The Dark Fortress

On 1970s nostalgia… and 'low tech' high accuracy 40K painting

When constantly presented with beautiful models that have had hours and hours of loving attention expended on their painting, my mind goes back to an innocent youth spent on the front room floor playing soldiers…

I recently came across a professional painting studio where minimalism and simplicity is the benchmark for their output. Tabletop quality is the key here and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that when done as well as these (below).

Deathwing squad and Land Raider

Now when I first saw those models and the purposeful, designed ethos of their painting, my mind went wondering back over three decades. Anyone my age might remember the excellent 1:32 scale Deetail figure ranges by Britains of the 70s. These were soft plastic, self-coloured with hand-painted details, yet for toys — which is what they primarily were — they were of a very good design and sculpt quality for the period. I have since acquired a bucket load of US Marines, Germans, and British and French paratroops for my young sons and they love them for playing 'war'. But I digress.

Britains' Germans

The point here is that these pre-painted Britains figures functioned as intended in that they could be used straight from the box. They don't conform to the expected painted 'look' that many now associate either Warhammer or any other model of this larger scale. I mean these look like toys in a cool retro kind of way and this is part of their appeal as they make no pretensions to look like being anything else. We are back to my innocent age of painting.

When trying to mimic this style, despite the lack of finesse with regards washes, highlights, shadows etc etc, the real skill here is to make sure that what paint there is is applied absolutely perfectly and in exactly the right places — without this accuracy the effect is ruined and they just look poorly painted.

If anything basic painting skills are more on show after all many errors and poor application can be hidden by easy washes and dry-brushed highlights. It almost becomes a shorthand for what makes a particular model look like a particular subject, needing to be instantly recognisable, and as such from a creative point of view requires just as much consideration to pull off successfully as any Golden Demon winner.

Good inspiration for all who cannot or don't want to paint using high technical expertise but who can rely totally on extreme accuracy for the final result. That and using as few colours as necessary to comply with tournament rules whilst still ending with a model that looks characterful.

Perhaps with the excellent pre-coloured models that came with the recent Space Hulk, the old 70s idea of straight from the box into the action is making a comeback.

Image credits:
Deathwing squad: courtesy of
Britains' German infantry squad: courtesy of


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