New Step-by-step painting article!

Space Wolves Wolf Guard Battle Leader Step-by-Step

Hello and welcome to this third instalment of my Step-by-Step painting tutorial articles. During the past few months I was asked repeatedly how I painted Space Wolves and battle-damaged power armour. After some consideration I decided that now is the time to finally put this plan into action. So here is my Step-by-Step painting tutorial III and we’re painting a Space Wolves Wolf Guard Battle Leader.


If you read my earlier tutorial articles you’re familiar with the modus operandi. For those of you who are new, here is a little explaining: Basically, this is a full commentary on how I paint a single miniature to what I call elevated tabletop level. What you will find here is straight up painting with very little fancy materials and techniques involved so with a little practice everybody will be able to recreate this work. For the first few steps I am using my trusty airbrush but the same effect can be achieved with regular painting as well. Especially with the way this miniature is being painted, an airbrush isn’t mandatory at all. All you really need is a miniature, a knife, glue, some basing materials and a few good brushes. For painting this miniature, I mostly used a size 1 brush. A size 0 was employed for painting teeth and doing some very fine blacklining.

One word about paints – I am using a wide variety of paints from a wide variety of manufacturers. For this project I mainly used Citadel paints (regular ones, foundation paints and washes), Coat d’Arms (CdA) paints and Vallejo paints of the Model Colour (VMC) and Model Air (VMA) ranges. I am aware that most people who read this probably mostly use Citadel paints so I will see that I always give Citadel equivalents or alternatives when mentioning a colour from another brand.

Step 1: Assembly, basing

This model is built from the regular Space Wolves pack box which has a huge variety of options. It’s really a treasure chest of bits and especially wild, barbaric looking heads. As you can see, this fella sports a Thunder Hammer and a Bolt Pistol. There are no conversions done on this miniature. After the cleaning and assembly the miniature is glued to the base and different kinds of sand, a few pebbles and a tree stump miniature were added.

I don’t glue the shoulder pads and frontal dagger sheaths to the model because the former would be much harder to paint if they were glued to the model right from the beginning and the latter would obstruct large parts of the front of the model.

After everything is cured the model is primed black. After priming I look over the whole miniature and fill non-black gaps with black paint and a brush so the whole miniature is covered in black paint.

Step 2: Basecoating

Now the first two layers of paint are applied using my airbrush. First a layer of Vallejo Model Air Intermediate Blue (a very dark blue-grey. Can be substituted by using a mix of Codex Grey and Black). The paint is not being sprayed all over the miniature but only from the top down at an angle of at least 60 degrees so we get a natural shading effect right from the start. It also gives us a good impression on where the light falls onto the model and where the darker areas are.

After this first layer, we do another one with Codex Grey. Again, only from the top and less heavy than the earlier VMA Intermediate Blue layer.

Now we start drybrushing. For the first layer, I use CdA Shadow Grey (just like Citadel Shadow Grey)

…and then another light drybrush using CdA Lupin Grey (the equivalent of Space Wolves Grey).

Now we got a very grey Space Marine already. Not bad. For the typically Space Wolfian blue tint, I give the whole model a wash with Asurmen Blue. (A note if you don’t like the blue-ish look on Space Wolves: Last year I painted a pure grey Space Wolves army of which you can see the pictures in the gallery on my website/blog. The painting recipe was slightly different but for the grey look, just use a Badab Black wash at this point rather than Asurmen Blue.)

Now we leave the wash to dry completely. Never paint on a miniature that still has wet washes on it – patience is key.

Step 3: Secondary colours, battle damage and highlights

The basecoat of the armour is done. Now we can start first detailwork. For this we start by painting portions of the model which are going to be black or differently coloured black again just so we get an idea what we’re doing next and to get some black outlines for later.

It’s time to add another colour now and this colour is yellow. The shoulder pads are painted with Iyanden Darksun (with the great company insignia on one shoulder pad and spikes on the other shoulder pad getting painted black again) and a zig-zag pattern is painted onto the right knee pad.

After the yellow is completely dried, apply some Gryphonne Sepia Wash over it (watered down of course. Washes shouldn’t be used “right out of the pot” but always should have water added).

Now for the thing many people are curious about – battle damage. There are several ways of doing it but I found the sponge method to give me the most satisfying results.


It’s done using a piece of foam or sponge like in the picture here. I like to use either the foam parts you get in some blisters or from the pieces you push out of army case foam trays. You can also nick a piece of kitchen sponge as well though. I like to “sharpen” it a little to get a little more control. The basic idea is that with a sponge like that, you get much more random patterns and very fine dots or slashes of paint due to the sponge’s texture and depending on how you use it (“stab” it at the model and you get little holes like from shrapnel, acid sprays and so on. Lightly wipe it over the surface and you get cuts or slashes like claw marks or hits from sharp mêlée weapons).

For the colour, I use a very, very dark grey (black with a hint of grey or white mixed in). Just be sure not to make it too light otherwise you won’t see the marks on the armour later on.

You will notice that the black dots and marks have no three dimensional looks to them what so ever. It just looks like black sparkles. So now we have to give them some depth and outlines. Apart from that, we also have to highlight the armour itself of course! Both is done in one go and using CdA Shadow Grey (or Citadel Shadow Grey).

With this little picture here I try to explain the theory behind what these little “holes” and “slashes” are supposed to look like:

As you can see, “highlights” are only placed on the lower edges of the holes because this is where the light is getting reflected the most. This is how the three dimensional efffect is achieved.

The rest of the highlights are painted as usual and simply according to edge highlighting. Just keep in mind how battle damage on edges of the armour change how the edges go of course. Also keep in mind that you only have to highlight parts that are going to stay gray of course.

Step 3 – Tertiary colours

Now that the main parts of the armour are done we can proceed to the tertiary colours. First, the golden parts. This is rather simple once you got a good recipe for gold. If you read my earlier tutorials you’re already familiar with my two favourite recipes to do gold but just in case you haven’t, here’s the gist of it: People often ask me about what basecoat to use for painting gold because it’s really the thing that makes or breaks your attempts at painting gold. Simply put, gold paints don’t cover well when applied over a dark base colour. They need a basecoat that supports them. There are several colours to use for that but when it comes to dark paintjobs like on this Space Wolf, I favour Tin Bitz (that strange metallic fella I never quite knew what to do with for a long time).

After this basecoat it’s not a big problem to apply Shining Gold at the more exposed parts (leave the Tin Bitz bare at lower parts, in recesses and where no light shines in general) and get a satisfying effect. Apart from that, I also apply Boltgun Metal to the Bolt Pistol and other parts that will be silver-coloured later on and get a wash with watered-down Badab Black.

As soon as everything is dry I commence painting the final highlighting stages onto the metallics. For that I use Mithril Silver and just highlight the golden and other metal parts with it. Especially with gold you don’t have to pay that much attention to smooth transitions because you want sharp reflections rather than very samey-looking surfaces.

Larger silver surfaces like the front of the Thunderhammer need more attention and smoother painting so I use very thin layers of Chainmail, Boltgun Metal and Mithril Silver. I also use Chainmail to paint the larger holes in the armour silvery. These are the parts where some kind of impact didn’t just scratch the paint of the armour but also damaged the material itself. Technically, it would be good to also have deeper and lighter parts within these silver areas but we’re trying to keep this job within a certain time limit.

At this stage, I also finish the shoulder pads (highlighted the black parts), add battle damage to them as well and glue them in place. Now the Space Wolf is starting to take shape and we can start thinking about names and character traits for him while painting. :-)

Now for a sip of coffee and off to the next step – adding more colour. The next largest surface to paint are browns. The Thunderhammer’s grip, the wolf tail on the backpack, the bolt pistol’s handle and the grips of the daggers given a basecoat of VMC Chocolate Brown which is a very nice brown base colour for many occations. (Can be emulated with Citadel colours by mixing Scorched Brown with Graveyard Earth and a little black I guess). I also painted some of it onto the base of the hair.

Now highlight the wolf tail with various mixes of VMC Chocolate Brown and Bleached Bone.First layer about 70/30, then 50/50, then 20/80, final highlights with the same mix as the last layer of highlights but with some white mixed in as well. Highlight the hammer’s handle and the dagger handles with CdA Mid Stone (which is a sort of a slightly lighter version of Snakebite Leather. Mix Snakebite Leather with a bit of Sand Yellow and you get something like Mid Stone).

Wash all browns with Devlan Mud and put a hint of Badab Black into the recesses where the brown meets with another colour while the Devlan Mud still is wet to get a pretty neat and smooth enhanced shading effect. Highlight the weapon handles with bleached bone.

Step 4 – The Face

Now we go for the first and usually main focal point of the whole miniature. A miniature’s face holds most of the character which is determined by the tone of skin, the look, the facial expression and so on. Tiniest differences can change the facial expression and hardly any face is the same, even with mass-produced plastic miniatures.

First, we gave the face a basecoat of a mix of CdA Tan Earth (pretty much mid-way between Snakebite Leather and Sand Yellow) and Dheneb Stone.

Now we apply a wash of a wild mix of Tanned Flesh, CdA Tan Earth, Ogryn Flesh Wash and Gryphonne Sepia Wash. Let it dry. Then I do a few layers of highlights for which I use Elf Flesh. I start out by painting the exposed parts (chin, eyebrows, nose, cheeks), then I connect these parts with the rest of the flesh by using very much watered down Elf Flesh and swipe from the darker parts of the face into the elf flesh parts. This slowly gets you a smooth transition between the very light and very dark parts. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to get any light paint into the dark recesses like those around the mouth or the deepest parts of the eyes.

To reinforce the facial expression I add a little bit of Leviathan Purple Wash around the nose, under the cheek bones, in the eye sockets and under the lower lip. Apart from that, detail has been added to the face: The tongue (mostly based on Tanned Flesh, Elf Flesh and White) and teeth (I’d never use pure white for teeth. Always use a slightly off-white colour. In this case I added a little bit of Snakebite leather and still had a tiny bit of black on the brush). Note how the fangs are worked out instead of just doing one row of teeth.

Step 5 – Details and hair

After all the fun that was painting the face I went on to do something a little less fun – black weapon casings. Nothing special, just plain old edge highlighting with mixes of black and white. As long as I don’t have to do a whole lot of the same range of greys I usually just go for using appropriate mixes of black and white.

Apart from that, I did some further detailing – the gemstones on the Bolt Pistol and backpack, the tubing between armour parts like the back of the knees, arm joints and so on. The Thunder Hammer got the details done as well – mostly tubing and cables again to add some colour to the model. On the daggers bit, I started painting the grenades.

Now let’s solve the mystery why the guy’s hair was half-painted in that weird way all the time. The hair is going to be red – appropriate for a space viking and to give us additional contrast on the mini as well as a proper frame to call attention to the face. The dark brown is now mostly covered with Bestial Brown apart from deepest recesses close to the face to have some sort of outline.

After that basecoat I proceed to place highlights. For this, I mix Bestial Brown with Bleached Bone.

Here is the finished hair now after a few layers of mixes of Bestial Brown and Bleached Bone and later with White. I really enjoy painting ginger hair like that.

After adding a tiny little more detail to the knives part it’s finally time to glue it to the model. I refrained from doing that earlier because painting the grenades would have really been more annoying than necessary that way. The frag grenade was simply painted green (CdA Russian Green but Dark Angels Green is just as fine), a little wash (Badab Black, Devlan Mud, Thraka Green – whatever you prefer) and then the single parts of the fragmentation mantle were edge highlighted. The krak grenade was painted with black, blood red and white. All silvery parts on this bit got a basecoat of Boltgun Metal.

Seems like we’re entering the final stages here. After some consideration, I decided to go for a leathery red colour on the dagger sheaths. The colour was achieved by using VMC Hull Red for the base colour and highlights of mixes of VMC Hull Red, something sandy-looking (you can use Graveyard Earth, Desert Yellow, Khaki, Snakebite Leather, … whatever you got on the table at the moment. I used CdA Tan Earth again) and bleached Bone later on followed by a wash with devlan Mud to darken down the whole thing towards the lower end. The dagger handles got the regular Tin Bitz-Shining Gold treatment and I’m sure you can guess what comes next.

In this picture you can see how the sheaths were reinforced, the metallics got highlights and the things that hold the braids together were painted in a silvery colour. The little piece of cloth and the small skull in the middle gets a basecoat and a wash (the piece of cloth is yellow-ish in colour; Dheneb Stone mixed with CdA Tan Earth again and got a Devlan Mud wash), the skull is basecoated with pure Dheneb Stone and gets a wash of Badab Black and Devlan Mud.

Some highlights on the little skull, the wolf tooth talisman on his bolt pistol arm and a basecoat on the rune stone that dangles from his daggers. Once that rune stone and the pendant are done we can have another look at the miniature overall, do the base and we’re done!

After some basing (static grass, some linden tree leaves and wet snow) and tiny little touch-ups here and there we can have a look at the finished product:

So that’s it for the third Step-by-Step tutorial article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it helpful for your own painting. or questions, suggestions and critique, please contact me via battlebrushstudios@gmail.com. For painting/modelling commission requests, please use the same adress. Have fun!

- Sigur

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


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7 Responses to “New Step-by-step painting article!”

  1. arcticor says:

    Hey! I must say this is one astounding tutorial. I know the new Games Workshop paints are similar but not the same as the old ones. How would you adapt this tutorial to use the new paints? Or would the slight color changes not make a difference.

  2. sigur says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. :)

    @Jason: I usually do different recipies for tanks altogether so it’s a bit hard to adapt this 1:1. I plan to do some tutorials on tanks in the future as well though.

  3. Jason says:

    This tutorial has been a savior this week… My plans to finish my army for a tournament went horribly wrong this week, coupled with travel for work forcing me to pick up my airbrush and learn how to use it…

    How could I adapt this same tutorial to use on tanks?

  4. DIDM says:

    thanks so much

  5. OldHat says:

    Whew! That is a nice tutorial!

  6. Svenn says:

    Awesome! Another great guide. Keep em coming. :)

  7. miss scheritzko says:

    i like a lot! muhahaha! thank you

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