How to Paint Everything: Necrons

In our How to Paint Everything series, we take a look at how to paint well, everything, with a look at different methods from different artists. In this article we’re looking at the one of the oldest races and youngest armies of Warhammer 40k: The Necrons.

The Necrons were first introduced in late 2nd edition as a group of enigmatic, silent robot invaders from the stars. They were known for being made of incredibly resilient materials and their ability to self-repair, standing back up again and again after being felled. They were also known for vanishing mysteriously back to whence they came, phasing out as an entire army when enough were disabled. They’d undergo several changes in the years following, with their most major overhaul being in the 5th edition Codex, where the range was fleshed out and the army morphed from silent, soulless warriors under the command of their Star Gods to a series of Dynasties ruled by delusional overlords who had brought the C’Tan to heel and were ready to reconquer the galaxy.

Hailing form a small planet orbiting a deadly neutron star, the Necrontyr were technologically advanced but lived brutal, short lives, often riddled with cancer and disease to their frail forms. When they encountered the advanced, immortal Old Ones they demanded the Old Ones share the secret of Immortality. The Old Ones refused, and the War in Heaven began. The Necrons were no match for the Old Ones initially, and were beaten back again and again, until their empire dwindled and they were left with only their homeworld. That was when the Silent King Szarekh first contacted the C’Tan, immortal star gods as old as the universe itself. The C’Tan offered the Necrontyr a path to immortality that had them transferring their essences into metal bodies but losing their souls in the process, leaving those behind to be devoured by the C’Tan. In this form they became the Necrons, and they were immortal and powerful, but an emptiness gnawed at them.

Working with the C’Tan, the Old Ones were no match for the Necrons, and soon they had been driven to desperation, seeking help from the psychic races they had spawned, creating more psykers in the process. As the Necrons won and the C’Tan turned on each other out of boredom and hunger, the galaxy became a fertile feeding ground for warp entities, eventually becoming overrun by warp beings called Enslavers that feed on psychic energy. With the Old Ones defeated and the universe in disarray, the Silent King at last turned their weapons on the C’Tan, shattering and enslaving them in an act of revenge for stealing the souls of the Necrontyr. With his work done, the Necrons retreated to a deep slumber, staying dormant for more than 60 million years as the Enslavers eventually starved off and the galaxy evolved. Meanwhile Szarekh, the silent king, freed his people from the mental programming that bound them to his will and fled the galaxy, looking for penance in the dark space between galaxies.

Unlike their original incarnations, the Necrons are no longer mindless automata, and are now led by Overlords who retain their personalities and seek to rebuild the dynasties of old. They war amongst each other and squabble for power with no clear successor to the Silent King, and have been known to work with the Imperium when it suits them. Most famously when they worked with the Blood Angels to stop a Tyranid invasion of Baal. Their current iconography draws heavily from Egyptian and Persian jewelry and hieroglyphics, and their technology makes heavy use of a material called blackstone, which is coveted by the Adeptus Mechanicus for its anti-psychic properties.   In their earliest incarnations, Necrons were a simpler force, consisting primarily of robots clad in metal bodies with little adornment. As the faction has been revised, they’ve become more elaborate, and subfactions that call for different color schemes have emerged, creating a good deal of variety in the way you can paint them.

Covered in this Article

  • How to paint various Necron dynasties, both major dynasties such as Szarekhan and Sautekh, and minor dynasties such as Thokt.
  • How to paint the glowing weapons and blades wielded by Necron melee units.
  • How to assemble and paint a number of Special Necron units, such as the Silent King, the Monolith, and Illuminor Szeras.

Painting Necrons

Necrons are widely considered one of the easiest armies to paint, in part due to the fact that they can be painted as simply as “prime with Leadbelcher, wash with Nuln Oil, pick out higlights and paint eyes/glowing bits with Tesseract Glow.” However they can also be much, much more complicated, giving painters a variety of different textures and effects to work with.

Hyperphase Weapons - click to expand

One of the more common aspects of Necron models are their distinct hyperphase blades. These large, glowing blades are essentially painted like power swords but tend to have more complicated edges and internal shapes which allow for more interesting edge highlighting and shading patterns. We cover two methods of painting hypherphase blades in our How to Paint Everything article on painting Power Weapons.

Rotting Flesh - click to expand

Although not common on Necron models, the insane warriors known as the Flayed Ones are known for draping tattered skeins of flesh over their hunched forms, giving them terrifying visages in battle. You can find more on how to paint rotting and decaying flesh in our How to Paint Everything article on painting ghouls and pallid flesh

Necron Dynasty Schemes - Click to Expand

Necrons are split into a series of subfactions called Dynasties, representing the ancient empires of the Necrontyr civilization, preserved millions of years later. Each of these is ruled by a powerful overlord and has its own customs, culture, and ways of conducting warfare. They also have their own distinct paint schemes. Click on the banner below to jump to the article for painting Necrons from each dynasty.

Necrons Special Units - Click to Expand

The Necrons have some very large, special units to paint, such as the Monolith, the C’Tan, or the Silent King. In this section we’ll cover how to assemble and paint those models.

Final Thoughts

As we gear up for the launch of an entirely new Necron range, we hope we’ve armed you with what you need to go paint your own implacable hordes. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, or you just want to share your pretty models with us, feel free to drop us a note in the comments below, or email us at