The Hell's Horses are the hot rodders of Battletech. And what's a hot rod without flames? Well there's numerous ways to paint flames, but I've only got room to show you how to do one. So I've chosen to paint them up like the the Burke tank pictured in the "Battletech Field Manual: Crusader Clans" sourcebook. It's got a black base with red flames which are trimmed at the edges in gold. It's a simple two-color flame scheme, but it still looks pretty sexy.
1. Prep and Prime the Mini
For this tutorial, I've selected one of the new high quality plastic Thors. They're easy to assemble and have very little in the way of cleanup that needs to be done. I always prime white, just because it's the best all-purpose color for me.
Test-fit the pieces to make sure there's nothing wrong before you glue them together.
Tape or glue the base to a square of the backing card or an empty paint lid for handling and then take it outside to be spray primed.
2. Base Color
This is pretty simple, but don't rush it. I used Reaper Dragon Black, but actually I don't recommend it. I prefer IWM Black, but I ran out… okay, and I admit I was too lazy to go out and get another one. Actually, you should know that a lot of my painting involves things that aren't necessarily optimum but it's hard to change my habits. The Reaper Black is kind of chalky and rubs off easily. It just adds and extra bit of cleanup at the end. Alternatively, I could have taken it outside to spray on a coat of sealer.
Use several thin coats. If you go too thick in an attempt to just get it done in one pass, you'll have a lot of thick paint covering up a lot of fine detail at the end.
Make sure each coat is dry before applying the next one. Otherwise you'll find your next coat ends up smearing the paint of the previous coat.
3. White Flames?
Usually after basing I would do a wash, but since it's black, I skip that step. I end up putting that time into more highlighting at the end.
We're jumping right into flames here. Let's face it, this is what you're really interested in here. So let's start painting some white flames with Reaper Dragon White. But why white? Since we've got a dark base color and a lighter highlight, laying down some white paint will allow the brighter paint to stay more vibrant and require fewer coats to get full coverage.
Flames like to dance and wave in random patterns. Intentionally try to be irregular.
Try not to let any of them get too straight. You can just add a bit of a curve to one side if you see something you don't like.
Taper the ends into points. Try to keep the points at an angle and not straight up.
Feel free to add some separate wisps that trail off of the edges of the flame.
Practice painting some on a paper if you don't feel confident about putting it on your mini. However, don't worry too much. We can still make corrections as we go along.
4. Gold Flames
Now that we've got the white base down, we will start with the gold edges using Reaper Bright Gold. Since this will be a thin strip, it'll be easier if we apply this first. It'll be harder to draw a consistently thin line on top of the red, so we'll do it the other way around.
Don't worry about being exactly in the white areas and don't worry about only painting the edges. Close enough is good enough. Just make sure you're happy with the overall shape of the flames.
Keep in mind that we can still make corrections to the shape later on.
5. Red Flames!
Time for the defining moment of this paint scheme. Let's add some Reaper Dragon Red to this party. We'll be adding the red to the flame areas, taking care to keep a thin line of gold around the edges. BAM! Now that's what I'm talking about.
Remember to keep the lines curvy and not straight. As I write this, I see the worst part ended up being the outside of the right arm barrel. Some of the flames there ended up being a little too straight. Try to avoid this.
If the red area will end up as a long, thin line, consider breaking it up to create and separate wisp of flame within the gold area. You can see this on the outside right arm barrel and on the leg flames especially.
6. Back to Basics
Okay so I was so excited about flames that I forgot to do a step earlier. I didn't fill in the base, but all is not lost. We can still salvage this. I just use some two-part epoxy putty and roughly fill in the space. I like the natural look of having some of it run over the base. Once it's laid down, I take a sponge and press down on it to smooth it out, add some texture and remove any of my finger prints. Nothing looks more unnatural than finger-printed terrain.
7. Detailing, part 1
Now that we're happy with the flames, let's get some detailing in. Normally I use a grey metallic color for joints, but since we've got a black base, they will get kind of lost, especially in a photograph. But since this scheme is more a bout popping hotness, I used Reaper Copper to help them stand out better.
For the cockpit, I wanted a complimentary color to the flames so I layed down a watered-down coat of Reaper Eleven Green for the cockpit. You don't want the full color here, just the impression of a green-tinted window. I also used Reaper Griffon Tan to put a base coat on the, um, base.
Since we didn't apply a wash to the miniature like we usually do, we're going to use mini washes to help the detail look a little more worn and to help give it depth. Basically what I do is just add a drop or two of water to a small amount of Reaper Volcanic Brown paint and a drop of Future floor polish. Then I carefully apply it to the joints I just painted as well as to some of the flame areas that have panel lines.
The LRM launcher gets some black washes to darken the tubes and give a sooty appearance to the face.
Note that the first pass on the flames looks a little light, especially in these photographs. Cameras generally have trouble to noticeably show different gradations of reds, so you may have to exaggerate the colors if your intent is solely for photographing purposes. If you compare these shots to the final ones at the end of this article, you'll see how I made a second pass to darken some of the wash areas. If you're just doing this for showing people in person, the first pass should be fine.
Watering-down paint isn't exactly easy in terms of getting the balance right. However, a lot of times I simply just use a few drops of water and nothing else. But what if it's too watery? Well, just get some of that paint on the brush and then simply rest it on a paper towel for a few seconds. All of the excess water will be absorbed onto the paper, but just enough should remain on the brush. Note that this won't work if the paint is too thick. If it is, just add water!
Now usually, I prefer to highlight individual panels, but long ago, dry-brushing was my staple technique. Panel highlighting will you get more controlled and better-looking results, however it is very time consuming. If you're interested in trying this, make sure you read Pendragon's Clan Blood Spirit tutorial!
If you've been reading this tutorial series, you'll know that dry-brushing is like dusting your miniature with paint. I used Reaper Ash Gray for a first pass of dry-brushing. Just get a little paint on the brush, wipe off most of it and start dusting. The result will be very subtle with this color, but when used in combination with a second color, it will help make the wear look more natural.
Meanwhile, I also did a rough wash on the base with some more Volcanic Brown. Man does that look terrible, but don't worry, it'll get better.
One thing you may not know immediately is that, this will most likely ruin the brush you use to it with too. So make sure you use a brush you're not too fond of.
If you're not sure if you've removed enough paint, try your first attempt on somewhere relatively hidden, like the back of the mini.
9. Drybrushing and Detailing Part 2
So now we're going to hit this thing with another dry-brush. This time we'll use Reaper Granite. Why are we doing this? If you look at a car, which is painted only one color, if you look carefully, you'll actually see a lot of variation in the color. Everything you see naturally has gradations of color. In a miniature, it helps to exaggerate this gradation to make it seem more real and in scale. Remember this.
If I had gone straight to this shade of dry-brush, there would be a stark contrast between the base and the highlight. Having an intermediary makes it more complex and helps make it look more natural. If you scan through the pictures in the tutorials, you'll see how they look progressively better the more color and detail gets added.
To see this on a small scale, let's look at the cockpit. Take some RalPartha Shamrock Green (or some other bright green). Now get just a bit of paint on the tip and wipe off the excess with a couple of small strokes on a paper towel. Now start from the bottom and paint from the bottom-right corner out to the left and also up along the right. Always start from the lower-right corner so that the paint thins out the farther you get from the corner. Do this with a couple of coats, adding a little white to the paint and staying closer to the edges each time. Finally, blend a little white in and make a thin line along the same edges and add a white dot in the opposite corner.
Once you've mastered this cockpit painting technique, you'll have a good grasp of panel highlighting. The principles are slightly different, but the technique is almost the same. It's like realizing that "wax on, wax off" really meant learning how to block.
10. Touch Ups
This is a very important step that I think many beginners inadvertently neglect. You might think that top painters always paint things so beautifully without making a mistake or just because their skill is so far beyond yours. That's not really the case. And you don't have to wait until the very end to do touch-ups. There's quite a few touch-ups that I've been doing behind the scenes. Can you tell?
Take a look in the photo in the last step. Some areas, like the arms, took on a little too much paint. The right arm coupling ring is a little too dark from the wash. We should probably fix that.
To fix the arms, instead of just using black, let's use a watered-down black. By not completely erasing the over-brush, we will help keep some of the color variation from the dry-brushing and won't look like a big blot of black was just applied to the mini.
For the coupling, I just lightened it up a bit with a watered-down line of copper. I also realized I don't have decals, so I painted in some details like a "41" and the Alpha Keshik's insignia. You don't have to be exact with all the details of the insignia as long as the general feeling is retained.
Aren't we done yet? Well, besides fixing the base, I always find myself repeating step 10 a few times until I'm happy with everything. For instance, I made another wash pass on the red panels to help the lines stand out more. I patched up some parts where the paint rubbed off. You can basically do this until you feel satisfied or get sick of it.
11. Wrapping it up
To finish up the base, I tore up some pieces of cork and glued them to the base. I added another dry brush of tan and then did another brown wash.
Finally I glue some green flocking to the base. Wait overnight for that to completely set and then brush off the excess. The survivors get a light brushing of Reaper Mold to give the flocking some color variation and make the brush look like it's starting to dry.
Then I got out some of my terrain and a nice picture from a calendar and took some pictures.
Don't be afraid to paint the materials you add to the base. At least use a wash. It will help unify the colors and make them look more natural on the base. No unpainted rocks and sticks please!
Thank you for enduring through this article! Hopefully you found some useful information that you can apply towards your own efforts!
Here's just a few other examples of schemes with flames:
McFadden's Skyriders – Blue flames!
Or type in "flames" into your favorite search engine!