design notes

~ v1.2 - last updated 31/05/17 ~

I've written down some of my thoughts and ideas behind some of the decisions I've made with my collection of Eldar miniatures, under the probably false assumption that someone might find these ramblings interesting!

History

I first began collecting Warhammer 40,000 back during the days of 2nd edition. I started with some second-hand Ultramarine Assault Marines and painted them with thick, gloopy Humbrol paints and made quite a mess of them. That led to my first foray into paint-stripping and once I started using appropriate paints, the results were a lot better. I ended up with a small force of Space Marines of varying affiliations before moving on to Orks (including a Gorkamorka mob) and Eldar. I got rid of most of my miniatures and quit the hobby shortly after 3rd edition hit and I don't feel that I missed a great deal by doing so - the 3rd edition Eldar codexes were extremely light on content and the miniatures released at the time were simply dreadful. I got back into collecting when new Eldar kits were released for 4th edition - the designs were excellent and cohesive and benefitted enormously from Jes Goodwin's direct involvement. I basically started from scratch at this point and those models formed the basis of the collection presented on this site.

Choices

I only add models to my collection if I actually like the models themselves. Although this might seem a bit arbitrary, as most of the available Craftworld Eldar models are represented in my collection, this is because I feel that the Craftworld Eldar have an extremely strong, well-defined aesthetic and a great model range. Where there are weak points - such as the ageing Phoenix Lord models and the flawed Wraithknight - I have tried to make the best of what's available and adapt them into something that I'm happy with. The main gaps in my collection (Warp Spiders, Swooping Hawks, Storm Guardians) exist because the flaws with the models put me off even trying to convert them. I'm sure that in time, they will be replaced with newer sculpts. There are some models that I've constructed even though they have no rules at all (e.g. the Pegasus and Wraithsinger); these are my own attempts to interpret the Eldar aesthetic and push my sculpting and conversion skills. Whilst I have enjoyed playing occasional games of WH40K, I derive the most enjoyment from assembling and painting the models - I use the codexes and background to inform my decisions about what I purchase and how I equip the models, but ultimately a model's utility in games is a minor consideration.

Appearance

Female Eldar Dire Avenger
1. Female Eldar Dire Avenger.

It's well-established in the background material for the Eldar that the process of donning their helmets is part of the ritual of assuming the "war-mask" that protects their psyche from the horrors of war that they must experience and perpetrate. I've therefore made sure not to include Eldar models with bare heads wherever possible. This also helps to tie the models together and give them a more uniform appearance. There are a few exceptions, and these are all Outcasts; Illic Nightspear, some of my Rangers and Pathfinders. These Eldar have all abandoned the restrictions of the Eldar path, and as such they would not don a war-mask anyway, so having their heads bare then becomes a personal choice and also serves to set them apart from their more regimented Craftworld cousins.

The background for the Eldar race makes it clear that gender is largely irrelevant when it comes to choosing Paths and Aspects (except for the Howling Banshees, which are predominantly female of course). The Eldar are a fairly androgynous race, so distinguishing the genders (especially when they cover their faces by wearing helmets) can be tricky. I've seen a few unnecessarily heated debates on some forums about how to depict the Eldar sexes. The models themselves seem to suggest that the easiest way to distinguish them is the shape of the torso - namely whether or not the model's armour has been sculpted with or without breasts. This is a little bit crass and simplistic, but equally the alternatives (modelling all of the Eldar identically and arbitrarily designating models as male or female, painting them differently, or removing the helmets to show their faces) aren't particularly satisfactory either in the context of the background material. The Eldar women are clearly under-represented in the available Craftworld models in spite of the background - there are female Howling Banshees and a female torso in the Guardian and Shining Spear kits, but that's about it - whilst the Harlequins and Dark Eldar are much more varied and balanced. I've tried to address this by including more female models in my collection (and also modelling a male Howling Banshee) - currently around a fifth of my Eldar are women (not counting Wraith units, as they are identical in exterior appearance and entirely asexual constructions). This isn't as balanced as I'd like, but it is better than the official models would normally manage.

Assembly

Forge World Eldar pilots
2. Updated Eldar pilots for use with my vehicles, replacing the ageing plastic pilots.

I feel that mould lines, gaps and visible joins can ruin the look of even the most expertly-painted model, so I spend a lot of time preparing components before they're glued together and use Green Stuff and White Milliput for gap-filling and blending. Also, when a model is standing on the ground and not on some piece of modelled scenery, I glue them to the base with a thin spacer of plasticard between their feet and the base. This raises their feet up slightly, so that when modelling sand and/or flock is applied to the base, they appear to be standing on the ground and not sinking into it.

Virtually all of my characters have 40mm bases rather than the 25mm or 32mm bases that they're usually supplied with (the exceptions being the Harlequin characters). Most of them are also on raised bits of scenery to give them a bit more height. This just gives them a bit more presence on the tabletop compared to the rank-and-file troops.

All of the Falcon-type grav-tanks use a large 120mm oval base that tends to be shipped with flyer models. I feel that these bases are a much more appropriate size for these models. The standard, round 60mm-diameter flying bases are only used for my Vypers and Hornets as they are much smaller craft. For the larger grav-tanks (the Lynx, Panther, Scorpion and Pegasus), I will be using custom-sized bases cut from MDF to provide a stable platform and lots of room for adding plenty of detail and scenery.

The pilots that come with the older Eldar kits haven't aged particularly well and as neither of the designs features an Eldar wearing a helmet, I was keen to replace them. The newer kits from Forge World (the Lynx and Hornet) include a more modern design of pilot based on the standard (but iconic) Guardian. I was able to acquire enough of these that I can use this new design of pilot for all of my Eldar vehicles.

Magnets

I use magnets extensively on my vehicles but I decided not to magnetise the infantry. I like having the flexibility of fielding a Fire Prism or a Night Spinner without having to buy, assemble, paint and store one of each; but this is less of a problem for infantry as they're smaller and generally have fewer options available to them in the codex. I also didn't want them to be too fiddly - magnetising arms or hands to allow for different weapon options would just make them seem more fragile. Where multiple options exist in the codex (e.g. Wraithguard/Wraithblade options and Exarch wargear), I've just ended up buying additional models and assembling them appropriately.

Painting

Having first started collecting models around the time of 2nd edition, I grew up with photos of the studio 'Eavy Metal models painted in garish, bright colour schemes. Although I enjoy seeing dirty, weathered, realistically painted models, I decided that I wanted my Eldar to be bright and fairly colourful. The inconsistent scale of Warhammer 40,000 models (just how many Wraithguard could you really fit in to a Wave Serpent?), the over-sized weapons and the ridiculously impractical equipment all lead me to the conclusion that the hobby and the models shouldn't be taken too seriously. Although the colour schemes for my models are a lot more restrained and cohesive than the anything-goes approach of the 1990s, I do quite like the brighter colours and the slightly cartoon-like quality. Good painting doesn't necessarily need to be realistic - we are after all talking about elves in space wearing conical helmets.

I don't have many specific painting influences, but I'd say that Stahly and Garfy from Tale of Painters are perhaps two of the painters I admire the most. Garfy's modern take on the 2nd edition starter boxed set of Orks and Ultramarines is inspired and Stahly's beautiful Iybraesil Eldar are very neatly painted and have a great colour palette.

Ultimately, what I strive for most when painting my models is a clean, neat and crisp result with subtle highlights (even ruined architecture gets painted "cleanly"). The colours must complement each other, relying on some basic use of colour theory and the various Aspect colour schemes shouldn't clash with each other or the craftworld colours.



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