All-New Step-by-Step Painting Guide – Ultramarines Captain Sicarius

Sigur’s Step-by-Step Paint Along II

Hello and welcome to my second Step-By-Step projekt. The first one, which happened a few months ago, I called a guide or tutorial. This time I think that the term paint-along or work log are more fitting because at this level of complexity and on this kind of miniature (not a rank-and-file guy this time), there is no real „wrong“ or „right“ approach. Some years ago, the venerable Tammy Haye did two or three “Paintathons” in which she painted a single miniature to great quality. I loved those events and would like to recreate that in a way, albeit without the real-time aspect (to save me from an energy drink induced heart attack) and very in-depth explanations about the techniques and colours used.

This painting log is all about Captain Sicarius of the second company of the Ultramarines Space Marines chapter. This guy had various incarnations in the past years and in this, we deal with the latest (and in my opinion, the most impressive) one. While working on this project I got a wee bit annoyed about my foolishness not to just paint up a regular tactical Marine, an ork boy or a Dark Eldar warrior because this took way longer than I had planned it to do. The reasons I chose this miniature over others are numerous: First, after having done a Fantasy miniature for my first project of that kind, I wanted to go with something futuristic, preferrably a Space Marine. Apart from that, this miniature just jumped out at me while browsing the shelves of my local gaming store and I remembered painting this guy’s first incarnation many years ago for my first (and never really realized) attempt at competing for a Golden Daemon. Last but not least, I really like the pose on this miniature. It’s just something you don’t see very often.

Alright, now that we got the What and Why out of the way, let’s get to work:

Step 1:

As always with metal miniatures, I start by washing the single parts thoroughly with soap, water and an old toothbrush. Make sure you rinse the parts after that because you don’t want any soap residue to remain on the pieces. At this point, I already encountered the first problem – there was a pretty severe miscast on the helmet:

During all these roughly 15 years I’ve been working with GW miniatures, such a thing only happened twice so far, so no biggie. A few days later, I went to the next GW store and got a replacement without any trouble. GW usually are very quick and eager to help with such situations such as this. So after I got the replacement miniature I had to start all over again. Open blister, wash the single parts, let them dry. Assembling the figure was pretty easy. Everything fit pretty well and the only thing I felt necessary to pin was the left arm.

Step 2: The assembled Miniature (without the backpack yet) is primed black…

… and those parts the spray didn’t quite reach (mostly recesses and deeper parts) get a little overhaul with black paint so we don’t have to redo deep recesses later in the painting process. This wasn’t as necessary on the banner because it has no deep parts that need to remain black or very dark. So the main body of the miniature basically is fully covered in black now.

Step 3: Now we can finish assembly. While priming the miniature, I noticed that I don’t really like the all too spiky hairdo on Sicarius so I chopped off a bit on the top in the front with my trusty hobby knife. The next thing to do is to add the backpack to the miniature by the use of super glue and Green Stuff. The little nipple on Sicarius’ back which is supposed to go into the hole on the backpack was a tad big so I had to shave a little off until it fit properly. Pinning the whole thing would have been a clever thing to do but given how thin the lower part of the backpack is and how it held together pretty well without any pinning, I deemed pinning not really necessary this time.

On principle I always try to assemble as much as possible before priming because the primer works well for stabilizing joints and connections between parts and tends to fill small gaps pretty well. The backpack and main body were primed individually because just too big portions of the miniature would have been very hard to reach for the primer spray if the backpack would have been in place before priming.

Step 4: We use Regal Blue for the main colour of the armour. (Note that I will use a lot of manufacturer-specific names of colours in this text. If no other company names or colour range names are mentioned before the colours’ names, I refer to Citadel Colours). As always, we apply the paint very thin (= dilluted with water). Right now, we have to start thinking about the direction of light shining onto the miniature because we have to take that imaginary light source into account for further highlighting. Parts of the miniature which lie in the shadows of other parts or in deep recesses only get a very thin layer of Regal Blue (if at all). For easier handling during painting, I put a long (about an inch or so) pin into the lower end of the miniature with about 2 cm of the pin sticking out which I put into the pin vise of my hand drill.

Step 5: Now we start painting highlights onto the blue armour. Plane highlighting are done with a mix of Regal Blue and Space Wolves Grey and much water. At this stage, we really have to be careful about where we put the lighter colours and we have to keep our light source in mind so we only put highlights where light really is reflected. As opposed to classic edge highlighting (= using lighter colours to paint along the edges of parts to simulate depth and working out sharper edges), this leads to more realistic results and can help a lot with pulling attention to focal points on the miniature. I find this technique very agreeable to work with especially when using colourful paints like red or blue.

At this, I prefer to mix lighter paints like Bleached Bone (for softer, warmer highlights/tones), White (for harder, very light highlights/tones like sharp reflections) or Space Wolves Grey (some somewhat cool, blue-ish highlights/tones without getting too light) with the base colour for painting highlights. According to GW’s palette, Ultramarines Blue or Enchanted Blue would be the next lighter blues (and therefore the top candidates to use for highlighting Regal Blue) but these look like very different blues than Regal Blue. GW’s range of paints is a bit weird in that regard, especially within certain “colour families” like browns, greys or blues. So when working with Citadel paints and for more complex works which require delicate balance of colours, I suggest using mixes instead of  just using the paints “out of the pot”. Or of course, use paints by an other manufacturer but I’m pretty content with Citadel paints and I would use mixes anyway.

The helmet’s visor remains black for now because we will paint it in a different colour later on. On the feet especially you can see the difference in the highlights. While the left foot, being right in front and a bit lower to the light source, is rather light and prominent, the right foot, being deeply hidden behind the loincloth and cloak, is rather dark with only strong highlights on the edges. The first stage of highlights isn’t quite done on the backpack at this point. Keep in mind that we keep our paints thin and try to avoid visible edges between the different layers of blue.

Step 6: We go on with highlighting the blue armour. One or two more layers (the lighter the highlights get, we start adding more and more white instead of Space Wolves Grey to lighten up the Regal Blue), so the impression of reflection of light is increased.

After that we add mixes with increasing portions of white. White (in my experience the manufacturer doesn’t really matter with this) can get a tad problematic to work with for it’s tendency to develop a “chalky” texture/look to it so make sure you never have too much white in the mix. Use a portion of Space Wolves Grey instead.

To make sure that transistions between layers are smooth (and to „tie together“ existing layers of paint), we make use of glazes. That means that we mix the colours as needed and keep the whole mix very, very thin (you can add a little Vallejo Matte Medium, Flow improver or just water). Then we take up some of the mix with the brush, wipe off excess water and apply the mix very thin but also pretty dry. To connect existing layers, use a mid-colour between the two colours and carefully apply your mix over the two layers (the brush should always go from the darker to the lighter parts). This takes a little longer but will get you better results. You can see the result in the picture on the left kneepad. On the neck armour, no washes have been applied yet.

Step 7: After some more highlighting of surfaces on the armour, followed by final highlighting on the most exposed edges (using pure white), we can start painting the visor on the helmet. Again, we will paint a light side and a darker side to makt it look more interesting. The lighter (left) side is basecoated with Space Wolves Grey, shaded very lightly with a a mix of Codex Grey and Space Wolves Grey. On the darker right side we paint on a basecoat of Codex Grey with a tiny bit of Regal Blue mixed in. The mix gets a little lighter towards the front of the visor and edges around the eye (done with Space Wolves Grey). In the picture below, we see that the highlighting on the backpack and at the bottom of the banner pole isn’t quite finished yet and that the highlights in the middle of the Ultramarines chapter symbol still looks a bit messy.

Step 8: Now that the visor is finished for now, we can start painting the inner side of the cloak. For this, we use a pretty wild mixture of black, Dheneb Stone and again a smidgeon of Regal Blue.

After a second look of the picture, I notice that the cloak looks a bit too light for my liking and a little messy in the left side. That’s why we apply a little wash consisting of Devlan Mud, Badab Black, Asurmen Blue and a tad of Kommando Khaki.

Now the front part of the cloak doesn’t look too impressive but this is what we were going for due to the following reasons: The armour should be one of the focal points on this miniature and the cloak should serve as a frame for it rather than pulling the attention away from it by being too gaudy. Apart from that, we will start painting a little freehand pattern onto the cloak in the next step. Those seldomly work perfectly well on the first attempt and probably will require some tidying up around the edges which is much more complicated if we completely finish the base colour first. That’s why the cloak isn’t quite finished yet.

Step9: After some minimal refinement on the cloak (rough highlights on the edges) we commence doing the afore mentioned freehand pattern. We start off by sketching the outlines of Ultramarines chapter symbols in the corners of the cloak (see below). We use a kind of off-white consisting of Kommando Khaki and White. Logic would dictate that we use Dheneb Stone as we used it on the cloak’s basecoat already but being a foundation paint, Dheneb Stone doesn’t like being thinned down too much and gets a little grainy. Hence Kommando Khaki for a stand-in.

After this first step, we further define the shape of the symbols. Three little stripes outline the rectangular shape of the upper parts, then we “hollow out” the round body and shape the round part if necessary. All this is done with a mix of black and Kommando Khaki.

We turn our attention to the rest of the freehand; a simple line. This is a simple and effective method to give a cloak a more interesting look without making it look too gaudy. For these lines we work the other way around – by starting with dark outlines.

Now we fill these dark outlines with the actual lines, starting with a very light mix of white, a tiny little black and kommando khaki. Then we can start highlighting these lines (by adding white to the mix)  according to where they reflect more light and where they are more shaded. We use pure white for the lightest spots. In case the lines get messed up, just fix it by reapplying the darker outline colour (it’s way more unnerving to do than just writing about it of course).

After finishing the freehand we can now finish the inner part of the cloak. Lighter colours around the dark outlines of the freehands help make them stand out even more. To finish this step, we place highlights on the Ultrmarines symbols and give the cloak a few more glazes where necessary to make it look smoother.

Step 10: After spending so much time on details, it’s time to proceed with the mini as a whole again. That’s why we give the backside of the cloak and the brush on the helmet a basecoat of Vallejo Model Color Hull Red.

After the basecoat is dry we commence shading the cloak. To achieve that, a 50/50 mix of VMC Hull Red and black is applied in the deepest folds. That looks very unsubtle for now but it gives us a good idea for where to shade and where to highlight the folds. The next thing we do is making these uncomely edges between the pure Hull Red and the shadings disappear and smoothen everything out by using a mid-colour of a 70/30 ratio of Hull Red/black.

Next thing we do is shading the very deepest folds down once again, using a very dark shade of our VMC Hull Red/black mix (about 20/80 this time). We use this mix very thin and only in the deepest parts of the deepest folds. After this is done, we can start doing highlights on the tops of the folds using mixes of VMC Hull Red and Blood Red. Keep your paint very thin for this because we don’t want any visible edges between layers.

This requires multiple layers of course, with each successing layer having an increased part of Blood Red mixed in. Just be careful not to use pure Blood Red because it tends to dry in a different way than Hull red so layers of pure Blood Red would look off in the end.


Step 11: And now for something time-intensive, fiddly and probably unnerving – another freehand pattern on the back of the cloak! It would just look too empty without anything like that and things would just be way too easy. 😉  A nice red cloak is a very neat and impressive  thing in itself and we don’t want to overdo it. The purpose of the thing we will add will be to emphasize the royal looks of the red cloak. Some people would regard this cloak as a canvas for really excessive freehand painting like a giant Ultramarines chapter symbol or even a portrait or something. I, on the other hand, think that this antique plainness fits Ultramarines very well. That’s why the plan is to do a golden laurels pattern. Metallic colours (like Boltgun Metal, Tin Bitz, Shining Gold, etc.; colours that have metallic-looking, strongly light-reflecting particles) always look off on clothes or banners. So we will have to use brown and yellow colours to simulate golden colour. You could call it a sort of pseudo-NMM (Non-Metallic Metals).

The execution of said plan: First we paint rough guidance lines using very, very thin black paint. For starters we need two parallel lines that are painted to fit how the folds go, then we add the laurels pattern. The outlines are getting another layer to make them stronger so we can use them for part of the shading as well to make the lines stand out more.

To achieve a gold look the lines are now traced with Bestial Brown. On more exposed parts we can use Snakebite Leather for that straight away. To create the impression of light and shadow, we will use lighter and darker tones and some inks lateron.

Step 12: Now that we got the basic shapes and colours done we can commence faking light reflections by highlighting exposed parts again. For this we use various mixes of Snakebite Leather and Sunburst Yellow and apply them according to the folding of the cloak. The single laurel leaves are getting highlights as if the light was coming slightly from above – this means that the upper row of leaves are getting more highlights (= are painted lighter) and very strong highlights on the upmost tips. For these very light parts, we add white to the Snakebite Leather/Sunburs Yellow-mix.

What we see in the above picture is a mistake that can happen pretty easily and which I naturally created deliberately for demonstration purposes only – the laurels pattern on the left side is way smaller and not as nice as on the right side (see the picture below).

I prefer the looks of the pattern in the second picture so I guess we have to sort out the left side. There are two ways to solve a problem such as this – we either repair the thing by touching it up a little or we just paint over the whole part and redo it from scratch. Usually, I suggest trying to repair things before dismissing them altogether but in this case, it would be very hard to do that in this case so the laurels are painted over with a mix of black and Hull Red. (first 90/10 black/Hull Red, then another mix using a 70/30 mix to do minor highlights) and we start anew.

You still can see the earlier texture show through the new layer of paint but this doesn’t really matter. Once the new patters is painted on and highlighted, the old one will be impossible to spot. You can also see that the lower line of the outlines isn’t really running parallel to the edge of the cloak. That’s not much of a problem either; we’ll fix that using highlights lateron.

Here’s the new pattern:

We also did finishing highlights on the pattern. It looks a little bit untidy up close but at a distance of 25cm and more, it looks really good.

Step 13: Now that the freehands are finished, we give the cloak itself some finishing touches. First, we work out edges between the red cloak and the freehands using highlights where they technically not belong, just as we did on the inner part of the cloak before. For highlighting the red, we use a mix of Blood Red, White and Sunburst yellow which should leave us with a peach-looking colour.

After finishing the highlights on the whole cloak, it looks like this:

Step 14: Now fort he details.

We start off with a basecoat of Tin Bitz on the parts which are going to be golden. In addition, the leather straps of the loincloth-part are basecoated with Vallejo model Colour Chocolate Brown or whatever brown you like to use for leather. Highights are done in three steps using various mixes of VMC Chocolate Brown and Bleached Bone until almost pure Bleached Bone is used for the final highlights. The main part of the straps are lying in very shadows spots so they don’t need too much attention but they should be done before the overlapping parts are done.

The scabbard gets a similar treatment like the cloak before, starting with a basecoat of VMC Hull Red. Then the scabbard and the brush on the helmet receive a heavy wash of a mix of Hull Red and black.

The leather straps are washed with Devaln Mud to finish them. The scabbard should be dry now and we start highlighting it on the left side mainly (the side that gets more light) using Hull Red followed by mixes of Hull Red, Bleached Bone and a tad of Blood Red (all applied very thinly). For further highlights, we add more Bleached bone to the mix, give the whole thing a Devlan Mud Wash, wait for everything to dry and then apply some final highlights using the lightest version of the Hull Red/Bleached Bone/Blood Red mix so far, applied only along the upper parts of the edges and to define the edge of the scabbard against the metal parts of the sword on the upper end of the scabbard.

Now the golden parts are receiving heavy highlights using Shining Gold. Very smooth transistions between layers aren’t as pivotal with metallic paints but we should keep our imaginary light sources we used when painting the armour in mind. Now we add some light highlights using Burnished Gold.

The next thing to do is shading down the metallics in more shadowy spots again to give them more depth. We use a mix of Devlan Mud, Leviathan Purple and a tad of Asurmen Blue. As you probably noticed, we use a little bit of blue in many of the mixes on this miniature. The reason for this is so we get an overall mood on the miniature and, as mentioned above, we want the blue to be the predominant colour, especially in the front. We try to keep the gold cooler and bluer rather than making it more red, yellow or purple in colour. This may look welcome on other miniatures with other colourschemes though. For a more red-ish gold, I suggest using Gryphonne Sepia or Ogryn Flesh.

After the wash is completely dry, we apply final highlights using Mithril Silver (don’t overdo it, otherwise the gold will look way too silvery) and then the metallics are finished. Note that we haven’t completely finished the metallics on the helmet’s brush yet because we have yet to paint the brush itself and there’s a chance that we would mess up the metallics so we wait with finishing those until we did the brush.

Step 15: As you can see in the picture, we do the Ultramarines symbols next. These are done in the same fashion as the visor before – using Codex Grey with a little bit of Regal Blue, Space Wolves Grey and Skull White.

The Ultramarines symbols are smoothened out now using glazes of Space Wolves Grey, Skull White and mixes of these colours.

Now for the skulls. Those receive a basecoat of Dheneb Stone (make sure you leave eye sockets and spaces between teeth – if there are any – black) and a wash of 50/50 Devlan Mud/Badab Black. I used to use pure Devlan Mud for that but over colours such as the very light Dheneb Stone it looked too brown. With Badab Black mixed in, you get more realistic results.

In the next picture you can see the finished skulls already. After the wash is completely dry, we apply highlights using Dheneb Stone followed by final highlights of mixes of Dheneb Stone and white. Pieces of parchment basically are painted in the same way with the little difference of little squiggly lines painted with very dark grey before washes are applied. The reason we do the scripture first is that the wash ties the scripture together with the rest of the parchment much better. The parchment parts are very much in the shadow of the helmet’s brush so they’ll end up pretty dark and not much attention has to be dedicated to them.

Step 16: The face. In my first Step-by-Step Painting Guide I wrote a long paragraph in which I explained how the face is not only a natural focal point of the miniature but is also very important for the character of the miniature; every little spot around the mouth or the eyes can make the difference between grim staring, smug grinning and brainless goggling. That’s why I will keep this short and just say that the face is very important to the overall look of a miniature.

Skin tone is also an important factor to the tone of a miniature. Rosey-looking, healthy skin, sickly skin, an unnatural colour, pale and dead-ish and so on. No two miniatures in the world have the same face.

In this case we do it as follows: A basecoat of Dheneb Stone, a heavy wash of skin colours (up to your preferences) mixed with washes. You can use whatever you like, depending on the mood the face is supposed to carry.

After that, you use a lighter skin colour for highlights. Here’s what was bascially done on this miniature: Dwarf Flesh/Devlan Mud/Leviathan Purple mix, highlights with Elf Flesh, highlights with Elf Flesh/White, final punctual inking around the eyes with Devlan Mud, the lower lip was painted with Tanned Flesh/Dwarf Flesh and highlighted with a lighter version of that mix (lightened up by adding white).

During the times we have to wait for he washes on the skin to dry, we can finish the brush on the helmet using mixes of VMC Hull Red and Blood Red on the red parts and the usual grey/blue/white mix we used on the visor and Ultramarines symbols before on the whilte bristles.

Now we can do the gemstones. For painting those, I stick to the numerous tutorials on painting oval gemstones. On this miniature, the colours black, blood red, sunburst yellow and white were used.

Here’s the finished face and hair now:

Step 17: The backbanner. Surely the most complicated part on this is getting the backside of the banner to look smooth in this particular colour. Our plan is to get a colour that is a little lighter than on the inner side of the cloak and a little bit cooler. Not really white but also not grey but in this general direction. The colour used is a wild mix of Kommando Khaki, Codex Grey and White.

The front of the banner is more colourful but with no really new colours. The red frame is done like the cloak,  with a VMC Hull Red base followed by a little wash and mixes of VMC Hull Red and Blood Red for highlights. The blue is basically Regal Blue and highlighs based on mixes of Regal Blue and white. The scroll is basecoated with Dheneb Stone. The Ultramarines symbol in the middle receives a basecoat of Space Wolves Grey, Codex Grey and a hint of blue.

The most complex thing on that ist he double headed eagle. Again, we don’t do this one with metallics but browns and yellows for a fake golden look. As before, we start off with a Bestial Brown basecoat and work our way up using Snakebite Leather, Sunburst Yellow and white.

Now for further details: The skulls on the ends of the banner pole, the gemstone and the crux terminatus, the laurels on the bellyplate, the banner and the skull on top of everything (Dark Angels Green, highlights with Dark Angels Green/Bleached Bone and final highlights using Dark Angels Green/white) and the Ultramarines symbol is highlighted.

Step 18: Let’s get to the last part of painting this guy – the word SICARIUS on the banner (the last picture of Step 17 already displayed a first stab at that). We saved this bit for last; not because it’s going to be much fun but because this is going to be quite challenging. Just to get this out of the way – of course we work with a brush here and not with an Xacta Pen or anything like that. We’re painting a miniature here and don’t write an essay. 😉

It is advisable to do a sketch first so we get an idea of the space and how it is to be distributed among the letters of the word. Don’t try to just write the name in one go from left to right as you would usually do; you’d most probably run into the problem we all know from writing a long phrase on a blackboard at school – you simply will run out of space or it will be much too short to fill the space.

To avoid this problem and to keep the letters about the same size throughout the whole text, we start by painting the first and last letter using a fine brush (I used a 00 size one for this) and a very thin very dark grey. S probably is the letter I dread the most to paint because round shapes are much harder to paint than straight ones and S is a combination of two tiny rounds. After these are done to a satisfying size, we go on to to the second and second last letters, so we do an I and a U. We go on like that until we got all the letters in a rough version. If the A and the R are about in the middle, we’re fine and we can go on to refining the look of the scripture.

For this, removing and redoing the upper halves of the Ss pretty much was the first thing I did. Adding serifs not only makes the text look more stylized but also helps to cheat a little with gaps and sizes. In the picture below you can see the finished text. It’s not perfect but perfect enough.

Step 19: Now that this is done, the parchment is getting some shading and highlgithing. The blue part of the banner is washed with Asurmen Blue and receives some final highlights. Now we can go hunt for details we forgot painting so far. This means the “grille” in the visor’s snout, a hidden frag grenade, the tubes at the left foot and the face and so on.

Now the miniature is sealed with clear varnish. First, a layer of Citadel ‘Ardcoat is brushed on…

….and to finish the sealing, a thin coat of Vallejo Acrylic Matte Varnish is applied.

With this, Sicarius is finished. He can be placed on any base you like now, like this:

With these pictures I end my second Step-by-Step Painting Project. I hope that you enjoyed the read and maybe some of you can draw inspiration from it for painting your own miniatures. For questions, suggestions and critique, please contact me via For painting/modelling commission requests, please use the same adress.

All the best for 2011. 🙂


All of the above material (with the exception of single titles and names that are trademarketed by Games Workshop Ltd. or Acrylicos Vallejo) are ©Battle Brush Studios, 2011

6 Responses to “All-New Step-by-Step Painting Guide – Ultramarines Captain Sicarius”

  1. Eldritch says:

    You sir, are a hero.
    Great tutorial, many thanks!

  2. SonicCross says:

    I loved this tutorial it’s very complete. As a total beginner that want’s to paint miniatures in display quality this tutorial will be very helpful. I just miss that I can’t see how thinned are your paints. Maybe can we expect a video for the next time? 😉

  3. Mister Feral says:

    Excellent tutorial, a real insight into how a painter as good as yourself works in such depth. 🙂

    Good choice doing his hair in white, beats the original GW paintjob by far.!

  4. […] If you’ve been to the Tabletop Geeks member galleries then you have probably seen some of Sigur’s work. He has definitely done some very great miniatures. However, he’s done more than just paint some miniatures, he’s been putting up painting guides to go along with some of them as well! These guides are excellent and a great way to pick up some new painting techniques for yourself. I highly recommend checking out both Sigur’s site and the painting guide […]

  5. Old School says:

    Great tutorial Sigur! But you know what I loved to see from talented artists like yourself? Your actual brush-strokes, to actually see you paint. See your paint brushes and how you actually apply the paint.

  6. Svenn says:

    Wow, you always amaze me with your painting jobs, Sigur. This painting guide is amazingly well done! The miniature turned out great and there are a lot of good techniques to pick up in here! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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