Painting Space Marines

Another edition of the DM’s Apprentice, brought to you by the F and Q, or something like that…

In my last post, I had promised to discuss my adventures in painting space marines.  This began when I discovered, just as I started becoming interested in painting minis, that my friendly local game shop (FLGS) was hosting a “learn to paint minis” day.  When we arrived, there were tables set up with small tiles for paint palettes and plastic frames holding parts to make three space marines each.

First, we talked about basics for cutting out and preparing plastic models for painting.  This involves snipping the pieces out of the model frames, trimming the gate areas off with an X-Acto or utility knife, and carefully scraping mold lines and flash to smooth them out so they won’t show after those areas are painted.  This does take some time and patience.  As with many things, prep can be one of the longest steps.  But, if done properly, it can really make your model look significantly better.

We base-coated the marines in black and then glued them together.

Next, we went over the basics of painting.  Base coats.  Layers.  Highlights.  Dry-brushing.  Washes.

I had to choose what colors to paint my space marines.  So, I flipped through an RPG book to find a color combination that appealed to me, and I settled on a main color of white with orange trim.

As I went through this process, I discovered a few important truths about painting:

  • Painting small details isn’t easy.  This seems obvious, but after an hour or two, you might notice your hand shaking a bit.  That makes it extremely tough to deal with tiny details.  If this starts happening, take a break or come back to your piece tomorrow.  Otherwise, you may end up with paint where you don’t want it.
  • Painting space marines is hard!  The large, smooth surfaces of the armor mean you have to use long brush strokes and several thin layers to get good coverage of the paint.
  • Painting white is hard!  White doesn’t always cover a dark base coat too well.  And you can’t just slather white paint over it, lest it give you an odd appearance.  If you have to paint white on a dark base coat, work your way up through a couple shades of gray, getting lighter and lighter.  Then apply the white.  You’ll see fewer brush strokes and get a better-looking result when you’re done.

So, let’s take a look at my first attempt at painting a space marine.

Space Marine - White Front Space Marine - White Rear

Overall, not too shabby, considering I picked a hard color to paint on a difficult model.  I wish the paint on the armor was a bit more even, but I’m happy with it.  The host at the shop recommended some orange/yellow highlights on the armor.  I probably would have been more careful with it, but it was my first try.  I also added some light dry-brushing of black around the exhaust/intake ports on the jet pack to appear dirty.

Space Marine - Gray FrontSpace Marine - Gray Rear

Next, I tried a gray armor.  I started out with gray primer, then used a dark gray base coat.  Light gray trim and red and yellow accents finish things off.  I still made a few mistakes on this one, but I’m really proud of how it turned out.  I decided to paint the pieces separately, then glue them together and do final touch-ups.  I’m really glad I did it this way, as it let me put some yellow on the marine’s chest piece, which really makes him stand out.



So, those are my adventures painting space marines.  I still have several extras waiting to get painted, so maybe I’ll break those out down the road and finish them up, as well.  Or I could use them to play with painting techniques.  I don’t really plan to use them for any games, so who knows…


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