Painting Space Marines

        I have painted a lot of space marines over the years. Judging from the contents of the boxes in my room, I will be painting many more! What have I learnt painting these and what would I change if I did it again?

        If you want to paint your marines as an “official” chapter there are plenty of books and websites telling you exactly how to do so. I'd not recommend painting them as Ultramarines. The universe has enough Ultramarines and selecting this chapter is just boring, unoriginal and shows no imagination. The following assumes that you want to do something a bit more original with your marines.

        You can make your unit more interesting by mixing things up a little. When I was building mine plastic assault marines came with running legs, tactical marines with legs in a standing pose. Mix these so you have some running tactical marines and some standing assault marines. The plastic devastator kit provides some kneeling legs. I quite like the beaky helmets so I made sure each squad had at least one. I have at least one squad entirely of first-edition Mk6 armour. Bulking out your force with marines from older editions of WH40K can save you money and adds variety. Many of my marines are second-edition metal figures with modern or vintage additions.





        When I first began painting the Kren chapter I used the following scheme. Torso is green, limbs beige and the elbows, knees and trim plumb red. Tactical marines have snakebite coloured helmets and blue left pauldrons, assault marines have yellow. Devastators wore black helmets and limbs with gold left pauldrons. Many of the assault marines were in warrior lodges with their own distinctive armour colour schemes. Many people like these colour schemes but it was fiddly and time consuming to paint. The one thing I did get right with these was the chapter emblem. In heraldic terms, argent and gules, party per bend, sinister. This is a nicely clear and distinctive insignia, although getting the line straight on a curved pauldron can be tricky sometimes. I really must get around to designing something to do this. Unless you can print your own transfers, stick to something simple and distinctive for you chapter insignia.

        After I had painted a number of squads I came up with the idea of what I call the Vulkor-scheme. I kept the red and white insignia for the right paudron and replaced the left paudron with metallic black for all units. The units then became distinguished in the following fashion.

  • Other than the pauldrons tactical marines were painted entirely in the same colour. This is usually a natural colour such as a variant of green, beige or brown. Multi-coloured or urban camouflage schemes could be used too. You know a marine is tactical if his helmet is the same colour as the rest of his armour. The Headhunter special unit (Sternguard equivalent)resemble tactical marines with snakebite brown helmets


  • Assault marines used the same scheme as tactical but wear yellow helmets. These were originally painted by painting the helmet white and giving them a few coats of yellow ink. The Vulkor assault marines I actually painted kept the yellow pauldron.


  • Devastator marines have the same scheme as tactical marines but wear black or similarly dark coloured armour and helmets.


  • Copperheads are a specialist form of devastator. They wear black armour but with copper coloured helmets.

  • Marines of the Sacred Hope company wear red armour. The right pauldrons may be metallic black or in chapter colours.

  • The Kren chapter was created from Dark Angel gene-seed. The Founder's company honours this by fighting in a Dark Angel derived colour scheme. The Founder's company includes a squad of terminators in Deathwing colours.


        The various specialist marines were distinguished in the following fashion:-

  • Medics have white limbs and helmets. The torso was left green for contrast.


  • Chaplains are easily distinguished by their skull iconography. Their armour is metallic black.


  • I believe the standard colour for marine librarians is blue. Kren librarians wear grey armour and white helmets.


  • Techmarines wear copper-coloured armour and helmets. Oily steel colour is a possible alternative. Techmarine emblems may be present on the pauldrons.
  • Signal marines specialize in communications and electronic warfare. They wear yellow armour and helmets.


  • The Reclusiam squad are trainee chaplains. They use armour in the old colour scheme with light blue helmets which are exchanged for a black helmet when a marine becomes a chaplain initiate or novice. In Vulkor scheme they would resemble tactical or assault marines with light blue or black helmets.


        The Vulkor scheme is much easier to paint yet allows you to rapidly distinguish the various kinds of unit.

        The Kren chapter is well provided with terminator suits. The terminators are the foundation on which Kren operations are built. Effectively the rest of the chapter exists to ensure terminators or headhunters reach the right place at the right time. In addition to the Terminator company both the Sacred Hope and Founder's companies have a small number of suits. One thing I had not really appreciated when painting the terminators was how rare they are. Many chapters will only have a handful of suits. In retrospect I would have represented this by painting the terminators more as distinct individuals.

        I gave my terminators bronze limb armour with green torsos, which I am fairly happy with. The terminators with thunder hammers and lightening claws got beige limbs. If I did that unit again they would have got bronze too and just be distinguished by their helmet colour.



        The terminator component stands as two assault squads, one with hammers, one with claws and both with yellow helmets. There are three tactical squads, the blue-faces, the purple heads and gamma-greens, with helmet in these colours. They are supported by a recon section (red helmets) and a fire support team (orange). Librarian terminators wear grey and have white helmets. I gave the tactical terminators blue firearms and powerfists, the assault terminators yellow, the librarians white and the fire support and recon red. I think if I was painting these again I would have made helmets, power gloves and firearms have the same colours.
        To create better muzzles on the storm-bolters of plastic terminators cut small sections from a biro refill and glue them in place. See the Blueface squad for an example of this.






        The marine scouts are supposed to be novice marines lead by a marine veteran. Hence only the squad leader wears a pauldron with the Kren insignia. Many of the snipers have this insignia too, my rationale being they are full marines wearing light armour. I'm pretty happy with the colour scheme of the Kren scouts, although if I did them again I might give them a more subdued, low-key discrete look, substituting browns and greys for reds and whites. Possibly more packs, ropes and other useful items a recon unit would be likely to carry. I would have also acquired a greater variety of heads so there were more headscarves and slouch hats. The Bolt-Action range may be a good source for the latter.