"What is mercy? Does it taste like marrow?" - Phage, Tyranid Hive Mind

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Painting Tyranids

I am not an expert on this. This will simply be a record of approaches I have tried, inspired by the information in the Codex Tyranid, Collecting and Painting Wargames and Armies, discussions on the Yahoo! Group mini-painter, and references on Color Theory.

  • The final color scheme approach
  • Some preliminary ideas for color schemes

For some finished miniatures, follow the links above. Due to the picture intensive nature of these pages, they were kept separate.

The Final Color Scheme Approach

Basic parameters

  • Body color (not the plates) must be light enough to allow the recessed details scattered on the flesh to show up after a wash.
  • Plates fade from black or a very dark color (at base/recesses) to a lighter color
  • Edges of plates, blades, claws, and perhaps weapons have a final drybrush that is metallic
  • Teeth are metallic

Current Painting Plan (using The Secondary Color Triad)

I finally read up on color theory and decided to go with a triad of colors. I chose the secondary triad, purple, orange, and green. Basically, the chitin is dark green, the flesh is purple, and orange will used to separate and highlight regions.

  1. This depends on the model in question.
    1. For the Ripper Swarms and one of the Biovores, I used the following approach. I think that for final results, it is probably the safest way to insure the best end product, but it is time consuming. I would probably only use this If I am very worried about obscuring detail and/or the model is very large so that I can readily access every part of it.
      1. Use brush-on primer with Folk Art Glass & Tile medium and Decoart Ceramcoat Eggplant paint for body.
      2. Use brush-on primer with Folk Art Glass & Tile medium and Decoart Ceramcoat Black Green paint for chitin
    2. For the Gaunts and Genestealers, I am going to try the following, more commonly used, approach. The main reason is that it is very difficult to reach a lot of the underside and inner surfaces of the limbs on the Gaunts. These areas would normally be in shadow, so if I prime with black, it should be more forgiving if I miss a spot. I tried the brush-on primer, but it's taking far too long with such a large number of figures to paint. We'll see how things turn out...
      1. Primer in black with a spray.
      2. Basecoat the flesh with Decoart Ceramcoat Eggplant.
      3. Basecoat the chitin/weapons with Decoart Ceramcoat Black Green.
  2. Body
    1. Highlight as appropriate
    2. Tail, and possibly the forelimbs, will probably have a hive/brood marking to match those on the chitin (see below). Right now, I am thinking of using a yellow mark on the tails. Again, this comes from color theory. The tails of the gaunts are long enough that the tips will be separated cleanly from the rest of the body. Purple and Yellow are direct complementary colors, so, Yellow should look good against the purple.
  3. Chitin
    1. Mildly highlighted to a dark green color.
    2. Hive/brood markings with some type of orange color, probably a bright orange. Right now, that will generally just consist of edging on the chitin plates.
    3. Bronze metallic highlights of some sort. Right now I am not sure if I want to mix in bronze pigment, stipple, or drybrush.
  4. Eyes and teeth - bronze metallic
    Talons - see chitin


OK, I am happy with the scheme. Time to get down to painting. I decided that less dramatic shading would be nice, so I plan to use the basecoat, two lighter shades, and two intermediate shades. So, for example, assuming the stop sign approach to mini shading. The colors used for the various faces follows:

  1. Base color is a 1:1 mix of Ceramcoat Medium Foliage Green and Dark Foliage Green. Highlight is pure Ceramcoat Medium Foliage Green.
  2. Base color is a pure Ceramcoat Dark Foliage Green. Highlight is a 1:1 mix of Ceramcoat Medium Foliage Green and Dark Foliage Green.
  3. Base color is a 1:1 mix of Ceramcoat Dark Foliage Green and Black Green. Highlight is pure Ceramcoat Dark Foliage Green.
  4. Base color is a pure Ceramcoat Black Green. Highlight is a 1:1 mix of Ceramcoat Dark Foliage Green and Black Green. [honestly, I often did little highlighting on these faces, especially on the very small pieces, like the Ripper Swarms.]
  5. To follow this pattern, I should have used a base color of Black and Black Green, and highlighted with Black Green, but I just used a Base color of Black Green without highlights.