Converting Your Own Ethereal

June 24, 2013 ·

Since 6th edition Ethereals look like they've got some fun new rules and could be worth it in the right circumstances, I decided that I'd like to have one. However, I had a problem: I didn't like any of GW's ethereal models. Not because they look bad (though some do), but because they all come in finecast/metal, are expensive, and are nigh impossible to convert. Plus converting your own is so much more fun! So I turned to alternative methods.

These are the three steps I used in transforming a human miniature into an Ethereal one.

#1 Model Selection

When looking for a potential Ethereal stand-in, there are certain things you should look for. Obviously, it is your army, so you can use whatever models you want as long as your opponents are ok with it, but to get a somewhat accurate counts-as, you need to keep these things in mind:
  • Ethereals have no armour save. The model shouldn't have much armour on it, and if it does it really shouldn't be doing much in the way of protection.
  • Ethereals are the noble ruling class of the Tau. Their demeanor and stance should reflect a leadership role or at the very lease a "holy" or "mysterious" look.
  • Can this work? A simple question, but hard to answer. You must take into account your skills as a hobbyist, the model's potential, and what you expect for the end result. 
  • And above all...

#2 Anatomy

Tau have 4 fingers on each hand, no ears, and no noses. In their forehead is a sort of "slot" and they have oddly shaped hoofs instead of feet. Most of these alterations are easy to accomplish.
  • Cut/shave/file away the model's little fingers
  • Cut/shave/file away the model's ears and nose
  • Either replace the model's feet with some spare Tau ones, or model the hoofs with greenstuff
  • Cut the forehead slot/indent. or replace the head.
When performing the last action, keep this in mind. A major distinguishing feature of a female tau is her forehead indent. Here is a rough example of the difference.

Just take a look at Shadowsun and compare her to any other helmetless Tau and you'll get the idea. Most Tau players have some extra heads lying around from their Firewarrior/Pathfinder kits. This would be the ideal time to use them.

#3 Equipment

Ethereals carry either an Honor Blade or Equalisers. Both are pretty much useless as weapons in the hands of an ethereal, but they are a distinguishing feature of the model. Give your Ethereal a spear of some sort, preferably one with a broad single edged blade that mimics the existing Tau models GW has put out. The Equalisers look something like large wands or scepters, I'm sure there are some good looking bits that could imitate those quite nicely.
Have a look through your bits box, especially the new plastic Pathfinder bits. You'd be surprised what you can find that will really add something to your model.
Though not required, getting the Tau symbol onto the model somewhere can go a long way. If possible model a pendant on, or even a simple transfer symbol put onto the back of the Ethereal's robe.
In some cases, the bits that you put on will be sufficiently marked to give the model a Tau feel. Less is more, so don't cover your Ethereal in symbols and gear, just a few bits should be sufficient to convey your intentions.

Tada! Your model has transformed into a Tau Ethereal. Granted, the hardest part is the Anatomy, but once you get past that, the model should do the rest. That is why it is so important to select a model that will accept the alterations well, rather than just grabbing the first mini you see and getting to work chopping it up. A little foresight goes a long way when you are converting.


Here is my own Tau Ethereal counts-as. She was only just put together last night, so I have not named her or written any backstory for her. But she should be fun to put on the table!

I had a stroke of luck at a citywide yard sale one weekend, and found a chap who used to own a model store and still had a significant amount of Reaper singles to get rid of. I grabbed this female elf sorceress-ish type character for $3.

I know that Ethereals don't actually carry pulse pistols, but it serves the purpose of Tau-ifying my model, giving a combat feel, and giving that sword hand something to hold.

 Here she is after the first pass. I replaced the elf ear with a Tau comms antenna, since there needed to be something holding her hair back. The spear blade used to be her sword blade, in hindsight I probably should have just made one from scratch. Perhaps I still will, it will be a quick switch.

 Here she is on some cork to raise her up and make her more of a heroic figure.

 And a picture from the back after I made some alterations to the spear and shoulder sleeves. The armour plate over the shoulder sleeve is about half of a Stealth suit shoulder pad. It gets the Tau symbol onto the model, adds some iconic armour plating, and covers up the Medieval looking sleeves.

 And here she is from the front. I got lucky with this model because the hair covers up any forehead indent, and the robe mostly covers the feet so I didn't have to do much modeling in those departments.
The spear could definitely use  some refining though.

I may not be able to use this model in a Games Workshop store, but I honestly doubt I'll use her that much. I really made her because I felt that no Tau army would be complete without an Ethereal somewhere in the ranks.
After I get the rest of my boys in order perhaps I'll revisit this mini and giver her a proper Honor Blade.

I hope this was helpful or inspirational to some people. Thanks for reading!  


Joshua Capps said...
June 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM  

Yeah, I was looking at some of the warhammer fantasy or pathfinder models to find a cloaked figure. My fluff-wise ethereal really has a dark almost sith feel to him. So I was going to model a trimmed flying based and paint it red as an honor blade.

17yearoldhobbyist said...
June 26, 2013 at 8:01 AM  

That's a great idea. I must steal it!! Seriously though ethereals are brilliant this ed so I do want to convert one

Malthus said...
July 5, 2013 at 11:45 AM  

Inspiring stuff as always.
A female ethereal is a genius idea.
Congrats on successfully converting an existing model so it looks tau...and good!
Even if I had such an idea I lack the proper tools to achieve such a feat.

Congrats again, can't wait to see it painted.

Ironbullet said...
July 11, 2013 at 8:47 PM  

Yeah, I'm definitely going to be making an ethereal with this model. What a fantastic idea! Thank you for the idea.

Anonymous said...
July 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM  

Brilliant work! I like it very much! But... Ethereal females do not have tits)

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