How to paint Blood Angels – Part I

UPDATE: After three years and lots of positive feedback, this guide has been superseded by a new version, available to buy as a PDF download in the shop. The process has been reviewed and streamlined to help you get models on the table quicker, and new paints, colours and techniques explored. I will leave this free version up for anyone who still finds it useful, but I strongly recommend checking out the new version. Of course, the small fee I charge for it will help enable me to continue putting out this kind of content – so thanks for your support!

Welcome to the first in a three-part tutorial on how I paint my Blood Angels. Check out Part II here where we cover detailing the model, and Part III here which gives an overview of the finishing touches.

Lots of people have asked me how I paint the red armour on my Blood Angels. I posted a tutorial on how I did my Drop Pod using colour primers (here), but I’m always trying new things and striving to improve and perfect my process. More recently I’ve been using Vallejo Model Air paints instead of primers to achieve more extreme shadows and highlights and give more contrast to the models, so I think it’s time for another tutorial…

Our subject will be a basic tactical marine.

Step 1

Prime the whole model Vallejo German Red Brown (605)


Step 2

Shadows are sprayed with Vallejo Model Air Dark Sea Blue (71087). This was experimental, replacing the black I used to use, and I think an improvement. Highlights sprayed with Vallejo Model Air White (71001).

Note: You can go back and forth with these colours and the primer until you’re happy. I also have the torso attached to the legs with Blu-Tack only so I can get to all parts easily.


Step 3

This is a new addition to the process, something that I’ve been meaning to try and it worked out pretty well. I applied Citadel Drakenhof Nightshade into cracks and crevices to exaggerate the shadows, and some extreme highlights with Vallejo Game Color Dead White (72001) to increase the contrast. You can be fairly rough here as the next layers of yellow and red will smooth and soften the effect.

UPDATE: On reflection I would say that this step makes only a negligible difference to the end result. You may want to experiment with it on characters etc, but for rank and file troops I would say you can safely skip it and move on to Step 4.


Step 4

Vallejo Model Air Medium Yellow (71002) all over – a couple of light coats until you have even coverage.


Step 5

Vallejo Model Air Red (71102) all over – again, light coats until you have even coverage.


And that’s it for the basic red armour! Because of the shading wash and brush highlights applied in Step 3, I find there is no need for the gloss varnish and black ink wash that I used to do after Step 5, making the process quicker overall.

Next I will paint the non-red areas and finally give the armour some edge highlighting. I will be back with Part II of this tutorial covering those steps soon.

Happy painting!

Click here for Part II and here for Part III

15 Replies on How to paint Blood Angels – Part I

  • DoctorGepta says:

    I tried using your tutorial and the red i got in the result was great, but absolutley not the one shown on your photo. It went more towards orange rather than magenta you have shown on top. Can you help to fix me my mistake?

    • Luther says:

      Hi there,

      Are you definitely using Vallejo Model Air Red RLM23 (71.102) ? This red is quite magenta in tone which you will see if you spray directly over white. The yellow layer before this acts as a filter to achieve what I would describe as a ‘pure’ red – i.e. not too orange and not too pink.

      If you’d like to email me a picture of the model in question I can take a look for you – address on the contact page.

  • DoctorGepta says:

    But your tutuorial mentions 71.003, not 71.102, maybe that’s the trouble. Seems like I need to get some other paint then. Those two are really different. Thanks for your correction! =)

    • Luther says:

      You are quite right – that is a mistake! I have now corrected the article and I am sure 71.102 will achieve the effect you desire.

      Thank you for highlighting the error!

  • Greg says:

    Brilliant! Just finished my first squad up to the end of part 1. TBH, when I’d finished the yellow, I was a bit doubtful, but that red ties everything together really well. I skipped the Drakenhof step as I’ll be black washing later. My only question is the shading – any tips? Unfortunately mine looks a bit unrealistic, haven’t managed to fade it as well as you have. Onto part 2!

  • Luther says:

    Hi Greg, not sure exactly what you mean. Can you email a pic? Obviously you won’t see the final result until after the gloss coat, black wash and then Lahmian Medium steps.

    By the way, for the black wash I’ve been using GW Nuln Oil Gloss lately – it works just as well my own ink mix and is obviously easy to get hold of and you don’t have to worry about getting the proportions wrong. I’m going to update the blog post about it.

    Also totally fine about skipping the Drakenhof. To be honest that step was an experiment when I made the tutorial and after the later steps I’m not sure it really makes enough difference to be worth it…

  • Greg says:

    Hey Luther, thanks for the reply. I was referring to the pre-shading with VMA Dark Sea Blue (I used VMA Signal Blue instead) but it’s my shadow lines that look unrealistic , not the paint colours (so its my technique’s fault if anything) I may have answered my own question with. a quick YouTube search​ of “pre-shading airbrush” and there are a few vids there, basically spray with a dark colour from beneath, as opposed to trying to guess where the shadows will fall, and then Zenithal highlight with the VMA white, which will cover any errant dark spray. I’ll soldier on with this batch and see how they pan out!

    I’ve already got the gloss and DR ink, and a glass dropper bottle, so I’ll stick to the original thread for now

  • Eric says:

    Great scheme. I want to apply it to my space wolves, would you be able to give me a sequence of possible paints to achieve a similar result with that blue scheme?`

    • Luther says:

      Thanks Eric! I probably wouldn’t use a pre-shading / pre-highlighting method with Space Wolves because grey paints tend to be very opaque. This method works for Blood Angels because of the transparency of the red. I couldn’t tell you exactly which paints I’d use for Space Wolves because I’ve never painted them, but I remember Les Bursley (awesomepaintjob) did a really nice YouTube video, if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AImKoB10ans

  • Dan says:

    First of all, thanks for the tutorial, its awesome and I think the way your BAs look is far superior to the traditional GW look. I have a question. I understand the shading but why the yellow. Please forgive my ignorance, I am just curious.

    • Luther says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Dan! I always found the ‘traditional GW’ look too orange (there even used to be a Citadel paint called Blood Angels ORANGE!). Hence why I set out to find a darker tone, but still vibrant in the highlighted areas. The VMA Red paint had the right vibrancy but was a little too pink, hence the yellow filter I apply just before the red. The combination of the yellow and red gave me just the tone I was looking for.

      It was quite a long time ago that I came up with the scheme, and there may well be other red paints out there that will achieve it close enough without the need for yellow. For example I’d like to try the Game Air Gory Red colour without yellow. But I have a long painting queue at the moment!

  • andrew says:

    Thanks a million for the tutorials, they’re been a huge help through making my first 2k army. I’ve been using this scheme for my blood angels to great success (despite my lack of skill), and I’m looking to expand it into other colors but my knowledge of colors and paints is limited to just BA.

    I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make a ‘wasteland’ scheme for the colors of Baal’s irradiated deserts. I’m trying to make a guard army of the collection of mutants/tribes from the Baal deserts, currently I have a collection of cadian guardsmen bodies with mutant heads and gasmasks for head swaps. The idea would be that they look like a ragtag bunch of guys who’s gear has been in the desert mud and dust, rusting for decades if not centuries.

    I’m wondering if there’s a color pattern similar to this (dark, highlight, sealing color, main color, wash) that you think would work for this. I’ve noticed Onibrush/TabletopTactics have an interesting Tallarn scheme based around Yellow Ochre and Agrax Earthshade, and I’m wondering what your thoughts are for making that work with pre-shade.

    Thanks again man!

    • Luther says:

      Hi Andrew, I’m glad you’re finding the tutorials useful!

      That sounds like like an awesome idea with the post apoc scheme. It would help to see a picture of the kind of thing you have in mind. Why not drop me an email using the contact page form and we can discuss!


  • Aiden2160 says:

    Thanks for the great tutorials! I am using your methods on my burgeoning BA army. I did have a quick question regarding the wash step on vehicles. How do you apply the wash step such that you get even coverage on a model with large surfaces? An example would be a repulsor or land raider. Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Luther says:

      Hi there! For vehicles I tend to use an oil pin wash rather than an all-over surface wash. In fact, I am in the process of revamping this whole Blood Angels tutorial into a new PDF guide where I use the oil pin wash method on infantry as well. This will be released in the next few weeks.

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