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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Alpha Legion Secret Recipe - 11 Herbs and Spices

I've had a lot of folks asking me lately for a step-by-step on how I painted my Alpha Legion. I posted this on the Heresy 30K forums a couple years ago, here is is again. It probably isn't as thorough as it could be but you are a bright bunch, you'll figure it out. You are welcome to copy my paint scheme exactly if you really want, but I think you will enjoy yourself more if you take bits and pieces from different sources, mutate them, and create your own look. Stealing plus changing equals creating.

I painted these way back when jamming GW pancake batter paints through an airbrush seemed like a fun idea. It has been a long time since I've let GW paint anywhere near my airbrush.

Base: Temple Guard Blue
Shadow: Sotek Green + Incubi Darkness
Highlights: Temple Guard Blue + White

For vehicles I based the model out first and then traced out all of the the panel lines and crevices with the shadow color. Next I went back with the basecoat and toned down all of the panel line shading. Look up panel line shading or airbrush preshading on youtube for more info. Finally I lightly applied some of the highlight color to just the top surfaces.

For Infantry I did more of an apex highlighting technique. You can find tutorials for this on youtube too. I based them with the shadow color, then applied the base color but kept the airbrush at a high angle (45 degrees or so) to keep the shadow color on the undersides of the model. Next I applied the highlight color from an even higher angle (80-90 degrees). Note: I was not a master of this technique back when I did these!

For paint chips:
  1. Airbrush on the color you want the chips to be. (dark brown, in my case)
  2. Use a little piece of ripped up foam rubber or green scotch-brite scrubby sponge to stipple on liquid masking fluid (available from Dick Blick) wherever you want the chips.
  3. Airbrush base coat.
  4. Use Eraser, fingers and moistend Q-Tip, to rub off the liquid mask, revealing the chips in the base color.
  5. Then come back and add a few more small chips by stipping on chip color (dark brown) paint with a scotch-brite pad. I usually also add a few with a small brush when the sponge doesn't put them where I want them.
If you want, you can skip the whole liquid masking fluid technique and just dab on paint with the sponge/foam rubber. I just prefer the look you get with the liquid mask, at least for big chips on vehicles. Also Google the "salt chipping technique" and the "hairspray chipping technique" for other methods of geting a chipped look.

For this army I did a "pin wash" of AK interactive Track Wash and Light Rust Wash. These are pre-mixed oil based washes, but you can make similar ones out of tube oils and mineral spirits (white spirits in UK).

  1. Use a small brush with a good point(1 or 2?) and let the wash flow into all of the recesses, around rivets, in panel lines etc. Be as sloppy as you like. No, really.
  2. Let dry for 20 minutes or so.
  3. Come back with a brush or q-tip (I mostly use q-tips) dipped lightly in mineral spirits and wipe of all the excess wash. I go through many q-tips doing this. Use brush to get in tight areas as needed.

Aternatively, make a wash out of Gouache and water, wait for it to dry and then clean it up with water. Less stinky this way. Make sure you seal your acrylic basecoat with water before you go applying the gouache and wiping it off with a wet q-tip.

Powdered Pigments:
The rusty (some might say too rusty) look of this army comes from Secret Weapon's Terracotta powdered pigment.
  1. I use a brush to apply the powder liberally into the cracks and crevices. On this project, with this pigment, I just brushed it on dry.
  2. Next I take a big brush and brush off the excess. (hold your model over a cardboard box while you do all of this.)
  3. Finally, I come back with moist q-tips and rub the pigment off the high points, center of panels, etc. Anywhere I don't want it.
  4. I also used some raw umber and Fuller's earth (dust color), especially on the feet/treads.
  5. If you want, you can experiment with VERY light mists of matte varnish to seal it all on.
You can obviously use a lot less pigment to get a less dramatic effect if you desire. I went a little crazy because I liked the way it looked. Also note: all powdered pigments behave differently. The Teracotta sticks pretty well to models, others not so much. Applying denatured alcohol to an area first and then brushing on the pigment makes it stick MUCH better, but you don't get quite as soft of a look. I used alcohol to get the black pigment to stick to the exhaust and gun barrels.

AK interactive or Secret Weapon "Dark Steel" pigment. I'm pretty sure it is just graphite.
  1. Base coat (I used dark brown.)
  2. Brush on steel pigment.
  3. Rub the pigment with finger and/or brush to buff it and make it shine.
  4. Rejoice! That stuff is amazing.
  5. To help it stick better for better coverage, you can put on alcohol (first!) and then dust on the pigment.


  1. Very kind of you Marc, your work is really tremendous.

  2. Great write up Marc, and those jetbikes look amazing! I tried airbrushing with GW paints before as well and between my lack of airbrush skills and their paints it generally didn't go well.
    I haven't worked with the masking fluid yet but I keep seeing amazing things done with it and will have to give it a try

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  4. Thanks guys.

    Joe, I stopped using GW paints in my airbrush quite a while ago. It can be done but it is a fair amount of trouble, particularly in a brush with a really fine needle/nozzle. I'm a big fan of Tamiya at the moment. I wish they had more of a color range in flat though.

  5. Thank you for your guide :-)
    Two more questions. Which blue/purple paint did you use on the librarians helmet and which green paint did you use on the marines grenades?

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  7. Big thanks for taking the time to write this tutorial!
    I can't wait to try powdered graphite out myself on my Marines.
    I know I'm a bit late to the game, but I have a couple of questions that I hoped you could answer :)

    1. After applying the steel pigment, do you protect it somehow with a varnish?
    2. How do you avoid getting this on parts of the model you don't want it on?
    3. If you get some on unwanted areas, is it hard to get rid of?

    Thanks for your time! Keep up the awesome work.
    - Andreas

  8. Really a beautiful blog.It is very astonishing and marvelous design.