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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Vampire counts - Skeleton painting guide

Vampire Counts, Skeleton Painting Guide
By: Blackbard

I have discovered a quick method of painting ranks of skeletal troops for an undead army. I have been told that the models look good, and with a nice base they look great on the table top.

Step One: Cleaning/Basing

1. A) Assemble miniature. Make sure to remove flash and mold lines as these ruin any model no matter the quality of paintjob you go for.

B) Once the model is glue to the base, add gravel or other large stones that will be painted later on. I typically crazy glue the larger stones onto my bases and once dry paint elmers glue onto the rest of the base and then dip it into a container of mixed sand sizes to create random coverage.

C) If you want water effects to be added on, leave a small area sand free, or simply wait for the gravel to dry and scratch a shape out later.

Step Two: Primer

2. A) Spray prime your model using Army Painter Bone color. This will save you a lot of time and effort in the future. Spraying this colored primer on your model is how I save myself not only time, but keep the army looking uniform in color. Future washes will be what add variety to the models as it pools differently on each model.

B) Make sure to get the primer onto the gravel you glued to the base as the sprayed paint will act as an extra layer of bonding to keep the sand secure on the base.

Step Three: Blocking Colors

3. A) Red, blue, or whatever color you have for an army is painted on here. Whatever you do, just try to be careful and not get it onto the bone areas. If you do, then bleached bone is thankfully very close to the primer color so that you can touch things up no problem.

B) Metallics are also blocked in. I try to add a bit of variety by adding bronze or copper. That lets me oxidize it later.

C) Snakebite Leather is also applied where needed.

Step Four: Mud wash

4. A) Liberally apply Devlan Mud to the entire model (except the base). Allow it to dry. Check to make sure that there is some of the wash in the eye sockets and other cavities across the skull.

B) If you want to darken the metal areas further or add more depth, Badab Black is a good wash to try. It is not necessary however to the overall look to your rank and file models.

Step Five: Rust and corrosion

5. A) I use Forge-world weathering powders on the metallic areas. I find that the most critical one is the old rust, as it gives it a dark color that you would normally find on most old metal surfaces. Light rust and Orange rust can also be added next…normally in areas where water would pool.

B) Cloth areas can have wear and tear added to them, but it is not necessary. I would avoid this as painting dirty clothing on 30+ models might strain my sanity.

Step Six: The base

6. A) My own army uses English Uniform (Vallejo - Model Color 921) as the base color. I apply this to the entire base, making sure not to touch the skeleton feet.

B) Highlights are dry-brushed onto a DRY layer of paint. For the dry-brushed layer I use English Uniform mixed with skull white.

C) Large stones are picked out using a dark grey color (I use stonewall – Vallejo). They receive a coating of Devlan mud once the grey is dry.

D) Water effects are added by having an area with the base material removed down to the base. I then paint a dark green across this entire surface. Once this is dry, I take a turquoise and gently paint “ripple” lines along the edges. Once these are dry, I apply water effects. Remember it will dry small, so apply generously. (Not so generously that it spills over the edges of the gravel and sand though!)

E) Static grass or other choice of material is added once the water is dry. I have been using “Army builder’s” new clumps of grass. The undead army is using “Swamp tufts” to be specific.
Cheers, Blackbard

P.s. Here is a before and after of 4 skeletons (why do I picture abey road for them) for those wondering what a matt varnish will do to the model if you have used weathering powders. I have been using the army Painter "anti shine matt varnish" spray.
Before Spray
After spray


  1. Thanks for the tutorial. Do you varnish the skeletons? If so, do you find the weathering powders react with the varnish at all?

  2. Hey Mr. Saturday! I do normally varnish my models. My skaven were varnished and they used the same forge-world weathering powders. Normally I give them a once over with the coat that seals well, but makes them very shiney, and follow that up with a matt varnish to dull things back to normal.
    I will get a picture this weekend of a skeleton varnished up and you will see that there are no adverse reactions between powders and spray that I have seen.

  3. Great Mr Bard, thanks! I am on the verge of getting some powders myself, I think it looks astounding when done well, as you've shown here, and the varnish issue is all that stops me. I assume you use Testors spray varnish? I'm a brush on man myself, never did trust that spray varnish. Or maybe it's the masochist in me.

  4. Spray complete. See pictures above... I dont see a difference other than the water effects might need a touch up. These four guys got 4 sides of spray like I normally do, at just over a foot away. Hope that helps Mr Saturday!