Completed Builds Warhammer 40K

Citadel’s Space Marine Ironclad Dreadnought: The Quest For Metal

One of the frustrations stemming from my shift of focus to genres outside of aircraft is the not-to-comfortable feeling of starting over. While I feel I am a reasonably advanced aircraft modeler, some of the styles, techniques, and materials used in scifi/Gunpla/40K are different enough that it has caused me no small amount of heartburn.

Of course, I could just dive into things using the techniques I understand, and am comfortable with. But I know that part of my motivation for expanding my scope of projects was to explore new techniques, new styles. To grow as a modeler, painful as that process may be.

Enter ‘eavy Metal.

‘Eavy Metal is the studio in Games Workshop that does all the various minis shown on their site, their box art, and in their various books. It is a very distinct style, and I really like it. It is over the top when compared to “traditional” modeling styles. But the driving force, as I understand it, is to produce a look that visually pops while on a gaming table. Thus the style works very well for that purpose.

More importantly to me though, it’s a style I have not done before. While parts of it would be familiar to most modelers – priming, adding a base colors, adding various washes (“shades” in Games Workshop lexicon), the process of edge highlighting is part of what makes the look stand out.

In my aircraft modeling, edges on models were treated with a nod towards realism. There may be paint chips, or oil streaks, or perhaps some zenithal lighting if I were trying to get particularly “Spanish” in my build. But the idea of applying a distinct line of a lighter color to all (or almost all) edges of a model was a foreign concept.

Still, the first time I saw it, the look had an appeal to me. So I decided to tackle it. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy.

Well – it’s easy enough to do poorly… but doing so with precision is quite another matter.

The target: An Ironclad Dreadnought painted by Games Workshop ‘eavy Metal studio. (Image from the Games Workshop product page.)

Going into the build of this Ironclad Dreadnought, I decided to try and mimic the style fairly closely. Try being the key word, of course.

The kit itself is easy to build. Various options are provided for the weaponized “arms”. I built those up, as well as the legs, and upper torso. I held off assembling all the subassemblies to make painting easier. To stretch myself a bit more, I decided to brush paint the whole model.

Everything was first primed with Badger’s Stynylrez Black Primer. The metal framework parts were given a coat of Citadel’s Leadbelcher, a silvery gunmetal color. A heavy coat of Citadel’s Nuln Oil (a very dark shade), was applied all over, and then raised areas were given a second application of Leadbelcher to help them stand out.

The armored parts were coated with Citadel’s Macragge Blue, and the recesses were given a more precise application of Nuln Oil. Various parts around the model were then picked out with black, gold, red, and whatever else seemed suited for the purpose. 

The next step was to begin the edge highlighting. Citadel’s Calgar Blue was used for this. I thinned the paint a bit to make sure it flowed off of the brush well, my choice being a #0 liner brush. I felt it was large enough to hold a reasonable amount of paint, but small enough to give precise application.

For edges that were easy to reach, I used the side of the brush, holding it at about a 45 degree angle, and just edged along, letting the paint flow. These edges turned out fairly nice. But as I ran into areas that required more precise application – meaning a move to the tip of the brush – lack of a steady hand, and eyesight dependent on an optivisor began to work against me.

It’s not that my hands tremble terribly, but they’re simply not as steady as they were when I was a young man. Even trying all of the various positions brush painters recommend to achieve a steady “paint stance”, I ran into problems. Still, a few helpful things were noted. One – shorter sessions worked better. The shakiness seemed to progress as time went on. Secondly, proper paint thinning wa a must. Paint that was too thin didn’t cover well, or beaded up. Too thick and it simply did not flow. Third, towards the end of the project, I thought I finally found the right spot for how much paint to load in the brush. Simple anwser being “not much”. Properly thinned paint in small quantities makes it easier to control.

I did try some other brushes, to see if that aspect made much of a difference, but I kept going back to my original #0 liner, as it worked best for me.

Though I did learn some valuable lessons, and build up my “sweat equity” for edge highlighting, my results were not stellar. Certainly not ‘eavy metal. (Though I held no illusions going in I would achieve that rare air!) In fact, I felt that my work was rather flat and dull. I did go in and add some additional edge highlighting with a lighter shade, Citadel’s Fenrisian Gray, to some of the sharper corners where three or more edges met. While this did improve things a bit, it was not what I wanted.

I added a few chipped areas, starting with Fenrisian Gray, and then filling in the middle with Ammo of Mig Chipping color. These looked OK, but I still wasn’t getting the look I wanted. 

At that stage of the build, I considered two options- stripping the model and starting over, or just slapping some stuff on to try and salvage it. Seeing as I needed to get a blog post up for today… guess which route I took. (Go on, guess… I’ll wait… 😉 )

I grabbed my airbrush, and began adding some random fading with Tamiya XF-23 Light Blue, highly thinned with isopropyl alcohol. This helped break up many of the flat areas, and provided some additional highlights. I then went into the shadows with Tamiya’s XF-17, Dark Sea Blue. At first I liked this look, but after looking at the photos, I realized that the XF-17 has a decided green cast to it, and now I wish I’d have used something closer to a pure dark blue. Oh well….

I went on and added some more bits of colors, painting all the various lights, scrolls, adding some staining via airbrush and Tamiya weathering pastels. Realizing that while lessons had been learned, this one was not going to hit the mark I had originally intended, and I’d best just get it to the Babe point. (“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”)

In the end, I can’t say I am unhappy with the result. It looks OK, I suppose. The further you stand back from it, the better it gets, really. It’s a solid four footer. 🙂

What I can say for sure is I had fun with this project, and I learned a lot. It gave me new respect for the work people do with brushes, especially those who do it really well – like ‘eavy Metal.

Even if you’re not into this style, I’d suggest giving it a good look. As I worked on this model, I saw ways that many of the techniques used on with this 40K mini could be applied elsewhere, especially in cockpits and other detail areas of aircraft and scifi flyers. While everyone may not care to use a particular style fully, I have been learning over the last few months that every style I am exploring has something to offer.

And despite it all, I ended up with a stompy shooting thing. The 10 year old me is quite happy about that. 

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