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Mastering Chaos with the Power of Paint
By Marcuse | 1st July, 2013 | 2:48 pm | Marcuse's Panopticon


Mastering Chaos with the Power of Paint: A step-by-step guide
Written by Marcuse

So here we are… well, here I am, and you will be at some point in the future. Today we’re going to see how to paint a chaos space marine better than I did as a child.

The zombie apocalypse has banners too you know

That’s one of my early attempts at painting. It didn’t go well. But I persevered despite all obvious reasons to stop, and eventually leveled up to the point where I evolved into “guy that can paint Warhammer ok” which is on a similar level socially to the best D&D Dungeon Master the village has ever seen.

Our subject is the new Chaos Space Marine Aspiring Champion, a detailed character model sculpted entirely in plastic. I have chosen to replace the right arm with the metal sword arm from the Emperor’s champion. I think this adds much more dynamism to the pose and moves the tone away from the “axe-wielding barbarian” that many Chaos Space Marines exhibit. I’m only a white-belt in converting stuff, so we’re just sticking to the replacement part here.

First, we’re going to need some supplies before we can get started. I find that these things are about the bare minimum necessary.

    -Assorted Acrylic paints
    -Water (preferably in a pot)
    -Tissue to dry your brush
    -1x Medium Paintbrush
    -1x Fine Detail Brush

Really fine detail

You can get extra brushes if you want, but a decent detail and fine detail brush will suffice. I almost never use anything larger than the “detail” sized brush, even for undercoating. Which brings us to the start of our artistic journey:

The Undercoat

Effective snow camouflage?

Since Space Marines normally have painted armour, and I want that colour to show through, I've chosen to undercoat him in white. The other common choice for undercoating is black, you can choose other colours, but it’s usually a waste at this stage. The black or white undercoat helps the next layers stay on the model, and affects whatever you add on top of it so choose this carefully.

Some people prefer to undercoat by spraying. I prefer to manually paint it on. You get a good result either way, but I find it gives me a feel for the model before it becomes important where I’m putting the brush. The most important point is that I’m painting this disassembled.


I do this because an assembled model can block access to visible areas of the model which can spoil the entire effect of your paint job. This model does this particularly badly on the breastplate, which blocks access to almost all of the face. So we’re going to get messy doing this. That’s what she said.

No it isn’t. Sigh…

Hints and tips #1:
When painting a detailed miniature, always try to make sure you are using thin paint, as thick paint will clump and obscure this detail. It’s always preferable to use more than one coat of thin paint than a single thick layer.

The Colour Scheme

So here’s the really fun bit. Now we have our undercoated model, we can choose the colour scheme. I try to use two principles to decide on my colour schemes. One is using a colour wheel, as complementary colours look better than clashing ones.
Colour Wheels of Doom? Well, it worked for Clint…

The second is to stick to a limited palette, using this guideline: Base Colour, Trim Colour and “Spot Colour”. The base colour is the main colour the model is painted and the trim colour is the secondary colour and should be chosen to complement the base colour. The “Spot” colour is a contrasting colour used sparingly to provide an eye-catching feature.

For our happy gent I have chosen the following colours:
Base: Purple, Trim: Gold, Spot: Yellow

In this case I have chosen a technically complementary colour for the Spot colour, as I intend to use this on the organic parts of the model to provide a contrast to the starkly inorganic armour.

The Purpling Part 1

Hints and Tips #2:
Paint from inside to out wherever possible, it’s always preferable to try to fill the recesses before the raised areas. This means your mistakes, and believe me there will be many, will have less impact on the model.

The first part of our paint scheme is to add the purple on all exposed areas of armour. I’ve used a 1.5:1 mix of Purple:Black for this to provide the base for the rest of the colours.
Professor Plum, in the Spaceship, with the unholy Crozius

Hints and Tips #3:
It will get worse before it gets better. Every single model I’ve done has looked utterly terrible in the middle of painting. You have to persevere and trust that it will turn out right in the end. We are far from finished, so have faith. This was the biggest barrier to my developing skills, as I thought I was messing up when I was really just in the middle.

Black Trim Undercoat

Once the purple is on, it’s time to start the trim. Space marines are helpful in that their trim is sculpted on the armour for you. Paint all of this black in the same way as the undercoat. As the trim is raised it should be easy to avoid the purple parts. If you do make a mistake the purple is so dark it’s simple to cover.
Now with 200% more Goff!

Gold Trim Overcoat

The reason we have done the black trim undercoat is so we can cover this with the gold. Metallic paint always looks terrible over light colours, so avoid this whenever you can. Here, we are going to use a new technique:

Hints and Tips #4:

While it’s best to use thin paint to get the best coverage without compromising detail, when you want to bring out the raised areas on a piece it’s best to use a drybrush technique. This involves getting a small amount of paint on your brush, and then wiping the majority of it off with a tissue. This leaves the brush “dry” so you can pass it over raised areas and then only those areas are painted. This also works well with metallic surfaces.


Daemonic Flesh and Steel

Now we have the base colours added, it’s time to add on the spot colours and details. For more organic surfaces it’s useful to use a washing technique to add definition to uneven surfaces. I’m being brave, and using yellow. Now you may not know why that colour is brave, but unlike other paints, yellow has so little pigment it runs little better than water and requires many more coats to get an even tone.

Well, he looks healthy.

Hints and Tips #5:

Where you want to add definition and depth to your models, particularly with organic figures, it is extremely useful and effective to wash them with darker colours before highlighting. The example model above has one coat of a thick yellow, then a black wash for definition, then four coats of standard yellow to get the final pikachu effect.

The same principle applies for any human flesh (or leather), just with the yellow replaced by a flesh tone. I have also completed all of the holsters, tabards, guns and the charming severed head based in the backpack. Metallic things like guns benefit well from a similar approach, silver highlight over a black wash.

The Purpling Part 2: Purple Harder

Now it’s time to redo the purple on the armour. You may have noticed I haven’t been particularly careful about handling the purple armour, and the paint has rubbed off on the left hand especially. This was deliberate (honest), as this was intended to find the points where the armour would chip off, so we can highlight these raised areas more. This time I have used pure purple, and only focused on the raised areas and the centre of the open patches of armour. This leaves the darker undercoat in the recesses, and adds definition.

"All this purple sure makes me feel stabby... weird."

Is that a face? In his backpack? Oh no…

Hints and tips #6:
Colour Building

As an alternative to the flat colour-wash-drybrush technique, we can use a colour building technique. This involves taking a colour and adding flat layers on top of each other in gradually increasing brightness. If you follow the principle of leaving some of the colour underneath this can build up a warm colour that is really effective. It tends to be a better technique for synthetic material, and lends itself well to edge highlighting.


Now it’s time for the bones and spikes on the model, which we are going to be treating in the same way as the flesh. I’ve paid particular attention to the gorget (that bit round his neck) as this is the most visible area of bone on the model. I’ve highlighted this up to white from the bone colour to make sure it’s striking enough.

Obligatory boner joke

Hints and tips #7:
Edge highlighting

With sharp edges, it can be very effective to use edge highlighting to give extra definition to your miniature. This involves using the natural raised areas to build up colour only on exposed edges. This can be very stark, and up close, very obvious to the eye, but when taken as a whole, this technique tricks the eye into thinking the light is shining from the surface.

The Fun Stuff – Swords, Knives and Badges

Now we only have a few things left to finish. These are the bits where you can think a little outside the box and add something different. I left the decision as to what to do until the end as a kind of treat to motivate me to finish this model.

For the knife, I’ve chosen a simple black blade with an edge highlight of grey to emphasise the edges. The shoulder badge is going get the same, as the white badge has been bothering me the whole time and I didn’t want to detract from the overall colour scheme. With the sword, I decided on a little more complexity. The hilt has been given a red and yellow striped pattern, which I’ve added freehand.

Stabby stabby

To finish off the sword arm, I’ve added a heavy silver drybrush to the blade to give the impression of an old steel sword that has seen heavy use. I’ve also painted the gemstones red to fit with the eyes and added a tiny white dot for a glint. The black wings have been given a grey highlight for definition.

Yeah check my mad skillz

With that, the model’s finished! Now all that’s left is to carefully glue him together. I always use superglue for evey kind of miniature. Normally the “official” recommendation is to use a plastic specific glue for these kind of miniatures, but I find these tend to be both solvents and damaging to the surfaces they touch, as well as slower to dry. So here he is, in all his glory:


Here’s some more side shots
Spoiler: show

So there you have it. One completed Chaos Space Marine in fetching purple livery ready to destroy and subjugate the galaxy. Now, I’m off to find the next thing to paint…

No. Just… no. That’s too big. That’s also what she said…

Tags: Mini-figurines, Painting, Hobbies, How-to 24

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