Painting Space Marine Legions – Space Wolves

Here is the first painting guide for pre-Heresy Space Marine legions! The first chosen legion is the mighty Space Wolves, decided quite convincingly by public poll.

This is a simple step-by-step guide covering the process involved in painting a marine to a tabletop standard. It has definitely been a good challenge and lesson for myself throughout painting the model. I can certainly see room for improvement and hope that such a thing will happen as this series develops!

A little preface into the colour choice for Space Wolves. Typically you may be familiar with the more bluey-grey coloured armour of modern Space Wolves. Back in the 31st millennium their armour was a much less vibrant grey, almost colourless.

Taking hold of a suitably hairy and pre-Heresy style Astartes, I gave the model a base coat of Adeptus Battlegrey.


For table-top quality my process tends to involve a base coat of foundation followed by a wash to set the shadow. However, in this instance, as they main colour is grey I will be using a black wash, something I try to steer clear of. Due to this, rather than having to wash all the silvers later, we can skip a step by painting them before washing.

So, paint any areas that need to be silver with boltgun metal, such as weapons, cabling and studs. You may prefer to paint the studs in the legion colours and weather them instead.


Once the grey and silver are fully dry, add some Badab Black wash to a clean palette and thin it a little with water or flow improver. Apply this to the whole model evenly.


As you can see, the shading is applied in all the recesses, giving the armour an initial depth. Now we need to work up the grey back to a nice gleaming adamantium!

For this step, take a clean palette and create a mix of Adeptus Battlegrey, Codex Grey (1:1) and plenty of water or flow improver. Having a nice thin paint keeps the surface smooth and helps blend the colours. Apply this mix to all the surface areas of the armour, avoiding the recesses.


Once dry, using the existing well of paint, add more Codex Grey to the mixture so that you have roughly a 2:1 ratio of Codex grey to Adeptus Battlegrey. Paint the edges of the armour, and around any definining areas such as cuts or raised details. This will create the first highlight which should be a gentle step up from the base colour of the plate.


Continue to add highlights to the plate. One step is more than sufficient for tabletop quality. The more you highlight the armour, the smoother the blending of colours should be. For this step either add Fortress Grey to the existing mixture, or create a new mix of Codex and Fortress, roughly 1:1. This is quite a leap from the existing grey, so acts as a final extreme highlight. Paint this only on the extreme raised areas and edges of the model.


With the bulk of the model (the armour) painted, the other areas can be addressed. Fill in the base colours on all the other parts, such as holsters, bags, loincloths and skin.

The colours used below are Graveyard Earth for the hair, skin and holster. Dark Flesh for the cloth.


Like the armour, work up through successive layers of highlights and tone by making a small well of your base colour and adding to this.

In step 1, I added a little Tallarn Flesh to the skin mix. For the cloth I added Red Gore.
Step 2, I added Dheneb stone to the skin mix and more Red Gore to the cloak mix.
Step 3, more Dheneb stone and Blood Red for the cloth.


At this stage I wanted to add a little more contrast and shadow to these areas, so I made a mix of Ogryn Flesh and water, applying it to the hair, skin and holster.

To paint the hair, I used a base of Graveyard Earth and added a little Dheneb stone with each highlight. Simply drybrush against the flow of hair, liberally at first and then only on more prominent areas and edges as your paint mix becomes lighter.


The hair and face is nicely highlited but a little monotone, so I wanted to vary the colours. I added a little Red Gore and water to the Ogryn Flesh mix. Apply this only to specific areas rather than all over.

For the face, I applied the mix to the eye sockets, lips, and hairlines. Also, for the cloth on the areas that weren’t highlighted, and for the hair, draw select strands from the scalp, upwards through the hair so that you have a few varied strands. We can’t have a space Viking without a flair of red hair!


For finishing touches:

Highlight any prominent metallic areas with Chainmail (or Mithril). Some further edges of armour can be picked out with pure Fortress Grey.

Paint the eyes black and then carefully dot white paint at either side, hopefully achieving a non-cross-eyed stare!


It can be a little hard breaking up the monotone of grey and silver through the model, but the red cloth helps significantly. Some metallic areas of the model can be painted in golds to add more colour. Most importantly though, your chosen squad and legion symbols will help break up the large areas of grey.

This was actually the first Space Wolf I’ve painted. Does it show?

Rusty Dice

Aint nothing but a horn

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6 Responses

  1. oni says:

    Very nice. I like it.

  2. Nice tutorial – lots of pics is really good (oops not sure I’ve taken enough for my post-heresy Dark Angels guide now)

  3. King Fluff says:

    Very good tutorial – looks great, really like the grey. Just have to finish off all my space wolves in this manner now 🙂

  4. ricky says:

    Great tutorial, would have been better if the pictures were bigger though so you could see more detail.

  5. Boba fat says:

    This is excellent! It looks really gritty and worn as it should in my opinion. May I ask what type of model that is and where I could go to buy some to paint myself? Is it an actual miniature or self made etc? Apologies if this has already been answered but I can’t see the comments in my phone. Thanks for the tutorial

  6. Alan says:

    Nice tutorial, clear and easy to understand, very characterful figure.

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