Metallics: Painting NMM as TMM

Today we’re tossing preconceptions out the window. While writing about Colour Theory and Metallics, I’ve been looking outside the box a lot more. I’ve always liked Eldar for how much more alien they look in the Warhammer sci-fi universe. But how can I take that to another level?

So I got thinking… what if Eldar, in their alien nature, are meant to be True-Metallic Metal but are just always depicted as Non-Metallic Metal? Right?

The idea is that while so many of us clamour to flip things upside down to depict metallic effects using regular paints, what if artists have already been doing the same thing? Making that assumption, Eldar are supposed to be painted TMM. So that’s what I’m going to do today.

I’ve even included my paint journal page at the end.


Aside from the fact I usually prime with black, it makes a great base coat for metals.

I started with gold for the helmet so I applied a brown base to soften the shadow. For the actual TMM, I painted some darker golds first, then applied brighter golds for the stronger highlights.

As a final highlight, I mixed some bright gold and light beige together to create a Mixed-Metallic Metal finish.

I do the same thing with the blue of his armour… starting with a deep blue in the shadows, applying metallic blue over top, then a final highlight using metallic blue mixed with a light blue.

Observations: The below image is the completed work. There are a few things I took away from this exercise:

  1. 1. I love it, but it needs work.
    • – Even as a proof-of-concept, it’s still not up to the quality I’d like.. for reasons I’ll go into below.
  2. 2. I’d like to use different metallics.
    • – I’m trying to picture how this might look if I painted with iridescents instead of standard metallics.
    • – The other option is to use airbrush paints. It’d create a standard and smooth way to apply the paint, but might be tricky to work highlights and shadows in.
  3. 3. Metallic paints flow differently.
    • – It’s hard to paint details with metallics… at least, fine details.

Curious about the steps? Here are the paints I recorded in my painting journal.

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  • Zab

    Love doing that. It’s what i did for my alpha legion:

    Great for those weird blends that would be hard to get without metallics 🙂

    • I like the multi-tone look with the blue/green.

  • Looking good. That’s pretty much how I imagined Eldar armour looking from the pictures back in the earlier editions of 40k.

  • Thuloid

    This is a lot of fun. That polished blue is itself an interesting paint to work with–I’ve found that it can vary a surprising amount depending on how thoroughly you mix it, and it separates (into more silvery and more blue) very fast.

    • Yeah, and that’s what makes doing any kind of detail with metallics a real pain in the ass. I’m beginning to wonder if part of the reason some people turn to NMM is because of the level of detail that can be achieved compared to TMM.

      • Thuloid

        Could be. TMM that looks really good is hard. The paints themselves are weird–weird in their consistency, in their uniformity of color, sometimes weird in how reflective they are. I haven’t yet experimented with my Minitaire metallics–I should do that. I suspect I’ll either love them or loathe them.

  • Dain Q. Gore

    Fantastic article. I had long considered the idea that mixing both may work best to my eye, and have experimented with highlighting with white (gasp)!!!