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Creating Pre-Heresy marines – part 1

There is no definite way to create or modify Pre-Heresy marines. We have some guides of concept from Games Workshop with their models and illustrations, but these are varied with every instance. Collected Visions, while offering a wealth of imagery and information, presents an often conflicting representation of armour and composition.

As an artist, this is good news because it gives us all a vast selection of ideas to work with. My time building Pre-Heresy marines has been an ever-learning path and the theme never ceases to inspire me. There are always new ways of developing models and definitely room to improve on existing methods.

With this series I hope to present a number of tutorials that explore the building of Pre-Heresy marines. Some methods may be my own, approaches inspired by others, or improvements on well-known practices. My intention is to help every aspiring hobbyist to develop their own Pre-Heresy Astartes to field in their armies and provide plenty of ways of doing so!

For part 1, I have chosen to illustrate the steps involved in building a whole, basic Pre-Heresy marine.

The basic components I have chosen are:

A Blackreach space marine. This particular model has Mark 5/6 legs – an ideal starting point.
Chaos Space Marine backpack.
Maxmini Steam Knight helmet.
‘Liquid beads’ – a pot of tiny metal ball bearings from my local Hobbycraft store. They’re in a mildly liquid glue that makes them very easy to pick up. The exact productis here.

ph01_01The first task is dealing with the marine torso. I decided to aim for a Mark 2/3 pads, so a craft knife and file was required to remove the Tactical squad symbol, his head and pad trims. I also shaved off the eagle wings on the chest and cut out a small square notch at the top of the chest.

ph01_02With all signs of 40k removed, our retro-fitted armour can now be built upon to look like a different mark of armour. The Mark 2/3 pads have a ring of studs around the pads where the trim was. Mark 3 actually has the studs on top of the trim, but the beads I am using are a little oversized to achieve that.

I began by marking the points for each stud with the tip of a craft knife and then using a pin vice drill to make a small crater-like indent. It needs to be deep enough to fit in half the bead, but no deeper. That can take a lot of trial and error, but you can refill any deep holes with putty and try again. The real trick is marking each stud with equal spacing – my example shows how easy it is to mess that up!

ph01_03Both pads and a small ring on the chest received drill holes and then each hole was filled with a small bead using superglue. If you don’t have a fine aplicator with your glue, put some onto a dry surface and apply it with a cocktail stick or knife into the hole. Getting glue all over your model will just make a messy of the smooth surface. The beads should be easy enough to pick up with a knife or tool as they are submerged in a gel-like glue:

ph01_04You may want to leave the occasional hole unfilled to represent battle damage or disrepair of the armour. Equally, if you mess up the spacing, you could cut into the pad to mark some serious damage and hide your errors!


When you are happy with the studs, the other components can be added. You don’t necesarily need to glue them on, as it can be easier to paint the parts seperately. To create my style of backpack, I take a Chaos Space marine backpack and cut off the vent arms:


Then trim away the excess plastic on the pack and vents:

ph01_07Finally re-attach the vents to the pack at your preferred orientation:

ph01_08To complete this marine, I added a custom head from Maxmini and the Blackreach bolter. There are many GW, Forgeworld and third party heads available which I will cover in a later article.


Rusty Dice

Aint nothing but a horn

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11 Responses

  1. Itkovian says:

    Very Cool. Thanks for the link to the beads – shall be getting some of those at the earliest opportunity.

  2. Jim says:

    Love the beads, can we have a painted shot pls!! 😀

  3. The beads do look interesting, thinking rivets for orks?

    The head works really well and the backpack is inspired.

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