In this article, I would like to demonstrate my preferred way of painting Warhammer night goblins. Although I am not a well known painter, I think I gathered enough experience over the past fifteen or so years since I began collecting miniatures that I feel quite confident writing this article. By the end, I hope anyone will be able to paint these little green guys to a standard that is somewhere between tabletop and professional quality (somewhere around a 6 or 7 rating on a CoolMiniOrNot scale). To illustrate the article, I chose a classic 90s night goblin, sculpted by non other then Kev Adams. They are extremely hard to get by and cost a pretty penny, but I greatly prefer the look and feel of the them over today’s bulkier and more aggressive looking miniatures. Nevertheless, the principles are the same and can be applied to any kind of goblin in the Warhammer setting (or any other universe where the goblins are green).
Before I begin, however, there is one issue I need to mention. I use Citadel paints exclusively, but I have not purchased new colors in quite a while. So, some of the paint names I will mention below may sound unfamiliar to newcomers as Games Workshop recently revamped its entire color line, changing quite a few names, discontinuing old colors, and introducing new ones. To help with this problem (and those who use other brands, such as Vallejo), I included a visual representation of the main colors I used at each step. Based on these, it should be relatively easy to pick out or mix the colors needed. So, without further ado, lets begin!
Step 0 - Cleaning the Model
This section is probably redundant to many miniature painters, but for the sake of beginners, I felt it important to include it here. So, the first step when preparing a figure is always cleaning it: the removal of all the inaccuracies and excess material left on by the molding process. This may sound unnecessary to some, but I can assure you, there are few things uglier than a molding line running through an otherwise nicely painted figurine (even if it is “only” painted for the tabletop). Scraping off the excess can be done with a modeling knife or a special scraping tool (on occasion some sanding might also be needed, as well as applying some modelling putty to hide gaps on a multi-part model), but it is a relatively quick process, and a nice, clean miniature is well worth the extra time put into it.
If a figure comes in multiple parts, you also need to glue it together, and this can be a little tricky. For plastic models the process is easy, you just need to use plastic cement (not super glue!) that melts the parts together. Metal miniatures, on the other hand, may require pinning and putty to hold the heavier parts securely together. Since it is a relatively long topic and because night goblins rarely need it, I am going to skip this here. If you are interested in the technique, please do an internet search. There are lots of great articles on how to glue metal models together.
Note: it is not always advantageous to put a model completely together before painting. The goblin I used to illustrate this article, for example, has a shield. Obviously, I did not glue that on because it would have covered a significant portion of the goblin, essentially making the majority of the left side impossible to reach with a brush. In cases like this, I paint the parts separately and only glue them together once they are done.
Step 1 - Preparing the Base
Once my model is sufficiently clean, I glue it onto its base and prepare the terrain around it. What I did for this particular model was covering the entire base with superglue and sprinkling on it fine sand to give the appearance of uneven ground. Depending on the available space, however, I sometimes go beyond that and decorate my bases with other doodads, like rocks, mushrooms, scattered weapons, etc, some of which you can see examples of at the end of this article. On the miniature I used to illustrate this step, for instance, I used a skull from an old skeleton unit as decoration.
Once I am satisfied with how the base looks, I coat the whole model with black primer, using a Chaos Black Citadel spray. There is not a whole lot to this process, just make sure you cover all parts of the figure and that you apply the paint lightly, therefore preventing it from clogging up the crevices and obscuring details. Alternatively, you can apply the primer by brush, but I always liked the spray better because it provides a more even coating. After the primer dried, I painted the ground with Bestial Brown, then drybrushed* it twice, once with Snakebite Leather and then, very lightly, with Bleached Bone.
* Drybrushing is a technique in which you take a very thick brush, dip it in the paint, and then, using a rag or a tissue, almost completely remove the pigments from it. This ensures that, when you run your brush through a surface, only the uppermost features and/or edges will be painted. This works very well on fur, or the above mentioned ground. If you want to learn more about it, please find an online tutorial (there are plenty out there).
A little disclaimer here: many people leave detailing the base to the last, after they are done painting the model. The reason behind this is that, by not gluing the model onto the base, they can access every part of it more easily. This is a valid approach, and I see its merit. But, I always felt kind of clumsy preparing the base while trying to avoid the already painted miniature. So, unless the figure is overly complicated (which cannot be said about these gobbos), I always do the bases first and then proceed with the figure.
Step 2 - Apply the Base Color of the Skin
Every painter has a preference where they like to start working on a figure. I usually start with the face and other green parts on a goblin (unless some other, hard to access, feature indicates otherwise). For this, I use a mixture of Goblin Green, Dark Angels Green, and just a tiny bit of Chaos Black and apply it on all the green surfaces, leaving the deeper parts, such as the eye holes, mouth, and the gap between the fingers black.
Another note here: always make sure you add a little water to the paint and never use it straight out of the jar (with a few exceptions, such as when working with washes or when the paint is already too liquidy). We do this to ensure we do not leave brushstrokes on the model. It also helps to better blend colors together, as water makes them ever so slightly transparent. The amount of water varies from paint to paint, and to get the right amount requires a little experience. But generally speaking, try to water down your colors just enough so they do not leave brush marks on the figure. Most paint only require a small drop of water at the most.
Step 3 - Use a Wash to Add Depth
Once the first layer of the skin is dry, I go over it with a very dark wash I create by watering down Chaos Black and just a little Goblin Green until the mixture has a watery consistency (the ratio is usually about 10 to 1, 10 being the water).* Once mixed together thoroughly, I apply this concoction everywhere boldly then soak up the excess from the higher parts with a dry brush to ensure it only darkens the deepest crevices. The wash also adds a nice frame to the already painted parts as well as covers most mistakes that were made in step 2.
*From this point on, if I mention washes, just follow the steps above to create them. Basically, any color can be diluted with water to create a wash, and I use this technique quite often.
Step 4 - Complete the Base and Start the Weapon
Now that the skin has a basic two-color blending on it thanks to the wash, I apply a third layer of green paint to give it a final, three-color blend. For this, I use Goblin Green with a little more water than usual to make it slightly more transparent and paint all the parts that stick out with it: the nose, the eyebrows, the edge of the mouth, the cheeks and the chin, muscles and elbows, fingers, etc. Do not worry if the paint is not very prominent. At this point, we are just creating the base color of the skin, the highlights will be the one that complete it.
Caution: because the paint is watered down slightly more than usual, it will sometimes flow down to the crevices and other lower lying parts. Luckily, because of the added water, it takes the paint more time than usual to dry, leaving us with more than enough time to correct any mistakes by soaking up the excess with a clean, wet brush.
I also chose this time to start painting the weapon by drybrushing Boltgun Metal onto the black surfaces of the axe and washing it over with black to dim down the shine (I don’t like when weapons are too shiny). On many figures, however, painting the weapon often needs to come first as drybrushing is not exactly a precise technique and, more often than not, the surrounding areas around the target get painted as well. This happened with this gobbo as well, the handle of the axe receiving a healthy amount of metallic paint in the process (the brown spots that can be seen on some of the images are too from drybrushing). Luckily, the handle was not painted yet, so all I had to do was to go over it with Chaos Black to cover up the mistakes. But, on other models, it might be a good idea to do all the drybrushing in the first step.
Step 5 - Adding the First Highlights
This is the step when we apply the first highlights and details to the skin. To do this, I mix up a lighter green color, using Goblin Green, Skull White, and just a dab of Sunburst Yellow. Applying it is somewhat similar to when we put on the third layer of our base gradient but focus even more on the protruding areas. This means, on fingers for instance, to put paint only on the joint areas and not the entire finger. Put just a dab on other higher areas: the cheeks, the tip of the nose, the chin, the elbows, eyebrows, etc.
We also use this color to add detail to certain areas that are not represented three dimensionally on the model. There are two such areas on a goblin: 1) paint vertical lines on the area between his nose and upper lip, and 2) add some definition to its muscles by painting some tendons on them. See the images on the right to identify approximately where you need to apply the details.
Note: at this stage, the applied highlight could easily overpower the base color and give it too much contrast at certain places. If you are not satisfied with the result, I recommend making a Goblin Green wash and going over all the green parts. This will very nicely blend the various colors together without covering them entirely!
The last thing in this phase is to add the base color to most of the accessories. On this figure, this means finishing the weapon we started in the previous step and the rope the gobbo wears as a belt. But on other figures, it can be almost anything, from satchels, to secondary weapons, and amulets and jewelry. The rule of thumb when comes to accessories is to try to use different colors other than black and green (mainly blues, reds, and yellows) to give the figure a more colorful look. Many people do not like this, of course, but I believe brighter colors tend to complement very well the cartoonish style of the classic night goblins. I started mine by painting the handle of the axe dark red and washing it over with black to make the recesses in the wood more prominent. And, since I already got a dark red mixed up, I went ahead and (very carefully!) painted the eyes with it. To do this, I used a fine brush and was very careful not to paint the green parts around the eyes. And, as for the belt, I painted the whole thing Bestial Brown and, again, washed it over with black to make the gaps on the rope more prominent.
Step 6 - Finishing the Skin and Adding More Detail
This phase marks the end of painting the skin. To finish it, make a slightly lighter green than in the previous step and apply a very small amount on the highest lying areas, making sure that you do not cover entirely the first layer of highlight. I like to make the detail on the upper lip more prominent by highlighting the bottom part of the lines, the tip of the ears (when applicable) and nose, the finger joints, cheeks, knees and elbows, and the tendons we painted on the muscles in the previous step. This layer of highlight ensures that the details will truly come to life on the figure.
It is also time to apply the first layer of highlight on the accessories. In this case, the belt received some Snakebite Leather on the protruding areas. When I did this, I added very little water to the paint because I did not want it to drip down the recesses (if your paint is new, you might not even have to add water). This was fine because the details on the rope are so tiny that a human eye cannot really see whether it has nice blending on it or not. Since, I already had Snakebite Leather out, I used this opportunity to apply the base color to the teeth with it as well.
If your goblin has other accessories, just use a lighter version of the base color you painted on them and try to highlight the higher lying areas. On occasion, you might also want to go over the accessories with a dark wash to try to give them more contrast or sometimes with a base wash to try to better blend the various colors together. For examples, please see the images on the right.
Step 7 - More Highlighting
From this point on, all focus goes to the details. On this particular figure, I used Bleached Bone, to give the final highlight to the belt, applying a tiny portion on the highest areas and used the same color to paint the teeth, leaving a tiny portion of the previous brown showing close to the gums.
Once this was done, I used Chaos Black to paint the nails onto the fingers and toes with a fine brush. Of course, this step could have been done earlier since the nails will have the same exact color pattern as the teeth but, for some reason, I do not like to focus my attention on more than one area at a time. It is my own personal idiosyncrasy that, unfortunately, reflects in this tutorial, but no one needs to follow. :)
Step 8 - Even more Highlighting :)
Use Snakebite Leather to give the nails a brown color, keeping a little of the black base on the sides uncovered to give them a nice, dark outline. I also applied the final highlight on the weapon, by painting the higher parts of the wooden handle Blood Red. Similarly to the belt, I used very little water in the paint because I did not want the red to drip down the recesses. Since I already got the red out, I also put two small dabs of it on the gobbo’s eyes, giving them a little depth.
Step 9 - Painting on the Finer Details and Decorations
For this step, I used Bleached Bone to highlight the end of the nails (exactly like I did with the teeth) and to make the gobbo look tipsy by adding pink to the tip of the nose. To do this, I mixed Blood Red with Skull White to get a light pink color, and watered it down until it had a wash-like consistency. Then, I used this mixture to paint the pink onto the tip of the nose in two or three light layers. Because the paint was significantly watered down, it blended together nicely with the green color on the nose. Before the pink is watered down, however, I used it to add two small dots onto the eyes, making them look like as if they were shining.
Finally, I chose to paint a “chessboard pattern” on the goblin’s hood, using Skull White. This step is completely optional, of course, but I thought the figure could use a little more detail as it was fairly simple on its own. Whether to add such decorations to a figure or not, however, is everyone’s own decision. But, I recommend using it sparingly. I add such details to figures only when they do not have much detail on their own (such as the gobbo I used to illustrate this article) or to ones I want to stand out (such as special characters).
Note: it is standard practice to highlight the edges of the black, night goblin robes with a lighter grey color. I, however, was never really satisfied with the the way that particular highlight looked on my figures, eventually giving up on it all together. Therefore, I usually leave the robes of my goblins simple black. But, if you miss some highlighting from the cloths, just mix up a lighter grey color and apply it onto the edges of the robes.
Step 10 - Painting the Shield
Most night goblins do not have shields, but this one had, so I needed to paint it. After priming it Chaos Black, I drybrushed the wooden parts on the back with Bestial Brown and then with a lighter layer of Snakebite Leather. On the front, I used Ultramarines Blue as the base color of the shield. Once I applied the base, I made a light blue color by adding a bit of Skull White and a little more water to the base color, and used this mixture to add a slight highlight to the area next to the moon symbol. The moon symbol itself was done in several layers of orange paint (mixed from Blood Red and Sunburst Yellow) and then highlighted with layer upon layer, adding more and more yellow to it until the higher areas were bright enough. Finally, the metal edge was painted with Boltgun Metal and washed over with black, and then once again around the bolts to make them stand out.
Another note here: this may be just my paint, but my experience with yellows is that they have less pigment than other colors. Therefore, it usually takes several layers of paint to get an even yellow color out of them (especially on a black base). On the other hand, because of this, it is quite easy to blend them into other colors. :)
The final step on the figure (once the shield was glued on) was to apply a little patch of static grass onto the base, breaking up a little the brown earth. I put a little super glue on the base (I like to use the gelly kind for this) and added a generous amount of 3mm-long static grass on it. I then waited 4-5 minutes for the glue to dry completely and brushed off the excess fibers. Using static grass is fairly straightforward but, if it is your first time dealing with it, I recommend making a few trial runs before you put it on a painted model.
Step 11 - Varnishing the Miniature
If you want your paint job to last (especially if you plan on using your models on the tabletop), you need to seal it. Again, this is a process that could have an entire article on its own; so, if you want to know more, please do an internet search. But, generally speaking, most people use canned varnish, such as Citadel Purity Seal, and spray it on the entire model in a light, even coating. Varnishes have different types: the glossy ones generally provide more protection, while the matte ones look a lot nicer. It is up to you which one you want to use. Some people, however, use both, coating their figures with glossy varnish first to give them good protection, and then go over them again with a matte one to dull down the shine.
There are two things to keep a look out for when varnishing your figures. Firstly, always make sure you do the varnishing in a clearly ventilated area, as some brands can have toxic ingredients (you may even want to use a facemask). Secondly, try to do it in a low humidity environment as some varnishes tend to get milky when contacted with water, sometimes ruining the entire figure (once it is dry it ill be fine of course, you only need to be careful with humidity when you apply the varnish). I recommend doing a few trial sprays before spraying it on the figure to avoid nasty surprises.
And, that would be it. I hope many new painters will find this article helpful (and I am secretly hoping that even seasoned veterans will find a few good ideas in it). To finish the article, I would like to present a few classic night goblins I painted in the previous months. They are by no means special, but some of the techniques I wrote about above can be seen very clearly on them; they may even give some of you a little inspiration... ;)
Thank you for reading it,