Top Tip: Test Models

I'm a big fan of test models, which I'll use to sort out an army's paint scheme as well as just fiddle with a technique.

Yes, you have to be careful when you're fiddlin' - you could go blind.

It's also fun just to paint something different to break the monotony of whatever you're working on.  My rule is I never spend more than an hour on a test model... and I usually spend much less.  I'm a fan of speed-painting techniques; I'd rather have an army that's painted to a decent standard than 10 great models in a primer-tastic army.

I hit a stall when painting my Codex Chapter, the Silver Skulls, so I took one and repurposed it.  I loved the Storm Wardens project a bunch of internet notables were involved in, but frankly I always thought the silver should be on the inside to draw the eye in.  So, as you can see, I reversed it.  This test model is different from most, in that I'll actually be finishing an army based on it...

...but we all have our little failures.  Here I was experimenting with a tartan.  I vomited upon seeing the results.  They can't all be winners - and I quickly painted over this hideous design.

Here I was experimented in earth tones for the base of a Marine's armor.  Since there is green in the tan, I used green in the contrasting color.  I'm fairly happy with the result but I won't do anything with it.

The base was one of my first tests of a rush technique.  I went back and 'finished' the model to see what it would look like.  Again, as with most test models, nothing further will come of this one.

Here's a test model from years back.  How many?  No idea - at least 5, but maybe double that.  I keep everything.  The idea with this was painting Tyranids in a natural tone.  I'm not unhappy with the idea - it makes more sense than most bug schemes.

Another old one.  Alpha Legion.  This model inspired me to quit thinking about Alpha Legion!

I've done way too many Tau test models.  This is the closest I've come to being happy, partly because of how long I took: 20 minutes from start to finish.  That's something to consider what launching an army, because one model is easy but a hundred sucks.
There you have it - test models.  I'm sure we all have extra minis we know we're never going to need in our armies, so it's a way to make them useful.

My current project is Space Marines, and I'll be alternating between my Brotherhood Space Wolves 'Counts-As' and my faux Storm Wardens (I'll have to think of a better name).  The first is a 'dirty' scheme, which are my favorite to paint, while the second is a 'clean' look... something I find harder to do well, since it takes more patience.

Naturally I'll be showing you the results.


GDMNW said...

I've fallen foul of the failure to test before. I got most of a marine army painted before I realised that the scheme I was using was terrible.

What grated the most was that the level of painting was quite high. Technically the marines were what I'd call high tabletop standard. But they looked miserable.

Test your schemes. It's amazing how often your impression of a scheme in your head just doesn't work in reality.

SAJ said...

there's so much to agree with here... I've had probably 10 "awesome" DIY chapter ideas, only to see them flop once I painted a test mini and looked at it for a couple weeks. So yeah, definitely test

I thought the Storm Wardens project and models were great, but I too thought the colors were better swapped. My favs were Ron's termies, which did have the colors reversed, and were the basis for one of the "awesome" ideas. Your take looks a lot better though, and I look forward to more of it.

Porky said...

That Storm Wardens reversal was sharp! A single insight and everything changes.

Brave post too, for sharing the tentative steps into the unknown.

Master Manipulator (every store needs one) said...

Why does that Alpha Legion model have a Khorne symbol on him?

Brent said...

MM(esno): you would notice that.

I had this silly thought that I could do Cult Marines in the Alpha Legion colors, alongside Alpha Legion Marines and Alpha Legion inductees (Daemons)...

Bad idea. The test model is pretty horrendous on a lot of levels.

Aventine said...

I think the real problem is he forgot that his shoulder pad is suppose to go on his shoulder, not his face...

As a light-hearted side note, as an Alpha Legion lover, that model offends me...

Brent said...


It was a deep-sea diver... thing.

Look, it's not that it's bad, it's that it's soooo bad... I keep it around because I find it amusing.

Like, "Holler, gals! We're so Chaos!"

Rodney said...

I'm just getting into the idea of painting a few off test minis for the heck of it. I'm tackling a few thousand sons I got off of a friend just because I'm reading the book and they seem too damn cool now. Wont play them but just something different to paint for fun.

swank article as always. I've been following you blog more and more the past month or so and totally dig it. Keep it up!

Warhammer39999 said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm of the opinion that we learn far more from our mistakes than we do from our successes--and if we share those mistakes, we can help others to learn from them as well.

I'm learning alot from from the shoulderpad-head. Or at least it got a good chuckle out of me. :)

Thanks again!

Zachary said...

that 'alpha legion' model disturbs me
=), and are you gonna post yourm4th(?) battle against footdar soon, i am dieing to read it...

Brent said...

Zach: next week, on Bell... I figured everyone would appreciate seeing me butchered. :)

Klaus said...

I always make test models in batches of two.

I find that the results of a test model is much clearer with two identical models next to each other.

A single model might look fine all by itself whereas two models might tell us something about how an army with that scheme will look as a whole.

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