Review: Blue Table Painting Basic Painting Techniques DVD

I downloaded the new Blue Table Painting DVD that they are selling through MiniWarGaming. I’m a MWG Vault member so I can download all their video releases and figured I would give this a shot. BTP seems to get short shrift online for their painting and ‘style’ but I wanted to give this an honest shot to see how they do their videos.

The video you can download comes in 7 parts: the Introduction, Value Tinting, Color Shading, Focused Drybrushing, Speed Painting 1 and Speed Painting 2.

The introduction has the hosts of the DVD talking to camera. One is the Quality Control manager for Blue Table Painting, and the other is the guy who shows all the staff painters how to paint their models in the Blue Table style. They quickly move on to show a range of sample brushes and talk a little about the paint they use – they’re not too brand-heavy when it comes to paints (and they seem to use all Vallejo stuff) and because they drybrush everything they don’t use sable brushes, just bundles of cheap brushes in various sizes. Because BTP is all about fast painting they do mention that having lots of paints avoids having to color match custom mixed paint, which is a good point. Unfortunately, pretty early on you can see problems with the video work itself. The first thing I noticed is that the camera they use seems to be on autofocus, so when the artists pick up the brushes to show you something about a brush, it’s immediately out of focus. Also, the artists didn’t understand that their hands and brushes need to stay in a certain area to stay in the camera frame, so the camera person often has to zoom out and pan around to find the brush in the hands of the artists. Pretty annoying, but for someone looking to paint an army quickly it’s good for them to know they don’t have to get expensive Kolinsky sable hair brushes or a particular and hard-to-find line of paints.

The second video chapter shows how the BTP crew do what they call ‘Value Tinting’. This is basically what gives their models the signature BTP look. The example model is one of the gator figures from Hordes. As far as the technique on how to do this, apparently all they do is drybrush everything. I don’t know if this is anything surprising to anyone, but I didn’t realize this is what they do. What’s involved with this is you just prime with black, then dust the model with red spraypaint for an undertone. (Dusting is just spraying a light coat, without the intention of covering the entire model) That leaves the black in shadows and recesses. Then drybrush a highlight and then a further highlight. Finally, use ink washes for a glaze to apply the actual color. This gets you 80% of the way finished with a model and leaves you with the finishing touches like eyes, weathering, etc. The demonstration doesn’t show the detail work, which is fine, but it does show you how to get nearly there, and for many people ‘nearly there’ is good enough. 

The next section is about ‘Color Shading’, which has the only Space Marine model shown in the entire DVD, which I thought was strange – aren’t Space Marines the most ubiquitous army in tabletop wargaming? I didn’t have time to watch this part all the way yet, but in general it looks like it’s about matching color hues and shades for a more realistic look, and applying it by (you guessed it) drybrushing. The last half of this 15-minute section was about choosing the complementing colors, which is a good thing for a ‘Basics’ DVD but with a little adventurism you can easily come up with your own color combinations (search for ‘web design color chart’ for example, or see this post I did recently). This is a good thing to include though, lots of ‘basics’ videos don’t have this sort of thing. The worst part of this section is the woman’s voice that is doing the demonstration – it sounds like she chainsmokes or something, it’s very hard to listen to her voice and this is a long section to watch.

The fourth chapter is called ‘Focused Drybrushing’, which they suggest only for curved, large areas such as Eldar or maybe Tau vehicles. This technique starts with choosing the color range for your model (the Eldar Jetbike shown is blue) and again prime black. Then start with the darkest or lightest color and work to the opposite shade, the example shows starting with dark blue and working to a very light blue on the highest points of the model. Unfortunately, the demonstration loses its luster when the artist (the Quality Control manager for BTP, mind you) applies the last bit of highlights on the Jetbike and it’s clearly quite messy and she declares it finished. She left the figure and underside mostly unpainted, which is fine (assuming they throw some drybrush highlights on the bottom of the model, where there’s some detail – because absolutely no blue went underneath the model), but she didn’t clean up the highlight or even say “well I messed up there, but it’s easy to fix”. Just a bit strange.

The OSL (object-source lighting) video chapter is the next part, which I thought was fairly good. Most of the OSL techniques I’ve seen demonstrated on Youtube show how to do OSL with an airbrush (which is my preferred way to do it), so seeing someone demonstrate it with a normal brush is good. 

The final two chapters, nearly 45 minute’s worth of time, is spent on speed painting bits, which is the crux of BTP’s painting business. The examples are a squad of Orks, which is a perfect choice (probably just happened to be in the painting queue) because I’ve read online that Ork players have the worst job of painting tons and tons of models. The speed painting starts with the drybrush/glaze procedure from the first demonstration and carries on with doing the finishing, with some decent tips tossed in, like using the highlighting step to clean up where you might have accidentally applied some paint with the drybrushing. Unfortunately, because it’s drybrushing the entire demonstration looks haphazard and I wasn’t very impressed with the result of the rust weathering. At the end of this section there’s a picture of the final product, which is a good thing, but the 2 models they do in the demonstration aren’t based and the edges aren’t painted, either, so they just look unfinished. 

Unfortunately there’s nothing to show how they paint large vehicles like Space Marine Rhinos or tanks, stuff with flat, slabby sides. I assume they use spray cans or possibly airbrush and use washes afterwards. Considering this is a basic techniques release, maybe this will come with their second DVD release?

Good: several good tips on speed painting to ‘tabletop quality’ on large quantities of models, lots of work showing how to choose and match colors, if you like drybrushing this is perfect

Bad: no showing how to paint vehicles like Rhinos, etc., camera work is sloppy, annoying voice from one of the demonstration artists, models are generally just ‘okay’ looking, no demonstration of painting Space Marine armor

Final Evaluation: If you want a way to get quick tabletop quality stuff, and you’re new and haven’t been indoctrinated into the GW style of painting, it can be a decent buy. Tabletop is BTP’s claim to fame and most of what they do, so it could be worth it. It’s definitely worth the $1 or whatever to join MWG for a week to download the video (and others). However, if you’ve already got a style of your own, are looking for anything advanced, or are looking for new techniques to make your models ‘pop’, give this one a miss.

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