How to Paint Thousand Sons – TheChirurgeon’s Pre-Heresy Method

This article is part of a larger series on how to paint the Thousand Sons. To return to the parent article, click this link

The Thousand Sons are one of the marine chapters known for completely changing their cannon color scheme between the Heresy and the “modern” day of Warhammer 40,000. Originally their armor used a red and gold scheme with white tabards, and they’ve since traded the red of their Primarch for a blue more suited to Tzeentch (while the formerly blue and white World Eaters changed their color to red).

For this article we’ll be looking at a fairly quick and easy method for painting pre-Heresy Thousand Sons that nonetheless produces some pretty solid results. While it’s not quite four steps, there isn’t a ton to it and it can be quickly applied to a large number of models.

Step 1: Priming and Undercoat

I decided to go with more of a metallic paint look for my Pre-Heresy Thousand Sons, and so I primed them with GW’s Leadbelcher spray. Once that was done I drybrushed the model with Runefang Steel to create some brighter highlights for the Contrast paint to work off of.

In the future if I were doing this again I think I’d create more contrast by priming Leadbelcher, washing that with Nuln Oil, then drybrushing Leadbelcher and Runefang Steel over that to create a bit more depth of color before hitting everything with contrast.

Step 2: Basecoat the Red

Step 2 was painting the red. This was just a regular coat of Contrast Blood Angels. The idea here is that the paint is thin enough to let the metallic paint underneath shine through, giving the model a shimmery look. This is resistant to edge highlights however, as they tend to dull the look. You’re basically counting on the natural lighting in the room to do more of the work than the paint and that has its advantages and disadvantages.

What do you do if you mess up later? It’s nearly inevitable that at some point you’re going to get another color of paint on your carefully prepared red later. If that happens your only real recourse is to paint over the area with Leadbelcher/Runefang Steel as appropriate, then cover that with Contrast paint again.

Step 3: Details

After the red comes the other details. That means painting the gold trim with Retributor Armour – fortunately there’s less of it here than on the 40k models and hitting the metal bits with Leadbelcher. Not every Thousand Sons model has them but you will sometimes see tabards and leather strips to paint. I paint these with Grey Seer, then I’ll eventually shade them with Apothecary White and edge highlight with Reaper Pure White. 


Step 4: Wash + Highlight

That brings us to the final “step” of the process. It’s really several steps rolled into one, but a lot of these are so little they can be easily grouped. The Leadbelcher parts are washed with Nuln Oil while the gold trim is washed with Agrax Earthshade. The white leather strips were washed with Apothecary White. After this comes highlights – the metal parts are drybrushed with Runefang Steel, the trim with Liberator Gold, and the strips were edge highlighted with Reaper Pure White. 

After this I picked out a few remaining details, adding Balthasar Gold to the flamer nozzles to make them stand out and using Runefang Steel to pick out the rivets on the model. There isn’t a ton here so at this point the model is pretty much finished. I think it turned out very well and painted up fast enough I wouldn’t mind doing this for another 50 models.

Credit: Robert “TheChirurgeon” Jones

This article is part of a larger series on how to paint the Thousand Sons. To return to the parent article, click this link