A paint scheme that’s ‘eh’


The light gray makes the model “pop” on the game table. The darker shoulder pads offer a nice contrast, while the gold belt and red eye visors draw the eye. That’s about the extent of my aesthetic thinking. The photos don’t do the “eh” paint scheme justice–they actually look fairly decent on the game table.

I’ve always known I was a paint-by-numbers kind of guy. Give me a miniature with well-defined lines, and I can put the right color in the right area. I can even hold my paintbrush steady enough to do a fairly decent eyebrow.

But I won’t win any painting contests. And it will be a long wait before I reveal any hidden artistic talent or sign of nuanced aesthetics. That’s why I  seriously considered tossing out a dozen Space Marine figures–my first attempt at the Knights of Altair–and looking for a professional painter.

The headline of this blog suggests my ambivalence. But after a mandatory don’t-do-anything-hasty period, I’ve decided my color scheme isn’t a complete embarrassment. I think I’ll keep the figs after all.

It was a close-run thing. I tried a lot of paint schemes for my Knights. I knew I wanted something on the lighter/brighter side, given that I wanted the figures to “pop out” a bit on the game table. I also knew, however, that I didn’t want anything too bright or colorful–I don’t know about you, but I think futuristic fighters wouldn’t care to be an easy-to-see bright yellow or red target on the battlefield. I don’t care how crazy they are in the 41st Millennium.

I toyed with a body armor of some traditional sci-fi colors: white ceramic, silver metal, military green, etc. I finally decided on a light gray/slate gray combination (Administratum Gray and Skavenblight Dinge). The grays suggest metal and are utilitarian, which I think fits Space Marines, and I have a sense the combination works on “some level.”

But it doesn’t thrill me. Recently I saw someone at my local hobby shop painting one of those new semi-Titan knights that Games Workshop is making. The painter had used a mix of 2 parts Catachan Green, one part Triel Yellow, and one part Leadbelcher. The paint scheme had a magnificent complexity and metallic sheen.


There is little highlighting of colors–I’ve never been successful with it. And, as I get older, the “three foot rule” is my new philosophy as far as detail. I did insist on one thing: No bland plastic shoulder pads with transfers. The left shoulder has a dedicated Black Templar shield pad with the appropriate icon; the right has a dedicated tactical squad shoulder pad. How clever of Games Workshop to make the metal pads large enough to fit over the shoulder pads molded onto the plastic arms.

Of course, that color probably works better on the larger surface of an Imperial Knight rather than a Space Marine. So there’s no guarantee that I could stolen that color scheme for the Knights. But it was an impressive example of the creative aesthetics of a skilled painter.

Well, that’s not me. But my color scheme isn’t too bad. My Knights are a pragmatic bunch. While I won’t entirely escape the gothic extras of the 40K universe, my Knights aren’t quite so interested in purity seals, fancy heraldry, etc. So if they’re a bit bland, that’s because they’re simple tradesmen–they kill, kill, and kill. There’s no time or interest in fluff. So maybe the gray will work out just fine.

It’s not that I didn’t try to spice things up a tiny bit. I made certain to use dedicated metal shoulder pads with the right icons in place, and I added a touch of red and gold to provide some contrast.

Such small patches of color also add something to the models on the tabletop. As I get older, the eyes are weakening, and as long as the miniature looks good on the battlefield (the “three foot” rule), it’s a reasonably successful paint job.

Finally, it occurs to me, the light gray might really make blood stand out on their armor. So maybe I need to think of a few weary veterans at the end of a long campaign. Cover them in gore, perhaps? Now that would test my artistic skills to the limit. But I should try and “up” my game, no matter how horrific the result may be.

I think I’ll pull out my painting guides and seek some more inspiration ….


The beginning of my Knights of Altair. Only the Brother Sergeant–and his second in command–will wear tunics/robes. This is as much for the convenience of identifying them as it is for aesthetics. I want utilitarian, but I couldn’t resist a little gothic to my Knights. I’m now working on my second tactical squad. Once it’s done–and I paint up my Forge World captain–I will be ready for some hit-and-run skirmish games against the ork invaders of Hegira.


Categories: Painting

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