The Elven way: A tale of Red Era inspired Hobby: Mage on Unicorn 28/09/23

The Elven way: A tale of Red Era inspired Hobby

Welcome to my Hobby Blog, here I will look to chronicle my the building and painting of one of my dream projects a red era High Elf army inspired by the 4th Ed High Elf army book cover and this White Dwarf article:

I will look to include a some discussion of how I’ve painted stuff the challenges and thought processes etc. and some step by step shots etc. I’m by no means a skilled painter but I always enjoyed the white dwarf articles such as tale of four gamers where there’s just a broad discussion of the hobby and what goes into creating an army. I will also include some narrative background around my army.

For those interested there is also my complimentary gaming blog which can be found here:

In terms of the project I wanted to paint some of my favourite GW models from back in 4th ed WFB when I was introduced to the hobby right up to some of the modern day Lumineth Realm Lords (LRL) models. I’m approaching the project by trying to paint up a 1500pts list then expand to 2000pts and then to finish up with 2300pts allowing me to play most typical game sizes.

Phase 1: 1500pts

Mounted Elf King (5th ed mounted general)

Archmage on foot with sword (5th ed mage Tethan)

Drakon Lord (conveyed LRL Lord regent)

Horde of Palace Guard (8th ed plastic sword masters)

Horde of Spears (LRL Wardens/pikes)

Silverbreeze cavalry troop (8th ed plastic reavers)

Forest Guard Troop (8th Ed Wood Elves Rangers)

Regiment of Stormwind Cavalry (LRL Dawnriders)

Phase 2: 2000pts

Mage on foot with staff (5th ed mage)

Silverbreeze cavalry troop (8th ed plastic reavers)

Regiment of Stormwind Cavalry (LRL Dawnriders)

Phase 3:

Forest Guard Troop (8th Ed Wood Elves Rangers)

2 bolt throwers (4th ed metal bolt thrower)

As a little taster here is my King:

King Paweldran II

Eldest son of Varlil, ruler of Tor Bel-Valdar. A kind and gentle ruler skilled at trade and diplomacy. Bel-Valdar has flourished under its young ruler.

As ruler of Bel-Valdar Paweldran wields his ancestral sword Yahdra drawn from the flame of the Shrine of Raloris in moments of great peril. The blade allows the bearer to carry the flame with them into battle, inspiring the forces of Bel-Valdar and infusing the bearer with unerring accuracy and unleashing horrific damage on even the largest of foes.


Great idea @paulb800!

You have just reminded me that after all these years of collecting and painting models, they absolutely deserve the proper background story and nice photo session! Thanks a lot for the inspiration, hopefully I will be able to join the trend :slight_smile:

Keep up the great work!


Following this. 4-5th edition was wonderful.


Hobby Progress update

I’m going very slowly with this army I’ve been painting it for the last 8-9 months and only got 32 models finished.

Progress update:

24 Palace Guard

6 Stormwind Cavalry

1 Spearnen

Mounted King

I’m generally trying to paint a few infantry for every cavalry guy as I find Cavalry really annoying to paint and they take along time. I can paint an Island of Blood Swordmaster in 1-2 days whereas an Aos Dawnrider cav figure takes 7 days minimum. So when I’ve painted cavalry units on their own it’s become a real slog. I get a lot of motivation from finishing figures so by doing the infantry I get lots of little “wins” and I can appreciate the interesting elements of the cav without getting bogged down over time.

Anyway what you actually want is some pictures so here you go:

Stormwind Cavalry:

I’m going to be switching to painting the Silverbreeze cavalry over the summer because the newer AoS stuff whilst lovely is rather fiddly and annoying so doesn’t suit hot days when I’m already feeling pretty annoyed from being overheated :hot_face:

Palace Guard:



Nothing screams Red Era more than some lovely red blades. I had some vague ideas/memories but very few pictures of red blades from that era. One I did have was from the 4th ed High Elf army book which was a very simple design.

I wanted something a bit more involved but also importantly something I felt comfortable repeating. Most coloured blade tutorials tended to use blending something I had no experience of so wasn’t comfortable with committing to on a whole army.

Eventually I found a tutorial by Duncan Rhodes which felt closer to what I would be comfortable and built my method from there ( Here’s what I ended up with:

I found regardless of size blades looked best split into 3 segments (either dark, bright, dark or bright, dark bright) along each blade edge.

So the blade is first checker boarded With a few coats of Evil Sunz Scarlett (all paints GW) and Mephiston Red:

From here I edge highlighted the whole sword Yriel Yellow then followed this up with Dorn Yellow on the Evil Sunz edges and top of the central line going down the sword. At this point I tidy up the reds as this is easier to do at this stage.

Finally I put a couple of coats of thinned druchii violet over the mephiston red trying to get any pooling to occur in the centre of the segment.

I’m pretty happy with these striking the right balance between looking good, being consistent and not being too time intensive. I feel this achieves a sort of stained glass effect so have written some background accordingly.

Narrative: Shard Blades of Bel-Valdar

Each blade wielded by the warriors of Bel-Valdar is forged in the sacred eternal flames In the Shrine of Raloris from the sands of of Bel-Valdar’s beaches with the warrior’s blood oath. The result is Red tinted glass blades which never dull their edge. Upon the warrior’s death the blade shatters it’s service at an end.

Characters Weapons:

Whilst happy with the units weapons I wanted to push myself to do something more impressive for my characters that still felt it tied into the weapons the troops were using.

My basis came from this video by Bigmek’s Workshop ( I ended up with a kind of fiery effect I’m really happy with:

I started painting the whole blade Evil Sunz Scarlet. Then as with the units blades I split into 3 segments going dark, light, dark (or light, dark light). For the central sections I started painting decreasing segments within each other at an angle going lighter until painting essentially a thin line of my lightest colour (evil sunz, 50:50 mix, Wildrider red, 50:50 mix, Fireslayer orange, 50:50 mix, yriel Yellow, 50:50 mix, dorn yellow, 50:50 mix Dorn yellow and white).

I did the same for the dark counter part (using mephiston red then thin layers of druchii violet wash On top of each other building up darkness). For the top and bottom segments of the blades I built towards the darkest and lightest bits of the blade being at the tip and bottom so decreased each painted segment only at one end.

Then to help blend together the colours I used blood angels red contrast paint heavily watered down (10:1 maybe even more like 20:1, a thinner ink would need much less diluting but I don’t have one to hand). To finish I edge highlighted using Dorn yellow with some white mixed it at the brightest spots. (In reality there was also the stage after this where I spent hours tidying, reducing tweaking and general mucking about until I was happy).

I hope this has been helpful/interesting I wanted to go more depth into what/why/how I was my painting my army. I hope it’s enjoyable content. Please comment if you want more of this stuff, have suggestions, questions or ideas you’d like to see so I can improve how I do the blog.


Wonderful idea to make a red era army. The armies we looked at as kids have a way of inspiring us even in adult life.

I have spent the last half year purchasing a 4th edition high elves army and I have themed my army around the same picture of Rick Priestleys High elves from white dwarf :smiley: great minds think alike :smiley:

I really look forward to following your hobby progress. Your painting looks ace at the moment so I think it will be a beautiful army.


Thank you. I hope you share some pictures of your army so I can see them too.

Thanks for the walk through on the sword, looks very effective indeed

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Painting Bright Colours using Contrast Paints

The Red Era style was all about bold bright colours. I’ve found achieving these a lot trickier than I would have hoped. I first attempted to do an army in this kind of scheme a decade ago when GW’s paint range still had a lot of paints dating back to the 90’s plus newer foundation paints that gave great coverage. A combination of lack of skill, time (/patience) and a lacking finished product meant I switched to painting a very different style of elf army (bronze sepia, limited palette). But here’s what a Swordmaster looked like for comparison:

(Bad picture but as you can see very different effect from what I’m doing now.)

But with a completely new range of GW paints and some dedicated time having been spent improving my painting I was fully confident I could now get the results i was after. I was wrong. I’m going to go on a brief detour here. I tend to have a very strong vision of what I want to achieve on a given project, this is both a blessing and a curse rather than using a paint that creates a good effect and going from there I try to work backwards to create the effect I’m after. This is not the easy way and I highly recommend you don’t do things the way I do.

Back to the point in hand I really wanted to achieve the bright red era style effects but kept ending up with something that felt more modern. It would be too dark especially in the recesses and then either stay too dark with the highlights or create huge amounts of contrast giving a very modern feel. Alternatively it would be pale and pastel rather than bright. Frustratingly the real issue was around the scale armour I could get the desired effect on a flatter surface such as cloth. I was also running into issues with the plumes. The common thread was the deep recesses. They just encouraged too much depth to create the bright overall look I was seeking. There was also an issue where I thought I’d cracked the effect I wanted but as soon as I added the other colours to the figure the effect would be lost.

Rather frustrated I ended up pondering the use of contrast paints to fix my dilemma. These certainly weren’t used to paint the original red era figures (but then again I’m certainly not Mike McVey*). Whereas inks over a mid tone darkened the overall effect a thicker contrast paint would go over a pale base coat adding depth to the recesses whilst bringing the pale colour up to the mid tone I was seeking.

*Ask your grey haired gamer friends

This proved the answer for the blues and reds whilst the yellow contrast just did a fantastic job of providing a base and shading effect I could then layer a mid tone onto to.

After suffering through all that story of my pathetic woe here’s some step by step guides to how I did my blue armour, reds and yellows.


Basecoat of thinned down Hoeth Blue (2:1/3:1) this let the recesses get extra depth whilst giving a bit more body to the scales themselves once the contrast goes on.

Contrast Talassar blue this is applied neat but in a very thin layer. I let most of the paint absorb into a piece of paper towel then try to stretch what’s on the brush as far as I can whilst giving a full coat over all areas. One particular challenge is this will dry darker than it looks on application.

Highlights Fenresian Grey. (Teclis blue also works for tidying up bits of the mid tone where other colours have spilled or The contrast hasn’t covered well/is too dark).


Similar to the blue but less thinned I apply a wildrider red basecoat.

This time Blood Angel Red Contrast paint gets thinned slightly with contrast medium (1 part medium :3/4 parts contrast). this can be applied a little more heavily than the blue but can get dark in recesses so I will brush away bits where it pools. (The red contrast paint has gone a bit shiny here, varnish will sort it out but don’t forget to shake your contrast paints well!)

Finally a few limited wild rider red and fire dragon bright highlights.


Iyanden Yellow Contrast this goes on neat and can be relatively thickly applied as it doesn’t tend to get dark too easily.

Layer of Yriel Yellow in many ways this is just tidying up where the contrast is too shaded in areas that should be cleaner.

Highlight Dorn Yellow

I hope this has proved helpful/interesting. There are any number of different ways to use contrast on its own or alongside your existing tools so I wanted to share a way I ended up using them.


Man, I love the retro-look of this army! The nostalgia may be lost on me, but the bright bold colours of the old 4th/5th edition Warhammer models has always been an inspiring concept.

I’ll need to try your method of ‘washing’ the area before a sparing application of contrast paint. Every time I pick-up my partners my contrast paints, I can never achieve the result I’m hoping for unless it’sover a metallic basecoat.

One question, do you thin your basecoat (hoeth blue, for example) with water or medium?

Great work!

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Thank you glad you like it.

I would definitely say just play around with contrast paints there are so many different potential uses it’s worth just trying stuff with it and see what you can do.

Honestly it would probably make sense to thin with medium it’s right there in front of me but habit means I rarely use it unless wanting to improve the flow of a highlight for a character etc. So basecoats are usually just going to be mixing water in.

Had a go at medium for thinning the base coat. Works about the same tbh but it’s more annoying as I have to wash my brush before going into the medium pot so it’s easier to add more water until you get the consistency you’re after. So I’d just go with water.

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This is all so beautiful. The memories of old times are flooding back. Thank you so much for posting all of this.

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Cheers again bud, and thank you for the further experimentation.

Some people swear by medium, but I’ve only found it useful for creating washes and maybe thinning some whites so they don’t go all grainy.

Now I have the temptation to pick up some old, second-hand monopose spearmen…

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I know they look so good, even better if you have the special metal front rank ones with the spears horizontal. Every time I see a unit of those my heart skips a beat.

A little update, I’ve finished my first Silverbreeze model so I’ve got something new to share:


Some stunning stuff going on here mate - love it.

The step by steps are great - the sword one esp

Thanks glad you liked it.

It’s been a long time since my last update but there wasn’t much to share other than the same models being painted again and again as I worked on my rear ranks.

I have finally now, however, finished my first unit a horde of Palace Guard I can share with you.

Brethren of Valdar (Palace Guard)
Paweldran is protected in battle by the Household Guard of the Valdar line. Originally formed from the companion nobles who set out with Valdar to found the city. Each noble swore an oath of fealty for them an their line to serve Valdar and his descendants as such all candidates for the Brethren must trace their lineage back to those original nobles. They are currently lead by their Captain Aethis.

Members of the Brethren go through years of training before being accepted into service. Only those with the required speed and strength of body and mind are inducted many fail and must pursue other paths. The brethren wield ceremonial swords who’s finely crafted hilts are renewed with freshly forged shard blades and blessed through spells and oaths enhancing the Brethren’s martial skills and bravery when wielding the sword.


Ahhh nostalgia. Lovely work I must say. Keep 'em coming!

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