Painting: Keep it Simple, ‘Startes (Black armour edition)

Hey All,

Sometimes when you’re a Red Space Marine, you lose your cool and get a tad angry. This anger may manifest itself in small and sutble ways such as a slight raising of the voice, declining a cup of tea or hallucinating that you are the Primarch of your legion fighting the Arch Traitor aboard his flagship and trying to vainly slay him while thrashing about in reality. You know, small but subtle ways.

Earl Grey, milk no sugar thx

Fact: 100% of cases of the Black Rage involve the declining of tea.

Tonight’s assault on your ocular sensory apparatus involves painting black armour and why sometimes it’s good to keep things simple.

Painting an army can be a daunting challenge, especially if you prefer quantity over quality. Regardless of game system, horde style armies involve a great deal more miniatures than non-horde or elite style armies. In the case of the former, painting those extra bodies can become a mind-numbing experience and a relaxing past time soon becomes a chore as you churn through another unit of 20+ dudes. So, what do you do? You find simple but effective ways to get them painted and on the table You don’t collect goblins unless you truly, deeply and unconditionally love the colour green.

At this point I’ll shout out to those who can pump out professionally painted armies/miniatures, I love those guys and gals as they’re an inspiration and their work is something to aspire to.  Most of us, sadly, aren’t pro painters but we can achieve good results through simple techniques which can truly hold their own on the table top (whilst improving our skill).


Exhibit 1: 10 Death Company Space Marines. Obviously they depart significantly from the usual Blood Angel attire and that of their successor chapters. They look more impressive in the flesh, and these guys were painted using simple techniques to achieve a great result with a simple three steps for each stage.

A good word of advice is to paint the largest parts of the model first ie: black if painting death co, blue for cygnar etc. then work your way to the smaller objects like pouches or space-bling. Doing this for all models before moving on to the next stage cuts down time and saves you having to play musical paint pots.

While space marines are not traditionally a horde army, you buy another tactical squad or another squad of devastators and oh they need five bolter bait marines and…well, you get the idea. Painting the same dude over and over (as let’s face it, marines aren’t exactly individual special snowflakes) gets wearisome. Finding shortcuts to speed through a squad can be essential if you want to field a fully painted army ASAP, or to speed through a rate-limiting stage of painting. Another simple but effective technique is ‘dipping’ where a model is dunked in a tub of wash to bring out details of a model before highlighting, particularly useful for the larger horde factions out there.


An example of a simple-but-effective scheme, the black power armour for these super angry black red X marines: JETPACK EDITION was nothing more than: Spray matte black undercoat followed by regular black paint then two stages of highlighting.

While it seems counter-intuitive to paint black over black undercoat, it’s rather vital for the armour to turn out looking black. If you do a comparison you’ll find that the spray primer black isn’t as ‘black’ as the regular black paint. Google vantablack while you’re at it too.


As vantablack currently isn’t available in acrylic paint form, black doesn’t have a shadow which means that detail and depth must come from highlights. For this, a medium and a medium-dark grey should be used to edge highlight ridges. The medium-dark grey should go over everything that needs edge highlighting while the medium grey can go over the more pronounced edges.



The end result gives a defined black armour which is actually black. It’s a simple ‘spray -> layer-> highlight-> highlight -> done’ that doesn’t rely on mixing a near-black grey and shading down as well as highlighting. Depending on highlight colours, you can make a blue-ish black, go all Tron style, etc.




The red used for the crosses, loincloths and purity seals were a base, followed by two layers, leaving the base colour as the shadow. Highlighting red isn’t necessary as the shadows do the work of giving depth though highlighting can be done sparingly to great effect. Depending on the type of red you want and how dark it is, varying shades of pink, red or orange can be used as a red highlight.



The angel wings were nothing more than a foundation off-white washed blue then with the same off-white applied carefully. Using smaller brushes and taking your time on small details can drastically improve how good the end result is. This is for details, of course- feel free to be as messy when painting the larger areas on the model as you can come back and tidy up as you progress.


The ribbed metal was a coat of silver washed black, as was most of the other silver objects. Purity seal paper is the same off-white mentioned above, washed sepia then re-applied as a highlight.


Using the flash function on the camera demonstrates the highlight and relative simplicity of the overall paint scheme.


All these simple three step parts come together to create a mini that’s respectable at the very least. Considering the amount of bling/detail/clutter present on some model ranges, it’s best to keep things simple if you require a bunch of dudes for an army or force.

Painting an army can be slow going, but simplifying some stages can really cut down on overall time for a squad/unit.

Happy holidays everyone, be sure to leave yer boots out and full of hay for Sleipnir.

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  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

    I paint black, drybrush very dark grey and edge highlight in grey and silver (to mimic the look of the edges of worn metal) for my Iron Hands. Its very quick and looks pretty good.

    Can I suggest you get a daylight lamp to light up your models when you are taking photos? You can make a lightbox by cutting the front off a large plastic milk carton too.

    • The Warlock

      Hey Knight, that sounds like a cool way to do Iron Hands. The flesh is weak!

      Suggest away! I’ve been meaning to get a lightbox for…over a year now ^^;

  • Zab

    Those would be very nice to see on the table. That kind of stark contrast reads very nicely at the 3′ mark 🙂

    • The Warlock

      Thanks Zab, I’ll try and get better photos up to show everything a bit clearer

  • MerryVulture

    Happy new year House. If I promise to spend x% of my game time being serious, if can the rest of you commit to spending y% of your time being you?

    On a serious note, may the new year bring you all what you need, and what you want that does not condrerdict* what you need.

    *I spent a long time trying to spell this correctly, and couldn’t. The dictionary was below waist level. I understand if you ridicule for THIS one.

  • zeronyne

    I have 20 DC marines that have been sitting on my desk for 3 years. This has inspired me to finish them, hopefully before the codex gets baked into C:SM 🙂