Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Test Figures... Are They Necessary?

Yes. There, that was a short article, now wasn't it?

Wait...you want the "why" they are necessary? Oh fine, don't just take my word for it. If have to explain myself, we might as well get into specifics as to why I think painting up a test figure for your army concept is important.

The model above was actually my second-to-last test model for the Centurions. The next model is one of the finished models from my actual army.

Pretty different, eh?

We'll over this in three main areas; what I was testing, how I went about testing, and why I moved to the other paint scheme.

What was I testing originally?

Color scheme. Not just of the armor, but of everything. It all has to look good together as this is what your entire project will look like in a nutshell. If you can't be happy with one figure painted in the scheme you think you'll like, you will hate an entire army painted like that. It really is just that simple.

How did I go about testing?

Originally I used the Bolter and Chainsword Marine Painter to concept and narrow down color schemes until I came up with one I liked. It's an amazing resource for Marine and Chaos Marine players. They do have a few other armies represented with a painter application of their own, but keep in mind, it's a power armor forum, so that's where the concentration lies. What do you do if you aren't playing an army with power armor? Go to your local art and craft supply store and buy a color wheel. It will be invaluable for finding a color scheme that plays well with each color involved.

After finding a color scheme I liked, my primary aim was to test different methods for painting a bone color as the main color for the armor. Once I had the recipe down, I then used yet another few models to test variants on that recipe for both consistency and speed.

Next I moved to the accent colors for the figure... Shoulder pad interior and edging colors, eyes, soft armor joints, and even bolter/weapon color choices. Once I was pleased with the overall look, I felt I was ready to begin painting the army.

Why did I move to the current paint scheme?

The bone-primary scheme was one I liked, and still do actually. So why did I change? A good friend of mine looked at the test figure and ask "I thought these were Greco-Roman inspired? Why aren't they wearing bronze armor?".


So I found a good recipe for bronze, altered it a little to fit my tastes and painted one last test figure...which I can't seem to find any more. That aside, I actually really loved the new figure! I still kept the bone color I loved so much, but instead incorporated it into the shoulder pads, as an accent color to break up the bronze.

In the end, all turned out well for the army, but if I hadn't painted up a few test figures for it in the first place, the army could have been over before it truly started... Kind of like my Eldar Army I shelved, where I painted a full squad of Dire Avengers and a squad of Warp Spiders... Then hated them next to each other... Then figured out that the problem was really the Dire Avengers' color scheme, because I liked the Warp Spiders' scheme so much better. This caused no end of frustration for me, and I ended up putting the Eldar on an undetermined leave of absence they have yet to come back from.

Ultimately when you create a test figure, you do so with the knowledge that you may not like what you see as you paint it, and that you are free to change the color scheme as you see fit until you do like what you see. I would rather spend ten dollars on a pack of snap-fit marines, or use the Black Reach ones, to test paint schemes out on, that paint and entire squad full of carefully constructed, and in my case converted, figures, only to hate the way they are painted.

Do yourself, your blood pressure, and your wallet a favor next time you start an army. Paint up a test figure first.

- Tim


  1. I really like the test model to show to people. Just like in your example, what makes sense to you doesn't make sense to others.

  2. I'm a big fan of test minis- totally agree with you on that one.

    Fantastic scheme on your Centurions by the way- nicely done! :)

  3. Test minis and a journal to write down what exactly you "tested" out are essentially tools of the trade. Your final paint scheme is unreal, the models look great. Thanks for sharing.

  4. HOTpanda brings up a heck of a point there and one I have kicked myself for time and time again.

    Keep a Journal of your paint recipes!!! I've neglected to have done so in the past (with the centurions even) and have had to re-figure out how I did something.

  5. Congrats Tim Toolen on not only wearing your "Sunday Best" but doing so for the second time this month. Once again I hope you don't mind the shout as I included you as one of the three artists in this week's "Sunday Best". Cheers and thanks for sharing.