How to Paint Lion El’Jonson – Kevin Stillman’s Method

This article is part of a larger series on how to paint Dark Angels space marines. For more on painting Dark Angels, you can return to that series by clicking this link.

The Lion is the best Primarch model Forge World has produced. Both from a “holy crap, this looks cool and I want to build, paint, and write it up even though I’m not a huge Dark Angels fan and actually need to practice painting Dark Angels” perspective, and also from an ease of assembly. The first clue that this model was going to be special was upon opening the box and finding…


Unlike the rest of the Primarchs, where you get maybe a small card that tells you where to put pteruges and tassels that MAYBE could go somewhere or somewhere else, this model has big instructions that explains where to put almost everything. Furthermore, unlike most of the other Primarchs, the Lion’s sculpt is relatively intuitive. There are not the random tiny pteruges or tassels or bits (save one, which we’ll get to below) that leave one squinting at the card or Forge World’s website. If you were going to pick a Primarch to build, I’d really start with The Lion to get a feel for the process.

It should not surprise you to learn that my method is actually pretty similar to Greg’s. After all, during the construction and painting of my model, I was talking with him pretty often about it and batting ideas off of him. The first major similarity is subassemblies: I love painting in subassemblies, and Greg is right that this model really ought to be painted in sub-assemblies.

I primed the Lion in two batches: the head, cape, and furry bits were primed in Grey Seer, and the rest was primed in Chaos Black. If I had to do it over again, I would have left the rear loincloth off.

The Lion, raw but mostly cut
Subassemblies to prime black. Credit: Kevin Stillman

When I do a character model, I always start with the head.  The face of the model is what will make or break the model, so…

The Lion’s Head – Credit: Kevin Stillman

Gregnote: I actually started with the head too, because Kevin showed me his and I immediately had to paint it, though I do think his came out a tiny bit better.

I primed Grey Seer, used Guilliman flesh contrast, and then highlighted with Cadian Fleshtone and Kislev Flesh. The hair was a mix of thinned-down Agrax Earthshade, Seraphim Sepia, and a touch of Iyaden Yellow. The eyes are courtesy my trusty Micron Pen.

Now with a glorious looking head, it was time to paint the main body.  Greg commented one of the pitfalls with the Forge World studio model: the main colors were Black and White. While it definitely looks cool, I wanted to incorporate more color into the model. I used Caliban green as the base color for the Lion’s cloth, and highlighted it up with a blend of Caliban Green and Death Guard Green. This was done to show the connection to the 40K Dark Angels.

For the armor, I did NOT want to do Black because two other Primarchs have Black Armor.  First, I drybrushed the armor with Scale 75 Black Metal and then a drybrush of Iron Hands, because I wanted the trim to be metal. Then, for the armor plating, I used a mix of Stegadon Scale Green and Abaddon Black to make it into an off-black.  It was shaded with Black Templar and highlighted with Dawnstone and VGC Wolf Grey.

The golds on the robes were Retributor Armor washed with Druchii Violet, and highlighted with Liberator Gold.  The Gold on the armor was Balthazar Gold washed with Cryptec Armorshade Gloss, and highlighted with Liberator.

Lion in Progress. Credit: Kevin Stillman

For the winged emblems on the armor and the Wolf Blade, I painted them Stormhost Silver and then layered them with Flesh Tearers red.

Most of the rest of the model was done similar to Greg – I used Skeleton Horde to paint the fur that goes on the cape, and Seraphim Sepia to paint the nails.  The exterior of the cape was painted Flesh Tearers Red over Grey Seer, and highlighted up with Evil Sunz Skarlet and Wild Rider Red, with a smidge of Fire Dragon Bright.   The Interior with Rakarth Flesh and highlighted up to Pallid Witch Flesh. I drybrushed the layers for the interior cape, because I love drybrushing.

The Lion’s Cape. Credit: Kevin Stillman

Once you get the cape, head, and armored body painted, you’re mostly done.  Pick whichever sword you like (2), and voilà!

The First: Lion El’Jonson. Credit: Kevin Stillman

One other note: the Lion comes with his Plasma Pistol, the Fusil Actinaeus.  Neither of us attached this model to our Lions because 1) There are no good attachment points for the gun 2) the instructions suggest putting it near his butt, so it would be hidden by the cape, and 3) It would make a great relic Plasma Pistol for a Primaris hero.

Credit: Kevin Stillman

This article is part of a larger series on how to paint Dark Angels space marines. For more on painting Dark Angels, you can return to that series by clicking this link.