Sunday, October 2, 2011

How to paint a Plagueclaw Catapult/ Warplightning Cannon. Step-by-Step Guide.

Below you will find a (long!) step-by-step guide to painting a Skaven Plagueclaw Catapult to what I reckon would be "Tabletop quality". This is the Games Workshop plastic kit that can usually be assembled as either a Plagueclaw catapult or a Warplightning cannon. (For a step-by-step guide to painting the metal Warplightning Cannon kit click here.)

Note: this guide focuses on painting, rather than assembly. The kit comes with instructions for several variations to suit different tastes. For my model (as you can see if you look closely) this is actually a simple conversion of the kit that allows me to use it as either a PCC or a WLC.

Before you start:
1. Don't glue the body of the unit to the base until after you have finished painting the whole thing main structure.
2. If you want to make the item "Dual-use" at time of assembly DON'T glue the barrel or axle in place. The barrel/ central structure should be free to rotate. (Friction should be enough to hold the whole thing together.)
3. For ease of painting, you may want to keep the 3 main pieces of the unit separate until after painting (left frame, right frame, and catapult/ cannon.) This will make it much easier to paint the frame. (Trust me, it is MUCH harder to do if you glue it all together first. I you don't have to!) I didn't glue the model to the base until everything was painted up.

EDIT: Following the launch of the latest Citadel Paint range in 2012, please note that the colours listed below are from the previous range. I hope to have time to rewrite in the future, but for the time being, you can use the conversion chart/ list I made here or use the official Citadel Conversion chart here.

Step 1: Assembly and Undercoat.
1. Prepare the model by filing away any mould lines. On this model, you may find quite a few on the beams of the catapult frame and the barrel of the cannon. They may not look big, but they will show up even more when you paint the model, so take the time to remove them now!
2. Paint PVA glue onto the base, and dip in modelling sand. Allow to dry, and then tap the base to remove any loose sand.
3. Undercoat all parts using Citadel Chaos Black undercoat spray (or equivalent.)
4. At this point, I drybrush Calthan Brown onto the bases of the crew and the catapult followed by a second drybrush of Calthan Brown/ Skull white 80/20. I then paint the base edges with Snakebite Leather. (I just prefer to do this at the beginning of a project, rather than at the end.)
Chaos Black Undercoat.

Step 2: Basecoat(s).
Apply thin layers of colour (better to reapply a colour than have a layer that is too thick and obscures detail.)
a.) Catapult:
Calthan Brown: Wooden frame.
Boltgun Metal: PCC Claw, metal parts, wheel rims, nails, blades, spikes on frame.
Dwarf Bronze: WLC barrel runes, cannon assembly.
Mechrite Red: Wires/ tubes on frame and on the warpstone boulder.
Bleached Bone/ Sunburst Yellow: 80/20 mix on the PGC "Payload" (the "gunk"!)
Dark Angels Green: Warpstone, WLC "barrel".

b.) Crew:
Tallarn Flesh: Skin, Tail, Face, feet.
Boltgun Metal: Armour, tools, weapons.
Snakebite Leather: belt, gloves.
Bleached Bone: Teeth.
Blood Red: Eyes
Ice Blue: Cloth.
Regal Blue: Lenses on engineer's rangefinder (if using that part.)

After basecoats, before washes etc. (Note how "Shiny" the metal is.)

Step 3: Washes.
a.) Catapult:
Devlan Mud. (simple eh!)

b.) Catapult payload:
Bleached Bone/ Sunburst Yellow: 80/20 mix, with Thrakka Green (not TOO much. Just enough so you get a runny green/ yellow.)
Thrakka Green. (between the bubbles. )

c.) Crew:
Devlan Mud: Armour, weapons, cloth.
Ogryn Flesh: Skin.

Step 4: Drybrushing
Now that you have added some depth and shadow to the model by using washes, drybrushing will help to give contrast by adding highlights so the whole thing doesn't look too dark . In this case, to keep things simple and fast, drybrushing will be as simple as using the exact same colours that we did before and done only once. To get more contrast, or for a better effect, add a little bit of white to the colour. If you want an even better effect, do 2-3 gentle layers of drybrushing, each time adding a little more white. (You can find a great guide here: Guide to Drybrushing on How to Paint Miniatures)

Detail of drybrushing - Calthan Brown

You don't have to drybrush all colours for a model that is just for tabletop play...
a.) Catapult.
Calthan Brown. (Wood frame.)
Boltgun Metal.
Mechrite Red.
Bleached Bone/ Sunburst Yellow.
Dark Angels Green/ Snot Green. (70/30 mix) (On the warpstone. Then a further drybrushing with 60/40 mix.

b.) Catapult payload:
Bleached Bone/ Sunburst Yellow: 80/20 mix.

c.) Crew:

Boltgun Metal: Armour, tools, weapons.
Ice Blue: Cloth.
(If you havn't already drybrushed the bases on the crew, do it now. Calthan Brown, then Calthan Brown/ Skull White 80/20 mix)

Step 5: Highlights
Highlights add more realism and visual interest to the model, and make the detail of the model stand out more, especially when viewed from a distance. This is as easy as adding a tiny dot of a brighter colour to a point, or "edge highlighting" where you use a brighter colour on edges.

a.) Catapult:
Chainmail: Spikes, nails, edge highlights on the barrel.
Shining Gold: edges of any Dwarfbronze area on the WLC.

b.) Catapult payload:
Bleached Bone/ Sunburst Yellow: 70/30 mix.

c.) Crew:
Chainmail: edges of armour etc.
Shining Gold: edges of engineer's rangefinder.
Snakebite Leather/ skull white: 80/20 mix. Leather gloves, belts etc.
Dwarf Flesh/ Elf Flesh: 70/30 mix (on skin, arms etc.)
Dwarf Flesh/ Elf Flesh highlights

Step 6: Details
a.) Rust.
Rust wash on nails, bolts, blades etc. (VERY watered down Solar Macharius Orange, dabbed on, and then quickly dabbed off with a tissue so it stays in cracks etc.) You can also paint thin streaks of rust onto the model where rusty streaks might occur, such as metal that would be immobile - nuts, nails etc.
Rust on blades at the front of the frame.

Rust on nails and metal fittings, with streaks painted on.

b.) Warpstone Glow.
Using the same shade as used when drybrushing the warpstone, gently drybrush areas of metal near the warpstone chunks, where the glow of the warpstone might be reflected.
Warpstone glow added to Bronze assembly.
c.) Lenses on the Engineer's Rangefinder.
On the lower edge of the lens, apply 2-3 progressively lighter shades of Regal Blue towards the lower rim of the lens, and the same shade at the top of the lens, topped off with a dot of Skull White. (A great tutorial for painting a lens can be found over at Advanced Tau Tactica.)
Blue lens on rangefinder.

Step 7: Final Basing.
At the beginning of the project, I prepped the bases by drybrushing them. Now I want to add some grass/ flock.
1. Paint on areas of PVA glue to the base.
2. Dip in modelling flock and allow to dry.
3. Once dry, glue the model to the base.


NOTE: You never really finish a model, as there is stuff you can always add. In this case, next steps might be:
- Add some bronze patina to "age" the bronze.
- Add some detail to the base to make it more interesting (grass, rocks, arrows embedded in the mud etc.)

Thanks for looking!



  1. I feel a kindred spirit. I'm returning to gaming too after over 20 years. I miss the call of battle. I'm building a Skaven horde too. Just ordered them off eBay. Keep it up!


  2. @DrDMS - Nice to see another new Warlord around!
    It was about the same for me too. A LONG time! This past year or two has been a lot of fun. Due to my work and location I don't get to play many games, but I am enjoying the painting and the occasional games I DO get. Welcome back to wargaming and I hope you have as much fun as I am!


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