Project: Imperial Fists Captain Lysander and Space Marines Post #4 (SM Base Coat)

Basic tools needed for base coating.

Properly base coating a miniature is one of the most important steps to insuring good results.  A spotty base coat will ruin the model no matter how well shaded or highlighted the rest of the model is.  Today, we will base coat the Space Marines and discuss some difficulties that can crop up during the process and how to overcome them.  We will also talk about the two main ways to base coat—brushed and sprayed.  The Space Marines will get a brush treatment, so we will discuss how to correctly thin paints as well. Captain Lysander is still sitting on the side lines, but we will revisit him after dealing with the Marines.

Spray or Brush?

One of our most popular articles on the site is our airbrush guide.  Anyone that is serious about painting numerous miniatures will find themselves debating whether or not they should jump for an airbrush/spray gun.  I faced this decision myself several years ago.  Now that I’ve had a lot of experience with the airbrush, there are several key pros and cons that I have come to understand.

Spraying is by far the fastest, by a long shot.  I can properly prime and base coat a squad of Space Marines and have them dried, ready to detail, in under 20 minutes.  With a brush, it would take one to two hours to get the same results.  Air canning the primer saves a lot of time, but it still took me much longer to brush base these three Space Marines than it would have in my airbrush booth.

That speed comes at a high initial cost though.  I spent $120 on the air brush, $180 on the compressor, and another $50 on a DIY airbrush station.  I do, however, find myself using less paint in the airbrush than when I brush my models with a dry palette because of drying waste.  I highly recommend a wet palette for extended sessions simply because of the volume of paint that can be saved.

Spraying the miniatures requires special skills that can take several weeks to perfect.  The mixture must be thinned correctly, and learning the correct airbrushing techniques can take time.  However, I do highly recommend buying an airbrush if the budget will allow it because the airbrush can not only be used for base coating but also for unique uses such as dusting, weathering, and large models/terrain.

Even if price is a major concern, Games Workshop offers a spray gun kit that gives decent results as well.  It is not as versatile as a dual action airbrush, but it is much friendlier on the wallet, at least initially (canned air needs to be purchased.)

Brushing on the Base Coat

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how to brush on a good base coat.  The main problem I’ve noticed is the desire for modelers to lay too thick of a coat.  If full coverage is obtained using only 2-3 coats, then the paint is being laid too thick.  A good rule of thumb is to use at least 5 coats for the base allowing ample time for the figures to dry before adding another layer.  The mix is very important too.  Too thin and the paint will collect and fill the small details without covering the larger areas.  Too thick and the base coat will show brush marks and look uneven.

Starting from the left: Too thin of a mix can cause spotting and poor coverage, still too thin, this Marine has proper coverage for the first coat. Note that you shouldn't be concerned about getting full coverage.

I usually lay the base coat with a mixture of 1:1 water/paint.  I typically use a little flow improver in the mix as well to persuade the paint to lay flat on large surfaces.  Thinner was mixed using 90% water and 10% flow improver.  A drop of dish soap in the bottle can work as well.  Using the dropper bottle, mix one drop of paint to one drop of thinner for the base coat.

Be sure to give the paint plenty of time to dry between coats.  Not allowing the paint to fully dry can cause the paint to pull away from the surface.  A flat brush typically used for dry brushing is great for the first few coats.  After five coats, switching to a 1 or 0 round allows for the spots that are being missed by the larger brush to be taken care of. Sometimes people get discouraged after the first 2-3 coats because it will look spotty and will hardly cover the primer coat at all.  Don’t worry.  Keep at it and it will start to build up quickly.

Three coats in. There is still a lot to be covered, but it is building up. Taking it slowly will provide a nice, smooth finish.

Notice that the backpacks and guns are removed.  This allows the back of the figure to be easily painted.  The backpack will be based separately and placed back on the figures before detail work is done.  The hands on the guns are based separately, and the gun is left off until the very end to allow easy access to the crest of the Marines.  The gun will be detailed last.  The fingers on the gun can be difficult to base coat because a 1:1 mixture will want to run into the grooves between the fingers.  The hands are given 2 normal base coats and then the fingers are picked out individually using paint straight from the bottle.

The Space Marines are ready for detail work. Please excuse the poor exposure. The color is richer and darker than it appears here.

Ready for detailing.

After eight coats, the models are finished being base coated and are ready for detail work. The paint technique that will be used on these Space Marines is one that was created by renowned Golden Demon winner William Davies.  His technique uses a unique way to provide the rich yellow color of the Imperial Fists while also providing fantastic depth.  The Space Marines are base coated using Filthy Brown Vallejo paint (GW-Vomit Brown) and then washed with a Yellow Ink.  The ink pops the yellow out of the Filthy Brown while maintaining the depth inherent in well laid darker colors.  I’ve already done a few Marines with the technique and was very happy with the results.  Be sure to check out Williams site as well for some fantastic looking figures.

That’s it for this time.  In the next post, we’ll start highlighting and inking the model to bring out the detail.  We’ll also see the great results that an ink wash can give.


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4 Responses to Project: Imperial Fists Captain Lysander and Space Marines Post #4 (SM Base Coat)

  1. Thanks for posting this! I’ve had any number of problems with trying to find out some of the basics that I want to build on top of, and it’s been quite limited; a lot of simple things (such as how many coats it’ll take to get an even finish) has proven extraordinarily difficult to find, even though I thought it should have been quite simple to find as part of a basic guide. Lucky for me I found this by accident after landing on another article here!

  2. mloewen says:

    Hey subyman – i’m really enjoying this “imperial-fists-captain-lysander” blog. when are you going to post on update? I’m thinking about starting an Imperial Fists army pretty soon here and would really like to get a better handle on how to pain these guys reasonably well (i.e. not nearly as well as your’s are turning out). lol! Have you moved on to a new project?

    • subyman says:

      Its been a busy few months, but I am getting my paints back out. So check back in the next few weeks for some updates.

  3. angus says:

    how much longer do we have to wait for an update, im so intreged on how they will turn out!!!!
    could you also do a tutorial on praetors of orpheus

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