Sunday, February 12, 2012

Creating the Tau Battleforce - Step by step Part 3

Welcome to the 3rd part in my short series on creating the Tau Battleforce.  Today we'll be looking at the Battlesuits!  I think the key driver behind most people wanting to paint or game with the Tau is the Battle-suits.  The manga styling and heavy weaponry appeals to a lot of people, me included.

They are pretty good models, although the Forge World versions have taken the key concepts and made something much more dynamic.  The original model which forms the platform for all of the XV8 variants still stacks up quite well I think and if you're willing to make the effort can be converted quite easily.  I didn't carry out any conversions due to time constraints but if you're interested in converting the model I've included some handy links at the bottom of this post.

Whichever way you look at it battle suits are the centrepiece of a Tau force.  The goal here was to take the basic model and tie into my overall force while still giving the impression that it was a figure-head and rallying point for troops.

Have a look at the first part of this series to get a general overview of the philosophy and process behind building and painting the entire force. There's also a comprehensive breakdown of the materials and Paints I used.  This post will talk about some of the differences in that wider process.

A bit like Fire Warriors...

In fact, the painting process for all of the battle suits (XV8 and Stealth) didn't really deviate all that much from the painting of the Fire Warriors but I'll quickly recap here:

  1. Clean and assemble the model (Before gluing weapons on, I carefully drilled out gun barrels)
  2. Prime with Chaos Black
  3. Basecoat with Army Painter - Skeleton Bone
  4. 1 or 2 generous washes of the entire model with very slightly thinned Devlan Mud 

The XV-25 Stealth

After those first 4 steps, there's really not too much to do here. A slightly thinned wash of Badab Black was applied to the 'face' and to the deeper recesses of the armoured carapace to give a bit of extra contrast.

Then, I applied thinned Scorched Brown in 2 coats to selected parts of the armour to break up the main colour and tie this unit in with the rest of the force.

Non-armoured areas, the back pack exhausts, the ends of the gun barrels and the Tau shoulder symbol, were given 2 coats of slightly thinned Chaos Black.

Next, (and the most time consuming stage) I highlighted the edges of the armour and all the panel lines with thinned bleached bone.  For the more prominent areas this was completed in two passes to get the level of contrast I was looking for.

Finally, I applied the 'accent' colour of Hawk Turquoise to small and selected parts of the models, namely the 'eyes' and a small square of the left hand (the mini with the bonding knife also received HT to 2 small areas - see photo).  Again, this has the effect of breaking up the colours, provides a focal point and tie's in this unit to the rest of the force. The eyes were sparingly highlighted with Space Wolves Grey to finish.

The XV-8

After the Kroot this is my favourite model in this Battle Force, largely I suspect, because of the multi-barreled burst cannon.  I realise this isn't a particularly powerful weapon in the game but from an aesthetic point of view it's one of the coolest.

At the assembly stage I was conscious that this model would be a focal point for the force and I wanted to give him a stance that said "I'm watching over you little guys" and "I can handle it".  I'm not sure if I carried this off as he kind of looks a little static to me, so my advice is - take your time and make sure you dry fit with blu-tack or similar to make sure you get exactly what you're looking for.

Painting-wise, this model received exactly the same paint job as the XV-25's with the only significant difference being the coverage of the 'non-armoured' areas of the model, namely:

  • Face & neck
  • Joints
  • Jump pack exhausts
  • Legs & feet
  • Hands
  • Burst cannon barrels

All these areas received at least two coats of thinned Chaos Black.  You need to be a bit careful not to get black on your base coat especially around the face/neck/joints areas so take your time.

For the next step I applied a trick I saw in the Forge World Model Masterclass book. I took an old craft knife blade to a pencil and gently scraped along the lead until I had a little pile of lead shavings. You need to be careful not to scrape off the wood as well. I dabbed my finger into the lead until I had picked up a reasonable amount and then gently applied this along the black parts of the model. This left a pleasing understated metallic quality to the non-armoured areas. Be careful not to rub too hard though, you might rub off the Chaos Black!

Warning! - Only apply this effect if you think you'll like it.  If you don't it won't paint over very easily and you'll get microscopic parts of pencil lead in your brush which will be very difficult to clean off!

As with the XV-25's, Scorched Brown was applied to individual armour plates and panels and I highlighted the main colour with thinned Bleached Bone.  The main eye was highlighted at the top with Space wolves grey before being given a final spot of skull white to give the impression of light glinting off.

Finally, bases for all the battle suits were finished as per Step 1 in this series.

Conclusion of Part 3

With the benefit of hindsight I think I could/should have applied a bit more detail to the battle suits described here. Maybe the addition of some freehand detailing or a banner perhaps(?) to the XV-8 would have differentiated the model slightly and served to identify him as an important figure in the Battle Force.  I would certainly encourage you to explore ideas in that vein.  I'll take it as something learnt during the process and hopefully take that experience to my next project! Let me know your thoughts.

In the meantime, many thanks for reading this post, I hope you found it useful.  If you'd like to read the rest of this series see below:

    If you're interested in converting your XV-8 models you could do a lot worse than to check out the Eastern Empire blog and his downloads page which gives some great tutorials for all sorts of Tau conversions.

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    1. Gorgeous work! I really need to pick up a copy of the FW masterclass book - seems like it's filled with great tips, and I love how you've applied them to the battlesuits. Keep up the great work!

      1. Thanks Mordian, definitely recommend the FW book, really well illustrated and loads of things to try out. My next project will be on the same scale as your amazing space marine army. It's a bit daunting so I'll be adopting something similar to your painting chart to keep me sane...

    2. Those look really great! I like that method with the pencil lead, I'll need to keep that in mind.

      I also think I may need to check out this book as well...

      1. Thanks, I'm pretty pleased but for this next batch I'm working on they're going to be even better! Just got to get focused now... As above the book is great, it's a bit pricey but an amazing resource to draw on for inspiration.