I have had a lot of people asking what the blue recipe is for an Ultramarine commission I have been working on recently. I achieve this Ultramarines Blue with an airbrush. I know some people are adverse to the trend of airbrushed armies but please keep an open mind on this one. I am not a fan of these all airbrush affairs either and as a military model maker also, the idea is to use all tools available to give the best results. I strive to make the use of an airbrush as subtle as possible and to do this I employ ideas and techniques that are commonly found with traditional brush work. For armour that technique is glazes. So here we go.
1. Easy first step. Prime white. Sounds obvious but the primer colour will change the tone of the base coat. The most recent example of this happening to me was whilst doing an Imperial Fists Comtemptor, I primed it grey, loved the paint job and decided to do an army. I primed the troops white not thinking it would make a big difference and in the photos the Contemptor had a green hue to the yellow, so believe me priming matters.
2. Next comes the pre-shading. If your not familiar with this don’t worry as I will do a separate tutorial covering the techniques use with troops and vehicles. In short you need to worry about making the largest most prominent armour plates like the shins, thighs, shoulder pads and on these cataphractii, and other upper surfaces of the model lighter.
3. The base coat is Altdorf Guard Blue. Again I would like to iterate a point here about brushes and airbrushes. The thinner the paint for both tools, the smoother the blends and the longer it takes to get a good result. They are not as different as they first appear, however, due to the way that the high contrast/low saturation airbrushed look has become so popular on the net with 40k miniatures in particular, you see only one extreme side of this tool. If you really thin paints in the airbrush you will need to dust the model to begin with gently, building up the colour saturation is key.
As you can see we have just a tint of blue at this stage. Further passes will darken the hue to what you want. This is important, using my way you can build up as many or as few layers as possible. You can keep the pre-shade as visible or as subtle as you want.
Pre-shading is one of the ways to keep the ‘airbrushed’ look down. As you can see, one colour in and you already have tonal difference on your model.
4. The next highlight is Calgar Blue. Remember the thinner the paint, even in an airbrush, the more subtle the effect but also the more careful you have to be. The application of colour on the model will not be as obvious at first and you run the risk of over loading the model with paint. Slow and steady is the name of the game here, also the notion that aibrushes are quick and easy fixes go out the window right about now. Add this colour to the usual places for high lights, outer edges, raised areas and the like.
5. The final airbrush applied highlight is a 1:1 mix of Calgar Blue and white. Again apply this highlight to the traditional places for all of your extreme highlights. I took the picture from above to see all the large ‘money maker’ panels and yes it has that airbrush look to it but keep reading as I will endeavor to clear that up for you.
6. This stage is the most important stage. This is the part where I use a glaze for two reasons. The first is to eliminate that airbrushed look that doesn’t appeal to all, and secondly to literally choose the shade of blue I want.
I use Guilliman Blue glaze for this. Its more important the be gentle and trust the paint has gone onto the model with a glaze as it is even harder to see and you don’t want it to pool on the model from overdoing it. The more coats of the glaze the darker your blue will be, you have total control here. You can go from a couple of light coats to darken and soften things or you can keep going with the glaze and wipe out the pre-shading if you wanted.
The glaze diffuses the neat but harsh gradient an airbrush can give, as you can see above.
7. This stage, although simple is pretty important too. It’s the application of a gloss varnish. It has a two fold advantage here, it acts a barrier for all your hard work so far, like a game save. Also it needs to be a good solid coverage so the next stage doesn’t seep into the paint and stain it.
8. This is the pin wash stage. I use black oil paint thinned with turpentine. Because of the gloss coat you will only need to touch the wash accurately into the recesses and watch capillary action suck the paint into all the nooks and crannies. This will take a while to dry. Once it has, give the model a satin coat of varnish so you can apply paint with a brush again.
9. The final stage is to do an edge highlight of a 1:2 mix of Calgar blue and white. This is your armour done. Remember, you can eliminate the airbrushed feel by following the weathering stages I have detailed in my earlier tutorials.
You can apply this to most colours. I have done it with my pre-Heresy Space Wolves, for the glazing step I used Tamiya Smoke and this desaturated the grey to give a more natural blend. Again, I hope this helps and I will be back with a pre-shading tutorial next.