Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dark Eldar Gladiator Diorama

Recently I entered this Diorama into 40kForums Dark Eldar Painting Competition and won 1st Place in the Pro Category.

Initial Idea
This whole project started when I was looking through my leftover bits and I had a Shardnet & Impaler set left over from my Wyches. My wife glanced over and was like "Those are cool looking". My response: "They are cool looking, but they suck in the game." Then like a bolt of lightning it hit me. I started immediately thinking of a diorama scene with a Dark Eldar Gladiator right as he finishes some random alien warrior that was Shanghaied from his home world during a raid and brought to Commorragh for combat sport.

Building the Diorama
Building the Eldar Gladiator was easy, I just used what I had in my bitz box and put together the most dynamic pose I could get. The alien warrior, on the other hand, I had to hunt for. I wanted something beyond the regular 40k Xenos, so I went searching through the fantasy range and saw some cool Beastmen plastics. Thankfully, Windowbox on ebay sells single figures clipped from sprue and I was able to purchase just a single Beastman Standard Bearer. I clipped his one hand and replaced it with a Zombie hand and then replaced his axe with a cooler looking Chaos Knight mace.

Now the arena floor was where things got interesting. Several years ago I bought a DIY chemical metal etching kit from I had at several points over the years thought about breaking it out and etching some sheet brass for miniature detail parts but I just never did for some reason. This however was the perfect time to use it.

I designed the floor to look like it was part of some larger arena composed of alien marble and treacherous to walk on due to the fact that random spikes can shoot up from the floor and impale you at any time. I wanted it to be riddled with Eldar glyphs and brass inlaid symbols. I designed the whole floor in Adobe Illustrator, then following the instructions in the etching kit, transferred the pattern to some sheet steel. Granted this did not happen right the first time, and it was on my 3rd try that I was able to achieve the effect I wanted.

After the floor was sufficiently etched, I used a hole punch to punch right through the steel where the spikes would come out. I then mounted it on a 60mm base, drilled holes through the base to make the spike chambers even more recessed and then blocked off the chambers that were not going to be used with sheet styrene. I made the spikes from simple toothpicks and just popped them trough the open holes.

Painting the Diorama
Coming up with a scheme for the Eldar was easy. I always liked Warlock Purple colored troops, so I basically just decided to do a split armor scheme Warlock Purple / Black. His hair color was simply a choice of what color I think best complimented the armour scheme.

For the Beastman I wanted him to not be the typical brownish color scheme on GW's site, so I decided to go with a gray fur scheme. His armor I wanted to show it's age, as if he's been in that arena a long time without much maintenance at all.

I decided that rather than fully painting a the floor I would make a decal for the marble texture. I found some cool textures online, mashed them up in Photoshop & tweaked the colors till I was happy with the marble color. I then printed the marble texture on inkjet decal film and applied it directly to the sheet steel which allowed for a metallic translucency to show through in the lighter areas. After the decal set, I touched up certain areas by hand and painted some cracks in the marble by hand as well. With the dry decal on the base, the Eldar glyphs were clearly defined in the recesses and I was able to just directly paint right into them.

The blood was fun to make. I used Vallejo water effects mixed with a drop of old school GW red ink. It worked first time perfectly. I just applied it onto the model and the floor beneath the wound with a pin.

Reflecting back on the Diorama now I see many areas I would have improved if I wasn't under a deadline for the contest. I would have spent more time on certain details like the black highlighting on the Eldar Armour, the hooves on the Beastman, the details on the Beastmans mace and adding another layer of color on the rust areas of the brass inlay in the floor. I wasn't really too happy with the spikes either but I had already repainted them twice before I called it quits on them. However in the end, I was still proud of my work and I guess that's all that matters.


  1. Very nice. The colors are really vibrant.

  2. Incredible and good information on what it took to do.

  3. Fantastic Diorama dude, The painting is ace as is the whole concept :)

    Congratulations on winning 1st place too

  4. Wow! Great diorama and minis. The techniques used on the base are some totally off my radar, so thanks for posting about them. Very cool

  5. Thanks for all the compliments and congratulations everyone! I really appreciate it. :)

  6. Great looking diorama. The base is amazing. Great work.

  7. Congrats, no 5, I love the model and the fresh methods you used for the base. In fact, this whole blog is amazing and I recently reviewed some of your work at my blog, DFG. Keep it coming, man.

  8. Again, thanks for the compliments everyone :)

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I found this blog while i was searching dark eldar's^^
    I´m going to present this blogs to my friends....if you don´t have any problem with it;)

  11. Thanks for all the compliments Luis!
    It's no problem, share away. :)