This is my tutorial for placing LEDs inside psykers and other sorcerous miniatures. The photos below show this technique applied to a Genestealer Cult Magus, but it can equally be applied to Genestealer Patriarchs, Ork Weirdboyz, Space Marine Librarians or indeed any other model that you feel would benefit from glowing eyes and hands.
I strongly recommend reading through the entire tutorial before starting work, just to make sure you have the necessary skills and tools required and that you’re not going to run into an unexpected barrier halfway through. If you need to know where to buy tools and consumables for this type of project, I have recommendations here.
I have separate tutorials about designing LED circuits, basic LED soldering, resin casting and LED eye lenses. This tutorial assumes you’ve either read these, or are familiar with the techniques discussed, especially the eye lens tutorial, which is a starting point that this tutorial builds from.
1. First, complete step 1 – 6 of my LED eye lens tutorial. Once you have done this you should now how a battery holder mounted in a base with an on-off switch and two connecting wires.
2. Make sure you have a resin versions of your psyker’s head. Remember, this technique relies on the inherent properties of the resin to diffuse the light from the LED – you will not get this effect with metal or plastic! Check out my resin casting tutorial if you’re in any doubt. Don’t forget that if you’re extending the glowing LED effect to the psyker’s hand then you will also need a resin hand as well. Outstretched hands can be very delicate to cast in resin – make sure you have a supporting rod to create air channels on each separate finger otherwise you will get air bubbles!
3. Now drill a hole through one of the legs of your psyker. This hole should be wide enough that it can accommodate both of your wires side by side. Ideally the drill will enter through the base of one of the feet and emerge in the centre of the waist; that way it will line up with the hollow in the torso (if your model’s torso is not hollow you will have to drill this too).
It can be quite tricky not to break the surface of the leg with the drill, but any mistakes like this can be covered with putty or filler later on.
It’s also worth drilling a hole in the neck socket at this point. Make sure it is wide enough to accommodate both legs side-by-side of the LED that you’re using in the head.
4. If you are having LED effects on the model’s hand, drill a hole in the arm wide enough to pass wires your wires. If you are not using the hand then you can skip straight to step 6.
As well as making sure the arm hole is wide enough to pass the wires…
…you will also need to make sure the hole in the end of the sleeve/arm is wide enough to accommodate the LED, so that the top of the LED sits flush with the wrist. This may mean drilling a wider hole that only extends a short distance into the arm.
Designer’s Notes: Which colour?
When choosing an LED for a psychic effect, remember to give some thought to which colour is most suitable for your psyker. What colour are their powers normally depicted as in the official artwork? What colour works well with your army’s colour pallet? Or simply what colour does the ‘rule of cool’ tell you to use?
5. Dry fit the LED into the hole in the arm to check that it fits snugly. If not, remove the LED and widen or deepen the hole as required.
6. If your psyker’s torso is in two halves, don’t forget you may also need to drill holes in any sections of the leg, arm and neck socket that are attached to the other half, as shown in the image below. Dry fit the two halves of the torso together and check where the wire will go if you’re in any doubt.
7. Now run the two wires from your base through the leg of you model and solder them to the LED in the arm. In miniatures like this one with multiple connections, I’ve found it to be a good idea to test the LEDs are working at each stage as you go. That way, if you’ve accidentally shorted the circuit or caused other damage, you don’t have to go back too many steps to correct it.
8. Insert the LED into your psyker’s head, following steps 11 – 15 of the the LED eye lens tutorial. As the Magus’ head is smaller than a Marine helmet and drilling up through the neck was difficult, I found it easier to cut away part of the back of the head, and then insert the LED on its side pointing directly at the eyes from the inside. It will depend on the size of your psyker’s head as to which LED positioning technique you try. In either case, any collateral damage can be repaired with modelling putty later on.
Designer’s Notes: Genestealer Patriarch
With the Patriarch, because the head was connected to the torso on the sprue, I had to remove all of the head and part of the shoulders with a razor saw for recasting. The wires ran up through the pipe on the base, into the Patriarch’s leg’s, through the torso and then into the back of the head through the middle of the shoulders. All the same techniques described in this tutorial apply here.
Designer’s Notes: Ork Weirdboy
The Ork Weirdboy is one of my relatively early LED models, and one of the few to not use resin casting at all! The Orruk Boarboys sprue has a number of heads that have hollow mouths. I simply drilled out the eyes, sculpted on some hair and stuck an LED in there! If I was doing another Weirdboy today I would probably use the resin technique, but I wanted to list this as an alternative method should anyone be interested.
9. Now you have the LED inserted in the head, solder the legs of this LED to the wires that connect to the arm LED. Alternatively, if you have the room, you may just wish to run a second pair of wire up through the leg to connect your head LED to the battery in the base. Putting in separate wires for each LED, while not strictly necessary in this case, does slightly reduce the chance of short circuits from bare wires touching in the torso after you have finished assembling the model. The two LEDs can be connected to the battery in parallel, assuming they are identical.
Remember that if you are using different LEDs for the head and hand then you may need a resistor in your circuit. See my circuit design tutorial if you’re in any doubt.
10. Now all the LEDs are connected, test the circuit again! The model may look very bright right now, but remember the light will not pass through any areas of the resin that you paint.
11. Now assemble the remaining components. If you haven’t already, (carefully) drill a hole in the hand – entering from the wrist – that is large enough to accommodate the arm LED, and then glue the hand into position. Remember to try and get as little glue as possible on the arm LED when you do this.
Don’t forget you can use modelling putty to seal any gaps around the neck or wrist where the resin components don’t quite fit.
Don’t forget to test the LEDs again once assembly is complete and everything is glued down. It’s better to find out if anything has broken before you undercoat the model and start painting.
12. Now complete steps 16 – 18 of the LED eye lens tutorial to attach the model to the base and prepare it for undercoating.
13. Now apply paint, avoiding the eyes and any area of the hand where you want light to show through. You could leave the entire hand unpainted so it all glows, or you could just leave the palm unpainted, as I have done with the Magus shown below. If you find the light is leaking through in any areas that it shouldn’t, then an extra coat of paint will normally sort that out. I hope this tutorial was helpful!
Designer’s Notes: Psyker’s mouths
When I first started painting the Magus, I originally left his mouth unpainted so that light shined through there too. The idea was to give the impression that he was overflowing with psychic power. However on reflection I decided I didn’t like the way this looked, and painted over the mouth. Weirdly I thought it made the Magus look like he was wearing a balaclava! Having said that it’s entirely a matter of personal taste, and you may think that it looks good when you try it.
All these tutorials are entirely free; the only payment I really need is seeing everyone’s awesome LED armies on the battlefield! Having said that, if you found these tutorials useful and you’d like to buy me a coffee to say thank you (or help keep my supplied with LEDs and website fees so I can post even more tutorials) then please click the button above. Thanks very much in advance.