Brushes and Bitz.

My fine detail brush disintegrated on me a few days ago so I have been looking around for a new one.  I used to use the GW ones but when I went to look at some in the store the tips looked terrible.  After some research the best suggestions I could find were the Windsor and Newton series 7 brushes.  I did hear that Raphael 8404 were supposed to be very good but I couldn't find them in UK art shops. There is a very good review and comparison here.  So I now have a W&N series 7 size 00 brush and I'll let you know how it goes soon.  Below is a photo to compare it to my old brushes which I will still use for basic stuff.

In other news, I have now ordered some bits for my astral knights from Bitz Box so that I can start work on making the next combat squad look a bit more unique, more details to follow shortly.

WIP, nearly finished first combat squad...

I'm nearly there with the rest of the first combat squad, just need to do their shoulder pads in white, freehand the chapter icon and paint the boltguns.  I've found that my highlighting has improved over just five models, both in speed and accuracy as I gain familiarity with the paints and brush.

The only new thing on these three were the purity seals. The red is mephiston base red then highlighted in squig orange and washed in seraphim sepia.  The 'paper' is based in XV-88 then a layer of screaming skull and a wash of agrax earthshade.  You can't really see it in this photo but I gave the suggestion of text on the purity seals by using lines of mechanicus standard grey.  I quite like this as it is a bit of surprise and delight when you do spot it and it looks nice and faded like its been flapping around on their legs for ages.

Hopefully I'll have the whole squad up and running asap.  Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions, they are gratefully received.

First photos of fully finished Astral Knight.


There he is! Second test model now with boltgun and base all done. 

I did lie slightly.  As you can see I haven't decided on squad and company markings yet.  My current quandary is to decide between going stock codex insignia for the tactical squad badge etc and company markings, or do I go a little bit more 'knightly' and make up some images that more resemble knightly orders to represent these things.

The codex option would be very easy to do, it's all there I would just have to freehand it on the shoulder pad and knee guard.  The knightly option could be trickier, I really like the idea of each company being like an order of knights with it's own heraldic image (sticking to the blue and white colours). How you would get this on a knee pad I have no idea.  As for tactical, assault and devastator markings I would love to have something more unusual than the codex scheme.

So, any ideas out there?  Please feel free to give suggestions.

WIP, inner armour and silver bits.

As you can see the remaining three marines in my first combat squad are coming along slowly.

I have based them using PVA glue then sand, then a coat of XV-88, drybushed with screaming skull and washed with agrax earthshade and seraphim sepia in different areas to try and give the bases a subtle variation. 

For the flexible joints I have managed to grab some mechanicus standard grey rather than mixing up new stuff every time and this really speeds things up.  Currently they have just had flexible joints done , inner armour in old mithril silver and washed in nuln oil.  Eyes next and then I can start on the blue armour.

Basing my Astral Knights

I'm trying to find a basing theme for my astral knights that fits with the fluff but also works with the color scheme that they have.  So far I have just painted the bases a tan colour as it was the nearest thing I had to hand.  It turned out the colour looked really good, the warmth of the tan really made the cool blue, white and silver of the models stand out.  Now I just need to tweak it to fit the fluff and look more realistic.

I found this lovely tan coloured base on from the warp, which I think has the right degree of subtle texture and variation without being too distracting.

A rather happy coincidence was that they are bases for necron models, now the limited fluff we have about the Astral Knights mentions their destruction at the hands of necron force.  So why not use this to theme my bases?  I could use bits of necron warriors and scarabs to litter my bases with their fallen foes, The fact that they can be painted metal and then washed to make them look part of the base is just a bonus.

Conversion options for the helmets on astral knights.

Looking at the options to use to convert normal space marine heads to 'Astral Knights' heads I came up with the following options.


Depending on size and scale these could look really good on top of sergeants or characters helmets.  They get across the knightly idea whilst being subtly different from the roman and greek crests used by some other chapters.  They come from the empire knights set.

Mk III helmets
These definitely look the part and would be perfect for as many marines as possible.  I think the two on the right are from black templars and the one on the left is the company champion helmet from the command squad pack.  So any ideas on how to get hold of them or model them cheaply?

Maxmini heads

A company called maxmini does a range of head swaps designed for "steam knights", I don't know who the steam knights are but they could be a perfect fit for some astral knights.  The best options I could find are below

WIP, using spray basecoat

Having settled on my colour scheme and painting process I'm now going to start a short batch to finish off a combat squad of tactical marines.  They are all really basic, no conversions etc yet, I just want to make sure that I am happy with mass producing the paint process I'm using.  To that end I tried a spray basecoat for the first time.  I know that everybody is probably completely happy with using these but I have always been nervous about getting too much paint on, having a rough surface, dripping or filling in detail.

However as you can see from the photo it worked a dream. I carefully followed the instructions, short bursts, 30cm ish away and moving them all the time seems to have done the trick.  I can see how this would be a real time saver if you were doing large units.  Hopefully these three will be finished soon and I will have my first unit of troops!

Evaluation of second test model.

Having finished the second test model I feel it was a great success.

1.  The blue looks loads better, the brighter highlight means it looks like a much richer deeper blue and definitely makes the highlights pop a bit more. I'll be keeping this method for doing the blue.

2.  The silver is more obvious from a distance now that it is brighter.  This makes him look more knightly and less like an ultramarine, Double win!

3.  I didn't try the yellow for the shoulder pads. I couldn't bring myself to do it for a couple of reasons, firstly blue and yellow armour with red boltguns would have been too many primary colours, secondly white says 'astral' to me and yellow says 'solar' (starlight is white, sunlight is yellow).  The white looked much better when it was thinned base paint rather than layer paint so I am happy to stick with it.  I'll just have to tolerate the occasional ultramarine confusion.

What next?

I'm going to roll out this scheme on three more models to check it batch paints ok and then I am going to have to start thinking about basing and conversions to make the army stand out from just a custom paint job.

Any ideas for either are very welcome.

Lances on space marine bikes.

Having said I couldn't find any examples of space marines bikes with lances I've just come across this

They are by a company called puppetswar.  I know these look a bit more like scout bikes than full space marine but it was interesting to see Sci-fi bikes with lances.  These lances are bike mounted rather than carried in the hand which I would prefer but they do look quite cool!

I also found these more full marine bikes on their site.

These look really interesting and might make nice alternatives to spice up a bike heavy army, especially the heavy weapon one.

Comparison of the first two test models.

Here are some side by side comparison photos.

For those struggling to spot, the second test model is on the right in the top photo and on the left in the bottom two.

So the question is which looks best or do I need to combine elements of both?

Second test model for astral knights colour scheme.

The following images are of my second test model for my Astral Knights colour scheme.

As you can see there has been very little change from my last test model, but I can promise you it makes a difference.

Firstly the silver is brighter, I only used one wash of nuln oil over the mithril silver and then highlighted in the original silver

Secondly the blue has been given an extra highlight now it goes kantor blue, altdorf guard blue, teclis blue.  The final highlight is just a line highlight on those prominent edges that would get caught in a zenithal approach but the altdorf is still wet blended to give a much smoother finish.

Thirdly the white is done with a base paint not a layer paint which enables a much smoother finish over the black base coat.

So there it is, next time I will compare the two side by side to see the difference and what, if anything, I have learnt from the two.  Until then any comments gratefully received.

How 'Knightly' can I go?

Having chosen to go down the route of a very bike heavy, mobile army I am now thinking of how to give them a unique identity.  I don't want them to look like White Scars or Ravenwing, and I do want them to look like Knights!  Here are some inspiration ideas (images courtesy of GW)

These are empire knights and bretonnian knights, top and bottom respectively.  Now there are some very obvious unifying themes running through both.  Lances, fluttering banners, shields, and some form of helmet adornment.  They have differences too. The empire unit is very uniform, all the same colours, the same iconography and the plumes on all the helmets.  The bretonnian unit is the opposite, every knight has his own colour scheme, iconography, helmet adornment etc.  They also have a lot more flowing fabric. 

So how does this fit in with my Astral Knights bike army plans?  Obviously I can't have every biker in his own colour scheme with his own iconography etc, it just wouldn't fit in a space marine army.  The fluttering banners I can do, I found this tutorial that might just fit the bill perfectly so I'll have to try it out. I was wondering about giving each bike squad its own knightly order, not a colour scheme as such but just a heraldic image and colour for the left shoulder pad to act as a squad badge?  I think it could look quite cool on the battlefield.  The shields can be modelled on in a small way on most bikers without serious issue and major characters can go all out with elaborate sculpted shield designs. The robes can be done on special characters and are easily available from Dark Angel and Black Templar models. Next I come to the big two issues....

I can't find anywhere space marine bikers with lances or even an equivalent weapon so I can't do a wysiwyg job.  So do I kitbash some really cool looking 40k 'power lances' for my special bikers and have to use them as 'counts as' power swords or do I drop the idea or do I invent a new weapon and hope people will play them if I'm up front with the weapon stats and costs?

Helmet adornment.
Do I go for plumes or the icons?  Bearing in mind ease of construction, cost etc I am leaning towards plumes.  I am sure these can be sourced fairly easily and then kitbashed onto normal marine heads.  It would keep things nice and uniform cross the army and also fit with other chapters who have crests etc.  I would worry that animal horns etc would look too chaos, and we wouldn't want that would we?

Any suggestions or comments on these ideas would be really helpful so please feel free to give me your thoughts!

What kind of army should the Astral Knights be?

Whilst working on my second trial paint job I have been thinking about what kind of space marine army the Astral Knights would be.  Are we talking stand and shoot infantry, close assault specialists or mechanised spearhead etc...

I want the whole army to hang together as a coherent project so I had to think about what would fit best with the limited information GW have provided about them and with the name of the chapter.  I only have two real clues:  The first is the story of the chapter's annihilation whilst destroying a necron world engine, where they flew their battle barge into the shields and teleported down to the surface, finally blowing enough important stuff up to allow the imperial navy to finish the job.  The second is a quote from the chapter master at the time that goes along the following lines.

                 "Victory often rests on the correct weaponry being in the right place and at the right time. Even the most destructive weapons of war are worthless if absent from the battle. "

The first story would fit with mechanised infantry, mostly in various armoured personnel carriers, Rhinos, Razorbacks, Landraiders etc, then they would race across the battle field, disembark and assault the enemy.  This fits but it doesn't seem very knightly to cower in a tank before facing the enemy and the world engine story only happened as a last resort and just goes to show the chapters noble spirit.  (picture from GW)

More intriguing is the quote.  It makes me think of a very mobile army, with the ability to fire on the move and also go into close combat if necessary. Now this means bikes, assault bikes, landspeeders and the new stormtalon.  This concept also fits perfectly with the knightly image of riding into battle on a horse (think ravenwing/white scar).  (picture from GW)

So this is my current plan, when I have finalised the colour scheme and perfected the paint job I want to create a very bike heavy army of Astral Knights.

What do people think? Does it seem right given the limited info?  Any other ideas?

Why my second test model has taken a little while!

The following picture shows why my second test model has taken a little while to do, and I thought the edges of space marine armour was awkward to paint, just try cutting in all those corners on the roof with a 1.5" brush!

Anyway, the second test model is now finished and I'll put pictures up for comparison as soon as possible.