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. In this article we take a look at the Space Marine Astraeus Super-Heavy Tank, the first Primaris Lord of War and a typically obnoxious lump of resin. Before you tackle painting this monster, read over our The Fabricator General: How to Build the Astraeus Super Heavy Tank post to get caught up – that post inspired at least two of us to buy our own, and so is directly responsible for the rainbow of Big Tanks here.
What is the Astraeus?
After an Impulsor gains enough Crusade points to evolve Pokemon-style into a Repulsor, the next step is using a sun stone to become an Astraeus. Three times the size and twice as angry, the Astraeus is a gigantic hovering murder fortress. The twin macro-accelerator cannons will give the business to just about any unit in the game, and in typical Primaris fashion it mounts a bewildering and unnecessary array of secondary weapons as well. Despite its size, unlike all the other Primaris hover tanks, the Astraeus is not a hungry boy and does not have transport capacity.
Also unlike the other hover tanks or new models we’ve seen recently, the Astraeus wasn’t developed by Belisarius Cawl – the Minotaurs simply stole most of his ideas and welded them to other STC designs.
Where to Read More
Despite being extremely huge, the Astraeus doesn’t really appear in Black Library fiction. In fact, the sum total of all the fluff we were able to find about the Astraeus is the two paragraphs on the datasheet for it. It still sounds incredibly cool in those paragraphs, but there’s not a lot to go on.
Playing with the Astraeus
Jack almost took one to a RTT, which might be the only time anyone has almost used an Astraeus in anger. Otherwise, I mean, this isn’t complicated: powerfully hover/vibrate your way across the table over a bunch of terrain, then choose two enemy units you would like to destroy, point the macro-accelerators at one and all the sponsons at the other, and go to work. On their turn, laugh directly into your opponent’s face while their shots harmlessly ping off of your void shields and 2+ save, then repeat.
In slightly more useful advice, anything that can dumpster a knight has a decent chance of taking out the Astraeus. The massive footprint of the thing will cause problems – for example, coming in from Strategic Reserves, the Astraeus physically can’t be wholly within 6″ of the table edge, so it has no choice but to be stun-locked for a turn or start the game on the table. Having a lower profile than the knight, and FLY, does allow the possibility of hiding a little bit before air-holing a unit of your choice, though.
On top of eating a hundred-point price increase, the changes to the detachments in 9th have been unkind to Lords of War. Splashing an Astraeus into your existing Matched Play army will cost you 700-ish points (depending on loadout) and 3CP for a Super-Heavy Auxiliary detachment to put in it. Not ideal, and we don’t expect to see Astraeii at the top tables, but it’s not unusable either, and what you lose in CP you make up for in spectators crowding around saying things like “oh wow, is that an Astraeus“, “but aren’t those, like, really bad“, and “I bet that took forever to paint” – the answer to all of those questions, by the way, is “yes”.
The Dark Angels Astraeus, by: Greg
I don’t own an airbrush! I am not very smart.
I started things off by figuring out how much of this I wanted to assemble. The trade-off was between ruining the paint job with glue and touch-ups, or having to stab brushes inside past a bunch of detail, and in the end I’m not sure I got it completely right. I assembled the entire turret and the main body – including the sponsons, which I glued in because, come on, it’s Dark Angels, I was never not going to run the plasma option – with epoxy, and glued the repulsor plates to their brackets but not to the tank. I did not attach any of the accessories though – so the engines, pipes, void shields, etc. These I left stuck to the resin blocks they were cast in, to use as painting handles:
The hull and turret were primed with Army Painter Angel Green (equivalent to Caliban Green), and the pusher plates and Accessories were primed metal.
I didn’t love the idea of edge highlighting this whole thing, and chose instead to dry-brush the green for several hours until my wrist went numb. Partly because the model is made out of a ton of flat surfaces, so I thought it would benefit from a bit of texture – airbrush fades would be a method here, but I worked with the tools I had. But mostly because the Astraeus is heavy as shit and I am very weak, so trying to hold this thing still while I ran a brush over every single edge was a non-starter.
It got a heavy drybrush of Vallejo Sick Green (72.029), a lighter one of Scorpion Green (72.032), then a recess wash of Nuln oil, and about 80% of the tank (by area) was done. I also didn’t do the bottom half of it at all, because no one is going to see it and I don’t care.
The rest of the colors got blocked in next – do any steps involving dry brushing first so you don’t mess up any other colors or have to worry about being careful – and in quantities manageable enough that I thought it was worth edge highlighting properly:
- The black is Vallejo Black highlit with Cold Grey (72.050).
- The bone is VGC Khaki (72.061), a thousand layers of VGC Bone White (72.034) until it was even, then highlit with white and recess shaded with Agrax.
- The reds for the gun casings are VGC Gory Red 72.011, layered to Bloody Red (72.010), edged with Hot Orange (72.009) and again recess shaded with Agrax.
- The red on the lenses – and there are around 15 or 20 on here – use the same steps, but with a final dot of Orange Fire (72.008) in the bright corner, and a dot of white opposite.
- The plasma effect is simple – Vallejo Magic Blue (72.021) base, layer over the center with Electric Blue (72.023), and then a bit of white on the corners/edges.
Next was the metallics, for the gun barrels, vents, and a few other details where I thought it would be good to break up the green a bit. These were simple – Gunmetal (72.054), washed black with Nuln, drybrushed with Gunmetal, and a few spots picked out in Silver (72.052) or Bright Bronze (72.057). The Silver is a very bright metal, which I like for adding some definition to what would otherwise be a fairly mono-color chunk of gun. I went back and drybrushed a bit of Corvus Black on the ends of the gun barrels to weather them, but that’s about it.
Lastly, the Accessories. These were even lazier than the rest of the build. Having sprayed them metal, I soaked every piece – the engines, the pusher plates, all the hoses and pipes – in Basilicanum Grey Contrast, left it to dry for a while, then dry brushed Gunmetal. Then I cut them off their painting stands, and superglued them to the hull. All that was left was trying to fit the thing inside my lightbox, which was mostly derailed by a compulsion to zoom the Big Tank around my desk making whoosh sounds for a while.
Crimson Fists Astraeus, by: Ryolnir
I have wanted an Astraeus Super-Heavy badly since Jack’s Hear Me Out article on the big tank (and the 100-point drop in Chapter Approved 2019, along with the Imperial Fists Devastator Doctrine bonus) and due to a freak accident in a game of Forge World chicken with Greg, ended up buying myself one. And man, I do not regret it – this resin albatross rules. Sure, it went up over 100 points in 9th Edition less than five days after I painted it, but look how GOOD it looks!
Here was my process. It was the biggest model I’ve ever painted, and maybe ever will. I used my Iwata Eclipse Airbrush and multiple paints to do it, here we go!
I started off clipping ALL of the parts. STOP HERE. Do what Greg did and leave the Repulsor plates on so you can grab something while painting them. They were a NIGHTMARE without something to hold on to. From there, I bathed everything in warm soapy water and went to town with a toothbrush. I picked up a super handy collapsible baby bathtub for soaking all of these absolutely massive parts. My Astraeus had a bit of brown crud kind of baked into the resin that I could not clean off no mater what I did, so I scrubbed it incessantly and gave those parts a bath in isopropyl alcohol (to no avail, visually). Overall, the marks had no effect on my painting, but if you see this on yours, definitely look out for it!
From there, it was assembly time. I used BSI Super Glue & Accelerator as a 1-2 combo to make these big ass resin pieces fit together. A really smart thing I never thought of (which is literally in the instructions for all Forge World products, of which I own several) is to spray the accelerator onto one piece and put the super glue onto the other. Am I the only one who has been doing this wrong? With something this big, you’ll want to dry fit it multiple times to check for gaps, and you will have gaps. You can sand + saw things down and use some Vallejo Plastic Putty to fill the big ones. In general, try to get things as smooth as possible using sanding sticks and the like, so you can have a nice surface to paint on. This took a lot of work, but was worth it. I recommend not gluing in the turret, repulsor plates (until the end), void shield, engines, and of course sponsons, as well as the impossible-to-remember-it’s-there rear-mounted Storm Bolter. Though this may seem like a lot of stress, I was actually pleasantly surprised how few actual problems this tank gave me. Jack and Silks both assured me it was a pretty straight forward build and they weren’t kidding.
After building it, it’s time to prime it! I personally used Badger’s excellent Stynylrez Black primer from my airbrush. I spray it at around 22 PSI with no thinning and it goes on quite smoothly! I kept the piece of bubblewrap from the Astraeus’ box to use as a work area, as I didn’t want my big tank to touch my desk before it was varnished, and this worked excellently. After priming the entire body of the tank, I used Liquitex Titanium White to act as pre-highlight for everything. I went heavier on the highest points of the model and left the underside and sides mostly black. Truthfully, it looks pretty awesome in this cool white/gray and this is when I went from “I hate building this big tank” to “holy crap, this thing is amazing!”
From there, it was time to get to work. Here is how I painted the tank itself:
- Blue: Citadel’s Kantor Blue Air. I used at least half a pot. This stuff goes on incredibly smoothly and I love using it for my army. Unfortunately, my phone camera makes it look very light blue no matter what. Rest assured, this is the dark Kantor Blue you know and love. I usually use it straight from the pot and add drops of Vallejo Flow Improver to taste (repeat this for all Citadel Air paints, the ones I have used have all been quite smooth with no clogging, I spray at 18-22 PSI generally). If you want your pre-shade or pre-highlights to show through (which I did), thin it more than usual and paint it in several coats. You can see in photos that the top of my tank has sort of natural “glow” that I’ve very happy with.
- Blue Shade: Night Lords Blue Air. I was inspired by so many awesome tanks I saw online with their airbrushed shading and I had always struggled to find the right way to do this for my army. As it turns out, Games Workshop actually released the perfect paint for this into the Air line last year alongside Contrast called Night Lord’s Blue. Night Lords Blue is a darker tone than Kantor Blue and has a bit of dark gray in its pigment. This results in a fairly excellent contrast to Kantor Blue’s richness and let me shade around every piece of the model I felt might draw shadows.
- Blue Highlight: I used a thinned down (with Vallejo Flow Improver as I like the gel consistency for highlights) Alaitoc Blue for my highlights. Usually I go back over the most important highlights with Hoeth Blue, but I completely forgot like an idiot… I may actually go back and do this. I personally held the tank in one hand against my lap and rotated it, as it’s absolutely a huge dinner plate of resin.
- Red: Citadel’s Khorne Red Air. Nice and simple. I personally could not find a red color that was darker than Khorne Red that I was happy with to shade, and even tried mixing some. I used some Carroburg Crimson Shade to give it some depth in the necessary areas but am still looking for a more elegant airbrush solution.
- Metallic: Vallejo Metal Color Airbrush Colors Steel. I absolutely adore this paint and have been using it for everything – it has such a “real metallic” feel and is so thin that it goes on without hassle. Highly recommend this for a Leadbelcher stand-in.
- Metallic Shade: I hit my Metallics with a new favorite of mine, Mr. Weathering Multi-Black (and the solvent, which I’m pretty sure is just white spirits). This stuff does serious work on getting into every recess and bringing depth to a model, I use this for Primaris marines to catch all of the recesses and it works beautifully. It is unfortunately quite hard to source outside of Japan, so good luck finding some!
An important final detail, I got to paint my first 28mm Void Shields! I don’t own a Titan yet so this was a fun little treat. I painted the metallics in VMCA Steel and then the blue with Baharroth Blue. I then thinned the blue down considerably and put some into my airbrush for some OSL action. I am not experience at this (and just recently bungled it horribly on my Bladeguard Veterans) but this was a pretty satisfying experience and I think it looks solid!
And then… paint the rest of the tank! No but for real, nothing left is surprising. The Plasma eradicators were painted with Corvus Black and more Baharroth Blue – I tried to do some OSL and it went poorly. I use AK Interactive Ultra Matte to make it look like an awesome machine of war, and it really helped blend my basecoat, highlights, and shading. There is still some work I’d like to do after the fact, and my sponsons could use another coat of varnish, but I’m happy with Hellblade’s Fury!
Imperial Fists Astraeus, by: Jack Hunter
This is probably my absolute favorite vehicle I’ve ever painted, and I’m glad it was the impetus for most of these other assholes to buy one themselves. That said, it was pretty straightforward, if time consuming as hell. I did a lot of work in sub-assemblies – anything I could reasonably separate got taken apart. When I started painting I had the main hull as one piece, any metal piece separate, all the grav plates attached to their mounts but not attached to the hull, and the turret in 5 parts – the center, the barrels, then the two sides (with the center ammo bin attached to one side).
I started out by painting all the black – primer then highlights of Corvus Black. With a model like this I don’t want to push the highlights too far at all, as part of the appeal is the high contrast with the yellow. After giving it a day for the primer to cure, I masked and painted the yellow areas. This was done with a bunch of tape and index cards, and didn’t end up being perfect. Most of the areas where black butts up against yellow are going to be dark and unhighligted, so if I need to be a little sloppy with the mask and touch up with a brush later, that’s OK.
I painted all the yellow following my second recipe in our How To Paint Everything: Imperial Fists article. I added decals to the black areas at the same time as yellow, and weathered it the same way – though this time with Corvus Black as my sponge weathering instead of Phalanx Yellow over the decals. Black recesses in highlighted areas got a quick hit of gloss nuln oil for separation when I was doing the dark brown pinwash.
The grav plates were all drybrushed with Scale 75 Black Metal. Extremely quick, kept them dark and at least somewhat interesting. I’ve tried washing these plates before and it’s never looked amazing, and I’m not willing to take the effort to pinwash all of them.
Most other metals were hit with Iron Hands Steel, and some shading added with the Deathshroud Black Clear paint through the airbrush – nuln oil would probably also work for this.
The heat staining on the thrusters was also done with the clear paints – Blue > Purple > Red > Orange > Yellow. I’m still using bottles I got when they were under the Forgeworld brand, but the newer GW branded ones should work identically.
Windows and glows are all Kantor Blue, Temple Guards Blue, Barharroth Blue, and a little bit of white. Things that glow (like on the void shields) get a lot more of the brighter blue layers and have them in the middle of the surface, while windows get much less and have the blues in one corner with the white highlight in the opposite corner.
Blood Angels Astraeus, by: Jack Hunter
This one was actually the first Astraeus I painted. While I like it, I don’t like it anywhere near as much as the Imperial Fists one – it both doesn’t hit my current style and took longer to paint. A number of parts were handled about the same way as on the IF version – I did the grav plates exactly the same (though I used a GW drybrush on this and a cheap makeup brush on the IF one, which I prefer), and the heat staining on the gun barrels is the same.
The black areas on this were all brushed black by hand, carefully edge highlighted with Vallejo Black Grey and Scale 75 Graphite.
All the red areas (by far the majority of this tank) were first airbrushed Mephiston Red, then highlighted with Scale 75 Antares Red and Aldebaran red, then very carefully recess washed with Agrax Earthshade. When I painted this I hadn’t figured out how to do oil or enamel washes, which would’ve massively sped things up.
All the bronze areas were painted Castellax Bronze, then a wash of gloss Reikland Fleshshade.
Raven Guard Astraeus, by: Dan Boyd
Ah, yes. This fucking thing. None of the other cowards in this article are going to tell you this, but I am: Don’t buy one of these dumbass resin albatrosses. They’re not fun to paint, they are complete ass on the table, and they will shatter if you sneeze on one because they’re all resin, bay bee!
That being said, I love my large resin son, and if you say anything bad about him I will fucking fight you.
As for painting, all my recipes are the same as my entry in HTPE: Raven Guard. If you want to listen to me have a mental breakdown in real time about painting this awful thing, check out episode 34 of the 40k Badcast.
Cupola tips before you go:
- Scrub the shit outta this thing with soapy water before you even try painting it.
- Paint all the metallic stuff separately. It’s way easier.
- Ignore the bottom of this thing, no one will ever see it.
- There are some weird cowling things that go over the engines, paint them separately and glue them in when you’re done.
- Have some brush-on gloss varnish handy to paint on the corners and raised areas, because those spots will get rubbed off and it is fucking infuriating when they do.
- Don’t paint one black. Even if you’re like me, and you do a painstaking, three-stage edge highlight on literally every fucking edge. People will still tell you it looks flat, and that you should have “shaded ur blacks”, and then tell their friends that they think it looks like shit when they think you can’t hear them.
Sons of the Phoenix Astraeus, by: Silks
First of all I gave the model a coat of spraycan primer. I don’t normally do that for my Sons but I don’t trust airbrush primer on the resin. I used Halfords Grey Primer on the hull and Citadel Chaos Black on the turret and gun sponsons. I then sprayed the hull with Vallejo Grey primer with my airbrush. I left the turret and sponsons unglued for the moment so I could take them out and spray them seperately. I also kept the grav plates and weapons off, they were all sprayed black.
For the purple I started off spraying the pieces with Scale 75 Violet and then highlight with Vallejo Alien Purple.
For the white, my process is fairly simple. Starting from the Vallejo Grey Primer I do a zenithal spray of Citadel Ulthuan Grey and a recess spray of Vallejo Blue Grey. Then I panel line with Citadel Contrast Gryph Charger Grey. I really like Contrast paints for panel lining, they flow really nicely and don’t stain the surrounding areas as much as washes. I then edge highlight it with Daler Rowney White ink. I also panel lined the purple with Citadel Contrast Shyish purple and edge highlight with Citadel Dechala lilac.
For the weapons I gave them all a coat of Scale 75 Heavy Metal. I then washed them with a mixture of Citadel Contrast Black Templar mixed 1:4 with Contrast medium. I absolutely love using this wash on metallics, it’s like Nuln oil but better, as it really pulls itself into the recesses and gives itself an edge highlight.
I also drybrushed all of the grav panels with Heavy Metal. This was straight over the black undercoat and gave them a weathered look without too much effort.
I then glued all the separate pieces together and gave the entire model a gloss varnish using my airbrush. Once that was dry I added the decals and sealed with a matte varnish.
Paint the Big Tank, coward.
If you do, feel free to show off in the comments, or send pics to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We seriously can’t get enough pictures of your models, particularly if they’re of large tanks.