How to Paint Everything: Flesh Tearers

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. In this article, we’re taking a look at the Flesh Tearers, one of the darkest of the Blood Angels’ successors – who they are, their history and heraldry, and how to paint them.

The Flesh Tearers are a Blood Angels successor, famous – or infamous – throughout the galaxy for their savagery in battle. All of the Sons of Sanguinius bear the twin curses of the Flaw – the Red Thirst and the Black Rage – but the Flesh Tearers are even more susceptible to these than others. Their Marines fall to the Black Rage at a terrifying rate, swelling their Death Company but weakening the rest of the Chapter. This degradation has worsened over time, and many in the Flesh Tearers have embraced it, furthering the slip into madness.

Where to Read More

If you want to read about the Flesh Tearers you are well-served, as they have a surprising amount written about their exploits, being favourites of one Andy Smilie. Sons of Wrath and Flesh of Cretacia are Space Marines Battles novellas which focus on their early days under Chapter Master Amit, the original Flesh Tearer, while Trial by Blood focuses on the other most famous Flesh Tearer – their Chapter Master Gabriel Seth, on trial for the crimes of his Chapter. There are also a number of Tearers-focused short stories available, as well as multiple audio dramas including Blood in the Machine and The Stromark Masscare

On top of these specifically Flesh Tearers-focused stories, Seth plays a prominent role in The Devastation of Baal (which we reviewed here). 

Playing Flesh Tearers

The Flesh Tearers have received the same kind of pseudo-supplement treatment that Crimson Fists got in 8th edition, appearing as an extra feature in Codex Supplement: Blood Angels. We wrote them up for our Start Competing series here, though you will also want to read up on the Blood Angels article here

Painting Flesh Tearers

Flesh Tearers are a bit easier than your usual chapter with split armor in that their differently-colored elements are shoulder pads, backpacks, and helmets, all elements that are relatively easy to paint separately from the main model. This frees you up to be a lot less careful when applying base coats and highlighting to the red parts of your model.

Drybrush Threepwood’s Method

Hi there readers. The staff at Goonhammer were kind enough to reach out and ask me to put together a guide on how I do my Flesh Tearers. I owe a great debt to their painting guides as I was inspired by their How To Paint Iron Hands article a while ago to make significant changes to my own process, and I’m beyond chuffed that they’ve given me the opportunity to contribute some of my tips in turn.

Primaris Flesh Tearers Characters
Primaris Flesh Tearers Characters. Credit: Drybrush Threepwood

First, a note on assembly. I like to keep my helmets and backpacks attached with blutac at first so I can get the initial shades done with the whole model then work in subassembly, but you can get away with just keeping the head separate if it proves too fiddly.


  1. Prime with Stynlrez Black 
    1. Optional layer of VMA Black so the surface isn’t as matte
  2. Preshade black armour with Tamiya XF-2 Flat White, thinned 4:1 with their X-20A Thinner
    1. You could use any white here, but I strongly recommend giving Tamiya a try. It has a much lower tendency to speckle or spider compared to other solutions like inks or white primer, you can build from a grey up to pure white, and it clogs less in the airbrush
    2. When shading, pick a light source you want to use and stick with it across the model. You want to leave pure black on the surface and just add a highlight where the light will hit it the most
  3. Shade with Black Templar Contrast
    1. We’re using the BT contrast as a tint here to bring the pure white back down, and use the greenish hue of the paint to add some visual interest to the model
    2. Spray from the centre of your highlight out so you keep a smooth transition to black
  4. Remove your heads and backpacks, stick them to something so you can paint them in subassembly, and mask off the black armour with Masking Putty
  5. Preshade red armour with flat white
    1. The approach here is slightly different as we want to make sure only the deepest recesses are left pure black. As contrast paint is transparent if there isn’t anything underneath for it to tint it won’t show much colour. If you like deeper black to red transitions you can be more sparing here, I prefer my red armour to be on the more vibrant side.
  6. Shade red armour Flesh Tearer Contrast thinned 3:1
    1. Here we want to shade from the recesses towards the brightest spots so we keep the saturation at its highest where light hits the model
    2. You’ll need to give it 3 or so passes, just keep going if it looks pink and remember to pause to let the model dry if you’re unsure if it needs another layer 
    3. If you want to see this process in more detail I’d recommend watching Cult of Paint’s excellent tutorial on preshading via their youtube channel
  7. Base coats
    1. Undersuit & Crest: VMC Black Grey
    2. Metals: Scale 75 Black Metal
    3. Leather: VMC German Camo Black Brown
    4. Wax: Screamer Pink
    5. Parchment: VMC Iraqi Sand
  8. Apply an all over coat of Vallejo Mecha Gloss Varnish and let it dry for 24 hours
  9. Transfers – I’ll keep this brief as plenty has been written here already, I get all my sets from Mighty Brush and do the following
    1. Apply with Micro Set, dab with a cotton bud, dry for 12 hours
    2. Apply Micro Sol, dry for 12 hours
  10. Wash with Army Painter Quickshade Dark Tone
    1. Mix your Dark Tone with their Quickshade Wash Mixing Medium and some Warcolours Surfactant with equal parts surfactant to your dark tone + medium mix. I use 3 parts Dark Tone to 2 parts medium, you can go darker or brighter by adjusting this ratio
    2. The surfactant is what makes this really magic, with this in the mix your wash will slide right off the model and only stay in the recesses
    3. Slather your mix over the whole mini. Keep an eye on it for about 5 minutes and if you do see pools like this one on the leg plate building up wick them away with a clean brush
    4. Wash the joints and crest with pure dark tone to push them further
    1. Once your wash is dry (I give it 24 hours) apply an Ultra Matte Varnish
    2. While you’re there shade the lower half of your transfers with thinned (3:1) Liquitex Black Ink to blend them into the model
    3. Edge highlights
      1. Undersuit: VMC Dark Grey, VMC Dark Blue Grey
      2. Black Armour & Crest: VMC Dark Blue Grey, VMC Neutral Grey
      3. Red Armour: Wazdakka Red, Squig Orange
      4. Leather: VMC Burnt Umber
      5. Parchment: VMC Pale Sand
      6. Wax: Genestealer Purple
      7. We’re not aiming to hit every edge here as we’ve already got highlighting from our airbrush gradients, instead try to aim for only edges that would catch the light with your first stage highlight and only the most dramatic edges with your second stage
    4. Reattach heads and backpacks with some super glue
    5. Weathering and chipping
      1. Dab a bit of sponge in black paint, drush it off on some paper towel until it’s just leaving speckles, and apply some speckling to the transfers
      2. Draw some black lines and chips the armour with black, then edge highlight them with your second stage highlight
      3. I apply text to the parchment at this stage with a Sepia Micron Pen
    6. Basing
      1. Use cork sheets to build up depth, cover it with Vallejo Earth Texture, add rocks for variety and let it dry for 24 hours
      2. Prime the whole surface, base it with Zandri Dust, wash with Seraphim Sepia, then drybrush with VMC Buff and Pale Sand
      3. Rod your mini to the base. Don’t try and get away with just super gluing them, you will rip the base apart the first time your mini snags on something. Yes I know this from experience 🙁
    7. Apply some sand pigment to the lower legs and the base, I use North Africa Dust
    8. Another layer of Ultra Matte Varnish to bind the pigment and give the whole model a consistent finish 
    9. Now it’s time to fix our metallics to get their sheen back up and paint the details on any reflective surfaces like lenses and gems
      1. Reapply Black Metal leaving your shade in just the recesses, and edge highlight with S75 Heavy Metal
      2. I’m not going to write how I do my lenses as I’m using a method from Mighty Brush’s how to paint Blood Angels guide. These are wonderfully laid out tomes that go into detail on many of the techniques I’ve used here and I can’t recommend them strongly enough.
    10. Blood spatter
      1. The fun part! Get a brush, load it with some Blood for the Blood God and get your airbrush out
      2. With some kitchen towel laid out, give your brush some test blasts with your airbrush. Vary the distance between the brush and the towel and your airbrush and the brush until you find a level of spatter that works for you. You don’t want to head straight into doing this on your model or you risk wiping out a lot of your work
      3. Once you start spraying your dudes keep a clean brush on hand and if any splatter gets somewhere you don’t want, it like in an eye lense, as long as you’re quick you can wipe it away with a bit of water
      4. Laugh maniacally as you imagine your Flesh Tearers making the nearest thing they can find (Heretics, xenos, allies, they’re not picky) extraordinarily dead
        1. This step is not optional
    Flesh Tearers Assault Intercessor Squad
    Flesh Tearers Assault Intercessor Squad. Credit: Drybrush Threepwood

    And there we have it, one finished squad of Flesh Tearers Assault Intercessors. Beginning to end this took me a week and a half, but there’s plenty of downtime in there where I’m waiting for things to dry so I tend to have a few squads on the go at once. I hope this guide was clear and offered some new ideas you can implement in your own projects, if you have any questions I’m always happy to answer them and I can be found lurking in the Goonhammer patreon discord or via Instagram where I go by Drybrush Threepwood.

Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones’ Method

I’ve always been a fan of the Flesh Tearers since I first saw them in their Index Astartes article of an old White Dwarf. They have a striking color scheme and a very cool backstory.

The process started with an undercoat of black primer followed by a couple of thin coats of Khorne Red on the armor and some Leadbelcher on the metal parts.

Then I laid down the black on the shoulder pads and helmet with Abaddon Black. Also this is the step where I realized I wanted to make the top of the backpack black. I’ve also started shading the red with some Carroburg Crimson.

Here’s where the more complex shading starts. I’ve traced the armor grooves with Carroburg Crimson and a bit of Nuln Oil in the darkest recesses, painted the Aquila and the Assault company marking with Grey Seer, washed the metal parts with Nuln Oil, and started shading the black parts. This is done by mixing Abaddon Black and Corvus Black and working up to Corvus Black on the raised parts of the black armor. You can also shade Corvus Black with Nuln Oil for extra depth.

I’m also highlighting the reds at this stage, doing blends of Khorne Red with Mephiston Red. The White parts get washed with Apothecary White, which we’ll then revisit, shading in the spots in-between feathers with Nuln Oil and doing some extra highlights with Reaper Pure White.

At this stage I’m doing more red highlight as well, doing edge highlights on the red with Wazdakka Red. I also cover the eyes, doing them

Next up is freehanding the saw blade icon on the left shoulder pad. I start with a circle and then paint the teeth off of that, then come back and add the blood tear with Mephiston Red.

The black parts get an edge highlight of Mechanicus Standard Grey at this point and the gold parts are just Retributor Armour washed with Agrax Earthshade. The leather is Rhinox Hide washed with Agrax Earthshade then edge highlighted with Gorthor Brown. 

Now for the finishing touches. A Flesh Tearer should be blood-stained so I drop some Blood for the Blood God on his chainsword and some drops on the base to make him suitably stained. The base is Astrogranite drybrushed with Celestra Grey and then some Valhallan Blizzard and tufts of Army Painter static grass on top of that. I’m very happy with how this guy turned out and may paint more of these in the future if I can settle on a faster way to do the shoulder pad icons.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones


Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones




Skails’ Method

Paints used:

Vallejo Model Color German Grey
Vallejo Game Color Stonewall Grey
Pro Acryl Coal Black
Citadel Khorne Red
Citadel Wild Ryder Red
Vallejo Bloody Red
Scale75 Hyek Yellow
Pro Acryl Burnt Orange
Citadel Druchii Violet Shade

Bolter/Metal Bits:
Citadel Leadbelcher
Citadel Nuln Oil

Scale 75 Antique Brass
Citadel Reikland Fleshshade

Vallejo Goblin Green
Pro Acryl Yellow Green


Base Coats: Vallejo German Grey for all the black parts of the armor. Citadel Khorne Red for all the red parts.

Base Coats

Panel lines and deep recesses: Nuln Oil on Black parts. Druchii Violet on red armor. Nuln oil in deepest recesses of red armor.
This picture has some loose highlights of a mid-tone grey on the black armor and Bloody Red on red armor, and a bit of Wylde Rider Red on highest points.

Panel lines and recess shading

Black Armor: Shaded with Coal Black. Some more highlight built up with a Coal Black and Stonewall Grey mix. Some edges on the rifle are stippled with Leadbelcher and some scratches added to simulate wear.


Black Armor Shading and Highlight

Red Armor Shading: Nuln Oil stippled and splotched loosely over lower areas, along recesses, undersides of armor. A second coat of Nuln Oil for a few darker splotches in shade area.

Red Armor Shading

Red Armor Highlights: The armor is highlighted with a mix of Hyek Yellow and Burnt Orange, at least 2:1. Rather that doing continuous smooth edge highlights I did short lines and dots to give it a rougher appearance. The darker splotches were hit with the highlight color on the bottom edges to give them the appearance of a slightly cratered surface.

Red Armor Highlights

Final Pics:

Flesh Tearers Intercessor Credit: Skails


Flesh Tearers Intercessor Credit: Skails

Beanith’s “Battle Ready” Smooshing Method

Unlike the sparkly, angst ridden Pretty Boy Blood Angels whomst revel in the drama hoping to never experience a moment of true happiness lest they succumb to the desire to write some truly dreadful poetry, the Flesh Tearers are actual proper space vampires who are absolute bloodthirsty monsters and are a danger to both friend and foe alike. Clearly this makes them the best Red Marines to paint, play and collect.

As usual I’ll be showing you a quick simple way to smash through the basic troops so you can spend more time playing Satisfactory instead of doing whatever Rob was asking you to do working on the characters and centerpiece models of the army.

Undercoat everything with Grey Seer Spray

Flesh Tearer Red Base – Credit Beanith

Go to town with Contrast Flesh Tearers Red smooshing this lovely red everywhere and you don’t need to be careful as…

Flesh Tearer Black Base – Credit Beanith

Contrast Black Templar will hide all your hobby sins. Shoulders, weapons, backpack and helms are the order of the day here.

After this I go back and touch up the smoosh overflow with some Corax White, slap on some Army Painter Plate Metal on the weapon and lenses and smoosh the face with a random Contrast Fleshtone, in this case Darkoath Flesh. If anyone asks about the eyes, claim it’s a tribute to Simon Evans. Chuck on some Contrast Skeleton Horde on the parchment and oddly enough the hair which works for some reason.

Contrast Wyldwood for the pouches, a dab of Contrast Iyanden Yellow on the Purity Seal, Skulls and weapon housing for a spot of colour.

Dab in some Technical Tesseract Glow on the lenses assuming you can find any available and not snapped up by everyone painting up Necrons.

Editor note: Aren’t you working on a Necron Crusade army?

Lalala not listening

So I’m kinda done at this point but just in case you run up against That Guy and “YoUr BaSeS aRn’T pAiNtEd” reasoning to try and deny you 10 points, quickly smoosh on some Agrellan Earth and call it Battle Ready done.

Beanith's Battle Ready Flesh Tearers
Beanith’s Battle Ready Flesh Tearers


Beanith’s Battle Ready Flesh Tearers

With the recent rules update for Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team, these five lads are destined to become the Proper Space Vampire Kill Team lead by Charles Dance. Which means later on I may go back and apply transfers for squad markings, free hand a circle on the shoulder pads and practice adding teeth to get the chapter icon. Smoosh on a wash on the base and make the panel lines a little darker and accidently arrive at “Parade Ready”. That or finish the monorail to collect the Sulfur on the other side of the map because reasons?

Jack’s Method

Flesh Tearer Assault Intercessor
Flesh Tearer Assault Intercessor. Credit: Jack Hunter

I’ve played with some of the same concepts as how I do my Blood Angels and Imperial Fists – building up some shading and highlights in more neutral colors, then tinting the entire model to pull everything together and reach the final color I’m looking for. In this case, I wanted a red a bit darker than I use for my Blood Angels, so during the pre-shade process I refrained from pushing the highlights too bright. I also kept the shoulder pads, helmet, and backpack separate during painting. I’m trying to get nice smooth airbrushed blends, and doing it this way is much easier than trying to mask it.


  1. Prime a neutral grey, I used Badger Stlynereersz. (no, you cannot make me spell that correctly)
  2. Add shading with Vallejo Model Air Black. Don’t worry about overdoing it – we’re really going for an overall dark look here.
  3. Add some off-white highlights. I wanted to be sure not to go too bright, so I didn’t go with pure white. For this model I used Vallejo Model Air Insignia White, but I think a future model might use Vallejo Model Air White Grey or something else about one step down the brightness scale.
  4. Three coats of Daler Rowney FW Crimson acrylic ink. Each coat brings more vibrance to the red, so do as many as you feel you need. If you want more of the purple tones from the official GW schemes, try using either Process Magenta or Purple Lake as your first layer, or mixing it into the Crimson.
  5. At this point, jump down to the black instructions and do steps 1-3.
  6. Gloss varnish the whole thing. While the acrylic inks dry fairly glossy, they’re a pretty fragile coat that you want to add some protection to.
  7. Apply decals, if you’re using them. I don’t have any floating around, so they’re absent from mine – but the official schema is a white battlefield role marker on the right shoulder, a blood drop over that denoting chapter, an ornate Arabic numeral on the right knee for the squad number, and the chapter icon on the left shoulder.
  8. Pinwash everything black. You can use your choice of wash here, Nuln Oil Gloss will work fine but I prefer an oil or enamel wash with more surface tension such as Ammo by Mig Black Wash.
  9. Varnish everything back to matte.
  10. Carefully edge highlight the red with Scalecolor SC-37 Antares Red. I even highlight into some of the shaded areas to add a bit of definition.
  11. If you’re painting a character, or just want to take it a bit further, a good next highlight is Scalecolor SC-38 Aldebaran Red.


  1. During assembly we kept the predominantly black areas separate, so we’re going to prime them black.
  2. Airbrush highlight them with Vallejo Model Air Black Grey.
  3. Gloss varnish the whole thing. We’re going to work on this at the same time as the reds for a moment, so we’re doing steps 6-9 to apply decals and a pinwash.
  4. On the rest of the model, paint any black areas (the chest eagle, weapons, and joint ribbing) in Vallejo Model Color Black Grey.
  5. Wash anything you just painted Black Grey with Nuln Oil.
  6. Do two steps of edge highlighting – first with Vallejo Model Color Dark Grey, then with Dark Blue Grey.

The Rest

  • I’ve really minimized the ornamentation on these guys – that’s a Blood Angel thing, not Flesh Tearers, so I don’t have any fancy golds or purity seals to paint up. (as a side note, this makes painting flesh tearers super quick.
  • For the metals, a quick coat of Citadel Iron Hands Steel and then a coat of Nuln Oil Gloss works perfectly.
  • Eyes were blocked in with Citadel Grey Seer then Vallejo Model Air All SV. Gol Light Blue