While painting my Tau army between Christmas and New Year, I made a start on the Tau Slyray missile defence tank. I don't know if I'll field the Skyray that much, so I also bought a spare turret for it with a railgun, so I can field it as a Tau Hammerhead should the need arise.
Before I got my brushes out, I logged into Dawn of War: Dark Crusade to make use of the army painter and take some screen shots of a game with the Tau. I know there's a lot of army painter programs out there (and the one over at Bolter and Chainsword springs to mind), but I find them incredibly slow and difficult to use.
The Dawn of War Tau colourscheme has worked very well so far, but the Tau Skyray looked too orange for my tastes, so I decided to tone it down and use the Dawn of War Tau colourscheme as more of a guideline for what I wanted.
While the screenshots from Dawn of War look a little bright, the green I'm using is more of a drab Russian military colour. It doesn't seem to photograph very well, so forgive me if my pictures tend to look a little muddy at times. Trust me, in real life this Tau army looks awesome.
My Tau army painting guide is pretty simple. I mostly use a base colour, followed by a highlight and that's it. I sometimes use more technical things like washes in my army painting, but I try my best to keep things quick. As a 25 year old guy with a full-time job, active interests and washing to do, I can't paint all my Warhammer Tau to near Golden Demon standard anymore.
As you can see in the Tau army painting guide above, I use Privateer Press Paints, with Thornwood Green as the military green basecoat, Battlfield Brown for any dark brown bits that no one will ever look at, Khador Red Highlight (aka: bright orange!) for the orange stripes and finally, Games Workshop Scorched Brown for the brown bits. For a highlight I simply add some Games Workshop Bleached Bone to the mix for a naturally light and warm highlight. In fact, you can add Bleached Bone to almost any colour for a nice highlight, even black!
There are some other fancy bits for the sensors, Tau Firewarrior shield symbols and golden bits, but I'll come to that as I go along.
Tau Skyray Painting Step 1: Basecoat
After assembling all the essential bits, paint the whole thing in the basic colours. You'll notice that I haven't bothered to spray it black or white to start. This is because Privateer Press Paints are designed so that they can be painted straight on to the plastic or pewter. They usually take one thick coat, followed by a watered down coat for consistency. This keeps the Tau Skyray looking a little cleaner.
Once the Tau Skyray is completely dry, I then paint the brown bits over the top of the Thornwood Green using Games Workshop Scorched Brown while the vents and other engine bits are painted Games Workshop Chaos Black. I have also painted the landing gear in Privateer Press Battlefield Brown. It's a little darker than Scorched Brown and being a P3 Paint, it sits straight on the plastic, saving me precious quantities of paint.
You can see that the seeker missiles, landing gear and engine pods are left detached. This makes them easier to paint (remmeber we have to paint highlights later) while being quick to super glue on later.
Tau Skyray Painting Step 2: Sensors and shiny bits
The red sensors and gold shiny bits are relatively quick to paint, but require some more shading than the rest of the model.
The gold bits are disruption pods...I presume? You'll notice that the Dawn of War screenshot above shows the disruption pods as being orange. I felt that gold was a better choice and I have continued this through the rest of the army.
To paint the gold, simply paint on some Games Workshop Dwarf Bronze. Once that's dry wash the gold with Games Workshop Chesnut Ink and then once that's dried paint Games Workshop Shining Gold onto the raised areas. It's pretty simple, but you just have to wait for each coat to dry and don't go too heavy with the Cheshnut Ink.
The red sensors are quick, but require a little more attention. Basecoat the area in Games Workshop Liche Purple, then begin to make the area progressively lighter towards the edges with coats of Games Workshop Scab Red, Games Workshop Red Gore and finally Privateer Press Khador Red Base for the final red highlight.
Privateer Press Khador Red Base is an amazing colour which makes a mockery of Games Workshop Blood Red, which resembles a more orangey colour. Khador Red Base is extremely red, perfectly red and if you ever want to paint something red, there's no better paint to do the job.
Sometimes the layers of red on the sensors don't always blend perfectly, so if you have the time (or if you're a pedantic as I am) you can merge the colours with a little watered down Scab Red or Red Gore.
Tau Skyray Painting Step 3: Highlighting
You need a steady hand for highlighting Tau vehicles. But first, you need to prepare your own highlights, because Privateer Press Paints are quite dark and you only get the basic colours...usually. So, it's time to add some Games Workshop Bleached Bone to your mix of Privateer Press Thornwood Green.
As I knew I'd be painting a 3,000pts+ Tau army, I bought some extra paint pots for the purpose of creating a plentiful supply of highlight colours.
I added 1/3 of GW Bleached Bone to a pot of 2/3 P3 Thornwood Green
I added 1/3 of GW Bleached Bone to a pot of 2/3 GW Scorched Brown
Creating my Thornwood Green Highlight and Scorched Brown highlight paints.
To increase the accuracy of my brush, I also watered down the paints to that the highlight would glide smoothly across the edges of the Tau Skyray.
In this pic of the Tau Skyray you can see where I've quickly painted on the Thornwood Green highlight. Ok, it's a bit wobbly in places, but I can go back and tidy up the lines with some Thornwood Green.
I make a point to paint my highlights along the edges of the model where the light naturally falls. The good thing about this is that it makes the finished model lok quite natural, but the down side is that often you miss where to paint the highlight because the Thornwood Green highlight closely resembles the colour of the body under a natural light.
Tau Skyray Painting Step 4: Orange Stripes
If you thought you needed a steady hand for the highlights, just wait until you need to paint orange stripes!
When using the Privateer Press Khador Red Highlight I tend to water it down quite a bit, as this lets me make a very neat and controlled mark with the paintbrush. I can then outline where I want the stripe to go.
My main technique for painting stripes on my Tau vehicles is to apply a controlled amount of pressure on the brush, causing it to spread out and create a line of consistent thickness. I then paint this line in a straight motion, often using prepainted guidelines or visual points of detail on the model to help keep it straight, consistent and accurate. Of course, I wobble or make mistakes, but there are easily remedied with a thin oline of Thornwood Green to tidy up the accident.
To make the stripes of orange more solid and vibrant, I usually apply a couple of extra coats. Once the shape of the line has been perfected, applying extra coats of colour is very simple.
You can see the back of the Tau Skyray, as well as a Tau Firewarrior I'm currently painting. You can see all the highlights mentioned earlier as well as the three orange stripes.
Here you can see the top of the Tau Slyray crew compartment, the orange stripes on the hull and the tidied up highlighted lines. You can also see bits of dust in the paintwork. My work room needs a serious clean. Of course it's only after a model has been completed that I end up spotting all the dust, scratches and paint brush strokes.
Tau Skyray Painting Step 5: Finish Assembly
Now that your Tau Skyray is complete, you need to finish assembling it. This means gluing on all the seeker missiles, the landing gear and the engine blocks.
I tend to build my models to be as robust as possible while being easy to pack in a foam padded carry case. As you can see, the Tau Skyray has a detachable turret and the engines have been glued in place to prevent the twisty bit inside from breaking off (a common ocurrence for Tau tanks). I have also disposed of the flying base in favour of the sturdier landing gear. Not only does this help to block line of sight while giving my tanks an elevated look on the tabletop, the legs are less likely to break than the flimsey stem of a flying base.
Finished Tau Skyray with smart missile systems
Finished Skyray with Tau Firewarrior for scale
I hope you enjoyed reading my Tau Skyray painting guide. So be sure to visit Warhammer Tau regularly for the latest in painting, playing and everything about the Tau army in Warhammer 40K.