How to finish painting a WARHAMMER 40K army.

I just read an article on IMPERIUS DOMINATUS blog, about unfinished armies. This is something almost every one of us has experienced, is guilty of. I’d love to hear from those people who don’t leave armies unfinished/unbuilt/unpainted, to be more inspired. In fact I like reading articles by motivated hobbyists, and seeing completed projects, and learning new techniques and skills. Sometimes we’ll have the time and energy in our lives where we have everything we need to get something done, all the pieces in place, the paints, and time and place to have a smooth project from start to finish. The fact is these are special conditions, that one needs to create for one self, in order to complete one of these projects in a timely manner. Most of us have challenges, mostly to do with time and/or money. Either you have one or the other, rarely does one have both, unless quite lucky or very resourceful. So today I’ll  blog a little about some ways to get a pile of models into a table-top ready force, for Warhammer 40K, or any platoon-level, miniatures based war game that requires models be painted.

1)Get ready to paint-you need to buy or acquire an army, whether its Forgeworld resin, stock GW plastic and Finecast, E-bay or a little of all three, you’ll probably have to buy an army. I usually buy some extra units, and options but about 2000 points is a nice round number to start with. You should have a Codex/Army Book or list to know what units you need to compose your army. Some research goes a long way here, especially if winning games is at all important to you. It is rather disheartening to get crushed  game after game with the beautifully painted army that isn’t very effective in the game. If you aren’t sure just copy a list! Or evaluate several and try to concoct a winning list using these concepts. You’ll be more likely to finish the army if it can at least hold its’ own in a typical game. Eventually you’ll learn what works best for your games, and what you like to do in them, but to get started and actually finish an army, I say it is ok to at least use the oft maligned ‘net list’ as a good starting point for a new army, then add or change things later on if you want. You also really need to choose a paint scheme. Do some research, find easy or quick schemes and techniques. Unless you have a lot of time to dedicate to painting that elaborate scheme pick something easy or copy someones quick speed painting ideas. The planning/purchasing/painting process needs to be done in a timely manner if you want to use the army before the rules/codex change, and you have to get more models to make the army usable again.

2)Focus! This is the hardest part for many people. There are so many games with multiple armies, and options to choose from. I am a big fan of collecting games, armies and rule sets. But this will not help you get anything finished. Try not to start any new projects, before completing at least purchasing all you need for the first project. It is hard not to start thinking of the next game or army to get into, even start buying rules, models or even building for the next project. But this will lead to multiple unfinished projects as interest and inspiration fades. If you have not played the game, don’t keep starting new armies for that game. Although you love miniatures and armies, there are many other games to try, and may keep your hobby fresh by having some alternative games, model scales, skirmishes, settings, to keep the hobby fun. Keep the project at a reasonable level. Don’t paint all of the extra units, and options yet. Just get the main force done, based, everything. Then it is a lot of fun adding a new element to an existing force. It is very difficult not to want to start that next army,  build or paint something different, spend a month with the next Xbox game,  just sit and watch TV. Any hobby thing I do is that project I’m focused on, if I’m really trying to get an army done. You chosen a list and a paint scheme, stick with it and get it done. Sometimes you just have to take a break, to play some games, work on other projects,  start a new game or system, but finish the unit you’re getting bored with, even if it means compromising on the details, and then give your self a defined break. That will help recharge you. It is a bit of a handful painting 60+ infantry models, so it is inevitable you’ll need a break sometimes, the trick is to get back to it in a meaningful way and finish this army up! Ideally you’ll have a timeline or deadline, for a special game or tournament. In fact the more people involved the better. People who have the time and resources to make reasonable progress on their own projects who can help drive you on, through the sometimes tedious painting process. Find inspiration, and get it done!

3)Tabletop quality-I have a hard time not wanting to lavish details on every soldier but many of those details will go to waste, especially if the army is never finished or used. You can make the leaders and heroes and centerpiece units look great, they’ll get the most attention anyway. Just chose a few details, and keep it fairly simple with some of the highlights, on the main force. They will look amazing as a coherent group, even if there are some quality differences here and there. A finished army always looks respectable on the table. If you plan the paint scheme and color plan to a 2-4 foot perspective, and plan a quick, speed-painting style you’ll be able to have all your projects finished and playable armies that you can add to or play with. Then as your painting improves, you can improve upon the painting quality and unit composition with a new project, take more time if you want, and still be able to play with your other armies. Be realistic. Get a couple of armies on the table. Do the best you can, learn some good painting techniques so you don’t have to do re-do them. You could add more details later if you want. Well prepared miniatures will look good even with simple paint jobs. Get an airbrush. The are a lot of great techniques to do some quick, cool paint jobs with some pre-planning. Most of us are painters by default, you’ll get better as you produce a few armies and learn more techniques, and build and collect more unique and personal/custom forces. It doesn’t have to be GOLDEN DEMON quality to look really cool, and be a lot of fun to game with. Keep it simple, and clean.

3)Set a goal, and monitor the progress weekly, monthly and yearly. You don’t have to feel guilty. Just figure out if you’re having fun, and adjust your goals as needed. If you made mistake, start over. Sell those models, if you’re not going to finish or play that game or army sell it or put it in a box, and learn from it. Really think about what you buy in the future, and finish the project, no matter what next time. Clear the board and start a whole new project or finish one that was started, See it to the end and get used to the feeling. Create weekly, monthly and yearly goals, adjust as needed. Re-view these goals regularly. Push yourself a little. I used to stay up all night to complete a unit, that is ok once in a while. Set deadlines for special games or tournaments, success breeds success. There are point systems, that are very effective, to keep up on your army projects.

4)Break it up. It could be best to buy and paint a unit or segment of the army at a time, then add the next unit. I like to build it all at once to maximize bits and conversions, but alternate painting vehicles and special models with squads of troops to keep it interesting, and the project moving along.

5)Research some other miniature games. Make sure you’re having the fun you think you should be having. There are many options these days. Don’t add another army to that game system you’re not even playing, or not having fun with. Play the rule-set or edition of the game you like best. Experiment with other rules using your model collection, or try  new models with a new battle field and game system. Keep it fresh, and do it quick. Not every army has to be expertly painted. Just speed paint some stuff, dip it in ARMY painter shade or something and play. I look at this hobby as a long-term activity. You could utilize some unused armies for some alternative rule sets and basing systems, and have more diversity in your gaming. Ultimately, this experience and can keep you interested in the hobby, and inspire you to create your next 40K masterpiece army with a lot a less pressure, and have some alternative ideas, and really appreciate the awesomeness of the opportunity to use the 40K rule set to create an exciting custom set of painted models to play games with that is also easy to find opponents for.


2 Responses to “How to finish painting a WARHAMMER 40K army.”

  1. Such a great article. I’m on my way painting my tau army and I needed some inspiration. This helped me a lot.
    Thanks sharing

    • This is a great time to revisit this article. I have aquired quite a few new games and miniatures in the last few years.I also got a new job, bought a house, wife had both hips replaced, toured and made some records with my band.

      I have several projects in the works. One of them is finishing painting an ADEPTUS SORORITAS army.

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