I've gotten a fair number of requests on how I paint my Space Wolves, so I’m taking some time during my current unit project to make a series of step-by-step tutorials for painting Space Wolves to a high tabletop quality. The method is mostly pretty easy to get the hang of, only moderately time consuming, and yields a good result, especially if you’re looking to jump on the Horus Heresy bandwagon that is currently picking up steam; most of my models sport pieces of older suits at least, and my scheme is in keeping with the medium grey, limited palette of the chapter during its legion days. But enough of that, let’s get to the painting!
First off, let me say that the initial part of this process is done with an airbrush. Any dual action airbrush ought to handle the job, and you might find that a single action will also work, as it’s only for the basecoat and zenithal highlighting aspects of the armor plates; everything else on the model will be done with either a brush or a sponge. If you don’t have an airbrush, you can layer to build up highlights on the model. It’s more time consuming, but it gets the job done.
Paints you’ll need for this tutorial (GW is from the
, VMC is Vallejo
Model Color): Games Workshop
GW Adeptus Battlegrey
GW Devlan Mud
VMC Pale Greyblue
GW Boltgun Metal
VMC German Grey
For your Great Company emblem and pack markings, use what you like, including waterslide transfers. Most of my work is done in freehand, so that’s reflected here.
GW Tausept Ochre
GW Iyanden Darksun
GW Ceramite White
Long Fang Pack Marking
GW Badab Black
GW Astronomican Grey
GW Ceramite White
VMC German Grey
VMC Iraqian Sand
I’ve broken the paints down to what you’ll need for each part, so if a paint is repeated, it’s simply because you need it for additional areas.
If you find you don't have a paint I've listed (most come from before their range overhaul) and need to know what current GW paint is closest to it, check out the Citadel Conversion Chart!
1: The model has been prepared; mold lines are removed, and you can see the conversions made to the model, including a studded left pauldron, a unique banner device, and his right hand has been built to hold his helmet. I envision that he’s removed his helmet to use his lupine senses as well as the auspex to "sniff out" enemies to target.
2: The model has been primed. I used black here, as it sets a darker tone for the armor after the other colors are applied.
3: The model has received a coat of GW Dawnstone from the airbrush. As the model is tabletop, I keep the paint lighter on the underside of the model, allowing me to use the black as the darker underside of the armor. If you want your underside to not be quite so dark, you can spray a reverse-zenithal coat using GW Adeptus Battlegrey (something I do when working on a model of a higher quality).
4: I’ve gone over the model with a zenithal highlight of VMC Pale Greyblue. Keep this coat light, going over the top of the model at about a 20 degree angle. You should get brighter coverage on high points, like the top of the helmet and pauldrons, and just a bit of paint on lower areas like the top of his knees or his feet. This will conclude the airbrush work for the model.
5: The armor plates have been given a thinned wash of GW Devlan Mud. I thinned the wash down to 3 parts water to 2 parts paint, as you aren’t looking to deepen the color of the model much, but simply to give the crevices a little more definition and to take a bit of the blue out of your zenithal highlight. If I were painting a higher-quality model, I would glaze the deeper areas with GW Leviathan Purple and then GW Asurman Blue prior to this step, to create deeper contrast beyond the Adeptus Battlegrey shade coat.
Keep this coat wet until an entire plate receives coverage, as you don’t want water lines if you can help it. Don’t sweat a couple of them here and there; we have a trick for that later! Use your brush to pull the wash toward your crevices, so that a minimal amount is left sitting on the plates.
6: VMC Pale Greyblue has been used to line the edges of the plates. You don’t need to edge everywhere; in fact it won’t actually look very good if you start lining the black part of the model. Keep your lines thin, and the plates are done! Now we just have to add a bit of character…
7a: I’ve added my insignias to the model. The Sunwolf was painted first with a coat of GW Tausept Ochre, and then highlighted with GW Iyanden Darksun, paying attention to the angle of the plate to continue the zenithal highlight on the plates, and to create a bit more definition on the edges of the fur spikes, etc. Finally, the emblem was edged with a 1:1 mix of Iyanden Darksun and GW Ceramite White, to get a bit of pop and make the emblem stand out better; You probably noticed when you did the basecoat, that the yellow doesn’t contrast well against the grey.
7b: As this marine is a Long Fang, his pack colors are black and white. I keep my markings more low-key, and place them on the right knee. I start by painting the entire area the pack marking will encompass with VMC German Grey, followed by a wash of GW Badab Black, straight from the pot. I then edge the high points of the plate with German Grey, followed by finer edge with 1:1 German Grey and VMC Iraqian Sand.
The picture below is a digital representation of how I went about adding the white to form a geometric pack marking.
I start by making a 1:1 mix of GW Astronomican Grey and GW Ceramite White. For this marking, I started with a single straight line, telling me where the point of the first white triangle would land. From that point, I made two more lines, creating the outline of the triangle, and then filling that space in.
I decided that wasn't enough and went on to make more triangles, using the first as a guide for my angle, to keep everything uniform and symmetrical. Once the shape was in place, I highlighted the edges hit by light with pure Ceramite White.
8: Along the way, you probably made some mistakes (I know I do). Maybe you see a water line on your model, or a place where you edged the armor too thickly. In my case, you might notice a bit of my sunwolf base color creeping out past where I highlighted to define the fur spike better, at the top of the wolf. This step covers these issues, as well as making your army look like it belongs on the battlefield. Take a small sponge (I like to use blister foam) and VMC German Grey, dab the sponge in the paint, and then on a paper towel a few times, and then sponge some of the color on the plates, paying attention to places more likely to see wear and tear, and making sure to hit those spots that have been bothering you up to this point.
9: Take your brush and go back with GW Boltgun Metal. Paint inside the larger splotches of German Grey, indicating where an abrasion has taken the paint all the way down to the bare metal. For a higher quality model, my additional step is to go back and edge the underside of the splotches with VMC Pale Greyblue, but I’ve skipped this step for the tabletop models, as it’s more time consuming and they are busy enough from 3 feet as it is.
You’re done with the armor plates! Hopefully you were operating an assembly line, and have a whole pack done up to this point, in which case sit back with a well-earned ale and marvel at your accomplishment!
Thanks for stopping in, and make sure to come back soon, as I tackle more of the model in part 2 of the Space Wolf Step-by-step!