Monday, 28 May 2018

How to Paint Steel Legion Tanks (Astra Militarum Painting/Weathering Guide)

Today, I'm presenting my step-by-step guide to painting a Steel Legion tank (a Deathstrike missile). I created this scheme for a new army I'm working on and I've kept it as succinct as possible. There are a lot of layers in here, but I've maximised the impact to time spent ratio to create a scheme that packs a punch fast. I have used an airbrush, but all of this could be done with a brush, it would just take more time. Speaking of time, the total painting time from start to finish for this tank was only 4 hours and 30 minutes. I've spent longer than that on single infantrymen for some armies! 

Even if you're not interested in painting steel legion, it'll probably still be an interesting article, as I'm going to really hammer through a lot of techniques that you may have never used before. With that out of the way, let's get started.

1) I gave the whole model a basecoat with Vllejo German Grey using the airbrush. It covers well, but some placed needed 2 coats to really get it good. I should mention that I started first with a Chaos Black undercoat to make sure that the paint would adhere.

 2) I applied a highlight to the whole model with the airbrush focussing on the upper areas. For this stage, I used a 50/50 mix of German Grey and Dark Sea Grey (which despite the name looks a lot like codex grey).
 3) A final highlight was applied using pure Dark Sea Grey. I was quite sparing with this paint as it is quite light (despite the misleading name).
 4) Time for some cammo. It looks a bit green at first, but don't worry we're just using this mix as a basecoat. Speaking of the mix, I used a 50/50 mix of Orange Brown and Scrofulous Brown for this stage. These are still all Vallejo paints applied with the airbrush.
 5) Looking a lot better after this one. I applied a highlight of Ice Yellow (A paint that looks suspiciously like bleached bone) to the cammo stripes; basically covering the first layer I had put down except for the very edges. It looks almost battle ready (Did someone just say Tabletop Standard, as this would definitely do).
 6) This stage is optional, and if you don't want Retro stripes on your tank then skip to stage 10. I used Tamiya masking tape to mask off an area on the front of the tank. I only really trust the Tamiya stuff not to take the paint off when you peel it off later.
 7) I applied a few coats of Scarlet Blood towards the front of the tank using the masking tape as a barrier. When it was completely dry, I peeled the tape off (no damage, thank god).
 8) In order to create more stripes, I waited for the paint to dry completely before applying another strip of masking tape; this time closer to the front of the tank. I also used some plastic wrap to mask the missile off for painting.
 9) I applied a few coats of Dead White to the front of the tank to create a white stripe. I then peeled off the tape and admired my handiwork. I also used this  stage to paint the missile in white.
 10) With the basic colours down, I decided that it was time to add some weathering to the tank. For this, I used a mix of 50/50 Cavalry Brown and Black. I applied this to the lower areas of the hull around the tracks. I was fairly sparing with this colour, as I will be weathering more later on.
 11) I also used my mix from stage 10 to make some mud splashes. For this, I just dipped my paint brush in the colour, wiped of the excess and then held it up about 3 inches away from the model. Then I used the airbrush to blast my paintbrush with air; dislodgeing the paint from the bristles and spattering my tank's hull for a good dirty look. If you're going to try this, test it a few times first to make sure you don't just drown your tank with brown when you pull the trigger, as results vary a lot if you try it with too much paint on the brush!
 12) Probably my favourite part is the final step with the airbrush. I used pure black to go in and shade the brown weathering that I had put on. I also shaded some of the panels. I was vary sparing in this stage, as you just want to make the thing look worn and sooty, but not actually black.

I've added two pictures below that show how things are going so far. At this point, I was only an hour and a half into the tank and things were really looking good. It would be even faster without the red and white stripes as that stage took about 20 minutes.

A closer shot of the side, so you can get an idea of how the weathering has gone. Interestingly, pure black works great for blending the white and red into the hull adds a lot of depth to them.
 13) With the airbrushing stage out of the way, I took my tank indoors to work on the bodywork. The first port of call was to add definition to the panels. For this, I applied a directed wash using Agrax Earthshade. Essentially this meant that I used a small brush wash round all the rivets, and down the panel lines of the tank. It's important not to just wash the whole tank or it will ruin all of the careful. If you want to see this stage in more detail, Warhammer TV did a video tutorial of a more basic Steel Legion scheme that has this exact same stage (see this video at about 1.10 to see how this is done: Warhammer TV Steel Legion Tank Tutorial).

After that, I used a really big square ended brush that was about 1 inch across to very lightly drybrush Ice Yellow over the top of the whole tank (except for that white missile). This picked up the very edges of the armour plates and the rivets and brought the whole look together.
For painting tanks, I like my brush the way I like my like my Martinis; dry … and almost unnecessarily large.

You can see the impact the Agrax wash has had from all of those rivets. I've added some little grease trails here and there to them to give the impression of age. It's got the patina!
14) To finish the hull off, I went to another painting technique. I used some German Grey on a dry sponge to add some paint chipping and weathering to the edges. I then followed this up doing the same thing with Leadbelcher. I have to admit that I don't usually watch painting videos, but I did some research planning this scheme out and I lifted this technique directly from Warhammer TV as well. As it's already been described in great detail in their video, I'll add a like. The part you want is at about 3 minutes in. Link to Weathering Video.

15) With all of that work out of the way, I finally entered the end game for this model. By this point about 2 and a quarter hours had elapsed. So time wise, I was about half way there. The next steps would be a bit more long winded and finnicky as there really is no way to cut down on the hard work after a certain point and you just have to stick with it. I didn't continue taking pictures of every step as all the next steps are quite basic and just the same kind of things you'd do to paint an ordinary infantryman. I am going to list the methods and colours that I used though, as I'll want to know when I come back to paint another tank for the army (hopefully a basilisk will be coming up next!). Ok, so the remaining colours go something like this:

  • Silver areas (including Tracks): Basecoat Leadbelcher, wash with Dryad Bark, Highlight with Army Painter Plate Mail Metal, wash with Nuln Oil.
  • White Areas (Banners): Basecoat Rakarth Flesh, Highlight 50/50 Rakarth Flesh and White, Wash with Agrax Earthshade, Highlight with White.
  • Blue Areas (Lenses): Basecoat Dark Prussian Blue, Highlight successively with White. Gloss Varnish lenses when complete.
  • Black Areas (Gun Bodies): Basecoat with Abaddon Black. Edge Highlight with Dark Sea Grey.
16) With all of the colours down and ready to go, the last stage was to apply the decals and add a final light stippled weathering with Dryad Bark just to blend in the transfers a bit and to unify anything that it looking just a little bit too clean.

The weathering as it appears on the finished model.

Well, that's it. The tank is complete. I hope somebody actually bothers to read to the end of this article! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or if you want to know anything about the painting methods that I've used. 

If you found this article interesting, don't forget to follow the blog or check back later to see how the rest of the Steel Legion come out. I might even write out a tutorial for the infantry!


  1. Ha ha , read it in its entirety. Good stage by stage. I must get out my airbrush and start practicing techniques before I attempt the Titan...

    1. Thanks for reading! I have to admit that this article is also written for myself, just so I can remember what I did when I work on the next vehicle. Good luck with the Titan; that's one serious project.

      Personally, I've struggled a bit with painting vehicles in the past as it is completely different from painting infantry as techniques that work on one don't necessarily carry across. I think this might be the first tank that I really feel like I've painted properly as a tank, and not just recycled infantry methods.

  2. Awesome results and it took only a couple of hours, that's a big win! Thanks for sharing your technique, it just takes me so much time when painting my rhinos :)

    1. Yeah, it used to take me forever, and the results weren't even that good! I think the problem is that I painted them like the rest of my army; with a lot of painstaking panel highlighting with a fine detail brush and a lot of time spent trying to pick out every single detail, which didn't really even work that well on a tank when there are so many large open spaces to fill up. The airbrush helps, and so does a better understanding of weathering!

  3. Excellent result and a very well thought out tutorial, good stuff! I also occasionally make a walkthrough post on the blog just so I can come back and remember what I'd done months later. Nothing wrong with that! :D

    1. Thanks. I might end up doing something similar with the infantry too!

  4. It looks so good man. I can't wait to battle some Orks alongside it as we refight the Third War for Armageddon!

    1. Yeah, you need to get cracking on those Black Templars!

      I've started reading Helsreach again, but I'm only about 30 pages in as I've been so busy working on the army. At this rate, I think I'll have about 2000 points ready to go by the time I finish the book!