Well I started this day with the idea I would write a short post about how you can cut a huge chunk of time out painting your rank and file by using an airbrush. I did some basic models to give you examples the only problem is what happened on the paint table did not transfer well in pictures. Even so I will put up the steps with a few explanations of how I did it as well as some things you can try with your own models. Here are the models after priming and the base coat color sprayed onto them.
Before I get into the meat of what I did, I should warn you that I am far from an expert when it comes to my airbrush. I have what I would consider a better than basic grasp of how to use it, but that is about it. There are plenty of resources out there to learn the basics if you look.
Another note, this technique will work better with some armies than others. Any army that is going to have large areas that are covered by the same color.
The idea with this is to use the airbrushes ability to create an extremely fine mist and combine it with directional spraying to give you some smoother highlights without needed to dry-brush or other techniques. After I had my models primed I picked out three colors that I would use to make up my basic color. As always, it is not important what colors I use but I will include them for you anyway. You simply need to find three shades of color that you want for your models. The one thing to keep in mind is that the fist color or coat should preferably be a darker color.
For the Eldar models I have started with VMC 862 Dark Gray. On the Chaos model I used VGC 72142 Heavy Violet. This first coat should cover the entire model. Since this is going to be part of your shadows be sure and get it in all the cracks and crevices. For these models it took 2-3 coats to get the color solid enough.
Once the initial coat of paint was dry I moved on to the first highlight color. On the guardian I used VMC 836 London Grey and on the Chaos model I used a mix. I thought the magenta was going to be too bright to be a mid tone so I mixed the VGC Heavy Violet with VMC 945 Magenta. The important thing about this coat is you want to keep your spray coming from the top part of the model. It is best if you move turn the model as you spray, and spray from the top at about a 45 degree angle. Some of you may recognize this as it is similar to Zenithal Priming that I picked up from some blogs out there most namely Massive Voodoo.
Now for some reason it seems I missed the photos for the second step. I thought I took them, but evidently not. See what happens when you don't blog for long stretches.
The final spray will be the lighter of the color I chose for the model. On the Eldar it was VMC 989 Sky Gray and on the Chaos model it was the Magenta from the mix in the second stage but sprayed un-mixed. Now on this coat I followed the same approach as the last one by spraying from the top down. The difference was that I kept the brush much higher on the model therefor limiting the amount of things it could hit. I can not stress how important that is. The idea here is to keep the lightest color to the extreme top surfaces and if you get to far from the top you will simply cover the second stage color.
Now, as a final step I washed the entire model with GW washes to tie the different stages together. For the Eldar it was good ole' Badab Black and for the Chaos marine it was Leviathan Purple.
Once the wash dried I went back and added in some additional color so you can see how it looks broken up by other color. Overall I like the way they came out, but I would think when I put it into full scale production for each army I will need a bit more separation in my colors. Another thing to consider and this is really important if you are considering this technique. You must be tidy when painting other colors on after the base. Using a spray like this it will be very difficult to match on a model if you need to cover over a mistake. That is also going to make it difficult if you use dry-brushing for some of your other colors.
As for time, it took me about 90 minutes to do these four models. That includes the time it took me to snap the photos between steps. On a larger scale I would stick them down to a paint stick and do at least 5 at a time to speed things up. I can say the spray portion would not have taken any longer had I sprayed 5 models instead of 2. Below you can see the models after I put on the other color. They are by no means finished.