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Painting Process - Apocalypse

One question I get asked a lot is "Do you have a tutorial for Marvel United?" and, well, the answer is no. On average, a Marvel United mini takes me 4 hours to complete, as you'll see below that is due to the number of layers being used. But other times it is because I'll spend 30 minutes building up a colour through 5 or 6 different layers, before washing it back down because I don't think it's quite working.

Working and experimenting with colour in this way is what makes my minis pop, but it also means that I can't create a tutorial on how I painted something because, some of the steps would essentially be mistakes. With a tutorial you want clear defined steps and I have done lots of tutorials that follow that pattern, but for me Marvel United is about having fun, trying things out and seeing what works.

So I thought what I would do is take you on a journey as I paint up my 200th mini of the year, Apocalypse.


Everything begins at the base coat. For me, this is usually an off-white primer. Pick whatever manufacturer you like, for me I use Army Painter mostly, Skeleton Bone in this case, but I'm open to other manufactures, just AP tends to be cheaper and available on Amazon.

The reason for using off-white is that the next step is to wash the model, so you want a base coat that allows the colour to soak into the recesses and bring out the detail. If you use black you'll need to drybrush or airbrush on lighter colours for this to work in a method known as zenithal priming.

If on the other hand you use White primer you'll find you have very extreme shifts in colour between the highlights and the shadows, so I recommend creams or greys. When I don't have time or the space to prime with a spray can, I use a brush on primer instead, which gets the job done just as well.

Colour Blocks

After priming I use one of two techniques, they are both very similar but this one is now my preferred method. Using Contrast paints I block out the areas of colour on the model, this takes between 10-20 minutes. The contrast paints come in wide variety of colours and tint the base colour while providing shadows in the recesses which allow us to see the details more clearly.

This also allows me to see, roughly, what the finished model will look like and if the colours I'm using will sit nicely next to each other. I'm not being particularly neat at this stage, the import thing is that the contrast covers all of the base coat and creates some good shadows.

The older method I used to use was to apply a wash of Army Painter Strong Tone across the whole model This had the same effect as the contrast paints, in that it brought out the detail by darkening the shadows, but it didn't also add the colour in the way contrast does.

Hour One

With the colours blocked out, I set a timer and painted for an hour before taking a photograph. As you can see below, I started at the top of the model. I actually began with the skin and the face. I often do this with Marvel United because I find the face is the thing that really defines the look of the model.

This also is part of the "inside out" method of painting. With this method you paint the lowest recessed things first, for example, his eyes and teeth. In this way you don't have to get into tricky areas later and risk getting paint on an area you already finished.

As you can see the face is pretty much complete and I've started work on the metallic metal shoulder pads, although they still have a long way to go and this is a full hour into this session.

Hour Two

Our second hour is complete and Apocalypse is starting to take shape. Much of his upper body is complete, his chest, back and arms for example. At this point I have 3 different shades of blue. We have Cygnar Blue Highlight which is the base colour for armour, we have Exile Blue being used as a base for the darker blues in the chest and we have Meredius Blue being used for the lighter parts of the chest as well as the arms and legs.

Meredius Blue is the one I was unsure of at this stage. It is the one closest to the green end of the spectrum, a fact that I know becomes more pronounced the more white you add to it to create highlights. So at this stage I didn't know if I would need to add a wash or glaze to it to colour correct it to blue, as it turns out though I liked the end result just fine.

Hour Three

The blues are largely done now as we move into the third hour of this paint job and I'm about to start work on creating the metallic look for the cables coming out of his arms. With Marvel United models I like to imagine the light is coming from above and to the left, which is where the light is in my painting room. This allows me to easily imagine where the shadows, and therefore darker areas should be. Generally I don't do as many layers of highlights in shadowed areas, but I do always do some as you still want to show the relief, or three dimensional nature of the model.

And then I want to create areas of light on the opposite side of the model, i.e. the upper and left hand side. This is typically where I'll have the most layers and where details like the light reflection on the shoulder pad will be.

Hour Four

The fourth hour is nearly all painting metallic. I did short cut this a little, using a drybrush to speed up the process, rather than full on wet blending, you can probably see this a little in the first photo where the paint looks a little scruffy on the cables. That is something I might go back and fix at a later date.

I have two different metal looks going on here, the greyer colour on the cables and belt buckle and the bluer, higher contrast X logo on the base. For the cables I used Iron Hull Grey, while the base used Gravedigger Denim, but the highlight for both will have been Frostbite and possibly some white.

The final thing I always do is rim the base with Black Templar contrast paint. This neatens everything up and the contrast dries very flat and matt. I have rimmed my bases in the past with regular paints, but they can sometimes end up looking streaky.

The last thing I need to do now is make/find some more appropriate terrain for Apocalypse, he's currently in my druid grove that I was using for Massive Darkness. I think he needs to be in some Egyptian/sandy desert terrain.

Hopefully this gives you some insight into the process I use for painting Marvel United. If you have found this helpful let me know in the comments below. I'm hoping to create a series of tutorials on techniques I use across all my models, so if you would like to see something like that then I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time, have fun painting...

The Duke


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4 commentaires

Stuart Barton
Stuart Barton
20 août 2022

Holy moly! 2 questions: 1)How do you highlight the edges of his fingers? and 2)How do you get that color gradient change on his shoulder pad & back of his neck?

Chris Bowler
Chris Bowler
20 août 2022
En réponse à

Thanks buddy. 1) a small brush with a good point and a steady hand. 2) Blending. I tend to use contrast paints as the base colour for a blend, because they are already liquid. Then I add lighter and lighter colours to the mix to create the gradient. Ideally you want to work quickly and blend directly on the model while the previous colour is still wet to which allows you create a seamless blend. Marvel United minis lend themselves to this because they have large flat areas, it's much harder to achieve on small or detailed surfaces. I hope that helps and I'll try and create a tutorial in the future on Blending.


Johanes Yamakawa
Johanes Yamakawa
20 août 2022

Nice to see that we follow similar processes. I don't think my understanding of light sources is as good as yours though. I always look to your work for inspiration before starting on my own painting.

Chris Bowler
Chris Bowler
20 août 2022
En réponse à

Thank you, that's very kind.

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