How to Paint Everything – Blood Ravens Space Marines

This article is part of a larger series on how to paint Space Marines. To return to that series, click here.

The Blood Ravens are a successor chapter of unknown origin who were first introduced in the 2004 PC real time strategy (RTS) game Dawn of Warcreated specifically for that game during a time when Games Workshop was a bit more skittish about licensing the use of official chapters. The game was a wild (and, surprising to GW) success, and immediately catapulted the chapter to the heights of popularity among marine chapters, to the point where they got their own chapter rules in the 4th edition Codex: Space Marines.

The Blood Ravens as a chapter have a few quirks, the most interesting of which is having a disproportionate number of librarians. They also seek out ancient lore and artefacts in their campaigns, which has led them to acquire a reputation as being a bit like magpies, having relics from other chapters with seemingly no record of how they came into possession of those relics despite their claims of the relics being gifts.

Colors-wise, the Blood Ravens have bright red armor with bone-colored shoulderpads and black/dark grey trim and aquilas. They don’t appear to have complex heraldry, but we’ll touch on that in the heraldry section, below.

Something that can change – or be a bit varied, at least – is the shade of red you use for your Blood Ravens. Depending on the source, Blood Ravens have red armor that varies in shade form a deeper burgundy-like color to a brighter, more orange red tone.

Covered in this Article

  • How to paint the Blood Ravens, with multiple methods for painting marines in the chapter.
  • The Heraldry for the Blood Ravens, with notes on how they denote their companies and squads.

Heraldry - Click to Expand

Despite being very visible, the Blood Ravens’ Heraldry is not at all well known, and Games Workshop haven’t been particularly forthcoming with official guidance on how the chapter organizes itself visually. This is pretty evident when you look at the now out-of-production transfer sheet Forge World put out for the Blood Ravens back in 2010:

Credit: Games Workshop

That’s not a lot to go off of, basically just giving us squad markings and chapter icons (I suspect the Blood Ravens use the gothic script numbering over Roman numerals, but this is just a guess). We can likely infer from this that the Blood Ravens follow the Codex Astartes for squad markings, putting a number in white over the black squad role icon, but if and how they mark chapters is a bit more obtuse. It’s likely – but not proven or shown anywhere canon- that they use kneepad markings to designate company. Official art and art in Dawn of War shows Blood Ravens with a black right kneepad, and we know that the marines in the game are from the 3rd company, so this is likely their mark.

Credit: Relic

Veterans and Chapter Command

Two interesting notes here: The first is that Blood Ravens terminators and veterans do not use white helmets – Terminators and veterans in the games just use standard red helmets.

The second note is that the chapter’s commanders tend to have additional gold details to mark them out. This is visible on Gabriel Angelos and Isidor Akios in Dawn of War, who both have golden breastplates, with the latter having golden shoulderpads and greaves as well. Angelos’ Terminator armor in Dawn of War 3 doesn’t have a golden breastplate, but he does have a substantial amount of gold trim and detailing otherwise. These command characters also tend to have golden aquilas instead of black or grey.

RichyP's Method - Click to Expand

A few weeks prior to painting this model I did another Blood Raven using traditional paints. While quick at 90 minutes from start to finish, I figured it could be done faster with red primer and Contrast paints. You’ll see the old guy in some of the step-by-step shots as I used him as a benchmark. About 8 years earlier I did some even older Blood Ravens, these guys:

I miss those guys… Anyway on to the Contrast version.

Priming: Mephiston Red

I didn’t get a shot of this step, but it’s a Primaris Sergeant primed in Mephiston Red Spray.

Step 1: Shading

Mix up Wyldwood Contrast with Contrast Medium about 1:2 (1 part paint to 2 parts medium) and cover the entire model

Apply the same mix to the recesses and face, highlight sharper edges with Tallarn Flesh

Step 2: Additional Shading

Apply Cadian Fleshtone to the insides of the previous highlights and over the face (leaving a bit of the red/brown contrast mix in the edges.

Step 3: Flesh and Bone

Paint Wraithbone on the shoulderpads and the sergeant’s helmet (I dotted the eyes with it too), and Dawnstone (of War) to the shoulder pad rims and an areas that will be black i.e. hair, gun, chest Aquila and knee pad. Highlight the face (cheeks, ridges, chin, nose and under eyes) with Kislev Flesh.

Step 5: Final Details

Mix Abaddon Black and Contrast Medium (1:1) and paint it over the grey areas, in the case of the shoulder pad rims, use a line of neat Abaddon Black in the centre leaving the grey lines on the edges. After this has dried, do an edge of Dawnstone and then Ulthuan on the black areas to make the black pop (I didn’t photo the steps between the black and this stage but trust me it works). Paint Skeleton Horde over the bone areas.

Paint on markings using white on the black and red areas, and black on the bone-coloured areas. For the eye lenses use Warp Lightning Green, then add a dot of white to the back of them. Add a bit of Wraithbone to the teeth, then apply a tiny bit of Drakenhof Nightshade to both the teeth and the eye sockets. Then stop the clocks you’ve probably beaten the 90min version.

Credit: RichyP

TheChirurgeon's Method - Click to Expand

I loved the original Dawn of War and false started several times when it came to building a Blood Ravens army. I eventually scratched the itch by painting Jansus Natorian for my Deathwatch – and if you’re doing a Blood Ravens army I’d recommend hunting down that mini because he’s great – but when the chance came to paint a Blood Raven for this tutorial I took it.

Step 1: Priming and Basecoat

This guy wasn’t originally going to be a Blood Raven, so I primed him with Grey Seer and then painted the whole model with Flesh Tearers Contrast Paint. If I had known he was going to be a Blood Raven from the start, I’d have instead primed him Mephiston Red and washed the whole thing with Carroburg Crimson, and saved a little bit of time and effort. I’m happy with how this turned out anyways, but a note for future painters.

Step 2: More Basecoats

Next up I started adding in other basecoats, doing the metal parts of the bolter and underarmor with Leadbelcher while the bolter itself received a couple of coats of Black Legion Contrast Paint. The chest aquila was painted with Black Legion as well, and the shoulderpads were painted Rakarth Flesh.

Step 3: Painting the Armor for Reals

Here’s where my dumb plan came together – I painted the bulk of the armor with Mephiston Red, leaving some spots – primarily recesses – darkened with Flesh Tearers. In the alternate method where I prime Mephiston and wash Carroburg this is largely the same.

This is also the step where I did some washes. I washed the metal parts with Nuln Oil and did a thin line around the rim of the shoulderpads with Agrax Earthshade. I also did lines of Carroburg Crimson and Nuln Oil in the armor recesses where I needed them a bit darker.

Step 4: Highlights

Time for the magic. I hit the edges on the power armor with Evil Sunz Scarlet. I edge highlighted the bolter’s black parts with Mechanicus Standard Grey. The shoulder pads I hihglighted up in a gradient from Rakarth Flesh to Reaper Polished Bone (Wraithbone also works for this), in 4 steps mixing in more and more Polished Bone. Then I painted the rims with Black Legion Contrast paint, highlighted them with Corvus Black, and edge highlighted them with Mechanicus Standard Grey.

This is also where I painted the eyes, doing a base layer of Warpstone Glow and putting in some Moot Green over top of that.

Step 5: Final Details

Just a few final details in this step, and it’s lots of minor things. I do some final, corner edge highlights on the red with Wild Rider Red, giving it some extra pop, and do corner highlights on the black parts with Celestra Grey. I also paint the right kneepad here, using Black Legion Contrast Paint, then shading that up to Corvus Black and doing a line highlight of Mechanicus Standard Grey. The Aquila also gets some Mechanicus Standard Grey highlights and the bolter aquila is Retributor Armour. 

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

Soggy's Method - Click to Expand

Dawn of War is largely reponsisble for kindling my interest in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and the wider hobby. After 12 odd years and several failed starts (Battle for Macragge and Assault on Black Reach), it was only when I tried painting Blood Ravens with the Dark Imperium starter that things stuck.

Several years have passed since then, as have different approaches to painting them up. These days I opt for a lazy airbrush approach, which gives a consistent result for someone for someone who isn’t that good at brush work.

Getting started

Step 1: Priming and basecoat

I like my Blood Ravens to be a deep scarlet colour, not to be mistaken with the vibrant red of Blood Angels. To achieve this I prime black, to keep things nice and dark. To start with, I apply a base coat of Vallejo Scarlet Red all over the model with the airbrush.

Step 2: Working up the red

From this I zenithal airbrush a few more reds an Army Painter Warpaints triad set to give the lighten things up a little and give the red a bit more depth. I start off with a generous 45° zenithal of Army Painter Encarmine Red and follow it off with a high 70° dash of AP Pure Red. I use AP Pure Red to edge highlight the armour and work up to AP Archangel Red on the extreme edges/corners.

Step 3: The rest of the owl

It’s at this point I start attacking the other details of the model.

  • Shoulder pads are just straight Rakarth Flesh. On larger models such as Vehicles, I will use Vallejo Bone White to edge highlight or highlight with the airbrush.
  • Black trim on the pads or the kneepad if I’m in the mood, are Vallejo Heavy Charcoal, edge highlighted with Skavenblight Dinge and Dawnstone.
  • Golds are Scale75 Viking Gold, which get a light wash of Reikland Fleshshade to give some depth
  • Other metals depend on what I grab first, at the moment I am using Darkstar Baroque for silver, Darkstar Copper for copper, and Darkstar Aged Copper for a bronze colour (RIP Tin Bitz)
  • Lenses are mostly Warpstone Glow with a bit of Moot Green to highlight
  • Powerswords are a green blend of Caliban Green > Warpstone Glow > Moot Green > Flashgitz Yellow.
  • The armour undersuit just use Incubi Darkness, as the dark green of it complements the red.
  • Tabards are basecoated with Steel Legion Drab, highlighted with XV-88, edge highlighted with Zandri Dust with an extreme edge highlight of Rakarth Flesh.

Credit: Soggy

Step 4: Sealing the deal

Once all the details are in place, I hit the whole model with a Vallejo Mecha Gloss Varnish. After which I apply my decals with Microsol and Microset, giving this plenty of time to dry before I start applying the enamel panel liners. In the past I would have used  Gloss Nuln Oil, but as this is no longer available I now use Ammo Mig Black Night panel line wash to pick out all the details on the model.

Once this has dried, I apply some Ammo Mig Streaking Grime to the lower legs. I tend to give it 15 odd minutes to settle before wiping most of it off with a makeup double applicator. To lock everything in and seal the deal, I hit the model with a Vallejo Premium Matt Varnish. Don’t use the Vallejo Mecha Matt Varnish as it’s more of a satin.

Blood Ravens Company Heroes. Credit: Soggy

Final Thoughts

That wraps up the Blood Ravens, but as you can see there are multiple ways to tackle the chapter, and a lot of blank space where heraldry and livery is concerned. They’re a fun faction to paint.

This article is part of a larger series on how to paint Space Marines. To return to that series, click here.