Starcraft Figure Painting Tutorial

Painting Figures for Starcraft the Board Game

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I have been wanting to attempt this project for quite sometime. The plastic figures for Starcraft the board game look pretty good out of the box, but they suffer from one problem - They are not painted. Being a Zerg player, I figured I should start with the faction I play as the most.

As for this tutorial, I wrote it under the assumption that the reader has never painted any figures before.


Gathering the Tools

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If you have never painted any miniatures before, you are going to need a few things.

The obvious item is paint. I normally use Games Workshop branded paints, but there are a number of quality brands to use. Be sure to purchase paints that are designed to be applied to miniatures though. Other paints can be too thick and ruin the detail of the figures.

Brushes are another must. While you can get away with cheap sets of brushes, picking up some quality ones from an art or game store is recommended. Be sure to read up on how to properly take care of brushes before investing in a good set.

Primer is also important. Primer is applied directly to the unpainted model and gives paint a decent surface to attach to. As with normal paints, be sure to purchase primer that is designed for miniatures. General purpose primer can often destroy the details of the figures. In most cases, Primer comes in spray cans.

Other tools include a tray to mix paints, water to clean the brushes, and a paper towel to dry brushes.


Painting Techniques

In this article, I am using three different types of common painting techniques.

The first is general painting. This technique is used to apply a base color to a region. Most paints need to be mixed with a little bit of water to ensure an even flow across the surface of the figure. This is especially true with Games Workshop line of Foundation paints.

The next technique is called Washing. The purpose of washing is to either alter the color of the surface or to create a patch work coloring. Washes are created by adding lots of water to a paint until the paint is the consistency of thin ink. When washes are spread across a model, they tend to collect in the recesses. Another option is to use pre-made washes, such as the ones sold by Games Workshop.

The last technique to learn is called dry brushing. After dipping the brush in paint, wipe the tip off on a paper towel until most of the paint has been wiped off. When the brush is dragged across a figure, the "elevated" parts of the model will collect the paint while the recessed areas are not covered. This technique is commonly used to highlight the edges of a model.


Step 1 - Prime the Models

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The first step in painting models is to apply Primer. Primer is sprayed onto a model in order to ensure that the paint sticks the the figure. Most types of paint will not stick to bare plastic very well. Primer often comes in two different colors - white and black. Different effects can be achieved with each color and it will take some experimentation to determine which color you prefer.

After applying Primer to the model, allow the model to dry for 20 minutes before painting. Also, be sure the primer the model from multiple angles to make sure every little crevice is covered.


Step 2 - Applying the Base Coat

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The first step of painting is to apply the base coat of paint to the model. Usually, the base color is the color that covers the most area or covers the easiest area to paint. What is nice about applying the base coat is that it does not need a lot of precision. Any slopped paint will be covered up during the detail phase.

For my base coats, I used a mixture of Calthan Brown and Teracotta to create a reddish brown color. Since Calthan Brown is a foundation paint, I needed to water down the color to allow it to be applied to the model in a smooth fashion. In the event you add too much water to the paint, don't worry, just apply several thin layers of paint to the model. It is better to apply several thin layers then one thick layer. Thick paint can ruin the detail of a model.

The Zerg are simple in that they only have one base color. Some models will have two different base colors. For example, the armor a figure is wearing may not have the same color as the uniform underneath.


Step 3 - Tone the Skin

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With the base coat applied to the model, its time to give it a little texture. There are too approaches to this problem. One is to dry brush lighter colors on the ridges of model.

To create a lighter tone, mix up some more of the base color and add a small amount of white paint. When lightening or darkening paint, only add small amounts of white or black paint. A little bit of paint can go a long way to altering color. Keep in mind that several subtle layers of paint look better then just one distinct layer. A wash can also be used to lightening up the surface of the model.


Of course, I decided to take the other option which is to use a wash to darken the tone of the model and give the base color an uneven coloring. I took some of the base color and added a small amount of black paint to it. Then I watered down the paint and covered the base color with it. Once the wash dried, if the left the model darker and with an uneven skin color.


Step 4 - Adding Details

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The bulk of the painting is done during the detail step. Fortunately, Starcraft figures do not have lots of small detailed parts. For the Zerg, you really only have their armored carapace and claws. Expect when dry brushing, use a fine brush to apply the details to the figure. Unlike the base coat, you have to be careful here to not spread the paint outside of the designated areas.

For my armored carapaces, I started with a coat of Teracotta mixed with Chaos Black. Once the carapaces dried, I then applied a wash of Teracotta to give the plating a reddish hue. The last step was to dry brush Blood Red along the length of the armored carapace. This caused the edges of the carapace plates to be highlighted with a bright red color.

For the Zerg claws, I used three different colors. Personally, I find white to be a difficult color to paint, but I decided to use it here anyway. Adding a bit of water helped to smooth out the white. Though before applying the white, I mixed the white with a bit of black and covered the claw with gray paint. Once the white paint has dried, dry brush some Blood Red on the claws to give them a messy/bloody look.


Step 5 - Id the Figures

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In order to keep track of which figures belong to which faction, you need to apply some sort of ID marking to the figure. Like the computer game, I chose to paint a few key areas of the figure green to match the original color of the figure.(I play as the Overlord Faction)


Step 6 - Base the Figures

The final touch to painting figures is to base the figure. This involves putting various materials on the base of the figure to give the look that the creature is standing on the surface of the planet. I don't cover this process here, but I have a tutorial for basing Lord of the Rings figures which can also apply to Starcraft figures. Find that tutorial here.


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