Sunday, September 16, 2012

How to Paint Swordmasters of Hoeth.

"One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back."

(From "Jabberwocky" in "Through the Looking-Glass" 1871 by Lewis Carroll)


If any Warhammer Fantasy Battle Unit looks like they are carrying "Vorpal blades", it has to be these guys. (Surely the "head" in question could be Skaven, Ogre or Undead?!)

It has been a long time since I added a painting guide, so as it is a long weekend here in Japan I thought I would take the chance to get one more up, this time for the Swordmasters of Hoeth. The usual warnings apply: 
1.) I'm no expert
2.) This is "tabletop quality" (I can't do any better)
3.)  I am using the old GW paints. (You can find a conversion chart here)
4.) I painted these some months ago, so I may not have got everything exactly right (many people paint a "Test model" first before doing a whole unit to try out various colours, it may be a good idea here too!)

So, off we go!

The first step is to marshal your forces...(ahem, paints and washes)
  • Chaos Black (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
  • Ogryn Flesh
  • Griffin Sepia
  • Badab Black

Step 1: Preparation

Smooth down any mould lines left on the model and/ or cut away any flash. ("Flash" being excess plastic left on a model from the creation process.)

The Swordmasters of Hoeth have had centuries of practice with their lethal blades so no doubt rarely lose fingers in model-making accidents. If you haven't had a lot of practice using a craft knife or blade to remove parts from the sprue or carefully cut away flash, then please take careA file is just as good at this (imho) - and less lethal!

Step 2: First Basing

For some reason, I like to do part of the basing at this early stage. I think it is because once I have painted the full model I find it really depressing to then have to do lots of work on the bases.

Anyway, sand down the edges of the base and apply PVA glue to the top (or watered down PVA glue). Then sprinkle a few pieces of crushed coral on. After that, quickly dip in modelling sand.
The crushed coral is available at any pet shop in the aquatic section. I find that it adds a bit  of interest to the base by providing some small "rocks". Allow to dry before Step 3 (below)

Step 3: Undercoat

Undercoat the model. I usually use GW Chaos Black or Skull White spray cans for this for the sake of convenience. In this case I used Chaos Black
Many people probably use a light undercoat for High Elves as this gives a brighter overall effect at the end, and requires fewer coats of paint to cover. I like Chaos Black because it hides mistakes and forms natural shadows when left in the creases of a model.
The choice is yours!

The key thing is not to spray too close to the models, which makes the undercoat too thick and can obscure detail on the model.

Step 4: Basecoat(s)

Swordmaster with some of the basecoats mentioned below

Codex Grey: Robes. (This will form an undercoat for the Skull White in step 6.)
Chainmail: Armour, helmets, armoured boots fittings on banner. Note: If you are in a hurry or doing a very large unit, scale armour is easy to drybrush, as this naturally leaves shading in the recesses between the scales.
Mithril Silver: Spearhead, swords etc.
Calthan Brown: Standard shaft. (This will be a basecoat for the Bleached Bone later.)
Liche Purple: Edges of hauberk/ cloth belts/ helmet plumes
Tallarn Flesh: Skin (face, hands)
Dwarf Bronze: Armoured "wings" on the thighs, sword fittings, musician's instrument fittings.

You can see in the image above that with only basecoats applied, the model is looking better, but is very "flat". The next step, "Washes", will add shadows, making the model seem more natural and "3D"

If you are wondering about the gems, we will get to them in Step 6...

Step 5: Washes

Washes are an easy way to add very realistic looking shadows and visual interest to your models, and they are dead easy to apply! (Literally, just wash them over the model!)

Ogryn Flesh: Skin, hands.
Badab Black: armour.
Devlan Mud: base.

Step 6:Layers

Adding lighter layers to the basecoats brightens up the models,
but leaves shadows in the recesses from the "wash" process. Gems not done...
Adding washes will have toned down the whole model and added shadow. Now we will "Layer" on some lighter tones of the basecoats that we used before, in order to add highlights.

Tallarn Flesh/ Dwarf Flesh/ Elf Flesh: Skin. (50/50) Add Elf Flesh to make skin even lighter.
Shining Gold: Fixtures and fittings on armour, sword fittings etc. 
Skull White: Robes/ eyes. (Leave Codex Grey in the folds of the robes to provide some shading.) 
Chaos Black: Pupils. (Try to add just a tiny dot to the center of the eye) To be honest - I find the eyes the hardest thing to do!
Liche Purple/ Warlock Purple mix (50/50) Edges of hauberk/ icons on breastplates/ unit banner. Layer up with an intermediate mix (30/70) to a pure Warlock Purple

Bleached Bone: Spear hafts, musician's instrument.
Snot Green/ Skull White: The enchanted runes on the unit leader's sword should glow a bit I reckon. Start with a Snot Green, and then add more and more Skull White into the mix until the center of each rune is a very white-green (if that make sense)

A special word or two on gems: (Because there are around 50 to do in a unit of 10 swordmasters. Just sayin')
Gems...beware thy sanity oh owner of any High Elf army...

I tend to leave gems until  after drybrushing (step 7 below), because 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!
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

Drybrushing Mithril Silver leaves Badab Black wash in the recesses,
something you can just make out here on the helmet and armour.
 Mithril Silver: Swords, helmets etc.

Step 8: Final basing

Nearly there now.

Calthan Brown: Overbrush across the base, being careful to avoid the boots/ legs of the model
Snakebite Leather: Drybrush across the base. Paint the base edges. I usually 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.

Tip: One thing I noted in my post on Spearmen: "Think about how grassy you want the base to look". I prefer not to overdo the static grass and always leave some of the underlying earth showing through...


Here are some shots of the finished unit, with gems done (photos against a Games Workshop Battlemat)


  1. Great series of posts on painting High Elves - nice technique and your finished models look great. Has your son got them yet?

    1. Thanks for the comment John! Yes, I gave them to my kids (daughters) together. I didn't manage to finish exactly in time for the birthday deadline, but close enough. Now we just have to find time to get some gaming done! They got interested in High Elves from flipping through my WFB rulebook.

  2. Glad to see you still doing your painting guides. I've referred back to you very often for Skaven painting tips, and if I go ahead and finally buy a full Island of Blood set (instead of set after set of just Skaven) I intend to do either red- or purple-trimmed High Elves, so I'll be all over this post as well.

    Also, I appreciate the humility, but in my opinion, these are all a few notches above tabletop quality.

    Thanks and keep it up! I'll be reading.

    1. Glad that you find these useful and thanks for reading.
      When (not if) you pick up the IOB set, definitely please send a link to some pics of your HEs whether red or purple! I think HEs would look awesome in red actually...
      p.s. If any of the models are better than TT quality IMHO they are in the minority. We may have to agree to disagree for the time being? (Although the compliment is appreciated!)


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