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Tabletop Thursday: Speed Painting Orks

I love Orks. They’re the best converting fodder for 40k. One problem though; as of right now the best build is foot slogging green horde, and foot slogging green horde is probably the least favourite army for any crazy Mek. One suggestion would be to just wait for the codex to drop and work from there, but regardless of army makeup, I think a decent amount of bodies for objective grabbing is probably required.

When I started Orks (technically about 7ish years ago, man that sounds long), I painted up about 60 boys (really shoddily) and then decided that would be good enough. They were rank and file and I could always distract them with my Dakkajet, or Dreadknights after all.

Recently though, I figured that even though I can continue to focus on the cool stuff for the Orks (wait till you see the stuff I’ve converted for AOP), I needed to make sure that my basic troops got some love. To that end, during the Iron Painter earlier this year I painted up my first (EVER) set of 10 grots, and I decided to do another set of 20 ork boys, hoping to eventually phase out the 60 boys I currently have, or in case I even need 100+ orks.

Now, I want them to be better than the ones that I have now, but at the same time, I don’t want to spend too much time on them. 2+ hours is par for the course for most of my models (actually I probably run upwards of 5-10 hours for most of them), but I can’t afford the time for units that run 20-30 large.

So, I would need a way to speed paint all of them.

Trial 1

Now, I’ve done speed paints before, but I haven’t really found THE WAY to do it yet. For one thing, I didn’t know how much I’d want to use my airbrush. Even though I’ve had an airbrush for quite a while (probably upwards of four years), I don’t use it enough to consider myself ‘good’ at it. I’ve used it for priming and single colour base coats, but until recently, I feel they’ve been more trouble than they were worth. Mainly because I got a crappy old hand me down airbrush. About a year back, I upgraded to a H&S Ultra, and while it’s a relatively affordable workhorse model from H&S, the difference is enough that I’m already thinking of upgrading further.

ANYWAY. How am I going to speed paint 20 orks? I knew that  that I wanted to at least do some zenithal priming for my orks (they worked so well for my brotherhood of steal bloodbowl team that I essentially do it all the time now), but should I airbrush more than that? I don’t know. Time to experiment.

I zenithal primed my Orks, and also airbrushed the brown onto a few of my Orks. About 3. I then proceeded to paint the models via brush. I tried to cut corners by doing a 2-glaze method (one colour for the shades, one for highlights), but even then it took a bit too long.

It worked well for the blue, but blue covers well in general.

 Green was a lot more tricky. I was using a VGC olive drab as my shade colour, and GW warboss green with my highlight, AND followed it up with another shade of GW Athonian Camoshade, but it wasn’t working. Not contrast, and the definition wasn’t as good as it’d like. And it took way too long.

Don’t even get me started on the yellow.

Trial 2

So that wasn’t enough airbrush. What next?

It seemed like skin was going to be one big hurdle to overcome, so could I use the airbrush to deal with that challenge?

I figured that as a speed paint and since these were basic models I could afford to cut some corners and use the same shade colour for the shadows for both the skin and the brown pants. I decided to go with purple brown, since I wanted a cool counterpoint to both the green and the brown. It was a mix of P3 Umbral Umber, WC Marine 5 and WC Pink 5. For the skin I went with VGC medium olive, which is a step darker then warboss green. I did this because airbrush tends to spray lighter than applying by brush, and I wanted to counteract the effect.

Put side by side with the V1 speed paint orks, the V2 orks’ skin and pants seemed comparable. And at a FRACTION of the time. Looks like I would be rolling this method for the rest of the models.

I also tried two different colours of brown, VGC dark flesh and VGC beasty brown for the pants. I prefer dark flesh, it covers better.

I decided to just airbrush two colours because I wasn’t certain how to get any more colours onto the ork models without overspray. Already I was practicing how to mask on the fly using my hands, that at least was a good learning opportunity. And well, I knew blue would be easy.

Even then though, that still meant that I needed to paint on a lot more colours on the damn orks. Boltgun for the metals. Bone for the teeth and details. Red for mouths, ork ponytails (orky tails?) brown to fix overspray and belt straps. And don’t even get me started on yellow. After that it was a wash of GW Devlan mud/Agrax Earthshade on the metals and some other bits and it was time to call it done.

Speed Paint Recap

This is a guesstimate of how long I took for the speed paint of 20 models:

Airbrush primer, skin and brown: 3 hrs

Bases: 1 hr

Blue: 2 hrs

Metals: 2 hrs

Yellow: 2 hrs

Details: 2 hrs

Shading: 2 hrs

Total: I guess 14 hours?

For someone that takes weeks to finish a model and months to finish a unit, that’s a pretty good timing. That isn’t I to say that there aren’t things I should improve though. I love yellow and need yellow in my brotherhood of steal, but at like 3 different colours, and multiple layers per colour, it takes too damn long. I painted hazard stripes on some of my ripper boys before giving up and deciding to just do straight silver on the rest, so I definitely need to figure out how to speed that up. Maybe airbrush yellow next time too? I can also probably spend a bit more time on the details, but I have other things to complete before I go back to these models.

Still, 20 models in about a week at about this level. I’m pretty happy.

PS: Yes, that’s 20 boys armed with fallout rippers. I collected a lot of basic ork boys to get that many.


Singapore’s resident Press Ganger, that is, the man to go to for Privateer Press’ WARMACHINE, and HORDES. Kakita also dabbles in Games Workshop’s WARHAMMER FANTASY and WARHAMMER 40K lines.

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