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. This week, we’re looking at the Blood Angels, everyone’s favourite Renaissance goth space vampires.
The Blood Angels
Who are the Blood Angels?
The Blood Angels are one of the best-explored Chapters in the Warhammer 40,00 universe, as you can see by the “Where to Read More” section. They existed way back in the Rogue Trader era as one of the suggested schemes in that book, along with their eventual successors the Flesh Tearers and Blood Drinkers, but the making of them came with 2nd edition and the Angels of Death codex. This book, shared with the Dark Angels, introduced a bunch of their key characters and unique units, as well as the first iteration of rules and a greatly-expanded fluff background for them. After that, they have a slightly rockier history – they received a slimline Codex: Blood Angels in 3rd edition, but then had to suffice with a White Dwarf codex in 4th. It wasn’t until midway through 5th edition that they got a new full-fat Codex – but when they did it was extremely good, with multiple powerful builds and a ton of great fluff (and some not so great fluff – though I’ve personally always kind of liked the Necron alliance for what it was). It also was the original book to feature the Stormraven, so you can thank the Sons of Sanguinius every time you see one of those across the table, though the model itself didn’t actually appear for a while after the book came out. What did show up was the insanely cool plastic Death Company box, the plastic Blood Angels Dreadnought, and the Sanguinary Guard, as well as a couple of new special characters.
Following that, their next book was 4 years later in early 7th edition, and then came 8th edition and the current Codex: Blood Angels, which added the new Primaris units. The only new plastic release they’ve had for several years is their unique Primaris Lieutenant, but the range is pretty much feature-complete so that’s no bad thing.
That’s their history in the real world – but what about their in-game background?
The Blood Angels are one of the original Legions, founded by the Emperor himself for the Great Crusade. Known simply as the IXth Legion, they were pretty creepy before they found their vampire angel primarch on Baal, gaining a reputation as the “Eaters of the Dead” for their habit of eating corpses. Along with this unpleasant habit, they were well-known as shock troops who sometimes took things way too far – known for their hunger for blood and death, the IXth Legion were a force which seemed to encapsulate all the worst aspects of the Imperium.
This all changed with the discovery of Sanguinius. Living in the blasted hellscape of Baal, Sanguinius had united the humans of Baal against the mutant tribes who warred with them. Upon meeting the Emperor he immediately bent the knee, and took command of the IXth. It didn’t take him long to find that the Legion modelled on his gene heritage had a ferocious history, and seemed to be losing themselves ever more to horror. Sanguinius’ great project was to reshape his Legion in his own image, turning them from savage killers into the noble warrior-artists which will be better known to 40k players.
The Legion took part in several important actions in the Great Crusade, including fighting a gigantic Hrud migration, the Ullanor Crusade, and the War on Murder, the battle which would lead almost directly to Horus’ fall from grace.
The pivotal moments of the Horus Heresy for the Blood Angels are Sanguinius’ battles with Ka’Bandha, a Greater Daemon of Khorne, and later with Horus himself. Ka’Bandha is an ongoing antagonist for Sanguinius – several times trying to tempt him in service to Khorne, before crushing his legs on Signus Prime in a titanic battle. The two would meet again on Terra, during the titanic battle for the Emperor’s Palace. This time, Sanguinius bested the Greater Daemon, breaking its back across his knee and banishing Ka’Bandha back to the Warp.
While his Blood Angels fought ferociously on Terra, Sanguinius and a small retinue teleported aboard the Vengeful Spirit along with the Emperor and Rogal Dorn. There they were separated, every individual warrior experiencing their own personal battle above Horus’ capital ship. Sanguinius had long known that he would meet his death at the hands of his brother Horus, but he pressed on anyway, and was the first to encounter Horus deep within the halls of the battle barge. The two fought a titanic battle, but Sanguinius was unable to harm the warp-fuelled Horus, and was eventually struck down.
After the death of Sanguinius, the Blood Angels began to experience the Black Rage more often and more terribly. The Legionaries began to have death visions of their Primarch, imagining themselves to be Sanguinius aboard the Vengeful Spirit, stalking its halls, battling Horus, and dying. When the Legion was forced to split into smaller Chapters, this curse was taken to their successors too, with some like the Flesh Tearers experiencing the Black Rage even more powerfully than their founders. Those Marines who became lost to the rage were formed into the Death Company, a combination of elite shock troops and fearless berserkers lost to their own madness.
Throughout the millennia that followed the Horus Heresy, the Blood Angels were tireless defenders of the Imperium, warring on all fronts. The Blood Angels fought in both the 2nd and 3rd Wars for Armageddon, battled multiple Hive Fleets, and took part in thousands of other wars. In the current timeline, they have been led for over 1,100 years by Commander Dante, the oldest serving Space Marine who is not interred in a Dreadnought. Dante has taken part in many of the most titanic battles of the Blood Angels’ history, including the Devastation of Baal, when Hive Fleet Leviathan invaded the homeworld of the Blood Angels. During this war Dante personally slew the Swarmlord, but was eventually struck down and lay close to death. Thinking himself finally at the end of his long life of service to the Imperium, Dante readied himself to finally be released from his duty – but in a vision, he saw Sanguinius beseeching him to live, and was restored. Following the defeat of Hive Fleet Leviathan, Dante was named Lord Regent of the Imperium Nihilus, the part of the Imperium which lies behind the Cicatrix Maledictum, by Roboute Guilliman himself.
Where to Read More
Blood Angels have a long history in the Warhammer 40,000 lore, so there’s plenty to dig into. Codex: Blood Angels is an obvious starting point, but there’s a wealth of other information out there on the Sons of Sanguinius.
- Most recently, Goonhammer’s favourite Black Library author Rachel Harrison has published a novella called Blood Rite, covering the adventures of Captain Donato and his Terminator squad as they fight against a Word Bearers invasion on a shrine world.
- The Devastation of Baal covers the siege of Baal by Hive Fleet Leviathan – the events of which form part of the Indomitus Crusade.
- Mephiston, Dante, Astorath and Lemartes all have their own individual novels available – Mephiston even has a series!
- There’s also the Blood Angels series by James Swallow, recently released in a single handy omnibus edition, which follows the exploits of Brother Rafen. If your main desire is to read the most about Blood Angels you can, then this is the 960-page book for you! Goonhammer takes no responsibility for the actual quality of that book.
- Additionally, Blood Angels appear throughout the events of the Horus Heresy and Siege of Terra series – Sanguinius life and death are key parts of that narrative, and he and his Legion show up all the time
Playing Blood Angels
Blood Angels have their own Codex in 40k, and several unique units. Their Chapter tactic is the Red Thirst, which gives their units +1 to wound rolls when they charge, are charged, or heroically intervenes. This is a hugely powerful buff – even basic Intercessors become a serious melee threat with it, and it’s one of the things which enables the “Slamguinius” build for a Blood Angels Captain charging into melee.
As well as a plethora of special characters – old favourites Commander Dante, Mephiston, Corbulo, Captain Tycho, and Lemartes, and the newer boys Astorath the Grim and the Sanguinor – Blood Angels are also the only chapter which can take Librarian Dreadnoughts, Furioso Dreadnoughts, Baal Predators, Death Company Dreadnoughts, regular Death Company, Sanguinary Guard, and Sanguinary Priests. They lose a little for all this – no Centurions and no Thunderfire Cannon – but otherwise, this is a bunch of cool stuff (maybe not the Baal Predators). They also have their own psychic lore, the Sanguinary Discipline, and their own relics, Warlord traits, and stratagems.
Following the 2019 Space Marines codex, Blood Angels are in a slightly weird position, since they got some (but not all) of those updates. The codex itself is a bit of an odd duck – it makes some units fantastic, notably the above-mentioned slam Captain, but the tactic does nothing for any of your shooting units, which is a big hole to have when half your unit list is vanilla Space Marines. The most common place that the Sons of Sanguinius show up is in soup lists, sharing the stage with other Imperial factions, often Imperial Knights or Astra Militarum, where they provide some great counter-charging options.
Blood Angels are largely the same as other Marines in Kill Team, though they do get a replica of their 40k tactic – in a turn in which they charge, charged, or heroically intervened, they get +1 to wound rolls. This is a helpful tactic, great for helping your guys to punch out your opponent’s models. They can also take hand flamers and inferno pistols.
Blood Angels are mostly the same as other Space Marines in Apocalypse, but they do have five unique strategic assets – Black Rage, Descent of Angels, Red Thirst, and the psychic powers The Blood Lance and Quickening. Blood Lance is pretty whatever, and Quickening is a nice buff to a single character, but the other three cards are what you really care about – all of them about making your melee even better – Black Rage triples hits for a Death Company unit, Descent of Angels gives 6″ more movement and an extra attack, and Red Thirst gives a straight +1 to wound, similar to the 40k rule. This is a great set of assets to have available, and it makes your Blood Angels even better at what they want to do – charging into the enemy lines and hitting them very, very hard.
Painting Blood Angels
After spending a year painting my Imperial Fists, my return to Blood Angels was accompanied by a new paint scheme. Blood Angels were my first army when returning to the hobby with 8th edition, so I had followed the standard GW scheme that Duncan demonstrates nicely on YouTube. I wanted to push a lot more contrast into my scheme, and fortunately for me Luther over at The Mighty Brush had written an absolutely fantastic tutorial. I’m going to summarize it quickly here, but his site has a ton more detail, including photos of each step. He also sells an updated PDF version of the tutorial, using slightly different paints and methods, which I have yet to try – but even without using the specific the tutorial is absolutely worth it for his thoughts on how to get easy airbrush highlights and painting eyes.
- Prime with Vallejo German Red Brown.
- Airbrush shadows with VMA Dark Sea Blue, and highlights with White. I use Liquitex Acrylic Ink, as I find it gives me much smoother transitions than any traditional white paint.
- Airbrush VMA Medium Yellow over the entire model.
- Airbrush VMA Red over the entire model.
- Paint any areas of the model that are going to end up getting a black wash – I do Scale 75 Necro Gold for anything gold, VMC Black Grey for any black areas, and Scale 75 Black Metal for anything silver.
- Gloss varnish and apply any decals
- Wash the entire model with Gloss Nuln Oil, taking care to avoid pooling.
- Matte varnish, then proceed with any highlighting you want to do.
This gives me a pretty quick method of getting large units of troops ready, and with just a little bit more effort can have characters particularly stand out.
The Blood Angels have some key units in gold, most notably Sanguinius and his Sanguinary Guard. It’s also used in large areas on the helmets of veterans. There are a ton of different tonalities that can be used for gold, but this is my favorite appearance for my army. I tend to use a lot more different colors on it than I might on other colors – all the models wearing gold tend to be important, so I want them to stand out.
- Prime black, and apply a base coat of Scale 75 Necro Gold with an airbrush.
- Airbrush Scale 75 Viking Gold heavily over the model, leaving Necro Gold just in the lowest recesses.
- Airbrush Scale 75 Dwarven Gold over most of the upper surfaces of the model, again leaving the Viking gold mostly from the mid-point down.
- Airbrush Scale 75 Elven gold on the uppermost parts of the surfaces. This should only be a very light coat, stopping as soon as it starts being noticable.
- Gloss varnish the entire model, then wash everything with Gloss Reikland Fleshshade.
- Carefully wash Druchii Violet into recesses between armor plates, undersides of filigree, and anywhere else that needs contrast.
- Matte varnish the model, then do a final set of edge highlights with Scale 75 Citrine Alchemy.
The Blood Angels also have their black armored units – either Destroyers in the 31st millennium or Death Company in the 41st. My strategy for the black armor is based on some of the techniques I used on the red, specifically laying down highlights with the airbrush, blocking in details, then slathering the same wash over everything.
- Prime the model black.
- Carefully airbrush highlight using VMA Black Grey, covering about a third of the surface with a fairly long transition to black.
- Block in all the silvers and golds, using the same method as above on the red.
- Gloss varnish and apply decals.
- Wash with Gloss Nuln Oil, taking care to avoid pooling.
- Matte varnish, and apply some final quick edge highlights with Scale 75 Graphite.
1.) Basecoat the model Mephiston Red.
2.) Basecoat all gold areas with Balthasar Gold, followed by a layer of Gehenna’s Gold. Basecoat the purity seal paper with Rakarth Flesh.
3.) Wash the model with a matte coat of Agrax Earthshade. I apply this liberally since I like my shadows deep and I can always clean up any overflow later with more Mephiston Red.
4.) Paint every area that is going to be black or silver with Abaddon Black. I also clean up the overspill from step three here and correct any errors I make with the black with more Mephiston Red.
5.) Paint all silver parts of the model with Leadbelcher. Wash these sections with Nuln Oil. Highlight all the edges of the armor with Evil Sunz Scarlet.
6.)Paint inside the edges of the previous highlight with Troll Slayer Orange. I try to only do this on the edges of the armor that would be lit from above.
7.) Highlight all black areas of the model (leather, bolter casing, shoulder trim, and chest eagle on my model) with Eshin Grey. Don’t be afraid of going a bit thicker here, as we want there to be a gradient between this step and the next.
8.) Paint a smaller highlight inside of the previous one with Dawnstone. Unlike the Troll Slayer Orange highlight, I do this with every edge because I’m always worried about my black areas not standing out enough.
9.) Paint the lower half of the eye lenses, the gun sights, and all the edges of the purity seals with Warpstone Glow.
10.) Finally, paint the tiniest tips of the eye lenses, the gun sights, and the purity seal with a thin highlight of Moot Green. Put a tiny dot of White Scar at the back of the eye lenses and your Blood Angel is ready for the basing technique of your choice!
Vengeance for Sanguinius!
Hopefully that gives you everything you need to start painting up your own Blood Angels, including the iconic Death Company and Sanguinary Guard. Blood Angels can be a very striking army on the tabletop, with their mix of red, black, and gold. If you have any questions about the methods here, or you’d like to share some models and methods of your own, shoot us a comment in the comments section below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love to get feedback from readers, and if you’ve got a Blood Angels army of your own you’d like to showcase in one of our Army Showcase articles, feel free to tell us that too — we’re always looking for new armies to showcase. Check back on Thursday for reader Samuel (who contributed his method above) to do exactly that, as we show off his full Blood Angels army!