There are a ton of ways to approach painting space marines beyond the standard Games Workshop method, this is one which I find a lot more freeing and enjoyable. It’s not the only, or even the primary way that I paint up my space marines, but I recently painted two Intercessors as gifts using this technique so here we are. I think it works so well on marines because they’re pretty much just suits of armour, which you often want painted all the same color. Once the armour is done the rest can be finished quite quickly, so marines painted this way don’t take too long at all!
Step 1: First things first
To begin I converted some Intercessors to look cool with some cutting and re-posing of joints. Then they were primed blacked followed by white for a strong zenithal light. The priming really isn’t a big deal, do whatever you normally would do. White is great for brighter colors, and black for darker.
Step 2: The fun bit!
I covered the whole model in a pretty watery mid-tone (in the case of our blue model this was Kantor Blue). The consistency is key, you don’t want it to just flow off the model but it needs to be wet enough that you have a long drying time and can easily wet-blend. Then you can sloppily blend in shadows with thick paints straight from the pot (Necron Abyss and then Black). You’re not trying for nice smooth blends at this point, just getting the color in the right place and letting the wet paints naturally blend together as you do so. After the shadows I did the same for the highlights (Temple Guard Blue and White), just roughly blending in where I think light would hit or reflect. If there are parts of the armour like the shoulderpads that will be a different color like with the red Blood Raven model you can obviously ignore those. You probably won’t have more than 5-10 minutes of working time, which I find helps me mentally get over the urge to be neat and clean. You’ve gotta go fast, no time to be neat!
Once you can see the paint beginning to dry don’t touch those areas any more, just set the mini down and wait for it to dry fully. It won’t look pretty, that’s fine. All this is supposed to get us is a rough placement of light and shadow.
Step 3: Refinement
Okay so now we can worry about making it look nice. You can spend as much or as little time as you want doing this, I’m a fan of the rougher, “painterly” or even “grimdark” looks and don’t often bother trying to get things to look perfect. If that crisp, clean, shiny look is what your goal is then you will simply need to spend more time on this stage of the process. So, on to the process!
Using thinned versions of the same colors already on the palette from your wet blending stage, you’re now going to smooth out the transitions between colors. I did this with a typical layering technique, going over harsh transitions with the mid-tone, brightening up highlight areas with more careful applications of the highlight colors, etc… You are probably going to want to go in to darken the deepest shadows and brighten your highlights because the wet blending earlier would have brought them closer to your mid-tone, even if you used pure black or white.
When I’m feeling pretty good about the blends on the armour panels I then accentuate the recesses with a shadow color. I just do the ones that stand out to me as needing it though, definitely not all of them. The same thing goes for edge highlights, I only hit the noticeable ones and only give a select few areas a second, brighter edge highlight (like the upper edge of the kneepad). Again, you can always put in more effort than I do and it will look better, I’m just lazy and don’t feel that the time & effort are worth it for gaming models.
Step 4: Paint the rest
Yep, that’s the end of the tutorial. There’s nothing special or interesting about how I paint the various leather straps, bolters, purity seals, grenades, etc… Do whatever you normally would, these are small details of the model and aside from the weapon and eye lenses/face none of them are terribly important. I might do quick tutorials on a few different ways of painting leather and eye lenses and such if there is interest but honestly there are already so many of those out there to check out. I hope you have fun trying out this wet-in-wet sketch technique on some marines of your own!