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The Tiger Roars 

8 Tips to Help You Finish Painting Your Army
On Saturday, February 26, 2000, I finally—FINALLY—finished painting my Fighting Tigers army. Every last figure. Every vehicle. Done. Finished. No mas. Though I started my army in 1987, I didn’t really get serious about painting until late 1994. But even so, that’s about 5 years: what took me so long?

Part of the delay was the intrusion of real life: I have a wife, two kids, four pets, and a full-time job (in fact, from ’94 to ’98 I always had a full-time job and a part-time job). Part of the delay was the arrival of 3rd Edition, which prompted me to retire some units (Allies) and buy others (especially Tactical Squads and Land Speeders). But what really kept me from finishing my army sooner was a number of fundamental errors I made. By following my advice you can spare yourself a lot of grief.

1. Plan ahead
I cannot emphasize too strongly the wisdom of planning ahead. Before you spend a single dollar on models or paints figure out which army you really want. Don’t fall for “the flavor of the month” that all the other gamers are collecting: pick an army that holds your interest. Decide how big you want it to be (one detachment, two detachments, or more?) and what units you want to have (regular Land Speeders, or Tornadoes and Typhoons?). Use the Standard Missions Force Organization Chart for each detachment and resist the temptation to exceed it.

2. Buy, paint, and FINISH one unit at a time
Repeat after me: “I will not buy what I cannot paint right now. I will not buy what I cannot paint right now. I will not buy what I cannot paint right now.”

Steel yourself against the almost satanically-powerful seduction of buying the latest cool model the instant it comes out. Don’t fall into the trap of buying mountains of stuff. And when you buy and start painting something, make sure you finish it before going on to another model. The only thing that looks worse than an unpainted model is a half-painted model.

When Rogue Trader came to the States, I rushed out and bought boxes and boxes of stuff: RTB01 Marines, Land Raiders, Rhinos, you name it. Whenever something new for Space Marines came along I bought it—and there it sat, some of it for literally years, before I painted it. What’s so wrong with that? Well in addition to tossing away a lot of money on stuff you have to wait a long time to enjoy, in addition to taking up space and not doing your army a darn bit of good, having a big pile of unpainted stuff can be very discouraging. After a while you start to wonder how and when you’re going to paint all of it—and then the task appears so daunting you may lose the incentive to try.

“Well,  what if someone gives me 40K stuff for my birthday or Christmas?” you ask. “What am I supposed to do—refuse it?” Hell no! But make that present (and any other 40K presents you get at the same time) the very next thing you paint and don’t buy anything else until it’s fully painted.

And one more thing: do NOT start another army until you're finished with the one you're currently working on. Otherwise, you're just compounding your troubles.

3. Pick a scheme that’s easy to paint
For better or worse, 40K is no longer a skirmish-level game. In a recent battle (2000 points) I used 50 Space Marines; Pat, my opponent, used over 100 Orks. If you’re going to play 3rd Edition you’re going to have to paint lots of figures so keep your paint scheme simple (for examples, consider Ultramarines or Orks). Remember, you’re not out to win a Golden Demon award or compete for a Grand Tournament prize, you’re assembling an army you can use down at the local gaming store. And don’t use a freaky paint color you mixed up yourself (“3 parts Bestial Brown, 1 part Black Ink, and 2 parts Skull White”) or you may find yourself unable to recreate the recipe and either settling for different-toned figures or having to repaint everything in the same shade.

If I had to do it all over again I would pick a much simpler paint scheme for my Space Marines. As it is, each Tiger figure has about 120 stripes: multiply that by the 110 Tigers I currently use and that comes to 13,200 stripes I’ve had to paint. And that doesn’t count my vehicles, all of which are COVERED in stripes. Nor does it include figures I've retired because I can't use them or don't like them anymore. If I did include these, then--by a conservative count--I’ve painted somewhere around 15,000 tiger stripes. 

15,000. Don't let this happen to you.

See what I'm talking about? Tiger of Agni Tiger of Agni
Above: The Fighting Tigers have a whole lotta stripes--probably too many

4. When you begin your army, paint one HQ and two Troops
Start off with what you need to play. The Standard Missions Force Organization Chart calls for at least one HQ and two Troop units, so there’s no point in painting six squads of Terminators until you’ve finished, say, a Commander and some Tactical Marines. Paint only one HQ unit (preferably a single figure) and use it whenever you need it—I’ll explain why in a minute.

5. Be persistent
Make a list of the units you want to paint, in what order, and mark them off as you go along to remind yourself what you’ve accomplished. Try to establish a regular painting schedule: maybe a few hours on the weekend or a few minutes each day.

6. Accept that some units will be better painted than others
The more you paint, the better you’re going to get. If you have a lot of figures, you may be able to see your improvement when you compare the first figures you painted with the most recent. If you’re a perfectionist (like me), resist the urge to go back and repaint the old units. Unless you really sucked when you first started painting, most people won’t be able to tell the difference and you’ll just be wasting time you could spend painting other units.

As a side note, also try to resist the urge to replace old figures with newer versions. Most of my Tigers are old RTB01 Marines, the kinds with the studs on the left shoulder pads, and though they were cool at the time, the new models (especially the Devastators) are MUCH cooler. Still, there is no way I’m going to retire perfectly good figures and paint even more stripes.

7. Alternate painting units to keep yourself sane
You’ll seriously start hating life if you paint unit after unit of just Troops (especially if you’re painting Gretchin or Termagaunts). After you’ve painted your mandatory one HQ and two Troops, I suggest you paint units from different categories. Thus, you might follow up your Commander (HQ) and Tactical Marines (Troops) with some bikes (Fast Attack), then some Terminators (Elites), then a Predator (Heavy Support), then back to some Tactical Marines or Scouts (Troops). Notice that in that example I also switched between infantry figures and vehicles. A lot of people (me included) treat painting like a chore; do whatever you must to keep it interesting.

8. Paint HQ units last
As I’ve mentioned, the more you paint the better you’ll get. Save your HQ units for last so they can benefit from all that practice. Although 40K is a game based around ordinary foot troopers, people’s eyes are naturally drawn to characters when looking at an army. Why? I’m no psychologist, but I do know it happens every time: open up your figure case in a store and notice which miniatures people ask to pick up and take a closer look at. Again, I don’t know why, but an army just somehow looks better overall if its leaders are really snazzy.

That’s why I recommend you paint a single HQ unit at first and paint everything else before you start the other HQ units. By then, you may want to go ahead and repaint that original HQ figure to make it look as good as the others. Devote just as much time to a single character figure as you would to a 10-strong unit. Now is the time to pull out the artistic flourishes you’ve been denying yourself all along: convert that figure with pieces from eight other miniatures, paint tiny Celtic knots along the edges of the shoulder pads, highlight those armor pieces with four different shades. Make your HQ units look as good as you can and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the payoff.

There’s no better feeling than finishing your army (except, of course, for hitting the lottery, scoring the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, or having Playboy Playmates catfight over you). Learn from my mistakes and it shouldn’t take you long. As for me, I’m looking forward to making some terrain, maybe starting a second army, and never painting another tiger stripe again—at least until 4th Edition arrives…

Related Pages
My current Fighting Tiger army
Photos of my Fighting Tiger army

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© copyright Kenton Kilgore, March 2000.


Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle