How to Slay the Hydra – Painting Alpha Legion!

By |2015-08-30T14:00:45+00:00August 30th, 2015|Categories: Chaos, How To Tutorial, Warhammer 40k|

hydra alpha legion

Alpha Legion! The chapter may be shrouded in mystery, but how to paint them shouldn’t be- come see.

Hey guys, Caleb with White Metal Games here.  We are a miniature painting service based out of Raleigh, NC.  Like many miniature painters, we are always trying out new techniques here in the studio.  Alpha legion poses a unique problem because traditional Alpha legion is not only metallic on metallic, but also a unique color of metallic:  blue/green  . . . aka CYAN.

Hydra 5

Achieving a Blue Green Metallic seemed pretty easy at first.  Just mix the two together right?  Nah, that would be too easy.  Some time ago, my guys and I started messing around with color shifting paints.  You know, those paints that shift color depending on the way the light is hitting them.

You can actually buy them in much smaller quantities for the purpose of painting personal projects.   So I picked up a few grams on Ebay and started messing around with it.  I didn’t know if it was the right way to go on this project, but I was damn sure going to try it out.

First up, I needed a proper model.  I had picked up this Forgeworld Dreadnought body a while ago, and I went about kit bashing some arms for it from my bits box.  I went with a twin-linked autocannon and power fist/claw.  The kit bash is simple, yet effective.  After all, this is a painting tutorial, not a kit bashing tutorial!


With the model ready, I prime it black with my favorite primer.  Sorry, no pics of this.  Just image the above model, but you know . . . black.

Unlike paint, you can’t just apply the dry pigment to the model as though it were a weathering powder:  it needs some sort of medium to apply it to the model.

For my first attempt, I mix 1/2 teaspoon of the Color Changing Medium with about 2oz of Airbrush thinner and 2oz of Matte Medium.  I used a pretty generic Matte Medium from Michael’s Arts and Crafts, but several miniature companies make their own version of mixing medium, including P3’s Mixing Medium and GW’s Lahmian Medium.

Alpha 1Alpha 2

The medium/thinner mix served as a perfect vehicle (or so I thought) for delivering the pigment to the model . . . but my first attempt is fairly ‘glittery’, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get laughed off the gaming table the first time I plop this guy down.  Oh, who am I kidding.

So I like the overall color, but it’s clear that the glitter medium . . .  er . . .  COLOR SHIFTING MEDIUM, needs to be dispersed in a much greater amount of medium.    It was about this time I decided it was a good idea to look around for what other miniature painters were doing with their color shifting paints.  I immediately came across this article from TWO YEARS AGO!  And this is Meg Maples, so I’m going to listen to her, because she is a MUCH better painter than me.

To sum up the article:  models should be painted FIRST with a base color, so like I guess like Cyan in this case and matte medium is about the worst delivery vehicle for the color shifting paint I could have chosen, because it dulls down the ‘sheen’ from the color shifting medium.

Now while I could have just started with the next step in this article, I choose to include my ridiculous glittery test.  Why?  Because failing is half the battle in everything . . . life, love, miniatures, whatever.  You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Insert cliche metaphor of choice here.

So, back to the drawing board.  That dreadnought ain’t getting any more viable .  . er . . . I mean younger.

For my next series of tests, I begin to mix and match different types of airbrush color shifting paint, metallic paint, and pearlized paint.  I try as many combinations as I can think of, always a green mixed with a blue, and over both a black or white base.


To cut to the chase, I eventually find a combination I like but it’s a bit dark.  Rather than use pearlescent white to brighten it us, I remember reading once that to ‘brighten’ up a metallic just add more silver flake, ie, more silver paint.  So I grab what I had on hand, some Vallejo Model air Steel, and add it to my mix.

After more experiementing, I find the following ratio that seems to work well for me:

  • Createx Peariized Pearl Blue:  1 part
  • Createx Iridescent Green 5507:  1 part
  • Vallejo Model Air Steel 71065:  3 parts


I reprime the model black, thinly, and then apply this new topcoat.  It has the desired effect, and the model now appears to be a true Cyan, with hints of green under a predominently Cyan Blue topcoat.  And when I turn it different ways, it appears to shift colors.  Perfect!

Remember earlier in the article when I said can’t just mix blue and green together, that would be too easy.

I take the same ratio above and add a drop more of steel to attempt to get a ‘zenithal highlight’ but it kinda gets washed out against the metallic paint and doesn’t really pop the way I hope it will.


To finish off the model, I use Vallejo Liquid Gold White Gold (an oil based paint) on all the metal areas, and base the model.  Then I wash the white gold areas with a nuln oil like black wash to add a little visual interest.  That’s what I love about Alpha Legion . . . simplicity.

Hydra 1 Hydra 4

Overall I declare the test a success!   While I my first idea to use a color shifting medium didn’t quite pan out the way I had hoped, it prompted a search of the topic which lead me to the amazing article on Arcane Paint Works, and I fully plan to apply this color shifting technique to models in the near future.  In fact . .  .

Fairy 4Fairy 6

See!  I knew I could put that glittery paint to good use!

At the time of this writing both of these models are currently available in our Ebay store.  Be sure to check out all the other cool ‘sample’ models we’ve tested out new techniques on over the past few months.

We’ll be relaunching the White Metal Games site in the next month or so, so be sure to check back for more updates!

Thanks for reading!

Caleb Dillon

White Metal Games

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