How to Paint Everything: Assassins

In our How to Paint Everything series, we take a look at different armies of the Warhammer universe, examine their history and heraldry, and look at several different methods for painting them. With the release of War of the Spider, we’re looking at the shadowy agents of the Officio Assassinorum.

Who are the Assassins?

Assassins are the Imperium’s ultimate sanction. Led by the Grand Master of Assassins on Terra, who is always a member of the High Lords, the Officio is one of the most secretive institutions in the Imperium. The activation of an Assassin is a momentous occasion, requiring sanction of a full 2/3rds of the Council of Terra. Assassins are an elite force, recruited from the Schola Progenium and trained relentlessly for ten years. There are many Assassin Temples which specialise in different disciplines, with the four principal ones being the Eversor, Vindicare, Culexus and Callidus Temples. Eversors specialise in pure and merciless destruction, Vindicares are long-ranged killers reliant on their steel nerves and Exitus rifles, Culexus are psychic blanks who weaponise their soulless nature to combat enemy psykers, and Callidus are masters of disguise, utilising polymorphine drugs to blend in to any environment.

The Assassins were formed in the Great Crusade, at the behest of a disguised Malcador the Sigilite. They existed to hunt down the enemies of the Emperor, bringing his wrath to those places where a full strike force of Space Marines or the grinding advance of the Imperial Army would be inappropriate. They tried and failed to assassinate Horus, and in the process formed the first Execution Force, with Assassins of different disciplines deploying together as a group.

Throughout the Imperium’s bloody history, the Assassins have played a key role. The Callidus Assassin M’Shen slew the Night Lords Primarch, Konrad Curze. The Grand Master Drakan Vangorich slew the entirety of the High Lords in 546.M32, attempting to seize power for himself, and was only stopped by the combined efforts of the Halo Brethren, Sable Swords and Imperial Fists Chapters. During the Age of Apostasy, Assassins were used to support the rule of the tyrant Goge Vandire. With the return of the Avenging Son, Roboute Guilliman, to the galaxy, the Grand Master of Assassins was pivotal in ensuring Guilliman’s reforms were implemented, in the bloodiest way possible – by posing as a member of the rebellious Hexarchy, before betraying them and slaying them all.

Where to Read More

The Assassins are rarely the key focus of the novels, but there’s a few stories about them out there. Nemesis, book 13 of the Horus Heresy series, is the obvious example and covers the origins of the Assassins – though the quality can most kindly described as “variable”. There’s also Assassinorum: Execution Force, which focuses on the previously-described rag-tag bunch of different assassins from a variety of temples. There’s also the short Assassinorum: Divine Sanction. There is also some Assassin fluff in the War of the Spider Psychic Awakening book, though not much.

There is at least one other book which mentions the activities of the Assassins, but to mention it would be to spoil the surprise. Look out for them in other fiction – you never know where one is hiding!

Playing Assassins

Assassins aren’t really a faction by themselves, but they’re very common add-ons to other Imperial armies. Our earliest articles in what eventually became the Start Competing series were about getting the most out of your Assassins in the Imperial General’s Field Guide (and its accompanying anti-Assassin version for non-Imperial players). We also reviewed their minor update in War of the Spider here.

Assassins just got an update in War of the Spider, and you can check out our review of the updated content for the new stuff to do with them here.


Painting Assassins

Liam “Corrode” Royle’s Method

I have one of each Assassin painted up, plus a bonus Imperial Assassin which may well be the oldest model I own – I think I got it from the Skullz promotion, long since deceased. They were all painted in pretty much the same way, with the main difference being that with the newer ones (in this case, the Eversor/Vindicare/Culexus) I had VMC Black Grey available, which is basically cheat mode for painting them like I do.

The bodysuit itself is VMC Black Grey, with Mechanicus Standard Grey on the raised areas to create a bit of depth. I then wash it with thinned Nuln Oil, and voila, the bodysuit is painted. Simple!

With the assassins it’s really about the details. For the Vindicare, I decided to pick out all of his straps and things in a bright red, which meant that doing the rifle in green would be a nice contrast. Red/green can be clashing and overly Christmassy if it’s used in big chunks, but for smallish details like the Vindicare has it works nicely. Also my one friend Sam can’t see the guy any more, so it’s stealthier than it looks.

The Culexus was similar, and I again used red to pick out some of the grenades and wires, but for the psychic baubles and the glowing eye I went for the classic bright blue building up through Teclis, Lothern, and finally Baharroth Blue.

The skull of the Culexus and the skull face of the Eversor were done the same way, with Screaming Skull washed Seraphim Sepia and then mostly re-layered with Screaming Skull. The Eversor skipped the blue in favour of entirely red as a spot colour, picking out the eyes and the …. light or whatever that thing on his backpack is. He also got a couple of skulls on his base and Blood for the Blood God on his power sword, since he’s the most murderous one, and also because I picked up the old metal rather than the new plastic which I don’t like so much and therefore doesn’t have the fancy basing.

The Callidus was similar but using purple instead of red – she’s the sneaky weird assassin, so purple seemed more on theme, and also I painted her a lot longer ago and I think I was big on using purple at the time. She’s also an old metal, although in this case because that was the one being sold when I bought her in 2010 or whenever it was. I have no clear memory of when and why I bought her which is unusual; normally I have at least some recollection of when I bought everything I own, but I am completely blank here. Which is kind of fitting for a Callidus, really.

Beanith’s guide to smooshing your Spandex crew – The Eversor and Callidus Assassins

Ah my beloved little terrors, I just managed to grab these last two to round out my Execution Force last year ready to annoy my mates with spy v spy levels of shenanigans along side whatever flavor of Marine I was running that day… and then the New Marine codex dropped and the mere thought of my spandex clad crew (“feels like I’m wearing nothing at all”) being on the table were dashed, their very presence would drive the Marines to distraction and they would forget how to Marine… I was not salty I swear, and I certainly wasn’t pissing vinegar when the Inquisitors got a pass a few months later.

That said, the new Psychic Awakening fixed that little issue and now I should probably paint the Eversor and then remember how I did with the Callidus.

Eversor – Credit Beanith

This one I smashed out this evening for the article so the steps are fresh in my mind.

  1. Started with Grey Seer Spray
  2. Contrast Black Templar on the bodysuit
  3. Contrast Basilicanum Grey on the halfpipe
  4. Contrast Space Wolves Grey on the rubble.
  5. Layer Runefang Steel on the vials, googles, bullets and shoulder lamp.
  6. Contrast Talassar Blue as a spot colour on the weapons, thigh plate and glove.
  7. Contrast Snakebite Leather on the straps and pouches.
  8. Contrast Plaguebearer Flesh on the vials
  9. Contrast Skeleton Horde on the helm, wings on the gun and chest skull.
Callidus – Credit Beanith

I’ve yet to actually field this one but I’ve read that she can be a lot of fun even when not on the field. This one I painted over a year ago so the exact method is lost to me sorry.

  1. Undercoated black I dry brushed with a grey that I mixed using Abaddon Black and Corax White.
  2. Mephiston Red for the hair and gun.
  3. Looks like Runefang Silver on the sword and a dab on the gun.
  4. A coat or two of Mig Crystal Periscope Green on the sword and gun.
  5. Drybrush the hero rock with Macragge Blue
  6. Corax White on the chest skull.

Bish bosh bash, job done son. Now to find my Vindicare and Culexus to complete the set.

Evan’s Guide to putting the Ass in Assassin

The rest of these guys are fucking cowards who haven’t posted a picture of a single Assassin Ass, which, as you can tell from the fact that it’s in the name twice, is the most important part.

Culexus Butt
Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

Slightly more seriously, the bodysuit, including the ass, is the biggest area on all of the assassin models, and is the most important to nail if you want a really good looking assassin. I wanted to really accentuate the shape of the imperium’s most deadly… assets, and give them a bit of a comic book, slightly shiny muscle vibe. To do this I painted the entire bodysuit in VMC Black, then, with progressively lighter mixes, blended dark greys to highlight the muscles using VMA Light Grey mixed into the black. With a mix that was almost entirely Light Grey, I highlighted the muscles. This final highlight is more of an edge highlight along the bottom edges of the muscles to really pick them out, though you need to make up your own edges to highlight.

You can also do this with grey blue for a more blue-black look!

Felime's Vindicare Assassin
Vindicare Assassin, Credit: Evan “Felime” Siefring

With the bodysuit done, there isn’t THAT much to do for the rest of the assassin, just painting a few gubbins on top of the bodysuit. I’ll give a quick guide to how I painted everything here, but first I’d like to talk about composition. If you’re painting your typical black bodysuited assassin, they’re gonna be black and grey all over. When painting my Vindicare, I wanted him to look like a stealthy assassin who could disappear into the shadows, but I didn’t want him to actually disappear. It’s important to throw in a few little pops of color and brightness into the sea of greyscale to give some definition to the model, be it skull helmets, red gun casings, or colorful braids on a Callidus. I kept the colors not too bright or saturated, but a little bit of interest goes a long way to making your assassin pop.

  • White Face Mask: Painted mid-grey with the bodysuit, then highlighted with Ulthuan Grey
  • Red Gun Casing: VMC Flat Red, Washed with Nuln Oil, then Rehighlighted with Flat Red
  • Brass Casings: VMC Hammered Copper washed with Agrax Earthshade
  • Leather: VMC Cavalry Brown Washed with Agrax Earthshade

Primaris Kevin’s Method

Credit: Kevin Genson

I wanted to do something that matched the bases of the rest of my Imperial forces, but was also distinct and fun to experiment with. I settled on using a bone scheme combined with a bluish-gray bodysuit and red and purple accents. Overall I couldn’t be happier with the results and am really glad I went down this path.

Eversor Butt
Credit: Kevin Genson

The desert base technique was previously discussed here. I use a combination of oyster shells and crackle paint to create a dry, parched environment. I base coat with either VGA Bonewhite or Games Workshop Wraithbone, wash with AP Strong Tone, and then drybrush with Bonewhite followed by a pure white. The shells in particular I focus on drybrushing with more white.

Credit: Kevin Genson

The bodysuit starts off with a base of Citadel Foundation Astronomicon Gray, which was a paint GW used to sell that provided amazing coverage. I thin mine down with Vallejo Flow Improver, which provides smooth coverage and also allows for a slightly delayed drying time. I then wash the entire bodysuit in a mixture of 1 part AP Dark Tone, 1 part AP Blue Tone, and 2 parts Flow Improver. Then I begin slowly blending and highlighting using thinned down layers of Astronomicon Gray mixed with the tones. Thinning with Flow Improver seems to dramatically help with blending.

Vindicare Butt
Credit: Kevin Genson

I discussed the method for the bone previously in the Successor Chapter article, but it serves as the foundation for a lot of my painting (especially Contrast paints). I start with VGA Bonewhite, wash in AP Soft Tone, and then drybrush with VGA Bonewhite and then finally white. 

Callidus Butt
Credit: Kevin Genson

The red accessories and accent colors were made using Contrast Blood Angel Red. Purple effects such as the sword and lenses were done using Liquitex Ink! Dioxazine Purple blended with Vallejo Flow Improver and VMA White. By slowly mixing and blending the still-wet colors I was able to get some interesting effects. The metal was VGA Gunmetal highlighted with VMA Silver or VGA Steel and then washed in AP Dark Tone. Black leather pieces were VMC Dark Grey edge highlighted with VMC Basalt Grey and then washed in AP Dark Tone. 


Now you’ve got everything you need to paint your own shadowy biological machines of clandestine death. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at