Painting Space Marines for Dummies

Space Marine - Salamander

Over the last while, I’ve been slowly getting into tabletop wargaming.  I’ve been playing for a few months with a group of friends with one of them providing all the miniatures, and for a while I’ve had the vague notion to start collecting my own, as I’ve always been impressed by them, and the level of detail they have.   However, one thing always put me off.  The idea of having to paint them.

You see, I’m blighted by two things in this regard.  Shakey hands, and no artistic ability.

After seeing the Battle for Skull Pass Warhammer starter set, I became very tempted by the 40K Black Reach set.  Here was a way for me to instantly have two reasonable armies with a variety of weapons, some generals and even a special unit.   However, again, I’d have to paint them.

I got talking to my friend with the Skull Pass set, and he pointed out that a basic paint job on his goblin spearmen was actually pretty easy, so I shouldn’t be put off.  I resolved to investigate further.  I spent some time quickly googling, and watching some Youtube videos, but they all seemed to be from experienced painters, who would talk about things like “washes” and “dry-brushing”.  What I wanted to know was, could someone with shakey hands, get some basic paints and do a job that, while it’d never look like those pretty pictures on the box, would look ok enough that I could use the units in a game without being embarrassed?

And so,  I ended up in the local Games Workshop, where they told me they did free painting lessons.  They supply everything you need and take you through the basics as well as demonstrating some of the more advanced techniques like dry-brushing and washes.  I was pretty impressed, so thought I’d give it a go.  All I had to lose was 15 minutes of my time.

Suffice to say, the painting lesson went very well.  I was given a Space Marine unit and taken through each stage of painting it up to a basic standard.  From an incredibly basic point of view, this took the form of four stages:Space Marines

1. Base coat.  Paint the whole thing black.

2. Base colour.  In my case I was going with the traditional Ultra Marine colour scheme, thus the whole marine was painted blue, save for his gun.

3. Shoulder detail.  Paint the edges of the shoulders yellow.

4. Paint his gun gunmetal grey.

And that was it.  The trickiest part was undoubtedly the shoulders, although what that involved was just taking your time and slowly rotating the marine around while making small, straight strokes with the yellow paint along the edges.

While the finished marine wasn’t going to win any awards, it was certainly acceptable.   I was intrigued enough to pick up the hobby starter set (basic foundation paints, glues, paint brush etc), and some packs of their basic space marines for practise (3 Space Marines for a fiver, perfect for practising on).

When I got home, I did decide to add some extra detail, as the helmet looked very plain.  So I added red eyes, and some black to the mouth plate.  The trick to this I found was again, taking my time, but also just adding a little paint to the point of the brush, and slowly dabbing it in place.  In the case of the eyes, I invariably ended up splodging it on, but by letting it dry and then putting a little blue paint on the end of the brush, I could then paint around the splodge to get a more satisfactory job on the eyes.

I’ve now done three marines in this style.   I’ve played around a little, trying three different colour schemes, and trying to add detail here and there.  Some of this hasn’t worked, so I just paint over the offending bit again.   One thing I have been doing, which I think looks better, beyond the eyes and mouth, is to hold off attaching the gun to the miniature and painting the crest on their chests yellow first.  It again serves to break up the solid colour a bit.

The finishing touch is pretty simply dabbing some PVA glue on the base, and sprinkling on either sand or grass (again, included in the hobby starter set).

I’m still very much playing around, seeing what works and what doesn’t, but I do think the results I’m getting are not bad.  Again, it’ll never look as good as those pretty pictures, but for having them painted up in a basic way, that I’ll not be ashamed to play with, I’m pretty happy and its all done using the very basic paints.  I’ve only done three marines, and I’ve only been painting a few days, so if you’re not sure, I’d say give it a go.  Patience is really the only thing you’ll need, and if the idea of having to go over the same bit a couple of times to neaten it up doesn’t scare you off, you’ll probably be all right.

I’ll definitely be getting some more models to try painting, and I’ll probably throw caution to the wind and pick up some of those washes to play with as well.  Again, this is where I think those basic marines are useful, as I’ll probably just base coat them, apply the base colour, and then try a different wash on a couple of them before adding any details, just to see what looks best.  If they end up not looking great, then its not a huge loss, and once its dry, I can always paint over it again.


4 thoughts on “Painting Space Marines for Dummies

Add yours

  1. Good job! Glad you’ve found it easier than you had feared. I’m still plugging away at my zillions of goblins and orcs in the Skull Pass set – which was great value – but I may move on to some Eldar next depending on how the funds go 🙂


  2. The Assault on Black Reach set is definitely going to be a post-pay day purchase for me, followed by many, many weeks of painting up the space marines 🙂

    I’m having fun trying different colour schemes out with the ones I’ve got at the moment, as I’ll probably just go with traditional Ultra Marine colours with the Black Reach set (apparently they’ve got moulded Ultra Marine symbols on them anyway).


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