The road to Golden Demon

Top down photo after the show

Last year I focused on quantity over quality. This year I've sought to achieve more of a balance. I have continued to output a decent volume of painted minis, thanks in large part to my weekly livestreams. I've also tried to put some focus into getting some higher quality models painted up for competition. I've targeted two main painting competitions to submit to - Golden Demon at Warhammer Fest in May and then NOVA Open later this year.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves... Warhammer Fest. I wanted to really try and game the system here. I put together a list of things that I felt were important to help succeed in the Golden Demon.
  • Faces - tones, veining
  • Freehand - understated but demonstrating the ability
  • Sculpting - biker jackets, not enough to distract from or confuse the original model but make them mine.
  • Basing - something that would compliment the models but not detract from them
  • Texturing - Leather, Metal, Blankets, Fabric
  • Weathering
  • Terrain
I didn't go as far as I could - and perhaps should - have. In theory there are plenty of videos out there detailing what Golden Demon judges are looking for and what you can do to better your chances in the competition. Many of those are good and accurate (I've watched a few since the competition - Trovarion on YouTube has a particularly good example) but for my first experience I wanted a sense of how my style and sensibilities would work for the competition before trying to reinvent my style.


One of the things that really drove me to these models is how dynamic they are... or rather how dynamic I felt they could be. The sculpts give the impression of motion but there were a couple of bits that I felt just didn't quite sell the illusion. One was the positioning of the bodies and arms (more on this later), the other was the basing, I really wanted these models to feel like they were weaving through some dense urban environment.

I started things off simply with a few bits off of some Primaris sprues that I had knocking around. I knew a couple of other pieces would have slightly more exaggerated bases but I was mindful that the base should not be distracting from the models themselves.

One idea that formed very early was to have a 'ramp' from a collapsed floor or wall that one of the bikers would be driving up.

My favourite biker pose is the one popping a wheelie.... but why the hell bother? You're at war - you're not showing off down the high street on a Friday night. The model is of course too cool to not have him popping a wheelie, so let's make a reason - an obstacle to shoot over - bam:  

I wanted something special for the gang leader, but again remaining mindful of the base detracting from the model itself. I settled on something I little more explicitly battle field with some brass barbed wire I have saved from when GW sold it back in the day - this stuff is dangerous! So much so I didn't end up working it to the extent I originally intended and skimped somewhat on the painting of it. leaving it looking sadly a little flatter that I'd wanted... but without opening my arteries on it so all in all I'd call it a win.

I've talked about test pieces in previous blog posts (notably my Librarian posts). While I had decided on the elements of the bases pretty quickly - I struggled with the actual texture of the surface. I've had mixed results with baking soda in the past so wanted to try mixing it up a little to find a way to apply it thinly enough that you get a sandy finish to the surface without it clumping or rippling. I ended up with a result I was pretty happy with:

Test base with some different basing materials.

Adding this onto the bases and we had a starting point:

Sculpted bases

With the bikes and riders being primarily green, I wanted to make the bases a contrasting colour but one somewhat less saturated to keep the focus on the models. This naturally led me to red-brown and one of my favorite colors: Vallejo Game Colour Dark Fleshtone. 

Having laid this down and built up the grey tones, I was still really struggling to give the scene life.

In the end I fell back to some tried and tested methods of building depth and reality to my bases with wet blending a few different thin washes to establish an increased tonal variation. It worked somewhat but I did end up spending too much time agonising over the finish.

Throughout the whole basing process the single biggest issue I faced was that damned ramp jumper. That hunk of wall just never looked right to me and the more time I spent staring at it - the worse it felt. In the end I figured graffiti was the way to go. Having an Imperial Eagle overlaid with the GSC icon seemed right although it does face some issues with how / when it would have gotten tagged and why in that manner that my mind still cries out as being 'wrong'.

If I were to start it all over - I'd sculpt more details into the ramp and use the stencilling on the barricade instead... I think it does look better than I give it credit for... but there is absolutely scope for improvement.

The Bikes

I am not a fan of painting in sub assemblies; it's fiddly, it takes extra time, and putting it all together at the end is pure hell... Painting bases separate from the models is one thing but generally I keep the whole model together... That plan went out the window here. The bikes and the riders are such distinct forms that it makes things a lot easier - colours are distinct and the contact points are relatively few and generally well hidden.

I knew from early on that I wanted to convert one of the bikes into a 'chopper' style bike. This was not a complex modification but it did require a little care - the forks needed to be extended (I used styrene rods for this) but due to the small contact points pinning was necessary but also tricky to apply.

I also decided that I needed some bike spokes... for a moment I thought of doing this for all the bikes but after some discussion with a friend - the work involved sank in and I decided to use it only on the chopper. I am really glad that I did reset expectations - the process is cool and it looks ok but getting those rods to work when they are all trying to pass through the same central spot is a nightmare - It also leaves the connecting point for the axle a little dicey.

Another element of the bikes that I wanted was something to fill the space behind the bikers. This wasn't something I had noticed when looking at the models online, but having assembled them I realized that it was really a dead space that just didn't work. The solution? blankets! There were sculpted blankets on one or two panniers on the bikes so it made sense to me to add some more. They were made by simply rolling out some greenstuff, cutting it into shape and rolling it up. In retrospect I could certainly have done it better (roll it thinner, wait longer before rolling maybe add some texture).

Having assembled everything and done some custom sculpting - it was time to get painting. I am naturally drawn to airbrushing for the speed and quality of finish but for competition pieces I do tend to step up with the hairbrush a lot more for the control and detailing. The bikes provided enough surface to wield the air brush a little before I got down to business with the old fashioned brush painting. I really pushed the contrast as far as I could going from A dark olive green all the way to livery green in the brightest colours and the bikes looked all the better for it.

I also used my red-green contrast to give the bike seats a little pop. I love red leather and incorporated it into a few elements of these models. Objectively you know that it's not the colour that would be used on military bikes but with miniature painting there are certainly moments when realism has to take a back seat to the cool factor / visual interest.

Adding wear to the leather was non-trivial and brought in considerations of how riders would sit, where the leather is going to face the most rubbing and scrapes.


I had wanted the cultists to tell a clear story. I knew from the outset that I wanted a more 'Mad Max' vibe to them and nothing says post apocalyptic bikers quite like leather jackets. The problem here is that the stock models have these kinda cool space suit things that make them super bulky... my mediocre sculpting skills are not up to making leather jackets that can be laid over those suits and look good.
A trip to the local GW and some banter with the manager and I have the foundation of a plan. Drukhari Scourges gave me some skinny torsos to work with. They also have armour plating that looks a lot like Cadian armour harking back to the Brood Brother units. These are a squad of Astra Militarium scouts that have shown their true colours. This also gave me some direction for the colour scheme - something else I had been struggling with.

Models with greenstuff

Working with green stuff is still not something I'm too experienced with but the big thing I've learnt is the importance of working in stages. Green Stuff has stages - initially it's very sticky and moves very easily. This is the perfect time to roll out the initial thickness of the fabric (Thanks to Uncle Atom for some invaluable tips on this). Once it's had a half hour to cure a little - you can cut it and work it without it sticking too much. Just like a regular jacket I made this in pieces of fabric that were laid over the model to form the jackets.

Heads in progress

Heads and faces are super important to sell the models. James Otero and Siege Studio's EMC gave a great starting point for heads (find my review as a guest post on T.A.G.'s Blog). This needed a little more work as I wanted to get the veining and purple hues into the flesh tones.

Building up the purple tint was a lot of fun

As mentioned earlier, the overall colour scheme for the uniforms was informed by Cadian Guard with these bikers being 'Imperial traitors' who have the blood of the four armed god flowing through them. Cadians have green armour but khaki fatigues. This is one of the first areas I worked on and provided a hurdle right off the bat. I knew I needed to push contrast a lot further than I typically do but hamstrung myself with a colour palette that didn't push things far enough:

Fabric Colours used (initially)

I also wanted to introduce some texturing onto the fatigues and this proved difficult without chalkiness - something I will have to work to address in the future (possibly texturing down in colour rather than up).

Test fabrics of the fatigues

The leather jackets provided the biggest challenge to me and even after substantial work on them I was still facing issues. I am very comfortable painting leather on belts and straps - worn and ripped up however trying to stretch that to larger surfaces didn't work. I will continue to work on these jackets to try and develop my understanding of leather and how to fix these issues.

Leather highlighting with the colours used

Matching the headlight surround to the chassis of the bike was a bit of a challenge but some careful masking was sufficient to be able to apply the same process.

OSL is still not something I am very good at. I used some varnish to give me some recourse to undo it if needed. I worked in stages using the airbrush with white, yellow and the white again to re-establish the centre.

Example headlight and the colours used

Metallics is the bit I was least looking forward to. Frequent readers of my blog will be well aware of my dislike for TMM and the lack of practice is apparent on these models. I used the Scalecolor line to push the contrast further but I find it hard to see and know that the finished result should have more weathering applied.

Front end with fork basecoated

Finally assembling the models together - a lot of my initial fears proved to be unfounded although there are things I wasn't happy with (there's not as much 'pop' to the models as I may have hoped for).

The leader - fully painted up!

Initial squad layout on plinth

Close up of one finished biker.

Toward the end of the process I was really struggling with these models. Even as I packed them up I was very aware of the many failings of the models. This was a particularly interesting insight to me given some of Miniac's recent videos on YouTube where he talks about seeing your models as being better than those of your competitors because you also see the work you put into yours. This simply wasn't true for me. I felt many other entries were a lot better (including several that didn't make final cut). It seems weird to me that you would think your work better than others - I know where all the flaws and weaknesses are in all of my models - which parts are unfinished and which parts are not as good as I wanted. This is likely a mentality shift from other competitors but I look at other's models and I seldom pick out the flaws straight away - unless they are obvious, I am looking with much more objectivity.

Photo taken at home after the show

On the day, seeing the models in the cabinet really made all the hard work worth it:

Finished models on display at Golden Demon!

- Raggy, signing out