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 Psychic Awakening V: The Greater Good book, we felt it was a good time to dive into the regiments of the Astra Militarum. So affix bayonets and dive in with us.
Who Are The Astra Militarum?
Commonly known as the Imperial Guard, the Astra Militarum are the Imperium’s standing army of regular old humans. Making up the vast majority of the Imperium’s military forces, Guard soldiers are the first line of defense against the threats to the Imperium. Every world in the Imperium has its own force of guard, and soldiers in the Guard are drawn from worlds across the galaxy and stationed in locations of strategic or cultural importance. On the ground, the Astra Militarum’s infantry forces are supported by legions of heavy tanks and artillery and in the air, they’re supported by the Imperial Navy. While the Adeptus Astartes are the Emperor’s Angels of Death, making surgical strikes and taking out key targets, the Guard are the Emperor’s Hammer, acting as the full armored might of the Imperium.
The Astra Militarum’s origins date back to the Emperor’s Great Crusade, when the fledgling Imperium needed a way to supplement the work of the legions of Space Marines reclaiming the galaxy. As the Space Marines spread across the galaxy, the Imperial Army was formed to supplement them, recruiting brave men and women from countless worlds in the growing Imperium. These human forces acted as expeditionary forces, eventually acting as the forefront of the Great Crusade, fighting alongside (and under) the marine legions. In the wake of the Horus Heresy, these ties were cut, and the Imperial Army became the Astra Militarum, split into two branches: The Imperial Guard and the Imperial Navy. The new organizational structure was designed to reduce the power of any individual commander or regiment, and ensure that, should a regiment turn against the Imperium, their treachery would be limited to a small area of influence.
The Imperium is massive, and its core strength comes from its people. There is rarely, if ever, an Imperial conflict that doesn’t involve the Astra Militarum and its forces. As such, they’ve been involved in every major conflict in the Imperium’s history, from the Horus Heresy and the battle for Terra, where Solar Auxiliaries helped defend the Emperor’s Palace, to the Fall of Cadia and the ensuing Indomitus Crusade. The guard are made of a great many regiments whose deeds are legendary, from the Steel Legions of Armageddon to the indomitable forces of Cadia, who held even after the planet itself was destroyed.
Where to Read More
The Imperial Guard feature in a ton of 40k literature, and there are a lot of really great stories about them. So we’re gonna talk about our favorites here.
- The Gaunt’s Ghosts series by Dan Abnett is a massive collection of 16 novels that document the struggles of the Tanith First light inantry regiment of the Imperial Guard during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade. They’re led by the legendary Ibram Gaunt and span the entire history of Games Workshop’s Black Library, with novels published as early as 1999 and as late as 2019. It’s a big investment, but many of the Ghosts books are regarded as some of the best in the Black Library works.
- Honourbound by Rachel Harrison is a relatively recent novel that covers the exploits of Severina Raine, an Imperial Guard commissar of the 11th Antari Rifles. Goonhammer’s Coda wrote a glowing review of this one already, if you’re looking for motivation.
- The Ciaphas Cain series is a collection of books chronicling the life and deeds of Commissar Ciaphas Cain, with the stories presented as taken from Cain’s personal notes and collected following his death. Cain’s an unreliable narrator, and extremely self-centered, though Cain himself never becomes someone you hate. There are ten books in the series, plus a number of short stories if you’re looking for more.
- Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden is about the defense of the Helsreach Hive during the 3rd War for Armageddon and while it’s written from the perspective of Black Templars Chaplain Grimaldus, it features the guard throughout, including Andrej Valatok, a Steel Legion Storm trooper with the biggest balls in the galaxy.
Other book recommendations from the Goonhammer crew: 15 Hours (which our friends at the 40k Badcast read way back when), Shadowsword, and Baneblade all got thumbs up when I asked for people to list their favorites.
Playing Astra Militarum
The Astra Militarum have been on 40k tables for a long time, with a varying number of tanks depending on the format. We’ve already written at length about how to play them, so check out our guides:
- Start Competing: Astra Militarum covers playing Guard in Warhammer 40k 8th edition. It hasn’t been updated yet with the new content from Psychic Awakening V: The Greater Good, but you can find our review of that content here until we update the larger guide.
- Astra Militarum Kill Team Tactics covers what you need to know about playing Imperial Guard on the smaller battlefields of Kill Team.
- The Imperial Navy is well-represented in Aeronautica Imperialis, so if you’re looking for info on how to play your guard flyers, we’ve got a write-up on those too.
Painting Astra Militarum
The regiments of the Astra Militarum offer near endless variety for 40k players – there are countless Imperial worlds in the galaxy, each contributing its own regiments with their own color schemes, formations, and combat tactics. Any discussion of painting Astra Militarum has to focus on the army’s two key facets: Painting dozens of infantry, and painting tanks. In this section, we’ll address both how to paint the infantry, both from the standpoint of how to create good schemes that unify your army and look great on the tabletop, and also from the standpoint of how to avoid losing your mind as you paint 60 to 120 guardsmen.
Finally, before we dive in, the soldiers of the Astra Militarum come from a wide variety of backgrounds and environments. They come in all shapes and sizes, and all colors, genders, and walks of life. Painting them requires painting skin regularly, something that we covered in great detail in our How to Paint Everything: Human Skin article. We recommend you read and refer to that that as a companion piece to this article.
Armageddon Steel Legion, by Dan “SexCannon” Boyd
Hey gang, it’s your boi deezy. Y’all have seen my Raven Guard in HTPE: Raven Guard, but before that project, I was working on my Steel Legion. While I consciously attempted to elevate my painting with the Raven Guard project, my prime directive whilst painting Steel Legion was to get them on the table. This method was effective, as I have over 7,000 points of Steel Legion fully painted. While they look good, especially when massed for battle, they are not up to my standard of painting anymore. I still love them, though. No doubt about it.
- Averland Sunset
- Agrax Earthshade recess wash
- Screaming Skull drybrush
- Rhinox Hide
- Mournfang Brown drybrush
- Abaddon Black
- Stormvermin Fur drybrush
- Nuln oil wash all over
- Kantor Blue
- Slightly smaller Alaitoc Blue
- Even smaller Teclis Blue
- A small, tiny, thin line of Lothern Blue
- White Scar
- Evil Sunz Scarlet
- Abaddon Black
- Stormvermin Fur drybrush
- White Scar light drybrush
For vehicles, the black, red, white, metallic, blue, and leather parts are all done the same as infantry, so we’ll focus on the camouflage.
- Mechanicus Standard Grey Spray
- Mechanicus Standard Grey (a whole nother coat because it is actually quite different from the spray)
- Nuln Oil wash
- Administratum Grey drybrush
- Averland Sunset base
- 1:1 mix of Vallejo Game Color Dead Flesh and Pallid Wych Flesh
- Agrax Earthshade wash
- 1:1 mix of Vallejo Game Color Dead Flesh and Pallid Wych Flesh but only on the edge of the yellow blobs
- 1:1 mix of Vallejo Game Color Dead Flesh and Pallid Wych Flesh drybrush on the darker parts
- Screaming Skull drybrush
Cadians (Retro Style), by SRM
If my Valhallans (see below) have one foot in the real world and one in the far future, my Cadians have both firmly planted in a Discovery Zone circa 1995. These classic Perry sculpts have a load of character and their scheme could easily be applied to modern models, or, ideally, Victoria Lamb’s Arcadian Guard range. This scheme is more or less how I interpret the ‘Eavy Metal scheme of the mid 90s, but a bit simpler so you can hopefully knock a squad of these guys out in a timely fashion. I’ll break down their scheme now.
Uniforms: I started with Army Painter’s Goblin Green primer, as that even shares a name with the green of the period I was emulating. This was a mistake, as the spray rubs off easily and the matching bottle paint has garbo coverage. Instead, I would prime white and paint them Warboss Green. A recess wash of Athonian Camoshade brought the green down a little bit and added some much needed depth. Finally, a highlight of Skarsnik Green finished off the green. The camo spots are very simple, and are just little dabs of P3’s Thamar Black (any black will do, that’s just my favorite) with a smaller, overlapping dot of Averland Sunset on top. I don’t know where this camo is effective, but it looks nice.
Body armor: Thamar Black, Dark Reaper highlights, and then some extreme edge highlights of Fenrisian Grey. Thin highlights and bluer tones make the armor seem more “hard” than the leather, which we will get to next.
Leather: Thamar Black again, Eshin Grey highlights, and Dawnstone for the extreme edges.
Weapon casings: This was GW’s “Red Period” if you ask any Oldhammer nerd, and by gum is it represented in this scheme. Mephiston Red, Nuln Oil in the recesses, then edge highlights of Evil Sunz Scarlet and Fire Dragon Bright take care of the red. This is reproduced on the sides of their helmets as well. The yellow aquilas on their weapons are just Yriel Yellow with a dot of Fuegan Orange wash in the middle for depth.
Metallics: Leadbelcher, a wash of Nuln Oil, and an occasional highlight of Stormhost Silver was all it took. Easy.
Other stuff: The yellow wings and aquilas on their pauldrons and uniforms were painted the same way as on the weapons. The skulls in the middle of the pauldrons were Zandri Dust, Ushabti Bone, and a Corax White highlight. Caution stripes and yellow bits of the plasma gun were Yriel Yellow with a Flash Gitz Yellow highlight. For the officer’s coat, I just painted it the same way as my Valhallan coats above.
Of course this scheme works on Guardsmen, but would you believe it works on tanks too? It’s true!
Now of course they didn’t have Leman Russ Extreminators in 2nd ed, so I had to make a new banner for the back:
If you ignore the dust, however, you’ll see a tank using the same color scheme as the infantry. I primed this tank with the same Army Painter Goblin Green spray as the infantry, then painted in camo splotches using P3 Thamar Black. If I were to do this again I would paint the whole tank with Warboss Green after the spray to even out the coverage and make cleanup easier. The black was highlighted the same as the leather on the infantry, as I didn’t want the tank to get too blue, and the green was highlighted the same as the uniforms, with Athonian Camoshade being used sparingly on rivets and recesses. When painting camo, it’s important to get clean lines, so using a slightly thinned down paint and a fine brush, draw the patterns in and fill them in later. Alternatively you could use another spray or airbrush and blu-tac or modeling putty to mask off areas, but you do you. The last detail here that isn’t on the infantry is the striping on the side of the turret, which was just the same red recipe as before, then Ulthuan Grey with a Corax White highlight, and lines of Thamar Black dividing them. I painted this whole scheme before airbrushes were quite as mainstream as they are now, but I imagine using one would make quick work of an army of these folks without repeating my mistakes.
Catachans, by BuffaloChicken
BuffaloChicken’s Catachans are well known around the Goonhammer offices, as we’ve long talked about the way he incorporates beautiful conversions into his efforts. In addition to using a pet store’s worth of aquarium plants on his army’s bases, he also frequently rescues old toys (particularly dinosaurs) to use for terrain and conversions. His Catachans have a lighter, painterly feel.
BuffaloChicken’s Catachan Infantry
– Highlight Vallejo Bonewhite.
– Highlight Vallejo White
– Highlight metal with Vallejo Mithril
BuffaloChicken’s Catachan Tanks
– Highlight metal with Vallejo Mithril
BuffaloChicken on painting lots of Guard Infantry:
Answer is… run real light on infantry, convert lots of monsters and vehicles and Rough Riders and Ogryns, and lose plenty of games! At least that’s my technique. Closest thing to ‘real’ advice would be “paint in squads of ten, break them up with fun centerpiece models.”
Commissar, by Liam “Corrode” Royle
Commissars are iconic to the Imperial Guard, and as you may have guessed from the book recommendations above, they feature a lot in the fluff. Black Library authors can’t get enough of Commissars as a concept, and it’s not hard to see why – they make for really interesting characters. All Commissars have the same job, to instil discipline in Imperial Guard regiments as political officers, but how they go about it is infinitely varied. They can be harsh disciplinarians, exemplars of personal courage, quiet menaces in the background, or if you’re the guy from the Wicked and the Damned anthology, total lunatics screaming about blue-eyed hogs.
On the tabletop, the classic Commissar scheme is a mix of red and black, which is always a striking combo hence why it also appears throughout the Sisters of Battle and Blood Angels ranges.
The particular Commissar in the photo above is the newer plastic version, but all Commissars can be productively painted in basically the same way. I sprayed him black and then covered him in VMC Black Grey, which is my go-to for any black that wants to have a little depth to it. I picked out the red edges in Khorne Red and then Mephiston Red, the cream is Rakarth Flesh and then Flayed One Flesh, and the gun and chains are just straight Leadbelcher. I then washed the metal and black with Nuln Oil and the creams with 1:1 Seraphim Sepia/Lahmian Medium.
The black was highlighted Eshin Grey and then Mechanicus Standard Grey, the red with Wild Rider Red, and the cream re-layered with Flayed One Flesh.
That’s like 90% of this guy done – getting your black, red, and metal done well will carry you most of the way. This guy’s skin was, I think, straight Cadian Fleshtone with a wash of Reikland and then highlighted Cadian then Kislev, and I picked out his little medals and the gold for his skull/aquila/power generator on the power sword he never, ever gets to actually pay points for.
That’s pretty much it. These guys are 16pts per model, don’t go wild on them!
Jezzain Volunteers, by Evan “Felime” Siefring (Custom Cadians)
So, you want to paint some Guardsmen? You’ll need your regular painting supplies and a few pots of paint, but most of all you’re going to need a PLAN. You are, at a minimum, going to be painting 32 of these guys. If you actually want to play Imperial guard, instead of Imperium Chowder, you’ll be painting more like 60. Minimum. Pick a color palette, a method, and a standard you want your guys to meet, and stick to it. Nobody has noticed that I forgot to paint skin on any of my conscripts, over the entirety of eighth edition. They’re not going to notice a little bit of extra flair you put into one squad. Save that for your officers.
The Plan (Rank and File Guardsmen)
So, first, my color palette:
- Fatigues: VMC Khaki
- Armor: VMA Panzer Dark Grey
- Belts, Lasgun Casings: VMC Black
- Boots, Pouches: VMC Leather Brown
- Metals: VMA Steel
- Accent(Reserved for Officers/Specialists): VMC Flat Red
- Skin: P3 Kislev Flesh with VMC Leather Brown for variety
So, a bit of discussion on the color scheme. I wanted to go with an earthy palette. These guys are the 2nd Jezzain Volunteers, hailing from a barren, rocky mining world. I wanted them to look like a bunch of dirt and piles of dark rocks when they hit the ground, but without going for an actual camouflage scheme. There are only a few accents of metal on each model. A few bits of the lasguns, the bits in their pouches, their belt buckles, and the crest on their helmets. With that and the fact that the color scheme is pretty drab to start with in mind, I went for the very bright VMA Steel. If there were more metallics, that would be a little overwhelming. The fact that VMA Steel covers amazingly with one coat is a significant bonus. I wanted a little bit of color, but not in the troopers, so I decided to work a little red into my officer color schemes.
For my rank and file troops, I lay all of those basecoats down. Paint a test model so you can figure out the order to paint things in. You don’t want to be going back steps when you are painting 60 guardsmen:
- First, the entire model gets painted Khaki.
- Next come the brown on the boots and patches. for the brown skinned troopers, I will also do the hands and faces at the same time. The boots need to come before the armor so you can be sloppy around the shin plates.
- Then I do the skin color. Do this now because you will get skin paint on the helmets and the guns.
- Armor comes next.
- Black now. Black comes after skin so I can clean up the lasgun grips and around the hands.
- Finally, I do the metals on top of everything else, along with the red accents if it’s an officer.
You’re going to notice at this point that nothing is shaded, because it isn’t. The next step is to get out a big ol’ bottle of future floor polish (Or Pledge floor care finish as it’s sold as now) Mix up a gentle wash with mostly floor polish, and a little bit of black and brown. I use VMC Black and Golden High Flow Acrylics Sepia. This is basically a diluted agrax earthshade color, which you could use if you hate your wallet. Then, I proceed to slather is all over the model, making sure it doesn’t pool too much. Then I put them down somewhere I don’t mind getting, as the wash will run off of them.
For my rank and file, I varnished them satin, and this is where I decided I was done. Is it the best painting standard I could manage? No. Do I have a fully painted Imperial Guard army? Yes. Panting guard, much like playing them, is an exercise in attrition. If you are starting guard, I highly recommend that you be realistic with your painting plans, and, like me, have an off-ramp at an acceptable standard if you decide that your more detailed plan is not conducive for your sanity. That said, these aren’t too far off the standards I painted my test models to. The biggest difference is the lack of edge highlighting and stripes on the armor, and I’d like to add highlights to the faces. I’d like to do these terribly time consuming steps someday ™.These are just VGC Cold Grey and Ulthuan Grey.
Officers and Specialists
Now here is the area you can put a little flair and extra colors. For my specialists, I wanted them to feel like part of my army, so I kept largely the same color palette, just adding dashes of other colors into the mix, and changing the locations to make them look special without making them look like they don’t belong.
Starting from the left in the front, the commissar uses the same color palette as my guardsmen. The only additional colors involved are the brass frogging, epaulettes and other details. (VMC Hammered Copper), and the grey greatcoat and fatigues, are a slightly different shade of grey to the armor.
For my sergeants, I wanted some variety of bare heads, so I used Tempestus Scions heads with berets for some. They aren’t officers, so I didn’t want to include any red in their outfits, so I went with black for the berets.
The sanctioned psykers are fun models. A few touches of brass and my officer color makes them stand out on the battlefield.
Likewise, the officer on the right uses the standard color palette without deviation. Just a touch or two of red is all you need to add a little punch to a model.
Last, but certainly not least, is the ogryn in the background. As they’re auxilia, I decided to paint their armor black, but retain the same colors for pants, boots, metals, etc, and add a touch of yellow. More subtly, the tank tracks are ironbreaker instead of VMA Steel, as the bright steel color would be too much on that big an area. I also highlighted instead of washed their khaki pants, using a mix of VMC Flat Earth and VMC Khaki, highlighting up to Khaki. The skin is also much more involved, the details of which can be found in the HTPE: Human skin article linked at the start of this one. The ogryns are big boys, and a little bit of extra work really shows on the tabletop in a way it wouldn’t for a sea of guardsmen.
Vehicles – Tanks, but no Tanks
The title of this section is a joke. Always tanks.
I tried to carry over a lot of the color palette from my infantry to make my tanks look like they belong, but I also didn’t want them to look like solid khaki lumps on the tabletop. I chose to go with suicidally bold squadron markings.
This leman russ was painted in large subassemblies:
The absolutely most important subassembly is the tracks. With the modern leman russ kits, the treads have registration points that allow you to paint them separately, while I HIGHLY recommend you do this. They are just airbrushed Vallejo Mecha Air Steel and washed with nuln oil. Ironbreaker would work excellently as well. Painting these on the tank is a huge pain, so don’t glue them on.
The second subassembly is the weapons. They were painted black, edge highlighted with Eshin Grey. The barrels and muzzles were then painted VMA Steel and washed with nuln oil. For the plasma glow, I followed this guy’s tutorial pretty much to the letter, except I used VMC Dark Prussian Blue, VGA Electric Blue, and VMA White, because those were what I had on hand.
The tank and the turret were the biggest and most involved subassembly. I painted the turret separately gluing a piece of sprue to the inside to act as a holder.
- I first airbrushed the tank solid VMC Khaki, the same color as the fatigues of my guardsmen. I then varnished over it.
- Next I waited for that to dry, and then masked out the stripes with masking tape. I masked out and painted the entire color area first in Ulthuan Grey, varnishing and waiting for it to dry, before I masked off everything but the blue areas, and airbrushed them VMC Ultramarine Blue.
- I then applied the transfers, spraying varnish over them. (This is the last bit of varnish until the end, I swear).
- Then I began the weathering. I recess shaded the entire model with agrax earthshade, then drybrushed the entire model with a bone color, avoiding the grey areas. You can highlight colors with a bone highlight, but it’s difficult for the white.
- I applied sponge chipping. I hit the decals and colored areas with a little bit of VMC khaki to simulate chipping down to the base paint layer. Then I went over the entire model with Skavenblight Dinge sponge chipping. I then sponge chipped with leadbelcher very sparingly. it’s easy to go overboard witht he metallics.
- For finishing touches I added some oil streaks and drips using Agrax Earthshade and Nuln oil.
Finally, I added a coat of matte varnish to everything. The weapons are actually magnetized so they can be switched out, but that’s it’s own separate article.
Tempestus Scions, by Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms
Paint the sloppy parts, first!
- Prime the model with Zandri Dust spray paint.
- Basecoat the gold trim with Balthazar Gold
- Basecoat the metal parts with Leadbelcher
- Basecoat the armor with The Fang
- Basecoat the backpack and boots with Steel Legion Drab (leave the bedrolls alone)
- Wash the entire model with Reikland Fleshshade
- Re-apply the base colors above, ignore the recesses.
- Basecoat the gloves with Abaddon Black
- Basecoat the weapons with Incubi Darkness
- Basecoat the eyes and wrist screens with Caliban Green
- Basecoat the face masks and squad markings with Fenrisian Grey
- Paint the Plasma on the plasma guns with White Scar and Wash with Aethermatic Blue contrast paint.
Tempestus Scion models are very detailed and subsequently tedious to paint. I don’t advise going beyond “Battle Ready” if you’ll be doing a lot of them, but if you insist…
- Highlight the pants, sleeves and bedrolls with Zandri Dust, followed by a smaller highlight of Ushabti Bone (Optional: Add a final highlight of Screaming Skull).
- Highlight the metal and gold trim with Stormhost Silver
- Highlight the armor with Thunderhawk Blue (Optional: Add a final highlight of Fenrisian Grey).
- Highlight the backpack and boots with Gorthor Brown
- Highlight the gloves with Dawnstone Grey
- Highlight the weapons with Kabalite Green
- Highlight the eyes and wrist screens with Warpstone Glow (Optional: Add a final highlight of Moot Green).
- Highlight the face masks and squad markings with Ulthuan Grey (Optional: Add a final highlight of White Scar.
- Highlight the Plasma on the plasma guns with White Scar.
Vehicles (The Taurox)
- Prime the model with The Fang spray paint.
- Drybrush the hull with Thunderhawk Blue.
- Wash the crevices with Reikland Fleshshade
- Clean up with a drybrush of Thunderhawk Blue.
- Do a final lighter drybrush with Fenrisian Grey
- Basecoat the metal parts with
- Basecoat the gold trim with Balthazar Gold
- Basecoat the red areas with Khorne Red
- Basecoat the weapons with Incubi Darkness
- Wash the metal, gold and red areas with Army Painter Strong Tone
- Highlight the metal parts and gold trim with a drybrush of Necron Compound
- Highlight the weapons with Kabalite Green
- Dirty the tracks and bottom of the vehicle with Stirland Battlemire
- Drybrush the dirt with Steel Legion Drab followed by a lighter drybrush of Gorthor Brown (optional: do a final light drybrush of Ushabti Bone)
Tempestus Scions (Valhallan), by SRM
In 6th edition these guys had their own codex and a half decent formation in it, so I have a buttload of Tempestus Scions, or as I still call them, Stormtroopers. Their boots, pouches, straps, weapon casings, metallics, and lenses are all the same as I detailed in the above Valhallan infantry and tank guides. The pants were painted the same as the coats of the Valhallan infantry, as that gives them a cleaner look and I figure these guys would get to go to the Imperial laundromat. All that’s left is their armor!
White Armor: Like the rank and file Valhallans, I painted these whole models in Steel Legion Drab first. The armor was based with Ulthuan Grey (my secret weapon, holy shit this color is so useful) and down in two coats. I washed the recesses with Agrax Earthshade, then highlighted up with Corax White.
Trim: Retributor Armour (another knockout good paint) washed with Seraphim Sepia is where I started. I then highlighted with Liberator Gold. I didn’t want it to be too gleaming – these are the best of the Guard, but they’re still pretty small cogs in the Imperial war machine.
If I was going to give these dudes berets they would be painted in the same reds I used for the red badges and so on further up the guide. Vehicles were painted the same as the rest.
Valhallans, by SRM
I had always wanted these guys as a kid after seeing the big spread of them fighting Tyranids in the 3rd edition rulebook, so one of the first things I did on getting a real job was buying up an army of them. They hit a wonderful balance of 90’s simplicity, hand sculpted character, and realism that give them a certain timeless charm. For my Valhallan 32nd Rifles, I took inspiration from the same place as the Perry Twins did when they sculpted them – the Soviet Red Army from World War II. A quick disclaimer – if you’re going to reproduce a historical scheme for a non-historical game, be mindful to avoid any explicit markings of the era. These guys have some red stars that are sort of generic enough, but I avoided the hammer and sickle or any real world unit markings. This is doubly true if you want to do a German-inspired army, in which case you should stop, breathe, and pick a new scheme.
Anywhomst, here’s how to paint these not-quite Soviets who are more Red Alert 3 than Red Scare in a very efficient paintscheme that focused largely around 3 shades of brown:
Coats: I started by painting the entire model (save the weapons) in Steel Legion Drab. I layered up the coat with Tallarn Sand, leaving Steel Legion Drab in the recesses. Finally, I highlighted the edges with Karak Stone.
Pants/Hats/Cuffs: From the Steel Legion Drab basecoat, I highlighted the raised edges with Tallarn Sand and washed these with Agrax Earthshade.
Fur: Steel Legion Drab then Agrax Earthshade, same as the rest. Drybrush with Karak Stone. Done.
Boots/Pouches: I started with Rhinox Hide, then caught these in the same wash of Agrax Earthshade as the pants. I then highlighted with Doombull Brown.
Weapon casings/Knapsacks: Hey, something that isn’t brown! Castellan Green, that same wash of Agrax Earthshade, then highlights of Elysian Green (RIP Elysians). On the weapons focus this on the recesses, but hit the knapsacks all over. There’s occasional helmets and gasmasks which you can paint the same as the weapons.
Muzzles: The muzzles of the lasguns were done in P3 Thamar Black with highlights of Eshin Grey then Dawnstone.
Metallics: Leadbelcher, Nuln Oil, then Stormhost Silver.
Red badges: Mephiston Red, Nuln Oil in the eyes and such, and Evil Sunz Scarlet highlights. With officers I tried to incorporate more red in sashes and such, painted the same way.
Hope you like drybrushing because it’s time to paint a tank in 3 hours.
Armor: I always start here since it’s the biggest part of the model and pretty messy. From a black basecoat, I heavily drybrushed Caliban Green all over, then slightly less heavily drybrushed Castellan Green all over, then did a lighter drybrush of Elysian Green all over with a focus on the edges. This is a good place to call it if you want, but in World War II it was common for tankers to whitewash their tanks to better blend in with the winter landscape. This was done on both the eastern and western fronts by tankers using brooms, rollers, whatever to roughly apply the paint. Resultantly, I wanted a rough look to the whitewashing here. I used Praxeti White, a shitty old brush, and a stabbing, stippling motion to whitewash the tank. I focused it more on the flat panels and further from the edges where it would be more likely to wear off. Whitewashing would be done after markings and so on, so I left spots where I was putting any markings or transfers.
Weapon casings: P3 Thamar Black, then highlights of Eshin Grey and Dawnstone, same as the lasgun muzzles.
Metallics: Starting from Leadbelcher, do washes of Agrax Earthshade and Nuln Oil. I usually applied another Nuln Oil wash near the muzzle, or a drybrush of black to represent the scorching of the shells. I then highlighted with Stormhost Silver.
Markings: I painted mine in with Mephiston Red and a highlight of Evil Sunz Scarlet.
Stowage: I painted this the same as the Valhallan pants. Steel Legion Drab, Tallarn Sand, Agrax Earthshade wash. Leather straps the same as the boots and straps on the infantry – Rhinox Hide, Agrax Earthshade, and Doombull Brown.
Lenses: I went with blue for contrast. I started with Kantor Blue, with crescents of Altdorf Guard Blue and Fenrisian Grey on the bottom. For the top where the “light” catches, I just did a dot of Nuln Oil then Corax White.
Weathering: Back to drybrushing! We’ll go back to that same trinity of browns, drybrushing Steel Legion Drab up to around the halfway point, Tallarn Sand up to around a third, and Karak Stone up to a round a fifth of the way up.
Crew: There were some extremely dope tank rider models back in the day which I painted the same as my infantry. Should be a no brainer. The modern plastic Leman Russ kit has a real Russian tanker-looking head in there which would be a good bit to use. That’s an SRM-approved pr0 tip.
Vostroyans, by Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms
Paint the sloppy parts, first!
- Prime the model with Abaddon Black or (preferably) Mechanicus Grey spray paint.
- Basecoat the brass trim Balthazar Gold
- Basecoat the cloth with Mephiston Red
- Basecoat the metal with Leadbelcher
- Basecoat the poofy hats with Ushabti Bone
- Basecoat the wood with Dryad Bark
- Basecoat the boots with Mournfang Brown
- Wash the model with a liberal amount of Agrax Earthshade
- Re-apply the base colors above, ignore the recesses.
- Basecoat the skin with Cadian Fleshtone
- Wash the skin with a 50/50 mix of Reikland Fleshshade and Druchii Violet
Follow the steps for Battle-Ready before proceeding below.
- Highlight the brass with Stormhost Silver
- Highlight the cloth with Evil Sunz Red
- Highlight the metal with Stormhost Silver
- Drybrush the poofy hats with Screaming Skull
- Highlight the wood with lines of Gorthor Brown
- Highlight the boots with Doombull Brown
- Highlight the skin with Cadian Fleshtone followed by smaller highlights of Kislev Flesh
Author’s Note: I painted my Vostroyans 12 years ago and some things have changed. More spray paint colors are available but older Citadel Colors like Rotting Flesh paint are no more. You can substitute with Putrid Green from Coat D’Arms or a slightly greener paint in the form of Ogryn Camo.
- Prime the model with Zandri Dust
- Heavily Drybrush (aka “Roughbrush”) the hull with Ogryn Camo
- Drybrush with Ushabti Bone
- Lightly Drybrush with Administratum Grey
- Paint the brass parts with Balthazar Gold
- Paint the metal parts with Leadbelcher
- Wash the entire model with a 4:1:1 mix of Water, Dawnstone Grey, and Abaddon Black
Alpha Legion Sleeper Cell, by Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones
I wanted to do a series of “normal”-looking guard to go with my Alpha Legion (instead of just renegades) to give them an air of respectability, and so the sleeper cell Cadians were born. The scheme is designed to be quick, so I can hammer out 30-120 of these to act as cultists in a pinch. I ended up only painting 30 of them, but it’s an easy enough scheme and it looks fine. It matches them well with my cultists, who have a similar scheme, and my Alpha Legion marines.
These guys have a pretty simple recipe:
Fatigues: Castellan Green, washed with Coelia Greenshade, then layered with Castellan Green, Death World Forest, and highlighted with Death Guard Green.
Armor: Incubi Darkness highlighted with Sotek Green
Gun: Mephiston Red highlighted with Evil Sunz Scarlet
That wraps up our look at the regiments of the Astra Militarum, but there are plenty more schemes that we haven’t covered – the sky’s the limit when it comes to this army. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.