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Painting the Stargate

By: Trond Olav Ånesen

Painting the stargate

In this guide I will attempt to explain the process and techniques I have used to paint the two gates you can see on the site.

When painting the stargate, the very first thing that needs to be said; there are no absolutes! There are no 100% correct nor 100% wrong. Getting the gate to look like you want could take some time and effort, but as long as you hare happy with the result you get, you should be proud of that! After all; no gate needs to look the same, it can very greatly depending on what planet is on. Maybe it is on a planet with massive radiation of some exotic nature, that cause everything to look blue! Or maybe it is on a planet overrun by graffiti artists, so it looks like someone just went crazy with some spray cans. Point is; paint the gate like you want it too look!

You will find all paints and brushes used under the “Build a Stargete yourself?” site, but you can of course use any paints and brushes you have available, or are comfortable with. I highly recommend starting with just a couple of test-pieces, and to write down what you do and if it worked. It is a pain to have found the perfect recipe but not having it written down… Unfortunately, I have not been taking a lot of pictures, so this guide is mostly text based.

Cleaning and sanding

The first step are to sand/file and wash/clean all the parts (all parts are “vaped” beforehand, to smooth them as much as possible without removing too much detail).
Why do we do this?
With most types of 3D printing you will end up with “artifacts” like lines, dots and bumps of extra plastic etc. Depending on what type of printer you have, what plastic you use etc, this will vary. But regardless, with the paint techniques used here (drybrushing) the point is to bring out details so all these “artifacts” will stand out even more after paint. The point of sanding and filing is therefore to remove as much as needed to get the look you want. If you have your printer setup “perfectly” you might not need to sand at all!

I have used files to file down the largest pieces of plastic sticking out (parts I do not see as part of the model). Files are just a set ordinary small hobby files.
I have used sanding paper meant for “wet sanding”, with 400 and 800 grain. Especially some of the parts for the base (the rocks) tends to show a lot of lines with our print, and so I use 400 grain paper to “soften” these.
Also the inner ring (the ring that spins) tends to have some lines and bumps, and I use 800 grain paper to soften up this, in addition to some filing. Not everywhere, as I find some lines/things actually adds to the look of the model in a positive way.

drying stargate

After parts that need it are sanded and “smooth”, I move on to the cleaning part. I have done some testing on painting on uncleaned parts, and found that there are a bit too much gloss on the surface for the paint to stick. After priming one test-piece, I could easily peal the entire primer off it shortly after! So cleaning both removes dust and debris from the previous sanding session, and removes any oil residue etc that makes it hard for the paint to stick (plastic is after all a petroleum product). I’ve had the best result with Ammonium chloride, but if you use this remember to take precaution as it is a corrosive liquid and should be used sparingly! As long as you give it a good scrubdown with a brush/dish-sponge etc, any soap or cleaning agent that dissolves oil/fatty residues should be good. Remember to rinse all parts very thoroughly after this, as we want neither soap residue nor other stuff on it before paint. Using gloves is smart, so you do not get residue from your hands/skin when handling the parts.


priming stargate 2
priming the stargate

NOTE: It is very important that all parts are 100% dry from the previous step, and dirt/dust/residue-free before you continue!

I start with simply spraying all parts (except the transparent ones) black. You can use any colour of course, but with black you get the best starting point for giving the parts a lot of depth. Remember to spray in short bursts and if needed do several thin layers instead of one thick. It is easy to overdo it, and too much primer will not make the parts look good. I use Games Workshops “Chaos black”, but any primer meant for the type of plastic you use will be fine.

Painting the platform (the rocks and such)

NOTE: After all steps of paint, it is important to let the paint dry completely before continuing!

stargate base paint

I start by painting the entire surface with “Mechanicus Grey” (or the “base” grey colour you choose). This is a “base” colour so it covers fairly well, but if you feel it is necessary you should do two layers.
I use the the “XL Base” brush for this.

Continue with a layer of “Dawnstone”. This is a lighter shade, and not a “base” so it does not cover as well. Depending on your painting technique and skills, you might need 2 layers.

We now have only grey to look at, and anyone who has seen a rock (walls and stairs of natural rocks) know that they are no just grey. So we need (or at least I want) to add some more colours to the mix. This is done by using washes. I use the colours; flesh, green, sepia and red for this. Basically, you just dab some here and there and taking care that there are not “drops” forming (as that does not look good later) but just thin layers of multiple colours scattered around. The result will look horrible! As long as you continue on with he next steps, it will look good in the end though.

The last wash I use is black. I use Vallejo’ line of paints here. All parts are washed with black, over all the other layers thus far (grey and the washes from previous step), so the parts become quite dark and messy. I also wash in two sessions, first the entire part with a “light” wash, then another to fill in the gaps etc so they go a bit darker then the rest.

For the layers I use either “XL” or “L Base” brush. And for the wash “M Shade” brush.

And then the fun starts with drybrushing! I am not going to use time explaining that technique in any great detail, so I would recommend you do some “googling” and find videos that shows how-to for this. In short drybrushing is painting with a minimal amount of paint on the brush (the brush is “dry”), using quick movements and very light touch. This means you add only a minimal amount of paint to the model/part at any given time, and the parts “standing out” (ie the details) will catch more of the paint the parts not so visible. You vary the amount of paint, pressure etc to get the result you want.

A couple of sessions of “Dawstone” drybrushing.

After the last step of washing the entire part black, I start the first drybrush with “Dawnstone”. I do this in several sessions with varying speed/pressure etc, until I see the result I like.

For the drybrushing of large parts, I use “M Dry” brush.

After I get the shades of grey that I am after, I continue with “Rakarth Flesh”. You can use other similar, or mix your own with eg “Kaki” and “White”. It is a “brownish-grey flesh colour”, and I find it gives the rocks a lot softer and more natural look.

The final part is a very, very (very!) light drybrush of “White”, to make the rocks “pop”!

As you may have seen we actually made a second gate. On that one I wanted to add a bit more “life”, so I added some rubble (rocks and sand) and some grass tufts.
The rubble is added before the primer goes on. After sanding and cleaning I dab-on some PVA glue where I want the rubble, and just press/stick it on the glue. If you do anything like this make sure the PVA is dried before priming! The rubble is then painted in the same manner as the rest.
The grass tufts are superglued on.

Painting the stargate and DHD

All the “naquadah” parts of the gate and DHD are painted in the same way, with the same paints.

I start by giving all parts a layer of “Eshin grey”. This is a grey that look a lot bluer and darker then the base used on the platform, and so gives the gate parts a darker and more “naqudah-ish” look (imo). “Eshin grey” is a layer paint, so it does not cover very well. If needed use two thin layers instead of one.

Continue with the same black wash, on all parts, but not so much that you just go back to a black part; you are supposed to still see clearly that it is dark grey, so focus most of the wash in areas that are supposed to be darker (like on the platform).

Depending on what result you want, you then continue with drybrushing, and start with either “Eshin Grey” (if you want the gate-parts (or some of them) a darker shade), or “Mechanicus Grey” (if you want it a bit lighter).
I start by drybrushing with “Mecanicus Grey”.
Continue with drybrush; “Dawnstone Grey”
Finish with light (very, very light) “White” OR “Rakarth Flesh” (depending on what look you want).

When drybrushing smaller parts, I use the “S Dry” brush.

In addition to these steps, I try to spice things up a bit further with some bronze/copper on the glyphs and try do get some “corrosion” going on that (corroded copper-ish look). This is done by just doing the glyphs in “Brassy bronze”, washing with black, adding some green wash “here and there” and then drybrush with a bit of both “Brassy Bronze” and “Dawnstone” (“Dawnstone is used so the bronze does not stand out too much).

Here, as with the platform, I would recommend you spend some time testing to find the combination and look that you like. For example, it could be cool to have the gate look a bit more “metal”, since it does in some shots/clips in the show.

The chevron Vs (the clear parts, moving up and down, locking) are done with the exact same colours as mentioned for the gate. But since they cannot be primed in the same way, it is done “manually”, ie; I start by painting the parts that need paint, with a couple of layers of “Black”, then continue with “Eshin”, “Mechanicus” and “Dawnstone”.

stargate transparent red

Painting the chevron lights

These are printed in clear plastic, and since light needs to pass through, I use mainly “Transparent Red” here. Start with one layer (I do both sides), then do one layer with a mix of “Transparent Red” and “Smoke (5:1 ratio) to get a bit darker shade of red. You can then finish with a last layer of “Transparent Red” or play with “Black wash” in the mix.

Painting DHD buttons

DHD button
DHD button2

The buttons can also not be primed the same way as the rest, so I start here too (excluding the big red button) by giving it a “Black” base, and continue with the same as for all other “gate and dhd” parts.

On the first gate I left it at this (last picture here does NOT show finished result, just one session of drybrush with “Mechanicus”). Although it looks OK, the buttons are very visible with their clear plastic, and so the DHD seems to “light up” even without the lights on. On the second gate I gave the entire (including clear parts) a heavy “Black Wash”, so the clear plastic is greyer and darker. I also gave a small “Brassy Bronze” drybrush on the edges, to incorporate some of the same look as the glyphs on the spinning ring.

The big red button (seen on picture higher up); same procedure as the chevron lights, for the red part, although I like giving that one an even darker look, so I mix in quite a bit of “Black wash” there.
The “ring” on it follows the same steps as all gate and dhd parts.

And there we go! Just assemble the parts, hook everything up, and start exploring the universe!

Links to the mentioned brushes:

The plants and gras: