Tyranid Hive Tyrant painting tutorial


I took a look at my blog a few weeks ago and realized that I’ve been focusing on my Nurgle-themed Chaos Space Marines for over 2 years. 2 years! No wonder I’ve been feeling like they’ve been a bit of a grind. That, coupled with the impeding launch of the Tyranid Codex for 40k 6th Edition, and holiday vacation coming up and having some access to some free time, I felt the stirrings of the Hive Mind setting upon me and the compulsion to build and paint Tyranids! I took it upon myself to dust off the Hive Tyrant boxed set that had been sitting on my shelf for some time and assemble and paint it. I didn’t realize how much I missed my Tyranids! I thought I’d put together a post showcasing the new monster bug along with a brief tutorial on how I did it for the Hive Fleet aficionados out there.


Here is a few shots of the finished product, just to get you an idea of what you’ll be seeing in the finished product. With my Hive Fleet, which I’ve named Damocles, I tried to go with a color scheme that was “completely alien”; as in, the color scheme was so wild and exotic that it must have been borne out of some crazy, “Avatar” style death-world (though Avatar had not come out before I started my Hive Fleet, so don’t judge me! 🙂 ).

Anyways, the color scheme is highlighted above with thumbnails (click to see bigger version). I’ll take you through some steps I took to get there, below.

First, of course, you have to have an assembled Tyranid! I don’t have a Hive Tyrant (until now) in my army, and I’ve been wanting to build and paint one, so I start with that.

Next, put a light coat of primer on the beast. I use Tamiya L fine white spray primer. It gives a nice even coat and is thin and has never clumped on me, rain or shine. I swear by this stuff.

Next, case coat all the “flesh” areas with Ice Blue (old GW range) or Lothern Blue (new GW range). This is anything that is not back carapace, weapons, wing membranes, etc. This should be at least 1/2 your model.

Then, do a liberal dry-brushing with white. I do 2 coats to make sure all the raised areas area a nice solid white color. Don’t hesitate to do 2 coats. You want the crannies still blue, but all raised areas totally white.

A closer shot of the white drybrushing. You can still see that ice blue in the crevices, but anything that isn’t a crevice is solid white. This is important as it’s really going to make the differnce in the next step when you do the blue wash – the crevices will be nice and deep color and the flesh will have a nice solid blue gradient hue to it.

The next step is to do the blue wash, which gives it’s signature blue tone and really makes it “pop”. I use the old GW paint range “Asurmen Blue” wash. I think the analogous blue in the new range would be “Drakenhof Nightshade”. For the Asurmen blue, you need to lay down a THIN coat, then LEAVE IT ALONE. If you mess with it, it will streak. If you put too much on, it will pool and dry in drips, looking awful. If you go thin, it will look “bubbly”, but that’s ok – the bubbles will pop and it will look gorgeous. If you come back to it after it’s dried for a minute or two and try to redisperse pigment with your brush, it will peel off where you put your brush and look like it got rubbed off and leave no pigment. So 2 tips with Asurmen Blue – put it on thin and leave it alone. I’ve not used Drakenhof Nightshade, so I can’t tell what it’s properties are, but I would recommend doing the same – thin coats and leave it alone.

A closer up shot of this with the Asurmen Blue just applied, and drying. Some pooling is inevitable, just try to mitigate it. You can see a little bit on the front of the start of the tail section where I screwed up a little bit and fixed it (for the most part). This is the trickiest step mostly because I’m impatient. Just be patient and don’t go overboard with getting too much wash on there and you’ll be rewarded.

Now that your blue wash has dried, you need to clean your model up. You’re done with blue now. Now, go over the carapace, hooves, and mouth parts with Abaddon Black. Go over anything that is weapon, claw, wing, membrane with white. With the white, you don’t need solid color (though that isn’t terrible to do so) – what you’re trying to do is kill that blue color spill-over from the earlier stages. Trust me, you’ll get much better results if you don’t try to paint over the blue with lighter colors – it will muddy your color scheme. A *thin* coat of white will do ya good here.

Another shot of that white color used to kill the blue over-run from earlier stages of painting. Be very careful not to splash onto the blue areas – the blue is pretty hard to “fix” if you paint onto it, as the dry brushing and blue wash created a gradient that will look “repaired” if you try to patch it in only a specific spot.

So I jumped ahead here a little bit, but here’s the gist. Now that you’ve whited out the other parts, you can paint anything that is bone, membrane, weapon, etc. their base colors. For bone, I do a thin brown wash, followed by a 1:1 mix of brown/yellow, then when that’s dry, drybrush with a 10:1:1 White/brown/yellow dry brush on the edges. For wing membranes, guns, etc, I’ll describe the effect in the next block.

For the wings, first, put down a coat of yellow. Does not have to completely cover, but should cover as best you can. Then, put down a dark green wash. The wings should look green with some light green highlights at this point, thanks to the yellow undercoat. Once that wash is dry, then drybrush the parts of the wings farthest from any of the ribbin with yellow. You’re going to have to do this lightly and in layers to build up the effect of the membranes being “lighter” in the middle than next to the ribs, but it’s worth it. Be patient with your dry brushing and stay away from the ribbing, you want more green closer to the ribs of the wings.

Another shot of the bone drybrushing effect on the 2 sets of scything talons. Don’t go hog wild on the bone dry brush – just the edges highlighted gives a really nice effect.

Another shot of the wing / membrane effect.

Close up of more of the bone effect and the wing membrane effect. Also note, that once the bone washes are done, you can go back and do the black carapace on the scything talons armor plates (if your bug is one of the bigger ones that has those armor plates on scytals). I hold off on doing that carapace black work on scytals because I know the washes will spill onto the armor plates, and just being efficient and not painting them twice.

Overview of the wing/membrane effect. You can see a lot better on this view how I really build the yellow in the middle of the membranes more than the edges close to the ribbing of the wings.

Do the membrane yellowing gradient effect on both sides of the wing membrane material.

Another shot and final product of the membrane effect. I use the same effect on the guns (deathspitters, stranglethorn cannons, etc). I don’t do the yellow drybrush on those though – I just do the base yellow, then a dark green wash. I figure the wing material is stretched thinner and is maybe a bit more translucent, hence that effect.

Ok, now that the wing flesh is done, move onto the carapace highlights. I use Warlock Purple from the old GW range. I think the new GW analog is “Screamer Pink”. The process here is to drybrush a light coat on each plate, about half-way along the breadth of the plate, going from middle to the outside edge (leaving the edge closest to the body black). Once that’s dry, do a 2nd pass, this time only on the outside edge of the plate. That way you get a nice gradient to the outside edge that looks nice and sharp. Now, off to detailing.

The finished product, after detailing. Essentially after yo do the carapace purple-lining, you’re largely done. Paint the base, do the eyes and tongue Khorne red with bright red highlights, teeth are just plain white. I paint my base a medium brown with tan drybrush highlights.

Side view of finished product. It’s worth mentioning that I do the gill vents on the flesh and carapace at this time too. The process for that is a light drybrush white to pick up the edges, then a yellow wash. Then, do a green wash. The yellow should come through as the highlights and be sorta light green with the recesses being dark green.

A shot of the side view, with flash on. You can see the gill vents effect on the back carapace a little better here. There are usually gills like this on the arms, legs, and the carapace spore stacks on most bugs.

Another shot, you can kinda see the gills here, and the wing markings a bit. More on that below.

Close-up of the head, you can see the gradient there on the carapace as well as the work on the mouth. Scary!

Front view. You can see the tongue highlighting and teeth well from this angle, all pretty standard stuff.

Overhead shot, you can see some of the wing markings and the gradient work on the top of the carapace.

For the wings on my flying bugs, I wanted to make them more distinctive. I took an idea from nature and thought of markings. Not sure what they mean (I’ll come up with something) but essentially I wanted some markings to spice up that plain gradient. These are simplicity itself to make – just use a little Abaddon Black with a thin brush and paint a tight, zig-zag line into a point to create the sorta “stripe” at various intervals down the wing.

A better shot of the wing membrane and markings scheme. Do the markings at irregular intervals along the inner ribbing of the wing, on both sides of the wing. I made no effort to make sure the upper markings matched position with the underside wing markings. Maybe that makes me fail biology class.

Do the underside of the wings as well with the markings.

Another shot from the back of the finished product.

Top quarter shot of the finished product.

As always, the details make the mini. Finish your bases! A big rock or two (maybe with washers as weights, I dunno) will help keep your model not only stable, but attractive to look at.

Higher overhead view of the wingspan so you can get a sense of the markings and gradient of the wing details.

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as much as I enjoyed painting this guy and putting this how-to together. Any questions, please don’t hesitate to ping me or connect with me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CrankyOldGamer. As always, commentary & critique welcome!

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