How to paint Tyranid models

Written by james holloway Google
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How to paint Tyranid models
Acrylic paints and brushes are the basic tools of figure painting. (Getty Thinkstock)

In Games Workshop's "Warhammer 40,000" game setting, the Tyranids are a malevolent alien species bent on swarming across the galaxy and exterminating humankind. From swarms of lowly Gaunts to monstrous Hive Tyrants, the Tyranid hordes are represented by plastic and resin models. Painting these models is a large part of the fun of playing Tyranids. The diversity of the swarm fleets gives painters the opportunity to choose their own colour schemes and express themselves with an eye-catching army.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Tyranid models
  • Hobby knife
  • Clippers (optional)
  • File (optional)
  • Cyanoacrylate glue or plastic cement
  • Newspaper
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Water
  • Paper towel
  • PVA glue
  • Sand or flock

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  1. 1

    Remove your Tyranid models from their sprues. You can use either a hobby knife or clippers for this process.

  2. 2

    Trim mould lines from the models using a hobby knife or small file. These small lines form where the two halves of the mould meet and can spoil your paint job if not removed in advance.

  3. 3

    Assemble the models using cyanoacrylate glue ("superglue") or plastic cement. Allow each piece a few moments to dry before gluing on the next.

  4. 4

    Mount the models on their bases. Glue them securely into place and leave them to dry on a piece of newspaper or other safe surface.

  5. 5

    Design a colour scheme for your army. One of the most common patterns for Tyranid armies is to paint the skin and armour plates of the monsters in contrasting colours, such as red and bone or white and pale blue. Choose other colours for the eyes, teeth and weapons of your aliens, but be careful not to assign too many colours to any one model; this can make your army look busy and detract from its cohesive appearance.

  6. 6

    Apply a coat of primer to your models. You can spray this on or put it on with a brush; spraying is quicker, but brush-priming is more likely to reach difficult areas, as well as being possible indoors. You can prime with white or black paint; in general, black primer is better-suited to dark colour schemes, while white encourages bright colours.

  7. 7

    Paint the base colours on your models. It's a good idea to paint the lighter colours first and not worry much about going over the edge of the area you intend to paint; it's simple to paint dark colours over light ones, but harder to paint light ones over dark. Clean your brushes thoroughly with water after applying each colour.

  8. 8

    Highlight your models. Pick out areas of raised detail, such as the edges of armour plates, teeth and the folds and ridges of flesh, with a lighter shade of the base colour. For fast highlighting, take an old brush, apply a small amount of paint to it and wipe it almost completely dry on a paper towel. Dragging this brush over areas of raised detail will create a quick highlight. This technique is called "drybrushing." Don't do it with a new brush, however, as it wears brushes out quickly.

  9. 9

    Add shading to your models. One simple way to do this is with a wash, a thinned-down application of paint or ink. The wash will pool in the recesses of the model, adding shading. Wash miniatures with a slightly darker version of the base colour.

  10. 10

    Allow your models time to dry. Acrylic paints dry quickly, but washes are a little slower, and handling them before they're completely dry can smudge them.

  11. 11

    Apply a thin coat of PVA glue to your models' bases with an old brush or toothpick. Dip the bases into sand, flock or a similar texturing material to give them the appearance of earth or grass. Allow the glue to dry, then paint and highlight the sand in an appropriate colour.

Tips and warnings

  • One way to maintain a distinctive theme within an army is to use a unifying base colour but give each brood a slightly different contrasting colour. For instance, you might paint all your models with blue-white skin and blue armour plate, but give one brood of Gaunts purple stripes on the plates, while another brood has red stripes. This helps each brood maintain a distinct visual identity within the overall theme of the army.
  • Always use newspaper or a dropcloth to protect your painting area.
  • Use caution when cutting with a hobby knife; always make cuts away from your body.
  • Use spray primers outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

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