The Arena of Escalation: First Unit and Character - Part 2

The Arena of Escalation: First Unit and Character - Part 2

Welcome back to the Arena of Escalation, a gathering of intrepid hobbyists from around The Army Painter offices (and remote offices) to do what we celebrate most here – painting an army!

Each contestant picked an army from Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 to collect, build, and most importantly, paint. Come December, we'll all be gathered together at our HQ in Denmark for a fun day of games with our freshly painted forces.

As the first part of the Arena ends, or Phase 1 as we call it internally, we look at the remaining six contestants’ contributions of their first character and unit. A cornerstone of many a collection, the first character and unit help set the painting methods, scheme, and overall feel of the army before moving onto the bulk of the collection. If you missed it, you can see the first six contestants' entries here to experience the full glory of this Arena milestone.


Thomas Coltau


Thomas: I am having so much fun army painting with the new Fanatic paints! I knew I wanted a really high standard for the army, even though I would probably lose my mind painting 100+ models for the army to this standard. Actually, what really made me want to up my game is seeing what the other contestants are doing. People are churning out beautifully painted models left and right, and it’s super inspiring!




I did a super simple conversion for my Castellan, and by that, I mean a head swap. I saw it somewhere on Pinterest, and it’s super effective, and it made the character fit the army theme I’m building well. This will be one of the many, MANY characters in my army, but he’s not going to be my warlord, so the paint job had to fit the rest of the army but not be too flashy! I used the same toned-down gold that runs throughout the entire army, based on Warpaints Fanatic Tainted Gold, washed with Dark Skin Shade and Purple Tone, and finished off with a True Brass highlight.


Castellan and Unit


I also gave the first troopers a head swap. For this army, I bought a lot of kits for different units. Luckily the new(est) kits from the Astra Militarum range work really well with each other. Amongst those kits, I have 2 Kasrkin units, and I used all the gasmask heads for my normal guys (There’s enough for 3 squads and a few heavy teams) – I LOVE painting faces, but I also really like the SWAT-team look that the masks give to the normal troops, and then I can go full bare-face for my kasrkin units.


Thomas Scenic


The next step for me will be a few more units of infantry, a couple of sentinels, and an Imperial knight!

You can follow Thomas' progress on his Instagram @coltaupainting.




Danni Christensen


Danni: For my unit, I decided to go with the Einhyr Hearthguard, which I thought would be a good "base" unit for testing out my colour scheme. I didn't really change much from my test mini besides the plasmacutter swords, which were originally painted Matt White with Radiation Glow on top. I painted these ones in a more traditional manner, with a bright orange in the middle, then blended darker towards the edges with some black spots to finish them off. Instead of painting yellow directly over the black shoulders and guns, I tried drybrushing them first with Matt White mixed with a little pink, and that really made the yellow pop.




I used the same principle for my character, Grimnyr. I chose Grimnyr because I really liked his "fantasy" look, which stood out from the rest of the army. Besides working with my main yellow and black theme, I wanted to incorporate a lot of gold and silver to my minis, to tie in the whole dwarven miner ancestry, and I really like Warpaints Fanatic Bright Gold and Mithril for that part.


Grimnyr and Hearthguard


My bases are a combination of our Battlefield Snow, Charming Chartreuse, and Dusk Red Speedpaint and then I superglued some smashed-up amethyst crystals to the bases. All in all, I was super happy with the outcome.


Danni Scenic


The next step in my army would be to add some vehicles and a combat patrol. I'm super excited to paint up some larger models!

You can follow Danni's progress on his Instagram @beertasticbear.




Lasse Sell


Lasse: The first character and squad is done and it’s really great seeing the colour scheme working across a whole unit. Since I mostly paint for D&D and competitions, I’m not used to painting a bunch of minis in the same scheme, and I was worried that it wouldn’t come together. So far though, I’m really happy with it!




I got a lot of use out of the Flexible Triad System on the cloth and armour. For the normal Battle Sisters, I used Wolf Grey and Frost Blue from the Desaturated Blue-Grey triad with a final Matt White highlight on the armour and then added Runic Cobalt into the process on the Dialogus for a smoother transition. For the cloaks, I used a few select colours from the Cool Reds triad and then used the WHOLE Flexible Triad on the Dialogus. It makes it very easy to “scale” your painting between the simpler foot soldiers and the more detailed centrepieces.

I finally committed to painting the weapons with the same Flexible Colour Triad as the armour (Desaturated Blue-Greys), but just stepping every colour one spot down towards the darker tones.


Diologus and Battle Sisters


I also got a lot of use out of two Speedpaints – Grim Black and Enchanted Steel. I used Grim Black to basecoat the bases – it just flows so fast and easily into all the crevices, and I also used it to basecoat most of the black pieces of the minis. Enchanted Steel is just such a great base for most metal bits as it covers fairly well, so I don’t have to basecoat with white first. Then I hit it with a Dark Tone Wash and then a simple highlight with Mithril for max contrast!


Lasse Scenic


I’ve already started on the upcoming squads and look forward to sharing more!

You can follow Lasse's progress on his Instagram @fantasticmapsstore.




Steffen Aarestrup


Steffen: In the end I decided to go with the orange colour scheme of Craftworld Lugganath because they just looked too cool, and I really liked their lore. Originally, I planned on doing a squad of Howling Banshees and Jain Zar as my first squad and character, but the excitement of painting orange made me switch them up for a squad of Guardians instead, making Jain Zar a nice change of palette for the Phase 1 goal.


Jain Zar


With Jain Zar, I went for a simple black/white zenithal for priming, and since she is a Phoenix Lord, I thought she deserved some extra attention, so I upped the painting standard to make her stand out.


Jain Zar and Guardians


For the Guardians, I started with a basecoat of the darkest orange in the Orange Flexible Triad, Molten Lava, which I airbrushed on. On my test minis, I airbrushed 2 successive highlights from above (Zenithal), first in Lava Orange and then in Inner Light and then used the Orange Tone Wash as a filter through my airbrush to soften the transitions up a bit. This ended up being a very bright model, and to get the contrast in the orange I wanted, I had to revise my approach. I applied some basic colour theory and added some purple. I used Speedpaint Purple Swarm for this, which was airbrushed from below, and since the Speedpaint is translucent, it blends in well with the orange, and the more you add, the darker and more purple it gets, so I could add it until I was satisfied. I incorporated this into my recipe as step two, right after the basecoat of Molten Lava. I also used Purple Swarm to refine shadows and recesses on the models further and finished off by doing some edge highlighting where needed with Inner light. Now that I had an orange I was satisfied with I chose neutral colours for the gear and helmets, and green for gems and eyes.


Steffen Scenic


For the next phase, I plan on giving my guardians a much-needed ride, and maybe adding some bloody-handed backup and muscle for my squishy guys.

You can follow Steffen's progress on his Instagram @artificers_minis.




Oliver Løvendal


Oliver: For Phase 1 of the Arena, I wanted to give Farsight some friends, and what better than a bunch of Crisis Suits? (Well, okay, The Eight would be cooler, but I’m saving that for later).




I opted for painting 6 suits in one go to get a good sizeable start to the army project. The unit is literally painted using the same process as Farsight. The “test” model worked, so off I went!


Farsight and Crisis Suits


I like the visual appearance of the models so far, and I am confident that this is the style I want for the whole force, so I am currently painting the next two phases of the challenge in one go.


Oliver Scenic


At the time of writing, I am putting the finishing touches to all the red. So. Much. Red.




Caleb Wissenback


Caleb: Unfortunately, Caleb’s Dark Angel force hit a bit of a snag this month. While doing his best Ravenwing impersonation with one of his other hobbies, dirt biking, he failed his Dangerous Terrain test and took a bit of a tumble and is now waylaid in his recliner as he recovers. He’s on the mend, though, and is recovering well! He’s looking forward to getting back to painting as soon as he’s able to, and we have no doubt he will have some more amazing-looking Unforgiven to share with us in the future. Everyone in the Arena and at The Army Painter wishes him a speedy recovery.

You can follow Caleb's progress on his Instagram @calebwissenback.




With that, Phase 1 of the Arena of Escalation comes to a close. The warlords have begun to gather their forces, and the ranks of the armies have started to swell. In the coming months, we’ll be looking at the steps our contestants will take to expand their collection even further, with the rumbling of engines in the future for many of them.

Be sure to check back in the Arena of Escalation hub for more updates in the future, as well as on our social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. You can also follow along on everyone's personal social media accounts with the hashtag #ArenaofEscalation.

Reading next

The Arena of Escalation: First Unit and Character - Part 1
Painting The Dark Angels | Unlocking The Secrets Of The Unforgiven