The Arena of Escalation: First Unit and Character - Part 1

The Arena of Escalation: First Unit and Character - Part 1

Welcome back to the Arena of Escalation, a gathering of intrepid hobbyists from around The Army Painter offices (and remote offices) to do what we celebrate most here – painting an army!

Each contestant picked an army from Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 to collect, build, and most importantly, paint. Come December, we'll all be gathered together at our HQ in Denmark for a fun day of games with our freshly painted forces.

Back in ye olden days of pre-8th edition 40k, one of the cornerstones of any army was two troops and an HQ. Taking that to heart, each contestant was tasked with completing their first character model; and an accompanying unit to go alongside them. This is a great way to start building a collection, as you can really work out the intricacies of your colour scheme. The unit lets you practice and refine painting it in larger batches, while the character lets you embellish it; plus, characters are just cool models to paint!

To say it's been a joy seeing everyone's armies begin to take shape is an understatement, and now we get to share these awesome collections with you!


Jonas Thyssen


Jonas: After my test mini, it was very easy painting for most of the models, but I decided to redo the glow effect to invert it. It was a last-minute decision, and I also added some wire to my Grand Master, to make it look like his hammer was shooting lightning. All of that trial and error of the glow effect has left this first batch a little thick on the paint... But I'm pretty confident I have a good glow recipe going forward for all those armour panels.


Grey Knight Grand Master


Start by drybrushing Warpaints Fanatic Royal Blue to establish the glowing areas first. Then, wash in several layers of Matt White, making sure everything is completely covered, and then I finish off by glazing Plasma Coil Glow over all the recesses.


Grey Knights Unit


Because I spent more time on each model, I had a ton of fun finding old alchemist and herbalist symbols from history that I used on their shoulder pads and books to give them an even more arcane feel. My personal favourite is my first freehand banner I've ever done with writing on the back of it, almost as if it was an incantation waking the suits of armour to life. I also experimented with adding the Purple Colour Triad to my characters to signify their status, which I really liked because I've been very deliberate in using as few colours as possible. Maybe in the future I will add other details to my other characters to make them each stand out among the grey menace.


Grey Knights Scenic


The next stage of painting will include more Paladins, as they will form the core of my army, along with a ridiculous godlike figure... And I might have stolen something from Lasse's painting table that I can use to make my army even more torturous.

You can follow Jonas' progress on his Instagram @paphoved_design.



Erasmus Stenskilde


Erasmus: When I chose to start Orks for this project I knew speed was of great importance. I love to see an Ork horde on the table and know that I need to paint upwards of 100 models for this army.


Ork Warboss


To make the Warboss stand out from the regular Boyz I made sure to place him on a tall base. I focused on pre-highlighting his face before the Speedpaint was applied and also gave him many red fades with yellow highlights.


Ork nobz


I found a great and vibrant Ork skin colour with some Speedpaints. This greatly sped up my painting, along with using Speedpaint again for all the clothes on the Boyz. My main focus was on the red fades all over the army and creating unique bases for each model.

To speed up the glazing for the red fade, I used the pure red triad from the Warpaints Air range. This allows me to glaze with almost no thinning required and an easy three paint colour range.


Orks Scenic


It was great actually finishing an entire squad of models and I am very pleased with the result. I can't wait to place an entire Ork army in this colour scheme on the tabletop. 



Tyler Mengel


Tyler: I've always wanted to do an Astra Militarum army and even have a few half-started forces from over the years, but one thing that has always intimidated me was the quantity of models needed. With the colour scheme I developed for this collection that shouldn't be an issue, as I'm able to blaze through the models at a speed I'm not used to.


Cadian Castellan


In fact, I think the biggest hurdle for me will be keeping the level of painting consistent across the army, as once I get into something I tend to accidentally increase the number of layers, highlights, details, and in general, time per mini as I progress. My Cadian Castellan was a great first test of seeing this philosophy through. Most of her was painted exactly like the regular guardsmen, but I did spend a tiny bit of extra time on the face and kept everything a little bit cleaner as I painted.


Cadian Unit


I think she fits in rather nicely with the unit of Cadians while having just a little bit more polish to her. The sword is one example, which was basecoated with Warpaints Fanatic Plate Mail Metal, and then given a Blue Tone wash for that perfect power weapon look. After everything was sprayed with some of the Warpaints Air Matt Varnish, the sword was coated with Satin Varnish to give it back a bit of lustre.

The Cadians themselves were turned out quickly, with everything being the Speedpaint and drybrush method I described last time, with the exception of the sergeant's cigar/lho stick, which got some orange and yellow on the end to make it stand out. The decals on the shoulder pads do a lot of work with making everything look neat and finished.


Cadian Scenic


I'm excited to add more to this force, including more infantry, characters, specialist troops, and of course, tanks. My plan for the tanks is to really utilise my airbrush and Warpaints Air range to get the some nice gradients down, before more or less painting it in the same style as the infantry. I don't have a ton of airbrush experience, so I'm excited to get stuck in!

You can follow Tyler's progress on his Instagram @mengel_miniatures and on Twitter @MengelMinis.


Adam Abramowicz


Adam: Some could say I took the easy way out by submitting two tanks with my HQ. Some may also say I was boxing clever with the precious time I had while travelling for The Army Painter.




Tanks provide an instant sense of accomplishment as they paint up quickly. It is also a great way for me to visualize the colour theme for my army without distractions, just plate and metal.




The freehand was super fun with a half Cool Reds Flexible Triad progression, then weathered with sponging, stippling, scratches, and washes.


Three Rhinos


And, as is becoming a theme in all my recent armies (and miniatures), there needed to be some fluorescent effects! A welcome home was found for Warpaints Fanatic Radiation Glow and our Warpaints Air Safety Orange. Used through an airbrush, brushed on, as a glaze, or a wash - these fluorescents are amazing and fun to work with.

You can follow Adam's progress on his Instagram @tacticalpainter.


Sofie Swensson


Sofie: So, I painted my first ever squad and character. And it's been a blast! I really enjoyed bringing my characters to life with the paint scheme I choose.


Sister Dogmata


I didn’t differ much from my test mini; just added some washes and basing material to give them a more finished look.


Sisters of Battle


I choose to use our Speedpaint 2.0 range, because I can handle it a bit better than the Warpaints. My biggest challenge when painting my whole squad was to use the right amount of paint so it didn’t pool on the bigger parts. I think with a bit more painting I will become better at handling it.


Sisters of Battle Scenic


For the next part, I will be painting another first. That being a tank - an Immolator! I'm a bit scared and also exited to do it. It’s a big project and I might need some guidance from our studio painters. As I have learned with painting my first squad, most can be redone, it just takes a little extra time.


Bo Penstoft


Bo: I know we had a plan. The plan was to build up an army slowly and then eventually have a full combat-able force. I thought it was a good plan for me, at least to try this sort of arms-build-up. As a competitive player, I usually write my army list, make a few theoretical battles between what I envision will be tough opposing armies – and then I assemble the whole army. Following a short period of playtesting (usually no more than 4-5 games), I then adjust the army and sit down to paint it all.


Big Mek


With my Digganobs it has been a different adventure. Knowing the Orks would get a Codex as I made my army list, I was in a luxury position to assemble what I liked of miniatures plus what I thought could work in an army – before knowing the points costs and final rules changes.

So, I did not follow the plan.


Nobz and Big Mek


Instead, I assembled and converted like a mad doc – and had a blast doing it. With the codex out now, I know roughly what will work on the gaming board, but not what detachment of the Orks I want to play. This leaves me with either a Green Tide or a Bully Boys detachment, and you need wildly different models for each. So, my answer to this has been to scour EU webstores for Goliath miniatures so I can have 120 Boyz + all the Elite stuff, assembled before making up my mind. This way, I can assemble the whole army and do an all-weekender and get it painted – just the way I like it. I did not invent GET MORE TME FOR GAMING just for fun, you know.


Digganobz Army


A few things I know I will feature though, has already been converted. Like Ghazghkull and 40 boyz and 10 Nobz with claws for example. One of my favorite units is the Mega Nobz, which I simply used the Mechanicus Thallax for – led by a Mek in Mega Armor. I imagine some kind of neural link between the character and the automatons, being slow and hard to kill – just like the Mega Nobs. Next I’ll start working on Vehicles – that’ll be blast!




With the first six contestants accounted for, next up will be Steffen, Thomas, Caleb, Danni, Lasse, and Oliver. Make sure to come back on Thursday to see what amazing armies they're bringing to the table!

Be sure to check back in here for more updates in the future, as well as on our social media accounts on FacebookInstagramTwitterYouTube, and TikTok. You can also follow along on everyone's personal social media accounts with the hashtag #ArenaofEscalation.

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The Arena of Escalation: First Unit and Character - Part 2