How to Paint Grimdark Space Wolves

Space Wolves: A Legion that is well suited to the ‘grimey-dark’ look of the war torn future.

I should start by saying I want to make this very easy, with a few options and this is after a few tests of my own that I did not like.

When it comes to Wolves, I’ve never really liked the easter egg shell look that can be the result of bright primers, and baby blue hues with yellow accents. So if that’s your thing, that’s fine, but you won’t find it here.

So let’s dive into it. Some quick easy steps for doing this, and I’m going to keep this article short and very easy to follow.

The nitty gritty process:

A few figs were used in this test, and I kind of screwed up by using an assault marine who hides a bit of his chest/head in the pose. So I apologize for that. Moving on…. I recommend:

  • Black Primer (white was used in a few tests and was just too light for the base colours).
  • White Ink. This is an easy airbrush step that really just uses a zenithal. So you can use even watered down white airbrush paint. (I’ve heard/seen people do this with a rattle can even, but it is a bit messy and I’ve never tried it that way.)

You should end up with something like this. Fairly simple. I confess this poor guy has been painted 2 times already with failed attempts. So make sure you can pick a model that can take the hits, and you don’t care if he ends up being unsuccessful.

  • Next is the easy main base colour. I LOVE a stormy colour. I don’t want baby blues here until the very end.
  • Note above: This has to be airbrushed on. Or it just comes off too thin. I tried on test models over primer and it just didn’t look good. This is a very fresh application with an airbrush. No dilution here, but keep it light so you don’t completely undo the zenithal white highlights you just created. Contrast paints (in my opinion) work best like this.
  • Step 3: The picture above doesn’t quite do it justice (again, I chose a bad pose for this) but the mixing in of a lighter blue/grey is used as a lighter top down on armour plates adding some depth.
  • Step 4 is the last of our pre-detail steps. This is a shot of Space Wolves grey added into our ‘stormy’ looking base colours. A healthy shot of Space Wolves grey gets you a strong contrast in grey-to-light blue/grey. NOTE: I gave the shoulder plates a very healthy shot because I knew they would contain brighter colours in the detail phase.

At this point this is where you insert your details of choice: Guns, metals, shoulder plates, etc. And your choice of weathering. Here’s my note on weathering:

Weathering: In my case I prefer sponging. I take case foam, rip it into nickel sized chunks, and fold it in tweezers. I use a dab of Vallejo Beast brown, and black. I take a slightly damp brush and I brush a bit of each colour on the foam. I do not intentionally mix the brown and black. I let the natural mixing of the two happen on the sponge. The sponge is ‘stabbed’ onto a paper towel before dabbing it onto the model.

When the above is being done, don’t be afraid to use a Q tip to wipe some bad smudges away. Left over residue is okay. Also, when the above is done, I go back in with a brighter Space Wolves grey and trace the underside of larger abrasions left by the sponge to add depth to the damage.

Finally, and this is another choice to: Wash with Enamels. Wash with an Ink. Wash with Oils. Or wash with Army Painter Tone colour of your choice.

All of these work. In this case I did a very “liberal” pin wash of Black Oil Paint:

Step 5 above is really the end as it requires a higher dry time. I say liberal pin wash because it is intentionally a little broader than just the servere armour breaks. I hit the sides of the head with it, etc, and you can always neaten it up as it has a VERY slow dry time (same with enamels). Neaten it with q-tips if need be, or just dilute with your mineral spirits and use a brush.

P.S. I am no expert in these products. Please be careful using them, and use as directed.

Finally you can go back and fix up eyes, details, decals etc. And we can compare this look to the other attempts I have tried using brown and even grey enamels:

The White Scars done with enamel grey (he still needs a lot of detail work)

And that should give you a good idea of the looks you can attain with this method. Note the Enamels are FULL figure washes, using a mineral spirit reductive technique. The Oil wash while liberal, was still more of a pin wash leaving the blue tones of the armour far less ‘stained’.

Thanks for checking it out. -prot

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