Painting the Mirrored City: Why Shadespire is Great for New Painters

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Have you watched The Painter’s Guild on Alpha yet? They make it look so easy. I’ve been painting on and off for years, but I still freeze when I look at an army of Space Marines – resplendent in Primer Black – staring at me from the painting table. It’s intimidating, and I think that’s what kept me from ever fully painting a board game or completing a project. There was a while where I’d paint 1 mini per year and pack away my stuff. That’s changed recently. Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire has brought me back to the brush in a big way.

In addition to simply being a great game,  Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire is a fantastic choice for anyone interested in painting. The minis are easy to assemble and the size of the warbands make for a project that you can complete in a weekend – or less! The poses don’t put things in the way of your brush very often, and they all have enough personality that you can make them your own.

The Perfect Bite

I will be the first to admit that I bit off more than I could chew when I started playing 40k. It had been a while since I painted and I let my dreams get the better of me. A Dark Imperium’s worth of plastic remains in various stages of primers and base coats. The truth is, it’s tough to motivate yourself to push through a project when there are 20-30 miniatures to paint. Doubly so when you’re new to the hobby. The sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a project is amazing and it provides motivation for the next one.

Shadespire’s warbands offer up the satisfaction of completing a project in small pieces. The smallest warband contains only 3 miniatures, while the biggest contains 7. However, even these 7 are smaller in stature and as they’re all skeletons it’s a great opportunity to practice “batch painting”. This involves painting 1 color across all your minis before moving on to the next color, rather than painting an entire miniature to completion. This does delay the gratification of completing something just a little bit, but it greatly speeds up the process. Painting only after everyone in my house goes to bed, I can finish a warband in about a week. If I can block out the time to do it all in one go, an entire warband can be wrapped up in as little as a day!


All in the Details

The overwhelming response I hear from people looking at a fully painted mini is “Oh my gosh it’s so detailed, I don’t know how you do that”. At the risk of revealing too much I think it’s important to share a big secret about painting miniatures: the more detailed a miniature, the easier it is to paint. There is a difference between a miniature being detailed and a miniature being complex. A complex miniature is definitely harder to paint than a simple one, but in both cases, it’s easier to paint one that is detailed. Take a look at these miniatures:


Do you see how the features of the Orruk (the yellow armored orc) and the Farstrider (in gold armor) are well defined? They’re sharp, the recesses are recessed deeply and the highlights stand out. The Orruk is simpler, as in there are more flat surfaces and less bits and bobs floating around to paint but the details are just as sharp. When a miniature is detailed you can focus on painting things. When a miniature is not detailed, you have to paint the illusion of shadows and highlights because they don’t exist in the plastic. Rather than being intimidated by the lively miniatures of Shadespire, I’d recommend you start with these Orruks or the core set Stormcast. Once you feel confident you can try some of the more complex warbands.

Make Them Yours

Part of what makes painting miniatures so rewarding is how they bring the table to life. These little figures of plastic or metal are full of character, so why not put a little of yours into them? Games Workshop has produced great tutorial videos for each and every warband. I followed the official studio paint job for most of the miniatures, but finding a little detail here and there to change got me excited to push to the finish line. My Orruks are splashed in blood which is appropriate for the greenskins. My Skeletons carry ethereal shadeglass weapons into battle against Fyreslayers whose runes I painted a metallic blue.


I approached each warband with two goals: learn something new and try something new. The tutorial videos were perfect for the first part – yellow is a tricky color, but I was able to follow along with the videos and have a result I was happy with. For the latter I used inspiration from other painter’s works and ideas that popped into my head. Knowing the main parts of the miniature would look good gave me the freedom to experiment in the details. Painting is a creative endeavor, so have a little fun with your minis!

Do you paint miniatures? Tell us about them in the comments! And be sure to check out Geek & Sundry’s Painters Guild on Alpha for great tips on painting miniatures. Get a free 30-day trial at!

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Image Credits: Raf Cordero

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Raf Cordero writes for Miniature Market’s The Review Corner and co-hosts the gaming podcast  Ding & Dent. Chat with him on Twitter  @captainraffi.

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