NMM Gold: Beginners Guide on Complex Shapes

This tutorial features a guest appearance from Lee Hebblethwaite, AKA 10Ball. He’s an incredible painter as well as a great guy. I’m looking forward to trying a few of these ideas around ToadChapel soon!


I was asked to write up a guide on NMM areas that are an unusual shape. Luck was with me as I was working on a fantastic fantasy miniature that just happened to have a complex NMM shape…. a bell!

I always start a miniature by checking out reference pictures, which is one of the finer things about the internet.

The next stage is choosing the right colours. This all depends on the look/feel which you are trying to achieve on your miniature. With this miniature I’m going for a real bright fairytale look that’s not far off a cartoon.

These are the colours I’ve used. Also a quick note on all the other tackle:

Brush: Winsor and Newton Series 7 size 0

Wet pallet with normal tap water and a tiny spot of dish wash soap added.

TIP: I use a hairdryer to quickly dry each glaze/wash of paint to stop the paints going chalky.

Slightly off topic, I can’t stress enough to focus on prepping the miniature, seam lines, joins, dust, etc. It makes Soooooo much difference to the end result.


So with reference photos to hand I start with the base coat of VMC British uniform, keeping the paints watered down over several layers.

Blend up using VMC Japanese uniform, adding only a few drops at first until there is a 50/50 mix.

I’ve shaded by adding a tiny amount of black to the British uniform and glazed in the darker areas. As with the layers add the shade glazes over several layers waiting for each to dry (hairdryer). ‘Drag’ the paint layer from the highest (lightest) to the lowest (darkest) point with the tip of the brush so the colour pigment ends up strongest in the required areas.

Blend up the highlights till you get to pure Japanese uniform. Keep in mind this bell is only around 4mm in size so just the tiniest touch is needed with each layer.

With a very milk-like glaze I’ve dotted the white area highlights, which will look terrible at first, but by a series of glazing back over with the Japanese uniform and some patience you will achieve a smooth blend.

The areas will look brownish in places so again with very thin glazes I went over with yellow to try and get a more gold metal look.

In select places I’ve used the smallest dot of pure white to get a shine. Go easy with this, as it’s easy to get carried away.

Very carefully using some of the colours from the bird I glazed in one or two reflections, which can be very effective or can crash and burn. So be careful but hey ho you can always start again! It’s only paint lol.

I’ve added another example of a NMM reflection I painted, albeit a lot more cartoony.

Hope some of these tips help you out and remember to enjoy the painting 🙂

~ Lee (10 ball)

Breathe Life into Faces with Inks

A subtle application of inks can transform the face of a figure from lifeless to vital quickly and easily.

The face of this Dark Angels tactical sergeant was painted from pale purple grey in the shadows, up through a yellowy skintone, and highlighted with fair skin. It’s ok, but it’s definitely missing something.

The application of very thinly glazed inks can take that same face and give it far more personality and life.

The thing to keep in mind is that the face can be broken down into three main zones of color. The human forehead is slightly yellow, the nose, cheeks, and lips are reddish, and the jawline is slightly blue.

When glazing the red, focus upon the bulb of the nose and tops of the cheeks. I’ve also glazed blue onto the scalp to suggest a shaved head rather than baldness. Space marines don’t go bald, man!

A drunken dwarf can stand a nice rosy nose & cheeks, while you need to go veeery light with the blue on female figures… unless they’re beardy lady-dwarves!

Don’t overdo the red on the lips: lips that more closely match the color of the surrounding skin look more tense and aggressive. In any event you can always add more, but you can’t take it off.

Two notes on inks:

1) They take a while to dry. Be patient or you’ll start ripping the color off in spots and create a mess. Experience and all that.

2) Inks are transparent, so you need to do all your highlighting & shadows first, because it will be your last (or almost your last) step in the process.

Use these quick tricks on your next figure to breathe a little life into him!

Tool Time 2

Here are a few more of my favorite tools.

1) The Masters Brush Cleaner. This stuff is solid gold and will extend the life of your expensive brushes exponentially. I’ll easily use a Winsor & Newton for several months, and keep them sharp long after they’ve been transferred over to use as a metallic brush or other post-optimal purpose.

2) Try square. This little tool is absolutely money for finding right angles on small surfaces. Mine’s well made by Crown Tools and comes in handy for building structures, mostly.

3) Japanese wood saw. These guys produce clean, thin, straight cuts through wood, plastic, and other materials. If that’s something you need, this is the tool for you.

4) A mini ruler. A regular straight edge is just too big to be comfortably manipulated around most mini-based projects, and I find myself reaching for the smaller version far more often. They’re also far easier to prevent from slipping when you’re applying pressure on e.g. razor cuts.

5) Tiny Post-It Notes. Simply the most useful thing ever. Remind yourself, well, anything. I use them to mark next steps in a process that’s been sidelined, jot down shopping lists, brainstorm ideas for Tool Time posts… absolutely everything. They are never out of reach.

I’ll color code what I consider short-, mid-, and long-term goals when useful. This keeps me on track, as I’ll see the build up of Post-Its colonizing my hobby desk and know to clear them out by tackling some of the tasks I’ve identified.


I hope you found a few of these ideas useful. Give me a comment below and let me know what tools you find useful or what uses you’ve found for your tools.

Happy hobbying!

Tool Time

Here are a few of my favorite odd tools. These are mostly just stuff I grabbed of a moment, but have come to rely upon in my hobbying.

From the top we have:

1) Micron pen. I like pens as small as I can get them, and manga-style pens are the best I’ve found. .005 Sakura is my weapon of choice. I don’t really know what .005 refers to, as the nib is 0.2mm thick. Even if you only use them for (TOP TIP) dotting pupils, they’re solid gold.

2) Forceps. My brother and I are anglers (too rarely!), so I grabbed these one time when I needed a locking grip on a small object. Great tool when you need it.

3) Bend rule. Sits nice & steady for precise work.

4) Silicon tweezers. They both resist sticking and spring apart when you release tension. Extremely useful for many applications.

5) And this is my favorite tool of all. It’s a crappy old pair of needle-nosed pliers that somehow became extremely tight. So tight, in fact, that it can be used almost as a handheld vice. I can’t tell you how to make one, but, like many lucky accidents, when they failed, I found a use for them. I use these all the time!

Give me a comment below and let me know what weird tools you find yourself reaching for on your hobby bench!

Boost Your Bases!

When I decided to start a team of Dark Angels about half a year ago I was hoping for cool, realistic poses with my conversions and a very gritty, kick-ass look. I started with a plasma gunner and…

…well, I couldn’t resist the joke. I wanted the figures to look very grimdark at first glance, but I’m not really that grimdark of a guy. So I gave a zombie head some plasma-glowing eyes and glued it on there.

This gave me the idea of doing bases on the figures representing the various foes the team had defeated. I have a somewhat developed backstory for the Eremoi (Hermits), which I may share at some point when I need a break from fantasy town.

These are gaming figures, so the tiny dioramas had to be both tight enough to fit on a normal tactical marine base and sturdy enough to withstand (minimal!) abuse.

Some are very simple. A cool hand holding a bloodthirster head led to the inclusion of the bronze Khorne symbol lying in the dirt. A skull, a bit of wire, and a little plastic cutting adds some more 40k atmosphere.

Sometimes I like to break off the base a touch, using the black rim as a cheeky little zone for scenery. The plague zombie’s arm does protrude a bit, but the stout metal I-beam gives it a pretty safe nook to hide in.

Sometimes it’s as easy as painting something funny onto an unaltered base. It’s hard to read in a static shot (it’s easier if you can turn it in your hand), but the barrel says ‘KRILL.’ I thought it would be appropriate if the suffering millions of the 41st Millenium ate… tiny little gross shrimp and stuff.

This guy’s a real go-getter, so he’s bounding over a half-buried jug of Guilliman’s X-Treme Ultra-Ade. I think Ultramarines are pretty stupid, and I think the ridiculous names of sports/energy drinks are pretty stupid, too. Seemed like a good fit.

Sometimes the base & the figure are one! This was a really fun challenge. I had to fit a whole prone tactical marine onto his base. The key was to use plenty of nubbins to cover up the parts that would shatter the illusion.

This is definitely one of my favorites. Again, the challenge was getting the right arrangement of goblin parts beneath the foot that’s squashing him as he crawls out from some hole in the ground.

My brother-in-law Will, whom you’ve met in numerous battle reports, started his Kill Team collection with T’au. Well, he had to be trolled, didn’t he?!

This one uses the rim, features a nice bit of chopchop to create the casualty pose, and sneaks quite a bit of scenic ‘information’ onto the base.

But why stop there? A little Greenstuff easily gives a lolling tongue on a dead T’au. It doesn’t really matter if the head looks almost like a hood ornament for the model, it looks cool and the goal is storytelling, not verisimilitude.


Thanks for taking a look at these fun little mini-scenes that live on the bases of my Eremoi. I have a lot of fun solving the puzzle of building a complex, ‘readable’ scene on such a tiny surface, and I’ll bet you will too!

Garden of Contemplation

I whipped up a quick scene for shots of my philosopher bums and others in the Garden of Contemplation.

Dip your brush into your coffee. This step is entirely optional. Try it and see if you like the results.

Basic colors applied. I used my cheap hobby paints and mixed them for a bit of variety on different stuff. Don’t be fussy about it. You actually want some crappiness, since the plaster is old, moldy, dilapidated, etc. Slap it on there, don’t aim for even coverage, and know that you can fix anything later if you hate it.

I wanted the fragment of the statue & the tree to be the key features, obviously, so I went for a pretty crazy marble texture. Lots of lines of greys & cool greens, followed by thin washes of grey to create depth. I’m mixing in gloss medium on some passes, but not all around.

Preliminary painting of the tree. On top of brown I’ve used a swampy yellow-green, highlighted with a light yellow-brown.

Washes on the wall. This is pretty over-the-top, I’ll admit! I used Secret Weapon Baby Poop, one of my favorites. It’s much more green than the website would have you believe.

Paint again after washes. The tree was highlighted up to cream colors, the ferns were picked out, and some definition added back onto the marble.

I forgot to take the picture before I began the moss, but you get the idea.

TOP TIP: Coolest part of the piece is the iridescent medium I’ve used, along with gloss medium, to create sparkle & shimmer within the layers of the marble. I love the stuff. You can get it cheap at an art store.

Ready for action!


If you need help with the basics, I’ve got a tutorial on dirt & grass here. Feel free to comment with any questions, etc.

How to Feed Orphans

Well, at least how to make a decent lunch that will impress yourself and your friends.

These sandwiches just take a minute, they’re cheap, and they’re unusual & delicious.

1) Get good bread. This is the most important part. You need bread with a nice crust on it, a non-crumbly texture, and great flavor.

Awesome bread is getting easier to find in the US all the time, as more and more young people embrace traditional arts like farming and baking. Many other parts of the world have always demanded good bread.

Sourdough rolls work perfectly, though I got mini baguettes from our neighborhood baker (a Frenchman) today.

2) Put cheese on each half of your rolls. These are open-faced sandwiches.

My favorite cheese for this is probably fresh chèvre (goat cheese), and that’s what Mills & Gramm ate the first day they came to ToadChapel. Since I didn’t have any, I just used some Brie with peppercorns in it.

3) Toast it under a broiler or in your toaster oven (faster & less hassle) and drizzle with honey. My honey is quite pale, so it’s hard to see, but it tasted delicious, I assure you.


And that’s it! Almost no work, made with stuff you can get easily or keep on hand, and – most importantly – delmarvelous!

As you can see, ingredients are easily substituted to fit what you have on hand.

I first encountered these sandwiches in Amsterdam after my mother & I had our minds blown by the Rijksmuseum, which had on display the largest exhibit in history of Dutch masterpieces from all over the world.

There’s no reason to claim complete incompetence in the kitchen. Get yourself a handful of reliable, easy recipes that you can make yourself and your friends and get cooking!