves from outdoor and I also include some grass clipping from my lawn in to the magical potion of basing material…

Let’s start with the banner for the Merkismaðr to carry. This is the first time I try this technique but fortunately it worked.
After Im satisfied with the overall design drawn with a regular pencil on a piece of paper I fill in the lines with a marker.

This will show on the other side of the paper.

Here I have filled in the black on both sides with my regular paint on the banner and used a scissor to cut it out.

A dark green was then added.

Next up was a light gray. It was used to clean up some of the black as well as creating some shadowing effect on the white paper.

Next step was a white color to brighten up the banner some and to create a more interesting area around the serpent.

 A bright red color was chosen for the eyes.

I now pre rolled the banner so it would be easier to glue to the banner pole.

And here we have it glued to a long spear.

And that was it.
What we have here is a whole unit of Norsemen in a rather short time but that still look descent enough. I have only used two inks and highlighted only the skin and the white on the miniatures.

And now it is time for some group pictures of the complete unit with my backdrop for that little extra touch.


I hope that this tutorial will help and inspire you guys and girls out there. 
As this tutorial have taken LOTS of time to make, (taking pictures between each step, writing this tutorial and such) I would love to hear what you think of this way of painting miniatures. 

The theory at least, is to start with a white primer and by delude the paint with water to let the sculptor help you paint the miniature.

I wish you the best of luck with trying this out. Well maybe on a smaller unit to start with.
Regards// Jonas

Edit 2016-01-15:
Looking back at this post with a fresher sets of eyes I think I should have used more times on details. The metal helmets could need a gray/blackish wash in the cracks, more highlights on the clothes and so on. I now paint units on a higher standard and click the "Viking" tag to see some of my more recent work and you will see the difference of what more detail work does. This tutorial still fills a purpose I suppose but I would have done some things differently now.


  1. Thanks for a great tutorial! I really like reading these kinds of step-by-step descriptions as you always pick up some new ideas to incorporate into your own way of painting.

    I'd be very interested in a tutorial on how you paint your trolls and goblins, especially the skin parts.

    Oh, and the units look great by the way!

    1. Thanks.

      Troll/goblin skin noted as a future tutorial then.
      / Cheers

  2. Interesting post, always worth seeing how others prepare their miniatures as you can learn something new. Very nice banner.


  3. This is brilliant! I have some great takeaways from here. I like the idea of taking a single color over the entire batch. I will try chainmail starting on a dark gray (never done that). I also really like the wash dragged on the shields. Great effect. Basing is top notch too. THANKS for sharing!

    Bookmarked and one more thing...your flocking looks a bit like flocking we enjoyed in college. No wonder people would "kill" for it. ;-)

    1. I never told you this flock was cheep... And you get a sort of sweet smell on your miniatures.

  4. A big thanks for your comments, glad you liked it. :)

  5. Could you provide a list of paints you used?


    1. Ohh sorry I dont remember them all.
      I usually uses Vallejo paint but some of them has the text smushet out so some of them aint readable anymore.

  6. Great tutorial thank you. Now all I need to find out is what green plant that really is and does it lose it's colour over time?

    By the way have you seen the troll pack available with the ArcWorlde Kickstarter? They seem right up your alley.... so to speak.

    1. Thanks.
      The green plant may lose colour over time but thats nothing thats bothering me yet atleast. We will see in the future...

      Those trolls are really nice. Im not sure I want to join in on another kickstarter just now.

  7. ...hang on.... is it lichen that has gone through a food processor or been chopped up?

    1. Most of the natural "flock" are just dryed stuff thats been broken up to lesser pieces by hand.

  8. Stort tack för att du tog dig tid att publicera detta om hur du målat.Lärde mig mycket. Tack kompis. :)
    Nice photographs. I learnt a lot about figurepainting.
    cheers mate!

    1. Glad you liked it.
      Hope to see some Russians from you soon...

  9. Greate blog post !!!

    Greate work on the handpainted banner !!!

    Very nice to be able to see how you place the minis on your 40x40 bases..."basningsnoja"...

    Best regards Michael

    1. Thanks Michael, glad you liked it.

      The idea with the bases are that each miniature have an 20x20mm base and a multibase with four miniatures thus have an 40x40mm base, exactly where they are placed on the base doesnt really matter.
      On a even larger base this will give me even greater opportunities to rearrange the miniatures to a more living unit and step away from the more commonly perfectly ranked miniatures you get with using single bases.