The Warhound Titan is showing it’s age as a model kit. It’s tricky to build and is nowhere near as flexible in it’s positioning as the amount of pieces would suggest. The pieces require so much preparation with sanding and gap filling that just building it is a job in itself. So why did I do it?! Easy, I love large robots and I wanted a canvas to do some nice freehand on. With a little trimming and sanding the Warhound provides some nice, large blank spaces.
While I wanted to be creative with the freehand I also wanted to enter the model into a Golden Demon so I knew I would have to walk a fine line between painting whatever I wanted and making it fit into the Games Workshop universe, or it wouldn’t be competitive. I knew I wanted to paint a Death’s Head moth and by luck there is a titan legion, Legio Mortis, who is also known as the Death’s Heads. This picked my colour scheme for me, black and red.
CREATING MY ELEMENTS OF FOCUS
The main focus of the titan is the freehand, but I wanted the whole model to be quite dull and moody so I couldn’t have any section pop out too much. This meant I kept to a limited palette and used black as a base colour for all of the freehand, which was quite easy seeing as the titan was mainly black! I kept the subdued feeling with the main body colours as well, with the red muted by airbrushing layers of black wash. The black armour is various thin highlights of purple and grey over a black primer, also with black wash used as part of the weathering and shading.
The chips and scratches were done in a simple way, just using a flat black to paint them all by hand and then a light grey to highlight each lower edge. I then carefully gave each chip and scratch a shot of black wash from the airbrush. This helps to blend the chip into the model and gives the impression of weather damage under the paint. The streaks coming from the chips were just Winsor and Newton water mixable oil Burnt Umber. You could probably get a nicer effect using real oil paint, but this did the job of looking grungy and slightly transparent without having to worry about varnish layers and chemicals.
I made a mistake with the trim of the armour plates, I originally painted them shiny gold; they completely overpowered the model and drew the eye away from all of the other details. This was an easy mistake as I painted the titan in sections. While the individual pieces worked, once the model was placed together it became obvious that the trim was a problem. (As a side note, it’s important to keep placing the pieces against each other to make sure all the colours and tones are working as a whole.) I fixed the problem on the trim by using glazes of turquoise and Decayed Metal from Scale 75, followed by stippling of Sybarite Green from GW for a verdigris effect.
I also added a little white to the green in places for a more realistic, patchy pattern. I added dents and scratches to the trim so that it matched the armour plates for damage. If you are going to include damage on a model then all areas should be considered, this includes freehand! The scuffs and dents were just dark brown paint with the lower edge picked out in silver. Painting them with a non-metallic paint allows contrast with the shine of the metallics, making them appear even more 3D in the effect.
BREAKING DOWN THE FREEHAND
There were three main sections of freehand on the model, the carapace and the two large leg plates. The rest of the freehand was added as filler to keep the piece visually interesting. As mentioned previously, I wanted to paint a Death’s Head moth, but I didn’t just want to copy one from a photograph, but rather make it an individual piece. I found a few bits of reference to give me a general idea of how the moth should look and then started roughly blocking in the shape of where the skull would go. I planned to have the moth go on top of the skull with the patterns on the wings mimicking details of the skull. If you look at some of the progression photographs you can see that while I had a design in my head, there was a lot of refinement along the way. The horns in particular grew bigger, the teeth changed and the eyes on the moth’s wings were altered to better show that they were part of the moth.
The colours on the skull were Vallejo Heavy Brown, Cork Brown and Buff, along with Citadel Rhinox Hide and P3 Battlefield Brown. I used Broken Toad mark 2 brushes for all of the freehand, sizes 1 and 0. The first colour I use for painting a skull is always Heavy Brown. I find it a good mid tone and it has excellent coverage. I only care about roughly getting the outline down and don’t worry at all about the positions of things like the eye sockets etc. These can all be painted on top later. I also do not care about getting a perfectly even colour layer at this point, in fact it can be better to have faults as these can progress into nice texture effects later on. I find skulls much more interesting with textures and faults in the surface.
When painting freehand, a smooth finish is essential; not in terms of transitions, but in not making the paint thick and lumpy. In that respect it is different to painting a model. The textures that you paint have to be representations of something painted onto a flat surface. You are painting what someone would have painted onto that machine in an in-universe setting. I use the paints at differing levels of consistency, slightly thicker for precise mark making and thinner for glazes. It is really important to work with the differing consistencies or you will end up with thick paint all over or a very soft, undefined image. Considering that for the scale the skull and moth are taller than a man, the painting from our perspective should be very sharp and detailed.
As the skull moth progressed I tried out a variety of things, like adding spikes to the cheeks or making the teeth very long. Ultimately I didn’t like these and they had to be removed. The difficulty here is that the base was not one flat colour but various purple and grey transitions over a black primer. I painted over the areas I wanted removed using Vallejo Model Colour Black (it has a lovely flat, smooth finish) and then mixing up an approximation of the base colours and glazing over until it all matched. This is quite tedious and it would be better to get it right the first time. Sometimes it is better to roughly paint the image a little smaller and then expand it slowly as it is easy to add paint, but hard to remove it. Below we can see the gallery of the skull sbs!
Lighting is another important factor in freehand work. It is different from model painting as you are working on a 2D image, so in many ways it is easier as you only have to look at it from one angle. On the other hand it is more obvious when you get it wrong. One thing to consider with the lighting is how strong the light source is. If it is so strong that half of the freehand is in heavy shadow then the image can become unbalanced so much that even if the piece is positioned perfectly it will look to be weighted to one side as the light side will draw the eye. Reference is very, very useful when working out light sources. I see lots of people paint skulls and they look unrealistic as even though the structure of the skull may be correct, the lighting is wrong, making the piece look flat or distorted.
The two leg plates were the easiest pieces to work on due to the size and shape of them. They were easy to hold and the concepts I had picked were quite simple to paint. The skull with the ribbon going through the eye sockets was especially nice to work on as it had large, flat areas that I was able to fill with random details such as cracks and texture. The hardest part of that image was the text, it was fairly large so faults would stand out more than normal and the spacing had to be more exact. I also had to warp them to fit the bends in the ribbon while still making them look precise. One slight issue is that the armour panels curve around quite far and the skull shape does not extend very far to the sides. I overcame this by extending the ends of the ribbon into extravagant curls. The colours for the ribbon are actually the same as the skulls, but just in different quantities, with more emphasis on Cork Brown and Buff glazes.
The second leg armour plate (sbs gallery is below) was slightly more complex in design and also in it’s level of difficulty due to the background being the red and black stripes. It would be very hard to correct any errors over the red areas, but luckily I got it pretty much correct on the first attempt. The design itself is taken from a transfer sheet from Forge World. I didn’t want to copy the image, so I changed the skull to that of a buffalo, the rest of the concept was roughly taken, but I came up with my own lighting and designs within the concept.
I noticed that the symbol from Forge World featured quite a few chains, along with other transfers for this titan legion. I decided that I could carry this over onto the model to fill blank areas and reinforce the imagery of the legion on the titan. The chains are very simple with the basic shape being an oval and then a dash while trying to make sure that the general shape of the chain is either straight or dips with gravity so that it doesn’t look wrong. The highlights are what gives the chain links the 3d effect. I mixed a few greys myself up to a pure white dot in specific areas to make them shine. I didn’t want each link to be generic, so I added dirt and rust to some of them with glazes of orange and brown.
HARMONISING THE ENTIRE PIECE
While placing the pieces together I noticed that the sides of the carapace looked very empty. I had assumed that the guns would cover them, but this was not the case. I decided on simple images that still fitted the dour theme I had already created on the model.
Roses in particular are often used in artwork along with skulls so I came up with a design where the centre of the rose morphed into a skull. It is perhaps a slightly more romanticised design than is suitable, but as it was not a major focal point I thought I could get away with it. The other side of the carapace was a dream catcher in the form of metal and chains to give it a more sinister feel. I had already played with the designs of chains on the thighs so it didn’t feel out of place.
The skull with horns on the head of the titan was based on the original symbol for this titan legion from the 80s. It was the same basic design as the larger one on the carapace, but this time you could see the eye sockets and nasal cavity clearly. The contrast had to be a little higher to make it clearly visible as the background colour was red rather than black.
The groin plate was the final area of freehand of any significance (sbs gallery is a little further down the text). Unfortunately it curves down quite far under the model so is hard to see. I wanted to make it crystal clear that the model was from the Legio Mortis so I added a modern design for their logo. The rest of the freehand featured imagery that was more closely linked to earlier symbols I had found, and those were even more warped by me adding my own ideas to them. The groin plate was a much more direct translation of the current logo.
Weathering the freehand is one of the most nerve racking stages of the painting. I had to mix colours to match the base layers and then apply them in a way that looked natural but didn’t destroy all of the hard work. Once the chips and scratches are painted onto the freehand they still need to be highlighted along the lower edge to give them a three-dimensional appearance, this means matching the highlight to the section of freehand, and in some cases the multiple colours that the damage crosses over on the freehand. In most cases I didn’t have weathering streaks coming from these chips as they would be on a higher layer of paint.
The base was quite complicated to build as the legs had to be a perfect fit but I couldn’t glue the legs on as I wouldn’t be able to paint the pieces properly. The toes on the titan were much more limited in their posing than I had hoped and the foot on the floor had to be partially sticking into the ground to give the impression of weight. I had to completely paint the legs and most of the base and then glue and pin them together so that I could build more of the base up around the lower foot.
The broken trees were just small logs that I found in a forest, the rest of the base was made from layers of pva, sand and cork. I painted the base with Scale 75 colours as the matte finish would contrast nicely with the resin water. I used Sherwood Green as the main colour with baking soda added to various sections to get a rougher texture for the dried algae, this also made it brighter and so worked as a highlight. I wanted the tree with the titan’s foot on to look as though it was being ripped from the ground so I sculpted on a collar to the base of the tree at an angle, so even though the log was glued flat it looked like it was tipping sideways. I then added actual, small tree roots underneath to show that it was being torn out. In this case I wasn’t concerned about the roots becoming dried out and brittle as they were going to be submerged in resin for the water effect.
I added water running from the collar and splashing into the pond to create a bit of movement. If you look closely under the trunk you can see skulls that have been revealed as the tree is pushed over. I did that as it keeps with the theme of the piece and is linked to some of Games Workshop’s lore for the period the titan is represented from. I’m not an expert with using resin for water, but I had learnt from experience that I had to coat the base with multiple layers of pva to create a seal against the resin leaking out. It did still leak but was manageable. After the resin had set I added a top up due to shrinkage and the small amount that had escaped. The way that the resin sticks to the edge of the pond area it raises up a little making the ground around the pond look wet.
I finally added a banner in between the legs as when I examined the model it looked too open there. I didn’t have much time and would have liked to paint the rear of the banner as well, but it at least allowed to me add some small details that were missing from the model such as titan symbols and kill markings.
Generally I am happy with how the model turned out. I would have liked a little more time on it, but ultimately it was a good learning experience, especially with the base. I may go back to the model in the future to add a few little bits, like the rear of the banner.
Thanks to Jason for asking me to write this piece and share it with you. Hopefully it will be of some interest and/or use! Thanks everyone for reading! Cheers!