More Blood Bowl Humans: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gloss Varnish


2 blitzers, a thrower, and 2 nothings (sorry… linemen)

(…with apologies to Stanley Kubrick.)


These were painted some time back, but due to every toy soldier painter’s worst nightmare (Matt Varnish) their debut into the wider world has been severely delayed.

In toy soldiers there are 2 vigorously pursued topics. What counts as “power-gaming” and what doesn’t. And, how to avoid disasters with matt varnish.


Up until recently I had been relatively lucky. As a youngster I only really had plastic miniatures, and they were poorly painted, at best. They needed no varnish. As my painting developed I discovered a method (which has now been commercialised through Army Painter strong tone, and Devlan Mud before that) of base-coating the model then covering it with Chesnut Ink (oh how I wish GW still made the old Inks!! Nothing they have made since has been anywhere near as good and anyone who thinks it is better is just plain wrong!) and gloss varnish. Models were glossy, but they looked great.


Then matt varnish sprays came along. The GW version was rubbish. I think I still have a can, which was used once and never again. The same went for Army Painter when they released an aerosol version. They both left a slight frosty finish and have just been used for terrain until they ran out.

My problems were all solved, or so I thought, when I discovered Testors Dullcote, though its cancer causing properties have seemed to make it only sporadically available ever since. And the last time I used it, the dreaded frosty finish resulted.

I have experimented with artists matt varnishes to mixed effect. The brush-on varnish of choice in the UK seems to be Daler Rowney (which is not easily available in the Antipodes) however the need to decant it seems to be too much faffing about to me.


Eventually, I tried Vallejo brush on Matte Varnish and on an experimental figure I slathered it on as thick as I could, and it came up a treat. I did the same for these chaps, however, and disaster struck; after the varnish dried, they were all covered in a thick white film!

Number 10 linesman was subjected to all sorts of debased humiliations as I bathed him in various different solvents to try to remove the outer layer of varnish whilst leaving the paint underneath unaffected; all to no avail!


Eventually, I discovered that if the model was re-coated in gloss varnish the white stuff would be dissolved and the model, albeit now high-gloss, totally fine! Huzzah! These figures seemed cursed as 2 other methods of matt varnishing also failed. In all, these figures have about 15 coats of varnish on them! The colours have been slightly affected by the many layers of varnish the light must reflect through.

The white stuff, I gather, is matting agent. Basically talcum powder or something similar dissolved in the carrier. It works by making the surface of the model (imperceptibly) rough, so light is absorbed instead of being reflected. Gloss varnish creates a perfectly smooth surface hence light bounces off. I guess this is why people decant their matt varnish, to get the ratio of matting agent perfect.

Instead, I discovered Tamiya Flat Clear in aerosol cans, and if they ever stop making this stuff  I will just live with super-shiny models. I have used Tamiya Flat Clear in all sorts of inappropriate conditions with no ill effect. It is the most flat varnish I have ever used. In all, it is perfect. That being said, I have noticed it seems to be taking more and more coats to cover up the gloss effect and sometimes the models still have a slight sheen (see my Estalians for example)….. damn! Does this torture never end?

The whole team so far


Anyway, my current method is as follows: coat the figure in 3 coats of Feast & Watson high gloss polyurethane varnish leaving at least 24 hours between each coat. Always buy the smallest tin possible because it seems to go yellow if left in the tin unused for a long time. After that, spray with one or two coats of Tamiya Flat Clear.

I have tried Feast & Watson matt polyurethane as a brush on matt varnish and it was fine except that it seemed to be somehow even more glossy than the gloss varnish. The same phenomenon was observed with Wattyl Matt Estapol which was recommended on WargamerAU. Hmmm.

Painted Blood Bowl Test Figures

Linesmen done as colour tests for my Averheim Avengers. Classic 1990s sculpts by Gary Morley in a classic colour scheme.

Click for bigger photos.

2015.05.03 004I think I am getting better at painting eyes…..

2015.05.03 007

The numbers were freehanded and came out quite well, I think.

2015.05.03 011These chaps were painted as follows:

Overall the whole model had all basecoats blocked in one highlights once. I then washed the whole model except for the yellow armour with GW Flesh Ink Wash mixed with GW Ardcoat (gloss varnish) and a water. It should be reasonably thin and not too dark. The yellow armour was inked with orange ink then I continued to highlight the model normally.

Black – Foundry Black Shade (but any black will do) highlighted with GW Adeptus Battlegrey then GW Codex Grey. To make it look like lacquered armour I gave it two coats of GW Ardcoat (gloss varnish) after the other varnishing steps were completed.

Yellow Armour – GW Golden Yellow shaded with Winsor & Newton Orange Ink then highlighted with GW Golden Yellow then Golden Yellow mixed with white. This was also given two coats of GW Ardcoat (gloss varnish) after the other varnishing steps were completed to make it look like lacquered armour.

Boots and other leather (gloves, belts, etc) – GW Dark Flesh then highlighted with GW Bestial Brown. After the Flesh Wash re highlight with Bestial Brown then Bestial Brown mixed with white.

Yellow leather gloves  – same as yellow armour, but shaded with the Flesh Wash instead of orange to make it look like leather rather than lacquered armour.

Underclothes (shirts, breeches, etc) – Foundry Buff Leather A then B then shaded with the Flesh Wash before having stage B reapplied and then stage A. A final highlight on knees and other high points was then with dilute white.

Flesh – GW Dwarf Flesh then GW Elf Flesh. Then shaded with the Flesh Wash before having the Elf Flesh reapplied. Highlights by adding white to the Elf Flesh until satisfied. I did 3 additional layers adding white each time.

Old School Blood Bowl Human Colour Schemes

Some old school human colour schemes from the Eavy Metal team. I have not seen these before in my researches, so thought to post them up for reference. They are part of the Eavy Metal painting guide from the Blood Bowl Box.

The classic team, The Reikland Reavers
The classic team, The Reikland Reavers
Carroburg Crusaders
Carroburg Crusaders
Averland Knights
Averland Knights
An earlier scheme for The Marauders
An earlier scheme for The Marauders. Reading the background in the Blood Bowl rulebook, The Marauders were originally the Middenheim Marauders, but were disbanded following the team’s bankruptcy. Therefore, this earlier red and white scheme (that is, the colours of Middenheim) makes a lot more sense than the later scheme shown in my post below (black and yellow being the colours of Averland).

Obviously the Averland Knights are the most relevant for my own painting purposes, and have certainly given me some further ideas for my own team, but I did enjoy seeing these other classic schemes.

Blood Bowl WIP and Inspiration

My latest project is the Averheim Avengers for Blood Bowl. This is taking a bit of precedence over other projects at the moment as there is a tournament in August which I may attend if I can: 1. Learn the game (having never played before!); and, 2. Paint a team! This all came about by innocently commenting in someone’s painting diary on the WAU Forums, discovering we live in the same city, and being invited to the tournament! Be careful how liberally you comment on people’s threads it seems! 🙂 This is the team so far. I expect to have some test models done (at least to base coats) in the next week.

The whole team
The whole team – the models are sculpted by Gary Morley with the exception of the ogre which is a Hasslefree miniature sculpted by Kev White

The ogre is Hasslefree‘s Axenarf, converted by the removal of his axe.

The inspiration for the (planned) colour scheme is this classic scheme as seen in White Dwarf 223 (1998). I will put my own twists on, of course 🙂 (Click for bigger pictures.)

from White Dwarf 223
The Marauders human Blood Bowl team from White Dwarf 223
WD223-1998-Blood Bowl 1
The Marauders vs. The Norsca Rampagers from WD 223
WD223-1998-Blood Bowl 2
The Marauders and Norsca Rampagers from the contents page WD 223
WD223-1998-Mail Order Pages
The Marauders and Norsca Rampagers from the Mail Order pages, WD 223