Argent Dragon Speed Paint Tutorial
Like us, I have to imagine that some of you went in on the most recent Bones Kickstarter from Reaper Miniatures. Well, we sure did, and couldn't resist springing for the Argent Dragon add on, a truly titanic model for the extra $20 it cost.
We're going to be using this as an NPC in our upcoming weekly Wayfarer campaign, and I wanted to do the model justice, while still... you know, not spending a whole lot of time on it. It was a pretty straight forward paint job, and I'm confident anyone reading can get the same results if they want them (or apply this to another silver dragon model if you like). I don't have video of the actual painting (it was really just a lot of dry brushing with a big ol' tank brush), but I took pictures throughout the process, noting the paint I used, and I'll elaborate on each of the steps below.
STEP 1: ASSEMBLY
First thing you'll need to do is assemble the dragon. It comes in 6 different parts: The body, head, tail, left and right wings, and a rocky outcropping for a base. These fit together pretty intuitively, and I found that a little model glue (and holding the parts in place for a few seconds) were all that was needed. The exception was the neck, which (at least in my copy) needed a little putty as filler at the front. I would have liked to have skipped the pre-made base and substituted with a (probably 100mm) clear acrylic, but the feet were sort of optimized to fit into the rocky base and, while I'm not generally a fan of scenery-integration when basing my own models, I have to admit that it lends some majesty to the piece.
STEP 2: PRIMING
So yeah, get yourself a can of spray primer (black), and get to work. Well ventilated space, don't spray it next to priceless family heirlooms, et cetera. You know the drill. We used Army Painter primer, and really feel like this is something you shouldn't skimp on. There are cheap primers out there (looking at you, Armory), but you're really taking a gamble with your precious wee-folk when you use that stuff. (We've lost an army's worth of miniatures to the ravages of the dreaded Black Fuzz over the years, all in the hopes of saving a few dollars.) You'll want good coverage, because the black will really lay the foundation for you here.
STEP 3: BASE COATS
Aside from the spray primer (which, unless I'm mistaken, Reaper doesn't produce), we used Reaper paints for the entire project. We absolutely love their colors, and they're quickly replacing the other paints we use at IGG headquarters. If you don't have these specific paints, I've included shots of each one as I used, so you should be able to color match with whatever you've got.
So, for the base coats, I used three colors: Blackened Steel (for everything scaled), Midnight Blue (for the wings), and Grey Liner (for the rocky base, and for the horns, claws, and beard). I didn't go with a particularly dry brush here, but I also didn't saturate (especially with the scales).
The nice thing is that, even with a massive tank brush, you can hit the details (like horns and claws) without much bleed over into the other colors. Also, if you get a little of that, don't worry about it. It'll get defined during the dry brushing, and (I feel) add to the overall effect.
STEP 4: DRY BRUSHED LAYERING
Once I had the base colors on (which, granted, look awfully dark, but trust me, they make a difference), I moved on to dry brushing increasingly lighter shades.
If you're not familiar with dry brushing, this is it in a nutshell: Get some paint on your brush (still using a tank brush at this stage), and whisk it across a sheet of paper until it barely puts paint down. For the first shades, your brush can be a little less dry, but you'll have to experiment with that. As a good precaution, start really dry and go from there as you're comfortable.
Once you've "dried" your brush, whisk the tips of the bristles (maybe the first quarter or so) across the model's surface using fast wrist motions, keeping the brush and your grip on it stiff. The faster the better. (The Flash would probably be really good at this. Maybe too good.) You'll get the hang of it, and you'll see what works as you go.
I started with the greys, using Stone Grey on top of the Grey Liner. As you can see, I also painted a bunch of Scatterblocks at the same time, because why waste paint? If you have a bunch of unpainted dungeon tiles or whatever laying around, now is as good a time as any.
Next up, Forest Green. This is a lovely, versatile shade, and I used it pretty liberally over the Blackened Steel scaled bits.
I also did a very light dry brushing of this over the Midnight Blue of the wing membranes. This helps to pick up some of those raised details and lend to that cosmic-ey iridescent look.
Next up (and before the paint really had time to dry) I switched over to Moonstone Blue, doing another really light dry brush on the wings.
Next, I did a moderate dry brushing of Polished Silver over the parts covered in scales (where the previous color was Forest Green). I didn't bother to clean my brush particularly well (honestly much at all during this process), especially since the colors compliment each other so well, and a little chromatic color dulling the otherwise dominating metallics isn't a bad thing here.
Next up, Misty Grey. This light grey is where I stop on the rocky base, horns, claws, and beard. (Aside: its the final color I used on those ScatterBlocks, after Stone Grey and Grey Liner before it). After dry brushing with the tank brush, I switched to a regular (medium) brush and, with a little watered-down Misty Grey, hit the very tips of the claws and horns with a thick swabbing.
STEP 5: DETAILS AND HIGHLIGHTS
Okay, so this is where we to use the detail brush. I didn't use it much during this process, and would switch back to tank brush and medium/standard brush for the rest, but the eyeballs (big as they are compared to a regular miniature) needed this bit of finesse. With a dab of paint on the tip of the brush, I covered the eyeballs in Forest Green. (This might be my favorite color, folks.)
Next, with another little dab, I painted the inside of the eyeball with Phantom Glow.
Finally, just sliver of Dungeon Slime across the center of the eyeball. And that's it for the eyes! You could get fancy here, but I don't care to. I wanted something ethereal, and these really did it for me.
I liked these two colors so much, that I decided to take a chance and see how they'd look on the rest of the model. I chose a couple of places in the scales (the face and the chest) and did a very light dry bush of Phantom Glow, followed by the same with Dungeon Slime,. In each case, I picked a central spot and brushed heavily (still with very little paint), getting lighter as I spiraled away from it with circular motions. Then I took some very dry passes at other random scaled areas.
Using the tank brush, I did an extremely light dry brush of these colors across the wings and the membranes in the tail.
And that's pretty much it! I don't use sealant. I've never found it to work for metal models (they'll chip regardless), and never needed it for plastics. I'm also pretty tough on my models (laying them on their side if they're stunned during skirmish gaming, throwing them together in boxes when I travel, using them for skeet shooting, all kinds of irresponsible behavior). It's just not worth it, especially considering what it does to the final look of the model. And again, I've never lost paint on a plastic model. But, that's just my experience.
I hope this has been helpful! If you want more of these, let me know. I'd like to do more with video, but I find the process so cumbersome. Hoping to get over that, and we may film something easy (like the blocks). All in all, this dragon took me a little under five hours (though I took some breaks, and painted a bunch of other stuff at the same time, so I'd round that to four hours of actual dragon-painting). I'd suggest plugging into a few podcasts or an audio book while you paint. Helps me immensely.
Thanks for reading, and if you use any of this, we'd love to hear about it/see pics.