How to Paint Everything – Crimson Slaughter Chaos Space Marines

In our How to Paint Everything series we look at how to paint, well, everything, with a look at different techniques and schemes from different painters. In this article we’re looking at how to paint the Chaos Space Marines of the Crimson Slaughter renegade chapter.

The Crimson Slaughter are a Chaos Space Marine force with a strange place in the history of Warhammer 40,000. Lorewise they were once a loyalist chapter known as the Crimson Sabres, but began to walk the path of damnation when their chapter became haunted by voices that only bloodshed and violence could silence. Excommunicated by the Imperium, the Crimson Sabres fled to the Eye of Terror and became corrupted, and thus the Crimson Slaughter were born. 

The Crimson Slaughter first appeared in the 6th Edition starter set Dark Vengeance, facing off against Dark Angels. Following this starter set, the Crimson Slaughter replaced the Black Legion as the “iconic” Chaos Space Marines that would appear on the boxes for new Chaos Marine releases for several years. As the poster boys for Chaos in 6th and 7th edition they’d receive additional support in the form of their own Codex Supplement, which was updated in 7th edition and featured  unique rules, Warlord Traits, and Detachments for the renegade chapter.

When 8th edition brought a new wave of Chaos Marines, the Black Legion reclaimed their spot as the face of the Chaos Space Marines faction, but older boxes can still be found with the bright red armor and gold trim of the Crimson Slaughter.

Covered in this Article:

  • How to Paint the Crimson Slaughter, with multiple approaches to painting their red and gold paint scheme.
  • Notes on the Heraldry of the Crimson Slaughter

Crimson Slaughter Heraldry - Click to Expand

The Crimson Slaughter started off as the noble chapter of Space Marines, the Crimson Sabres, who sported at red and white color scheme with gold aquilas.

Credit: Games Workshop

After their fall to Chaos they became twisted in visage, adorning their armor with the baroque trappings of the Chaos Legions. They abandoned their chapter heraldry and the heraldry of the Codex Astartes but they continue to maintain their own symbols of status. The 7th edition Traitor’s Hate campaign book lays these out in greater detail. Specifically, white helmets denote that a marine of the Crimson Slaughter has killed an imperial saint, while black horns indicate the marine has killed a daemon, and a black loin cloth denotes a warrior who has killed ten loyalist marines.

The current icon of the Crimson Slaughter is a fanged skull with a black Chaos halo around it. These don’t show up on the current Chaos Space Marines transfer sheets but show up on the 6th/7th ed sheets which are still pretty common and can be found in older, non-repacked boxes of Chaos Space Marines. You can also find these pretty easily on ebay.


The Crimson Slaughter tend to favor Possessed in battle, and their lore and older rules reflect this, while more recent rules from 8th and 9th edition reflected the paranormal activity and dark spirits which surrounded them. The faction never really had its own special characters, though the Chaos Lord from the Dark Vengeance box is meant to be Kranon the Relentless, who wields the corrupted Blade of the Relentless in battle. The chapter’s Chief Librarian, Mannon, is also a notable character in their lore, having become a corrupted sorcerer driven mad by the voices and visions he experiences.

Swiftblade's Method - Click to Expand

The Crimson Slaughter project was a fun one. I’ve got more unpainted legionaries laying around than sense, so when Rob Jones sent out the call for Chaos Marine HTPE articles I volunteered one of these unpainted bozos for the Crimson Slaughter. It felt like I would be paying homage to when I first began to play the faction back in 6th edition, when the Crimson Slaughter were being pushed pretty heavily by Games Workshop. 

Like most of the Chaos Marines line, it’s a mixed bag as far as difficulty painting this scheme goes. On the one hand, painting power armor is very straightforward, and since there aren’t really any fleshy bits to worry about we can mostly stick to edge highlights for this model. The difficulty comes in the amount of detail these models have and the amount of trim on the armor. Painting both trim and myriad little details can be very tedious and cause mistakes on other parts of the model. My best advice here is to be patient, and enjoy the process. If you get impatient and rush, you’ll end up losing more time than you would have otherwise getting stuck too long in the clean-up step of painting.

Painting the Base Armor

Prime any color we like, as long as its black

The red armor of the Crimson Slaughter is the most iconic part of this renegade chapter. In order to make sure we capture the “crimson” part of Crimson Slaughter, we will need to paint a very bright red. To do this, we will base the armor panels in Mephiston Red, not worrying too much if we get messy here. It’s still not quite bright enough for a good crimson color, so we paint on a layer of Evil Suns Scarlet to brighten the red considerably, trying to avoid the deeper recesses. Next we highlight black with Army Painter Dark Shade.

I apply the shade all over the model, and then reapply a Evil Suns Scarlet layer, but if you’d like to save time here I suggest just shading the recesses of the model and where the trim meets the armor panels. We wont edge highlight yet, we will save this step for when the trim and silver bits are done so we don’t have to constantly clean up our highlights.  

Painting the Trim

For the trim, I base with Retributor Gold. I use a smaller brush than normal for basing here, mostly sticking with a Medium Layer brush from Citadel to avoid painting too much gold on the red. It takes forever, but the more careful I am here the less I have to fix later. Following this, I wash the armor with Agrax Earthshade to give the gold a very dark, burnished look, followed by a highlight of Duncan Rhodes Glistening Gold. Liberator Gold also works for this part, but I find that the Duncan Rhodes metallics have better consistency for highlighting.  

Painting the Silver parts

For the joints on the armor, as well as the gun, chainsword teeth, chainmail, and some tubing details, I use the same Leadbelcher paint. Where the methods diverge for painting these silver parts is in shading. For the armor joints, I want these to appear almost black with silver bits shining out, so I wash with Basilicanum Grey Contrast Paint. I don’t want the silver to get overwhelmed in the other parts of the model, so I use Army Painter Dark Shade again here, touch up with Leadbelcher, and highlight with Duncan Rhodes Plate Armor.   

Highlighting the Armor and Tabard

The Crimson Slaughter armor is already a very bright red, so if we try to edge highlight with a brighter red the effect might not be striking enough to be noticeable. So, we instead will highlight with orange. I edge highlight the entire red armor with Trollslayer Orange to start. Next, I will pick out some spots for a brighter Fire Dragon Bright highlight. I don’t want to overdo this part I namely will pick parts that are raised edges on the model, points on the trim, or other bits where I’d like the highlight to pop.

The tabard on top of the chainmail also gets highlighted here, focusing on the raised areas of the cloth with Skavenblight Dinge followed by Stormvermin Fur

Final Details  

The basics of our Crimson Slaughter Legionnaire now complete, it’s time to grab all the little details this model has to bring it together. For the studs on the trim, I pick them out with some Leadbelcher. For the eyes, I start with Thousand Sons Blue, then highlight up with Russ Grey and Baharroth Blue before applying thinned down Aethermatic Blue for a little glow effect. The bone details on the armor start off black, then get hit with Eshin Grey followed by a highlight of Duncan Rhodes Charadron Grey. We highlight black a different way for a third time to edge highlight the black details on the weapons with Dark Reaper and Russ Grey. I do the little star in the center with some Leadbelcher and Terradon Turquoise Contrast Paint. The Leather is Rhinox Hide, Agrax Earthshade, and Bloodreaver Flesh, while the cloth wrappings are Rakarth Flesh, Reikland Fleshshade, and then a careful highlight of Rakarth Flesh again.

Credit: Dan “Swiftblade” Richardson

After basing the model with some suitably red foliage, our Crimson Slaughter Legionary is all set for the tabletop!

TheChirurgeon's Method - Click to Expand

The Crimson Slaughter are an interesting faction. I like their backstory quite a bit, and I like that they at least have some unique models to play around with – if you consider the Dark Vengeance Chosen models to be Crimson Slaughter. Which I do.

So when it came time to paint a model for this series I picked one of the DV Chosen. And well, that was kind of a mistake. They still look pretty good, but they’re a bit short and simultaneously overloaded with detail and lacking in places. Painting them is reminiscent of the worst parts of painting Chaos Space Marines, filled with lots of little trim edges and extra teeth.

Step 1: The Armor Basecoat and Washing

I started by priming the model black. For the red armor, Crimson Slaughter are brighter than World Eaters (at least, in my estimation – that’s partly how I’ll differentiate them), so I wanted to start with Mephiston Red and highlight up to Wild Rider Red instead of starting with Khorne Red and going up to Evil Sunz Scarlet. I painted the armor with a coat of Mephiston Red, washed it with Carroburg Crimson, then hit the raised parts again with Mephiston.

Step 2: More Armor Highlights

I then blended that red up to a brighter shade using Evil Sunz Scarlet. At the highest points this should be pure Evil Sunz.

Step 3: Edge Highlights

One of the more tedious parts of the process is doing the interior edges on the armor next to the trim. These were done with Wild Rider Red, a very bright, nearly orange shade. I only end up doing one color for these lines but f you want to add a second highlight color on the edge points, I’d recommend using Fire Dragon Bright for that.


Step 4: The Metal Bits

And the second most tedious part. I start by doing the silver/metal bits, painting them with Leadbelcher, then I painted the tabard and cable casings with Corvus Black. The gold trim was done with Retributor Armor. 

Note: You can opt to paint these models trim-first. For a tutorial on how to do that, check out our How to Paint Everything: Thousand Sons article.

Step 5: Washes

A bit less tedious is doing the washes. I wash the gold parts with Agrax Earthshade, while the silver metal parts, the cables, and the tabard are all washed with Nuln Oil. I’ve also painted the horns with Corvus Black here – they’ll be highlighted with a mix of Corvus Black and Mechanicus Standard Grey.

Step 6: Final Details

There are a ton fo little details on this model but at this point none of it is too bad. I do the bones with Rakarth Flesh, then wash them with Agrax Earthshade and re-highlight them with Rakarth Flesh and Reaper Polished Bone. I hit the eyes with Baharroth Blue, which gives them a nice pale green/blue color that I always thought looked great on the studio models. The skull on the shoulder pad is blended from Evil Sunz Scarlet to Rakarth Flesh, then washed a bit with Agrax and highlighted with Rakarth and Polished Bone. The tongue is just Pink Horror highlighted with Emperor’s Children.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

That pretty much finishes things off, and I’m very happy with the result – so much so I may paint up an entire set of Dark Vengeance goobers just to have them all… maybe. He was also a bit of a pain in the but to paint, so no promises. At the very least I’ll paint Kranon at some point and add him to this article.


The Crimson Slaughter may not still be the face of the Chaos Space Marines but their iconic paint scheme is a decent representation of Chaos as a whole and a good alternative to players who don’t want to paint black armor. It’s easy to see why GW went with something brighter for an edition or two compared to the Black Legion they put front an center in 5th edition or the overly complicated Night Lords scheme of their 2nd edition Codex debut.

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