Sons of Horus Tutorial

The Sons of Horus and all the other traitor marines are trampling all over Terra end the Emperor’s palace at the end of the Horus Heresy! At least that is what is going on in the new game Age of Darkness from Games Workshop.

I’ve always loved the Horus Heresy and have rather enjoyed reading all the novels. I haven’t made many Heresy era space marines before, but I do love their aesthetic and the background for them. Since I collect Black Legion, I have a certain affinity for the Sons of Horus, as they are the genesis of the Black Legion…

Tutorial Time

I have decided to do a little tutorial on how I paint my Horus Heresy marines. It is a quite fast way, that is useful for painting whole units or even armies of them. You can use this for any space marine really, but for this I use a Son of Horus! They are part of the biggest battle of all of the 40K universe and should look suitably weathered and dirty!

Now let’s get to it:

I have assembled my MK VI space marine Actually these are my first beakies, though I would love to have done some of the old metal ones, perhaps someday for an oldhammer 40K project… The old plastic ones were never really my thing. These new plastics are awesome though! I like their proportions, slightly larger than normal marines, but still smaller than primaris. Their taller profile makes for a slightly more realistic feel. If the word realistic can ever be used about space marines.

First things first; we need some texture and detail on the base. For a simple base like this one, I mix a little PVA glue with some sand and some soil. I add a few slate stones, Juweela bricks and a bit from an old clockwork to represent rubble and destroyed machinery… points of interest. You can also add skulls and gears, but don’t do that on all your bases, save it for the more special ones.

Just smear the mixture on the base and spread it with a moist, old brush. Then add the machine part, bricks and slate rock, by pressing them into the mix, randomly. After that I springle a little more soil all over the base.

Leave it to dry. Here in the summertime, you can put it out in the sun for a faster drying time.

Once the base is dry, you need to seal it. I do that by applying some thinned down PVA all over it. This glue should be very thin; something like 4 parts water to 1 part glue. Use your old brush for that. Once I have covered it with the glue, I load my brush with a little of the thinned down glue and dip it in a little static grass, this I smear randomly at a few places of my base to represent a little bedraggled vegetation. This can then be painted in to look part of the base and look all ruined and burned if you like. For a battlefield like the Siege of Terra, you don’t want any fresh and green plants to stand out on your bases!

Put it back in the sun to dry.

After this sealing layer of thinned down PVA is dry, it looks like this. Now the miniature is ready for a blast of chaos black from the spray can. You can base coat your minis with airbrush if you wish or even brush, like I did in the old days, but I find that the black spray from GW is the best, so I use it almost exclusively.

Let’s get painting

After the black spray, it is time to fire up the color canon AKA the airbrush. VMA 71267 Light Green is suitable for Sons of Horus. I use a little black for shading and a little white for light. I use the airbrush to cover his armor… well almost all of the miniature, as well as establishing a zenithal light source.

Start by mixing a little Light Green and Black for the shadows.

When painting the shadows using the Green/black mix, start by hitting the legs straight from the sides, so you only get a little overspray in the darkest areas. Then as you move upwards on the miniature, angle the airbrush upwards, so you now hit the undersides and get further into the shadows with the paint. Then spray on a layer of pure Light Green. This time hit the legs only at an angle from above, moving the airbrush into a more straight angle as you progress up over the body… Lastly mix some white into the green for the highlights… This time… you guessed it, only the uppermost areas and only at an angle from above. My figure did get a little bright, but that is going to change dramatically in the end.

Now pay close attention as I speed things up a little.

As soon as I had airbrushed my Space Marine, I painted the base an earth brown, followed by a rust red and a neutral grey on the bricks, machine part and rocks respectively. These 3 colors went down wet in wet, it only takes a minute or two. This will not be the final expression of the base, but only a start. As everything is broken and dirty on a battlefield such as this, all colors will blend together. Rust and brick dust will mix with churned up earth and concrete dust, which will in turn mix with ashes and soot, be rained upon and sprayed by oil and blood… you get the picture.

Once the paint was dry, I slapped some Contrast Black Templar on the bolt gun, belts and the handle of the bolt pistol he is carrying at the left hip. Then a little Contrast Wyldwood on the bolt pistol holster. I then used a dark grey to add some highlights to the belts at his chest.

Finally I panted the eye lenses red, followed by a tiny dot of white in each.

At this point I had picked out everything not metal. Most of the bolt gun will be gun metal, but the combat blade and slide are supposed to be black on my figure, so I painted the whole thing black to prepare it for the metal color, which will follow in a minute!

I am still moving forward at quite a fast pace, so hang on… Well the steps are quite small, so much happens in only a few pictures.

Using one of those short-bristled dry brushes, I stippled and dry brushed him all over with VMC Pale Sand. Be very careful on the miniature itself, keep only a tiny little bit of paint on the brush. You only need the dry brushing to make details pop and to create a little bit of a roughness on the airbrushed surface. This helps me to achieve a weathered look. You can go a lot heavier on the base, as it is all about creating an uneven surface, that is to be washed as you can see above. I basically do this by loading the brush, wiping off the excess, and then start stippling and dry brushing the base. When the paint is almost gone from the brush, I move it up on the miniature and continue there until there is no paint left. This makes for a very subtle dry brushing on the miniature.

Once I was satisfied with the dry brushing, I diluted some black paint to a very thin and watery glaze, I took some rusty red-brown and a green and thinned them down somewhat less. I painted the black glaze all over the base, then added the green at random, quickly followed by the brown in places like the bricks and machine part, as well as some random splotches here and there. I let all these three washes flow together for a nicely natural appearance.

Time to paint the metals, now that I am done dry brushing my Son of Horus. The bolt gun got a mix of GW Leadbelcher and black for a proper gun metal, this was highlighted a bit with pure Leadbelcher followed by a mix of Leadbelcher and silver. There is a buckle on the pistol holster at his hip, which also got the Leadbelcher.

The studs on his left shoulder pad got a helping of GW Runelord Brass and highlighted with a little silver added.

I lightly dry brushed the base with VMC Pale Sand, just to get the texture back. And well, it will need some light a little later on.

I airbrushed some gloss varnish all over my Son of Horus here in preparation for the last step. Now this is not the weathered look of Battlefield Terra that we’re looking for, not by a long shot… This looks more like a factory-new armor, just delivered to the legion, never tested in battle yet. But trust the process, we’re not done yet, but don’t you think it was quite fast and easy to get to this point?

Once the varnish was dry, I added the Sons of Horus symbol decal on his right shoulder plate. In order to make the decal film disappear, you have to cover it with another layer of gloss varnish afterwards, so I did just that.

Now let’s do something about that pristine look…

Use a suitable palette, like the lid of a jar for instance. squeeze out a little Raw Umber and a little Black oil paints. When you use oils on miniatures, you need to protect the acrylic paints underneath and make a smooth surface, that is easy to remove the paint from, hence the gloss varnish.

Thin down the Raw Umber with a little white spirit. Don’t make it super thin like a glaze or filter, just thin it a little, so you can handle it with a brush. A little like thick cream.

Smear the slightly thinned Raw Umber all over the figure starting from the head and shoulders, working your way downwards. Add a little black to the brown as you move down the figure, so the shadows and weathering will get gradually darker downwards. Add some extra black to the gun for a more oily look.

Be sure to work this oil wash into all the recesses of the figure.

Let the oil paint spread all over the base too, though you don’t need the black here.

Now your Space Marine should look like this! Terrible isn’t it?

Let it sit for a couple of minutes and enjoy the sight.

Let the oil paint sit for 2-3 minutes until it starts to dry and adhere to the surface.

Start removing the paint with a large flat brush, dipped in white spirit. Keep a piece of tissue paper handy for removing excess White spirit and residual paint from the brush, to keep everything under control.

The aim is not to remove all the oil paint, put let it stay in all the little crevasses and recesses and define detail. Also let some of it sit back on the surfaces to represent dirt and weathering. But it is entirely possible to go for a much cleaner look with only the tiniest amount of oil paint left to accentuate detail, it is merely a question of how much you remove.

And here is the final result!

After the oil paint and all the white spirit had dried, I airbrushed a layer of matte varnish all over the miniature and painted the base edge black.

So this is it! A super fast way to paint space marines gritty and dirty! Not exactly show case quality, but they work very well for the battlefield!

You can also paint tanks like this. The technique of using oil washes like this comes from armor modelling. This method is also very well suited for batch painting, you can easily paint a whole squad like this at a time.

More angles…

Some poor hab block is being cleared out by the Sons of Horus.

As always I hope to inspire you to try something new with your miniatures and add some good storytelling to them. Also bear in mind that practice makes perfect! If this technique doesn’t yield the desired result in your first go, then try again or paint that whole squad a little at a time and just wait to enjoy the fruits of your labor as you see how you get better and better at this.

This technique can be done with any combination of color… within reason, use your imagination and apply these techniques with other colors and different miniatures. There is no limit but the imagination.

Thanks for reading!


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