Danish painting

Posted: December 7, 2011 in Features and opinion, Gaming, Reviews
Tags: , ,

No, that’s not some sexual euphemism. This is a wargaming post about painting goblins The Army Painter way, so if you don’t give a hoot about tiny toy soldiers, especially silly little goblins, the exit’s over there.

Actually, I have not been painting my goblins The Army Painter way. Let me explain.

I’ve been meaning to get hold of some of The Army Painter’s funky dip for some time. Dip? Army Painter? Okay, if you’re not in the know, here’s a quick Army Painter 101.

Wargaming’s pretty big in Scandinavia, with an emphasis on the gaming side. There are a load of tournaments and events and so forth up there – long winters, y’see – and that means lots of models need painting. It just won’t do to play at an event with unpainted figures, oh no. Now, some of the very best miniatures painters in the world come from Scandinavia, but they also like to get their models done quick. Painting models is a lot of fun for the likes of me, I experience the kind of floaty zen buzz you can only get from total concentration on a task. Unlike playing a computer game or some other geeky pass time (of which, my friends, I have several) producing a finished model gives you something to look at, something you’ve done. It’s a real sense of achievement, I tells ya.

Contrarily, painting an ENTIRE ARMY is a massive pain in the balls. What do you do? You could paint every model the best you can. This is my favoured approach, with some compromise. Big drawback – you never get enough painted models on the table. Alternatively, you can slap a load of paint on them to get them up to “Wargaming Standard”.

I look at the models, the beautiful, beautiful models, and then I look at most people’s “wargaming standard”. What we’re really talking is three-colour, mass-produced Chinese toy standard. It makes me sad for all the little goblins to see that, it really does, with no eyes painted on and quick daubs to show up their lovely sculpting. Poor little goblins.

The Army Painter offers a third way. The idea is that you paint on the basecoat of a model (non-wargamers, a basecoat is a flat block of colour, not highlighted or shaded or anything), then dip it in this magic dip. The dip’s a varnish with a brown pigment in it that simultaneously shades (by dint of the pigment running into the cracks) and protects (by dint of being a varnish).

The idea came from America, where serious hobbyists were using floor polish to do the same thing. A couple of Danish guys I used to work with at GW – Bo Penstoft and Jonas Faering – decided to make something tailored to the task. They also make coloured primer sprays. Most people prime with white or black spray before painting. You have to prime, normal acrylic paint will rub off the model without a primer. Having a primer in the model’s majority colour instead saves more time. This is actually a seriously old-school wargaming technique used by historical gamers, like my dad.

Anyway. I have an all-goblin army. None of those orcs, no sir. The thing is with all-goblin armies is that they are HUGE, really HUGE. Hundreds of models. A horde army, in the hobbyist lingo. I’ve long used a lot of inkwashes, especially brown, to speed up my painting. Inks are pooh-poohed by top-range painters, but to me they’re a good short cut to an army with a reasonable standard. Indeed, I wrote a couple of articles on this for the UK edition of White Dwarf when there was such a thing, and I was its editor.

What I like about it

I love the smell of it, takes me right back to my earliest hobby days when I used to use yacht varnish to protect my models. I pinched this off my father, who used it to thin down oil paints to paint his own models. Army Painter dip smells exactly like it. Ah! Nostalgia (anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how much I hate nostalgia. But no, this is good nostalgia).


I like the fact that it covers the model in a tough protective coat. Sure, you need to take the shine of it, because it is super gloss. Army Painter do a proprietory spray, but I use paint-on, Windsor and Newton artist’s matte varnish. A lot of my models are metal, some are even the old lead alloy. I’ll be painting them until I die. Varnish this tough should stop that annoying chipping, especially on all those pointy goblin hats! It also binds the basing material to the base really strongly.


The shading does actually work. Kind of. I’ll explain what I mean later.


It’ll blend rough highlighting or drybrushing nicely, meaning you can be quicker and less neat.

What I don’t like so much

£20 a tin. I was expecting something the size of an emulsion pot, but it is a lot smaller. I can just about live with that though.

Drying time

Like varnish, it takes forever to dry – 24 hours. Pick up a metal model before then and you’re in danger of the paint coming off with the tacky dip. Also, beware of windblown fluff and unexpected falls into modelling detritus.


I don’t dip. The guys recommend dipping with pliers and  flicking the excess off for best results, but this makes a shit load of mess and is wasteful. Their other method, painting it on and sucking up pools with a clean brush, is the one I employed. I’m finding it hard to gauge how much to use, but that’s my fault, not the product’s.


Strong tone takes the warmth of a colour down, and reduces the brightness of the hue. Like, my goblins’ skin looks more like orc skin. But easily solved, I’ll use brighter paint in future at the initial stage.


It is super shiny! Get the shine off takes a while, no matter what you use.

How I use it

Amry Painter make three shades – Light Tone (light brown), Strong Tone (Dark Brown) and Dark Tone (Black).I’ve been using the very Danishly-named Strong Tone (we Brits would probably have gone for something less macho, like mid tone, or tea).

I find myself employing the dip as a kind of shortcut, but not a panacea to the ills of painting a million models. For me, the end result of applying it directly over a basecoat isn’t quite good enough. It works really well on flesh, browns, reds  or bone. Check out their website for some seriously cool Skaven, Skeletons and historical models. What it doesn’t look so hot on is goblinoid flesh tones. Not because the dip doesn’t work with green, it does, but because the best goblin-y paint jobs have quite a high contrast between highlights, and the dip doesn’t deliver on this score. Then there are things like metal, which it looks fine on, but which a little extra work will make look more splendid.

What I’ve been doing then is painting my models as normal but as with inks, omitting several stages. Army Painter dip is better than ink too, as it mostly collects in the crevices of the model. Like GW’s newish washes. But a lot cheaper.

I’ve been painting Night Goblin Squig Hoppers, both old Kev Adams jobs and newer-school Brian Nelson ones. The older models took longer, as there is more detail on them. Here’s a breakdown – all the paints I use are Citadel Colour. I glue sand on the base and undercoat first.

Robes: Drybrush grey over black primer

Squig: Mechrite Red with Blood Red/ Bronzed Flesh drybrush

Teeth/ rope belts/ horns: Deneb Stone

Metal: Boltgun Metal

Squig eyes: Iyanden Darksun

Goblin eyes: Blood Red

Goblin skin (a bit more involved, as this is the focal point of the model): Knarloc Green basecoat, 1st highlight Gretchin Green 2nd Highlight Gretchin Green/ Rotting Flesh.

Pouches: Brown (from the scenery painting kit – I love my big bottle of “Brown”)

Sand base: Brown

Wood: Brown/Chaos Black/ Bronzed Flesh mix (to get a kind of grey/green)

I then paint on Strong Tone.

Painting time is not as quick as the Danes intended, but I’m not using it like they say. Result is, it still looks nice, and it’s quicker than it would have been as I’ve saved myself three or four stages all told. So I’m happy.

For less prominent models, like the thirty or so archers I have to paint, I’m going to cut even more out.

///UPDATE///Since I wrote this post a couple of days ago, I have finished more Night Goblin Squig Hoppers with flat Gretchin Green for the skin and a couple of other stages taken out. They look great, and were very fast to paint. ///UPDATE///

If I can sort out my shitty photography, I’ll put up pictures. For now, you’ll just have to take the word of a 30-year wargamer/ ex-White Dwarf Editor that Army Painter dip is damn cool stuff.

  1. JP says:

    I too use the Army Painter method and thanks to this great invention (Devlan Mud by GW does a similar job as does Tamiya Smoke) have now painted up over 1500 points of Elves, Undead and Dwarfs and allowed me to get on with the gaming. I’m about to start an Orc army in the new year followed by some Abyssal Dwarfs.

    I am looking forward to the new year when Army Painter bring out their range of 36 paints, including the three quickshades in dropper bottles.

    Cheers – JP

  2. Joshua Mann says:

    I have just recently bought a can of Dark Tone Quickshade. Planning to use it on some skeletons from Mantic Games. I am looking forward to that project.

  3. Joshua Mann says:

    I haven’t been making much progress with my miniature model painting recently. I blame Guy Haley for this. It is your fault, you hear? I have been totally distracted by my fresh new “Reality 36” Kindle e-book. It looks like I am not going to be doing much else until I finish that novel. I can’t pull myself away.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s