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A Veritable Horde of Orcs


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This is my very first WIP topic here, and my very first time painting minis at home. My prior experience is painting about 15 minis in one-hour paint-and-take sessions at Reaper's booths at various PAX conventions over the last year. That's done with brushes that have been pretty beat up by other convention-goers, no palette suitable for thinning paints, and of course a rather short period of time. It was a lot of fun, it got me hooked, and I had a few results I'm actually pretty happy with, but I feel like a complete beginner about to paint his very first mini. I have never really done one before properly, at least as I see it, and very few of those 15 minis reached a "finished" state in my mind.


Consequently, this WIP is going to be pretty exciting for me, and a huge learning experience. What will it be like to have no time crunch? What will happen when I start mixing and thinning paints like I've seen a lot of you do? What level of detail will I be able to achieve with properly-tipped brushes and binoculars on my head?


Well, I want to learn a lot, and for that, I figure the more practice I have, the more systematically I go about it, the better off I'll be. To that end, I have amassed a veritable horde of orcs.


77042 Orc Marauder (Sword and Shield) x3

77045 Orc Hunter (Spear) x3

77051 Orc Stalker (Two Weapons) x2

77056 Orc Sniper (Archer) x3

77059 Orc Berserker (Two Handed Sword) x2

77064 Kavorgh, Orc Warboss x1


Yes indeed, 14 orcs in total, which will mean I'll basically be doubling the number of minis I've painted with my very first real project. It's ambitious, but I am an ambitious sort of guy, and I figure painting 14 figures that are all pretty similar will give me a lot of practice for new techniques I want to learn. Also, and I feel like this matters, the orcs are relatively large, so I'll be able to paint just a little less precisely and not ruin things, and also have a larger "canvas" to get experience on.


One small problem. I don't actually have my paints yet! So why did I make this topic now? Well, the paints will come on Tuesday, and I want the weekend to really look these figures over and think about colors and how I'm going to do them. I'm posting the WIP now to sort of think about that process "out loud" and maybe get a little advice before starting. Plus, well, I'm really enthusiastic.


One thing I'm gonna do is paint every individual orc of each type with some different skin tones. I figure orcs, like humans, have some pigment variations in their skin across the population. Over the long history of whatever fantasy world these guys are from, there would have been migrations of different orc populations, and random mutations (or magical mutations), and so a clan or orcs would be genetically diverse enough so not every orc looks the same. Since these orcs are all bald, I can't experiment too much with hair, so instead I'll experiment with skin.


The other thing I'll do is mix up the leather or fur they're wearing under their armor. Using just a bit of different color will help me diversify the horde, and make it easier to differentiate them all in a tabletop setting. Where possible, I'll try to contrast these leather or fur colors with their skin colors, for a nicer effect.


The armor, eyes, and teeth will probably all be the same for each of them. I'll paint the plate armor with dark metallics, and the mail with light metallics washed with black. My intention is to make their armor look well-used and not shiny-new. I'll probably give the war boss some nicer, shinier armor. Maybe some gold. I may try to do some freehand on his plate mail to give it a little tribal significance or an intimidation factor.


I'll try to vary things a little with details like bloodstains for the melee orcs. I may also attempt some war paint. We'll see.


For reference, I'll be looking at the examples in the inspiration gallery. Of particular interest to me is the skin color Citrine got on a couple of these minis, the skin on this one by Jeremie Bonamant Teboul and the furs by Slashhamster.


My rough plan for dealing with these orcs is as follows, though of course no plan survives first contact with the enemy.


1. Clean the minis. I got a new toothbrush for just this occasion.

2. Quick coat with brown liner.

3. Eyes. I've been reading and re-reading the various tutorials and topics on them.

4. Base coat the skin.

5. Base coat leather, furs, and armor

6. Finish skin

7. Finish chainmail

8. Finish furs and leathers

9. Plate armor

10. Weapons and shields

11. Detail work

12. Sealer


I'll try to do all 13 orc mooks at the same time, step by step, and then do the warboss at the very end after I've learned as much as I can about orcs from the earlier painting. I'll be taking detailed notes as I go, writing down recipes and each step I take, especially with skin.


I'll also be photographing a lot. My mini photo booth is ready and waiting (well, backdrops come tomorrow).


Right now I'm thinking about five different skin colors I'd like to try with my orcs. I'll try to do at least two orcs of each color, avoid duplicating colors for the same orc minis, and I'll paint the warboss with my favorite result.



I'll start with a green base coat and then layer on some brown. I don't really care for the Warcraft-style bright green orcs, but I think green is a decent color to work with for them. I'll aim for a fairly dark green with enough red in there that you figure he still bleeds red.



I'm going to try to match Citrine's orc skin as close as I can, because it's awesome. It looks like khaki and muddy brown or brown sand. Citrine, if you're reading this and remember what you did, I'd love some tips.


Greenish- Orange

In other words brownish-yellow, right? Well, maybe, but darker. I'm not exactly sure how to describe the color I'm thinking of, but I'll know it when I see it. More brown, less khaki.



I think of this as a sort of rage brown. Good for a berserker. I'll probably base coat a darker brown and then layer on reds. I might even throw in a little purple there. Orc smash!



Sort of a Lord of the Rings orc skin color. I think I'll base coat with a dark orange of all things and then layer on grays and maybe some tan highlight.


If, as I'm mixing, I stumble across any other skin colors, or a different way of doing what I'm thinking of doing, I'll certainly talk about that here in the topic. I'll be happy to hear from anyone with skin tips, while this topic is running.


It's a little too early to start thinking about the leather and fur pairings, since I don't even know yet which orcs will get which skin colors and not every orc mini has leather or fur. Still, I'm thinking I'll probably do the sorts of furs you'd find in highlands, as I imagine these orcs live in the shadows of mountains. They raid settlements for livestock and slaves and live a nomadic lifestyle, retreating back into the hills where organized parties of soldiers can't track them down too easily to end the threat once and for all. So, wolf fur, deer fur, maybe even mountain goat fur. The leathers I can have a little more leeway with since leather can be stained a variety of colors. I'll use what I think is appropriate in contrast with skin tone, though I'll probably stick to brown leathers of various shades.


Wood is another interesting set of decisions to make. There's the shields and spear shafts. I've seen a couple good tutorials already, but I'll want to see some more before I do them. I think I'll probably go with old, aged wood. The shields may provide some interesting opportunities for freehand painting.


I'm aiming for a blackened steel type color for the armor plates, as a base coat. I may get adventurous and start experimenting with a little color on top to dull them out and age them. I'll probably try some highlights as well with a lighter metallic. For details, I want to see if I can do a freehand painted design representing their clan, and make it look like it was smeared on there with a crude old brush (at their scale), or even finger-painted (at their scale). Could be a challenge to replicate that effect, but maybe I can do it. I'll spend some time thinking about what orcs would use as a thick, crude paint, what color that would be, and what technique I'd need to replicate that.


And oh yes, there will be blood.


Anyway, no pictures today, since there's nothing to see, really. Best I could give you is some pictures of unpainted minis against a very white background and that wouldn't be very fun to look at. Paints should arrive by Tuesday, so just four days to go. I'd appreciate any comments, advice, well-wishes, etc. in the meantime, and I hope you enjoy following along as I ramble about orc skin and teach myself to paint almost from scratch.


As a bonus, I've been taking a drawing class (crazy me, starting two hobbies at the same time), and maybe I'll sketch some of these minis every so often and post those sketches. It's a non-credit, casual sort of thing at a local art museum, and the first class was only just last night so I can't promise quality, but it'll be good practice for me and maybe it'll help me figure out what I want to paint. It would also combine all three of my artistic hobbies (painting, drawing, photography) into one giant megahobby and completely take over my life.


Just as a disclaimer, I would really thank you for your constructive criticism throughout this topic, even if it's harsh. Only way I'll get better is if people don't treat me with kid gloves and I can guarantee you'll never be able to hurt my feelings. I find that infinitely more useful than just a quick bit of nonspecific praise. If I've done something well, tell me specifically what that thing is, and if there's a way to do it better let me know that too. Of course some things will just be stylistic choices, but I still like to hear about how other people do things. I'm my own worst critic but I'm sure there's stuff I'll miss so let me know where I'm in need of improvement.

Edited by mrxak
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Super excited to see what you can do in a home setting with the freedom to take your time and experiment!  I really dig the amount of thought and preparation you put into this project.  My one piece of advice is to allow yourself to stray from your vision.  You've got great background stories for these orcs before cracking the first bottle of paint but it helps to not feel that you are restricted by them.  If, through experimenting with certain techniques or color mixing, you end up with something that you didn't set out to do, but it's still cool, roll with it!  There have been a number of times that I ended up with something completely different from what I set out to do, but I actually ended up liking it more than my intended outcome.  You can always change the story a bit to fit with whatever comes up during the painting process.


I'll stock up on popcorn before next week ;)

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Super excited to see what you can do in a home setting with the freedom to take your time and experiment!  I really dig the amount of thought and preparation you put into this project.  My one piece of advice is to allow yourself to stray from your vision.  You've got great background stories for these orcs before cracking the first bottle of paint but it helps to not feel that you are restricted by them.  If, through experimenting with certain techniques or color mixing, you end up with something that you didn't set out to do, but it's still cool, roll with it!  There have been a number of times that I ended up with something completely different from what I set out to do, but I actually ended up liking it more than my intended outcome.  You can always change the story a bit to fit with whatever comes up during the painting process.


I'll stock up on popcorn before next week ;)


Yeah, I'm willing to stray from the vision, but I do have a pretty clear idea in my mind who this orc tribe is, based on a D&D campaign I've run and intend to run again. Stuff like colors though, I'm definitely going to see what I like and what works in the moment, especially the skin. My plan for all that stuff is to just outline my thoughts and have a starting point so I'm not stuck with blank canvas syndrome.


Great comment! Thanks!

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So, what kind of tools do you have to remove mold lines and flash, then?



I have just a simple hobby knife. No files or anything like that. I'm not too worried about mold lines, really, but if there's anything particularly egregious I'll see what I can do.

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well it looks iike you have a pretty well thought out plan. 

this sounds awesome. 


I am doing something related painting 11 gnolls, over 2 months. I was concentrating on my techniques, hoping to improve a few specific areas: eyes, armor, and basing.

I found that doing a few of them with each technique then stopping to think worked better than trying on all of them at once.  I also use youtube (painting Buddha)  or other resources (like a painting class)  to check my work.  


good luck I bet you will learn a lot. 

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Well as I was getting ready for some prep work today, I noticed I actually miscounted. Make that 77056 Orc Sniper (Archer) x4, for 15 orcs in total. I actually picked up the one Sniper separately, and bought three more specifically so I'd have four total, then promptly forgot about having four.


Also missing from my plan was straightening out some parts that got a little bendy in transport. Mostly spears, on the 77045s, and a few swords on the other guys. Kavorgh and the Snipers look great, though.


Anyway, I'll be taking out all of these from their blister packs today, looking at mold lines, and cleaning them. I already see a pretty big chunk of flash on one of the Stalker's swords, which I'll definitely want to deal with. I should also have my photo backdrops arriving today, so I may take a picture or two of the Berserker I already did at a 1-hour paint-and-take about a year ago, and use that as an example of some of the things I want to accomplish/improve.


Can anyone point me to a good tutorial, ideally a video tutorial, about removing mold lines from Bones? I'm a little bit nervous I'll do it the wrong way and end up cutting off parts I don't want to cut off.

Edited by mrxak
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Did you read Wren's posts on preparation and painting of Bones?  They're pinned in the Bones Miniatures and Legendary Encounters forum.  The one with mold lines is linked below.


Bones: Preparation (Glues, Putties, Mould Lines, Etc.)


You might find something on youtube.  I like Dr. Faust's video tutorial, but it is about metal and at the end, hard plastic.  Techniques are similar with Bones.  However, read Wren's post to see what the differences are. 


Also, if you freeze the Bones figures, it stiffens the plastic and can make them easier to work on.  My favorite way is to use a sharp scalpel to slice them off.  This tends to leave a cleaner finish while filing can make things rough.



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Alright, well I think it's only fair to show you guys some photos, now that I've taken these guys out of the blister packs. I have just two, and they both demonstrate an aspect of this WIP.


The first photo is of my photo station, or light box if you prefer, though it's not exactly a light box, more like part of a box and some stand lights on tripods.


For anyone who's curious, the box is an Amazon size 1AC box I happened to luck out in getting fairly recently. When I saw the box, I knew I ought to save it, since it was exactly 11 inches on one side, which coincidentally is the same size as Hangar 18's backdrops. The cardboard is not as strong as I'd like, but it's strong enough to hold up a t-shirt (see next photo) and cut down with a box cutter as I've done it looks like it'll work perfectly for holding a backdrop. I might try stiffening it up a bit more with some tape, however.


The lights are fairly cheap LED panels I picked up recently with a 5600K temperature (approximately daylight) and up to 3200 lux at 1 meter brightness. They use 30 watts each, so not breaking the bank doing long shooting sessions or superheating my minis, and can be dimmed 0-100%. The best part though is I can hook them up with a cable and control both with the same dimmer, so no guesswork needed when I lower the brightness for longer exposure times (thus cutting down on noise), I know they'll both be the same exact brightness. That's why there's a second cable coming from each light, going under the table. I have a third light (got three for general studio work, but I think I'll only need two for mini photography) that I'll probably use in my workspace while painting since it's a bright soft light at a great temperature for working. I actually used the third LED panel from up high over my shoulder to light the scene, with the two panels pictured dimmed down very low, to cut down on silhouetting and let you see more of the set-up. That explains the shadows; in use, those shadows aren't in the box. They also come with those plastic diffusers you see. I don't think they're really necessary since the light already comes from 360 LEDs across a 10"x10" square, but it's easier to just put them on the panels and forget about them instead of finding a place to store them. For all I know, they may have some minute positive effect.


The camera is a Panasonic GH3 which is a mirror-less interchangeable lens camera in the micro 4/3 system. It's not my only camera (I'm a pretty serious photo hobbyist), but it's the one I'll probably do most of my mini photography with because it has the nice flip-open touch screen. It makes it very easy to shoot on the tripod when it's low to the ground. The camera also has a great big battery so I won't have to worry about it when doing WIPs with lots of pictures over many hours of work. I'll be shooting in aperture-control mode for depth-of-field control and using the touchscreen to set a focus point, rather than go full manual. Of course I've set the camera to 5600K white balance since that's what the light panels are, and I'm using the lowest ISO setting. My results testing the set-up were quite promising, but I'll be using this particular painting project to work the bugs out and get very comfortable shooting minis. Consequently, you can expect a lot of photos in this WIP topic once I start painting. I shot this photo (and the next one) with my cell phone camera, but you can expect all subsequent mini photos to be shot with this camera you see, in the photo station.


As a bonus for the observant, I stuck my brand new jugs of distilled water and Simple Green under the table to get them out of the way. You might also recognize my demo subject as everyone's favorite Sir Forscale (aka 77008 Garrick The Bold).


I don't normally think of orcs as particularly disciplined formation fighters (aside from Lord of the Rings), but hey, this was fun to set up.


My backdrops haven't arrived yet. They're supposed to today but I'm still waiting and the tracking info is... confusing. So for this I just put down a gray t-shirt over my light box frame and shot this quick with my cell phone so I could get everyone in the frame. That's Sir Forscale again in the foreground, of course. It's actually a pretty poor paint job I did in an hour at PAX Prime, but from this perspective I don't see too many of its flaws.


So, that's Kavorgh with the greataxe commanding his Snipers from the rear, watching their line carefully to make sure they loose when ordered. They're lined up nicely to shoot between the three Hunters keeping Sir Forscale from getting too close with their long spears. He will then have to contend with the three Marauders with their swords and shields, carefully flanking him from the right, and then be enveloped by the two Stalkers waiting for the right moment to circle around and attack his rear. If Sir Forscale manages to survive more than a few seconds, he'll surely be slaughtered when the two Berserkers push their way between the shields of the Marauders and hack away at him with their greatswords.


But then, fortune favors [Garrick] the bold!  ^_^


Anyway, a few things I'll have to deal with. Most of the mold lines are not too bad, or well hidden by the sculpt. There's some rather obvious flashing in a couple places. The biggest issues are going to relate to the shapes of the minis themselves. The spears and a couple of the swords will need to be straightened. One of the Berserkers is a bit tippy and will need some bending at the ankles to be stable like his clanmate. I've also noticed that the Hunters are two-piece minis, with their spears and hands a separate piece. One of these is pretty solid, but the other two are a little loose and I think I'll want to get that fixed before I paint them. One, you can even see in the photo, has a significant gap at his right elbow. I can sort of get these pieces back in, but I think I'd better do a better job of it with some glue and/or green stuff. It's off to the art supply store for me, I guess. Am I right in thinking I should do the boil-and-straighten trick before I start gluing and sculpting?


Thinking some more about paint, I see that the shields on the Marauders are all metal, not metal-and-wood as I first thought. So I guess the only wood will be on the spearshafts, bows, and Kavorgh's axe handle. Fair enough. I'll probably aim for using the same blackened steel on the Marauder shields and I will for the rest of the armor plates, though I do still want to pain some kind of clan emblem or colors on there. Maybe a paly of five matching the color of their emblem? Maybe a crude chevron or pall? I suppose I could do one of each, to make every Marauder more distinct on the gaming table. Also kudos if you know these heraldry terms without needing to look them up. If you don't know them, think vertical stripes, ^, and Y.


Still no idea what that emblem would be. I'll probably choose the color at the very end but I'm thinking a fairly bright color to contrast with dark armor. I don't want red because then I can't have blood stains partially covering it on some of these guys. Orange might be tricky. I'm thinking yellow or maybe woad to go with that whole highlands/Scottish vibe. I could also go with a chalky white.


I'm also thinking about the Snipers' bows. I could use different wood colors for them, to help differentiate them, but I'm not convinced and I'm leaning towards ruddy brown. I also want to keep their arrow fletching uniform between them, as it would make sense for the same war band to share a common pool of arrows made from the same feathers. I think I'll differentiate these guys with their quivers, sheaths, and other leather, as well as the furs they wear. All the orcs in a given role will have their own unique skin color, of course.


While I'm playing with these guys, I'm also looking at their mouths and thinking maybe a yellowed bone color. I don't imagine they have great dental hygiene. I think I'll paint those yellow, do a wash, and then highlight just a teensy bit. These guys have such expressive mouths, I think it'd be a shame not to put a little extra effort in.


Kavorgh has a pretty interesting shield, with some severed hands, a femur, and various other trophies nailed to it. The shield also looks like its made out of two plates of metal, one stuck to the other. I think I want to make the smaller front plate shinier than the back plate. Maybe a silver, maybe a bronze. I'm leaning more towards bronze, but I really don't know. That will be a project in its own right, I think.


Thanks Serenity for the advice about freezing to stiffen the plastic prior to de-lining. I did read through Wren's posts but I'd love to actually watch somebody do it. I always learn better from watching than reading. And, while I'm asking for advice, what's everyone's favorite procedure for straightening out Bones minis? I know the broad strokes: boil, straighten, ice bath. The details elude me. Is there a certain amount of working time once it's hot? What should I be using to bend parts with so I don't burn my hands or damage the minis? Do I need to be maintaining its new form when I stick it in the ice bath or will it sort of hold it and I can just dunk and move on to the next mini?

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Yes, you want to do the boil and bend operation before any painting/gluing/sculpting.


As far as how to do it:

most smaller things (spears, sword blades, thin arms/legs/limbs will re bend themselves to the proper position on their own. (It's actually kinda neat to watch) For thicker/more stubborn/or trying to re-position a part I generally fish the mini out of the water, wait a few seconds for the plastic to cool (it's still going to be hot, but not enough to injure you) and just use my fingers to bend the part into the desired position. I don't use the ice bath, I just put the mini into the freezer and leave it for a few minutes; this seems to work for me, so I would guess that you don't need to hold the minis in the ice bath, just dunk 'em in for a while and move on.


I hope this helps.

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