How Fast Can You Paint an Army?

Hey everyone, SaltyJohn from TFG Radio here to talk to you today about something I haven’t posted about in years. The Hobby of 40k.

I recently started a new Necron army. I say new because I had a Necron army in 6th, CronAir of course, but I sold it a long time ago. I am one of those 40k players who builds an army, plays it for a while, in some cases years, then sells it to buy a new army. The result is I have owned multiple armies, multiple times. Here are some shots of my past armies.

That’s nowhere near all of them, this stretches from 5th edition with the Salamanders through 8th edition with the Heresy scheme Death Guard. Believe it or not, the Salamanders are the only army I regret selling. There was also a Nurgle themed Guard army, Word Bearers, Templars, Orks, Eldar, even a fledgling Tyranid force at one point. You’ll note a few of the images are watermarked with which, in the heyday of 40k blogs, was a blog I ran before FLG and TFG Radio existed. It’s long since gone, but it was fun.

Sitting down to build my new Necron army from scratch made me think back to that original Necron army and a challenge I set myself for that army. Take it from bare plastic to fully painted in 5 days.

I succeeded, you can see pictures of it below, I also only lost out winning best painted at the local tournament I took it to the weekend I finished it by 1 point! But this also made me stop and wonder how I ever managed to do that! First, some more pictures.

When I went back through my old photos to find these images of the 5 day Cron Air challenge I began to remember just what was needed to complete such a task. I then began to think back at other projects that went quickly, my Silver Marines and Pre-heresy scheme Death Guard, are stand out examples. There are some common themes to these armies and their completion times while still looking good. If you’ve ever had the inspiration to try to speed paint an army to a decent standard there are a few things you’ll need to get it done well, at least in my experience.

1. Clear and relatively easy to accomplish paint scheme. The ITC minimum is 3 visible and distinct colors. That’s easy, and not quite what I mean. By clear and relatively easy I am talking about making sure you have a few quick and easy steps to finishing each model in the army, with the ability to step it up on the character and big models to really make them look nice.

For example, my Pre-Heresy Death Guard army was a simple scheme. Off-white armor, green and gold accents. Dark grey weapons with metal accents. Then wash the model to bring it all together. When looking to do my new Necron army I tried the same idea. Gold, red accents, dark grey weapons, green accents, wash. You’ll notice I used to try to do a lot of free hand type stuff. As time passed I become much more interested in the armies being complete than being amazing looking. I also recognized that I would never be a great painter, so I became determined to be a fast and efficient painter instead.

If you look back through my armies you will see that same trend of 2 main colors, a few accents, and washes. The key is to pick fast and easy ways to get the models done and looking good. Usually washes and dry brushing work best for me.

2. Colored Primers. This is key to all my armies, and it’s also key to step 1! All the armies I complete quickly use colored primers. The Gold Crons will obviously be primed with a gold primer. My previous Necron army was primed either silver or blue. The vehicles with large amounts of blue were obviously primed blue while the Necrons themselves were primed Silver. My Silver Marines were silver primer, the Death Guard were actually primed brown. The key to that was I then used a quick heavy dry brushing of White Scar over that, which once washed, really made a great color. Again, quick and easy to execute is key.

3. Dry Brush, Washes, Glaze, and Texture. Games Workshop puts out a veritable cornucopia of paint products these days. Use them! The most effective tools to getting models up to speed quickly is mastering the Dry Brush technique and figuring out how to use the different paints effectively. Learning to use washes well is a huge bonus to your ability to speed paint. If you want things to look weathered and dirty quickly, especially tank treads, look no further than the Typhus Corrosion textured paint, it’s amazing. If you want to make your bases look a little better than learn to do static grass fast, or get some of the GW snow paint, it makes great looking snow very easily.

4. Time. If you want to really tear through an army fast, you need to combine the above strategies with some seriously blocked out time in your schedule. Maybe it’s dedicating 2 hours a night for 10 days straight, I’ve done that. Or, like with my Necrons in 5 Days it was Day 1: Primer. Day 2: Dry brush layers and accent colors. Day 3: Washes and begin details. Day 4: Basing. Day 5: Final details and glue in green rods. I went into it with a plan, I also made sure that day 2 I had a solid 5 hours to work on all the dry brush layers for the blue, gold, and the accent colors.

One of the coolest parts of playing 40k is playing with a fully painted army against fully painted armies and admiring the work of other hobbyists at the various events around the country. If you have a project you’re dying to get finished but it seems too daunting, try out the 4 strategies above, I think you’ll find that with just steps 1 and 2 you can significantly cut down the amount of time it will take you to paint a whole army to a good standard. Good luck!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About SaltyJohn

John has been playing Warhammer 40k since the 3rd edition box set with Space Marines, Dark Eldar, and weird green palm trees were in the set. He is currently a 40k Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, the largest 40k tournament in the world. An avid board gamer, a huge fan of video games, and a guest spot on Geek and Sundry as a "Historian" during an episode of "Game the Game" round out his geek credentials. You can catch "Salty" John on TFG Radio's Twitch Show, and Podcast, as well as find him streaming video games on Twitch on the TFG Radio Twitch page from time to time.

4 Responses to “How Fast Can You Paint an Army?”

  1. Clopfoot June 25, 2018 12:01 pm #

    How do I make myself not care about mold lines? It takes so long to remove and is no fun at all. Removing this step would certainly speed up the overall process!

    • WestRider June 25, 2018 1:08 pm #

      Bourbon. I recommend Ezra Brooks 😉

  2. WestRider June 25, 2018 1:08 pm #

    I use a 1″ brush for painting houses to lay down my primary colour and drybrush on a layer or two of details. I have to be a bit careful when working around it, because it’s hard to touch up, but it looks really good for how fast it goes.

  3. Reecius June 25, 2018 1:11 pm #

    Great looking armies, John! I have been lucky enough to play against many of them and they do indeed look great in person.

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