Army Showcase: Chris Vo’s “Tyranids”

Finishing your own army is core to the Warhammer 40,000 hobby. In our Army Showcase series, Goonhammer contributors take a look at the armies we’ve been collecting for years, and the new ones we’ve just finished – what drew us to them, why we keep building and painting, and how they play on the table. As soon as Chris posted his mecha-Tyranids on our Discord, I immediately started cyberbullying him into writing them up for the site. Then I forgot about the email in our inbox for a solid month, sorry about that.

The Painter: Chris Vo
The Codex: Tyranids
Points: 1993
Collecting Since: January 2022
Instagram: @vo_wargaming

Important Update

The same day we posted this, Chris went to an RTT and won Best Painted. Congratulations to Chris for his well-deserved victory, and congratulations to us for having such an astute eye for talent. Just a solid performance all the way around.

The (Very Recent) Past

I’m a Chaos player – the first Warhammer book I bought was the 3rd Edition Chaos Space Marines codex, my first tattoo was a Chaos star, and I even got my non-hobbying wife to start calling our cat a Chaos daemon. So why am I, a self-described Chaos nerd, showing off this Tyranid army? Truth be told, playing the game at a competitive level is one of the driving forces behind what I decide to build and paint, and as of right now, the state of Chaos as a competitive faction isn’t great.

I needed a change of pace. I was starting to feel myself burn out on painting Chaos models, and with the codex coming Soon™, I didn’t want to start gluing weapons to Terminators and painting them as certain legions, lest they be weaker rules-wise. I certainly couldn’t turn to the Imperium (insert low-hanging Dark Angels joke here) – I’d definitely get turned into a Chaos spawn for that. That really only leaves me with Xenos. On top of that, I had a GT on my calendar that I needed to have the army painted for, which gave me a timeframe of about three weeks to get it done. This meant the army had to be easy to speedpaint and still look great on the table. A low model count would also probably be ideal.

So I’ve got my checklist:

  1. Must be Xenos
  2. Must be quick to paint
  3. Low model count a plus


Mecha-nids. Credit: Chris Vo

Tyranid models, being organic, take speedpainting techniques very well. Being the occasional Chaos Knights player, the “big stompy robot monsters” playstyle was right up my alley. And, naturally, that meant a low model count. Check, check, and check.

The thing that really sealed the deal was the Iron Hive set of models from digital sculptors The Makers Cult. Say what you want about playing 3D printed models in Warhammer, but you can’t deny how much character is dripping off these models.

The Present

Mecha-nids. Credit: Chris Vo

I finished this army the morning before the GT. It took me about a week for assembly and two weeks to paint it all.

With the deadline looming over me, I made heavy use of three time-saving techniques I’ve learned throughout my hobbying career: airbrushing, drybrushing, and (the real secret weapon) AK Interactive’s Streaking Grime.

After priming black, I gave all the fleshy and metal frame bits a coat of Ionrach Skin through my airbrush for a sickly khaki tone, taking care to leave shadows in the recesses and undersides.

Mecha-nids. Credit: Chris Vo

It would have been easy to just drybrush metallics over the metal frames, but I didn’t want to make these guys look too much like Necrons. The sand-colored metal frames reminded me of the military hardware I was surrounded by during my time in service, anyway.

Next, I hit selected spots with Bugman’s Glow. This broke up the swathes of the Ionrach Skin with Bugman’s Glow and added some visual interest to the models. Any bits I wanted to be metallic were then painted with metallics. I think I used Iron Hands Steel? Honestly I just grabbed whatever silver metallic was closest at the time, because it won’t matter once you move onto the next step.

If you’ve seen any tutorials on how to paint in a grimdark style, Streaking Grime should be familiar to you. Forget Nuln Oil, this is the real “liquid talent.” You can brush this on, but to save time, I used my cheap beater airbrush to spray it on. Then, using a microfiber cloth wrapped around my finger, I started wiping it all away. You could use a paper towel, but be warned it’s very abrasive and airbrush coats are very thin.

Mecha-nids. Credit: Chris Vo

The Streaking Grime leaves a grimy look to everything it touches (who would have thought), and since you’re using your finger, it naturally leaves the recesses darkened and gives a light gradient. For stubborn spots or where I felt the highlights needed to be brighter, I dipped the cloth in a bit of mineral spirits. Since this is an enamel-based wash, it behaves similarly to oil paints, so you can take your time with this and even come back to it days later. Just make sure your acrylics are dry before you apply this stuff, and that the Streaking Grime is dry or sealed with varnish before you put acrylics on top.

The wash gave everything a very warm tone to it, so I decided to bring in a temperature contrast by having the armor/chitin plates be cool black with a cool grey highlight. Parts that weren’t black but should be were painted black, and then I grabbed my preferred drybrush – a Wet n Wild Crease makeup brush available for $1 (I got mine at Five Below) and Vallejo Model Color Basalt Grey. If you’re using anything except a cheap makeup brush for drybrushing, literally throw all of them in the garbage and get a fistful of these for $5.

Mecha-nids. Credit: Chris Vo

The last bit I want to incorporate is hue/saturation contrast. I used white acrylic ink through my airbrush to add an OSL-type effect, picked out details with the brush using more white ink, and then finished it off with Tesseract Glow through the airbrush again. You could probably use whatever fluorescent paint or ink you have, I just happened to have this.

The Future

Mecha-nids. Credit: Chris Vo

More space bugs! I want a Haruspex, I want a Mawloc, I want more Hierodules, I want a bunch of models whose names all sounded the same to me mere weeks ago. No, seriously, I had a really hard time remembering the difference between Termagants and Hormagaunts until I started this list.

The painting scheme I’ve used lends itself very well to painting both big stompy idiots and big batches of little buggers, so I feel like I’ve set myself up for success for future expansion. I also just got my hands on some Uhu glue and I’m about to start experimenting with combining that with Blood for the Blood God for some neato gore effects.

And, of course, when they start teasing new Chaos codexes, I’ll probably get around to building those Chaos terminators that have been sitting on the sprue for two years.

Thanks for sharing your big weird idiot robots with us, Chris, and I’m sorry again for sitting on this draft for like five weeks. People who are or aren’t Chris, have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at Also get a load of this absolute King Shit:

Hell yeah. Credit: Chris Vo