The Iron Warriors were my first 40k army. I picked them in part because they had a simple painting guide int he 3rd edition Codex. Both my painting skills, as well as the hobby, have changed since then. But here is my updated guide to how to paint Iron Warriors.
I’ve broken down how I paint Iron Warriors in six detailed sections on the specific parts of the model.
How to Paint Iron Warriors Part 1: The Metals
Following on my step-by-step paint guides for my Sorcerer and Fabius Bile I figured it was time to do one for the bread and butter of my army: the Iron Warrior. I’ve broken this down into multiple parts to give more detail in each step. So first up is the metals. This is the prominent feature of any Iron Warrior: iron/silver armor and gold trim. It is also the messiest stage which is why I always do it first.
Step 1: Primer
I always prime my Iron Warriors black. If anyone has tried to paint metallic over a white base coat, you know why.
Step 2: Silver
This is by far the messiest stage. Depending on how fast I’m trying to paint the model I sometimes water down Mithril Silver and coat the whole model silver in one go. For most of the models though I try and only paint the areas I know will be silver as extra paint can quickly cover up details.
I paint this layer smooth using Mithril Silver. I use Mithril Silver since I lather two washes onto the model and I don’t want it to look too dull.
Step 3: Gold
For my gold areas, I use a mix of Shining Gold and Iyanden Darksun. I add the Iyanden because I do get a bit lazy, pure Shining Gold doesn’t cover well, especially when I get spots of silver on areas that should be gold. To do it right I should go back and repaint the gold areas black but I found adding a bit of the foundation paint doesn’t change the color much but significantly improves the gold’s ability to cover.
It doesn’t come through much in the picture, but at this point, the model looks like a 5th grader painted it: nice and shiny with no depth.
Step 4: Black Wash
This is where the magic starts. Ever since the wash sets came out I’ve bought more washes than paints because I use so much of them. This is why in part I stopped buying Badaab Black wash and made my own using Chaos Black, lots of water, and a drop of dish soap.
I take the big wash brush and liberally apply the black wash all over the model. I really slosh it on there at first so that it gets into the deeper crevices. Once the model is dripping black I clean off the brush and begin to “pull” the extra wash off the flat areas of the model.
I forgot to take a picture between applying the mud wash and the final dry brush, so this is a two-part section.
Step 5: Mud Wash
Once the black wash thoroughly dries (2+ hours) I’ll then apply a second wash using Devlan Mud. This wash is used more for its coloring than adding depth. It gives a more tarnished look to the metals that is perfect for warriors fighting for centuries in the Warp.
When I apply this wash I don’t put on as much as the black, but spread the color around the model to get good coverage. Large flat areas I purposely streak the wash along the lines of the model, such as the arm guard on this model would be streaked down its length.
Step 6: Dry Brush
Once the mud wash is completely dried (another 2+ hours) I then Mithril Silver and very lightly dry brush the full model. This helps bring back some of the shine to the hard edges and tarnishes the gold a bit more.
I often skip this step for my core marines but for the “eye-catching” units I spend the little bit of extra time to do this step.
At this point, the models could be considered “table top ready” and recognizably Iron Warriors. The following stages will add the details to the model that bring it from table-ready to display-ready.
How to Paint Iron Warriors Part 2: The Leather
After I have finished the metals, all the details are done in no particular order. In this case, I chose to do the leather parts of the model first.
Step 1: Vermin Brown
All the areas that will be leather I painted with Vermin Brown. It is a nice dark red/brown that covers the metallic paint well.
Step 2: Snakebite Leather
Snakebite Leather is then used to highlight the leather areas. This is a heavy highlight, meaning that only the deepest recesses are left, Vermin Brown.
Step 3: Snakebite Leather and Bleached Bone
I then start to mix Bleached Bone into the Snakebite Leather for the highlights. This is a progressive stage where I start 2:1 SL to BB, then 1:1 and finally 1:2 SL to BB.
Step 4: Bleached Bone
I then spot highlight with pure Bleached Bone. This is focused on the top most areas and adds a bit of shine to the leather.
Step 5: Ogryn Flesh Wash
Finally, I use Ogryn Flesh to tie the highlights together and tone back the pure Bleached Bone. Devlan Mud could work for this wash as well, but I wanted a slightly redder looking leather.
Now that the leather is done I move on to the next stage: the bone.
How to Paint Iron Warriors Part 3: The Bone
The bone areas are done next. For quick and dirty bone I have seen, and sometimes use, the Dehneb Stone, Devlan Mud approach but I find it too flat and dull. Instead, I use a few more layers, and Sepia wash instead.
Step 1: Khemri Brown
I start with a base coat of Khemri Brown for all the bone areas. This is a great Foundation Paint that covers all the darker areas well and provides a nice brown to start to bone from. I do avoid deep cracks or the eye sockets which should still be black from the primer.
Step 2: Khemri Brown and Bleached Bone
Bleached Bone is then added to the Khemri Brown in incremental amounts. I start with a 1:1 mixture of KB and BB since the foundation paints contain so much pigment. I work this up to about 1:3 KB to BB.
For the horns, I do less and less highlighting near the base to create a darker look. Near the tip, I completely cover the ridges and grooves until the final highlighting to create a bright area.
The skulls are often a mixture of highlighting the ridges of the face and creating false ridges on the top and side of the skull to create additional depth to the otherwise flat plane.
Step 3: Bleached Bone
Pure Bleached Bone is then used to continue the highlighting.
Step 4: Bleached Bone and Skull White
Skull White is then added to the Bleached Bone to create highlights near the tip of the horns and edge of the ridges on the skull.
Step 5: Skull White
Pure Skull White is then used to do spot highlighting.
Step 6: Gryphonne Sepia Wash
Finally I wash all the bone areas with Gryphonne Sepia Wash. This helps re-establish the ridges in the horns and creates a more aged look. The wash is focused on the base of the horns and cracks in the skull. Extra wash is pulled off the tips of the horn and flat areas of the skull where I want to keep some of the brightness.
This can be a time-consuming step of my Iron Warriors, but one that I think is important to keep them from looking too bland and dark.
So now that the bone areas are done, it is time to move onto the next detail: the Daemon Weapons.
How to Paint Iron Warriors Part 4: The Daemon Blade
I am now on Part 4 of how I paint my Iron Warriors. This stage is how I painted my Daemon Blades for my chosen, but the same still can be used for power weapons using reds or blues instead.
Step 1: Orkhide Shade
Orkhide Shade is an excellent base coat for any green. It is dark and covers quickly.
Step 2: Goblin Green
Goblin Green is then painted on as the first highlight. The Orkshade Green is left in the deep recesses and near the handle of the blade.
Step 3: Scorpion Green
This is where the “power lines” start to show. Scorpion green is used to highlight the edges, tip, and contours of the blade. It is then brought down the blade’s length in an irregular pattern, with more focus near the tip.
Step 4: Scorpion Green and Skull White
Skull White is added to the Scorpion Green to add even more brightness to the blade. This is primarily near the tip and highest edges of the details. The lines of power are highlighted at this stage.
Step 5: Skull White
Skull White is then used to do spot highlighting near the tip and certain parts of the power fields to give them more accent.
Step 6: Thraka Green Wash
Finally, I wash all the whole sword with Thraka Green Wash. This tones down the white areas and pulls all the colors together. The effect is subtle, but helpful since I don’t do a lot of blending.
I use this same process for most of my painting: dark base coat, mid-highlight, bright highlight, wash. It won’t win Golden Demons but it gets the job done quickly.
How to Paint Iron Warriors Part 5: The Daemon Face
Part 5 of how I paint my Iron Warriors deals with the daemon faces that often adorn the armor or weapons of the warriors of the Warp. Depending on the model I will paint the face either red or purple with the opposite color tongue (if they even show it). Such is the case for the shield on this chosen model.
The bone was done in Part 3 above.
Step 1: Mechrite Red
Mechrite Red is used as the base. The color is very similar to Scab Red but covers easier (finding a trend here for the base coat?). I only avoid the deepest pockets with this color.
Step 2: Blood Red
Blood Red is painted on next. For the reds I don’t spend time on blending, the colors lend themselves well to layering. This is laying down the main color so I only avoid the lower levels to stay as Mechrite, everything else gets bloody. On some spots I did do a second layer of Blood Red to make sure it was smooth and bright.
Step 3: Blazing Orange
To highlight red, you don’t add white; it just makes it pink. Instead move to orange then yellow. So for this step, I move to Blazing Orange to highlight. This layer brings out the ridges and protrusions.
Step 4: Golden Yellow
Yellow acts much like a white on other colors for the highlight. I use Golden Yellow as the spot highlighting for the red, pulling out the sharpest points and topmost ridges.
Step 5: Liche Purple
Moving on to the tongue I use Liche Purple as the base color. This gives a good contrast to the red and gives the face an other-worldly look.
Step 6: Shadow Grey
I don’t go straight to Shadow Grey but rather use 1:2 LP to SG to create the highlight. For the tongue I only go with the one set of highlights, but when painting the faces purple I continue on with Space Wolf Grey as the spot highlight.
Step 7: Leviathan Purple Wash
The whole face (other than the bone/teeth) is then washed with Leviathan Purple to pull it together. It cools down the red face and smooths the simple layering of the tongue.
The red to yellow progression is the same I use on my Traitor Guard tanks but using a different technique of application.
How to Paint Iron Warriors Part 6: The Base
Now the final touches are done on the model. I’ll go back and do any touch-ups at this point including any “lining in” with Chaos Black.
This is the final part of how I paint my Iron Warriors. I always wait to do the base for last for two reasons:
- I can be a messy painter and will often “splash” the base while working on other parts
- It helps signify that the model is now “done”
Step 1: Graveyard Earth
The usually takes at least two coats. The first I’ll mix a bit of Foundation paint in and water it down to almost a wash. I also add a bit of white glue. This first mix gets between the gaps in the bigger rocks and helps them all stick together a bit more.
I will then go back over the base with pure Graveyard Earth once the first layer is done. This gives a nice brown base to work from.
Step 2: Bleached Bone
Bleached Bone is then used to highlight the base. I sometimes do an intermediate layer of Graveyard Earth and Bleached bone before moving to the pure Bleached Bone.
Step 3: Glue
I then take an old paint brush and “paint” on glue where I want the flock to go. This should be a here-and-there application, and I often look for places on the base where some of the rocks have come off, or blobs of paint make it look bad, these will get covered up with grass.
Step 4: Pile of Flock
I take a huge pile of my flock medium and dump it on the base and allow it to dry for a bit. I’ve created this mix out of the Burnt Grass from GW, used tea, and ballast from a model railroad shop.
Step 5: Flocked
After letting the glue dry for a short bit, I’ll knock the extra flock off into the container and gently blow on the base to help the grass stand up.
Step 6: Chaos Black
Finally, I paint the rim of the base Chaos Black.
Once the base is done, this model is now a “finished” model in my collection and will move on to be matte varnished to protect the paint job.
How to Paint Iron Warriors Wrapup
I hope this multi-part guide has been of help for any would-be Warsmiths or any that could pull out tips for their own army. Let me know if there are any of my other models that you want to see a step-by-step for. It may give me an excuse for buying some more models!