Barrels out of Bond, Part Three: Painting the Miniatures

Hello and welcome back for the conclusion of my 3-part series on (what was going to be) my Golden Daemon 2020 Diorama entry, Barrels out of Bond. Last time, I covered how I painted the diorama itself and revealed the completed piece. In this post, I’m going to give some close ups on the miniatures themselves and touch a little bit on the why I painted some of the miniatures the way that I did.

Let’s jump right into it with the stars of the show themselves – Barrels out of Bond.

Right out of the gate1, I’ll admit some trepidation about painting these minis. Not only were these to be the focal point of the diorama, they were also the most numerous – and each mini a unique character sculpt to boot. I’ll concede right now that this trepidation was entirely unfounded. These miniatures were a blast to paint, with a very favourable Effort to Reward ratio. Some of this was down to the barrels – these in particular were very easy to batch paint – but the Dwarves themselves were also nice, clean sculpts with pronounced details and clear volumes.

After a quick primer coat with Hycote Grey, I started painting the barrels themselves in an assembly line. The first step was a base coat over the wood with Dark Fleshtone, the metal trims in Brassy Brass and the rope bindings in Elfic Flesh and this was followed up by a quick wash of Seraphim Sepia.

After the wash had dried, I started to build up the wood panel colours by painting panels with thin lines of Leather Brown to represent the wood grain, followed up with some finer yet lines of Elfic Flesh. This was then glazed with a thin coat of Seraphim Sepia to bring the tones of wood grain together a little. The rope bindings were done by very carefully picking out each little raised knot and bump in the bindings with Elfic Flesh, leaving the shaded tone in the recesses. This was an admittedly tedious process, but not especially difficult, and the additional contrast really makes the bindings pop. Finally, I brightened up the barrel trim with a layer of Vallejo Glorious Gold and an edge highlight of Army Painter Shining Silver, then finished with a final, thin wash of Reikland Fleshshade around the trim to restore the shading to the delicate surface texture lost in the layering process.

Oh, I also painted the inside of the barrels black.

Then there was the Dwarves themselves, which I painted with a mixture of batch painting and individual focus – I applied the base coats and washes in one large batch, layered in groups of 3-4 and applied the highlights on one miniature at a time. The first challenge was picking out the right colours for each of my Dwarves. I struggled for a while with trying to freeze-frame The Desolation of Smaug, but eventually remembered that one major benefit of painting from reference is that Games Workshop have already done this for me on their web store. I tried to follow this colour scheme as closely as I could, making only subtle changes where I felt would improve character distinction – Thorin’s brown hair is darker and less saturated than the other brown-haired Dwarves in the party, Bombur’s ginger locks are a little closer to yellow than the reddish beard of Glóin, and Dori is given a more warm, ivory tinted beard (like the Barrel bindings) while Balin’s was based with a colder, slightly blue-tinged white.

I had really expected this stage to take a long time, but it might have been even quicker than painting the barrels. The flesh was my usual Rosy Flesh, Pale Flesh, Elfic Flesh then Reikland Fleshshade method, the hair and beards mostly very light edge highlighting and washes. Even the clothes were lovely and textured, the volumes making it really easy to know where to put the highlights. Colour choices were my usual affair – Dark Fleshtone, Leather Brown, Camouflage Green, Heavy Red, Elfic Fleck, Heavy Bluegrey, Black, White and a mixture of Seraphim Sepia, Agrax Earthshade, Nuln Oil, Reikland Fleshshade, Carroburg Crimson and Athonian Camoshade2 to wash.

Honestly, there’s not much else to say about the paint jobs – they were that much of a doddle to rattle through, in the end. The base surfaces were painted with Nihilakh Oxide and Guilliman Blue glaze and – after varnishing – given a couple successive layerse of Water Texture/Snow Texture mix to finish, and they were complete.

Conventional wisdom would have told me to begin painting with the two, unnamed Mirkwood Elves – these models were less important than Legolas and Tauriel, cheaper to replace and even had exact duplicates in the set if I really messed it up.

But I am a child and have no self-control, so Legolas and Tauriel it is.

These minis were a lot of fun to paint, with a whole number of a little challenges to overcome. Foremost was the green on their tunics – I wanted a vibrant, saturated forest green for sure, but the tails Tauriel’s tunic in particular had something of a leafy, plantlike shape to them that encouraged me to pursue an organic aesthetic. To that end, I started with the very middling, slightly yellowish Vallejo Goblin Green, shaded down with Biel Tan Green wash. From there, I built up my edge highlights with Goblin Green, successively adding more and more Sun Yellow into the mix with each, sharper layer to give it a bright, warm tinge rather than desaturating it with white. For the final edge highlight on the corners and sharpest edges, I mixed in a little Elfic Flesh to push up the contrast. The centre of the panels I layered by painting thin vertical lines running down the tails and the robes in Goblin Green, repeating with a little Sun Yellow mixed in on the more raised areas. Finally, I glazed over the panel with some more Biel Tan green, thinned with a little Lahmian Medium to bring it all together again and smooth out some of my harsher lines. This whole process gave the robes the impression of a very subtle grain, such as that of a leaf. This effect was fairly noticable in person, but the effect is washed out somewhat by my shoddy photography/post-production skills. If you look closely however, you can see it in the photos (even moreso on the Mirkwood Elves pictured below).

Another neat little challenge was painting Tauriel’s corset thing – picking out the detail in the scale-pattern and edging was especially difficult. As ever, the solution was layering and highlighting first, then applying washes as a final step to bring all of the colours together and help clean up any errors in cleanliness. I based it in Army Painter Leather Brown and highlighted with Vallejo Leather Brown, then Elfic Flesh, and very carefully applied a thin coat of Seraphim Sepia back down to shade the recesses and blend the highlights.

The main thing that I struggled with on these miniatures, however, was painting Tauriel’s face. I have always found painting female faces extremely difficult, and after a couple botched attempts, I found myself in hot water trying to correct my mistakes without the paint becoming too thick on this tiny, delicate facial sculpt. I went in knowing only one thing about painting female faces – shade the areas around the eyes to help make them pop, in a similar fashion to how eyeliner works. Through a lot of trial and error on this miniature, I have also come to the realisation that female faces work better with as little dark contrast as you can get away with – as it stands, this miniature looks perfectly fine from a profile angle, but the more front on you get, the less ‘right’ things begin to look. If I was to do this miniature from scratch, I’d probably avoid using Reikland Fleshshade at all on the face – except around the eyes and directly under the nose.

So, what’s the point of learning if you can’t put what you’ve learned into practice? I followed up Legolas and Tauriel immediately with a male and a female miniature from the Mirkwood Elves kit.

These miniatures really benefited from lessons learned on Legolas and Tauriel, almost so much so that I’d have considered stripping them and repainting them if I weren’t already so physically and spiritually drained from painting and building the diorama at this point. Not much else to say about these guys – I did a lot of what I did on Tauriel again on these miniatures, with the benefit of a little hindsight. I pushed the contrast on the robes a little further, I painted their braces and boots in a similar style to the corset – using Dark Fleshtone as a base instead of Leather Brown, and Reikland Fleshshade as the wash. For whatever reason however, the leggings came out a little more ‘blue’ than the ‘grey-blue’ of Legolas and Tauriel. Remember folks, always write down your painting recipes if you plan to repeat them.

While Legolas and Tauriel’s bows were a little awkward to string, I was able to get to do it on the Mirkwood Elves – this was just 0.5mm clear nylon string, attached at both ends with superglue and tinted with Seraphim Sepia. I tried to make the sliding elf look like the string is mid release, but I’m not really sure how well that worked – maybe I’ll add an arrow someday.

And finally, the Three Hunter Orcs3! These guys were the very last thing I painted for the diorama – it was in fact while procrastinating painting these guys that I decided to cut deeper inlays into the diorama for the barrels, leading me down that rabbit hole (see Part 2).

What to say about these guys? I painted the Orc with green swords first, and he just might be the honest-to-God best face I’ve ever painted on a miniature. So much so, in fact, that I reshuffled the positions of the Orcs and Legolas/Tauriel on the diorama so he wouldn’t be standing with his back turned. Honestly, it was somewhat effortless too, at least compared to the rigmarole of Tauriel’s face5.

Beyond the face, I’m not sure what else to say about these guys that hasn’t been said before about my Warg Rider Orcs; as ever, I wanted all three of them to have distinct skin tones (easily one of the most fun things about painting Middle-earth Orcs) and that I wanted their garbs to be a mishmash of red, brown and black. They had to look varied enough to appear a rabble, but close enough that they’re all clearly the same faction – and I think I achieved that balance.

This theme of individual but unified carried over onto their basing as well. The Orcs needed to blend in with the diorama, and so I forgone my usual ‘Evil’ basing scheme (as this would require snow effects, or menacing green stonework – neither of which is appropriate for Mirkwood Forest) in favourite of a tuft-heavy approach as with the Elves on the diorama. This time however, I went for a more subdued palette of tufts – I outright avoided any colourful flowers or bright greenery, and used only muted/brownish green tufts sparingly, with a heavier use of the brownish Mountain Tuft and a couple of Wasteland Tuft in there, to help portray the corrupting influence of the Gundabad Orcs. They still blend in nicely with the diorama itself, and I think that I can probably blend them in with the rest of my Evil miniatures, should I ever decide to paint more Hunter Orcs for gaming purposes (I still have the rest of the kit on the sprue, after all).

With the Hunter Orcs finished, my diorama was complete!

And so that concludes the final chapter of my 3-part series on my Barrels out of Bond diorama. It’s been a long journey, building, painting and writing about this piece – from the concept, to the diorama building to the miniatures themselves. I’m really proud of everything that I learned, accomplished and produced in this process and I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed building and painting it.

And if you’re curious about what I’ve got planned for after this diorama, my next big project is re-purposing my Rivendell and Angmar armies for a long overdue, but rather considerable, narrative scenario from the Fellowship of the Ring – so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Until then – thanks for reading, and happy wargaming!

1 Terrible diorama pun absolutely intended, if not aggressively shoehorned.

2 On Balin’s rather fetching green shirt.

3 From left to right: Legolorc, Gimlorc and Aragorc4.

4 Sorry.

5 Yeah, so, at the point I started typing this footnote, I have already gone back with a cotton bud soaked in Biostrip 20 to strip Tauriel’s face, because I hated how it turned out that much. It then took me a further 3 hours to paint until I was satisfied-ish. I have only ever done that once before, on Lindir. Blimmin’ Elves, eh.

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