Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Marking Painting In Tournaments, What I Look For

It recently came up with a question raised by the lads at The Sound of Machines- Commission Painting, that there was a concern among certain hobbyists that they were being docked painting points at tournaments for using an airbrush. Personally, I have never experienced this issue, and I would like to take this chance to expand upon my own views on the subject.

You see, at first I was highly critical of airbrushing. This is because I saw it as a cheat, that is, it takes far less skill to achieve an effect with an airbrush then it does with a brush and a paint palette. Since then, I have wizened up, usually through lively debate with Lord Dockington Keep. You see, I still find it a cheat achieving certain effects (such as source lighting, force weapons, extreme contrast highlighting, wet blending style effects...), but I have come to the conclusion (as I hope most gamers have) that this doesn't detract from the overall effect of the models. Basically, if an army is painted well, who cares how it was done? This said, airbrushing itself isn't easy, however, it is not an 'advanced painting technique'. I have taught people to do things on an airbrush in 20 minutes things that would take months to learn with a brush.
Keeping this in mind, I would like to discuss the system I like to use for marking miniatures at tournaments an painting competitions. In no way is this the be-all end-all, but it is designed so that a fair and relatively unbiased approach is taken.

Painting Scoresheet:


2 points for a 'yes' 1 point for a 'sort-of' 0 points for a 'no'
Fully painted consists of 3 main colours, with clearly defined parts of the model, where the base is also a clearly defined colour. E.g Pitch black base, 0 points for the entire model. Basing DOES NOT include skimmer units, however, they should where possible be at least painted.
Regards WYSIWYG and composition, the army list should be available and the units should be easy to take in at a glance, if the army is near identical all over, this is not a bad thing provided there are obvious differences, such as wargear, markings etc.
Airbrushing does NOT automatically constitute using an advanced technique, the overal painting should reflect multiple skillsets, such as washes, highlights, shading, etc, and the model should be balanced, i.e not beautiful airbrushed armour and a train wreck of a face.
Are the worst of the mold lines removed?
Has the model been fully undercoated? (no patches of plastic/resin/metal visible)
Are the tabs from clipping the model off the sprue present?
Does the model function correctly? (e.g does the turret/s move? do hatches open?)
Has some part of the army been magnetised? (i.e tank weapons, to facilitate in removal due to damage in game)
Is there a coherent theme? (witch hunters, shock and awe, siege artillery)
Is there a well designed and structured force? (multiple weapons and equipment types)
Does the force have justifiable fluff? (Legion, Wraithdar etc)
Does the army utilise a wide variety of units from across the codex? (tanks/infantry etc)
Does the choice of models improve the look of the army?

Does the choice of colour suit the theme?
Is it a basic theme, or enhanced by the player? (I.e an improvement on the standard normally seen of that army type)
Does it contain enhanced techniques, such as weathering, highlighting, markings, finishing touches?
Is the choice of enhanced technique effective? (or did they just sponge heavily?)
Are there visible poor painting techniques? (such as streaks, loss of detail, gluggy paint, poor attempts at keeping within the lines?)
Has the whole army been fully based?
Are the bases consistent? (I.e the general is on a giant rock, the troops are on green flock)
Is there additional detail added and/or are the bases resin?
Is it fully painted?
Is it painted to a equal standard across the board?
Is a display base included?
Are the units clearly marked?
Is the army WYSIWYG?
Is there evidence of sculpting and/or conversion?
Is this one of the better armies at the event?

The Thought Process:
As you can see, it covers a wide range of areas. Very few people will tick all fields, because several of them do not work with one another as they are different techniques. This is recognised, for instance, not all armies use magnets. However, as part of army preparation, it is included since it is going out of the hobbyists' way to do. 
The only truly subjective question is the last, because personal choice will always come into it, but it is important, as an army that might be well painted could have dropped a couple of points elsewhere. (Some will call this crazy, but I have personally seen similar sheets like this where a worse army scored better because it ticked more boxes. That is why this question is a must add.)

I am happy to provide a PDF copy via email to anyone who wants to try out this system, so if you would like one, please comment below, or message us via our Facebook page.


As a final thought, I think that if anyone seems to get docked points in painting, it's gamers who don't use super-highlighting aka Games Workshop Eldar style with every plate edge highlighted. Anyone else find this? Am I a conspiracy theorist? Do the United States have a secret base on the moon?


  1. Thats pretty much a tweaked version of my system. Ill take the cut paste as a positive as the system is pretty good. Hooray Maccas approves of something.

    1. Well it should resemble your system, since I designed it to replace your system as it left a few things out and/or was biased in particular areas (Must have highlights). So I wouldn't exactly call it a cut-paste, especially as I wrote it from scratch and emailed it to you, but as you are very happy with your current system, you chose to ignore it.

    2. Thanks for inventing this system Ty.

      I'm sure Macca only copied it because he's in love with you. Adaptation is the most sincerest form of flattery.

    3. It's some kind of flattery.. I guess hahaha. To be honest, it is designed to be similar as I had a strict set of guidelines to stick to, such as the max scores must add up to a multiple of 100 for computer data input, the answers have to be very clear cut, and you have to take into consideration multiple fields, not just painting.

    4. Yes he does love me

  2. I like your suggestions, with a few exceptions. I don't think that points should be docked for not having hatches which open on vehicles, or not having magnetisable weapons. In the former case I consider that an aesthetic choice and so docking points for not doing it seems akin to docking points because you don't like a colour or the bases used. In the latter case, I don't think magnetising is something that the rules require. I don't do it because I don't switch out vehicle/model weapons between games. If I get a 'weapon destroyed' result I mark it with a token or puff of smoke with something. So I think those two marking categories seem a bit more subjective than the others. And what about armies for which hatches/vehicle weapons aren't relevant?

    Having said that, I want to emphasise that I think the rest of the system seems sensible! I agree people shouldn't be penalised for using an airbrush, it's about creating a cohesive force with whatever techniques are appropriate.

    1. (By the way: posting anonymously because I don't have a blog of my own, not because I am trying to keep my identity hidden. I don't think we have met or corresponded before, although I have been following your blog for a while.) :)

    2. The hatches opening and such is that attention to detail, that little extra bit of effort that went into building and painting the model. You're not getting docked points, you just aren't earning the maximum potential. Whilst you are right, it's not a requirement, these things were added as they help to create the points gap between two relatively equal armies, with the person who has put that little extra effort in getting the points. In theory anyway. If the hatches aren't relevant or such, that's ok, same with the weapons coming off, but it is a hallmark of high-end modeling to have functionality.

      Don't worry about being anon. I honestly don't take any offense, I love feedback, it gives me a chance to explain my choices more in depth, and if the person raising a question brings up a good point, it can even make me rethink my approach. Your identity is safe with me, Mr. Wayne.

    3. Right, I agree about attention to detail. :) Just for me and the folks I tend to play with, attention to detail is more like drilling bolter barrels (or at least painting the centres to look like they're hollow) or painting squad markings (for those forces where it's appropriate) rather than opening hatches.

      Interesting that you bring it up as "not getting docked points, you just aren't earning the maximum potential" - I honestly hadn't thought about it that way, the way it came to my mind on reading was as docking points. So in that sense I suppose it shows that the reaction can come in part from how the process is framed. Perhaps instead of 'yes/sort of/no' for 2/1/0 points the words describing the point categories could be framed as 'superior/standard/sub-par' (or some equivalent set of terms), to better reflect the intention behind the scoring?

    4. Perhaps we could re-word it. Of course, it uses parts of Ty's system, (the credit he deserves) so the marks represent it. The problem with superior, standard and sub-par is it's very subjective, whereas as least with black and white yes, no and 'doesn't fit into either yes or no' then you're at least keeping it simple for the marker.

      Perhaps we could use "yes" "partial" and "no"?

  3. Hi James, if you're going to write an article about paint judging, you should probably mention your paint judging/competition winning credentials, otherwise you might come off as quite a bit arrogant.

    On another note, I doubt very much that if done right, anyone would be able to tell the difference between airbrushed and paint brushed, other than a paint brushed finish is inferior. Perhaps with a magnifying glass or microscope a judge could tell, but during a tournament, a judge is hardly going to pull one of those out.

    Thanks thought I'd drop a comment, just like anon above I don't have a blog. :)

    1. Ok, I have judged at Ty's Tropicarnage series of tournaments, as well as the G.R.O.T.S club in Melbourne (about 8 years ago now haha). I have won best painted army at multiple competitions, as well as top three placings in several, not including generalship. I also have won multiple unit and squad painting competitions, as well as silver in last years armies on parade with a big attempt being made for gold, as frankly my last year's attempt was more what I had on hand as opposed to truly designed to win.

      I think you can tell the airbrush from the paint brush about 90% of the time, with only the high end wet blenders and such closing that gap. The micro-spatter from most airbrushes gives them away most of the time, for me anyway. Of course, that's not the point is it? Should it matter if an airbrush was used? Not really, so long as you used a technique and got a job done, it's all good.

      And just like the chap(or lass) above, I don't mind anonymous replies, I am not worried about people not showing their identity, even if they are trolling, it's a free internet, as long as they don't do anything over the top, who minds? Thanks very much for the feedback, I hope this helps answer to some degree.

  4. Sorry mate but if your not giving full points cos they dont have magnetised weapon mounts or hasnt done conversions then you aint being a good judge your just being a finicky dickhead.


    1. I should point out that isn't painting for just a painting competition, this is marking an army painted for a tournament and how to provide it with a score. I of course am open to ditching that criteria, but the fact is, it isn't docking, it's an extra point you can earn if you go to the extra effort of doing it. It doesn't have to be army wide, it could be one tank.

  5. Had a good read of this and customisingredients the model has nothing to do with painting. Ty has tried to.work out a far system but he's got limited skill With painting so he's probably not the best person to take advice from. Magnets and so on has nothing to do with painting really, yes it can give a different level of modelling skill but some armies don't lend themselves to kit bash and magnets. I have one or two golds from armies on parade and have one the comp.
    At the end of the day if you are up front about how the score is worked out then players can decide if they want to attendo or not.

    1. I agree, magnets don't mark a model's painting up or down. But, when my score sheet is titled 'Construction, Theme and Painting' then you're looking at all three categories. However, if it was strictly painting based, you could remove the questions about magnets and such, after all, this is just one example of how you can mark scores. To me, in an army designed to play in tournaments, it sort of has to reflect more qualities then just well painted, and that's what this sheet tries to address. Also, I make it known exactly what is looked for prior to marking, so people can be prepared. At the end of the day, if you tick all the other criteria, then a magnet is highly unlikely to cost you a score win, but if there are two equal armies and one player has gone to the EXTRA effort to magnetise weapons or hatches, then he deserves the win. I think every army is capable of kit-bashing and things like magnitising. If Sisters of Battle, the most rigid of old models can do it, I'm sure that newer armies can too.

      Thanks for the feedback, I hope this explains more about how I approached this. I do have other painting score sheets, designed for marking to a painting competition standard, as opposed to a 'painting, modelling and theme' sheet for a tabletop force, so if that's what you'd rather see, I can pop it up for you.

  6. "I think that if anyone seems to get docked points in painting, it's gamers who don't use super-highlighting aka Games Workshop Eldar style with every plate edge highlighted."

    I think that's likely.

    "Anyone else find this?"

    Yep, seen it even in small town store painting competitions.
    Also conversions needed to be over-the-top. I had to watch, as only one of several judges, as a marine bike converted to be doing a skid-turn, with great work to have the front turned and the riders leg out to the side in the turn that was subtly painted lost out to a garish drybrushed marine with a toy's axe the same size of the marine glued on because 'it looked like a conversion'. If it doesn't look converted but id quite different to the standard version then chances are it's a conversion worthy of winning *facepalm*.

    "Am I a conspiracy theorist?"

    Yes, but then conspiracies happen all the time, from Watergate to price colluding to election funding (as the ICAC has been finding lately) so just because it's a conspiracy theory that doesn't make it any less (or more) plausible.

    "Do the United States have a secret base on the moon?"

    Yes, but now you know so you'll have to have your last 6 months memory erased.

    1. Haha these are some of the best answers I have seen ever on this blog, I had a good laugh about it. Yes, I think there is a definite bias towards models that look like something from a codex, it's nice to see others agree with me on that one.

      P.s if you're on the moon base and reading this... touche'.