Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Saxon (Psycho) Killers

Following last weekend’s OK (but no better than OK) experiment with the Army Painter strong tone dip, I tried again this weekend with another 20 early fifth century A.D. Saxons. This group included five “Big Men” and also a Saxon champion. The figures were all Gripping Beast, which are slowing growing on me.

Perhaps most fun of all were the “Saxon Killers and Characters” which I used for a couple of the Big Men. These are not particularly for the faint-hearted, although I imagine they’re a fairly accurate depiction of what happened on a Dark Age battlefield (and no doubt on many battlefields since). In the words of the (still-phenomenal) Talking Heads song, "Psycho Killer,... run, run, run away".

As for the painting, I took a lot more time and care painting with this bunch than the group last weekend. Quite a few people posting comments on this blog and at my local club mentioned that colour selection was key. I tried to make sure all the colours were toned together before dipping, selecting browns, reds and greys as the key colour themes.

I tried to shade the bolder colours before dipping to create a little more depth than was created on the previous batch of dipped figures. As before, I didn’t highlight any colours, reasoning that this could come later, post-dipping. I also spent a little time on painting in eye sockets and (on a couple of figures) some face detail.

I also tried a different approach with metallics, painting first with very dark Vallejo gunmetal (mixed with Vallejo black) and then highlighting with plain Vallejo gunmetal before the dip.

I dipped as before, brush-painting from the Army Painter strong tone dip tin as opposed to actually dipping the figures in. As before, the immediate post-dip stage looked hideous. But at least I was expecting that on this occasion.

I applied the matt varnish and was reasonably pleased with the results. They looked better as a group than last weekend’s figures and seemed to “gel” together more. I think the pre-shading of the bolder colours helped a bit with this.

So, on the plus side, 20 figures in a weekend to a tabletop standard, and 50 in a fortnight, was a reasonable result. I put nowhere near as much effort into these as into other figures which have appeared on this Blog.

On the minus side, they are still very much the ugly cousins of other Bloggers stunning and beautiful Dark Age work on the Blogosphere and internet generally. To try and elevate them from “ugly cousins” to anything memorable, I’ll need to do some highlighting, add some shield transfers and some banners. A project for the coming weekend, perhaps. As Benito so very wisely said in his comment on my post last week, it all comes down to effort in the end!

As to how the “ugly cousins” and the Saxon psycho-killers fight on the tabletop, I shall be seeing in about 7 hours time when we play our next Dark Ages game.

If you have a soft spot for psychotic Saxons, wish me luck!


  1. Great work but especially the psychotic killers, lots of character.....

  2. These results already look quite a bit better and after the highlights will look nice indeed I think. However, I'm curious to how much time you will save per mini after adding the highlights that get the model to where you want it. I found I wasn't saving much time over my normal painting methods, but perhaps you'll have better luck.


  3. No need to be that modest. They look fine to me and with some highlight and transfers they will rock. Have fun with the game tonight.

  4. Very nice work Sid. On my iPhone I can't quite make outsell the detail in that first, rather grim picture but it looks like the chaps on the ground are going from Talking Heads to Severed Heads! (I love that song too!)

    Like Christopher I am curious to know if you think this dip and highlight technique ultimately saves you time.

    Good luck to your psycho squad!

  5. wow...you´ve come up with something quite unique!! Even if the psycho killers don´t do well they deserve to win on originality. Good luck

  6. There's a clear path to improvement here. And as MiniMike says, transferss, banners and highlight must make wonders. I'll be travelling the rest of the week but as asoon as I got a free wifi somewhere, the first thing I'll do is to search for the new chapter of this Dark Age chrnicles... and the best of luck today in the game!

  7. By the way, and talking about Army Painter, this post from John de Terreneuve's blog is very impressive

  8. Looking nice so far ! Keep up the good work and the end result will be splendid:)

    Best regards dalauppror

  9. I think they look excellent! They'd look even better if they were in my cupboard though!

  10. Don't be so hard on yourself, you will never get as high a quality finish with the dipping method, but these ain't half bad.

    Controlling the dip as it goes on by wicking it off the highlight areas and going back over once it dries to add in a highlight here and there can make a huge difference, but once you start down that track you can end up spending just as much time as you would with a normal paint job. Adding LBM shield transfers also makes a tremendous difference.

    Dave Imrie (Saxon Dog) tried to sell me on the dip method, but I just couldn't live with brown figures. I just kept thinking how better the figures would look if I painted them properly so was never happy with them.

    At the end of the day, if you can do that many figures in the time and you can accept that they are not up to your usual standards then go with it.

  11. Those look very good, never tried dip before and I'm still to be convinced.

  12. Well for what it's worth I think you've cracked it! A combination of dip and more traditional painting techniques is certainly paying dividends. Fifty miniatures in a fortnight is certainly not to be sniffed at, particularly when they are to the standard presented here.

  13. Thanks Gentlemen for the comments, each of which is very much appreciated.

    @Angry - yes, the Saxon psycho killers are a great set of castings. Hard not to be inspired looking at them.

    @Christopher - thanks very much. I also think a bit of highlighting should really help. Am I actually going to save any time? That, Sir, is THE question. I think I'm going to save a little time, but not very much after the highlighting is done. HOWEVER, there are two main benefits that I can see to the (revised) method of base painting, pre-shading, dipping, matt varnishing and highlighting.

    First of all, it really helped me get out of a bit of a "rut". Not the rut of losing one's mojo, but the rut of trying to make everything "perfect". The rut of looking at a figure and not being happy with it, and so adding more detail. The rut of looking at twenty 28mm figures and seeing a full week's work at the painting table. That's a bad rut, and I've sometimes got into that. It's the less attractive side of the well-painted coin. Dipping takes you out of that rut because you simply can't paint in the same slightly-painstaking way. You know that what you're painting is going to be covered with brown goo-ey dip in an hour, so why bother - and, accordingly, you speed up. The dip itself is forcing you to speed up, because detailed work (setting pre-shading aside) is going to be lost. So, the dip takes you to a different painting style, although there are drawbacks to that style (it doesn't look as good, put very plain and simply).

    Second, after dipping and matt varnishing you can certainly play with the figures - as we did last week and last night. OK, so they're not highlighted and the shield transfers and banners are not done. But the figures themselves are gloss varnished through the dip, and matt varnished. You get figures on the table quicker, and when you're really painting for a club project when people are interested NOW, that's a big plus.

    So, on balance, it's not much quicker but it is very, very different. I've got one more group to do (some mercenary Angles), and I'm looking forward to see if I can improve the technique on those.

    @MiniMike - thanks mate, we had a lot of fun last night. See the battle report which follows!

    @Mike (Mad Padre) - you iPhone types….sheesh! What's a guy to do!! It is a grim image. Talking Heads to Severed Heads indeed. However, as you'll see when the battle report goes up, psycho killers are not always effective!

    @Paul - Cheers Paul. In all fairness, I don't think I could have gone wrong with the psychotic Saxons castings!

    @Benito (Anibal) - Thanks a lot Benito! Yes, I think they're better than the first group I did - better colour choice really helped. Thanks for the link to John's blog. He's really cracked it, so I'm looking at his post carefully.

    @Dalauppror - Thanks. They're not a patch on your wonderful painted troops. I'm really enjoying your blog, BTW. The campaign you're running is giving me lots of ideas!

    @Ray - Cheers mate. If you'd have posted that comment a wek ago after the first group was done, I'd have HAPPILY given them away!!

    @Old School - thanks, and welcome back Sir! Thanks for the wicking tip. That is certainly something I am going to try with the last group of Angles. I agree completely with what you’re saying about living with the final result. It really is a trade off - it's a very different way of painting. Thanks again for the great comments.

    @Scotty - I completely understand where you are, Scotty! I'm not convinced myself!!

    @Michael - thanks, Michael. Thanks very kind indeed, although I think I've some way to go. I think you're right - combining disciplines has really helped with the pre-shading.

    @Rodger - too kind, Sir, far too kind. But thank you anyway!


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