Lighning Strikes! A Night Lords painting tutorial

I recently offered to share how I paint the lightning effects on my Night Lord models.  It's always best to start something like this by saying there are many ways to accomplish this out there, this isn't necessarily the best, but it's what I like and it works for me so if you like you can give it a go and add it to your bag of hobby tricks.  Best practices usually end up in my possession by way of learning how someone else did something I like or doing something wrong enough times.  This freehand method owes to more than a few helpful teachers and all sorts of trial and error on my part.

Like most tutorials that hopefully make me appear more knowledgeable than I am I look for reference photos on google, study them and glean, borrow, and steal any information I can run with and bring to a painting project; The ones I care about.  Sometimes I just throw paint on stuff and hope it looks right but that usually only if I have to do a bunch of figures and I hate that.  In this case I think I googled lightning or lightning forks and got all sorts of skies worthy of Ronnie James Dio.  They were epic skies.  If my Night Lords had a theme song Dio or Rob Halford would sing it and their enemies would run and hide under their beds like dogs in the path of a Cumulonimbus Anvil forged in the fires of Hell.  YEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!  I'm a cat person.

This is the full scheme along with some overkill.
I use a mix of paints for most projects and the Night Lords are no exception.  The GW range is old hat and Vallejo as well but I recently started using their Air range intended for airbrushes and really enjoy some of the tricks that can be achieved on account of it's translucency.  The paints pictured from GW are Kantor, Teclis and Lothern Blues, Nuln Oil Wash, and White Scar.  The paints from the Vallejo Air range are 71.306 Sky Blue and 71.317 All SV. Gol Light Blue.  The dropper in the back topped up with flow release.  I had to remix my ready use after doing some first aid on the GW pots.  I like the paint enough but those pots suck ass.  The flow release made the tools photo because it's critical that your paints stay thin and workable when producing lightning effects.  This is why the air paints are such a boon right out of the dropper.  In either case to produce colour clouding you need thinned paint washes.
The marines of Prima Noctis' second claw are brighter than their predecessors.  In terms of colour value.  On a tabletop not so much unless not playing indicates I have learned something from past experiences.  I begin with a base coat of Kantor Blue these days.  I preferred darker blues on older models but wanted to try more vibrant colours for a change.  Smooth uniform coverage is what we are shooting for.

Next, sink Nuln Oils or mix a black-blue or black wash of your own and line the cracks and crevices in the armour.  Water it down a bit so the transparency lets the blue come through.  I don't have a magic mix for you but I test the transparency of my washes on the back of my offhand before applying to check the bleed is to my liking.  Delineating the boundaries of panels and surfaces jacks the contrasts and makes the parts pop independently of one another.  Stay neat but over paint if you have to to clean up the panels and sharpen the blacklining.  At the end of all this there is a bit on overpainting.  No point to be left out of the fun if your hands aren't so steady or you can't stop beating yourself because your edge highlights aren't crisp enough.

Once things are blacklined follow up with Teclis Blue.  It's a big jump from Kantor but the high contrast contributes to that dark night effect.  Hit all of the edges of plates and chase the contours.  Keep the paint milk-like.  Thin but not so it washes out of your brushes control.  There is a sweet spot between how paint comes out of the pot and full on washes where with a good brush it just seems to go wherever you will out.  Maybe it's not that automatic but when you find your sweet spot for line-painting you will try for that consistency every time. 

Overpaint some of the high areas with Lothern Blue or the Vallejo Air Light blue.  Either will work but I can't recommend the air paints enough.  The viscosity of that paint as a point of reference is worth the price of purchase.  When diluting and paints apart from your base case when your are shooting for coverage in 2 coats that "recipe" is just plain awesome.  This is just where light might hit depending on where your light source is coming from.  You might want to think about where your lightning will run on plates as this will make some "light" as well.  I prefer to get the lining of the plates out of the way and tackle lightning separately but that's just me.  You could save yourself working with the same paints twice and do it all at once. 

Time for some Lightning.  Prepare a thin wash with your Teclis Blue.  The same colour you hit the plates with but thinner.  This will represent the backlight from your proper forks of lightning.  When I lay it down it is probably too wet to be quite manageable.  I'd never get fine detail from it and be able to paint proper fine lines.  Use it to cloud the areas where the forks proper will travel.  It should give you a rough guide for where your neat work will go later and hopefully look like backlit night sky.

Comparing this pic to the latter you should see the difference.  I rushed but it still should give an indication.
The Vallejo Light Blue is perfect for painting your forks.  I  always paint from top to bottom and travel down the plates in subtle jags.  It's the result of a slight pressure change than swinging the brush about.  I like to blot the brush on the palate to keep the load on the brush minute and to insure the point is tight.  The lower part of the brush is being used but it is still drawing down the plate, not working from the point proper.  Introduce forks if you like.  I can't stress the references enough so again after the pic I shared earlier; Check some out.  There isn't a "proper" pattern or steps to execute it perfectly but if you look at a bunch of different pictures of lightning you can get a feel for it and bring it to your painting project.  "Strikes" and points where lightning fork are brighter so you can make those points in your patterns a little wider so they read brighter.

At this point you can finish off with the Sky, Blue, White or both if you are a completionist or micro manager.  This is a minimalist overpaint of the previous forking parting.  Touch down intermittently along your fork.  Hit the junctures and points where they hit intersections in plates.  You might want to dash along the line to add some variation to the fork but keep your "brights" in the two areas emphasized.  Don't keep much on the brush at all and keep it as in shape as possible.  These are the finest lines and marks to be produced in the tutorial.  You might want to use the point to apply the lightest colours at the edges and forks. 

Overpainting corrections on edge highlights.  The blue-grey is wet paint being applied.
Before calling this one done I wanted to add a quick bit on edge highlighting.  Paint thinned with flow release or water will give you a thin coat and shouldn't leave a mess of brushmarks over top of the rest of your neatly painted model.  The darker colour you will be applying over the highlight likely has the coverage even when thin to overwhelm the highlight in a single coat, possibly two.  Lightly load your brush in the thinned basecoat from your palette.  Draw the brush across the basecoat parallel to the highlight that needs tidying.  This is using the body of the brush, not the point; It's just along for the ride.  Make a series of passes moving toward the highlight.  As you get closer you be covering up uneven parts and leveling up the edge highlight.  This fix can help if you have an unsteady hand or balk when you have, "one shot" to get it right.  It plays on muscle memory and allows you to make corrections before commiting to an end result.  With reasonably thin paint and a healthy brush the paint "wake" or wave left behind should be neat and uniform.          


  1. Thanks for the tutorial. Some great tips in there.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to reply. When I actually get a response it reminds me it's worth posting. It's so much easier just to photo bomb on a facebook group so I neglect the blog. There is a depth and precision to formally building an article rather than throwing down a couple comments but it doesn't seems worth building if nobody comes :D .

  2. Good stuff! You've inspired me to grab my brush and experiment a little.

    1. Happy to return the favor! Your article on painting Federation ships on your own blog was very helpful.


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