So, here we go then. Shout out straight away to whoever made the incredible artwork we nicked for our cover photo. I’ve searched high & low for the original source to credit. so if anyone knows who did this, please let me know. But for now, let’s have a look at some of the best ways to build Samurai Space Marines
I need to ask that you forgive my historical ignorance with this article. For as long as I remember I have always loved Japanese aesthetics and in particular the style of Samurai Warriors. I even featured them in my written course in my GCSEAart coursework. But my cultural understanding is little more than surface level and with this being a painting and art website, hope this explanation is enough to avoid any perceived offence.
Unlikely as this is the inetrnet….
Samurai Space Marines – a History
My history with them anayway,
I remember being about 12 years old, flicking through the pages of my most recent White Dwarf magazine, and seeing the below models.
I was in love immediately.
I distinctly remember a much larger force of Samurai Space Marines being shown in the issue I read in my youth, and the models were mostly white, an almost bluish white. But despite hours of searching online, these (above & below) are the only images I could gather.
If anyone remembers a classic 1990s issue of White Dwarf which had a full spread of Samurai Space Marines I’d love to see it again, please send pics!
A more modern take of what I have always wanted to build are these Emperor’s Shadows custom chapter by Victoria Lamb. This is an incredibly well-presented force of (now classic) Tactical Space Marines with a slight Samurai style twist. Though this is actually little more than Custom shoulder pads and a paint scheme – the outcome is incredibly impactful. The iconography is somewhat reminiscent of Miyagi-Do Karate. nevertheless – really impressive.
The latest mainstream take on this kind of style is the below White Scars model by the incredible Mezgike. Whilst White Scars has more in common with the Central Asian Mongolian empire than the Eastern Asian Japanese Samurai, the Katana-style sword is the part I’m mostly in love with here. (yes, and the paint job)
Many years ago I did make an attempt at a Samurai-inspired
GW Gundam T’au Force. Having a friend’s mother working at GW was helpful as I scoured the old metal models directory for an appropriate sword and was able to pick about 50 of them up for the cost of the metal in weight. (each sword normally £2.30 each back then) I think it cost me less than £5 for the lot! Ahhh the good old days.
I searched high-and-low to find this sword now for reference, I’m sure it was from some classic female Slaneesh model. But anyway, I built the models, painted one up to look kind of like Grey-Fox from Metal Gear. Then as became a teenager and was distracted by romantic interests for nearly 2 decades before coming back into the hobby.
Update: The Sword is from Severina, one of the Death Cult assain twins, these models are now OOP and have been replaced. Thanks Oldhammer FB page for the help on this one.
Samurai Space Marines Parts & Sources
Recently, I decided to pick up this project idea again and so went in search of modern sources of Samurai Style bits for my latest Indomitus Space Marines. And here, to help you guys choose the best bits. I picked up parts from places like Kromlech, Puppets War, Master Crafted Minis and the very new The Custom Bit. Along with this I also tried out some 3D printed parts and components. One from the incredible (ly expensive) Formlabs Form 3 Printer and some parts from Shapeways.
Lets have a look at these below.
First up Kromlech, I’ve known about these guys for ages and despite my time away from this hobby when I did dip my toe back in, it was always to check out places like Kromlech for custom bits. You can spend hours on that site and come away with a myriad of ideas.
I believe these parts are all hand-sculpted? They are without a doubt resin moulded. I decided to pick up the parts below which comprised of the Heads, backpacks, Sashimono (the backpack banners) and the Power Katana Swords
Delivery was fairly rapid, coming from Poland to the UK in just over a week (pre Brexit), the parts above cost 30€ including shipping.
The image above shows pretty much how they arrived, which wasn’t great – especially the loose heads and missing Katana. As for the quality… a bit meh. Don’t get me wrong, they are highly detailed for the classic Space Marine scale. But they are just that, classic.
Over the years we’ve all come to expect slightly better production quality when it comes to our bits. Especially since digital 3D sculpting took off we expect to see perfectly even and balanced sculpts. But here you have the imprecise sculpting lines of old, coupled with offset casting causing uneven moulds. Parts need rebuilding on the edges rather than just a mould line cleanup.
Then there’s the scale, sorry Kromlech, we are all buying
True-Scale Primaris Space Marines now.
Apart from one small section below, this is the last I’ll be discussing Kromlech, I didn’t use any of these parts in the end.
Puppets War is kind of like a more modern Kromlech – sort of. They have a nice modern site and a myriad of components to browse through. I found this a little overwhelming as my mind flooded with the ideas of possible Space Marine Chapters I could build.
Kromlech provides quite generic Space Warrior models for use in various miniature wargames. Essentially these are substructure models you can use in any game system which allows them.
Sure you could use their various Unit Configurators to create squads of models and use them as proxy Space Marines if you wish (but that would cost more than just buying from GW). Or use them in other game systems like Infinity and other 32mm Game systems.
And Dare I Say It, I genuinely prefer this aesthetic of space warriors over Games Workshops own designs! – But I’ve always been a sucker for high-tech over grim-dank.
I picked up quite a few bits from these guys, 4 sets of Space Samurai Style heads, Katanas, Shoulder Pads, Sashimono, and a big plate I planned to use on my Outriders bike.
Unfortunately, this was the slowest delivery, these parts were the first I ordered and yet the last to arrive. Again from Poland, over a month waiting and chasing them up. When they finally despatched they arrived within a week. Hope that’s not common.
This lot set me back 45€ with a discount.
Puppets War is a direct step up from Kromlech in quality. I’m pretty sure these parts are digitally sculpted based on just how clean and even the forms are,
Clean up wasn’t the worst, with it being resin moulded, there are a few mould lines but little in the way of offset moulds.
The main challenge I had with these was that because the parts were made to be used with their own model bodies, each component has unnecessary parts which would look daft on our Space Marines. Such as the hands attached to the swords or plate at the base of the Sashimono.
Samurai Space Marines Parts – Formlabs
I was in discussion with Formlabs recenetly, trying to get them to send us a printer to test for review – at £5k per printer they said no. But they did agree to do a test print for us. So we sent them this awesome Samurai Space Marine model we bought from Jimsbeanz on cgtrader.
The print quality of this was immaculate, so for anyone who says that 3D printing is not on par with GW standard. well, it’s not for the average consumer, but it’s getting dangerously close.
The only struggle with this was cleaning up all the nubs from the printing supports, but the resin used was very firm yet not too brittle so a bit of filing sorted most of this out.
Samurai Space Marines Parts – Shapeways
Do not buy anything from shapeways ever!
Yeah, I’m really annoyed with Shapeways. Looking at their website they offer a 3D printing service for users to submit designs. And then you buy the printed design from them with a commission going back to the designer.
Everything looks to be a decent price on the surface, but once in your basket and signing up, that’s when they unload the outrageous manufacturing and shipping charges on you.
These few weapons set me back 45€!
When they arrived I was gutted. the design was outstanding and the scale was perfect. But the quality was simply unusable.
I’m not sure how these are made exactly but from what is described on the website and clarified in the 21 back and forth email exchange I had requesting my money back. It’s kind of like 3D printing.
A base is made in a wax like material and then the model is printed on top of this.
The model printed on top had such impeccable detail from above, the hilt, the power node, everything was super crisp even at this scale. But the other side which must have connected with the wax layer was awful, it was grainy and had visible layered steps across the surface of the blades. Which made the parts unusable unless I only wanted to show one side. In the time it would have taken to fix these up (if it were even possible) I could have sculpted and manufactured my own.
Sorry about the poor quality of this image, but the only photo I took was the one I sent Shapeways to request a refund due to them being unusable.
Had they have printed these at a different angle it would have been ok but when it comes to 3D print style manufacturing, height = time. So they printed this sideways, which ruined one face of the swords.
For larger-scale things, Shapeways would probably be great, but for 28mm miniatures – nope, walk away. haZ0e’s parts has a ton of great designs, but Shapeways is not the best outlet for them, unfortunately.
It would be better to have these designs resin cast.
Again – Do not buy anything from shapeways ever!
After I had ordered the Kromlech & Puppetswar parts, literally the next day on Twitter I saw someone post a Judiciar with a massive Katana. That’s exactly what I wanted to do with my Judiciar ever since I first saw him “where did you get that sword!” I exclaimed.
Turns out it was from Master Crafted Miniatures and once again, down the spiral I went.
MCM has a huge variety of parts you can use to enhance your Space marines, but Clearly, this chap has a passion for Japanese culture as the majority of the site is focussed on parts and scenery for Bushido.
I bought a ton of stuff from here, Swords and Saya (scabbards) galore, Sashimono. Shoulder Pads, Space Marine hands and some scenery along with other accessories.
The swords are amazing, digital sculpted and resin cast, he even had a varity of sizes available from Tanto to NoDachi (imagine a Medieval Greatsword and a katana had a baby, that’s a NoDashi)
The shoulder pads were quite cool, they just didn’t stand out to me as the most samurai-like they could be. But the detail was superb. There are some scenery pieces here too. it’s worth noting that there is a lot of scenery on the site, but much of it is FDM printed, not resin or resin cast. So it’s layer lines galore. I haven’t ended up using any of those parts.
There was some flashing from the casing still left but this was easily removed. All in all the detail on these parts was incredible with just some slight correction of the mould lines and offset casting needed.
And then the next day, no seriously, it was the next day after I saw the Master Crafted minis parts. I came across an Instagram post showing someone who had converted up some actual Samurai Space Marines!
That’s when I found The Custom Bit who had been working on various Samurai part designs specifically for Space Marines. Even More Specifically, for the Indomitus Space Marines.
At the time there was no website (even now, the website is there but has no shopping cart and you need to contact him to get the parts) and it resulted in me getting in direct contact and begging him to show me what he has available so I could throw money at him.
I bought loads, Heads, Hats, Shoulderpads, Kusazuri (thigh covers which are perfect for Primaris Marines). Various swords, Shields, Sashimono and Banners. and this isn’t half of what he makes.
As these are all 3D printed I was concerned about layer lines. from my own dabbling about with a 3D printer I’ve yet to break past these tiny imperfections which scream out at you when using techniques like dry brushing and washes.
I was happy to see that these were all but indistinguishable on the parts from The Custom Bit. I was unhappy to realize just how wrong I’ve been with 3D printing, I can’t get quality anywhere near this good.
Price wise, these were really competitive and whilst I probably spent over twice as much with TCB than anywhere else, I got 3 times as much stuff.
Samurai Space Marines Building
When it comes to building samurai models it’s fairly straight forwrad in the most part.
Heads can easily just be swapped out, Sashimono can fit in by drilling a hole into the backpack (or just glueing them on with The Custom Bit). Shoulder pads can just be swapped out. So when it comes to building. Like with the whole Samurai Space Marine build it’s all about the swords really. It is isn’t it? You know it is.
For this, the recent Assault Intercessorts and other models already holding Power Swords, Chainswords or any Melee weapons really have done half the job for us. The arm/hand is norrmally sculpted to be holding a weapon. Trying to replace a Bolter with a sword is tricky as you need to resculpt the fingers.
For melaee weapons, just cut off the existing one and drill a big hole. If you really want it looking swish, cut out the existing handle part from the underside of the hand too.
Shown above and below, we have the Kromlech sword. after snipping the handle in half, and fitting it in the hole, you have a clean conversion.
As a general rule;
- Kromlech swords fit nice, but the detail and scale weren’t too great.
- Puppets War parts weren’t used, the existing hands on the sword sculpts just got in the way and the swords were too short and thin.
- MasterCrafted Minis had the best detail, but the sword handles were too large to fit into the holes, and drilling any larger would damage the hand, so these swords needed to be drilled and pinned.
- The Custom Bit swords, whilst not quite as detailed as MCM above, fit perfectly and were spot-on in scale.
Building Samurai Space Marines – Results
As noted above, I am strongly favouring TheCustomBit parts over any other brand. Reasons? well, it was super easy to make the conversion. these parts have been built with the Primaris models in mine and everything goes on so snug.
They are 3D printed, which makes them brittle. I’ve snapped a few of the Sashimono just because they don’t have much flexibility at all. The swords are fairly solid due to their extra width. The handle can be a bit risky but they are short enough to be safe, and most of them are protected by the hand.
Samurai Bladeguard Space Marine
This model showcases most of The Custom Bit Parts. The Sashimono simply glues to the backpack and its base has a complimentary curve to fit just so. The sword handle does not need to be cut, just pull off the old weapon, drill a hole and push the sword in. even the shield is simple to wedge in place of the old one.
The head was a straight swap
The Kusazuri (hip plates) glue in place of the old ones once you cut them down, they can be a bit tricky at times depending on leg position. but a bit of a file here and there will see you right.
The shoulder pads were my favourite bit. The Custom bit parts were designed as replacements for the existing shoulder pads, but I found that putting them in boiling water and using the heat to force the shape over the existing shoulder pads would see them flex and set as they cooled to sit above the existing plates. you can go either way, but on the bladeguard especially, I really liked the additional heft that these pads added.
One Master Crafted Minis part you will see throughout my conversions the little shield in place of the wax on the purity seal. This is part of MCM’sInfantry accessories set.
TCB has been really smart with these parts, they arrive with the printing supports already removed and the points left behind are all on flat and have easily fileable edges. good man!
Samurai Eradicator Primaris Space Marine
Similar to the last but this time I used MCM’s Sashimono on the back. for this, I had to drill a hole and just dropped the flag pole into it. As you can see here, there’s a lot more detail on these MCM parts. but an offset cast mark down the whole piece.
Another part from the Custom Bit here is the Jinsaga (helmet) which works ace on the future-fire chucking warriors. a great addition for heavies.
I also chucked in an extra Kusazuri as a loin plate for that extra heavy armour feel.
Samurai Primaris Lieutenant
What;s an army without leaders. I knew how I wanted Amulus to look before he even arived. Not a huge change here, all the parts are from The Custom Bit and the head original has been shaved with just a bit of green stuff added as a top-knot
I had to be a bit aggressive with the hand to fit this new helmet in, but I think it came out just right.
Samurai Space Marine Lieutenant Calcius
Massive thanks to @archonaess, our resident French Translator for covering me on this one. I used my Warhammer Conquest Exclusive model (Lt Calcius) when I made my Akira Diorama. As this issue was still available in France he grabbed me a new one.
Already posed as drawing his sword, I simply swapped this over with some MCM parts. At the time MCM was the only outlet offering scabbards but The Custom Bit has since started offering some. I really struggled to get all of these pieces together and I’d struggle to get this apart now to paint in sub-assemblies. I may swap this out with MCM parts but their resin is a lot more brittle and would crack quite easily when trying to cut down the parts.
Samurai Outrider Space Marines
The outrider is where MasterCrasfted Mini’s parts really shine. The only TCB bit I used here was the Sashimono on the back as this was made the perfect size for the bike.
The shoulder pads were swapped here for MCM parts because the heft I was adding to the other pads above was too large for the position of the arms and the backpack got in the way.
The sword here is the NoDashi, a Greatsword version of a katana. and the accompanying Wakizashi (scabbard).
My favourite parts here are the wheels, MCM has fixed the problem we all have with outrider wheels, here they are curved. The front wheel and wheel hub fit the outrider bikes perfectly. The rear wheel however requires you to cut the entire back wheel section off the bike. Worth it for the result.
Also worth noting that the front wheel is resin cast, the back wheel + chassis and front wheel hub were both direct 3D prints, so they had support marks and some layer lines to be removed. they were also a bit more brittle than the cast resin pieces.
MCM offers a selection of these wheels including a spiked set that would make an Ork player blush. Along with a smooth variant which I used on my Akira Diorama.
Painting Samurai Space Marines
So, when it comes to painting these guys, the world is your oyster. I struggled to pick a scheme. Honestly, I feel they suit White Scars Colours, but this has been done to death. The good thing about Samurai that you would rarely see them in uniform colours back in the day. Individual clothing and armour were made to the preference of the individual warrior.
I decided to paint these guys in various colours for a few reasons. One is that I wanted to have some of that traditional individualisation rather than have the whole army the same colour. Another reason is that I hadn’t decided what colour scheme I wanted. But the main reason is that I have ADHD and get bored of painting the same colour really easily.
Below I’ve shown my base layers for these models so you can hopefully use this as a step to gent some inspiration.
Red Samurai Space Marines
When it comes to red I started with my blood angels recipe using pro Acryl colours.
I’m not decided where to go with these, I think black edges and trim would look really good. Sure it’s Blood Angels through and through, but search for red Samurai and it’s all Red’s Blacks and Golds. Occasionally some greens and deep blues but that’s generally reserved for cloth.
Green Samurai Space Marines
When it comes to green one thing came to mind, Jade Samurai
For this, I used a similar base to what I applied to my Deorguard models as I loved how that came out. the feedback I’ve had on this so far is that it looks like Bludgeon from transformers. Now I see it I can’t unsee it and I think this would look nice with some orange and purple.
Blue Samurai Space Marines
Trying to get away from Ultramarines or crimson Fists, I just threw some bright blues at this guy.
Again, inspiration from here after a quick google search encourages some oranges and browns. But white wouldn’t be far off the mark either. At this point I just know I want to stay away from golds and reds.
Black Samurai Space Marines
Ok, the pic below is more of a red due to the cloth (inspired somewhat by Auron from FFX)
Whilst Imm gonna continue with the Auron from FFX style colours here, I do think this would look decent with gold and yellow. Black and Gold always looks great, just gotta make sure I don’t stray into batman territory,
White Samurai Space Marines
White is fairly obvious as it;s heavily used on the eastern inspired White Scars having red trim.
Personally, I went for black and gold here. Yep, inspired by the worst version of Tommy Oliver’s Alter ego. The original MMPR White Ranger.
Yellow Samurai Space Marines
I”ve not painted many yellow model’s so this one initially stumped me
I ended up buying the Ghosts of Tsushima art book off Amazon and this gave me some great ideas. This guys gonna be getting a lot of deep blues. The direct contrast of yellow is purple but in my experience, this looks incredibly garish without a large covering of a neutral filter. like a grey. For example, see Garfy’s awesome Stormcast models on Tale of Painters blog. That’s not what I’m doing, but any excuse to shout out this awesome scheme he’s done.
Orange Samurai Space Marines
Finally my personal favourite colour – Orange, in case you couldnt tell…
This one is stumping me, I have started painting more of this guy with a slightly blued metallic trim. it looks ok but I think I’m gonna need to add some more neutral black and cool purple in there to cool down the warm tones of the orange.
Painting Samurai Space Marines – Final Comments
I hope this has at least started some inspiration for your own models, with these base colours down it should be a bit easier to imagine where you could take your own faction next. as for me, I’m gonna keep playing with these and adding more. Please keep an eye on the FauxHammer Instagram feed for my progress.
Samurai Space Marine Transfers and Decals.
Boy was this hard!
so, I wanted some decent iconography to go with my models. After all, they all have banners on their backs, so something which at least made the force somewhat uniform. I needed something Japanese-esque. A transfer of some kind, an icon I can apply to all of these banners and identify them as a single faction. But alas, this was super hard.
I can’t freehand, I hate freehanding, it’s just not me, so transfers were the only answer.
I started by ordering some WWII military vehicle banners. but unfortunately, these were just too small to use on the banners, even the largest were too small. So at £3 per sheet. there’s £6 wasted already
After this I was stuck, I looked everywhere (No joke, it’s 2 sentences for you, it’s weeks for me.) for Japanese waterslide decals, but they were all for Gundam or Cars. a bit too sci-fi for the grimdark future of the 40 whateverth millennia.
I then started looking at other types of waterslide decals, specifically Nail Art.. look I was desperate to try something. but I figured they’d work. they’re the same thing. Let’s just get something Japanese, so I tried Trees, koi and Geisha.
Next I figured, well, any type of waterslide transfer should work, what about temporary tattoos? Aren’t they just waterslide decals too? Lets give some of them a go.
And it was after much searching and a bit more spending, I figured I’d just print my own. so I grabbed some laserjet decal paper for my printer and printed some out. I have a few great plans for these.
Finally, yeah finally, after all of the above out of the box thinking. including considering buying a specialist decal printer (they cost tons!)
I figured “hang on! there are plenty of wargames with samurai, surely I can find decals for those games”. When I searched for Bushido Transfers I found a few Sashimono transfer options available. So then I just started searching for “Sashimono Transfers”. Finally! I found loads.
So i ordred a couple of sets i liked the look of from CitadelSix and…
The quality is not great…
So after all that, I’m stuck with, print your own. So if you have any idea as to where I can get some decent Samurai transfers, please, please let me know and I’ll update this article.
Samurai Space Marine Inspiration
When it comes to inspiring your own armies, so far I’ve come across a couple of recent artists who you simply need to check out.
First up is AstrategasWargames who worked closely with The Custom Bit when they were launching their Samurai line.
He was also how I found The Custom Bit
An awesome painter who has a full force of models painted in a similar vein to White Scars, Please check out his Instagram for pictures of a full force of Samurai Marines.
The one that made my jaw drop with jealousy however is Marco Paroli with his Red Ronin Army. Seriously, his models make me want to cry. He’s had many of the same ideas I had. He’s just, well, he’s actually delivered on it rather than be distracted by other things like I have.
And, well, just look..!
One of his earlier models has taken Mephiston and thrown on a sword along with a kabuki style face paint, and correct me if I’m wrong but I’m seeing similar art to the nail-art transfers I shared above. (not sure where this sword is from, looks a little short but it works and the hilt is ace.)
This is one of my faves, would love to know where this lanterns is from, personally, I wanted a gourd for my Judiciar but am still to find one. This model is made from a Judiciar with the Sword from Master Crafted Minis and a mask from Puppets war. I think the scenery is MCM also.
Update: he’s just told me the lantern is from Master Crafted Minis
Here’s a selection of his work and you can see much more on his Instagram page.
I love these, he’s used a selection of bits from most of the sources I shared above and he has nailed the grimdark style with some lovely touches of OSL on several of his models. One of the few artists where I actually follow and look at every one of his posts. his Instagram includes pictures of the models along with many which are accented with some photoshop based enhancements. Despite what you may think of photoshop, here it is used to enhance the designs and making for some incredible pictures.
Making Samurai Space Marines – Final Thoughts
So after all that, do I have a preferred supplier of Samurai parts? Well, sort of. My personal preference is whatever is easiest to use. and for me, that is hands down the parts from The Custom Bit. they just fit so well and so easily. Whilst many 3D printed parts can suffer from layer lines, here they are kept to a minimum and after a few coats of paint are imperceivable.
However, there are drawbacks. The first is that you can’t just order the bits. You need to browse the site and then make a list of what you want, email him and get a quote. In this year of the internet, it’s an archaic PITA. Online web sites are pretty easy to make nowadays, be it with Wix WordPress Squarespace or whatever.
And then there’s the confusion of his brand’s product offering. Jumping from direct sales of Samurai Space Marine (and some Tau) pieces (despite there being numerous other things that could be designed in this area), his current focus is on a Kickstarter for Greek/Spartan style accessories for your Space Marines (and some awesome bases too). They look awesome but this time he’s not selling the parts, he’s selling the 3D STL files for you to print them yourself.
So why not sell the STL files for the samurai parts too? Also, why Kickstarter, there are numerous other platforms that allow you to sell 3D STL files.
Do what you want, just pick an approach and stick to it. Don’t mix and confuse your brand because your customers will suffer. But wherever you do, keep designing as you are absolutely nailing it.
See below for example.
Update: Once this Kickstarter is over, The Custom Bit will be back to designing more Samurai parts with another Kickstarter following this making the STL files available.
My Next fave is Master Crafted minis. “hilst the parts aren’t as easy to use, they are of better quality in both detail and workability. With this more rubbery cast resin, you can bend and flex the pieces with much more forgiveness. however, there are more things like mould lines and flash to deal with.
Between the two, there are uses for both brands, but it’s a double-edged katana in regard to the benefits and drawbacks.
Puppets War comes in as a clear third place, simply because the parts are not specifically made for 40k Space marines, they just kinda work. Many of the heads are more of a 25mm scale rather than the now common 32mm scale of Primaris models. So they tend to appear as just too small. Most of them need to be propped up slightly on the neck, or the chins rest on the armour and they are all looking up.
But Kromlech is dead last, the parts are too small for the current scale and the detail is not comparable to the standard we have come to expect from other suppliers. The line is sorely in need of an update.
If you are doing a force of Samurai Warriors, please make sure you share it with the hashtag #SamuraiSpaceMarines… If for no other reason than I can get more inspiration.
If Samurai arent your particular taste of 40k Japanese culture, we’ll here’s my aforementioned Anime inspired dude. an Akira styled Primaris Outrider diorama.