How to Paint Everything: Iron Hands

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. With the release of the new Codex Supplement for Iron Hands, we’re taking a look at the Tenth Legion. The flesh is weak!

The Iron Hands

Who are the Iron Hands?

Iron Hands classic upgrade kit from 3rd edition
The 3rd edition Iron Hands upgrade sprue. Credit: Games Workshop

The Iron Hands are one of the less-explored of the First Founding Chapters. They appeared in the original spread of Space Marine Chapters in the Rogue Trader rulebook, but with little other detail, and they missed out on the 2nd edition run of codexes which fleshed out the Ultramarines, Blood Angels, Dark Angels, and Space Wolves. That’s ok though, the flesh is weak and they don’t need it. It wasn’t until 3rd edition and the Index Astartes articles that they started to gain an identity of their own, as a cold and remorseless Chapter seeking the perfection of logic and machinery over the weakness of the human body – which includes the post-human body of an Astartes. They also gained an upgrade kit of the old “metal bits to attach to plastic Marines” variety, which really helped define their image. Check out those bionic hands, bionic legs, and enhanced helmet sensors – amazingly, you can still buy it.

Over the years, the Iron Hands gained a great deal more depth to their background. Even in the Great Crusade era, they were noted as a pitiless Legion, unmindful of their allies, intolerant of failure or weakness. They became known for direct, head-on combat, always seeking out the most intense area of a conflict and directing their efforts to destroying it utterly. In particular, they were known as armour-breakers, sent into battle to destroy enemy war machines wherever they massed. This led to them developing a much closer relationship with the Mechanicum and Titan Legions than other Legions – a theme which will hold all the way up to the 40k era.

Much of this mentality is owed to their Primarch, Ferrus Manus. Manus, “The Gorgon,” is something of a Hephaestus figure in the pantheon of the Primarchs, known for his skill as a smith and metalworker. During his coming of age on Medusa, Manus fought and killed some kind of robot, long hinted to be a Necron construct, and in doing so ended up with his arms and hands covered in the silvery metal of its necrodermis. As the head of his Legion, he fast gained a reputation for the exact qualities the Iron Hands would later came to embody – bloody-minded ruthlessness, a disdain for any and all obstacles, and a hatred of weakness.

Ferrus Manus from the Horus Heresy Character Series
Ferrus Manus in action, in his Horus Heresy Character Series incarnation. Credit: Forge World

That said, Ferrus is not as cold of a figure as his Legion, and their descendant Chapter, would later become. His friendship with his brother Fulgrim was noted for its warmth, and he was known just as much for his emotional rages as for his devotion to logic. This would all end in disaster, as the Iron Hands’ role as one of the loyalist Legions on the wrong end of the Istvaan Massacre, and their Primarch’s death at the hands of Fulgrim, became a cornerstone of Heresy lore and the pivotal moment of the Fulgrim novel exploring the fall from grace of the Phoenician. The Hands’ bitterness at the death of their Primarch, and their consideration that emotional weakness was partly to blame, only entrenched their attitudes.

Post-Heresy, the Iron Hands were broken up into a number of separate Chapters instead of the singular Legion, much like the other loyalists. A number of Chapters trace their origins to the Iron Hands, including the Brazen Claws, the Iron Fists, the Iron Lords, and the Red Talons. The Sons of Medusa are also Iron Hands descendants, although in an unusual fashion. In the Moirae Schism, a large number of Iron Hands Marines came to believe in the Moirae Tech-creed, officially a tech-heresy which split the Adeptus Mechanicus. The schism threatened to cause a civil war within the Imperium, and indeed within the Chapter itself. The Iron Hands’ solution was to split in half – the Moirae-believer brothers were split off into the Sons of Medusa, who became a chapter without a founding.

The symbol of Clan Raukaan
The symbol of Clan Raukaan. Credit: Games Workshop

The Horus Heresy novel series filled out much of the 30k-era background of the Iron Hands, but it wasn’t until the Clan Raukaan codex supplement in 6th edition, and the Angels of Death book in 7th edition, that much of their 40k-era lore developed. Those publications expanded on the role of the Iron Council in running the Chapter, the structure of the Iron Hands in “Clan Companies” which are similar to, but distinct from, the Codex Astartes-dictated Battle Company, and named a host of new characters in the Chapter’s lore. However, the new Iron Father Feirros, released with the 8th edition Codex Supplement, represents their first official character model from Games Workshop.

Iron Father Feirros
He’s the exact Primaris Techmarine people have been crying out for, except only for the Iron Hands. Credit: Games Workshop

The new release also sees the dawn of a new upgrade kit and Chapter-specific transfer sheet. With all those bionic hands, extra sensors, and angry bald guys with bionic skulls, you can see the throughline from the ancient Tactical Squad upgrade kit.


The new Iron Hands upgrade kit
Credit: Games Workshop


Where to Read More

The new Codex Supplement is all well and good, but what about if you want to know more about the Logical Boys? The Iron Hands have fewer dedicated stories than their brother Chapters, but there’s still a bunch of stuff out there about them, even if they have to share the spotlight with others.

  • Fulgrim and Battle for the Abyss cover some of the pivotal events in the Iron Hands’ history, and Ferrus Manus’ on/off bromance with Fulgrim. They also feature in a number of other Heresy-era novels and short story collections, including Damnation of Pythos and Shattered Legions.
  • Like many of the other Primarchs, Ferrus Manus has a dedicated novel called, er, Ferrus Manus.
  • The Hands also have a couple of more modern novels about them. The appropriately-titled Iron Hands is now available from Black Library in eBook form, and The Eye of Medusa is book 1 of a purported new Iron Hands-based novel series by David Guymer. There’s also Wrath of Iron, a Space Marines Battles novel.
  • Additionally, if you can get your hands on them, the Clan Raukaan and Angels of Death supplements from prior editions have a wealth of Hands-related fluff in them.

Playing Iron Hands

Warhammer 40,000

If you want a full-fat rundown of everything in the new Codex Supplement and how it interacts with the base book and the 8th edition metagame, check out our review here. Or just read this Hammer of Math. Yeah. Safe to say that right now, Iron Hands are extremely good. Expect to see them back on tables everywhere, although how many of those armies will actually be painted as Iron Hands is an open question.

If you’re looking for less of the “10,000 words about every stratagem in detail” approach, and more of a “how can I make a cool, fluffy army on the table,” then carry on reading here. Over the years, Iron Hands have developed a character of their own. Heavy use of Dreadnoughts and Techmarines has been encouraged in their lore, and 8th edition offers a wealth of options for just that. Maybe you want to field some regular, tiny box Dreadnoughts, or their Venerable brothers? You could also look at the towering Redemptor or dip into Forge World’s range of Dreadnoughts. An Iron Hands Leviathan would look awesome, and play nicely with the combination of the Duty Eternal stratagem and their Ironstone relic, but like that article I linked before indicates, it might not win you many friends.

Kill Team

Space Marines are great in Kill Team, and Iron Hands gain one of the parts of their Chapter tactic – the 6+ Feel No Pain save. This isn’t the most powerful tactic in Kill Team, but it’s still something – it can already be hard to put wounds on Marines, and cancelling 1/6th of them with the FNP is a little extra bonus to keep your guys around longer.


Iron Hands are pretty much just Space Marines in Apocalypse. Use this as your excuse for the Dread mob of your dreams, though.

Painting Iron Hands

Iron Hands are one of the many, many Chapters which are best described as “pretty much all black,” along with their co-releasees the Raven Guard, the Deathwatch, the Ravenwing, and a legion of others. That said, there are some interesting possibilities which present themselves. The Games Workshop studio army features them with blue-white guns, and many painters choose to add metallic details such as, fittingly, iron hands. Each Clan Company has its own symbol too, which features on the right shoulder plate, with the Chapter symbol on the left. Additionally, there’s a number of different ways you an approach “black,” and we have a variety of different approaches demonstrated below.

Jack Hunter

Approaching painting black armor for this I knew I wanted to go for something a little bit different than the standard grey-blue edge highlights, while also not stepping on Condit’s toes painting up the Heresy style oil slick scheme. I grabbed some of my collection of warmer brown-green greys, and set about playing with using them for my highlights. Sticking with the same theme of warmer colors, I used Scale 75 Thrash Metal as the base of all my silvers, knowing it has a ton of brown in its tones, and a tiny bit of red for my spot colors.


  1. Black Primer –
  2. Corvus Black, airbrushed on to leave a little bit of pure black in the recesses –
  3. Edge Skavenblight Dinge –
  4. Edge Stormvermin Fur –
  5. Edge Administratum Grey –
  6. Basecoat anything that will get washed with Nuln Oil: pouches in Rhinox Hide, armor joints in VMC Black Grey followed by Contrast Black Templar, metals in Scale75 Thrash Metal. –
  7. Gloss Varnish
  8. Wash the entire model with Nuln Oil Gloss, taking care to avoid pooling.
  9. Matte Varnish, then paint the details. 



Pouches: Rhinox Hide > Gloss Nuln > Baneblade Brown
Purity Seal: Mephiston Red > Agrax > Scale75 Aldebaran Red
Parchment: Zandri Dust > Skeleton Horde > Flayed One Flesh
Silvers: Scale75 Thrash Metal > Gloss Nuln > Scale 75 Heavy Metal
Lenses: Mephiston Red > Troll Slayer Orange > Fire Dragon Bright
Gun Casing: Grey Seer > Apothecary White > Scale 75 White

  1. After painting and highlight all the details, put another coat of gloss varnish over shoulders and knees.
  2. Apply decals using Microset and Microsol
  3. Matte varnish back over the decals
  4. Chip the decals slightly with Corvus Black to blend them into the surrounding area
  5. Base appropriately – I’m using a red/orange martian ground to give me some contrast with the greys of the armor.
  6. Apply weathering pigments to the lower leg. These should match the tones of your basing, in my case I used reds and oranges.
  7. Finished!
Iron Hands Intercessor by Booley
Iron Hands Intercessor. Credit: Jack Hunter

Richyp draws the owl

Iron Hands Intercessor
Iron Hands Intercessor. Credit: RichyP

A short and sweet guide from speed painting maestro Richyp:

  • Step 0) Prime Black
  • Step 1) Paint silver areas in VMA Steel
  • Step 2) Edge Highlight Black in Eshin Grey and VMA Steel areas in VMA Silver
  • Step 3) Paint small Dawnstone highlights inside the previous Eshin Grey ones.
  • Step 4) Add a couple of Ulthuan Grey dots in the centre of some of the Dawnstone to give a cheap specular highlight effect
  • Step 5) Paint markings in Dawnstone and Mephiston Red


Beanith’s “The Night before a Tournament” Way

Real talk, I am a recently reformed Grey Horde/Undercoat player for many years and this has only changed recently due to the Dark Magic that is Contrast Paint soooo maybe you don’t want to take advice from someone just getting back into painting 4 months ago after a long hiatus. 

Perhaps just skip past this bit and look at the other prettier neater goonhammers Iron Hand? But if you’re after a very quick and dirty “3 colour (That’s how the Queen spells it) tournament legal” scheme that you can smash out 15 Intercessors out in an evening so you too can also jump on the Iron Hand bandwagon then read on!

Note that I use red weapons instead of white, it’s because I switch hit for Deathwatch and more often than not, literally any Marine codex using a chart to randomize what I’ll bring to the table that day. Also currently painting white saps my will to live.

  1. Undercoat all the models with Leadbelcher spray and do a piss poor job with the now discontinued Caliban Green on a giant pile of bases.
  2. Smoosh on the Black Templar Contrast on everything bar the right arm and weapons.
  3. Tidy up the right arm and weapon with some silver because you’re a ham fisted chump with a brush and then hit the chest eagle and belt buckle too because you were a little sloppy. Hit the lenses in the helmet too (and completely forget about the scopes)
  4. Smear some Grey Seer or Wraithbone on the pouches and the face of that poor helmetless chump. Don’t worry, contrast and viewing the model from 3 feet away will hide your sins.
  5. Flesh Tearers Red on the gun/weapon and then go back with the silver to fix the icon you just mucked up. This stage you might switch out the red for the white, let me know how that goes for you. And then a dab on the lenses in the helmet
  6. Iyanden Yellow is magic pixie dust farted out by Duncan as far as I’m concerned. Slap that on over the silver icons, ammo and eagles and you’re “golden”. For a nice red-ish gold, try painting it over a gold metallic.
  7. Snakebite brown for the pouches. Gulliman’s flesh for the poor saps face and Apothecary White for his “grey hair”
  8. Not pictured is Nuln Oil on the bases and in the recesses of the silver arms.

Bosh, one evening’s work for something that won’t win you prizes but hopefully your opponent is happy they’re not grey.

Iron Hands Intercessors
Iron Hands Intercessors. Credit: Beanith
Iron Hands Reivers
Iron Hands Reivers. Credit: Beanith

With the release of the upgrade sprue and more importantly, the transfer sheet, I will be going back and redoing a lot of stuff. Trim on the shoulders, practice my silver/grey highlights etc. Or far more likely, buy more Intercessors and start again from scratch because I need Stalker Pattern Bolters.

Christopher “head58” Tatro

I use both MkIII Tactical Marines and Primaris dudes in my Iron Hands Kill Team. I wanted to use different techniques to call out the difference between the 10,000 year old armor and the fresh- off-the-line Mk X, while still having the oily-sheen-on-black-metal look that shows they are clearly part of the same larger force.

I’m not a great painter but I prefer to not put bare plastic on the table. My goal is to get a table-ready model with a little character in a relatively short amount of time.

Both started with priming black and then a then a coat of Leadbelcher on the armor plates to give a nice, boring, dull metallic foundation to everything. 

Like so. Credit: Christopher Tatro


MkIII Veteran  

For this small old boi I mostly followed the Forge World recipe but with a regular brush rather than an airbrush.  Once the Leadbelcher was dry, I added a couple drops of Tamiya Clear Yellow to Tamiya Smoke, about 1:4. Not too much; Clear Yellow is powerful stuff. 

Credit: Christopher Tatro

A brief word on Tamiya paints. If you’re a Basic Becky painter like me, sticking mostly to Citadel and Vallejo and P3, Tamiya is weird shit. Their Clear paints are kind of thick and gloopy and takes  longer to dry between steps than washes or glazes. Also it smells like it would be delicious. I have no idea if it hurts brushes but I’m setting aside my W&N Series 7s just in case and using some older brushes. Most of the Tamiya will be full coats or just spots here and there so I won’t need a really good detail brush. Better safe than sorry.

I added spots of Citadel Druchii Violet here and there (because Tamiya doesn’t have a Clear Purple, which is kind of weird), followed by the same spotting with Tamiya Clear Green. Lastly I gave all the armor plates a coat of thinned Tamiya Smoke to tie it all together and bring the black tone up a little more. But it was still too yellow, so I went back and hit it with about a 1:8 mix of Clear Yellow:Smoke, which was better. But I then needed to reapply the Druchi Violet and Clear Green again. By this point something in that delicious Tamiya paint had given me a splitting headache. So it goes.

Credit: Christopher Tatro

I finished off with Leadbelcher on the trim highlighted with Vallejo Model Air Silver. Cables and cybernetic bits were Brass Scorpion washed with Nuln Oil, and I hit the eyes with some Lothern Blue to give it a touch of color. 

Credit: Christopher Tatro


Primaris Suppressor

I started with  a thin coat of Black Templar Contrast paint over the Leadbelcher. I wanted to darken the metal more, especially in the recesses, but leave a bit of the Leadbelcher showing through on the raised spots.  I then brushed on some Seraphim Sepia, Druchi Violet, and Biel-Tan Green in places to get the shimmery oil effect, and then washed the whole thing with Nuln Oil. The result was decent, much quicker than the Tamiyra process, and no bonus headache.  

Credit: Christopher Tatro

The autocannnon was done in Vallejo Model Air Steel, washed with Nuln Oil and highlighted with Vallejo Model Air Silver. The cannon’s ammo belt was Brass Scorpion highlighted with Vallejo Model Color (not Model Air) Brass.

The Legion/Chapter and Clan Company markings on the shoulder pads, the battlefield role on the left knee, and the Squad number on the right knee (Guilliman’s Codex is really more guidelines than hard and fast rules for these guys) are Leadbelcher highlighted with Model Air Silver. Canonically these should be white but I like to stick to the metallic look.

Credit: Christopher Tatro