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Cobalt Scions: blue power armour step by step

The second squad of Cobalt Scions Intercessors are complete, which also means I have finally finished the Imperial Fists battleforce box. I started painting this kit in September 2019, which means it's taken me A MERE TEN MONTHS to paint... 20 miniatures.

That makes it sound like more work than it actually was.

Don't get me wrong, it has been a time consuming level of detail; each basic marine takes about 6 hours. In total it's probably about 140 hours of work including build time and a little conversion time. That means if I'd been doing an hour of hobby a day, this would have been done in 4 months.

"Fascinating" calendar maths aside, I'm really, really happy right now. I set myself the challenge of doing the whole force to what for me is a high standard, and I actually kept at it! Those who know me will understand this is an unusual degree of discipline and focus.

The finished battleforce

I learned a lot working on this project, such that I'm in a position to provide a step by step of how I do the defining element of the painting: the blue armour. I've covered the paint recipes for other parts of the minis before, most recently in the post on Captain Lucullus, so I'll just talk about the blue in today's post.

Ultramarines blue power armour: step by step (mostly)

The technique is probably of intermediate difficulty, it's just time consuming because primaris marines have all the edges. If you have the brush control for edge highlights, you have all the skill you need.

Stage 1: I like the base, base, base, base, I like the fairly bright blue base

Get a nice, solid basecoat of Macragge Blue. I achieved this with a rattle can because I'm a slacker. Next, paint any non-blue parts of the model where there's a good chance you'll spooge paint on the blue. Metallic parts are the main contenders here, since the glossy shades used on them will look like ass if they get all over your carefully highlighted blue. And they will.

Stage 2: Loose and sloppy

Contrary to the subtitle, this one is not in fact for the horndogs. I am referring to the level of precision you should use for your first highlight stage, i.e. bugger all. This initial highlight of Calgar Blue should be a fat sausage of a highlight, and it should look like crap. See image below.
Actual crap.

I'm not saying to glob the paint on - it should still be nice and thin - but the lines themselves should be wide enough to show up when you do the sharper highlights later on, and there's no point being a perfectionist about this stage, because it's going to get mostly covered with paint.

Stage 3 & 4: edging and throwing shade

These next two steps can be done in any order; the one you do second is the one you'll have to be careful with.

Step 3 or 4: line in the recesses
I used Reaper's Blue Liner which is face meltingly great for this, but you can use Nuln Oil or watered down dark paint or whatever, really. I just like the liner because it's matte as hell, flows beautifully, and goes where you tell it.

Step 3 or 4: edge highlight
I used Fenrisian Grey for this. It's the standard 2nd highlight suggested by Citadel's colour app for Ultramarines armour, and it does good work. It's pretty damn bright, so you want to get as thin and crisp a line as possible. A good brush is your best friend here; at this point Windsor & Newton should be giving me commission for the number of friends I've sold on their Series 7 brushes. A size 1 or 2 will do fine for this stage.

Stage 5: knock it back

Paint the rest of the ****ing owl.

You will by now have made some mistakes, your highlights won't be as sharp as you hoped, and you'll be questioning your life choices. This stage is here to fix your sh*t. Take the basecoat colour (Macragge Blue), thin it down to the consistency of semi-skimmed milk, and apply it over any areas where the highlights look messy or overly thick. This has the effect of both tidying your errors and adding an extra layer stage to help the Calgar Blue fade into the basecoat. Be very careful not to let this go all the way over your highlights; you just want to go maybe halfway across your chonky Calgar Blue highlight stage. Unless you're fixing an error, in which case, do whatever you need to do.

Stage 6: dot highlights

Next up, make a 50/50 mix of white and Fenrisian Grey and apply a tiny dot to any corners. This helps the highlights pop a little more. You don't need to do this everywhere; it's best to focus on those corners which are naturally hit by any light coming from directly above the model. See the closeup from another marine in the squad below to see what I mean:

Stage 7: weathering

This is technically four stages, and if you want to keep your little plastic butcher looking clean, you can skip it. Personally, though, I think it helps bring it to life.

Dents & chips
Take the recess shade colour (Reaper's blue liner in my case) and apply dots, dents and scratches to any part of the armour you want to look busted up. I tend to focus on the lower half of the legs, as well as the elbows, hand guards, and pauldrons (obviously with the white pauldrons and red kneepads I'm using other colours).

You then want to highlight the lower edge of these dings with one of your highlight colours. I'm using my mid-tone, Calgar Blue, to keep the weathering fairly subdued, but if you wanted a more intense look, then Fenrisian Grey could work.

Note: you can do the shade/highlight in either order. The advantage of doing it with the recess first is that it's easier to see where you've put the scratches; the advantage of doing the recess colour second is that if you paint a dot of highlight and then do an overlapping dot of shade slightly above it, that'll make the highlight colour look like an immaculately well-painted edge highlight of your dark dot for very little effort.

If you want to see a video of this technique in action, it's derived from Darren Latham's excellent tutorial on painting white power armour.

After applying these two stages, I applied Army Painter Gunmental into the middle of any particularly big dents, being careful to leave a little of the shade colour showing the whole way around the gunmetal area to help retain definition.

Pick a colour that closely replicates the colour of the ground the marine is standing on. As I'm going for grassy moorland bases, the earth is a mid/dark brown, so Typhus Corrosion is perfect. If you're using any kind of textured paint like this, use a busted old brush as it's really rough on the bristles.

I painted pure water over a boot/shin, and then applied a modest amount of Typhus Corrosion over the lower half of that area. Whilst it was still wet, I'd clean the brush again and use it to take off any overly thick areas of the texture paint and feather it out to let the blue show through, and to get a nice fade up the shin.

Final thoughts on the tutorial

And there you have it. If you have thoughts on how I'm going about this, or if you have questions about things I didn't say clearly enough, let me know in the comments section. It's definitely a time consuming technique that requires patience, and is arguably excessive for anything but character models, but I'm satisfied with the results. Having recently learned that the 'Eavy Metal team take two and a half days to paint a marine, I'm happy with the effort:reward ratio of getting these results in a third of the time.

Showcase: the other Intercessors

I cunningly decided to add all my sergeants' names to a scroll somewhere on their person so I could remember them in-game. Turns out Lytanus Cato doesn't fit on a scroll. Fancy that. Hopefully the impressionist scrawl above will serve as an aide memoire?

Lytanus also got a sword courtesy of the Land Speeder Storm kit. Just about the nerdiest thing I've done (in the last few months) was standing about in my living room with a katana, drawing it from various locations and considering the limitations of power armour. My goal was to try and figure out the least unergonomic place for a blade of that length to be if you don't have a second hand to hold the scabbard (because you don't necessarily want to let go of your bolt rifle) and you don't want it flapping about (which it will if it's lower slung). So the location looks weird, but has been proven effective under REASONABLE EXPERIMENTAL CONDITIONS. Re-sheathing will, however, be a cock. Maybe Lytanus can ask a squadmate for the common courtesy of a reacharound?

This is one of the techno-roider heads from Statuesque Miniatures. Wrinkles and harder lines were painted on to give the face a slightly more rugged look.

The eagle-eyed will note that these guys are a mix of marines from squads I and II. Why? because when I painted the first squad of intercessors back in October '19, I wanted to focus on the unfamiliar Mk.X armour and not worry about faces. Knowing I'd want some faces later on (I know it's silly not to wear a helmet, but it brings them to life so much) I painted the unit with mixed squad markings. I've now finished playing catch-up, and it's the cherry on top of my joy cake.

With GW's recent announcement of loads more primaris toys, I'll definitely be expanding this force. For now, though, it's time to pull another box out of the pile of shame cairn of opportunity.


  1. Cairn of Opportunity - I like that, my To-Do Mountain feels oppressive. These look fantastic and I love the darker skin look, what is your recipe to do Black skin? Cygor/Doombull/Mournfang and Nuln? Cheers

    1. Thanks Siph!

      The darkest skin tone in the unit is: Black primer, Vallejo burnt umber basecoat, then layer up by mixing in increasing amounts of Vallejo beige brown until it's as light as you want.

      That might be a little matte, so I used some Agrax Earthshade to give it some shine. I also used Bugman's Glow for the lower lip and a glaze of Army Painter matte black to do the hairline/stubble.

  2. What I like about your blog today is that you've got a genuine awareness of how long your Scions take to paint. Most people grossly underestimate the actual time and end up destroying themselves when they have an upcoming event or tournament. Though you've got what looks like a fairly accurate sounding figure of six hours per squaddie. Nice work.

    1. Thanks Curis! Yeah I think it started off at about 7 hours per squaddie and got down to about 5 with practice, so I'm giving a ballpark average.


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