Or: Why You Don't Need to Buy the Unpainted Version
With the Funko Pop Space Marine cleaned, based, and prepped for painting, it was time to proceed to priming.
Now, because Games Workshop has released an unpainted and pre-primed version of the Funko Pop Marine a few months after this line of painted marines were released, there have been a lot of people assuming that the painted versions will be problematic or unsuitable for painting. Well, the only way to dispel any such assumptions is to actually go ahead and try it out for myself.
First of all, the actual paint on the Funko Pop models is extremely thin. As you can see from this pic of when I was filing down the mould lines, it's akin to one or two passes from an airbrush:
Because the layer of paint was so thin, it would not need to be stripped off first. Painting over it would not result in any loss of detail (the size of scale being what it was, and this being a toy and not a finely sculpted art piece, it wasn't like that was much of a concern anyway). If it had been painted with a thick coat of hand-brushed house paint in a third-world indentured labour camp, then perhaps I'd be trying to figure out a way to strip it with solvents first, but not in this case.
The head was one thing, as it was made of some form of uncoloured resin, and then painted. Everything apart from the head was made of a coloured rubbery plastic. Other than some details like the bolter and anything else that wasn't blue, it wasn't even covered in paint. Even those areas that were (like the bolter and the shoulder pad trim), the paint was just as thin as what was on the head.
The chapter and unit markings on the shoulders appear to be very thin decals... so thin that I could not really discern any lip or raised surface to them. Because of that, it's also a possibility that they are not really decals, but perhaps sprayed on using some sort of stencil. In either case, I was positive that once primered, there would be a perfectly smooth surface for me to paint my own details over top.
Well, it was time to get my trusty can of GW black spray primer out, and see if it would stick to the Funko Pop figure.
Well, it went on like a champ.
As you can see, the mould line removal went fairly well. If you really look closely, there is a hint of levelling where the flat file didn't follow the curvature of the helmet perfectly, but it's so faint that I suspect it'll be indiscernible once the paintjob is finished.
Even on the rubbery vinyl areas, the filing went relatively smoothly. Yes, vinyl is not ideal for models, as you can tell upon really close inspection that filing tends to tear the skin of vinyl in a pretty rough manner. That's why resin, metal, and modelling plastic are still better materials for fine figures, as the consistency of the material is the same all the way through. Not so much for vinyl, as it tends to form a thick skin, with a softer inside (much like crust on bread... the "dough" may start off as the same consistency at the beginning, but once you put it in the oven, a tougher crust / skin forms on the outside). Using very fine grit sandpaper after the file helps a little bit, but it's still not perfect.
Again, I wasn't too concerned. This wasn't going to be a painting competition entry, subject to a judge's close scrutiny. It was just going to be a fun little project, an opportunity to practice various painting techniques, and a nice display piece. In any case, some shading, highlighting, and weathering was going to camouflage any roughness in the materials.
Even the removal of the injection mould points went well, although I strongly recommend you break out a fresh new exacto blade for this job. A dull knife or file would likely leave this area looking very messy. I started off using a dull blade, but I found it had a lot of drag as I used it to slice, which meant the skin grabbed at it and wanted to tear instead. Anyone who has tested a knife's edge against a piece of paper will know what I mean... a razor sharp blade will slice smoothly like it's sliding along rails, leaving a clean cut. A dulled edge will snag, grab and tear instead.
After aggressively rubbing the figure with my hand like Aladdin rubbing a lamp, I could tell that the primer was holding on fantastically well. It had bonded to the vinyl and painted areas alike, and could take a fair bit of handling. There was no need to muck about with paint / glue / dish soap mixtures like I did for this past project:
Still, even for the sake of handling during the painting process, I was glad that I had gone through the extra effort of attaching the marine to a base.
Next, it was time to give this marine a zenithal priming highlight. This is a step where you take a lighter coloured primer, and hit it from above. This gives the impression of a light source, such as the sun. Even with a basecoat over top of that, the underlying gradients of primer would affect the tones of paint.
The zenithal priming was another good reason to forgo the unpainted version of the marine, as I had planned to prime with both black and white in the first place. With a grey marine, I would still have needed to do all the same prep work with mould line and injection point removal, and prime over top of the median grey primer with black and white. In essence, buying the unpainted / grey primered marine would have saved me zero work (and wouldn't have saved me any money either, from what I've seen of the comparative prices).
I decided that I wanted my light to come from above, and slightly to the right. A few really quick, really light passes from a can of GW white spray primer did the trick.
This meant that the model would be bathed in light from a certain angle.
And cloaked in shadow from the opposing angle.
The back would be similarly affected, although I intended to do a bit of light highlighting in the brush painting stage later, to simulate a small bit of light reflecting back up from the ground.
To give the whole thing a bit more contrast and definition (always a good thing when trying to make a tiny model somewhat resemble true to scale with a 8 foot tall armoured badass), I went in with a traditional brush and added some more white to the areas that needed more highlighting, and a bit more black to the areas that needed deeper and more pronounced shadows.
No need to take too much time at this stage. My marine was not going to end up with white armour, so this wasn't going to be the final product. I probably could have gone with rougher highlights and shading, as the subsequent stages of painting were going to smooth things out anyway. This stage is often part of what is commonly called, "sketch-style", where you speed paint in rough colours and tones. This is an early stage of painting, where you experiment with placement of light and colours, and can readily change direction if needed. It helps to see how things WILL go, and get a sense of the final product, without having to make changes at the very end.
Speaking of colour, I hadn't yet decided on what Chapter of Space Marine this little guy was going to be.
I thought about doing him up as an Ultramarine, as blue is a very easy colour to work with. It's one of the simplest colours to shade and highlight, and it has fantastic properties on the wet palette (smooth, and predictable, with great opacity, while still being easy to thin down to glaze consistency). However, as he started off as an Ultramarine, I didn't want people assuming that I just added shades and highlights and weathering to the Funko Pop figure right out of the box. That seemed like a waste, considering the amount of work I put in just to get to this stage. And I wanted him to "Pop!" (pardon the pun) while he was on display.
Blood Angels or Blood Ravens were also briefly considered, as I have a lot of experience painting red (my main Warhammer 40K army is a Sisters of Battle one, of the Bloody Rose order). The problem with red is that it's difficult to highlight well... mix too much white, and it comes out looking pink. Mix too much yellow, and it comes out looking orange. You can use flesh or bone instead, which works better, but it's still de-saturated in tone if used too liberally. The fix if you overhighlight is to knock it back with a few layers of red glaze... which works really well, but adds extra time to the project.
I've also been toying with the idea of doing up my own chapter in a Jade Green colour scheme. Eons ago, I entered a White Dwarf "Design Your Own Space Marine Chapter" competition that was hosted by the North American branch of that magazine. My samurai themed "Spirit Dragons" chapter ended up placing 2nd, just after another samurai themed entry. It wasn't the paintjob that did it for me so much, as the extensive background I wrote for them (originally descended from a small contingent of pre-Heresy World Eaters that was originally thought to be lost in the Warp, only to be discovered on a remote system far removed from the Imperium. Their descendants had overcome the rage of their forebears, and somehow survived and evolved thanks to the planet's population of Dark Age era pioneers).
In fact, you can see a painted test model in the above pics, next to the Funko Pop figure.
Jade Green was also something of a theme for me as a miniature painter, as I tried using it as a signature colour back when I was working at GW. At the time, I had noticed that Jade Green was one of the paints in the range at the time that probably sold the least. I made it my mission to incorporate Jade Green into every paintjob I did at the time, and my friends came to recognise my work by looking for that colour.
That being said, this was going to be a standalone display model, not something to incorporate into a future playable army. That meant that I was free to pick and choose any colour and chapter that I wanted. And one existing chapter that I had a real soft spot for was the Imperial Fists.
The first Warhammer 40,000 novel I ever read was, "Space Marine" by Ian Watson (published in 1993). It had a huge impact on me, and firmly cemented my love of the 40K universe. After that, I scoured every GW publication for every tiny shred of background on this chapter and its primarch, Rogal Dorn. All I could fine at the time was a blurb in the original Adepticus Titanicus rulebook mentioning that they took part in the siege of Terra, and a quote by Rogal Dorn:
"Camouflage is the colour of cowardice."
Fitting, considering that his Space Marine legion wore bright hazard yellow armour, don't ya think?
Yellow would make my Funko Pop figure really stand out, and it would bring back warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia of the days of playing 40k with my original Space Marine army back in 2nd edition, while listening to Nirvana, Garbage, and the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack.
The only issue is that yellow is also a tricky colour to paint. Most hobby-grade yellows have very low pigment strength, which often means using many, many layers to get a good depth to it (it was once explained to me that yellow is one of the more expensive pigments for companies to use, so they use less of it in cheaper paint ranges). However, using an airbrush to lay down the basecoats would help alleviate this issue somewhat, as that tool is very efficient in laying down even layers easily and efficiently when compared to a bristle-brush.
As you can see, the yellow went over top of the zenithal priming well, and it was still easy to discern the shades and highlights. The unfortunate thing about using yellow was that it doesn't go over black that well, and in some of these photographs (under certain cool lighting), it comes off with a tiny hint of green in the shadows for some reason.
For this reason, I went back in with a bit of brown glaze in the airbrush, and warmed things up a bit in certain areas.
I found this to be a bit more eye-pleasing. While traditionally yellow is considered a "warm" colour, and green a "cold" one, I found that the thin layer of airbrushed yellow over white came out very cold in tone. Cold-on-cold wasn't what I was going for... it's often better to ramp up contrast by using the natural tendencies of warm and cold to offset each other on the same figure, thus highlighting the properties of each. Going back in with browns to warm up the shadows gave me the contrasts I was looking for, and I planned on exaggerating the effects with more brown in the later brush stages.
The other thing was that all this airbrushing and spray painting gave the model a very granulated and speckled effect. This was from how the paint atomized in mid air, settling on the model as a fine layer of dots. This is one of the drawbacks of air painting... too much uniformity and even-ness makes it look artificial and not "organic" like hand-brush painting. I wanted to give it more life, and planned on addressing this with the trusty sable brush in the next few stages.
Speaking of which, stay tuned for part III, where I get really artsy with a brush!