Saturday, 13 December 2014

On the desk: Painting High Elves

Tremble with despair! Lord Manton has returned...

Hello all. It's no surprise that I've been way into Warhammer Fantasy lately (hasn't everybody, though?). So I thought I would show you how I paint my High Elves. I'm also going to talk a little bit about why I do the things I do, so hopefully you can use the basic ideas in your own projects.

In this tutorial, I'll be painting a Bolt Thrower crew member. He is a fairly generic model and will be good to show the most general and useful points for painting an army. This tutorial should get your army up to a nice Table-Top Standard; it will look good on the table without bing a masterpiece up close.


As I talked about last time, my High Elves have an ocean feel to them. To achieve this I've broken my paint scheme down into a basic five colour palette: Turquoise, Silver, Gold, White and Purple. It's important to come up with a basic palette that you're going to work off. This will keep your army focussed and make sure everything looks like it fits together. Of course, you can use more colours for details, trimmings and gubbins. Characters and larger models will obviously have more detail and therefore use more colours.

Having this palette doesn't mean painting all the models and units the same either. Variety is the spice of life, after all. But if you stick to the basic colours and just vary how much of each you use on each model, you can keep a coherent look while making each piece unique. As you can see, the Dragon Prince has more turquoise than the Swordmasters, but because the palette is the same, they clearly come from the same army.

Dragon Prince
Unlike Games Workshop, I haven't updated my paints for a while, I try to look after them so they last a long time. Most of the colours I use in this tutorial are from the old range of Games Workshop paints, but the new range has pretty much the same colours, just ask your local hobby store and they can sort you out with the current colours, or similar ones from a different range.

Always undercoat your models. It helps the paint to stick to the miniature, stopping it from rubbing off when you handle the models and making them more chip resistant. The most common undercoats are black or white. Black is a good colour for an undercoat as any bits that you might miss aren't very visible; the eye tends to skip over it. Generally a black undercoat is best for a darker army. White, on the other hand, leaves missed spots very visible, but the colours come up a bit brighter when painted on, so for a bright army, it's preferable.

I used a grey undercoat (Uniform Grey by Army Painter). This is a bit of a "best of both worlds" approach as the gaps aren't immediately noticeable, but the colours are a bit brighter than if I were to use a black undercoat.

You can use different coloured undercoats. Coloured undercoats are a great way to base coat a lot of models at once, this is useful if your army has a lot of one colour (like Space Marines). It's important to remember that they will tint your model ever so subtly, but this can lead to some fun painting possibilities.


The next step is to put a basecoat on the model. This is basically laying down the main colours that you will be using on your army; the biggest areas of the model, usually. You'll want to make sure you get deep into all the cracks and crevices and get good coverage.

I put down the silver first, painting the armour panels and chainmail parts of the elf. I use Chainmail from Games Workshop. This colour has been discontinued, but there is a similar colour in the new range. Then I put down Hawk Turquoise. This is mostly on the trimming of the chainmail and some of the details of the armour.

After these two main colours have been laid down, I paint the gold on the gem casings and little bits of detail all over the model. For this, I use Shining Gold, a bold gold. The final part is to base the cloth of the robes with Gauss Blaster Green. This was a limited release edge colour, but it's basically a mint green. I use this on the areas that I'll be painting white. Using this as a base means that the white cloth of my High Elves has a nice green shade to it, as opposed to a more conventional grey.

The last part is to wash the whole model with Coelia Green Shade (GW). This is a really nice blue-green wash. It works well to shade the turquoise parts, but also gives a green-blueish tinge to the armour and the cloth. It also has the added benefit of taking a bit of the red tone out of the gold, making it brighter and lighter. I also like the hint of magic that it gives the models, which is nice for High Elves, an inherently magical race.

Pro tip: Go make a cup of tea while this dries

Washes are great. They're basically a very thin ink that will pool in the recesses of your model, providing instant shade without needing to use too many layers of paint, which can quickly build up and clog the details. A wash will also be thinner over the raised parts of the model, so it will provide a natural, easy to achieve gradient of colour.

After the wash dries, I then touch up the silver with a light brushing of chainmail, leaving the recesses shaded by the wash and then touch up the turquoise, again leaving the recesses darker. I'll then do another coat of the Gauss Blaster Green. This coat will go into some of the shallower recesses of the cloth, but I leave the deepest recesses as the wash will act as the shade in these areas.


Highlighting is the next step. It's amazing what a simple highlight can accomplish. It will make all those little details pop and really give your model depth and a slightly more realistic look. 

I will usually try to do about two highlights, but as you can see from the photo, even a single highlight really makes a big difference in how the model looks. For this one, I've used Temple guard Blue (GW). The second highlight on the turquoise parts of the model is Ice Blue (GW).

To highlight the gold parts, I'll do a light dry-brush of Burnished Gold, a lighter, white-ish gold. I try to concentrate on the edges of the details, leaving a bit of the green wash showing in the recesses. 

The next highlight is a coat of white over the cloth. Paint the white over the main areas of the cloth, leaving the shallow recesses Gauss Blaster Green. 

Painting Skin

High Elves and elves in general are paler than humans and other humanoid races. Usually I will do a basecoat of Tallarn Flesh, a bronze-tinted flesh tone. I'll then wash the skin area with Gryphonne Sepia, which is a yellow/light brown wash. For a darker skin tone I would wash with Ogryn Flesh, a typical flesh-coloured wash, or even Agrax Earth Shade, a brown wash, for a deeper, more weathered skin tone.

After the wash is dried, it's simply a matter of highlighting the raised areas of the face with Kislev Flesh, a nice light, pale skin tone. 

The Rest
Once you've gotten the basic armour, trimming and cloth painted you've pretty much painted the whole model. All that's left is to go around your soldier and pick out any gems, runes, ribbons or leather with the appropriate colours. 

This is where the last colour of our palette comes in: purple. I've gone for a very pink purple (Warlock Purple by GW), with more red tones than blue. This is because it will be my spot colour. A spot colour is basically a colour that will break up the model and draw the eye to the details. Usually you'll want to use a complementary colour. This is a colour that is on the opposite side of the colour wheel to your main colour.

Colour Wheel

Because my army is mostly of a blue-green colour, I chose a reddish purple that would pop out but not be too bright or jarring.

So there you have it, that's a basic run-down of how I paint my High Elves and hopefully will give you a few ideas of your own. Thanks for reading, and remember: a painted army is the best army!

As usual, if you have any questions or tips of your own, put them in 
the comments! I want to know what you do!

Tune in next time where I'll give a couple of tips for getting 
those tricky details looking schmick!


  1. Great job! A good read giving plenty of food for thought. Nice work with the colour wheel and explaining the "pop" colours. I'll definitely use that in my next painting scheme. Also I loved your pro-tip. lol

    1. Thanks, mate. I'm glad to hear you got something out of this.