Darth Vader: A Study in Black

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Star Wars Legion: Darth Vader with Stormtroppers

When I thought about painting the Imperial units, I feared Vader. It wasn’t the way childhood me feared him (his telekinesis, lightsaber expertise, or force choke), but the fact that I had to paint him black. Aside from the Emperor, he’s the first fully black model I would be painting and there are quite a few shades of black across his different uniform materials (cloth, leather, plastic, metal). With the emperor, I didn’t think that my blacks were well varied, so I wanted to do that better this time. At the same time, I wanted to be true to film and avoid over-highlighting the miniature to prevent a cartoony feel that can occur when painting and highlighting black.


Darth Vader and General Veers zenithal primed

Usually, I start painting with a three-color zenithal prime (a thin coat of black Vallejo surface primer, followed with a 45-degree application of gray, and finished with white from above). Since this was going to be a rather dark model, I applied a black base code and followed it up with a grey-black mix to create a soft zenithal highlight..

The colors are as follows (all paints are Vallejo model color and shades are Army Painters Quickshades).

Base ColorsDetails
Cloth Black Airbrushed base coat
  Dark Gray Added to black and airbrushed
  Neutral Gray Added to Dark Gray/Black mix and glazed on as final highlights
Shaded with Dark Tone
Armor Black
Dark Sea Blue
1:1 mix applied with airbrush
Same mix used as a brush on highlight
  Neutral Gray Added to Black/Dark Sea Blue mix for highlights
Shaded with a 1:1 mix of Dark Tone and Blue Tone
Details Fluorescent Green Painted buttons on his belt
  Ivory Painted buttons on his chest and belt; applied lightsaber base coat
  Vermilion Painted various buttons on his belt and chest
Applied on the lightsaber over an ivory base coat
  Deep Sky Blue Painted buttons on his chest
  Red Tone Applied on the helmet’s eyes
Base Burnt Umber Thinned down Burnt Umber to use as a wash, assuming a light grey white base
  Flat Earth Thinned down Flat Earth and blended, as a wash
  Stone Gray Painted the larger rocks
When dry, applied Dark Tone in recessed areas
  Pale Sand Dry brushed Pale Sand
  Black Painted the rim black

To better depict the changes in armor material, I matte coated the entire miniature and brushed a mix of satin and gloss varnish onto the armor.


Overall, I still find it difficult to tell differentiate between the cloth cloak and leather elements. The varnish makes the armor stand out and you can see a subtle redness in his eyes, although it is very subtle, and I’m happy with that.

Now that the Sith leaders are done, I’m looking forward to painting the other Imperial officers and a colorful Boba Fett, before finishing more stormtroopers.

That is it for now. Until next time, adventure on! Koliada

Tags: Star Wars Legion Science Fiction Galactic Empire Sith Fantasy Flight Games Darth Vader

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