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Freehand Banners

Nothing makes an army look better than a great centerpiece model. They are meant to be a focal point of the army, making it stand out not only on the tabletop, but in pictures and displays as well. Few models accomplish this better than an intricately painted Standard Bearer.

But how do you do it?

I'm not going to lie and say that it's easy, or quick... but it is definitely do-able if you take your time. Here is a step-by-step- guide to how I painted the Standard Bearer for my Ultramarines.

Step 1: Picking a design

With any complicated painting task, the first step is to figure out what you're actually going to paint and lay out the design on your surface.

The best way to do this is to prime the surface white and draw out the design in pencil. The reason you prime models in the first place is to give the surface some 'teeth', which is just painter slang for creating a semi-rough surface which paint will adhere to. White primer gives the banner a surface texture similar to paper.

You can draw the design onto the banner surface, erasing to correct any mistakes, until you get a design you're happy with. In this case, I used the banner design for the 2nd Company Ultramaines straight out of the 2nd edition codex. I held the banner next to the picture in the codex and drew it to match. I had to alter the design slightly to fit in the space of the plastic banner.

Step 2: Outlining or "Inking"

Once you have the design down in pencil, it's time to break out a fine tip paint brush and some thinned down black paint. You are going to go over your pencil design with thin black lines, so the design will stand out once you start to add color. This is pretty much identical to the inking' process used in comic book production, only we're using brush and paint instead of pen and ink.

Once the design is laid down in black paint on a white background, you basically have what amounts to a page out of a coloring book. You can erase the pencil lines at this point if you like. You don't have to, but it does provide a neater surface for the next step.

Step 3: Coloring Inside the Lines

Remember when you were a kid and your teacher kept telling you to color inside the lines?

Yeah, I didn't pay much attention to that either :)

At any rate, here is one instance where you will actually want to do so. You've created a nice design. It would be a shame to screw it up by scribbling all over the place.

Adding color to a banner is just like painting any other model. You want to lay down a basecoat of colors first, in the areas where they are needed. You'll notice I painted most of the banner in blue, the trim is in yellow, and the design has been painted in base colors as well. The black lines are still barely visible beneath the base colors, which is good.

We're looking for good coverage at this point, and the black lines showing through the base coat let us know we're on the right track. Don't worry, we'll darken them again in a future step.

Step 4: Shading

Just like on any other model, after you lay down the base color, you want to shade certain areas to add depth and definition. Using a black wash, I've shaded the entire banner, paying particular attention not only to textured areas like the sculptured folds in the fabric near the top, but also areas of the image itself where the color needs shading. The recessed areas of the wing feathers and parts of the skull in particular will be darker areas of the final image.

Step 5: Highlighting

Once the wash dries completely, reapply the base colors where needed to bring to color level back up, and apply highlights as needed to get the egdes bright and make the image 'pop'.

As you can see, the black lines are still barely visible along the edges of the design, as well as the "Ultramarines" text. The way to accomplish this is to use thinned paint and taking care to "stay within the lines".

Step 5: Final Details

After the highlighting stage, you'll want to go back over the lines with a fine tip brush and thinned black paint. You'll want to be very careful at this stage so you don't run a streak of black paint over all your hard work.

After you've got the central image the way you like it, then it's time to clean up the other details such as the highlights on the folds in the cloth, the trim along the edge of the banner, and the lines of text on the purity seals.

It can be a lot of work, but a nicely painted banner looks really good when it's all finished and will add a nice focal point to your army.