Dark Angels painting tutorial

I noticed in the painting poll that Dark Angels got quite a few votes and having recently started an army I thought I’d put a little tutorial together. Much as Whitehorn/Rusty Dice did with the Space Wolves, this is a ‘ready for tabletop’ standard painting guide, but I think they look quite good and am pleased with the overall effect that my army is starting to take on in squads.  If you are looking for display standard painting tips, I’m afraid you’ll need to wait for Kidjal to do a tutorial 😉

Thanks to Carl for the classic lead figure used in this article!

Stage 1 undercoat

DA Undercoated

I’m a big fan of black undercoat.  Leaving black lines in deep recesses gives an almost immediate 3D effect and with the foundation paints you can get away with black for almost any colour now (I think Yellow and White are the exceptions, feel free to discuss this in comments below!).

I use Chaos Black spray cans from GW, out in my garage I lay some newspaper down and attack 10-20 figures at a time if I can.  I tend to spray figures in at least 3 stages, rear, front and then stand them on their bases and do the best all round finish off coat I can.  I let each coat dry before doing the next stage.  Beware wind and cold weather, you can get an annoying greying effect to the undercoat in these conditions.

Stage 2 (and 3) Silver and Dark Angels basecoat

DA Just green

Do as I say, not as I do – never more true.  Annoying I got carried away here and did the Dark Angels green basecoat first then remembered to do the silver (using Boltgun Metal) afterwards.  Fortunately not so far into the painting process that a few slips with the brush make a lot of difference, but doing the silver first, especially if you want to dry brush it (as I often tend to on guns and space marine armour seals in the joints) saves a lot of pain later, metalics are tricky to paint over at the more detailed stage.

As mentioned above the key thing at these stages is to leave the black line edging in all the places you want to emphasise the creases, shadows and detail.  Its quite cartoony really but I see nothing wrong with that.  I painted this stage with a standard brush and more carefully wet brushed the silver than dry brushed it.

Stage 4 more basecoating

DA Base

Ah foundations are great aren’t they?  The plasma gun and eyes here get a Mechrite Red coating and it looks good with only a couple of thin coats, again applied with a standard brush.  The skulls and wingy chest thing are given a lick of Snakebite Leather.  The silver bits also got a black wash at this stage to deepen the colour and creases.

Stage 5 Layering

DA Base plus green highlight side by sideThis is where I spent a lot of time deciding what look I wanted when I started planning my Dark Angels army.  In the end I went for quite a dark overall effect, but with enough highlighting to define the figures at a reasonable distance.  To achieve this I wanted to use as much as possible colours easily available and to not have to spend 6 months painting each figure.  I’ve hopefully achieved this to a certain degree.

Choosing Snot Green as my highlight wasn’t an immediately obvious choice, but it seems to work.  In order to get a more subtle graduation from Dark Angels Green to Snot Green I wanted to use the layering technique (which is to apply thin, progressively lighter colours of paint to the highlights) without suffering the pain of mixing lots and lots and lots of paint all the time.

So what to do?  Well I’ve mixed up a pot of 50/50 Dark Angels Green/Snot Green which I’ve added a liberal amount of water to keep nice and easy to use.  Along the edges of the armour I want to highlight I paint quite a thick band (using a detail brush) of this reasonably thin paint.  Once dry I can do this a few more times if I wish, with progressively thinner bands.  Each layer increases the brigher colour against the somewhat darker Dark Angels basecoat, but crucially this is done using the 50/50 paint, no additional mixing required!  Its not especially clear on these photos, but in the later photos you can see more of the graduation effect, I think I only did two bands anyway on this chap.  If you have the time and patience you can do many thin layers with this 50/50 mix and 100% Snot Green to make an incredibly smooth blend of colour if you wish (my plan for characters).

Stage 6 Highlighting

DA finelining side by side

You could go to tabletop with a stage 5 figure I suspect – or even 4?, but I’m not done yet.  I think this stage adds a real spark to the figure, makes it ‘pop’, especially the armour.  I’m using a detail or fine detail brush at this stage, depending on how brave I am feeling on each bit.  The key really is to keep the paint thin and your brush nicely pointed.

The armour is ‘hard edge’ highlighted at this point, using 100% Snot Green.  This means trying to only paint the sharp edges of the armour leaving the layered highlight clearly visible.  Again I’ve applied the highlight in layers, generally two passes on this figure.   The plasma gun and eyes are highlighted with Blood Red, the gun along all the hard edges and also along any straight edge that meets up against any other colour.  The skulls and chest thingy have actually had a brown wash (your choice as I can’t remember which!) applied before some careful highlighting with Bleached Bone.  The gun stock and hand rest I think I randomly picked out with Bestial Brown.

Stage 7 Finishing details

DA complete all round

Last stage is basing and symbols.  For the base I’ve basically followed this fine method as described by Whitehorn (with a bit of brown).

The chapter and squad markings were a bit of a quandry for me.  Since starting my army using the Assault on Blackreach space marines I discovered my tactical marines have embossed vertical arrows on their shoulders.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the done thing for Dark Angels, but I do actually prefer the look to the horizontal doubled headed arrow I’m supposed to use (argh, Heretic, Burn! etc.).  In addition I’ve struggled with making the transfers for the chapter symbol (more on this in a future article hopefully).  So I decided to just paint both freehand.  I’m quite pleased with the final effect, although I think painting all the chapter symbols for a whole army would annoy me!  Both were done with a fine detail brush and required several thin coats of paint to ensure the effect was both accurate and remained smooth.  I also highlighted the metal bits on the gun a bit with Mithril Silver at the end as I thought it was looking a bit dull.

Well that’s it – for the Lion!

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