How to Paint Dark Angels – Grimdark Style

Last Updated on April 28, 2021 by FauxHammer

So, here I am with my first tutorial, Painting Dark Angels. I always loved my Dark Angels paint scheme to be really dark. I like darker schemes in general as these guys are at war, the brighter schemes never really fit-in for me.

Back in the day, I would always paint my Dark Angels with a mix of 75% Dark Angels Green Paint and 25% Chaos Black as a basecoat, then I could use a 100% Dark Angels Green as a highlight (Which I literally just dry-brushed over the whole model). Or at a push, Dark Angels Green Spray paint as a Zenithal Highlight. Nowadays I’d consider that approach a Dark Angels Speedpaint, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Although now, when asked how to paint Dark Angels, Airbrush is definitely the fastest way.

Here’ I’m finally sharing my approach to a Dark Angels Paint Guide.

But alas, the old Dark Angels Green is gone and now we have Caliban Green which is certainly brighter than the old Dark Angels Green. So, in wanting to keep in with my old scheme I devised my own painting method and tried it out on a practise-marine (I now have a Squad of 10 along with the Dark Vengeance Marines following the same pattern).

FYI, on the grimdark scheme front, I’m also following this tutorial to paint some Space Wolves. But before you scream at me that Dark Angels and Space Wolves hate each-other. Well, these guys have been stood next to each other on my table for over a year and neither side has so much as batted an eyelid.

I’d have loved to have made a guide titled How to Paint Dark Angels Primaris – but I wrote this literally one week before they were announced!

There are many approaches for Dark Angels Paint Colours, if you’re looking for Grimdark. This is the paint I find the best. And no, we aren’t;t using Dark Angels Contrast Paint. Whilst I love the Contrast Paints, I don’t use them the way GW suggest we do.

Forward unto the Tutorial;

Painting Dark Angels – How To

How to Paint Dark Angels Space Marines

Basecoat – Not shown as I forgot to take pictures (oops), but it’s fairly straightforward.

  • Trim the flash and glue your model together (only use a tiny amount of glue on the arms and backpack as you’ll be pulling these off the model later.)
  • Base the Model in black, I use Vallejo Air Primer, but you can use any black but you’re going to need an airbrush for the next bit (don’t have one? Wing it by just painting thin coats)
  • Mix 50%-75% GW Nocturne Green (it’s a Forge World Airbrush Paint) with 25% – 50% Black (I used more black primer because it’s already mixed to go in my airbrush) Spray the model from a horizontal position only so you are only spraying from the sides.
  • Spray 100% Nocturne Green from a 45° angle down onto the model and directly from above. (maybe do 2 coats). The last 2 steps will create a natural highlight from above, it’s really subtle. From beneath the model will be purely black and it will gradually move to a dark green when looking from above.

Painting Dark Angels – Basecoat

Photos will get better,
  • Next paint the recesses. I did this model with Nuln Oil, but I actually moved to Agrax Earthshade on the rest of the squad. This is to make the armour look dirtier and not just black/green (has a bit more character). This again is really subtle but brings out the shape.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Next, pull the arms and backpack off (BWAHAHAHAHA). But seriously, I like to really get into the details. And I don’t have enough directional brush control to paint all these parts properly when they remain connected. But they need to be connected for the base coat so that the shading hits from the correct direction. You could just use blu-tack instead of glueing the part on in the first place, but I find that pieces still move about when airbrushing). I pulled the shoulder-pads of the arms in this model, but I’ve stopped doing that now.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step

Painting Dark Angels – Colours

  • Paint the Bone/Cloth Areas with 2-3thin coats of Zandri Dust.
    • I’ve since done the whole squad this way. I’m now thinking of moving the cloth to a different set of colours. Maybe Rackarth Flesh and Seraphim Sepia, just to make the cloth different to the bone of the Aquila. I love the Aquila in bone on these models.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • METAL! Pretty straightforward, just add some (thinned) Leadbelcher to the metal areas. (I also started being more considerate of how my photos would turn out at this stage)
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Paint the Ushabti Bone Areas with Agrax Earthshade. not just the recesses this time but the whole area. I like to be a bit excessive on the edges here between the bone and the green armour. This is to hide any inaccuracies in the paint.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Paint the Boltgun. What I forgot to show anywhere in this tutorial is painting the recesses of the red areas with a shade. I used Nuln Oil again in this model but since use Carroburg Crimson.

Note: Now you can probably see a white-ish powder appearing on this model and you’ll keep seeing it build and disappear throughout the tutorial. This is because of my hands’ sweating (eww!). So I wear surgical gloves to prevent it. These ones were powdered and kept getting powder all over the model! So every few steps I wash the whole model down with water and dry it off with an empty air-gun.

Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • We’re now at “THE FUN BIT”. Paint only the raised parts of the Aquila in Ushabti Bone. I paint pretty much all of it except the recesses. Do the same on any cloth or parchment. (I did the cloth, but not pictured until the next step)

Note: When using this colour and thinning it, be careful because it can run into the recesses if it’s too thin! If this happens, have a brush at hand you can dip in clear water (you do have 2 water pots at hand at all times don’t you?) and water it right down. Then dab it off with some tissue, drop some “thinned” Zandri Dust, then Agrax Earthshade back in the recesses (or just some Agrax Earthshade, but 2-3 coats).

Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Paint all of the edges in Screaming Skull, I tend to focus the light on upper edges so that it is consistent with the Zenthial shading we did in the first few steps, but, as the Aquila is raised in the opposite direction, I paint the bottom edges and outer-sides. With the parchment on the shoulder pad, I paint thin lines along the top and bottom edge but make the top lines a touch longer.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • (oh look, I remembered to put Khorne Red in the eyes now) Paint “points” of (thinned) White Scar. Only on the highest points, so a dot in each corner of the parchment on the shoulder pads, a point on each bone on the Aquila crossbones and the upper-left skull edge (my left not the Marines). and tiny points on each of the Aquila’s spines.

Note: at this point, I’m really happy, but a little terrified. Because after that fine work I’m going to screw something up!  

Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Paint the edges of the Boltgun, inner-front part of the eyes and the top edge of any cabling with (thinned) Mephiston Red. This is a base colour so it can leave a really thick texture if not thinned well)
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Back to Leadbelcher, as the Nuln Oil shade was painted over “all” of the Leadbelcher earlier, it has “all” been darkened. So we can use Leadbelcher again, this time as an edge highlight. Again, this is a “base” paint, so thinning is very important at this step. I use the edge of my brush to do all the details here.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • We are back to painting “points: of colour, this time in Evil Sunz Scarlet. So, the front of the eyes, and a thin line on the cable. Both in the middle of the Mephiston Red line painted a couple of steps ago. Also, the front and rear corners of the Boltgun get a spot of Evil Sunz Scarlet.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Here we apply only 2 tiny spots of Troll Slayer Orange, look face on as you apply this as you can easily end up with a googly-eyed Space Marine (can’t imagine I’m gonna need a new pot of this for quite some time) Also;“We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” Glue.

Note: I rebuild around this stage so I can clearly see where the edge highlights are going to go.

Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step

Painting Dark Angels – Highlights

  • This is the long process of edge highlighting. Edge highlighting is a technique which kind of goes in the opposite direction of the Zenthial shading we did in the first place, but this gives you an idea of where you should focus your lighting lines, (I just highlighted all the edges anyway, I’ve and just focused on the upper edges more in the more recent ones I’ve done). It’s easy to screw this up by painting any part of the armour which you don’t want paint on, because this can totally ruin the awesome airbrush work you did. Slow and steady here!

Note; 2 images here so you can get a better idea of the actual model colours, I have inconsistent lighting in my photos because I paint in my conservatory. so one without direct flash and one with.

Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Paint the Army badge with Ulthuan Grey. I hate this paint! Too thin and it runs everywhere, too thick and it clumps! my previously painted one was al clumpy, so I managed to paint this with 7-8 very thin coats, but I since went back to paint the rest of the squad  I forgot how shit it was and they are all clumpy again!)
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Here, use some Loren Forest on the most raised areas of the armour edges to add some final edge Highlighting
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Back to White Scar, again thin this (I wonder how many times I’ve used the word “thin” in this article? (Ctrl+F “Thin” – heh, 20 times already). Paint the left half (your left) of the Sword and the upper edges of the wing spines. Also, put 2 tiny points in the back of the eyes.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step
  • Finally, just to finish we’re painting “points” again, using Ironbreaker on the top edges of the metal areas.
Painting Dark Angels - Step-by-Step

Painting Dark Angels – Finished

So, with that done, Here are some more Pics and a Video of the finished model along with the rest of the Squad in progress.      

How to Paint Dark Angels

How to Paint Dark Angels Tactical Squad

The rest of the Squad, this is a standard (classic, pre-2000) box of tactical marines with the modern Dark Angels Customisation parts. Just need to decide on a basing Scheme (probably sand) and decide where they fit in the army so I can add decals and write on the parchment. Also, I swapped the silver metal for a Brass style because I think it fits the Dark Angels ornamentation better and compliments the green really well.

What did you think of this Tutorial? please let us know in the comments.

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How to Paint Dark Angels
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How to Paint Dark Angels
Tutorial, Painting Dark Angels. I always loved my Dark Angels to be really dark. I like Darker schemes in general as these guys are at war
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