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. Previously in the Fists of Fury, Alfredo examined the Imperial Fists and Black Templars. Today we look at the original Space Marines and staunchest defenders of humanity, the Crimson Fists.
Part 3 – The Crimson Fists
Who Are The Crimson Fists?
Like the Black Templars, the Crimson Fists are a successor chapter of the Imperial Fists. When Guilliman decreed that the legions would be split into smaller chapters, Dorn nearly rebelled but eventually consented and so the youngest of the legion became the Crimson Fists. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear Crimson Fists, my first thought is of this classic artwork by David Gallagher:
All right, let’s get this out of the way: the Crimson Fists get owned a lot. Whether it’s the classic Last Stand by David Gallagher, the updated Primaris Version, or even the original cover of Rogue Trader, the Crimson Fists are prone to finding themselves in a desperate struggle for survival. What makes them great is that in the face of the most desperate odds, they never lay down and die. They fight to the end and they prevail. Crimson Fists represent the epitome of tenacity in Space Marines, and in an uncaring universe that will someday destroy you, there’s something undeniably noble about the Crimson Fists’ spirit. They’re the Chumbawamba of the 40K universe.
Like the Black Templars, the Crimson Fists were first led by a great hero of the Legion, namely Alexis Polux, which is a badass name. Polux served a distinguished career in the Legion during the Heresy, where he was known as a master of void warfare and breaching actions, and then spent nearly 800 years as the first Chapter Master of the Crimson Fists. He eventually died due to Xenos trickery but not before providing detailed instructions to his chapter on how to eradicate the Xenos in question (which is why you’ve never seen a Scythian).
The Fall of Rynn’s World
One of the more famous (or infamous) accounts of the Crimson Fists in the 41st Millennium was the fall of their homeworld, Rynn’s World. Under invasion by an Ork Waaagh! led by Snagrod, the Arch-Arsonist of Charadon, the Crimson Fists mounted a heroic defense to repel the greenskins. Unfortunately, whether due to Inquisitorial sabotage (they do hate sons of Dorn after all), a failure to follow proper preventative maintenance schedules, the whims of Chaos, shoddy 41st millennium manufacturing, or just plain bad luck, an orbital defense missile fired from the Chapter’s fortress-monastery managed to misfire and blow up the Crimson Fist stronghold. In one fell swoop, most of the chapter was atomized, reducing the Crimson Fists to less than half strength. As you might expect, this led to a desperate struggle for survival, led by Chapter Master Pedro Kantor (certified bad-ass), where the Crimson Fists emerged severely bloodied (or nearly dead) but victorious.
While the survival of the chapter was definitely in question after the fall of Rynn’s World (what with all the lost geneseed, relics and what have you) and subsequent daemon invasion (because of course), Deus Ex Primaris has fortunately restored the chapter to near full strength (which also means a full Primaris Crimson Fists force is extremely fluffy). Just recently, the Crimson Fists played an important role in the defense of Vigilus.
Where To Read More
There’s a fair bit of fiction written about the Crimson Fists, and some of it is even good. The obvious choice is Rynn’s World by Steve Parker, which is unfortunately not in the good category but is readable if you like Crimson Fists enough. Corrode’s Note: I don’t agree. I LOVE Crimson Fists, and reading Rynn’s World put me off Black Library for over a decade. Avoid. Aside from that, there’s a number of short stories including some stuff by the great Aaron Dembski-Bowden.
Playing Crimson Fists
Space Marines are good in Kill Team! And with Elites giving you all sorts of melee options via veterans, you can definitely have a solid loadout of red power fists, which the main requirement for a Crimson Fists force. Aside from that, there’s no actual Crimson Fists rules in Kill Team so you’ll just play them as Imperial Fists.
Crimson Fists have gotten a fair bit of love in 8th Edition of 40K and there should be more to come once Imperial Fists get their supplement. Originally, they just had a single relic and warlord trait with the 2017 Space Marine Codex. Vigilus introduced a pretty good Specialist Detachment for Primaris Crimson Fists armies that largely incentivized the use of Intercessors and Hellblasters. Then, Crimson Fists were featured in the first iteration of the new Index: Astartes in White Dwarf and got fleshed out further with a custom, and good, chapter tactic that exemplifies their tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds. Along with their new chapter tactic, Crimson Fists got the first relic bolt rifle, two new Warlord Traits and two new Stratagems. All of this resulted in making Crimson Fists one of the better choices for pre-nu-codex Space Marines, so much so that resident Goonhammer tryhard, and notorious meta-chaser, Liam Royle even ran them in a tournament with some success.
With the new Codex, Crimson Fists obviously benefit greatly in the same way as other Marines did and have retained their new chapter tactic, in a slightly enhanced format – the old version required you to be attacking a squad of twice or more the size of yours, whereas now it simply has to be 5 or more models. This helps to make big squads a bit more viable than they were in the old version. Presumably, the Imperial Fists supplement will provide some additional benefits but (rumors aside) it remains to be seen exactly how that will shake out. Regardless, it’s a good time to play Crimson Fists!
Not much to say here that hasn’t been said before already. Space Marines are great in Apocalypse, but there’s nothing particularly unique to Crimson Fists except for looking rad.
Painting Crimson Fists
A Note on Heraldry
Crimson Fists are pretty non-compliant when it comes to heraldry. The most striking aspect of their color scheme is of course the eponymous left red fist that all Crimson Fists bear. Veterancy is indicated by a right red fist as well. Strictly this is for 1st Company Veterans, but many people like to use it to indicate any kind of senior model, such as a Sergeant. Perhaps because of their decimation, Crimson Fists don’t use company markings, leaving their shoulder trim blue. They do use typical squad markings (gothic script) and battlefield role markings.
Since the Crimson Fists use silver for the chest imperialis/aquila, white can be a good color for heraldic markings, alongside red to add color and break up the blue armor. Crimson Fists are a crusading chapter so a crusade badge on a kneepad can be a nice bit of detail to add, much like with Black Templars.
Lieutenant Salazar – My Method
For Lieutenant Salazar, I used the 500th store Lieutenant as my base model. Then, I used the power fist from the Vanguard Veterans kit because I wanted a right-handed power fist so that Salazar could fist bump Lieutenant Domeric (and the arm is magnetized for just that purpose). I also added a very angry head and resin back banner with a giant fist on it.
This was a relatively straightforward model to paint.
- After priming, I airbrushed first the red and then the blue, masking in between. For the red I used Reaper’s Gory Triad which provides a nicely saturated warm red that contrasts nicely with the blue. For the armor, I leveraged my zenithal prime and sprayed with very thin Scale75 Navy Blue. This gave me some nice graduation across the armour, good saturation and a nice dark blue that matches what you see in the artwork.
- This was a relatively simple model so next step was just to basecoat the remaining colors. I stuck with my typical reddish-brown color for leather because it ties back to the red and helps break up the blue armour.
- Washing was similarly simple, with a pin wash of lamp black oils pretty much everywhere. In general, when you have two main colors that are practically complements, like red and blue, I think it’s best to use the same wash color for both in order to help tie them together. If not black, a dark purple could also work and would also create some cool/warm contrast on the red parts.
- For highlighting the armour, I wanted to create some additional contrast with the red and push it closer to a Prussian Blue so I used turquoises for my edge highlights to add some green. All edges were hit with Vallejo Turquoise and then upward facing edges got a secondary highlight of Light Turquoise. The sharpest corners all got a spot highlight of Light Sea Grey, which may as well be white for my purposes. As always, the goal is to have a range of contrast that goes all the way from black to white, with the color in between.
- For the red, I did a two-stage highlight. I started with Vallejo Red Orange to push the contrast with the blue (since orange is the complement of blue) and then tried out Sunny Skintone instead of my usual ochre to keep a bit more orange in the brightest highlight. I was pretty happy with the result.
- After highlights, it was just a matter of sponge weathering with a bright metal and then pigments to tie the model to the base (and draw your eyes upward to the face).
And the finished model:
Lieutenant Salazar Credit: Alfredo Ramirez
If I were to do something different, it would be adding a crusade badge to one of the kneepads just to add some visual interest and break up the blue. Otherwise, I was pretty happy and I really wanted the focus to be on the giant powerfist and the screaming face.
The 90 minute Crimson Fist – The RichyP Method
Prime the model black
Paint all the armour plates in VMC Dark Prussian Blue
Wash the model in Nuln Oil
Edge highlight the armour in Macragge Blue.
Add a smaller edge highlight of Russ Grey
Paint wraithbone over the areas that will receive Contrast paints (face, purity seal, and Ork head in this case). Paint the chest eagle, weapon and ribbing in VMA Steel and the fist + wax seals in Mephiston Red.
Paint the flesh in Darkoath Flesh, the Purity Seals in Skeleton Horde and the Ork head in Warplightning. Wash the metals in Nuln Oil.
Step 7 – Detail bits
Paint writing on the seals in Chaos Black. Edge highlight the reds in Cadian Flesh, Highlight the face in Kislev Flesh and using Ulthuan Grey add some markings to the armour. Wash the eye sockets in Drakenhof and add a small line of Wraithbone in the middle. Now spend 10 attempts at getting the pupils straight (repeat the Wraithbone, Drakenhof combo if you mess up) using Eshin Grey.
Crimson Fists were my first army when I got back into 40k in 2008. I played Blood Angels as a kid, and I wanted something different for a new army – but apparently not so different that they weren’t Space Marines. Inevitably I now have a Blood Angels army anyway, but also over the years I’ve accumulated somewhere around 12,000pts of Crimson Fists.
As you might expect, the painting techniques and colours used have changed a lot, not least because GW have gone through one or possibly even two changes in their range in that time, and I am a corporate whore who mostly paints with GW paints.
The modern iteration of the scheme is as follows:
- Prime black
- Two layers of Kantor Blue on the armour
- One layer of Khorne Red and then another layer of Mephiston Red on the red bits (left gauntlet, shoulderpad)
- Leadbelcher basecoat then Ironbreaker layer on the metals – gun, chest eagle, and in this case the soft bits of the armour
- Rhinox Hide then Steel Legion Drab on the leather (pouches etc.)
- Purity seals in Waagh Flesh, Warboss Green, and Skarsnik Green on the wax, with the parchment being Rakarth Flesh and then Ushabti Bone
- Gun in VMC Black
- Eyes in Warpstone Glow, Moot Green, and then dotted with Gauss Blaster Green
- Astrogranite Debris on the base
Then wash as follows:
- Glaze Drakenhof Blue over the blues
- Reikland Fleshshade over the reds, and over flesh if there is any
- Nuln Oil over black and metal
- Agrax Earthshade on the base
- Seraphim Sepia on the pouches, and purity seals if there are any
Then it’s highlighting time!
- For the reds, I re-layer some Mephiston Red, then hit the edges with Wild Rider Red
- For the metals, I hit high points with Ironbreaker
- The gun gets an edge highlight of Russ Grey
- The pouches get an edge highlight of Steel Legion Drab, and seals get an edge of Ushabti Bone
That’s all nice and easy! The challenging bit comes after that – the armour. There are a lot of edges to Mk 10 power armour, never mind Gravis, so this takes a fair amount of time. My first layer of highlighting comes from hitting all the edges with Altdorf Guard Blue, and then following up with a thinner highlight of Calgar Blue. This takes forever, but it also makes the edges really sharp – it’s very ‘Eavy Metal although naturally not as good.
The other thing I’ve been doing recently is adding little individual badges and things to the models – you can see a few on the photo, on the knees of the three guys on the right. This helps break up the model, adds some points of interest, and some variety in the painting. SRM wrote an excellent article on heraldry which you should definitely read – I’ll certainly be applying more of it to my models in future.
Crimson Fists are my ride-or-die army. I may have blood pouring out of my eyes over the recent FAQ, but they are the army I started in 4th Edition and keep coming back to almost 15 years later. The last two years I’ve been working on perfecting my Crimson Fists scheme – it’s based heavily on a few different versions of the GW painting guy with some other companies thrown in! I typically try to stay Codex-compliant wherever I can. If I name a paint here without giving the company name, it’s because it’s part of Citadel’s paint line.
I typically block out each color with their basecoat, then wash, then highlight each model so I’ll be giving instructions in that order.
- Prime black. I use Stylnrez Black from an airbrush but anything works.
- Airbrush the entire Kantor Blue Air (unless they have a great big power fist or something, try to miss that.
- Airbrush the underside of the model with Night Lords Blue – this acts as a kind of undershade. It’s not as apparent on infantry but it does wondrous things to vehicles as you can see in HTPE: Astraeus!
- Paint two thin coats (or more as needed for power fists) of Khorne Red on the model’s left hand. If it’s a veteran (including most characters), also paint their right hand!
- While your Khorne Red is out – give the eye lenses a first coat of red.
- If the model is wearing cloth, I use Khorne Red here too.
- Paint bolter, belt, and any holsters with Corvus Black. If you haven’t used it yet, Corvus Black is a very very dark grey that you can shade or highlight in whichever direction you like.
- Bust out your favorite metallic – I mostly use Steel from Vallejo’s incredible Metal Color Airbrush line. Many of the paints in that line are difficult to handbrush, but Steel always works well for me.
- Lastly, I check for any Purity Seals. I do the wax seal in the same old Khorne Red – it’s usually far enough away from any other instances of the color that it works well to continue the spot highlight. The parchment I paint in Rakarth Flesh.
There’s probably some cleanup to do after the initial basecoat, but this typically gets you into a “he looks like a Crimson Fist!” spot.
Onto the shades…
- I use a weird one here – Mr. Hobby’s Mr. Weathering Multi-black. I do a very careful wash of the entire model – wherever I want it to be darker, and then immediately clean up with the Mr. Weathering Solvent before it can dry. This stuff gives you a ton of control so you don’t get a blotchy wash, just dab off your brush and continue pushing it around.
- Since most people don’t have that, feel free to use Nuln Oil or whatever your favorite dark/black wash is. You’ll want to wash the recesses of the model, anywhere you painted metal or black, and in the flexible ribbing of the model’s joint armor.
- I like to then use Carroburg Crimson over the reds typically, though I used to use Reikland Fleshshade and there isn’t a major difference since Khorne Red is such a strong tone.
- I cover the purity seals in Agrax Earthshade typically as I like the shading to be a bit starker.
And then highlights!
- Two step highlights for the armor – Alaitoc and then Hoeth Blue. Fairly standard scheme – I don’t do as well with fine-lining so I make a strong effort to hit what I feel are the key parts of the armor your eyes look at. You are likely more talented than I, so go nuts!
- Wazdakka Red and Squig Orange for the red. If you don’t enjoy the orange tint, you can stop with Wazdakka or find an even lighter red to highlight with. Note: I shade ALL of my Khorne Red this way, no matter where it appears.
- The black parts of the model get an edge highlight of Dawnstone.
- A bit of Vallejo Model Air Silver for highlighting gunmetal…
And finally, I do the base and varnish the model! My favorite varnish right now is Vallejo’s Mecha Color Matt.
Since the model featured in this post features a lot of gold – I use Scale75’s Viking Gold and shade with GW’s new Cryptek Armourshade Gloss.
This is the end of the Fists of Fury sub-series! Hopefully you have enjoyed learning about the VII Legion and their much cooler successors. If you have any other Sons of Dorn you’d like to see featured or additional questions about how we paint these guys, shoot us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And before we go, here is a bonus group shot!
The Fists of Fury Credit: Alfredo Ramirez