I was asked the other day how I painted the gold on the crozius for the Dark Vengeance Chaplain I posted. I've actually got a couple different ways I paint gold. This is the method I use for quick, tabletop results.
There are tons of ways to paint any metallic, but this is my "go to" method for quick and basic gold. It's worth noting that this method yields a warm, bright gold in the end. While it might look like a bunch of steps, they are super easy and the biggest problem you'll have is waiting for your washes to dry.
What you'll need to do this
You aren't going to need much and I'm almost certain you have the four colors/washes already in your collection. For the base, I use GW Shining Gold. I believe it's Gehenna's Gold now in the new range. Other than that, you'll need a dark brown and two washes, Seraphim Sepia and Agrax Earthsahde.
Here's the step by step
Priming can be any color based on the predominant color your model is. This is not a worry for us because we're going to go over our gold areas with our dark brown anyway before we start applying any metallics.
Once we have our model primed and we've come to the point where we are going to work on the gold sections, I base those with a dark brown color. Any brown will do and depending on what shade you choose, it has the potential to affect your final gold color.
I've used light browns, reddish-browns, greens, blacks... all kinds of colors under gold for different effects. Each has their own pros and cons and creates and slightly different look in the end.
Once we have our gold areas based with brown, it's time to add the gold. I don't worry about getting perfect coverage since my dark brown can act as my shadow color in the recessed areas if I miss a small spot.
Once the gold dries, I go over it with two washes. The first one is Seraphim Sepia and I cover the whole gold area liberally. Once that dries, I apply Agrax Earthshade to the deeper recessed areas only. In this case, it was right around the skull.
Make sure you give your washes plenty of time to dry. When they're dry, it's one last step of a light drybrush using our original gold color to give the gold some contrast and make it pop.
It's a simple method that get's pretty good resutls quickly. Those are my favorite techniques. You can expand on this one to include any number of additional steps, but if I had to add one more, it would be a second (very light) drybrush of silver over the most prominent edges only. This will make the gold look even brighter.
And for those folks wondering how this technique scales up from an icon to a whole infantry model (say you were doing a Custodes force)... it works perfectly.
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Creating various metal effect with washes
How to paint bronze (Minotaurs Space Marines)