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Getting to Tabletop Quality Quickly

Getting to Tabletop Acceptable Quickly (by Iffy)

How do you get figures that look acceptable on the tabletop in the least amount of time? By tabletop, I don't necessarily mean finished figures. If you're like me, I don't like to put naked (unprimed) or only-primed figures on the table, but I also don't want to wait until they're finished. I recognize that this can be a touchy subject, especially when it comes to, "should you only play with painted figures or not?" My point is that you can get figures that look reasonable on the tabletop with a very minor investment in effort, especially if you have a good process for painting. If you look at the links at the end of the article, I've linked some of my tutorials on colored primers, speed painting, and washes.

For the purposes of this article, I'll assume that no-one strives for unpainted figures on the battlefield. At the same time, it's probably unrealistic to think that everyone has the time, skills, motivation, and/or commitment to finish a completely painted army. So where is the happy medium? What level of quality can you bang out really quickly and still feel good about having them on the tabletop?

I'm currently working on two horde armies. I have 130+ Orks and 150+ Tryanids in the queue. As I work on my Tyranids, it seems that there are a couple of things that take a primed figure to looking like it might actually be done, when viewed on the tabletop in a mass of other figures:

  1. Something on the base and a non-primer rim color
  2. A basecoat or two
  3. A little bit of definition on those selected basecoats

By way of illustration, I'll use some Tyranids I'm currently working on. Here's a fully finished carnifex and a pair of completed gaunts.

Here's an example of a carnifex and a pair of guants, primed in almond, basecoated on the carapace, and washed. They aren't going to win any awards, but for minimum tabletop quality, they are fine ... at least until I get them finished. You can use a number of techniques to get to this point. I've written a number of articles about using colored primers, mass washes (also known as stains). If your choice of primer color is black, overpainting with a foundation color and a large brush can be pretty effective too. The only thing I don't like about stopping at this step are the bases, they clearly scream, "incomplete".

You can get to this point with Space Marines too. A nice colored primer + wash or black primer + some heavy overpainting and some Boltgun Metal on the weapons and you're good to go.

Here are the same two types of figures but with a basic layer of sand glued to the based and some Chaos Black painted on rims. Even a rudimentary inspection will show that they are incomplete, but in a mass of 100+ other Tyranids, they won't really stick out that much.

So, between a well-selected primer, a fast secondary color and/or drybrushing/overbrushing, and basic basing, you can field decent tabletop quality figures, or at least painted playable figures while you figure out how you're going to finish them.

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