Sunday, September 16, 2012

How to Paint High Elf Silver Helms

Welcome to another painting guide here on the Chattering Horde. This time, we take a look at an iconic cavalry unit in the Warhammer Fantasy World... High Elf Silver Helms. This guide joins guides for the High Elf Swordmasters of Hoeth, Spearmen and Archers already on the site, and I hope to have a few others up in the coming weeks. 

Before we get started, please note that this guide is intended to get a "tabletop" quality unit done - good enough to proudly grace any gaming table and do battle! As I am not a painting expert, if you are looking for award-winning quality, you will have to look elsewhere. 

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.

So, on with the show. Marshal your forces! 

  • Skull White (spray undercoat)
  • Chaos Black 
  • Skull White 
  • Bleached Bone 
  • Codex Grey 
  • Space Wolves Grey 
  • Knarloc Green 
  • Snot Green 
  • Dark Angels Green 
  • Snakebite Leather 
  • Calthan Brown 
  • Tallarn Flesh 
  • Dwarf Flesh 
  • Elf Flesh
  • Boltgun Metal 
  • Chainmail 
  • Mithril Silver 
  • Dwarf Bronze 
  • Shining Gold 
  • Liche Purple 
  • Warlock Purple 
  • Devlan Mud(Wash) 
  • Ogryn Flesh (Wash) 
  • Gryphonne Sepia (Wash) 
  • Badab Black (Wash) 

Step 1: Preparation 

Generally, I assume not much needs to be said here. 
There are a couple of classic points to reinforce though. 
a.) When using a craft knife or blade at any point, be careful. Compared to the High Elves, we humans live pitifully short lives. A shame then to have even that brief contribution to the world cut short by a lethal craft-knife accident, or to spend the remainder of one's life and career a digit or two short of a full complement. 
b.) Clippers are a perfectly good way to remove model parts from the sprue, and a small file works really well for filing away mould lines etc. 

Step 2: First Basing 

Decent bases can make all the difference to a model and the visual impact of a unit, and they are surprisingly easy to do! At this point, I recommend the following (to save time later). 
- Apply PVA glue (or watered-down PVA glue) to top of the base of the model. 
- Quickly drop 2-3 pieces of crushed coral onto the glue. I prefer 2-3 pieces as I find this doesn't overwhelm the base, but you decide! (You can find crushed coral anywhere that aquariums are sold)
- While the PVA is still wet, sprinkle on (or dip the whole base into) modelling sand. 
- Allow to dry.

Step 3: Undercoat 

I use Citadel Chaos Black or Skull White spray paint here to quickly and easily undercoat the whole unit. In general, most people use a Skull White undercoat for a unit that will use brighter colours, while Chaos Black works well for units that will be muted, or use darker colours. Although I used Chaos Black for my other High Elves, here I used Skull White. Regardless of which you use, a key point is not to spray too close to the models, as this will clog up the detail with paint. 

Step 4: Basecoat(s) 

With a decent undercoat on which to work, we can now add our basecoats. These are the basic colours for the model. 
In this case I used the following. 
Tallarn Flesh: Skin, hands 
Snakebite Leather: Gloves 
Chainmail: Horse barding, rider's armour, sword fittings 
Mithril Silver: Lance heads 
Liche Purple: Edges of reigns, barding, rider's robes/ armour, fittings on lances. 
Dwarf Bronze: Musician's instrument, fittings on rider's helms, fittings on rider's armour, knee armour, shield fittings. 
Bleached Bone: Lance hafts, sword scabbards 
Snot Green: Gems 
For the horses, I used several colours throughout the unit to add some variety: Calthan Brown, Vermin Brown, Codex Grey, Space Wolves Grey and Chaos Black.

NOTE: It looks to me from reviewing my pictures that I added some colour at this point to the base (overbrushing some Codex Grey etc.) Usually however I wouldn't do that until after the rest of the model is painted.

Step 5: Washes 

Note the washes painted into the horse's legs at right.
Also the manes and tails.
Now that we have the basecoats on, your cavalry are starting to look ready to take the field, but they will still look a bit 2 dimensional, because they don't have any "Depth". Depth is created by having shadows in the right places, and the easy way to do that is to use washes. 

I use Games Workshop washes (because they are available to me) but if you don't have any, you can make your own using very watered down basecolours. I have never done this, but I understand that a touch of PVA glue in your homemade wash will help the paint flow nicely into the recesses of the model. (Just Google "How to make your own washes" to find articles like this one.)  

I use the following washes: 
Badab Black: Armour (rider and horse), and anywhere I had used Dwarf Bronze (helmets, musicians instrument etc.) 
Ogryn Flesh: Rider's skin, hands. 
Gryphonne Sepia: Gloves, feathers on the Champion's headdress 
Devlan Mud: Painted into the recesses of the muscles of the horse

I haven't painted horses before, so I went conservative by painting the washes into certain key areas where there would be a lot of shadow (around the muscles, in the mane etc.) but I didn't wash the whole horse. This meant that in the final analysis, the actual horse looks a bit "clean". I decided to leave it there, but again, the good 'ol internet offers lots of good articles like this one:  

Step 6: Layers 

Elf Flesh layers on the musician's face (center)
You can just make out Shining Gold highlights and Warlock Purple layers
Warlock Purple layers can be seen here.
Now that the model has some depth to it, we need to build up some contrasting areas of highlights. One way to do this is with layers of progressively lighter shades of our basecolours on raised areas of the model. 
When layering, be careful to leave the darker washes in the recesses of the model untouched. 
Tallarn Flesh/ Dwarf Flesh/ Elf Flesh mix: (Skin/ Hands) 50/50 mix of Tallarn Flesh with DF or EF, followed by a 30/50 mix. 
Snakebite Leather/ Bleached Bone: (Gloves) 50/50 mix on the raised areas. 
Chainmail: Horse barding, rider's armour, sword fittings. 
Liche Purple/ Warlock Purple: (Edges of reigns, barding, rider's robes/ armour, fittings on lances.) 50/50 mix, followed by 30/50 mix. 
Dwarf Bronze/ Shining Gold: Musician's instrument, fittings on rider's helms, fittings on rider's armour, knee armour, shield fittings etc. 
Bleached Bone/ Skull White: Edges of lance hafts, sword scabbards etc. 

A note on Skull White: As I was painting onto a thin Skull White basecoat, at this point I needed to add multiple further layers of Skull White onto any white areas of the horse armour and rider (robes etc.) It took several more layers to get the smooth effect I was looking for (2-3). The key point is to make sure that each layer you apply is nice and thin and applies evenly. Make sure your Skull White paint is watered down a bit when you apply each layer, and that you give each layer time to dry before applying the next one. This takes time, but gives a much nicer effect than a lumpy thick coat of white. 

A note on Gems: As I mentioned in my Swordmasters guide, I tend to leave gems until after drybrushing (step 7 below). I worry that drybrushing is an imprecise process that could easily spread the drybrushed colour over the gems, ruining the effect. If this doesn't worry you, they could easily be done at the same time as the other layers.

Oh, and a tip for the gems is to add a tiny dot of Skull White to the top and bottom of the gem, this adds a really nice effect!
Green gems.
Red Gems: Red Gore/ Blood Red mix: (70/30 mix, layering up to a 30/70 mix along the bottom edge of the gem)
Green Gems: Dark Angel Green/ Snot Green mix (70/30 mix, layering up to a 30/70 mix along the bottom edge of the gem).  Also the enchanted writing on the unit leaders sword.
To see how these turn out, take a look at some of the images at the end of this post.

Step 7: Drybrushing 

Chainmail/ Mithril Silver: Rider and horse armour. Brush very lightly across the barding of the horse in particular. 
Shining Gold: Any fittings or areas where you used Dwarf Bronze previously (musician's instrument, sword fittings, champion's helm etc.) 

Step 8: Final Basing 

Now that we have all the colours on the model done, we can do the final basing. At the same time we will be covering up any paint that has gone onto the base from our work on the horse's hooves etc.
Calthan Brown: Overbrush across the base, being careful to avoid the legs of the model
Snakebite Leather: Drybrush across the base. Paint the base edges. (I find 2 coats gives a nice smooth finish.)
Codex Grey: Drybrush lightly across the base, paint any crushed coral.
Fortress Grey: Drybrush any crushed coral rocks to add a natural highlight.
Paint on PVA glue, and then sprinkle static grass onto the base.

There we go! 

Some images of the final unit below. 


  1. I'm also WFB player from Poland:) Great Blog! Very Great Ideas are here! Thank You!:)

    here is my Hell Pit:)

    1. Thanks for the comments Piotr- glad that you like the blog, and thanks for sharing your Hell Pit!

  2. I Found 4 Silver Helm figures in the bottom of a box of spare parts I picked up a few weeks ago, they looked like great figures but I was unsure how to paint them.
    Thanks to your stunning tutorial and superb pictures I will now have them painted and ready for a skirmish this weekend!
    Many thanks and keep up the great work


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