Tau Painting Tutorial: Painting Tessen

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Every two years or so, I take out my good armies (the ones I really love) and touch them up. It is a process I recommend for a couple of reasons - first, because adding a unit or two and touching up an old army is often as satisfying as painting a new army; two, because you have a large personal and financial investment (maybe an emotional investment, too) and it's worth taking care of it.
 Anyway - so I took out the Tess'en Cadre and laid them out. This is an important step - it's fun and it is very educational. How often do you have a whole army out of the boxes and laid out on a table?
A bunch of things were immediately apparent. First, the drones were a mess - broken antennae, busted off stands, and frankly, some poor, "get them on the table" paint jobs. Added to which, when I play, I can never remember what drone is with what unit -
 After a moment of hesitation, I moved all the drones - all thirty-four of them - to the painting bench.
 About a week later, while I was doing paint chips on the infantry, GW Definition: Games Workshopreleased Apocalypse. Suddenly, local enthusiasm for giant games (always my favorite) peaked, and I found myself looking at my army and thinking about what I needed to do to bring it up to 6000 points.
 I've always played Mech Tau, but I've never really had enough DF to mount all my infantry (6 full squads of FWs and 3 full squads of PF). And looking at my DF, I realized that over the years, as I added one more, and then one more, I had subtly changed the paint schemes.
 Time for some re-painting, then. And time to add three new fish. And a Sky Ray - and a Tiger Shark. Heh. I'm a former U.S. Navy backseater. I like planes, and I like the concept of IADS (Integrated Air Defense Systems). I already have two Barracudas (I own one and my compadre Gary owns the other in matching paint scheme. We share this mega-Tau army, an alliance I recommend to anyone trying to build a really large force.) The Tiger Shark and the Sky Ray will, for reasons I'll explain later in an Air Tactica, allow me total domination of the sky over a 6000 point battlefield.
 For all those reasons, it was time for a major repaint, rather than just a touch-up.
I'm starting with the vehicles and the drones. A couple of things might strike you as odd, from a guy with 5000 points of painted Tau - the first thing I had to do was experiment with paints and paint schemes to remember HOW I painted them in the first place. In the process, I discovered a scheme I liked better - enough better that I've now standardized it to all of the old vehicles and also the new additions.

Here's the system:

First, black prime the plastic on the frames. This isn't required, but I do find that it saves time. It won't work for all GW Definition: Games Workshopmodels, but in my experience, the DF/HH model fits perfectly together, meaning that unless you are aiming for a Golden Demon award, you don't need to fill anything with green stuff. Prime both sides.
 Allow to dry for 24 hours. No, I mean it.
  • Now go back and touch up every tiny bit of plastic that shows with Chaos Black. Hit them all. Leave no plastic showing, not even a little. That includes the bottom of intakes, the inside of doors, everything.
  • Allow to dry for 24 hours.
  • Now wet brush the sprues with a dark gray. If you use GW Definition: Games Workshoppaints, this is Codex Gray cut ½ with black. I use Wargames Foundry paints, so I use Slate Gray shade. Anyway, paint the whole model with a wet brush technique. Here's how I do that. First, at an art supply store, I buy a broad (1/2 inch wide) FLAT brush, the sort artists use to lay ground with oils or acrylic. (Save yourself time and go buy the brush.) Now practice using it by putting paint on it and brushing it off on your palette (or newspaper) until the brush paints a firm, exact line the width of the brush but no more, with full color but not a liquid look. Does that make sense? Practice on some old model bits. Basically, if you are wet-brushing with this system, you should be able to lay paint over the surface of the DF without any paint going into those nifty grooves that define the panels.
  • Okay! So you wasted an hour, and now you can wet-brush. Now paint all the exterior pieces dark gray, trying not to put paint into the detail, the recessed areas, or the panel lines. Allow to dry for 24 hours. (I'm quite keen on allowing paint to dry hard. You'll find that it has all kinds of interesting improvements over painting on top of stuff that merely appears dry!)
     Now mix black paint, a little black ink, and some Future Floor wax, about 1:1:3 but this should be to taste. Depends on the result you fancy. Anyway, then add some water. I usually add almost as much water as I have mixed gook, but that's up to you. More water=less sheen, and less water leaves a higher gloss.
  • Now coat the exterior with the gook. Allow to dry 24 hours.
  • Now take pure Codex Gray and dry brush it heavily on the exterior pieces. Again, this is a technique. What I mean is, use the flat brush again but wipe a lot of the paint off on paper towel or on your palette (I actually wipe it off on the wood of my workbench - which has more colors than Joseph's Dream coat - so that I can see the exact texture I've reached.) Heavy dry brushing means that every corner and raised area gets some, and the center of every panel has some, too - not the whole panel, but some.
  • Now immediately use a lighter gray - Fortress if you use GW Definition: Games Workshoppaints (Slate Gray light if you use Foundry paints) and dry brush lightly, so that only the edges of seams and the top of detail is caught.
     If you've done this right, you now have a dark color with rich variation on all of your external panels. Frankly, even if you've done it wrong, it should look cool. And if you are doing a bunch of vehicles at the same time, and you have some variation, so what? Look at a bunch of US military vehicles some time. Every paint job is a little different.
     Right. Once you've admired your work, allow to dry 24 hours.
  • Now assemble and paint the burst cannon. I use a bright silver color. Then I ink it black. Then I repaint the barrels silver and I paint the bands on the barrels a contrast color - usually green. Now assemble the nose turret. At the same time, paint the intake louvers on the variable geometry engines the same silver, and then put a coat of unmixed black ink over them. Let them dry.
     Assemble the model. I now use superglue, not styrene cement, but that's a matter of taste. Now go back and touch up every single external where plastic shows from cutting off the sprue. Paint it black and then dry brush to match the surrounding texture of paint. At the same time, repaint the exhaust areas and the two grill panels on the main body back to black.
  • (Secret Assembly Idea - When your vehicle is assembled, pick two hard points for missiles to be located. Go to the Lee Valley Tools catalogue online and buy their smallest rare-earth magnets - buy a bunch, once you have them you'll use them for everything. Measure one with a micrometer and choose the appropriate drill - I remember it as 1/8th inch, but I may be crazy - drill your chosen hard points and super-glue the magnets into the holes. NOTE WELL__KNOW THE POLARITY OF THE MAGNETS AND MAKE SURE THAT EVERY MAGNET HAS THE SAME POLAR END "UP". Now go and insert magnets into every Tau seeker missile you own - put them in the same place on every missile, and make sure the polarity of the magnets are oriented so that the missile clicks neatly into place under the wing of the DF or HH. Now you will never forget how many missiles you have again, and your opponent cannot question them - they are right there, and when you shoot one, you just pull it off the model. Nifty!)
  • Now find a really good contrast to your gray. My army uses green - a carefully mixed dark yellow/green. If you took Dark Angles Green and added a little yellow, you would get the same effect. But you may choose red or blue. Or whatever you like! Anyway, paint that color neatly on the nose cone panel, the wing edge panels, and on the "spine" panels alternating with the base gray. Then paint any other panels you want to do - you can spend hours or minutes. Make sure you do the air intake panels on the variable geometry engines - those are the big engine thingies that can come off. The louvers should already be done silver - that's where the air goes IN.
  • Now find a second contrast color. I use a really subtle contrast, and I recommend this, as the result is very "Tau" to the eye. I use a different gray/green (called "granite" in the Foundry line). The gray green both separates and blends the other two colors - but don't just mix your gray and green! Codex Gray and Camo green ought to get about the right color, but you may want to experiment to get just the right look. Anyway, this color will do a lot of details. The alternating, unpainted spine panels on the DF, as well as all of the refueling covers (the little notched round thingies on the outer skin). The exterior edge and lower portions of the drones. Any other details you wish to pick up. On mine, I do the lining of the drone racks and the machinery attached to the drone racks - the little details all along the outer wings.
  • Mix a lighter shade of the same paint, and dry brush it on everything you just did in the gray/green.
  • Mix a still lighter shade - so light it is like a gray-green white - and do a very light dry brush to pick up the detail. Don't forget the drones and their weapons! Now go back and paint the drones central panels with the same green you used for the nose cone of the DF. Now go back and paint the antennas on the drones with Codex Gray and Fortress Gray in alternating mini-panels.
     Mix a really dark silver (just add black) and paint ONLY the maneuvering stabilizers mounted on the outboard portion of each engine nacelle. There are three on each engine. Don't paint inside - just the outside.
  • Mix another gook. This one is chestnut ink and future floor wax and water. Use that mix to paint the back of the engine nacelles, all round and inside and up to the second ridge (or whatever pleases you). Paint the same mix carefully over the black grill panels on the main body (two, keyhole shaped).
  • Now wait for all of that to dry. Really dry. FFW mixes often take 24 hours or more to be really dry.
  • Now dry brush black over the back of the engine nacelles and any other surface that, in your opinion, gets jet wash from the engines. Yeah, I think the Tau are burning US JP-5. Look at trucks and trains and planes for that tell-tale black grit coating from engines use, and copy it! Not on the flight surfaces, though - just on the engine pods and other surfaces.
  • Finally, put markings on your vehicles. I put a Tau letter on the nosecone of every vehicle so that I can keep track of them and what's inside them and I put the same mark on any drones or drone-rack carried weapons, for obvious reasons. Saves time, too. The letters are hand painted without any guide 'cause I can paint a straight line. So can you - just practice painting consistent size and width letters. Note that almost all Tau letters are based on a simple rectangle, and practice painting that. PRACTICE IS WORTH THE TIME. I do the letters in a two-tones lighter version of the same paint on the nose cone. It gives a cool effect. I sometimes edge the green panels in the same paint. Same paint also provides the letters on the drones.
  • Don't forget that when you make a mistake, you can "erase" it by going back with a finer brush and the dark green paint and touching up. Want to know how the great painters get those perfect lines? They practice, they practice, and then they touch up… sometimes they "erase" and start again. And frankly, to my eye, bad hand painting is always superior to the best decals.
     The most annoying mistake you may have made is to put paint into one of the panel lines - the recessed lines that divide the hull panels. It is easy to fix if you are brave. Take a fine brush and put black ink on it. Now paint along the line from ¼ inch above the error to ¼ below the error. See? Easy.
  • I alternate putting a crew-Tau in the hatch or assembling the hatch as closed. If you choose to do the crewman, check out my next segment, on Tess'en infantry and crew figures.
[gal_img]1517[/gal_img] I hope this helped. If you need clarification, drop me a line on Tau Online and I'l get back to you. I'm not a great painter - I see some amazing stuff out there - but I'm a very good painter who has thirty years experience in getting the best results as quickly as possible.
 Tess'en AKA Chris Cameron

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