Adeptus Custodes Easy Airbrush Tutorial

This article is in response to questions I had about doing the gold colours on my Adeptus Custodes. I should warn you that although this is my methodology for ‘airbrushing’ gold, it is very easy, but time consuming because of the steps. Dry brushing gold on top of primer is always going to be easier than the steps that this involves.

That being said I will say this comes as a result of my experiences painting metallics since my ‘Iron Warrior’ days 20 years ago. It’s always changing which is the beauty of the hobby.

Enough of my banter, but let me set this up with one more challenge I gave myself for this project: I’m only using GW paints and washes for all the metallics! This way anyone can do this step by step.

Essentially without complicating the picture, this is what we’re shooting for:

Step 6 high contrast aged to white gold appearance finished GOLDS

This is our final step but before we launch off into this I think it’s a good time to just show the simple ‘rules’ I follow to help add to the depth of the figure.

Tones to aim for purples deep golds and then bright silvers

Randomly in this picture we breakdown the shapes of the model into 3 basic tones:

Purple = Darkest/underside of a shape. This actually has purple paint in it!

Blue = Mid tone. The majority of the figure

Yellow = Brightest/upward facing side of a shape.

And between all of that we have edge highlighting, and washes to help bring it together. Hopefully that picture above lays down the groundwork.

Let me show you a blow up of the Magnifica Imperialis Banner:

What we are shooting for

I’ve blown this up much larger than I can see it while I’m painting so there’s nothing I can hide here. Without the animated circles in the picture, your eyes should be following the pattern I describe above…. light flowing into recesses of purple/browns and opposing edges reflecting hard, white light.


That’s about as ‘deep’ and ‘mystical’ as we’re going to get about this project! Let’s get to paintin’ the Emperor’s Finest!

With Theory Behind Us… Let’s Make Some Gold!

Step 1a:

This is really quite simple… spray the models with a base of GW’s Retribrutor Armour Spray paint.

As a quick note I used to go to black primer and then go to airbrushing mid tones. I think this is quicker, and the next step takes care of what that used to accomplish.

Step 1b:

This took me a couple of tries to get it how I wanted, but the concept is very simple. With your airbrush you want to combine these colours to create the darkest undertones. Literally spray the models upside down, and pick some angles you think should be darker (even if this wouldn’t be a reality… sometimes you just want to exaggerate the effect).

Step 1 Redo this time with Violet brown and Balthasar up spray for lowlights

This is really our Step 1 in creating tone and depth.

Take Balthasar Citadel Air, add in a few drops of Druchii Violet, and a in the end I did not have a GW equivalent but they make one for Beast Brown Vallejo Game Air.

As mentioned spray the undersides until you have this almost ‘coral’ or ‘pinish’ hue with a deep brown edge to it.

*Warning: Do NOT over do the inks and browns in your Balthasar Base or you risk killing the metallic quality of the paint, and it will be too flat. Until you get a feel for it, do what I did; use pieces of paper and constantly test your mix.

Once this step is try, hit the whole model with Agrax Earthshade “Shade” (NOT Gloss. We still want to bring the model down in brilliance.)

Step 2:

Step 2 Relictor top down -fairly pure - Left pre highlight - right post highlight

This is where that pre work on the purples/browns and washes starts to pay off. Make sure the paint pot is clean for this step. Simply hit the top down half of the model with some Relictor bringing out a ‘buttery’ gold mid tone. This starts to add real contrast to the model. (LEFT is pre Step 2. RIGHT is post Step 2.)


Step 3:

After step 2 is dry, it’s time to be a little more selective (each step becomes more and more selective.)

Step 3 Relictor top down -with mostly Runefang air - post squad

Hopefully you saved some of the Relictor Gold in your pot. It’s time to add a healthy dose of Runefang Steel to the mix, and give the upper most top angles a very light hit of this mixture. You can see the banner is already showing extreme highlighting as a result. This brightness is very selective. I haven’t used a brush yet; you are seeing ‘natural’ highlighting as a result of the angle of the spray, applied in light bursts.

Step 4:

A brief interlude from the Golds just to get those reds in place since they will need washing too.

Step 4 Vallejo dark red for hair-pads-capes Citadel range for leather

The reds on the capes look brighter than they are here. The deep reds I did with Vallejo. The leather work is all done with Doombull Brown with Pink Horror mixed in as well as Wazdakka Red.

Step 5: Back to Golds.

Step 5 natural highlights come through with the lightest most specific application of Agrax GLOSS

This step is easy enough, but now your hard work starts to really pay off.

Take Agrax Earthshade GLOSS (previous steps used wash) to really sit deep into the recesses of the armour and start to make those brighter tones pop.

(It goes without saying but for the sake of completeness… I’m obviously doing this without the capes glued on, so if you are doing the same don’t forget to apply these steps to the hip shields (shown in the bottom of the picture above) to be glued on later!)


Step 6: Getting Extreme

Step 6 Completed Vallejo Silver Highlights

Note: I know I said I would do all metallics with GW paints. The problem was I wanted a very bright silver, but Runefang Steel does not have the pigment I needed. Vallejo Silver has really dense pigment.

I recommend a thin paint with strong pigment. You need to be VERY accurate in this step to create your edge highlight. I think Stormhost Silver would work, but I did not have that colour on hand.

This is a time consuming step but it brings it all together. Hit all those top edges with bright silver.


Step 6 Dont use your hands use a holder prevent smudges

This is one step I really recommend something… anything to hold the figure for you. With so many steps of Gloss/Wash and metallic paint, the very brightest highlights can rub off very easily until they get coated with your finishing sealant of choice.

More on Step 6….

While doing this I used my Contemptor Dread as a test dummy (no offense to Contemptor Dreads that might be reading this!).

Make sure you do those odd scratches on large surfaces to add realism. (You can see these scratches in the first blow up picture with the Banner Bearer on his elbow guard).

Anyway I did a comparison which unfortunately doesn’t show in my camera.

Step 6 Pic doesnt show it but Left IronBreaker Vs Right Silver Game Color

The left side was highlighted with Ironbreaker, the right side with Vallejo Silver. I think either would work well enough.

And this is pretty much bringing us to the conclusion of the Golds! Let’s finish off the reds quickly with an airbrush highlight:

Step 7: Reds

Step 7 highlight the reds

Here you can see I’ve done a hit of lighter red on the capes, shoulder pads, and top knots. Then a hard line highlight with a fine brush.

You can see I’ve finished the power weapons here, but essentially the golds/silvers are done! I hope you like your finished product, and if this helps you in any way, then I’m happy to have taken the time to write this out!

Thank you for checking this out. Next I hope to lay down the power weapon techniques!



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