Speed painting Imperial Guard test models with oil paints


Marco Frisoni mini painting tutorials get me excited to sit down and try things. When he tossed out a “this is already quite interesting” remark halfway through this week’s video on oil painting, I couldn’t help but think “you’re right Marco, I should speed paint an Imperial Guard army like this!”

I’ve been orbiting the idea of rebooting my IG army for Warhammer 40k 9th edition, so I had some Anvil Digital files waiting their turn. I printed four and got started with color test models.

Basic idea

I wanted to see if I could get away with a three-step process for mass producing guardsmen:

  1. Spray acrylic primer/basecoat
  2. Cover with oil paint
  3. Remove some of the oil paint

I want to use airbrush tricks, transparency, and color theory to produce decent tabletop-quality models with little effort.


Since I’ve been a Frisoniac for a while now, I have been using Molotow One4All as my primer/basecoat since last year. I have a big bottle of black and I love it. Just last week I received an order of several other colors from the same line. Time to give them a try!

For the airbrushed basecoats, I used Petrol, Purple Violet, Sahara Beige, and Liquitex Titanium White ink.

Basecoat paints
Molotow One4All and Liquitex ink

I used Windsor and Newton Winton Oil paints for steps 2 and 3. I wanted a low-chroma appearance, so I mixed a Payne’s Gray from French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, and an olive drab from Sap Green with just a touch of Magenta. I also used Ivory Black and Burnt Umber here and there. A few other colors and mixes I ended up not using, or using and not liking (such as the Pthalo Blue / Burnt Sienna mix).

Oils on the palette

The experiment

Step 1. I sprayed two of my test models with a basecoat of Petrol, and two with a basecoat of Purple Violet. Then, I took one of each and sprayed from above with Sahara Beige. The remaining two I sprayed from above with Titanium White. A promising start.

L to R: Petrol/Beige, Purple/White, Purple/Beige, Petrol/White

Step 2. Next, I slapped on oil paints. I tried different combinations of gray and olive drab on different elements of each figure, with burnt umber and black on things like weapons and boots. The fellow on the right in these pictures got a warm gray and a cold gray, which I hoped would look good together. I didn’t take a picture of this step, but they looked horrible as expected.

Step 3. After letting the paint set a while, I gently wiped away excess oil paint from the high parts using make-up sponges and Q-tips. Results were mixed.

Test results. The two on the left show promise.

I liked the two on the left enough to highlight with a little Titanium White. I think these will do nicely.

Role models for a whole army?

The extra highlight only took a few minutes, but if I paint 100 of these, that’s 5 hours of extra work. I think I will try one more iteration on a whole squad, something like this:

  1. Spray half with Petrol and half with Purple Violet
  2. Spray all generously from above with Sahara Beige
  3. Spray all sparingly from above with Titanium White
  4. Apply and remove oils: modified Sap Green, homemade Payne’s Gray, Ivory Black, and Burnt Umber

I suspect I will get best results by undercoating with purple for models that will have more gray parts, and undercoating petrol for models that will have fewer gray parts. I guess I’ll prove or disprove that hunch in the next test.

UPDATE: I cleaned the “failed” test models with white spirit and then repeated the base coats. After a second round of oil paints they came out nicely. Next up I need to match the basing style of the IG models I already own.

Reinforcements are on the way.

Ultimately I want to paint in batches of six, with a cycle time of one hour per batch.


7 responses to “Speed painting Imperial Guard test models with oil paints”

  1. theimperfectmodeller Avatar

    Although I more or less exclusively paint 28mm figures with acrylics now, for the first 30 years or so I only ever used oils on 54mm scale figures. Oils in my opinion even now are far superior to acrylics when it comes to blending and highlighting. Far be it for me to offer any advice, each to their own and all that but three things you may or may not find of use. 1) Oils work well on an acrylic base coat because the oil is absorbed into the acrylic. 2) If you are wiping off oil paint then you have simply applied far too much. The amount of oil paint required is very, very minimal. 3) I use Oils with some white spirit added as it dries quicker Hope the experiment goes well. 🙂

    1. BartyB Avatar

      I agree the amount I used this time was overkill. I was adapting Marco’s method, which uses a thicker oil layer mostly to form a substrate for subsequent steps (steps I don’t plan to do in this case).

      I really enjoy working with oils so far. Ask again after I finish an Imperial Guard army. 😆

      1. theimperfectmodeller Avatar

        Oils are great and I’m sure you will develop a method which works best for you and that’s exactly how it ought to be. 🙂 Will be interested to see how you get on. 🙂

  2. Comradepatrick Avatar

    This is a creative approach and I hope it pays off so I can experience the visually stunning spectacle of your “loyal 100” marching to war!

    1. BartyB Avatar

      Departmento Munitorum requisition forms have been expedited…

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