How To Paint Everything: Easy Emperor’s Spears

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, Goonhammer’s resident Aussie and future Goonhammer Discord admin usurper, Coda The Despoiler (may his inevitable future reign be cool and good) takes a look at the the Emperor’s Spears.


As I’ve said before I’m no expert painter.

However I have been playing with Contrast the last month or so, trying to learn how to paint with the new line. I found out some stuff while experimenting and it’s always a good idea to disseminate know-how. So with that in mind, this week’s HTPE is about the recipe I cooked up for some easy-ish Emperor’s Spears, better known as the star players of Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s beyond excellent novel, Spear Of The Emperor.

Word of warning: This scheme is mostly Contrast based and is aimed roughly at the skill level of someone that has painted a few models or started their second army. If you are looking for a more traditional Spear’s colour scheme and tutorial, scroll down to Tangui’s insanely good marine.

Editor’s Note: We are planning to do a round table Goonhammer review of this book in the near future, so check back soon for that article!

So here is what we are shooting for:

Going out on the town. Defending Nemeton. Having a good time. Doing their best.

Yep. Talassar Blue is real nice.

Anyhow. I’ll also be yamming on about why I went with Talassar Blue for the Spears, the importance of test models and how to figure painting stuff out if you aren’t the most talented chap in the world. I’ll do that after the run down on how to paint the models, just in case you are referring to this quickly while you paint.

Who Are The Emperor’s Spears?

You can tell by the wolf pelt and the fancy hat that he is a total baller.

The Emperor’s Spears are a relatively young Chapter, believed to have been founded during the 25th founding. They hail from the planet of Nemeton, a warm planet covered mostly in oceans. Although their history is pretty short, they’ve had some notable events since their founding, such as a pact made with the Star Scorpions and Celestial Lions to protect their sector, and ongoing hostilities with the Aurora Chapter that required intervention from the Ultramarines to resolve and were only recently quelled by the actions of Chapter Master Arucatas. Like many Marine Chapters, they received substantial aid in the form of Primaris Marines following Guilliman’s Indomitus Crusade.

In combat, the Emperor’s Spears diverge tactically in a significant fashion from the Codex Astartes, specialising in air-to-ground warfare and orbital drop drop assaults. They maintain a vast fleet beyond what the Codex dictates, and excel at rapid deployment and redeployment of combat assets. Instead of companies, the Emperor’s Spears organise their chapter into War Hosts, autonomous units that act as patrolling defenders in their system. The company captains are referred to as Warhost Lords. The Chapter’s first company are referred to as The Paragons, fierce warriors who take an oath to forsake any attempt to rise further in the chapter. The specialist characters of the Chapter, the Chaplains, Apothecaries, Librarians, and Techmarines are collectively referred to as Druids.

The Heraldry of the Emperor’s Spears tends to include a lot of Nemetese runes, which can cover their shoulder pads and armour. Officers of the Chapter can usually be identified by their helmet crests, with sergeants having red crests and veteran sergeants having red and black crests. Notably, the Paragons do not sport crests, and instead have inverted red tridents painted onto their helmets.

Playing With the Emperor’s Spears

The Emperor’s Spears are notable in that they have their own bespoke Chapter Tactic, released in the Index booklet that came out with their special edition novel (and later on WarCom for the masses here) in 2018. The tactic, Redden the Earth, gives Marines and Dreadnoughts of the chapter an additional hit in the Fight phase when they roll a 6 to hit.

This is similar to the Chaos Space Marine tactic given to the Flawless Host, though somewhat different: It is stronger in the sense that it gives additional hits, not just attacks, but weaker in the sense that it only triggers on unmodified rolls of a 6, and so can’t be gamed nearly as easily. On the upside, it’s a powerful tactic devoid of context, and combos well with Veteran Intercessors created by the Vigilus Defiant Indomitus Crusade Specialist Detachment, where the sheer volume of attacks you can put out will naturally lead to many additional hits. It’s also not bad on Dreadnoughts, though finding ways to give a Space Marine Dreadnought more than 4 attacks can prove difficult. Otherwise, there isn’t a lot to say about Emperor’s Spears – the Chapter Tactic is interesting but without better relic and stratagem support, using them is going to be more of a casual play proposition.

Painting The Emperor’s Spears
AKA Why we are here in the first place

In this section, I’ll go through the basic recipe I concocted for painting Emperor’s Spears, and the process for getting there.

Here are the paints you need:

In case the photo doesn’t do it for you or you want to dump it into a shopping list on your phone, I have it in list form as well:

Paints, Needed:
Wraithbone Spray – For speed and ease!
Wraithbone Base – For fixing up mistakes made due to rushing.
Lothern Blue – Our actual base coat. Yes I’m serious, read on and I’ll explain.
Talassar Blue – Our wash. It’s great!
Contrast Medium – What will make our wash not blotch all over our flat power armour panels. Blotching is bad.
Apothercray White – For the helm, eagle.
Blood Angels Red: For lenses/scopes.
Black Templar: Gun casings, under suits, purity seal text.
White Scar: To make the white pop, lenses.
Iron Warrior: Metal Effects. This paint is cooler than Leadbelcher and I will fite you irl to prove it^.

Paints, Optional: These are nice to have but you could use the above as substitutes to keep costs down
Army Painter Dark Tone or Nuln Oil: For shading metals. You could nuke down Black Templar with contrast instead of this, however a nice black wash is a key part of a painters tool kit imho.
Flesh Tearers Red: For purity seals, bottom of the gun sight. Blood Angels Red will also work here.
Skeleton Horde: Purity seals. Wraithbone mixed with white to highlight the seals would work here.
Wyldwood: Pouches. Black Templar would do the trick as a synthetic or black leather but I really dig the chocolatey brown pouches that Wyldwood makes over Wraithbone with this scheme.

STEP 1: Wraithbone Spray

Wraithbone spray is $$$ but it’s very, very nice to work with. This is the third time this guy has been stripped back to basecoat and the second time this model has been sprayed. It was still smooth and nice to work with. Good work GW.

Get your assembled model and spray the thing Wraithbone. You want good coverage of this spray so don’t be afraid to touch up with the base paint to ensure the model is completely covered.

Next step is where we do something off book. This is my fifth Spear attempt (failure is a good thing btw, more on that later) but only the second one I’ve actually finished. I couldn’t get the armour not to blotch up when I washed with Talassar, which annoyed the crap out of me as I wanted that sweet deep tropical ocean electric blue.

So here’s how we will combat the splotchy effect of contrast on power armour. For a start we are going to cut the Talassar with Contrast Medium in a 50:50 mix or if you want the lighter blue of my first test of this method, 25%.

In addition we are going to paint Lothern Blue onto the power armour before this.

I know this sounds nuts.

But trust me, it will be fine.

No seriously I’m for realsies on this. Like honestly you’ve already seen the finished model. Stop doubting me it will be fine I swear! Honest!

So yeah. For lack of a better term we are going to with base Lothern Blue layer, leaving a thin line of Wraithbone showing before we wash it with our Contrast Medium/Talassar Blue mix.

Step 2: Lothern Blue layer? Reverse Highlight? Thing?
AKA The thing I obviously didn’t invent and I don’t know the actual name for.

Out the gate, do make sure you thin the Lothern Blue quite heavily with water. We are going to have to do 2 coats minimum for this technique to work so don’t stress about it looking crap now or the coverage being total garbo. The Talassar Blue is going to end up doing most of the hard yards anyway, this is just setting up that play.

However key thing to note here is that I’ve left places where you would normally have a  big chunky highlight stage Wraithbone. I’ve put some MSpaint*^ style red arrows on some examples.

This and the next 3 steps is our secret sauce.

Don’t tell anyone. Except all your friends and family.

Seriously ask them what the proper name of this technique is please. I’m too embarrassed to ask Lupe or Booley myself.

[Lupe: he’s laying down a coloured ground, sometimes known as body colour before glaze]

You know what screw it I’m going to call it CODA-ing and hope no one proof reads this article.

[They did]

Step 2: Lothern Blue CODA-ing but less than step 1!

Alright. Hit it again! This time with feeling. Also remember to water it down. Duncan is watching*.

What we want to do this time is do a smidgen less than the 1st pass. About 1/4 to 1/2 of your chunky lad highlight. This is to increase the natural shading effect of step 4, where we finally break out the contrast paint to the rest of the hard yards for us. The blue should be looking solid enough in most places at this point. At this stage we have finished CODA-ing and will move onto the next stages of the blue power armour.

Step 3: 50:50 Mix of Talassar Blue/Contrast Medium

Time to make that blue pop. Talassar Blue is a lovely colour and as soon as I saw it I wanted to try it on a Spear. Richp’s trick with Contrast is to work from the top of the model to the bottom, dragging the contrast down so it doesn’t massively pool, tackling the armour panels in rough sections, like the backpack or an arm. On shoulder pads, The Hobby Room Twitch Channel host, Ceri provided a top notch tip of starting in the upper mid point of the pad and pushing the wash around.

The above combined with the Lothern Blue CODA-ing [again, the real name for this coloured ground or body colour] and the Contrast Medium is there to do one thing. To stop blotching. Blotching is the enemy.

Step 4: 50:50 Mix of Talassar Blue/Contrast Medium

Round two. Really focus it in the deep areas, we want to encourage those sweet gradients and shades that Contrast does so well. Again, medium is there to combat the splotch. If you’re brave you can hit really deep areas (back back vents and the like) with pure Talassar to deepen it up.

OPTION!: Screw the 50:50 mix! Use a 25:75 Mix of Talasaar Blue/Contrast Medium instead!

This produces less gradients but makes a really bright miniature. It rocks. Application technique is the same as above and you’ll still need two coats. More pics at the end of this.

Anyway back to it.

Step 5 Apothecary White. Also Accessorise and Trim.

Alrighty. Lets do some other colours. Touch up with Wraithbone on the spaces you got a bit splash happy with the blue.

Try to be neat at this stage or you will stuff up your sweet blue and that’s very much not a fun time.

About those other colours? Start with Talassar Blue again. I’m not kidding when I say you’re going to learn to have a love/hate relationship with that colour by the end of this.

Hit the right hand knee pad twice with pure Tally.

Follow up with Iron Warriors-ing the metal areas on the gun pack/helm.

Wyldwood on the pouches.

Then draw some thin lines on the purity seal with Black Templar.

Now the hard bit. Apothecary White on the helm and eagle. Try to be neat.

Step 6: Red lenses, black guns are best lenses/guns. Also Clean Up Round 1.

Break open your Black Templar again, hit the gun casing areas, under suit and helm/armour tubing.

Flesh Tearers Red on the seal, Blood Angels Red on the eye lenses. Scream in appropriate Gabriel Seth style rage as you get red on the white areas.

Lastly hit the seal with Skeleton Horde. Should look pretty grouse.

Lastly, cry in the corner about how much you have to touch up.

Optional: Markings!

Real talk get some custom transfers from Bedlam (check out our review here) or get a hold of the LTD transfer sheet somehow. Other option is various 3d printer based after market stores online, which are what I would recommend if you’re doing a large force.

If you can’t do the above, the Spears luckily have a very forgiving marking system for freehand. Provided you skip the skull, the chapter symbol is a simple line in black, then two smaller lines on the sides and join them. Done.

Tactical is a bit harder and I’ll admit, I ballsed it up a bit. That said, it’s the same principle as the chapter marking. A couple of lines and then colour the sucker in.

Additionally, the right kneepad has a crest of somekind, like a lion rampant for example. Come up with something cool there if you like. Squad markings are Nemetese runes or OG numbers on the shoulders or greaves. For a good quick info reference, check out the warhammer40k wiki here, it’s fairly comprehensive on this subject.

Step 7: Black Ink, clean up and your done here if you like.

Black wash (Dark Tone or Nuln. I prefer Dark Tone personally) the metal areas, hit some low lying areas on the gun casing for a deeper shade. Then start touching up if you would like to finish here. A bit of the Black Wash in the mouth grill holes can give them a nice bit of depth too.

I’m not going to lie. Touching up the blue isn’t fun.

Small areas you can just one hit of that sweet Talassar Blue and you’re good. But larger ares? Wraithbone -> Lothern CODA-ing -> Talassar. Huge areas you will need to dilute the tally blue like you did the earlier steps. Like I said try to avoid this at all costs.

Step 8: Eyes, revisited. Also White Scar.

Want to push it further?

Break out your white scar and hit the top bit of the eagle/skull on the chest and the top bits of the helm. Be liberal with it. Then it the areas CAREFULLY as heck with apoc white.

With the eye lenses a simple contrast trick to make them pop is to paint some white in there, then hit them again with Blood Angels red. This gives them a boarder dark/light gradient without requiring precision of a proper dot.

Step 9: All about that base

At this point the model is done barring the base. I’m going to write up a proper article about it but if you want a cliff notes version, grab a separate base, hit them with thin smear of quick dry wall filler for texture, leaving room for the models to stand then….

Spray Chaos Black or any matte black.
VMC Beige Brown
Army Painter Strong Tone or Agrax Earthshade
Drybrush Beige Brown
Drybrush 80/20 mix of Beige Brown and VMC Iraqi Sand
Drybrush 70/30 mix of the above
Rim the bases with VMC black Grey

On my ‘proper’ armies I also use the crackle effect and mud effect textured paints form GW before I spray the base. It looks pretty rad imho.

Then place your completed model on the completed base with super glue. Ezy.

If you don’t want to shell out for these colours, the easiest way is to grab Gee Dubs textured paint of your choice and slap it on the base with a agrax or nuln shade then rim the base with a layer/base paint.

Step 10: Protect yourself before you wreck yourself

Contrast isn’t as durable as traditional paints. You must protect them with Testors Dullcote or something like Munitorum Varnish. I wasted a lot of time chasing myself around on this guy. On that note use a painting handle to avoid touching the mini as much as possible.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did lads.

Remember that 25:75 option from before? It turns out like this:

This is the two hits of 25/75 Tally to medium mix. I really like it. I would be torn about what to pick if I did an army of these lads to be totally honest. It could be a cool idea to subtlety change the tone of different squads, with deeper or lighter shades representing the transition from basic to elite squads or Primaris vs non Primaris models.

Step 11: The most important step. Take a photo. Farm it out for those sweet, sweet insta likes.

See title. Don’t forget your hashtags. 😉

Step 12: The real most important step. Reflect on your work. Seek advice. Lessons Learnt. 

Some key takeaways that I would do if (oh come on we all know it’s when) I turn this into an army. I would figure out the exact mix of tally/medium I liked and bottle it. Additionally I would keep the helm separate from the model if possible.

My main lesson though would be sealing the model after I was happy with the blue armour. Goonhammer writer/40k badcast host The Sex Cannon did multiple sprays of Dullcote on his large adult resin son (aka the Astraeus known as the Midnight Albatross) and it seemed to solve this paint rubbing off during working on the model problem fairly well.

Lastly, if you enjoyed this, have questions or want to leave some comments in general, please hit me up on the Twittar, Insta, Goonhammer facebook or on this very page. It will honestly make my day to know that this mess of words helped someone.

So this is where the traditional HTPE ends. Because Corrode/TheChirurgeon aren’t my real Dads and therefore can’t tell me what to do, lets keep going and talk about figuring out schemes, what other people on the internet have done, going ‘off book’ with colour schemes and why that’s ok.

Also test models. We need to talk about test models.

Epilogue: Going “Off-Book” On Schemes and Why That’s a Great Thing

Let’s take a deep dive about how the scheme isn’t technically right

Well we know it’s not my blue. I’ve been pretty up front about that. So let’s take a deep dive into the Oceans of Nemeton to figure out what the right blue is.

Images sourced from Warhammer Community and Lexicanum.

Looking at several different sources of comparison here we have a bunch of GW art work, a Duncan WHTV painting video, the models I painted for this article and various GW painted models I found with a few Google searches. As you can see, it’s not really definitive.

Therefore it’s not very helpful with regard to figuring out what the official blue is. So let’s try another source and look at the rather excellent book for some additional inspiration:

The Emperor’s Spears wore armour cast in the same azure hue as the rings of Nemeton.

Dembski-Bowden, Aaron. Spear Of The Emperor (Warhammer 40,000) . Kindle Edition.

Ok so what do Nemeton’s rings look like?

“YOU’RE NOT HELPING, INTERNET. Cool as hell painting though.” – Me. When I found this. Source: Warhammer Community

Hm, OK. Not exactly screaming “it’s this blue. use that one.” Let’s dive deeper into the book.

Morcant nodded, standing still as the squad’s robed thralls started binding him into his armour, layering plate over his bodysuit, then plate over plate. Layers of azure ceramite, the blue of untainted skies, of Terra’s daylight heavens in a time now relegated to myth.

Dembski-Bowden, Aaron. Spear Of The Emperor (Warhammer 40,000) . Kindle Edition.

I googled untainted skies and there are a lot of variations of blue in there….

Armoured in his pale blue ceramite, Brêac…

Dembski-Bowden, Aaron. Spear Of The Emperor (Warhammer 40,000) . Kindle Edition.

More confusion!

In conclusion, Nemton and it’s people (as well as the armour containing them) is a sea of contrasts.

Thank you for your time.

Coda, Year 10 book report.

Lets cast our internet view wider, to the twittar!

Tangui’s take on Spears is totally awesome and I love it to bits, I seriously wish I saw it before the bulk of this article was written. The blue looks dead on the art work for Brêac. Honestly this is peak Spears in miniature form for me right now.
But is it definitive? Broaden the search pattern! Onwards!

Greg’s are more of a pale/grey compared to Tanguis, it also looks 10/10.

Canis Rex has a third take based on Tangui’s and is a mid point between the above on the blue to blue/grey scale. The paint job is also excellent in general.

All three of these takes are great and I can’t wait to see them grow into full armies.

However our question is still unanswered.

We still don’t have a definitive blue..

So what’s the moral of the story?

Paint them whatever light blue to grey blue you want. Don’t stress about getting fictional colours right. Military equipment gets banged up and painted by hand mixed paint codes producing odd finishes anyway. Once you find a scheme that works for you, run with it like the above three examples and it will really make the army yours.

My point is that there isn’t really a ‘right’ shade of blue. The real key is to sell the concept of the model being a Emperor’s Spear. In this case if you have a lightish blue, white helms/eagles, the markings roughly right and some sweet conversions, people are going to think “sweet Emperor’s Spears you have there mate.” 

And that’s the exact god damn thing you are going for.
Screw accuracy.
Sell the viewer (and better yet, yourself) on *your* concept of the Emperor’s Spears over the entire army.

That said this all goes out the window when it comes to Dark Angels Green.

That colour is sacred and you should totally spend weeks figuring out what paint makes them most Dark, Angel and Green.


That’s a worthwhile expenditure of time and resources….

Bonus that I really should have done a separate article for: Test Models

(AKA failure is always an option. Also sometimes it’s A Good Thing)

So. Test models.

They are the best.

I buy EtB (Easy-to-Build) marine boxes on the reg, this combined with Simple Green to strip them back to undercoat lets me throw around various schemes pretty easy. Each of these models has been painted 2 or 3 times in the search for a scheme that worked. See below:

There where a few more failed, even blotchier attempts before this. As I said before I’m not a talented painter and I don’t pick up artistic skills easily.

So I did what I do:

  • I bashed my head against the wall again and again until it clicked.
  • I asked a ton people (Goonhammer’s very own Lupe/Rich P/Booley/ SRM, Ceri/Hamish of The Hobby Room and others) for help and slowly learnt a bunch of tricks to end up with the last two models. Hell while we are here, WHTV’s hang out and paint twitch program is great for this too.

What allows the process detailed above to work is test models.

It lets you push techniques on something you don’t mind screwing up. For example right now I’m trying to figure out a black legion scheme that will allow my lazy rear end to mass produce black legion. I also want some subtle Lupercal or SoH Green in there as a heresy reference but it has to be on the armour itself. It’s going to be a long process but sacrificing some test models to the simple green baths will save me ruining kits from the army proper.

A key part of the process is that you can photograph them and talk about them with your mates on discord/streams/your FLGS for tips.

Seriously do that. Hit up painters who’s work you like, have a tech you want to try or have a similar style to yourself for advice. Take it on board and try to learn from it and you will improve far more rapidly than you would otherwise.

Something to keep in mind with this is that it’s on you to make sure it’s from people that are straddling that fine line between encouragement, constructive and critical. You must also accept that the people that meet these categories might and should tell you that you’re on the wrong path at times and need to start from square one.

Yes, that’s right. People who care will try to occasionally hold you back from your very cool and good ideas.

These people are often called “well meaning friends and family“, “editors” or “management” or “Corrode/TheChirurgeon**“. To give you an example, which may or may not have happened, the aforementioned people will stop you calling a series of painting articles “The Coda Way, aka The Only Way To Paint – <subject>” and tell you to call it something like “How To Paint Everything – <subject>” in order to fit in with some kind of “planned series.”

What’s Next?

So what are you waiting for? Go and get yourself a few Easy-to-Build marines to paint, don’t be afraid to go off-book and come up with something wild! And if you do paint up some rad Emperor’s Spears, we’d love to see them. Shoot us an email at , post a photo of your pretty boys in blue on the Goonhammer Facebook page, or tag us on Twitter with the #goonhammer tag.

Until then, happy painting!

^I’m actually a coward and I won’t but don’t tell Corrode about this. He will mock me and change my name on discord.
^ Please don’t judge my horrible MSpaint arrow skills, TIA.
I can’t guarantee this.

**Mild Discomfort To The False Discord Admins!