Heavy BattleTech Mech Lance

How to paint a BattleTech Mech gaming miniature to army standard in seven easy steps

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Everyone knows I have a soft spot for Mechs, born from my love of the anime genre and throughout the 90’s I was a huge fan of BattleTech, whilst also playing and writing about Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 etc… for Games Workshops White Dwarf magazine. With the reemergence of the BattleTech game I got my hands on some of the new Catalyst Game Lab Mechs, which are fantastic, and decided to give them a coat of paint.

What follows is my simple seven step guide to painting your BattleTech Mechs to a nice army standard, so you can knock your opponent for six on the battlefield with your stunning battle tactics and matching unit colors. For this guide I used a BattleTech Heavy Mech, known as a Thunderbolt as my example, this Mech in the game, weighs in about 65 tonnes and is a good all-round battler, able to hold its own and punch above its tonnage.

To paint the BattleTech Mech I used Vallejo game color acrylic paints, primarily the WWII American Armour & Infantry model color set, and while you will see Citadel Color paints in some of the photos (some of the Citadel color paints are 30 years old), they were not used in the painting of the Thunderbolt Mech. There is no real difference between the two types of paint, the Vallejo game color is cheaper, but takes longer to dry, while the Citadel Color is more expensive, but dries a lot faster (the newer ones right in the closed pot!). For the brushes I used an Amazon basics paint brush set, a thick brush (size 2), which I used for inktense color pencil blending, and an old Citadel Color Small Drybrush I had laying around (which is older than my adult kids!)

The last items in my workspace were a folded kitchen towel, a plastic palette for color mixing ($4 at Target) and a small plastic cup for the water. Lighting wise, I used an overhead angle lamp with a daylight bulb in it (a spare from my drawing board). If you cannot find a daylight bulb, find a space in a well lit area, such as by a window and only paint by that light. As normal household bulbs, even the new led ones, push out a more yellow light (this is a pro-tip).

With everything in place, let’s get our paint on.

Stage One – Undercoat

Thunderbolt BattleTech Mech Painting Guide - Undercoat

Using the size 2 brush and Vallejo white I undercoated the Thunderbolt. Pour a little of the white into your palette, it is pre-mixed so you don’t need to water it and just slosh it onto the gaming miniature. Don’t worry if you think it is going too thick and it might obscure detail, the paint will dry thin. Pro-Tip – if you have an old paint bottle, use mounting putty and stick your BattleTech Mech to the top of it, this makes handling the miniature a lot easier.

Stage Two – Base coat

Thunderbolt BattleTech Mech Painting Guide - Base coat

When the undercoat is dry it is time to apply the first color, known as the base coat, in this case I choose Olive Drab to be the base coat of my BattleTech Mech. The color gives the Thunderbolt a nice heavy machine feel to it. To apply the coat I used my size 2 brush, pour a little into your mixing palette, add a little water using your brush (2 dabs) and apply, you want this coat to be thin for a smooth application, but not too thin that it runs and blotches.

Stage Three – Contrast

Thunderbolt BattleTech Mech Painting Guide - Tone

When the Oliver Drab is dry it is time to give it a contrast wash to darker the color and to add shade to Mech’s recesses. This color should be darker than your base coat and in this case I choose USA Dark Green. Now contrast is a really just a color wash, so add the color to your mixing palette, mix water using your size 2 brush (three to four dabs of water from your brush) and then apply, the color should apply thinly and lay mostly in the recess of the gaming miniature.

Stage Four – Highlight

Thunderbolt BattleTech Mech Painting Guide - Highlight

Now we add our first highlight color, this will add definition to your Mech and give it a more 3D feel. To do this I used Green Brown, adding a touch to my palette and used my Citadel Color Small Drybrush Brush (an old size 1 brush will do the same thing). To drybrush, you add paint to the brush, draw across your paper towel until most of the color is on the towel and then brush over the gaming miniature, the majority of paint is gone from the brush and drying, it will attach itself to the raised areas and corners of your BattleTech Mech. Note, this is a perfectly good stage to stop and just add details (stage seven), as the Thunderbolt Mech is now painted to a nice army standard.

Stage Five – Color Wash

Thunderbolt BattleTech Mech Painting Guide - Color Wash

To continue our painting journey, the next stage for me is to add a color wash, using the Vallejo Game Color Washes, in this case the Sepia Brown wash. Add the paint to your palette and then using your size 2 brush, just wash it over your entire Mech. The color will settle into the recesses, and the highlights you have done earlier will show through the wash. This adds a layer of depth to your gaming miniature.

Stage Six – Final Highlight

Thunderbolt BattleTech Mech Painting Guide - Final Highlight

The BattleTech Mech is now given a final highlight to give it a nice solid machine feel. The highlight was drybrushed Olive Drab with the Citadel Color Small Drybrush, applied sparingly and lightly to the flat panel areas. Once done your Thunderbolt will have a nice layered color look to it.

Stage Seven – Details

Thunderbolt BattleTech Mech Painting Guide - Details

This is part is tidying up and adding those little details to make the Thunderbolt BattleTech Mech yours. In this stage I painted the cockpit black with a size 0 brush, with a quick drybrushed white highlight, and repeated the same action for the edges of the weapon barrels with Holajata Tinny Tin. The internal barrels of the gun, exhausts and vents were given a black wash using a size 0 brush to discolor them. For the unit insignia I opted to paint the shoulder guards with Gore Red, washed them with Sepia brown and quickly highlighted again with Gore Red. And with that, barring adding base texture my miniature Thunderbolt mech is done.

To finish off, I painted the base top with Jade Green and dipped it directly into model sand, the paint dries sticking the sand to the base. The base is then washed using Vallejo black and left to dry – the black paint dries sealing the sand into place. To finish, I drybrushed the raised texture of the sand using a mix of green and brown paints, before painting the edge of the base with Green Brown and placing on a paper towel to dry.

And that is how to paint a BattleTech Mech to army standard in seven easy steps, (you can even skip two of them!). You can equally apply these stages to any color mix you choose for your Mech units and the techniques work across all gaming miniatures and systems. For greater productivity I recommend painting a lance (or star) at the same time, that way the paint will be almost be dry on the first model when you reach the end of the unit, and you should be able to knock out a battle ready unit in an evening (given drying time).

Good hunting Mechwarrior!