How to Paint Everything: Roboute Guilliman

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 chapter, we’re looking at how to paint the primarch of the Ultramarines and current Lord Protector of the Imperium, Roboute Guilliman.

Roboute Guilliman is unique among the Primarchs in that he tends to see his role and the role of space marines as being less about conquest and violent murder and more about building empires. Guilliman did more than any of his brothers to preserve the Imperium following the Emperor’s death and sees space marines as warrior-statesmen, as responsible for the day-to-day running of the Imperium as they are for putting down rebellions and enemy actions.

During the Horus Heresy, much of the Eastern Fringe was cut off from the main Imperium by the Ruinstorm, a massive warp storm engineered by Lorgar and Erebus. It was during this point that Guilliman and his brothers lost contact with the Imperium and, fearing it lost, Guilliman began to lay the groundwork for a second Imperium to replace it, the imaginatively named Imperium Secondus. In fact, records show he might have been planning his own Empire well before the Heresy, suggesting he might have had designs of his own for some time. Basically, building empires is a big hobby for Guilliman, so it’s no surprise he was the one who took over after the Emperor ate it.

Guilliman is the architect behind much of the modern Imperium’s military structure, including the Codex Astartes, the doctrine of the space marine chapters, that governs their basic organization and tactics. It was his idea to split the space marine legions into chapters after the Heresy, something that almost caused a second civil war when some of the legions initially refused to break up. This was notably easier for the Ultramarines to do, as they’d been largely cut off from the worst fighting of the Heresy, and so had the largest numbers left over when everything was done. Guilliman led the Ultramarines across the galaxy following the Heresy, rooting out the remaining traitor forces and killing a few Alphariuses along the way. During this period, he tasked Belisarius Cawl with creating the next generation of Space Marines and finding a way to revive him if he ever died, two bets that would pay off huge in time.

Guilliman eventually ate it fighting the mutated Daemon Primarch Fulgrim aboard his cruiser, but his body was recovered and kept in stasis for 9,000 years. He was eventually revived by Yvraine  following the destruction of Cadia, and kept alive using the armor Cawl had designed for him. His first order of business was to fight his way back to Terra, where he had a heart-to-corpse with the Emperor, and his second order was to activate the Primaris marines, whom Cawl had been keeping on ice for a long time. At the head of the Primaris armies, he fought his way through the half of the Imperium on this side of the Cicatrix Maledictum, freeing worlds that had been seized by the forces of Chaos. He’s also been running the Imperium, something he always wanted to do, although now he spends most of his time frustrated and upset over how backwoods and superstitious the Imperium has become since his death.

Covered in this Article

  • How to Paint Roboute Guilliman’s plastic model for Warhammer 40,000
  • How to paint Roboute Guilliman’s resin model for Horus Heresy

Painting Guilliman

As a primarch, Guilliman is huge. He’s a literal monster (check his keywords list). He’s also a fantastic centerpiece model, but that makes him pretty daunting to paint. While he’s not the most complicated kit on the market, the sheer amount of detail going on with his armor combined with the flame effects on his sword and some of the more fiddly pieces can make him a tough project to take on, particularly for less-experienced painters. In this section, we’ll look at three different approaches to painting Guilliman.

Artum's Method - Click to Expand

Credit: Artum

Modeling Note: My Guilliman involved a little bit of conversion work – I used a combination of brute force, ignorance and poly-cement to re-position Guilliman’s sword arm such that it was posed about to swing down on some poor bastard rather than just held generally at his side and had some lofty notions of magnetising both head options, but due to a combination of not being a huge fan of his face sculpt and the glue setting such that one of his ears is slightly inside his skull i never got around to painting it.

The stand I’d cobbled together for the heads did come in handy when painting the helmet however.

Originally I’d built him with the small braziers on the base but picking him up wrong exactly one time and hearing a small tick put a stop to that.

Most guides for Guilliman work from a Retributor gold undercoat but I find it a lot better to look under something and have it be black rather than a lustrous gold when I forget to paint it. So instead I went for a black undercoat, putting on a single coat of gold across the armour plating and shading it, following that up with the regular metal in the joints and shading that. A lot of guides go for doing all of the stages of the gold before working on the blue but as quite a messy painter its much easier to repair one step of gold than it is to do three. 

I went with the official scheme for the most part; Macragge Blue base, Nuln Oil, blocking Macragge back in then a first highlight of Calgar Blue and a second highlight of Fenrisian Grey, with Kantor Blue used to tidy up any spillage into shaded blue areas.

The gold is one of the older schemes (thanks duncan) of Balthasar Gold shaded with Agrax Earthshade, layered with Ghenna’s Gold with a final highlight of runefang steel which is a real favourite of mine though it has the fairly serious demerit of looking absolutely terrible until you apply the runefang which can be a bit demoralising on a longer project, the reason being that ghenna’s is a very dark and orangey gold which doesn’t read as proper ultramarines until the silver brings it back up again.

I’m not a fan of the more purple wax/electrum/whatever purity seals the studio paints these days so instead I go for the nice striking red of Khorne Red base shaded with agrax layered with Mephiston Red with a general highlight of Wild Rider Red and a point highlight of Troll Slayer Orange which provides an eye-catching colour for purity seals to be the accent pieces they generally are.

The parchment seals and script in general were a Zandri Dust base hit with Agrax at the same time as everything else requiring it, followed by fairly thin Ushabti Bone layered in brushstrokes perpendicular to the parchments length without being too thick to give it some texture, with Pallid Wych Flesh as a highlight and then heavily watered down Rhinox Hide and a Size 0 brush to squiggle in script or write as required.

The sword’s my least favourite part of the model paint wise, I’d unwisely started from a base of Jokaero Orange which turned out to be a touch too dark and worked that up towards fire dragon bright and troll slayer orange, with the streaks in the fire being Ushabti Bone with lines of White Scar with a small amount of thinned Abaddon Black
At the end of the flames to imitate it dissipating. 

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started:

A better colour group for painting fire as the sword never quite read as properly luminous the way that a well-painted plasma coil will.

Things I Would Do Differently If I Had to Paint It Over:

  1. Paint the eagle section of the backpack as a sub-assembly; trying to thread the needle and paint the filigree on the underside of the wings while sticking a brush into a 5mm wide crevice was frustrating to say the least.
  2. Use a god-damned XL painting handle. I painted this jerk about 8 months before the XL handle was released and I’m fairly sure sections of the rocks around his base are now more paint and varnish than actual plastic.
  3. Having a bit more experience with it, I’d probably use more pins and green stuff to affix his sword arm as some of the ribbing of his armpit was damaged in the repeated gluing and shoving.

Other Notes For Painters:

After assembling and priming Guilliman I left him collecting dust in my project box for about 6 months because I wanted to do him right, eventually you just have to take the plunge.

JD Reynolds' Method - Click to expand

When working on Guilliman, I used sub-assemblies breaking him up into four parts: the body, the backpack, the base, and the head. This is very important, especially for the back. You’re going to have a hell of time if you don’t at least keep this part separate.

Being a person utterly lacking in creativity most of what I have done can be accomplished with regularly GW paints:

The Blue Parts

  • Base with Maccrage Blue Spray – you can undercoat with Chaos Black, but it is not required, and I did not do so here. That being said, sometimes a quick coat of the Black Primer can help prevent having exposed grey plastic if you don’t get the best coverage. I don’t recommend going the Lord Duncan route and using Retributor Gold spray, that way lies madness…MADNESS!!!
  • Recess Shade with Nuln Oil – You have two options, you can either perform a recess shade with a thin brush including where the gold trim meets the blue portions, or you can perform an all over wash. I will say I prefer the former method because while recess shading can be tedious it is still less tedious than having to reapplying maccrage blue from the pot on EVERY SINGLE portion of the armor.
  • Thick Calgar Blue edge highlight – Apply to all the edges of the blue parts of the armor, don’t be afraid if it’s a little thick, somewhere around 1 mm in width, what is important is that your lines are consistent in thickness.
  • Thin Fenrisian Blue edge highlight – Apply to all edges you previously did with the Calgar Blue, but make them roughly half as thick, and covering 50-75% of the same area focusing on whichever portions are more raised.
  • OPTIONAL – 50/50 White Scar and Fenrisian Blue spot highlight – Focus on only the most raised and narrow portions of armor keeping the lines as thin as possible and covering 25% AT MOST of the original thick highlight.

The Gold Parts

  • Base with Retributor Armor – This part can be pretty time consuming, but it pays to be careful so you don’t have to do touch ups. Using Lahium Medium can help this part significantly.
  • Thick Auric Armor Gold edge highlight – This should be applied much in the same way the Calgar Blue was in the previous step.
  • Thin Runefang Steel edge highlight – Apply once again in the same manner as Fenrisian Grey.

The Sword

I’ll just be lazy and say I followed Saint Duncan’s video on this and it worked out very well. I am sure there are more impressive methods, but this is great if you lack any real artistic skill.

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started:

The ‘Eavy Metal team added a series of very thin blue line highlights on each blue armor segment. This is VERY hard to replicate, which you can see my initial attempts in the final picture. I hated how this turned out, and I ended up painting over them with Maccrage Blue and shading the area.

Things I Would Do Differently If I Had to Paint It Over:

This is a hard one to answer. I would likely do much of the same, but “better” it has been over two years since I painted this model, and while I haven’t changed my method of painting, my ability to perform has improved significantly in that time. I might try to find another method of painting the sword that emphasizes its incandescence.

Other Notes For Painters:

Remember, painting Guilliman any other fashion is heresy, and in direct conflict with the Codex Astartes.


Credit: Ourobouros

Campbell McLaughlin's Horus Heresy Guilliman - click to expand

There’s more than one Guilliman model, and some of us feel like the resin Heresy model is superior to the plastic version. There’s certainly a very strong argument to make there, and either way it’s worth addressing that model as well.

Broke Brain: Primarch Glenn Close on a surfboard and a thigh gap you can drive a train through
Woke Brain: Primarch Julius Caesar as portrayed by Daniel Craig, with a dope cape and a patrician pose
*TheChirurgeon’s Note: I don’t think the helmet-less Guilliman face on the 40k model looks that bad; the studio paint job for it is just really bad.
If you couldn’t tell, I prefer the 30k Guilliman model to the 40k one, and given the similar equipment loadout, he should work for 40k just as well as he does for the Horus Heresy. While working with resin is always going to be a bit tougher than working with plastic, the general assembly of this guy was pretty easy with the exception of the little ultimas on the bottom of his pteruges (look it up, that’s your 8th grade vocab word for the day). I kept him on his resin block, keeping the base, cape, head, and scenic bits all separate. This meant I could fuck up the marble pattern a couple times before getting a fairly okay one, paint the model without the cape obscuring any detail, paint the cape without spilling things over onto the armor, and have full access to the head.
The armor just used my typical Ultramarines recipe, which is more or less straight out of the GW playbook:
  • Basecoat of Macragge Blue
  • Recess wash of Nuln Oil
  • Highlight of Calgar Blue
  • Highlight in the corners with Fenrisian Grey
  • Go back over all the spots I fucked up with Macragge Blue and pretend I got the lines that fine to begin with
For the head, I followed the ‘Eavy Metal masterclass on painting faces in the October 2016 White Dwarf. The larger head gave me a bigger canvas to work on, and it only seemed fitting to lavish some extra detail on the head honcho of the Ultramarines.
The checkers were probably my favorite detail, as they break up the blue and gold a bit and give him some powerful Greek diner energy. The rest of his details I painted pretty much the same as the rest of my dudes, and he didn’t take all that long to paint. Leaving him off his base was a great idea, and magnetizing it so I could drop him in on the display base or onto a 40mm just required a bit of carving under the resin. He’s glued in on the small platform he’s standing on, which I sincerely hope is the last bit of marble I ever have to paint again.

Final Thoughts

With any model as large and daunting as Guilliman, you eventually just have to take the plunge and start painting. While we wouldn’t recommend making him your first model, it’s better to jump in and get him painted than it is to leave him unassembled or in gray plastic forever, collecting dust on your shelf. While our painters used similar methods of doing their Ultramarines blue, they all had different methods of handling the painting process, including how they chose to prime and base coat the model. We like to point out that there’s no one way to do this — there are many different ways to tackle Guilliman that can end in amazing results.
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