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Start to Finish Guide to Models: Undercoating

Greetings one and all, and welcome to the second part of my series of articles where I take you through the process of building, painting and basing.

This will be a general guide, and each article will cover one stage of the process. This series will be as follows: building, undercoating, base colouring, layering, shading, highlighting, and basing. By the end we will have 5 finished models.

This second article will cover undercoating.

The models I’m going to be using for this are the Space Marine Heroes Series 2 Terminators, and I'm going to paint them in a range of different chapters. Namely; Iron Hands, Ultramarines, Dark Angels, Blood Angels, and Imperial Fists. These chapter colour schemes have a range of painting techniques that I believe are good for all new painters to learn.

So without further ado, let's get started with undercoating.

What is undercoating?

Undercoating is the process of applying a substance to allow further coats of paints, inks, and washes to adhere to the model.

Why Undercoat?

There are two major reasons to undercoat your models;

  1. Plastics, resins, and metals do not act as a good surface for paint to adhere to. By undercoating, you are giving your paints a better surface on which they can stick so that the paint doesn't peel or flake off when it’s dried.

  2. Undercoating gives you a uniform colour to paint over, which results in a better finish.

What colour should you undercoat?

The colour you choose to undercoat your models depends on the colour and look you are going for at the end. A rule of thumb is that if you are painting a light colour finish for your models, you want a light undercoat. If you're painting a dark colour finish, you want to use a dark undercoat.

Of course this is a very basic rule, and the fact of the matter is that other factors can and will also influence your decision on which undercoat colour you use, so it is best you plan ahead how you want your model to look in the end before you pick up a brush or spray can.


Now I'm going to undercoat the models we’ve been working on. As I am planning to use a mixture of layer and contrast paints later on, I’ll be undercoating the models in three different colours, which will be as follows:

  • Iron Hands - Black

  • Ultramarines - White

  • Dark Angels - Wraithbone

  • Blood angels - Black

  • Imperial fists - White

I’ll be applying all of these using a spray can, which I find gives me the smoothest coat. But you can apply an undercoat with a brush if you like. (I’m just very lazy)

I then attach the models to my patented spray stick (it’s a stick that I use for spray painting) with Blu Tack, and then go into a well ventilated area. I normally go outside which is perfect if it’s a good day. However if it’s too cold, humid, or raining, then you can’t spray. The way around this is to use a spray box with an extractor fan. But these can be expensive, so waiting for the weather to clear up is normally the better and cheaper option in my opinion.

When spraying, you do not want to hold the nozzle too close to the model. I find spraying from between 8-12 inch away is best in order to get a smooth even coat, otherwise you can end up with the paint pooling, and this can cause your models to lose some of their details.

It’s important to remember that you might need to move the model around a bit to get into all of the nooks and crannies. You might also need to spray in stages on larger or more complex models such as tanks.

Finally, make sure you let your undercoat dry completely before you start to apply paint to the model.

I hope you found this article useful and informative. Next time we will be applying base colours to our terminators using both base paints and contrast paint.

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